Thursday, December 4, 2008

.357 Magnum Handgun - Ammo Choices for Personal Defense

The .357 Magnum has been in use as a personal defense handgun for quite some time and has been shown to be very effective for this purpose. For many years it was the only handgun carried by many law enforcement personnel for their own defense. When choosing ammunition for personal defense there are two main factors that need to be considered. Those factors are the difference between a rural and an urban setting.

Almost everyone will agree that the .357 Magnum works for personal defense while being in a size that is manageable. It has several distinct disadvantages when being used in a personal defense situation in an urban setting.

The first disadvantage is that a .357 Magnum round going off in an indoor setting is extremely loud. Loud enough that it could cause damage to your hearing. Secondly, the muzzle flash is extremely bright and the flash could cause reduced vision capabilities in a nighttime environment which would require additional time for vision to be restored to its full extent. A third issue with the .357 Magnum handgun is its rate of penetration. A normal .357 hollowpoint round can penetrate through large animals and emerge on the other side with enough velocity and force to hurt someone other than the intended target.

And last, but not least, is the ability to maintain control of your weapon. The .357 Magnum was originally designed for large-frame handguns and has a significant amount of recoil. This can significantly affect your ability to get off subsequent shots accurately in a personal defense situation. These factors should be seriously considered before deciding on the type of ammunition you will be using when carrying a .357 Magnum handgun for personal defense.

In the majority of cases, including an urban environment, a good .38 Special +p round would be the better choice for a personal defense load. You will have more control for follow up shots due to lighter recoil, have fewer problems due to over penetration of the round and will have somewhat less noise and muzzle flash than in a .357 Magnum round. My personal choice is .38 Special +P 125 gr. JHP round for a home defense load.

In a rural setting, where many of these factors are not as significant, my personal choice is .357 Magnum 110 gr. JHP for a defensive load. In a rural environment you would be able to take full advantage of the range and power of a .357 Magnum round. The main thing I consider is that the meanest thing I would probably come across is a feral hog and the distances involved in a rural setting would compensate for the fact that a .357 Magnum round has a very flat shooting trajectory.

The versatility of the .357 magnum which allows you to shoot these two different cartridge types allows you to adjust your defensive rounds to either a rural or an urban or city environment.

Remember, "It's not what you hit them with, but where you hit them."

Here is a link with a little more detail of Magnum ammunition: Magnum Ammo

You can read about my own S&W .357 Magnum here: Model 65 Revolver

Staying above the water line!



Anonymous said...

.357s are extremely versatile. Plus components are common (even use .38 special which is just as common if not moreso). A .357 handgun and a lever carbine in same would make for one heck of a nice common chambered foraging combo.

For some less expensive reloading options for close range small game, a bag of shotgun buckshot in 000 in that caliber would go a long way. Keep ranges short though - round isn't very efficient for long range shooting.

One revolver design that would help tame that recoil is the Ruger GP-100 series. Built like a tank, much like the original S&W N frames that the .357 was designed in back in '37.

I prefer the Ruger Security Six (action very much like your favored pistol) for their lighter weight, but you do make a point for 2nd / 3rd shot recovery, those lighter guns are doing some bounding around.

riverwalker said...

To: anonymous

I have a co-worker who is a former police officer and uses a Ruger Security Six..mainly because of its lighter weight. I'm looking for a lever action .357 used but may have to buy new(ouch!) if I can't find one.Common guns with common ammo is a good thing. Both mine and my wife's lever action Marlins are .30/.30. Thanks.


tootrack said...

S&W model 586 here. I like it, and the Mrs enjoys plinking cans with it using .38's. Buddy of mine has a GP-100, shot it a few times. Nice gun too, don't recall noticing much (if any) of a recoil difference between it and my L-frame model. Mine's a bit big for concealed carry tho, hoping to get a 5-shot concealed hammer .38 for that. I'm a wheel-gun fan, much simpler operating instructions.
Take care

riverwalker said...

To: tootrack

Easier to clean and less to break!


gott_cha said...

Ive got an older SW large frame,...I love that revolver. Its a 6in. barrel with custom sites and grips.....but its dang hard to try to carry concealed unless its winter time and I have a large coat on........still,....when IM out an about on my land,..its strapped to me on a shoulder holster......for rats and snakes, know!

riverwalker said...

To gott_cha

Yep, gotta watch out for them "snakes" and those "rats". Never know when one might want to sneak up on you.


Abraham said...

Great article. I love my S&W model 60 J frame. It disappears. It's my everyday carry. I used to load it with the 38+p ammo, but I've taken to chambering the first two rounds with Glaser Safety slugs and the remaining three with the 38+p. I figure the first two will be good for up close work and the last three for distance as I'm running to get away.

The good thing about the Glasers, lack of penetration, is also a bad thing because they may not penetrate thick winter clothing.

I figure with the model 60 and my 22 lever action marlin I'm good for just about anything.

I also have some bird shot rounds too. That's the nice thing about a wheelgun, you can use just about any ammo at all and you never have a problem with feeding.

riverwalker said...

To: abraham

Revolvers have a lot of simple advantages that make them a good choice. Thanks.


Larry K said...


Everything you've said is, of course, true.

But lately I've been shooting 180 gr high velocity cast bullets from my Rugers (GP 4"; SP 3").

The penetration is nothing short of awesome. And for some reason they are quite accurate from both guns.

But I live in lion country and we are quite close to bear country.

I accept the argument about the 44mag around bears, but after seeing these 180 gr screamers punch thru triple 2x12's with thick carpet sandwiched between like it was just so much paper at 25 yds, I feel pretty confident.

Larry K

Rapid City SD

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