Jeff Gonzales (above) looked at the Smith & Wesson Model 360 .357 Magnum revolver I had in my hands. “Why don’t I just kick you in the balls?” Good question! At 58, my testicles are of less practical value than my hands. But I’m nothing if not an idiot. So I loaded up the Smith snubbie with Federal Premium 158 grain .357’s and . . .
Before I search for a metaphor capable of communicating the sheer joylessness of shooting .357’s out of Smith & Wesson’s latest Airweight snubbie, I want to highlight the point of this seemingly pointless exercise, starting with one of Neil Gaiman’s rules for writers: do whatever it takes to finish it.
While Mr. Gaiman was clearly referring to my three unfinished novels, the same rule applies to gunfights. Drawing and shooting a hammerless Smith snubbie loaded with hollow-point .38’s should finish the job. Unless, that is, there’s more than one bad guy, some or all of them are more than bad breath distance away, and you’re not Jerry Miculek.
At that point, you should be hankering for a semi-automatic handgun with a decent trigger, loads o’ bullets and a spare mag. But for some reason you carry a snubbie. Right. So now you want a couple of things from your five-shot snubbie: accuracy and “stopping power.”
For shot placement, it’s hammer time! Shooting a revolver single action offers far more control than rotating that cylinder via a mile-long, anvil-heavy double-action trigger pull — even for the Divine Mr. M. And even minimal sights are way better than nothing.
While we’re at it, the .357 cartridge is a better ballistic solution than a .38 caliber pill. Yes, the .357 is little more than a zippier .38. But the additional velocity — several hundred feet per second more, depending on barrel length and grain count — delivers better penetration and more reliable expansion. Oh, and a f*ck-ton of recoil.
Yes there is that. So very much that.
Shooting .357 bullets out of a 39.7 ounce L-frame Smith & Wesson Model 686 revolver with a 4-inch barrel is something of a shock to the system. Shooting the same round from a 14.9 ounce J-frame Smith & Wesson Model 360 Magnum revolver with a 1.875-inch barrel isn’t two-and-a-half times as uncomfortable. It’s like shaking hands with electricity.
To illustrate the discomfort involved, check out the video above. That’s Liberty Austin shooting the .357-laden Model 360 at The Range at Austin’s uber-posh Patriot Club. Now you know why you can find barely-used .357 snub-nose revolvers for sale at your local gun store. And yet . . .
Here’s my five-yard target shooting the aforementioned Federal Premium 158 gr. .357 ammo, single action, slow fire.
Considering the abuse my hands received touching off those rounds, and the fact that I’m a lousy shot, that’s a more-than-merely-acceptable group for self-defense. Yes, well, look what happened when I let loose the .357 dogs of war, shooting the Model 360 double action, rapid fire.
I attribute the two shots touching each other to the fact that I pulled the trigger faster than the pain receptors in my brain could form an open revolt. The fourth and fifth shots tell the tale; aiming for “NO” one bullet was an inadvertent Mozambique, the last a lawsuit waiting to happen.
Bottom line: if I want to send .357 caliber lead more than four feet downrange with something resembling accuracy I’d trust the Smith & Wesson Model 360 Magnum about as much as a Wells Fargo mortgage broker.
Assuming I could move and shoot during an adrenaline dump — which is like assuming I could hold an intelligent conversation with Orin Julie after my fourth vodka — I would feel confident firing .38’s out of the Model 360, in either double or single-action, at a target five to ten yards away.
I reckon I might even hit center mass on a moving target a bit further away, with practice. Which I could actually bring myself to do if I was slinging .38’s instead of .357’s — a gun/ammo combination that makes Lyle Lovett and Julia Roberts seem like a match made in heaven. And I’d feel stylish doing it.
The Model 360 combines a black Scandium alloy frame, a color-matched unfluted stainless five-round steel cylinder and flat dark earth “combat grips.” The result: a snub-nosed Smith with uncharacteristic gravitas. It’s the kind of gun that says “gun” when you brandish it. Which is a good thing, not a bad thing.
The Model 360 Magnum’s $770 MSRP? Not so much.
That’s a couple of hundred bucks more than Smith’s superb non-Performance Center .38-only J-frames. The “extra” money pays for a Darth Vader vibe and .357 compatibility — a feature that turns into a bug the first time you feed the Model 360 the more explosive cartridges.
Unless you’re a firearms fashionista and/or the type of person who enjoys a swift kick to your nether regions, this is not the J-frame revolver you’re looking for.
Model: Model 360 .357 Magnum/.38 S&W Special +P
Caliber: .357 Magnum, .38 S&W SPECIAL +P
Capacity: 5 rounds
Barrel Length: 1.875″
Overall Length: 6.4″
Front Sight: Red ramp
Rear Sight: Fixed notch
Action: Single/Double Action
Weight: 14.9 oz / 422.4g
Cylinder Material: Stainless steel with PVD finish
Barrel Material: Stainless steel
Frame Material: Scandium alloy
Ratings (out of five stars):
Style: * * * * *
As Ricardo Montalban would say, I like what they’ve done to my snubbie! The black-on-black-on-dark-beige 360 Magnum is evil yet elegant.
Ergonomics Carry: * * * * *
Unlike the Smith & Wesson 642 and its two-finger ballistic brethren, the 360 Magnum provides pinkie room. Although the 360’s bulkier than smaller J-frames, with the right holster, the hammer-equipped handgun is still a pocket pistol.
Ergonomics Firing: *
The 360 is a Smith & Wesson snubbie of the Airweight persuasion. Firing .38s is a bit . . . snappy. Shooting .357’s is like grabbing barbed wire. Hard.
Accuracy: * * *
The 360 offers single-action satisfaction, even firing with full-house .357’s. As long as you slow-fire double action and hold on for dear life, you’re still pretty much good to go at combat distances. Rapid fire .38’s are best at contact or bad breath distance. Rapid firing .357’s out of the 360’s snout is the revolver equivalent of spray and pray.
Customize This: *
You could send your $770 black-on-black snubbie for a trigger job. Buy a cool holster or two instead.
Overall: * * *
An Airweight J-frame revolver loaded with .357’s is like a Honda Accord with a massive bolt-on turbo: a dumb idea that’s bound to end in tears. But just as a turbo-less Honda is a damn fine automobile, the Model 360 Magnum loaded with defensive .38’s is a superb snubbie, provided you don’t mind paying mortgage money for the privilege of owning Darth Vader’s BUG.