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Jeff Gonzales at The Range at Austin holding the Smith & Wesson Model 360 Airweight revolver (courtesy


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.


Smith & Wesson Model 360 Magnum (courtesy


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.”


Sight, Smith & Wesson Model 4360 Magnum (courtesy


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 the Smith & Wesson Model 360 Magnum at The Range at Austin (courtesy


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  . . .


Smith and Wesson Model 360 .357 Magnum revolver five yards at The Range at Austin (courtesy


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.


Smith and Wesson Model 360 .357 Magnum shot double action rapid fire (courtesy


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.


Smith & Wesson Model 360 Magnum (courtesy


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.


Smith & Wesson Model 360 Magnum (courtesy


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.


Smith & Wesson Model 360 Magnum (courtesy


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

Grip: Synthetic

Weight: 14.9 oz / 422.4g

Cylinder Material: Stainless steel with PVD finish

Barrel Material: Stainless steel

Frame Material: Scandium alloy

MSRP: $770

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.

More from The Truth About Guns:

Gun Review: Ruger SP101

Gun Review: Colt King Cobra .357 Revolver

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  1. .357 Airweight is an oxymoron, like jumbo shrimp. Even for a diehard Smith weenie like me, it’s just way too much cartridge in way too little gun.

    • Sounds like the 360 is the perfect gun to never shoot, but carry often. What could possibly go wrong?

      I bet Liberte would have chosen a kick in the balls if offered the choice. Me on the other hand? I’d love a 360! Seems like the perfect backup-backup gun with a similar manual of arms as most other wheelguns. Kudos to S&W. Innovate or die trying.

    • Full pressure .357 loads out of an Airweight Smith, that is something I will pass on. In my youth, I once owned a twenty ounce Charter Arms .44, the first range trip, and a cylinder full of 240 grain +P hollow points left me with a hammer bite bruise, and a significant flinch that took months to cure.

      • I may be missing something here, after reading all of the comments. There is barely a mention of bullet weight. I carry a S&W M60, and there is a BIG difference between 158, 125, and 110gr… Yeah, 158’s hurt, 125’s are no problem, and 110’s are like nothing to shoot. Cor- bon makes a 100gr. Pow’RBall that spits out (probably from a 4″) at 1450 fps, with 467 ft pds…and if that is too much, try 38 +P’s at 1150 fps, with 294ft pds. Multiple assailants? Don’t stand your ground, shoot the closest five, and run like hell…

        • Exactly! 357 Mag Airweights are not designed for bullets over 125gr. I would definitely choose a lighter grain bullet which still has more oomph than a 38spl +p.
          You can easily gain more comfort and control by changing the grips. I’ve done this several times with much success.

  2. You might be able to hit the bad guy and save your life with such a gun and a hot load, but why would you want too?;-)

    • I see what you did there . . .

      You might WANT to shoot a bad guy with a .357 out of a Smith & Wesson Airweight snub-nosed revolver, but CAN you?

      That’s not a question I’d like to be asking myself facing an imminent, credible threat of grievous bodily harm or death.

      • It is amazing how much you DON’T feel the recoil or hear the ear ringing noise of the reports as you try to stop an armed goblin who is trying to stop you. And there is that sinking feeling as you try ,in a dark 2AM alley before speed loaders, to ram cartridges into that Chief’s Special and most of em are racing each other to the ground. The thought enters your mind the,just maybe, you should have become a Catlick Priest like your brother.

  3. Lightweight .357s are made for two people, those who can actually handle them, and people who don’t know any better. The simple review should be, rent / borrow one and shoot it before you buy.

  4. Many years ago, when I bought my Ruger SP101 .357, I was talked into firing some .357 rounds… The Ruger is not an “airweight,” by any means, but after shooting five rounds of the .357 I feared I’d never be able to use my hands again. Painful only begins to describe it. I don’t carry the revolver often anymore… it’s sort of my BBQ gun – but it remains loaded with .38+p hollow points. And it stays on my desk unless I’m carrying it.

    I had a Taurus featherweight .38 sp. revolver, and even with plain semi-wadcutters it was too snappy for my old hands. That was one of the only two guns I ever sold.

    • I’m smiling at you, Mama!
      The Ruger SP101 is the closest to “pleasant ” a .357 snubbie can get and mine feeds almost exclusively .38 regular and +Ps.
      Come to think of it, just about the only time I feed it magnums is when I’m carrying it out of concern of something chewing on me.

    • It is like getting back on a horse when you haven’t been on a horse in over 40 years. If you are’t careful and ride for more than 15 minutes,(and that is at a slow walk) you will be in severe pain over the next week. I would start off with firing just a few rounds (with gloves) a couple of times a week aand gradually increase the number of shots. Very soon you will be opening a can of Spam with your finger nails.

  5. The bride has been carrying a .38+p Airweight for 10-odd years, and it has never let her down in a gunfight (of course she hasn’t had any). OTOH, shooting +p is an exercise in masochism, I cannot really imagine what .357 would be like, and don’t want to. After my 2 grown sons volunteered to assist me in emptying the 5-shot cylinder and each handed it back after 1 shot, I decided the bride did not need +p, went to std .38 with fancy bullets, seems more likely acceptable. Nice gun, but built to carry, not to shoot.

  6. You guys whine like old women!

    I’ve carried my 340pd for years. i can hit comfortably at 7 yards with either hand, I can take more careful aim and hit just fine at 15 yards.

    accuracy is not a problem. Does it smack ya around a bit, sure, but so does a shotgun the first time you fire one. And yet, as soon as you get used to it, its no big deal. I’ve put thousands of rounds through my trustly little 340pd snubbie and firing the thing doesn’t even bug me in the slightest anymore.

    Its light, comfortable, completely disappears in a decent IWB holster and is guaranteed to ruin the day of some ahole that decides my car is his as soon as he drags my corpse outta it.

    And No…no relation to Jerry.

      • I’m with Kyle. I’ve several .357’s and even with a blind test I can’t feel any difference between a .38 and a .357. I can see the difference in the ring of fire around the cylinder but they feel just the same.

        I had a root canal last month. First one and was terrified. Turned out to be no fuss at all and I don’t get the hype.

        Either I’m a liar, superhuman or everyone else is playing with hyperbole as fishermen so often do.

        • I’ve carried, shot, and counted on my J Frame for many years. Didn’t switch over to an automatic for a BUG until just over a year ago. I can put 5 rounds in the silhouette as fast as I can pull the trigger at 5 to 7 yards, but I notice a big difference between the 38SPLs and the .357 magnums.

        • Perception and pain tolerance vary widely… My wife (rightfully) boasts about having kids without pain medication but will then whine about some things that to me seem like nothing… And sometimes pain is part of the fun! I used to joke nothing gets the blood pumping and make you feel alive like a good motorcycle crash! 🙂
          Loosely related but a very interesting question I’d heard raised. A good friend of mine teaches at a tough inner city school and had plenty of “cutters” in his class that he’d kind of mentor. He’d come in on a Monday and talk up his awesome weekend mountain bike ride and talk about a knarly crash and having blood running down legs/arms/etc and getting back and keep going and feeling alive. Some of his students would ask him how that’s any different than cutting… Interesting thought…

        • Discussion here is not about .38 vs .357, it is about those rounds in a 13 oz snubby. My first “real” gun (non .22) was a 4″ Python which rarely if ever found itself loaded with .38s, probably at least 1000 full boat .357 every year, and I loved shooting it, often one handed. But 3 rounds of .38 +p from that snubby (with a 2-hand grip) and my hands are numb until they begin hurting like hell. I can’t imagine voluntarily firing 3 rounds of .357 from it in a full day. I don’t have a real objection to owning and carrying such, but if you wish to actually practice, you’ll need a heavier gun or lighter loads, instead of practicing with what you carry.

      • lol I have yes, and no i didn’t enjoy it, but come on 🙂

        My analogy to a shot gun is more or less dead on. It hurt, ALOT, but ya get used to it, pretty quickly in fact.

        The trade off is, I get a ccw that is damn near invisible to anything short of an FBI strip search (some exaggeration on that one, but ya get the point.) and it weighs so little that it doesn’t even cause the pants to sag with a belt made of dental floss (again, some exaggeration on that one, but ya get the point).

        And the accuracy thing is totally based on practice. i can pop golf balls into the air with mine at 5-7 yards. Pistol shooting is 80% practice, and 20% wallet.

    • Lots of this is going to depend on the shape & size of your hand, and the way that the grips fit your hand.

      Grip fit is a more critical issue in revolvers than in semi-autos, from my experience.

      That said, I’ve had most of the few fillings in my teeth drilled without any anesthesia, and I find “air weight” snubbies in .357 to be simply offensive. Further, to become proficient with a snubby, you need to practice – a lot. These snubbies with the snappy recoil just aren’t conducive to practicing sufficiently to be able to hit a B-29 (or similar) target properly at 50′ on a fast draw.

      But they sure to make quite the muzzle bloom at night…

      • I love shooting and carrying snubs, but I like a challenge.

        My experience is lots of dry fire practice is the key to shooting DA well. My first carry gun was a dao snub and I dry fired the heck out of that thing till I could place a penny on the barrel and pull the trigger ten times in a row without the penny falling off.

        About 20-30 yards was my accuracy limit though. Groups turned into patterns when I went farther than that.

  7. My cruel gun was a .475 Linebaugh 6.5″ Blackhawk. I used a shooting glove with 1/4″ of padding. In six years of hunting with it, I never shot anything. It just wasn’t worth it.

    • I had the exact same gun, but in 7″. It makes a J framed .357 Magnum feel like a 22magnum. Truly violent recoil. But the reward was a spectacular terminal ballistic effect. Hunted with it once. Shot through 2 pigs. Sold it for what I paid for it to a guy that took it Cape Buffalo hunting in Africa.

  8. If you ever have to use it in self defense you will not notice the recoil because of all the adrenaline that will be flowing thru your body. Now if you could just get your body to release some when you want to practice with it.

    • Whatever accuracy you can create at the range is likely to degrade by 50 percent — or more — during an adrenaline dump.

      Force-on-force training is the best way to ascertain what you can do with a gun under stress before a defensive gun use.

      Having seen students try to cope with a simulated DGU with a revolver firing minimal recoil simunitions, I wouldn’t recommend carrying a five-shot snubbie as a primary weapon system, period. Unless you’re ready, willing and able to get up close and personal.

      • “degrade by 50 percent — or more ”
        The best combat shooters in the world, guys I know have been in dozens of shootouts or more, tell me that if the groups only doubled in size you are doing great. Most of the time it’s closer to quadrupled. That has certainly been my direct experience.

      • “I wouldn’t recommend carrying a five-shot snubbie as a primary weapon system . . . [u]nless you’re ready, willing and able to get up close and personal.”

        Well, yeah. That’s why it’s called a belly gun.

        The snubby is at its best as a contact weapon, probably the most effective contact weapon ever made. If you’re going to use it to sling lead at 25 yards, you lose.

        • If you’re gonna get that close a fixed blade knife is the best weapon ever made.

          I’d rather have the gun personally but a good blade really is the best weapon if you’re actually close enough to make physical contact with the person. It’s messy and personal but it’s damn effective.

        • “a fixed blade knife is the best weapon”

          Take your knife and shove it.

          See what I did there? 🙂

        • Shooting someone in a self defense situation over 15 feet is going to require a lot of explaining.

    • I’m not so worried about the recoil in a SD situation, I’ve ran through a shoot house with my little Taurus 605 which is twice the weight of a 360, recoil wasn’t the problem, hitting my target was. I managed a perfect right between the eyes hit…. on the no shoot target to the left of the intended target. I would have been better served blinding my target with the muzzle flash then stabbing them with a knife. My second time through with Speer 38+p short barrel ammo netted me almost a perfect score, but I knew the layout by then so it’s not apples to apples.

  9. I carry a S&W 360PD scandium/titanium 12 oz .357 mag every day. I carry CorBon 125gr HP. If you are not lacking in manhood (as the men in this story) the revolver is the lightest weight most powerful and most accurate pocket pistol on the planet. it is this or a .380 or something mega times heaver an bigger!! I did not buy it for plinking! I can keep all five shots on a playing card at 15yds. I can empty it in a paper plat at 7yds in 2 seconds and no I not ken to Jerry. Mine dose shoot 125s much better than 158s or 180s.

    • We yield to your greatness. And we also note that those who brag about their masculinity often fear their own, uh, inadequacy. Heartfelt condolences are offered.

    • “I can keep all five shots on a playing card at 15yds”
      I highly suggest you hit the competition circuits. Easy paychecks for you there. Nobody can come close to you.

      • Was that the card or the card table? I started with revolvers in 72 when I got my NYC carry. Mainly because there were no selection of a thousand little guns back then, it was a snubby or a ppk’s, the S&W 39 and 59 weren’t available, plus they were big and heavy.
        For some stupid reason, we all felt that 5 or 6 and a speed loader was sufficient for everyday carry. Including LEO’s.
        Now of course we all require a gun that takes a full box of 50 rounds before going out. Carrying a 5 round gun now is like entering the Daytona 500 in a Citron 2cv.
        As good as I was back then, “competing with the NYPD and FBI pistol teams, I couldn’t get all 5 on a playing card at 15 yards, maybe 15 feet fast fire., even out to 25 feet slow fire on a good day.
        Problem is that now we have seen that it takes 4 rounds on the average to put a man charging at you, “down. So9 2 or more men would leave you out of ammo, even though they may die 20 seconds after the shooting stops. or you can make head shots every time while running backwards.

    • Like most who speak in absolutes and question masculinity, you, sir, appear to be full of crap.

      You can keep your .357 out of your snubbie barrel. You lose a lot of the potency of a .357 when the barrel is that short. So you get a lot of muzzle flash and recoil, without a whole lot of extra potency behind it.

      There are other choices besides a pocket pistol and a “mega bigger” pistol. Smith and Wesson Shield? Glock 43? Hell, I even had an LCR .357 that I carried .38 +P in.

      If you can outshoot me and my Shield with your 360, I’ll shake your hand and give you a Daniel Webster cigar.

      • Yes the 360pd is more intrinsically Accurate than a M&P shield. It is about 10X harder to shoot. And it is more reliable and a true pocket pistol. Remember 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 and the 360pd ist 12oz is the ultimate carry gun. Even though it’s hard to shoot it is so accurate and it can be mastered. It’s biggest drawback is the price about 2x as much as an M&P Shield. I searched the world ove and tried a lot of stuff Before I spent the big money on the ultimate carry gun.

    • As I commented far below, mine is not accurate with magnum loads. It is dead on with .38Sp performance loads.

      Please don’t question my skill. I can assure you that the .357 magnum loads of any variety land all over the target at 7 yards and slower bullets are as accurate as anyone could ask for.

      I wish I knew why.

  10. Everyone in this review, and especially in the video, is holding the gun wrong. The grip that is appropriate for a 1911 is really going to suck for a snubbie, or any revolver chambered for a .357 Magnum or heavier cartridge. The slide isn’t going to reciprocate, so cross your thumbs in the classic “double crush” grip.

    You can see this grip as the 6th pic in this review:

    It will make a HUGE difference in recoil management, as well as accuracy in the little revolver.

    • Snubby shooting does require what’s called a “convulsive grip.” The shooter has to try to crush the handle into a fine powder. Allowing any slack in the grip whatsoever will degrade accuracy and increase felt recoil, especially with Airweights and even with plain-jane .38Spls.

    • Agreed. I never bothered with changing my grip for a revolver until I recently purchased a model 36 no dash. Huge improvement in speed and accuracy as soon as I changed technique. Now I shoot all revolvers that way.

  11. Big fan of the .357 but not in a pocket revolver. Although the .44mag birdshead Vaquero I bought recently has a two finger g rip that’s quite comfortable to shoot. But it weights 39 ounces. No getting around the laws of physics.

  12. “Now you know why you can find barely-used .357 snub-nose revolvers for sale at your local gun store.”

    Truer words were never spoken. In my neck of the woods, there’s no reason to ever pay more than $350 for a LNIB used S&W .357 snubbie, and there are plenty to choose from.

    • That is an old and tired adage, originally referring to the suggestion that you could find as new 44 Magnums with one bullet missing out of the box of ammo that it came with. I can attest that wasn’t true either. In fact for many years, It was nearly impossible to locate a Model 29 Smith & Wesson 44 Magnum. If you did find it, it was much higher than its original or suggested price. I don’t know where you live, but 357 Magnum Scandium snub noses for $350 are certainly not available where I live. If I could find one for $350, it would be leaving instantly with me. Or if any of you out there have a scandium Smith & Wesson 357 snub nose for sale for $350 I will take it off your hands today.

  13. My wife, an average sized woman, carries a Ruger LCR (light carry revolver, double action only). She practices mostly with .38SP but will always run a cylinder full of .357 MAG before she puts it away. Not exactly fun, but she doesn’t complain. And she can usually put five holes in a paper plate at 10 yards.

    Grow a pair and learn to handle recoil, or turn in your man card.

  14. I have shot the Airwieght
    Even with .38 ammo i am just like Liberte in that video above
    Bang… ouch!
    Here take it back, I don’t want to finish the cylinder

  15. Can we have more info about the finish, please? The cylinder in the test gun looks worn, which makes me wonder about durability. Also, do you see any gas cutting around the blast shield?

  16. I don’t view snubbie .357s as viable for much of anything. The ballistics of a .357 out of a two inch barrel are so diminished that any extra power that it gives over 9mm is outweighed by the recoil, muzzle blast, and lack of capacity. The larger grip of this model 360 might make it more bearable to shoot but that greatly reduces any advantage it might have as an ankle or pocket gun. Personally I just don’t understand why someone would want a snubbie .357 holding 5 rounds over a slimmer 9mm holding 8 rounds.

  17. This story is better suited as an argument FOR a 38 special than AGAINST the revolver as a self defense gun.

    For what it’s worth, I have personal experience with a .38 snub (Charter Arms Undercover) that easily routed THREE (count ’em – three) bad guys.

    After the first one was shot point-blank, the other two scattered instantly.

    The shot one went jail.

    That gun remains a comforting companion of mine.

  18. I still don’t understand the hubbub about this new model. Aren’t there already a few .357 snubbies in the S&W line-up? All this one does is stick an ugly rubber grip on it. That’s something you can add to any other .357 snub for $25.

    What does this model bring to the table that’s new? Am I missing something?

  19. I cc an S&W Model 642 double action only 5-shot snubby. This little revolver is easily concealed and is perfect for parking lot and anti-carjacking protection in and around Detroit. While at first it seemed a lot to handle, over a few weeks of practice my groups shrank as my trigger control and grip improved. I’m now making one big hole in the target slow firing, or can hold a fist sized grouping in rapid fire at 15 yards. Concealable, powerful, easy to have with me. For .357 I’d want a more robust revolver like the 686 7 shot in a 3 inch barrel. IMO .357 in a snubby isn’t a good match-up for recoil and barrel length reasons. Kinda the worst of both worlds. I’d rather cc a .44 special.

    Bravo if you can become an expert in your weapon of choice after one trip to the range, but I think it unlikely. The author and the shooters didn’t seem all that familiar with revolvers. Any tool requires time and (correct) practice to master. I recently took my 4’6″ sister to the range with a snubbie and she was grouping under 2″ at 10 yards in under an hour’s instruction. For self-defense, the time investment is worth it regardless of the choice of arms. If I was going to war, I’d want a rifle, not a handgun, but the revolver holds a unique place for its reliability, ease-of-operation, and performance at contact ranges (try shooting a pistol from your coat pocket or with the barrel in contact with the target). I believe the target results shown in the story reflect more on the author’s lack of skill/experience with revolvers than on the caliber.

    • You raise an interesting question: is my experience with the S&W 360 Magnum representational of the 360’s full capabilities?

      Simple answer: no. Of course not. As I mentioned in the article, I consider myself a lousy shot. There’s no question that a pro like Jerry Miculek can get astounding accuracy out of ANY revolver. In ANY caliber. From ANY position. At ANY time.

      At a push, I’d place my shooting skills somewhere between those of a completely untrained, very occasional shooter (which is by far the majority of shooters) and a shooter with natural talent who shoots regularly. As such I feel comfortable issuing pronouncements on what I can and cannot do with a firearm.

      I’m not saying that I’m a firearms everyman. But I am saying that I’m honest about both my abilities and my results when I write about a gun’s ballistic performance. More than that I cannot do.

      Also, while practice is needed to master ANY gun, the Smith & Wesson 360 Magnum with .357’s is so painful to shoot — even with JWT’s correct grip — that few buyers will ever practice. So few non-experts will achieve even the admittedly low performance I achieved shooting two boxes of .357’s through this gun.

      • The point of the 442 Smith that I carry is to have a murphy proof 5 shots that are as reliable being shot from inside my coat pocket as the Glock 19 is in the open air.

        We’re not cops or operators. We’re not going to walk down main street at high door with our holsters tied down.

        We’re far more likely to encounter a street thug at bad breath range or a loose pitbull at ankle range than any other threat. By far.

        That’s where the j frame shines. Or as a backup gun.

        When I hunt in the hills alone I put the j frame in my pants pocket even though I’m packing a shotgun or rifle in hand.

        As for the testicle thing. I’m older than you and find a use for mine as often as I can. It’s good for your health and mental well being.

    • “I cc an S&W Model 642 double action only 5-shot snubby.”

      As do I. I consider it the sine qua non of self defense. Maybe the greatest self-defense firearm ever made. Certainly the greatest contact weapon ever made.

      The same or lighter gun in .357? No effing way.

  20. Now try 300gr bear loads out of a S&W 329PD with the factory skinny wood grips. Brutal. I don’t even like to shoot these out of an all steel 629 with a 5″ full underlug barrel.

    Waiting for S&W to make a 460 or 500PD…now THAT will be entertaining! A ~30oz revolver that can shoot 700gr hunks of metal. Will become the most ‘Murrican gun ever made.

  21. I carry this the original 360pd every day in warm weather and carry its big brother the 329PD in cool weather and have for a couple of years. I shoot them a lot and never feel like they are not enough. The 329pd is a handful, especially with heavy loads to say the least, but the 360pd is a brutal little revolver with full power loads. I carry both with crimson trace laser grips and that’s what i practice with as well. I shoot hand loads for both and work through lighter ones and finish the day with about 18 carry loads in each. Some days I tend to wear a glove but most days I don’t, its all about getting used to it.

  22. This quest for fly-weight carry guns in real-power cartridges, (ie under 20oz unloaded weight and .38 +P or heavier loads) is just stupid. Same with the idea of barrels less than 3″ – maybe 2.5″ at the least.

    A 686, the L-frame .357 with 7 shots and a 3″ barrel is a much better choice for carry. What S&W really needs to do is bring back the 696, and then reduce the weight on the 686 and 696 with 3″ barrels a bit – not much. Say, 30 to 32 ounces, unloaded weight.

    The Charter Arms Bulldog is a tad too light, doesn’t hold up under prolonged use. What the market needs is something in-between in a L-frame 5-shot .44 Spl or 7-shot .357/.38 +P.

  23. Insanity. I recognize that some (many… most?) have significantly better skills than what has taken me 25years and thousands of rounds to manage– but even IF you had the skill, is the payoff worth it? Even on paper?

    I carry an LCR for a BuG, or sometimes even a primary, and I don’t even put +P in it… I might, if it were the heavier .357 frame, Mayyybe. For years I had a Model 60 .357, which worked okay with +P, but if we had the technology 15-20 years ago, like Critical Defense FTX tips, I don’t know that I’d even bother with +P. Even on paper, out of a short barrel, the gains seem relatively marginal, for what one gives up in steady aim, smoothness, speed and thus accuracy. All handguns are compromises, as we know, but at the top of the list for me is: you gotta hit it for any of those paper numbers to even matter. Especially considering what so many have pointed out about stress and widening grouping. .38Special, regular, it’s not great… but at defensive distances, it is enough if you HIT what you intend to hit. And the newer loads probably (maybe kinda sorta) bring a little more to the table than the old 158 half jacketed lead hollow points.

    That said… for the reasons of an extra round, plus a little performance gain with the promise of less recoil (…promises, promises…), I am mildly interested in an LCR in .327 Federal Mag. Haven’t shot it… haven’t hardly seen one… so I dunno. Worth it?

    But .357 Mag? Kipling echoes… He who rides the tiger finds it difficult to dismount (although She didn’t ha… “screw this, I’m done.” haha).

    Be safe.

  24. I have an S&W model 19 with a 6″ barrel. Shooting 158 grain .357 magnums from it is uncomfortable. On occasion, I think about replacing it with a Performance Center 686. I can’t (and don’t want to) imagine shooting the same cartridge from a lightweight snubbie. The best defensive cartridge in a 360, because you can control it, is a .38 Special wadcutter target load.

    • The difference in people. My last .357 was a k frame in 4 inch barrel. I did not find it unpleasant to shoot at all.

      Lightweight snubbie, yes. Service size, no.

      I don’t mean for this to come off as an insult. But we all experience recoil differently.

  25. I took my ccw course with a brand new GP100 without ever having fired it before. I brought some 158g magnum ammo and thought it would be fun to shoot the full loads at the range. We had to shoot 50 rounds to qualify. After the first shot I knew I was fkked. Good Lord it was nothing like my .45 auto. The web between my thumb and index finger developed such a hard and painful knot, the bruise was felt for nearly 10 months afterwards. I didn’t know how to properly grip the revolver and it was like nothing I had expected. Fun story though. And now I do enjoy it more without too much pain.

  26. Seems like if you beefed it back up a few ounces (don’t flute the barrel, etc.) and gave it a more forgiving grip, it could be a more practical gun for the same purpose. My buddy’s Rhino 20DS is about 24oz. with rubber grips that are almost too soft. You can shoot .357 out of it all day if you can manage to get the damn empties to extract.

    I figure, split the difference, make it 20oz. with some recoil absorbing grips and you can at least get through a full cylinder without wishing you had a 6th bullet for yourself.

  27. Me and my Sp101 are Ruger’s secret marketing weapon. Whenever I take it to the range and shoot it, other people there want to as well. And if any of those folks own a Smith Snubby, they head straight to gun store to sell or trade for an Sp101. It’s not an airweight by any means but it’s a lot more pleasant to shoot. Mine fits right nice in an old Franklin Covey Day Timer folio that I took the binder rings out of.

  28. Best compromise J frame…the 360J. It’s basically the same as this gun, but only chambered in .38 Special +P. Smith doesn’t advertise them on their website, but I’ve seen them sold at multiple locations. A little Googling revealed that this model was a foreign order that Smith makes, but they sell off the overages. They usually end of costing slightly less than the inferior (bad choice of words….lets go with “less awesome”) 637s. Scandium alloy frame with titanium pins, a stainless steel cylinder, and a pinned front sight which can be swapped out for a Big Dot or fiber optics (the 637 uses a fixed ramp that can not be changed).

    And then if you change your mind about wanting .357 Magnum power (or you just decide you’re not really a fan of the nerve endings in your hands), order a titanium .357 mag cylinder from Brownells and you have the equivalent of a 360PD. The frame is identical to the .357 models so it’s built to withstand the pressure. All you need is a new cylinder, and maybe some good painkillers.

  29. I had to laugh at that double action target, I know exactly how that is. “BangBang (flinch) bang(flinch)bang(flinch)bang(flinch)”. Never again.

  30. It no longer makes sense to carry a 357. I grew up with Revolvers only. In the early 70’s that’s all we had that was small enough to hide in states like NY, and Cities like Manhattan. But now there are so many choices and improved ammo, that you can get a 9mm that has the same result as a 357 at that barrel length. No reason to carry a 5 shot gun when you may be facing 2 or 3 bad guys with automatics. Plus they will blow out your ear drums. I just got over am infected ear from picking at it due to it closing up from shooting. Why put yourself through this. 50% of rounds fired are misses, it takes 2 or more rounds to drop a guy charged up on adrenaline and or drugs, so you have enough for maybe 1 guy. Not great odds, Those are FBI statistics from in house gunfights that agents were in. They claim that a 9mm will do a better job than a 357.
    If you insist, get a 38 oz handgun with 7 or 8 rounds, like S&W now has in their 686 and Custom shop.

  31. I respect the knowledge and experience here, but you guys are missing the point of this gem. Yes, gem. I have two, one hammerless and one with a hammer. both with the titanium cylinder and both weigh 11.4 ounces. Can I shoot my Sig P245 faster and more accurately? Of course. Would I keep this in my vehicle or in the nightstand? No. But the first rule of winning a gunfight is having a gun. Plain and simple I can toss this in my pocket–and shoot it while it’s still in my pocket if I have to–when otherwise I might go without. Yes, it’s better to have an auto at your hip. Yes, it would be better to always take the time to be better armed. But if you’re like me and do a lot of spur of the moment things where I can’t always take the time to holster up, this thing can be in my board shorts pocket as I run out the door. I’m not going to try and take on some nut with an AR-15. But if my wife and I are walking down the street and things all of a sudden look squirrely, I can put my hands in my pockets. I don’t have to make the possibly escalating move of reaching for a holster. I just put my hands in my coat pockets and look harmless. If something happens at point blank range I can just squeeze the trigger–up to five times reliably. Try that with an auto. (The hammerless 340 obviously.) That saves me the time that it takes to draw. When some thug is looking at me menacingly, I already have a .357 pointed at his belly, and I won’t miss at that range. If they go on by, no harm done. If he starts to draw, well…

    Yes, this thing beats the hell out of you with .357 loads. I enjoy shooting it with .38 +P, and I can shoot that all day long without beating up the gun, or myself. For defense loads I use a light .357 factory round that beats .38 +p by about 100 fps. It’s a bit brutal. But not near as bad as full blown .357. I practice with .38, and then put a few rounds of the light .357 through it to make sure I’m still shooting straight.

    The main point of this revolver–at least IMHO–is have something else at your hip if you can. For those times when you can’t, toss this in your pocket. I know there are other pocket pistols, but this one works great for me. Very corrosion resistant: that’s required for my lifestyle. Very light: that extra couple of ounces sometimes makes the difference between being armed and not being armed for me.

  32. I take my friends out often to shoot with me and they inevitably want to fire my 360 PD. In trying to describe what to expect , I am often at a loss until I read this column. “ shaking hands with electricity “ is the best, most accurate and funniest description that I have ever read!

  33. My 360 is not accurate with heavier loads. I get a 8″ or more group at 7 yards with magnum loads. It is very consistent in it’s inconsistent accuracy.

    I tried factory and my own loaded down .38’s and .357’s chronographing a variety. The revo is dead on accurate with a 100 PF load. I like the wallop of a magnum cartridge, but it is more important to actually hit what I aim at. I even tried Speer Short-barrel .357’s. They are not much lighter than full magnums and are not accurate with this revolver.

    Please don’t suggest my grip, flinch, skill, fear, etc. may be the problem. It is clearly the characteristics of the short barrel and the high powered load.

    Anyone else experience this?

    • I swapped out my steel cylinder for a titanium one bringing the total weight down to just under 12 ounces. I’ll be honest, I’m just happy to still find my hand attached after touching off each round. I don’t mind shooting magnums out of an all steel J frame and haven’t had any accuracy problems with it, but I refrain from using them in the 360.

  34. I would run 38s in it, the ability to change the pinned front sight as your eyes age is well worth the difference in price over the J frames with a fixed front sight.


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