I understand the logic: if you can’t carry a lot of rounds, load a larger caliber. I schlepped a .45 caliber GLOCK 30 in Massachusetts, a state that bans magazines holding more than 10 rounds. Since then, I’ve been converted to the gospel of LRGA (less recoil, greater accuracy). To the point where I feel now comfortable occasionally pocket carrying a .380 Ruger LCP II. Meanwhile, over at gunsmagazine.com . . .

yeoman gun blogger Dave Workman gets to grips with Smith & Wesson’s $760 Model 360 (above), chambered in a big boy caliber.

Having fired a fair number of Smith J-Frames chambered for the .357 Magnum, experience dictates when the hammer drops and this gun goes “BANG!,” you know immediately you’ve just fired a small, powerful revolver.

If the muzzle blast doesn’t scare the heck out of somebody, the muzzle flash will, especially out of a full-house magnum. It’s impressive even when shooting +P .38 Specials. Touch this gun off at night and it can light up a room or a yard.

Not to mention the fact that follow-up shots can also be a bit problematic.

And yet, if you’re looking for a pistol with plenty o’ stopping power, a gun firing hollow-point .357 cartridges at Mr. Bad Guy is all that and a bag of chips (as the Brits are wont to say). So maybe you won’t need all five rounds.

Bottom line: pocket revolver chambered in .357. Primary? Backup? Yes please or no way José?

93 Responses to Question of the Day: Conceal Carry a .357 Revolver?

  1. I’ll schlep a revolver as my primary defensive handgun the day after we start having people expose the virtues of the self-defense arquebus.

    • I Cary a ported model 640 with +P+ rounds on most occasions and a Sig P239 in 357 Sig, when I am in Detroit. I preactice a lot with both and manage the 640 well. You are right about the muzzle flash.

  2. Nope. Too much price for too little gain. If +p or hotter special .38 loads in an airweight doesn’t get it done, you’re not getting it done.

  3. The velocity loss from a 1 7/8″ barrel on a .357 is considerable, and so is muzzle blast. The recoil on my 340 PD is considerable. Energy levels on most .357 loads drop to 340 to 380 FPE.

    I still carry the gun, and enjoy the quality design, even though a Glock 19 with 9mm +P has more energy, accuracy and firepower.

    Revolvers are just cool. The 686 is classic, and the 627 PC is a modern masterpiece. My buddy’s Python is a work of art. Various 2 3/4″ and 3″ .357 revolvers don’t lose massive velocity, and some hold 8 rounds.

    • ^This…love revolvers and the .357 out of the appropriate platform is great. But something like this at best is a backup piece or desk gun…and even then there are much better alternatives.

      • I carry a .357 J frame as a backup gun, more often in winter than in summer, when I carry a 6 shot .38 as a backup.

        My rationale for switching to the .357 is that I live in a cold climate, and when winter jackets and layered clothing come out, I may well need any shred of extra penetration I can attain.

        My 9mm pistol, with more rounds on tap and being a gun I shoot more accurately is my primary gun, but if I am on the ground with a guy wearing a heavy carhart, I want .357.

  4. I just don’t bother with magnum cartridges in short barrels. I wouldn’t even consider getting a .357 in anything less than a 4″ barrel. Well ok, I might get a .357 snubbie and load it with .38s.

    Would I pack a 4″ .357 magnum? Yes, I would, if I could conceal it.

    • Ditto. I wouldn’t even want to own a .357 Airweight snubbie, much less carry one. But a longer barrel would be fine. I have a 7.5″ SAA that is not at all painful to shoot.

    • I get around 600ft/lbs of energy with the Double Taps I carry in my 3″ GP 100. Rem, Fed, etc will get you around 475ft/lbs.

    • Barnes has a clean burning .357 load that packs a whollop out of a 2″ barrel. Destroys 20+ inches of ballistic gel out of a 2″ barrel and same you tuber tested same ammo out of a 4″ barrel with almost identical results. (So, if I was hiking in black bear country I’d probably pack a .357 snub.)

      Ammo selection > than caliber selection.

      Penetration > expansion

      Hits > misses 😉

    • And just for the record, I have both a 6″ GP100 and a Performance Center .460XVR snubbie (inherited, not bought). They both suck out loud to conceal and that’s why I CC my SR9C.

    • I own both a G29 and a S&W 640 (all steel J-frame in .357) and I much prefer carrying the 640 into the woods. Because I don’t like carrying masonry blocks on my hip.

  5. Lightweight .357 Mag snubbies are not fun to shoot, and if they’re not fun to shoot there won’t be a lot of practice or proficiency.

  6. I absolutely would although I would lean more toward a K-frame .My model 38 is more than a handful without being .357. They also have a slew of reduced recoil .357 for revolvers like this as well as the ability to shoot .38 Specials. I wish they made a modernized (scandium) version of the Model 12. That would be totally badass.

    • Huh. You’re right, he’s late.
      Okay I’ll fill in for him: still packing my Ruger SP101 and that won’t change soon(or at least until next tax return).
      Gov of course still loves his GP100 Wiley Clapp but that boat anchor is no snubbie.

    • Some of us have jobs where we can’t loiter on the computer all day. Done now though.

      And my WC weighs 36oz. empty. Loaded with 158gr. it weighs 5-6 ounces less than a 1911 with 230 grains. About the same as the Beretta 92 I used to carry. I also carry my birdshead .44mag Vaquero occasionally just for shits and giggles. The birdshead grip BTW is surprisingly comfortable for a 2 finger grip, although I haven’t shot any really heavy loads, just 180gr and 240gr.

      I think the need for more than 5 rou nds of just about anything more potent than .22LR is pretty remote for a non-LEO civilian. But if you’re going to limit yourself on round count it’s probably best to carry the most potent round you can shoot accurately. Follow up shots will naturally take a little more time, but if you make the first one count you won’t need any. The opposite philosophy is fine too, I never felt undergunned carrying that Beretta with 17+1 rou nds on tap. The GP is just more accurate, reliable and more comfortable to carry. And if 6 rou nds of full pressure .357 doesn’t get you out of trouble the only possible difference is how many extra bad guys could you put holes in before you die.

      • Ancient history is my favorite topic. I’d prefer a Roman Gladius…Never heard the Roman military ever complaint about poor stopping power of their Maintz pattern short swords ! Nor, of the Pompeii, or the
        Calvary Spatha…

        • Old Roman joke (with sexual connotation) was a new recruit asking his centurian how deep he had to stab to kill the enemy. The crusty centurian replied “Two inches will do, if you stick it in the right spot.” That logic still applies especially with handguns. shot placement counts more than bullet size or quantity.

  7. I would carry my 4″ 686+ On my hip pretty regularly when it was cooler and I had a jacket on. I keep intending to get a shoulder rig for it to carry it easier but haven’t yet.

    It will probably be a while until I carry it again since it’s on loan to my sister as her house gun at the moment until either she gets something of her own or I eventually give her something else outright. It’s a shame she can’t use autos; we’ve never been able to figure it out but no matter how hard she grips the gun or try’s to lock her wrists she just keeps having cycling issues. It’s like anything made with 20th century’s technology hates her.

  8. I’ve dabbled, between an LCR and a Smith and Wesson 649. I ended up selling both. I really liked the LCR but it had this click that felt like a reset when the trigger was halfway out and when shooting quickly I would instinctively press the trigger again, causing the cylinder to skip a round. Nope.

    I like revolvers, a lot. But since I’ve had countless hours of training and instructing with semi autos it just makes sense to carry one of those instead.

    • I think so. A currently-available-for-sale Ruger LCR in .327 holding six rounds is a nice compromise between weight, size, capacity, price, and stopping power. If the recoil is too much, just use .32 H&R instead.

    • Same problem as .357, projectile is out of the barrel before the propellant is finished burning. You do get a 6th round usually though.

      • Agreed. The .327 Federal is an excellent round, but it really needs 3″ or more to develop its full potential, e.g., a 4″ SP101. It has less recoil but nearly the same power as a .357.

        • I agree, the .327 4.2″ SP101 is a most excellent gun. It is 30oz but feels like much less. Recoil is very manageable and never painful. I feels and looks like a gun’s gun to me.

        • ‘It has… nearly the same power as a .357.’

          True with most of the factory loads, but they’re not full pressure am mo. If you want the hot stuff there’s quite a bit more fire in the .357.

    • If you go to the NRA internet TV channel and look at their museum pieces there is a nice discussion of the Dirty Harry’s .44 by John Milius, one of the co-writers of the film, and the gun enthusiast that put THAT gun in the picture.

      He claimed that they wanted the 4″ barrel model, but couldn’t easily get enough of them. So they opted for the 6″ model which were more available (or cheaper?). He said that luckily Clint was tall enough that it didn’t seem ridiculous. Also, Clint never actually carried the weapon unless the scene called for him to draw.

  9. Except a .357 snub nose is not anymore powerful than a 40 or 45 fired from the same sized (not barrel length) auto and the auto has a better trigger and less recoil.

  10. The first time you light off some 158 grain .357’s out of a lightweight snubby will be your last. You’ll either downgrade to .38 +P’s, or you’ll trade in the gun.

    Get a K-frame, 3″ barrel, minimum if you want full power .357’s out of a CCW piece.

    That said, almost nothing penetrates like a .357. With the 158 grain loadings, I don’t think anyone can feel all that “under-gunned” with a .357.

  11. Ruger SP101 snubbie is a damn fine defense gun to carry. You Glock boys are a little too enthralled with your plastic fantastics…

  12. I don’t think much of light snubs in .357, but a steel framed 4″ or longer has enough inertia that I don’t think the recoil of medium loads slow me down much. I am comparing it to my speed with my Five SeveN, so I know what an easily controlled gun feels like. 158s at 1260fps from my 5.25″ 40oz gun are easier for me to fire quickly than 124s at a bit under 1100fps from my father’s 9mm Shield. I load A-Frames and when they (which they always do) expand to .55″ I get about 21″ of penetration in clear gel so I suppose that some would consider that too much penetration but find it comforting.

    • It seems to me that a lot of that is just the weight of the gun. 40 oz is a big honkin piece of iron that will absorb a lot of recoil. 9 mm is similarly sensitive to gun weight. My kids find my 3.5″ 16 oz Kahr “bright” and a bit hard to control, compared to a 4″ XD or Glock, but once you hit 30 oz. the 124s are quite mild. I have to assume, never having tried it, that 147 gr +Ps out of a lightweight 3″ gun (say a 14 oz Kahr CM9 or the Glock 43) would be a real handful, although not nearly as bad as a .357 snubbie.

    • Too light of a revolver and you risk bullets jumping crimp and jamming the weapon, which kind of defeats the whole reliability edge that a revolver has. But then featherweight autos aren’t really known for their reliability either.

  13. … pocket revolver chambered in .357. Primary? Backup?

    No and no.

    A 2-inch barrel reduces .357 Magnum velocity to the point that there is no point in it. More importantly, a pocket pistol has very little weight and the recoil is punishing at best and literally bordering on debilitating at worst.

    If you are set on a pocket revolver for whatever reason, my suggestion is a pocket revolver chambered in .327 Federal Magnum as others have stated. And if you reject that caliber because ammunition choices and availability are limited, then go with a .38 Special +P revolver and load it with 158 grain full wadcutters. And if you cannot even tolerate that amount of recoil, then load down to 125 grain hollowpoints.

    While a single 125 grain, .357 caliber bullet fired at .38 Special velocities from a snub-nosed revolver may not incapacitate your attacker within seconds, it will force them to go to their local hospital if they want to survive (assuming a center area torso shot). Even if you do not survive your attack, your snubbie revolver will guarantee that police will capture your attacker and ensure that they cannot continue to terrorize anyone else.

  14. No air weights please .
    I used to carry my SW 586 , four inch as my primary carry gun . Love that gun and even though I don’t shoot it much today when I do I’m amazed at how well I do .

  15. J frame sized revolver in .357 Mag is a perfectly acceptable and sensible concealed carry option, if you are willing to put in the practice to master revolver shooting.

    In fact, .357 Mag is much more sensible than a .38 Special revolver. It is more powerful than any cartridge you could shoot out of a similarly sized autoloader. Considering that autoloaders have so many advantages going their way, handicapping yourself with .38 Special negates one of the few things that revolvers have going for them: their design makes firing more powerful rounds out of smaller guns more practical.

    Also, the smaller the gun we’re talking about, the more that revolvers are able to compete on capacity. Autoloaders of comparable size to a J-frame hold 6+1 rounds. J-frame holds 5. That’s not the biggest difference. The larger the guns that are being compared, the more the autoloader runs away from the revolver in terms of ammo capacity. But for a J-frame size, the autoloader advantage is small.

    The other advantages of the revolver would be (1) fewer moving external parts so easier to shoot when tangled up in clothes and (2) lower likelihood of failures.

    That said I would still recommend the autoloader for anyone that was enough of a beginner that they had to ask the question. If the person doesn’t already know everything there is to know about revolvers, then the autoloader is probably best for them. From having a longer sight radius for the same overall length gun, to having a better trigger, to having lower recoil for the same power cartridge, to being faster to reload, autoloader has many great advantages.

    That said: if you’re an experienced revolver shooter and you’re more concerned about being able to get a shot off from within the sleeve of your winter coat, or about having the power to drop people in few shots, then a J-frame sized revolver in .357 Mag is a perfectly cromulent choice.

  16. I carry a 3″ barrel Ruger SP101 when I walk the dogs in the woods. It’s in .357 magnum and I use 158 grain HP’s in it. We have cougars, black bears, coyotes, and once in a while a wolf in the area. I have replaced the grips with Hogue one-piece grips. They are more comfortable and the roundness along with an IWB holster makes the gun easy to conceal. An untucked T-shirt is all you need.

  17. I carry a S&W 66-4 daily…

    because its the last one less the Hillary hole and Considering Janet Reno (of Bill Clinton, attorney general) had the FBI destroy all the S&W 3 inch model 19’s…

    What better endorsement do you need for an effective CCW?

  18. I’m carrying a model 49 with a hogue grip loaded with the new HST .38 +p. I’ve only seen one video of the HST which was impressive and I think federal knocked it out of the park as far as design and quality is concerned. Bonus, the HST is the easiest shooting .38+p I have shot from my 49.

  19. I’ve fired .357 magnum out of a a snubbie before and have no desire to do it again. That said, when I got my LCR I got it in .357 just because there would be more ammo options in a shtf situation. But I’ve only ever shot it with .38 special.

  20. I carried a Ruger LCR in .357 Magnum for about 2 years. I tried to stay up on my practice but I got to where I hated shooting it. It was tolerable with .38 Special but I’m from the school of “train how you fight”. As few as 5 rounds of Magnum loads and the next day you feel like you’ve been in a car wreck. I eventually got paranoid about whether or not I could effectively make a follow up shot and a little concerned about crimp jump. I finally opted to trade it in on a .327 Fedral Magnum it is much more manageable for the light weight LCR. If I were to carry a .357 Magnum it would have to be a steel frame no alloy or polymer.

  21. I occasionally carry an LCR 357.

    I load with 357s – either Golden Sabers (1100 fps over my chrono) or Federal 125 JHP (1175 over my chrono).

    I sometimes carry a 38 LCR but never kid myself that the 38 is as decisive as the 357.

    Most 38+P 125 grain ammo is at BEST 975 out of an LCR 38 (around 950 out of my 357 – blow-by in a longer chamber).

    Golden Saber 38+P are 850 to 875 fps out of my LCR. With the 357 version around 1100 – it is no contest.

    For me the LCR is much more controllable and much less painful (as in not painful) than the Smith and Wesson 340. The 340PD (12oz) is brutal – to say the least.

    • I carry a LCR 357 and it is a great gun. I practice using .38 +P and recoil is manageable in both loadings. I found that Hogue G10 grips give a better grip than the softer tamers do making it easier to shoot. Yes it is still a helluva blast but it makes a statement.

  22. I keep wadcutters in my 642 and Buffalo Bore’s LSWCHP 38 +P in my 686. I took a low-light shooting course and realized just how difficult it is to effectively fight with a 125 grain .357 while shooting one-handed.

  23. I’m just not a wheel gun guy. As a backup, maybe but even then probably not.

    If I’m out of ammo or my main pistol just took a shit in a way I can’t fix I’d prefer something other than a hand cannon as my backup.

    • I don’t have much confidence in the show them your gun and they will run away school of thought, but a 17th century hand mortar might just be intimidating looking enough for that even if a bad choice if you end up having to fire it. The cool factor would almost be worth risking my life over though;-)

      • Yeah that might work.

        Another option would be one of those Mosin-Nagant pistols. Not the revolver, the bolt action rifle chopped down to a pistol… sure would scare the hell out of me. I’d assume you to be crazy or REALLY know what you’re doing.

  24. I’ve read far too many comments about .357 magnum airweight snubbys being no fun to shoot. ALL GUNS ARE FUN TO SHOOT SO SHUT UP!!!!!

  25. Sure. I’ve got a couple of j-frame .357s, and they get carried if a 1911’s too big, or as backup in a left-side coat pocket. The M60 3″ is less painful to shoot but the M360PD AirLite is tiny and handy. I don’t shoot either for fun.

  26. its all a matter of getting used to the gun. So many people give up on the .357 snubbies and go with .38’s or 9mm auto.

    They are just fine to shoot. Put a thousand rounds through one and you’ll be fine. yes, it will hurt for the first few hundred, but then you will “acclimate” to the gun. Then its just fine.

  27. Always been a auto guy. But I bought the Kimber K6 .357 revolver! Absolutely love it. Easy to cc with size and no external hammer. Trigger is smoother than any firearm I’ve ever come across and it actually holds 6 rounds which is a plus. All stainless which gives enough weight to handle recoil well, although 38+p is a dream to run through!

  28. I often carry a Ruger GP100 Wiley Clapp. Enough barrel and weight to work with full 357 Magnum loads.

    Carrying speed loaders is a bit of a bear

    • I carry a speed strip, but I have no illusions about the need for serious cover before relo ading. Probably about a 10 second process.

  29. My 1st gun and I still have it is a Model 66 2.5 inch. Unfortunately a wee bit hard to IWB here in jeans and a t-shirt all year round.
    I happen to like revolvers. I also wish a long coat wouldn’t stand out in 75-90 degree weather.

  30. Back in the day (yeah here we go, the old guy is having an acute nostalgia attack) I carried a 4″ Smith 686 as a duty pistol. My back up/off duty piece was a 640 Smith. I liked the hammerless design and the steel frame wasn’t too unpleasant to shoot with even very hot .357 loads. I still own both guns and carry the 640 occasionally. My 686 sits in the safe and I break it out a couple of times a year and run two dozen rounds through it just for old times. When I carry the 640 these days I load it with +P .38s as I don’t think the full power .357s get much if any advantage from a short barrel. I fell into a good deal on a Charter Arms Bulldog .44 special with a Crimson Trace laser grip. I shot the off duty qualification and if I’m going to carry a wheel gun that’s my pistol of choice these days. The action and finish aren’t as nice as my Smith, but if I’m legally carrying as a LEO in unfriendly places which I have occasion to visit like New York or New Jersey, a big bore revolver will do the job. If its tied up in the legal system I’m not out a lot and I’d rather lose the Bulldog than my Kimber Ultra Carry .45.

  31. One of my favorites is my ruger security six 4″. It was a gift from the pops. Blue with rubber grips. I love that pistol and carry it often.

  32. Im hearing all this talk about how weak 357 snubbys are ,but words and no numbers.4” to 2” looks like about 200fps give or take.So whats the beef?Lately I carry a G26 or a G 30 Or an SP101.They all fit in my front pocket of my bib overalls and nobody suspects a thing from this old fat man with a cane on oxygen.I dont want to be shot by any of them,even than out of date antiquated 357.

  33. I grew up on wheel guns and don’t fully trust them to misfeeds at the worst possible time. I have a G19, 4; SW Shield 9mm; Sig p 938 and Ruger LCR .357 mag. They are all good but I’ve owned .357s for over 30 years n trust the .357 the most. I pretty much am sure I have 5 rds/shots of 125 gr .357 that are controllable and will reliably cycle in close quarter combat, if the worst happens.

  34. I carry a S&W 360PD every day every where in my pocket. I have tried everything at it and it scandium Titanium counterpart the 340PD are the ultimate concealed carry firearms!! They have one overwhelming good feature 12oz!!!! If you are lacking male genitalia and can’t handle the recoil that your problem. I didn’t buy it for plinking. Everything you do to a gun to make it easy to shoot is the exact opposite of what you do to make it easy to carry. The only drawback is retail is north of $1000!! But it is worth it for the BEST!!

  35. LCRX .38 special loaded with liberty civil defense .38’s for me. Bad case of arthritis in my wrists and hands. .38 +p’s in that thing are just pure brutal. This one stays in the car or truck. 6″ Taurus tracker in .357 mag for hunting. Sig p238 for my Sunday gun. I’m good to go with those. If I can’t get it done with one of them, it probably won’t get done…

  36. Snub nose? No. Now a 4 inch oh hell yes! Snubby would be a 38spl. and back up gun but that 4 inch would be the main.

    Just to embarrass myself. I like the Chiappa Rhinos in their full size forms.

  37. 1. Learn and understand 4 rules of gun safety. 2. Read the instructions 3.Buy what you can afford to shoot at the range every month. 4. Clean it every time u get done using it. 5. Don’t pay attention to the mr.ithinks, and I knows clowns. 6. Be it pistol or revolver. Take care of your weapon so it can take care of you.

  38. Model 13 with round butt and 125 grains Hp shoot tight, not too bad on recoil or muzzle(best brand ) Federal IMHO, EDC for 25 years, never felt under gunned esp with 4 speedloaders at ready

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