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 .357s and . .
Before I search for a metaphor capable of communicating the sheer joylessness of shooting .357s 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 hollowpoint .38s 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 wheelgun single action offers far more control than rotating that stainless-steel 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 spl. 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 full-power 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 revolver 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-grain .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 .38s out of the new Model 360, in either double- or single-action, at a target five to 10 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 .38s instead of .357s — 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 S&W Model 360 combines a black Scandium alloy frame, a color-matched corrosion-resistant unfluted cylinder (stainless five-round) 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 magnum 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 front sight
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 exposed-hammer handgun is still a concealed-carry 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 .357s. 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 .38s are best at contact or bad-breath distance. Rapid firing .357s out of the 360s 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 .357s 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 .38s is a superb snubbie, provided you don’t mind paying mortgage money for the privilege of owning Darth Vader’s BUG.