Tom Claycomb writes [via ammoland.com] Back in the day, the Smokin’ . 357 Magnum was once considered a bad ass pistol round. That was before Dirty Harry hit the scene telling the bad guys to “make my day” with his .44 mag. Since then, .44 mag was pushed in the corner by the .454 Casull, .500 SW mag., .50 cal. Desert Eagle and who knows what else? But lest we place the .357 Magnum in the museum along with the Atlatl and sling shot let’s take a second to reconsider its relevance.
No, it’s not as effective a caliber on bears, wolves, and cougars as a .44 mag. but it is still a viable choice ammunition round for a backup gun. I do a lot of bear hunting and just switched maybe 11 years ago from carrying a .357 as a backup gun and upgraded to a .44 mag.
Do I favor a .44 magum? Yes, of course.
As I type this article I’m en route to Alaska for a brown bear hunt and you can bet I’ll have my S&W Titanium .44 mag. but, what if you’re a dainty little 125 lb. girl and you’re going backpacking? Or fly fishing in the backcountry? Or, on a bear hunt. My S&W Titanium is a nightmare to shoot. It’s no fun at all.
So maybe the aforementioned 125 lb. young lady would rather not carry a pistol at all and just take her chances with bears than to shoot a .44 mag, not a great plan.
My wife and daughters carry a Ruger SP 101 3-inch .357 mag. it’s a great little gun. They can carry it into town loaded with .38’s and when they hit the mountains they load her up with .357’s.
My old standby delivery system for the . 357 Magnum Ammo was a 4-inch Smith & Wesson Model 19 Revolver. With the 4-inch barrel, you can obtain reasonable accuracy and it doesn’t kick as much as a lighter pistol. It is a medium sized pistol to carry. I use an Uncle Mike’s Kodra Nylon Sidekick Hip Holster to carry it or you can get a Diamond D Guides Choice S&W N Frame Chest Holster, nice looking leather shoulder holster.
So if you are more recoil sensitive then don’t discount the possibility of carrying a . 357. I’m a big believer in carrying as large of a caliber as you can handle but, if you go overboard then you’ll be scared and not practice as much as you should.
So my advice? Carry as big of a caliber as you’re comfortable with.
Also, due to the improvement in the quality of our bullets, smaller caliber guns can now perform at levels that in the past only their larger cousins could obtain. Decades ago we didn’t have too big of a selection of bullets to choose from but now there are a lot of good options out there.
We don’t have time to cover it in this article but, all bullets are not created equal. So buy good quality bullets. On this bear hunting trip, I’m carrying Federal Premium Handgun Ammo loads.
Beside quality bullets, buy the proper bullet for the task at hand. If you’re wanting to use your Smith & Wesson Model 19 Revolver in . 357 Magnum ammo for bear protection then you don’t want a fast expanding bullet.
In fact, a lot of my buddies preach using solid core hunting bullets. They want the bullet to penetrate all the way through and break down the shoulder so you knock a wheel or two out from under him.
I usually alternate in my cylinder. One solid core . 357 hunting bullet and one top quality soft nose/hollow point .357. So the moral to the last two paragraphs is that if you pick the correct ammo, then you may be able to turn your lowly .357 mag into a decent self-protection pistol when you’re up in the mountains, or downtown for a late dinner.
About Tom Claycomb
Tom Claycomb has been an avid hunter/fisherman throughout his life as well as an outdoors writer with outdoor columns in the magazine Hunt Alaska, Bass Pro Shops, Bowhunter.net and freelances for numerous magazines.