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Smith & Wesson introduced their J-frame revolvers to the world in 1950. The Chief’s Special – later, the Model 36 – became a popular gun for concealed carry because of its small size and lightweight design. Over the decades, other models have evolved from the original Chief’s Special design, including the lightweight Model 360 in .357 Magnum.

First Impressions

Weighing in at a mere 14.9 ounces (or 0.93 pounds), the gun truly lives up to the “Airweight” moniker engraved on the right side of the frame. Don’t let that fool you, though, because the gun is solid and stout. The frame is made of a Scandium alloy that’s light, but incredibly durable, and the cylinder is made of corrosion-resistant stainless steel with a PVD finish.

The synthetic combat grips are slightly longer than the normal grips you find on J-frame revolvers. Obviously, this adds a bit more surface area to the gun’s overall footprint when it comes to concealment. But that’s a trade-off I don’t mind making when it comes to this particular gun. The extra real estate helps when you touch off a .357 round from this lightweight revolver.

The Model 360’s all-black finish and smooth, un-fluted stainless steel cylinder are accented by the Flat Dark Earth combat grips and a red ramp front sight. Generally, I’m not a fan of un-fluted cylinders, but this combination makes for an attractive gun.

Comparable in size and weight to the Model 638 J-frame that regularly I carry, the Model 360 feels good in my hand. Again, part of this is, I’m sure, is due to the size of the grip. When my pinky has a place to rest, I’m a happy shooter. The red ramp front sight is also a nice touch, as it makes target acquisition easier. Any help that can be lent to the traditionally small and unadorned sight picture of a J-frame is a welcome addition.

Range Time

Both single-action and double-action trigger pulls performed exactly as you’d expect. The double-action pull is long and heavy at just over ten pounds. The single-action pull is short and crisp, breaking right at three pounds.

Also as expected, the gun handles .38 Special ammo like a champ. I put 150 rounds of Federal, Blaser, and Remington ammo through the Model 360 with no issues. Round nose or hollow point, it made no difference to a wheel gun.

The gun grouped nicely and gave me confidence in using it for self-defense purposes. For reference, the target in the photo was shot at self-defense distance (seven yards) with Remington 130-grain FMJ ammo. The red circles are 3” in diameter.

Then came time to really put the gun (and my hand) to the test. I loaded up the 360’s cylinder with .357 Magnum rounds and took aim. The result was a sight to behold.

The 360’s lightweight design creates a substantial amount of recoil…no surprise there. The boom was also accompanied by a sizable muzzle flash. What was not a sight to behold was the target. I missed completely on my first shot, with the errant round lodging harmlessly in the large shooting berm.

The Model 360 is a fierce little gun when loaded up with magnum rounds, but that’s to be expected in a gun that weighs less than a pound and is designed for easy concealment. That extra length on the grip comes in very handy when shooting heavy loads through this revolver. You’ll be glad you’ve got that extra bit of room for your pinky finger.

I used an assortment of target and self-defense ammo in my range testing and the Model 360 accepted the challenge with ease. Truth be told, my hand took more of a beating that the gun did. Firing 100 rounds of .357 Magnum was much more challenging for me than it was for the snubbie.

Thankfully, most time at the range with this gun will be spent shooting .38 Special rounds. Occasionally, a few cylinders of .357 Magnum are a good idea, just to remember what it feels like. This revolver fits the concealed carry bill perfectly. It’s designed to be carried unobtrusively and a lot, but (hopefully) only shot a little.

Countless law enforcement officers and civilians alike have trusted their lives to J-frames over the decades. The new Model 360 is ready to take on that role as well.

Specifications: Smith & Wesson Model 360 

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
Grip: Synthetic
Weight: 14.9 oz
Cylinder Material: Stainless Steel with PVD Finish
Barrel Material: Stainless Steel
Frame Material: Scandium Alloy
MSRP: $770 (about $670 retail)

Ratings (out of five stars):

Reliability * * * * *
It went bang, each and every time, with different kinds of ammo. It’s a J-frame after all.

Ergonomics * * * * *
I really like having the slightly longer grips. They’re definitely a big help when firing .357 Magnum rounds, but the gun still beats the hell out of your hand. That said, not once did I feel as though I didn’t have a good grip on the gun.

Customize This * * * 
S&W’s J-frame revolvers have been around for 68 years. Customization is endless for this gun, but there’s not much you’ll really want to do to it, short of a trigger job.

Aesthetics * * * 
The matte finish, FDE grips, and un-fluted cylinder are, to me, unconventional. It took some time for me to warm up to it aesthetically.

Overall * * * *
Does the world really need a Scandium alloy frame snubnose revolver in .357 Magnum that weighs less than a pound? No, not really. Are there plenty of other guns that will get the job done just as well with less punishment on the shooter’s hand? Yes, without a doubt. Are there people out there who will buy the 360 and shoot .357 through it exclusively to prove a point to someone they don’t even know? You better believe it. This gun may not be for everyone, but it’s certainly for someone.


Logan Metesh is a firearms historian and consultant who runs High Caliber History LLC. Click here for a free 3-page download with tips about caring for your antique and collectible firearms.

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  1. Yeah, no. It’s a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist. And if it did exist, the SW MP 340 is already the answer.

  2. I hate the word ‘evolve’ when it comes to describing any progress made by man whether in technology, guns, cars, or food. Nothing evolves…ever. The Chief’s special did not miraculously sit in a warehouse and through survival of the fittest become another gun over the past 70 years. Each and every iteration had a designer and team of assemblers who made–physically made–each gun that came afterwards whether they were for the better or worse than the first. Even the phrase ‘evolution in design’ is an oxymoron; at its core, evolution rejects a designer/creator. The crappy iPhone 4 sitting in my drawer is still a crappy iPhone 4. It will never be an iPhone 10 unless you have some nerd willing to spend hundreds of dollars to swap out all the parts; even then, there is an outside agent affecting change. “Evolve” is the Santa Clause of words; we all know it’s not true, but to actually say it’s not true brings the wrath of idiots upon your head.

    • So, did you make it past word 42 of 997 and read the whole piece? Or did you get fed up before making it through the first paragraph? 😉

    • Only if you think the word “evolve” must refer only to biological evolutionary theory. The word existed well before Darwin. Yes, things can evolve beyond that one application. Societies evolve, designs evolve, opinions evolve, etc. It comes from Latin meaning to unroll (the literal translation), open up, or expand.

      • Let’s see if it fits: “…other models have ‘unrolled’ from the original Chief Special’s design….” Nope, I don’t think he was thinking of an obscure Latin definition. Evolve, as used by the common man, implies moving from simple to complex without any outside agent. Evolution is the faith of atheism and the antithesis of hope and, as such, it is a lie.

        • Atheism and evolution are not connected. Many atheists are convinced by the evidence for evolution offered by scientific research.
          But many atheists have no opinion one way or the other on evolution.

          • Surely, you jest. They are incontrovertibly linked and, lest you forget, evolution is only a theory. It’s not scientific fact. In fact, evolutionists resort to alien seeding to explain the origins of life without explaining aliens. Evolution is messed up from a pure thought process. Yet, it’s consistently pushed as fact no matter where you look. It begs the question why. The answer is simple—let people think and look for themselves and they would see it makes no sense. People would quit believing it on their own. Same argument for gun control. The drum beat of gun control is “common sense legislation and regulation and control.” Let people have a taste of freedom without the constant brainwashing and they see the stupidity of the gun control argument. Make no mistake—it’s about control especially regarding what you think.
            I’m not naive—posting my thoughts on this topic in this forum sounds like paranoia and conspiracy theory. I get that, but learn to think for yourself without being told how or what to think. Just be willing to accept the consequences for doing so.

        • “evolutionists resort to alien seeding to explain the origins of life without explaining aliens.” – Yeah, not at all like saying everything is too complicated to have arisen by chance, it must have been designed, without explaining where this complicated Designer/Creator came from (other than that few evolutionists credit aliens).

        • Humans have tails at one point in their lives. I’m proud to have once been an animal. Through modern medicine, vaccines, anti biotics, ect. Humans are creating a physically inferior breed of animal. Death is a natural selection process, humans evolve different natural anti bodies to combat some diseases. The human species would not become extinct without modern medicine, it would become stronger, fewer in number( wich is good) but stronger.

        • any examples of survival due to becoming a simpler design?
          you yourself are evolving as a shitposter. congrats, you have a ways to go.
          doggone zpaks used to quell these pesky bacterium. it’s almost as if they’ve adapted or something!

    • I suggest you go online and find out what a scientific theory actually is. I dont think that word means what you think it does.

  3. If you can’t hit your target with shot #1, then we have a problem. I love .357 magnum and carry a DAO S&W 640 (steel framed)., but I wouldn’t if I couldn’t put all five shots on a plate. But if this gun is too snappy with .357, then you may as well just get a 642 and shoot .38sp.

    • I guess I’m lucky that shot #1 with a brand new gun was on the range and not in a self-defense situation. 😛

      I simply wasn’t expecting that kind of recoil and – looking back on it – probably didn’t have the best grip on the gun. I think the rest of the grouping speaks for itself.

      All that aside, yes, I will stick with my 638 in .38 Spl.

      • Given that only Jerry Miculek can hit anything when they shoot .357 out of this thing why would anyone buy a 360 for self defense? Not that 38 Sp is a powder puff out of J-frame either.

  4. Is the cost worth it in dollars and pain to fire full house rockets from a belly gun? I can easily score Centennial air weights for the retail on this Roscoe.

    • It’s a sweet looking gun. And I am a fan of revolvers. Particularly the small ones.

      If it were mine, I’d never shoot .357 out of it. Or anything else lighter than an sp101 (never shot .357 from an LCR though I hear it handles the recoil surprisingly well)

  5. I like my M&P’s, yeah, “one for each of ya'”. Golden Saber +P is all the heat I think I need to bring. If I’m gonna go snubby in .357 it’s gonna be an SP 101. Any extended shooting of that is gonna be noticed. YRMV. That’s the great thing about America. Freedom to choose. Oh yeah, the deal makers for me were no ugly hole above the cylinder release, and truly bilateral cylinder unlocking. -30-

  6. For what it’s worth, I have a 642 and changed the grips to Pachmeyer Diamond Grips. They’re a little bigger than the original grips but they really improve the overall feel of the revolver and the time at the range was a much bigger improvement in accuracy at 10 plus yards. I wonder if the grips would fit this revolver?

  7. I put 150 rounds of Federal, Blaser, and Remington ammo through the Model 360 with no issues …

    … no issues except for the pain in your hand.

    Firing 100 rounds of .357 Magnum was much more challenging for me than it was for the snubbie.

    Holy cow! I can only imagine that it started out seriously painful and then simply went numb?

    Occasionally, a few cylinders of .357 Magnum are a good idea, just to remember what it feels like.

    Uh, I cannot imagine anyone having any trouble whatsoever remembering what it feels like to shoot .357 Magnum rounds out of a tiny 15 ounce revolver. For the uninitiated, it feels like someone swinging a 3/4 inch diameter wooden dowel rod into the palm of your hand with the same vigor that you would use to whack a piñata. The short version: it hurts.

  8. You are certainly paying for such high tech materials to lower the weight of the gun. I think it better to add a few ounces with regular steel, lower the price, and tame the recoil a little bit. Sure carrying a sub pound gun is a little more convenient and comfortable but there is a price in both operation and purchasing.
    I had an aluminum model 85 that was annoying to shoot. The small grip gave little to hang on with and it really hurt the bones in my hand to shoot hot .38 special rounds.
    I’m a fan of wheel guns if not for self defense at least for shooting. But I wouldn’t pay that kind of money for a little gun like that when a full size gun is almost the same price.

    Great review and good pictures., don’t want to take anything away from what you published.

    • I bought all the Smiths I wanted without the Hillary hole. The last 2 have been Rugers because of it.

  9. I’m going to point out the elephant in the room if no one else is…

    Magnum rounds, and even .38 Special, from that short of a barrel are anemic. You’re better off with a .380 if you’re shooting standard pressure.38 Specials for self defense.

    And .357 Magnum? You’re better off with a pocket 9mm with 124gr +P loads. With less than two inches of barrel, you’re blowing far too much unburnt powder at your target while enduring unnecessary recoil.

    • 380 from a 3″ barrel, 90 grains, 1000 fps
      38+p from 1.5″ barrel, 158 grains, 800 fps.
      38 from 1.5″ barrel, 158 grains, 700 fps.
      38 from 1.5″ barrel, 110 grains, 850 fps.

      I’d still take standard pressure 38 over the 380.

    • Shooting a .357mag out of a snubby is “anemic”? A 9mm 124 +P is just as effective, and powerful? Don’t think so, Mate. Rather than trying to explain here, I will refer you to YouTube, and a video by Paul Harrel that addresses that premise exactly. Interesting and informative. Be safe.

  10. I like the gun pictured. However if it was mine the first thing I would do is replace the grips, then get a fluted cylinder in .38 spc, then change the frame, the cylinder release latch, the crane , the barrel and sights and give it a nice royal blue with a horse with an arrow in its mouth stamped on the sideplate

  11. The J Frame revolver is, above all, a contact weapon. Probably the best contact weapon ever devised by man. Firing full-on .357Mags through any J Frame is an exercise in excess.

    • Most assuredly a “snubby” is probably the epitome of “contact weapons”, and has been for a long time. But to limit its use or purpose for just that, is ludicrous. The snubby when mastered, can be just as effective as longer barreled revolvers. Hitting small targets at 50-60yrds is more than common and achievable through practice. I practice shots from 3 to 25yds often. A .357mag is a flat line projection, doesn’t need much adjustment for elements at longer distances. I know this is obviously biased, but a man named Jerry , using a 2” snubby, hit a target 200yrds away-but wait, over the shoulder using his pink finger I believe. Lol. I’m sure one can find YouRube videos to back my claims. Be safe.

  12. Some pedantic mutterings:

    This isn’t a “scandium alloy.” It’s actually an aluminum alloy with some scandium added. How much? Probably in the low single-digit percentages of scandium in the aluminum alloy. Scandium is a ferociously expensive metallic element to source, but its addition to aluminum can dramatically increase the yield strength:

    Sure, it sounds sexier in the marketing to call it a “scandium alloy,” but then we might as well start calling stainless steel a chromium alloy if that’s the way we’re going to go.

  13. “Weighing in at a mere 14.9 ounces (or 0.93 pounds), the gun truly lives up to the “Airweight” moniker engraved on the right side of the frame. Don’t let that fool you, though, because the gun is solid and stout.”

    “Airweight” “stout”

    One of us doesn’t understand that those words can’t be used to describe the same thing. It’s either lightweight or overweight. Can’t be both.
    OK, literary license, and all that.

    My main wheelgun is a Model 28-2, with a 4″ bbl. Fun to shoot, thus it gets shot somewhat frequently. I had a J-frame; not fun to shoot, thus got shot rather seldomly. It now resides in someone else’s safe most of the time; it’s not fun for him to shoot, either.

    And saying recoil is why your first shot with a .357 missed the target is disingenuous. The recoil comes after</i) you touch off the round, while aiming comes before. I will suggest the miss was caused by you anticipating the recoil, and flinching. With good reason.

    As you can tell, it's my belief that these small guns are just too small to shoot heavy magnum rounds comfortably, and thus effectively in stressful situations.
    But then, maybe I'm just not "evolved" enough. 🙂

    • And I see the comment section still doesn’t have an “edit” capability.
      There are several software packages that not only will notify the poster that his/her comment has a reply, but will allow a poster to edit his/her comment.

  14. the very first thing i would do is sit down with a sharp wharncliffe and trim that molding flash from the grip.

  15. Never liked the Chief, it is an ugly weapon and not design for 357. I prefer the snub nose Model 19 from S&W. It is stronger, concealable, and elegant; also worth the $700.00. The very strong German made snub nose 357 cal Vindicator (patterned after the Model 19) is a much better solution and less expensive. at around $300. I have shot the Chief in its older version and it is a hideous gun for anyone that seriously values his life. May have been good (barely) in the 1970’s but just updating the metal to allow it to shoot punishing 357 ammo in such a light frame is not enough to bring it into the 21st Century.

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