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State Your Case: .357 Magnum vs. .44 Magnum
Josh Wayner for TTAG

It’s that time again, friends. Yes, that’s right, it’s time for a faceoff between two of the most popular magnum revolver rounds out there: the .44 Magnum and .357 Magnum. This is bound to be an interesting edition of State Your Case because there’s a very wide division between faithful shooters of each of these venerable rounds.

Despite being brothers in nearly every way, including who came up with them and the way they were designed, the .357 and .44 Magnum have come to occupy very distinct niches in the shooting world. Both emerged, essentially, as the result Elmer Keith’s tinkering with hunting revolvers. For the uninitiated, Elmer Keith is considered the father of handgun hunting and was a famous author, arms inspector, rancher, and general gun enthusiast. Keith is, in my opinion, a more significant contributor to the gun world than almost anyone. Even, yes, John Moses Browning.

While I’m sure I’d ruffle every feather in the coop by writing a John Browning vs. Elmer Keith article, I stand behind this opinion as, while Browning did a great deal, most of his work was centered around mass manufacturing and government needs. Keith, on the other hand, was primarily concerned with the practical use of guns for everyday life. Keith’s opinions influenced gun design and public thought, which has created a lasting legacy, especially in the hunting world.

The .357 Magnum was the result of Keith’s desire to improve the power of the .38 Special cartridge. I have fired the .38 Special extensively and it’s my favorite handgun cartridge. Keith pushed the .38 Special very hard with what was available in his day, but he wanted to go beyond those limits. The .38 case was extended and heavy, and fast bullets were loaded in the new brass. Thus the .357 Magnum was born.

About as soon as it was introduced a myriad of famous people began to use it, including General George Patton and Skeeter Skelton. It achieved pop culture status as a result. It has starred in hundreds of films and TV shows as well as books and comics. The .357 Magnum is a widely recognized symbol of propriety and class and is probably the most powerful cartridge in common use by the general public. I will go so far as to say that it’s the most powerful ‘normal’ handgun round out there.

In contrast, I believe based on my experience with it, that the .44 Magnum is the most powerful handgun round the average person will typically fire in their life. It was developed by Keith after his experiments with hotrodding the .44 Special. The .44 S&W Special is an excellent and severely underrated cartridge even today, but unlike the .38 Special, it faded into obscurity as the .44 Magnum became more famous.

The fame of the .44 Magnum and its reputation are the undeniable result of the movies, to the point that it is almost impossible to think of the .44 Mag without thinking about how lucky a given punk is feeling that day. This cultural link has established the .44 Magnum in the minds of the public and it’s still widely viewed, although erroneously, as the most powerful handgun cartridge in the world.

.357 vs .44 magnum ammunition ammo comparison
.357 Magnum (L) and .44 Magnum (R) (Dan Z. for TTAG)

While it has never actually held the title of the most powerful, it certainly is in practice due to the fact that most people have no interest in shooting anything bigger and consider many of those upper-end rounds to be excessive and unnecessary. Is the .44 Mag as powerful as the .500 Smith & Wesson? Not at all. Is the .500 too powerful to be practical? Probably, but that’s up to the individual shooter.

When it come to a head-to-head comparison, there’s a world of difference between these two brother cartridges. The .357 is categorically less powerful in terms of available foot-pounds and bullet mass. But the .44 is almost too much to handle when it comes to the same two criteria. Given a similar gun and barrel length, the .357 will always be easier to shoot and generally more accurate. It could be said that the .357 has a slight edge in terms of firearm weight and capacity, with some models weighing only a bit over a pound and holding eight rounds.

A lightweight .44 Magnum is downright painful to shoot and hard to control. I know that most people, myself included, take no joy in firing a cylinder of Hornady 300 grain XTPs from a Smith & Wesson Model 69, but would happily shoot it with 200 grain .44 Specials all day long. The .357 never really gets painful to shoot, even in higher ft-lbs loads.

As far as general performance in a revolver, I have to give the edge to the .357 Magnum. The average person is much better suited to it and can practice readily with both 38 Special loads for less recoil and full-house .357 Mag hollow points. The practical end uses of the .357 are many and varied, such as hunting, self-defense (plenty of stopping power), home defense and target shooting. It’s also very forgiving to make handloads for. Guns as small as the S&W J-Frame are readily available and carry easily.

The .44 Magnum, on the other hand, struggles greatly in small guns. The aforementioned Model 69, shown above, isn’t even remotely fun to fire with anything .44 Magnum. It’s essentially a .44 Special revolver as a result. Bigger handguns do well with .44 Mag, but they lose practicality rapidly for every ounce gained. Where the .44 Mag excels is in rifles, such as the Ruger 77/44 I reviewed here. Even the most savage .44 Mag +P rounds are docile in a gun like that.

Still, neither of these great rounds will lose popularity any time soon. If anything they will continue to specialize, with the .44 Mag swaying towards the hunting crowd and the .357 dominating the streets.

If I had to only pick one, I’d probably choose the .357 Magnum. It is suitable for the woods and daily carry alike and can be had in fast-handling lever action rifles as well as some bolt actions. There’s very little that can’t be done with it, but there are certainly rounds that can do a given thing better.

Don’t agree with my assessment? Tell me what you think in the comments.

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    • The .41 Mag was a swing and a miss – mostly because S&W put the .41 into the N-frame revolvers, so once you’re packing around that much weight, why choose the .41 over the .44?

      There’s nothing wrong with the .41 – but the original thought was that it would be in a .357-weight revolver.

      • For it’s original design the .41 was great. It is flatter than either of the other two and is almost as powerful as the .44. The frame size needed is a valid point though. I would prefer a heavy frame for any magnum caliber though. You can hoot an air weight .357 but I do not want to. They can hurt. For a hunting round I will choose the in between .41 every time. I also hand load so ammo is not the issue. Between the two rounds in question in the article, .357 for me.

        • The .41 magnum probably is the right answer.

          The .357 is my most powerful handgun (Security Six). The .44 is the most powerful handgun I’ve shot (Redhawk). My friend’s Redhawk is great, and I’d kinda like one, but don’t want anything more powerful.

          I’m happy with my .357mag. If I lived in Alaska, Montana, or Wyoming I’d probably get a .44mag. Anywhere else a .357 should be good enough.

      • I’d almost rather have something like the 400 Herters these days just to have compatibility with 40 S&W/10mm bullet selections. I sure as hell wouldn’t turn one down in a given situation though and an L frame with 6 .41 mags in it would be great.

      • “but the original thought was that it would be in a .357-weight revolver.”

        And it can be, quite successfully too…

        The Taurus Tracker M425 is a 4″ .41 Magnum…34.8oz
        Barrel Length: 4 in.
        Overall Length: 8.75 in.
        Overall Height: 5.40 in.
        Overall Width: 1.53 in.

        The Taurus Tracker M627 in a 4″ .357 Magnum…35oz
        Barrel Length: 4.00 in.
        Overall Length: 8.75 in.
        Overall Height: 5.30 in.
        Overall Width: 1.50 in.

        Nearly identical…

        And I own both, great wheelguns, despite how you feel about Taurus…

        • I own a 4″ Taurus Tracker in 44mag and it never fails to put a HUGE smile on my face!
          Its been perfectly reliable and after some minor polishing, is downright smooth in DA (though the pull is still on the heavy side).
          Strangely, it’s the easiest handgun I own to make the ‘one ragged hole’ with when target shooting. It’s supremely accurate, though after enough rounds the hits start drifting a little as the recoil anticipation starts creeping in. 🤣 No two ways about it, 44mag is a BRUTE in that gun! But man, what fun!

        • The only problems I have seen with Taurus are initial quality. Any issues will most likely show up within the first 200 rounds. If you don’t encounter any issues, it will probably last as long as any other gun (I have encountered mechanical problems with Smiths and with Colts, so no manufacturer is perfect).

          I have a Taurus 66, an old 6 shot version with a 3” bull barrel and adjustable sights. It’s a 38 ounce boat anchor of a gun. The frame is close to Smith and Wesson N frame size, and the barrel walls are almost as thick as the 0.357” bore diameter.

          I actually like this in a magnum revolver though. Heavy weight means less recoil, and less recoil means less pain. Even 180 grain Buffalo Bore bear loads are quite shootable, and 38 special almost feels like 22lr.

          The best part is that I bought the gun used for 370 dollars, when similar guns cost 2, 3, or even 4 times as much.

          For 44 magnum, I splurged and got a Smith and Wesson Model 29, not that there is anything wrong with Taurus, but because Dirty Harry had one.

        • Power wise 10mm seems fairly comparable to .357. The fact that you can carry a bunch of rounds in a Glock 20 or similar gun is pretty cool. The .44 and .41 mags outclass 10mm by a fair margin.

      • Comparing full SAAMI spec loads, the 10mm isn’t even quite as powerful as the .357. It probably does have an edge for thin skinned bad guys, but the .357 has a huge advantage where deep penetration is desired – a 200gr 10mm slug has about the same SD as a 158gr .357.

    • @ 10mm THE BEST MM
      You sir are not the only 10mm fan I own 4 and carry a glock 29 daily, Ron needs to do some research obviously he has no knowledge of the ass kicking 10mm Round

      • 10mm is interesting in that ammunition suppliers seem determined to sell 10mm down-loaded to basically a 40 S&W. A 40 cal handgun is a very powerful handgun though. But even a 10mm loaded hot in velocities old timers like me call ammo what it was designed to shoot its only a bit faster than than a hot 40 cal. But I own 2 10mms because I am a self admitted gun nut. For self defense I am 100% 45 ACP and really don’t care if it’s FPS is in the 700 FPS range or some hot load +P. As a law enforcement agent my whole life I have seen a lot of shootings. If a 45 didn’t kill an assailant it instantly disabled him into a crying pile of humanity begging for an ambulance . No I never saw a person lifted up off his feet and thrown many yards as folklore stories claim. It’s simply proven in real life usage. I own the new Colt Python 357 and the new Colt Anaconda in 44 mag. I carry the Python sometimes but not the 44 because if a shooting occurred and the round went through the bad guy and killed an innocent person Civil lawyers would be so happy the weapon was a 44 mag and yes there is always a civil suit.
        I consider the 45ACP the best handgun round with 357 mag # 2. Remember any Caliber relies on shot placement. A 45 or 357 will let you double tap 2 accurate shots. If you have trouble getting 2 fast accurate shots off at the range, work on it until you can.

    • .44 Mag for the win.

      However…a .357 Mag shot from a 16″ carbine has the same muzzle energy as a .44 shot from a 6″ wheelgun. My dream combo is a .44 levergun + pistol, but I’d be perfectly happy with a set in .357.

    • Ron,

      I have both .357 and .44 Magnum revolvers and have a deep affection for both.

      I also give the edge to .44 Magnum for three reasons:

      1) .357 Magnum is limited to about 25 yards for ethical medium game handgun hunting. Beyond that range bullet velocity is rapidly getting too low for ethical kill shots.

      2) .357 Magnum is wholly inadequate for ethical large game hunting and reliable self-defense against elk, moose, and bears in excess of 400 pounds.

      3) While .44 Magnum can definitely be “too much” handgun for most self-defense applications, you can carry a “reasonable” sized revolver with excellent .44 Special self-defense loads. At that point, the only advantage of .357 Magnum is that comparable revolvers are a bit smaller and weigh a bit less.

      On top of the above compelling three reasons why I give the edge to .44 Magnum, I have an additional, less-compelling advantage to .44 Magnum. In applications where you truly want reliable “one-shot stop” self-defense against human attackers — a virtually impossible order for a handgun platform — a .44 Magnum revolver with a 6-inch barrel and hot loads with 180 grain hollowpoints probably gets you there. I chronographed such loads with a muzzle velocity around 1,600 fps which is just over 1,000 foot-pounds energy! I cannot picture any human being able to continue attacking after taking just one such round in the chest at close range. Obviously, if you must carry such a revolver discretely (concealed), you would only be able to do that with a shoulder holster under a jacket of some sort.

        • @Mercury I’ve gotten 1500 out of a 7.5 inch barrel with 240 grain loads, so I think your website is full of shit amigo. And that was using Buffalo Bore Deer Grenade ammo with a Ruger Super Blackhawk Hunter.

        • @ChoseDeath did you actually read the table? That’s exactly what it shows (within margin of error.) Out of a 6″ though? Even 1500 is out of the question. You’re not going to touch 1600 with anything less than a carbine (or a comically oversized pistol, if you’re Australian.)

          Since you’re clearly not familiar with BBTI, the project involved using Thompson Contender barrels and chopping them down one inch at a time (and recrowning of course) and taking an average of five shots of each load at each length. It resulted in some of the most extensive and accurate (vis a vis barrel length) FPS data anywhere, as it eliminated the variables involving changing the entire firearm (or at least the upper reciever) just to test different barrel lengths. They also have some data on revolver cylinder gaps that may interest you.

        • Mercury,

          I chronographed PMC Bronze .44 Magnum 180 grain semi-jacketed hollowpoints out of a revolver with a 6-inch barrel at 1,600 fps. That same loading generated about 2,200 fps out of a 22-inch rifle barrel on a break-action .44 Magnum rifle. Both numbers are quite reasonable when you realize that we are talking about a light-for-caliber 180 grain bullet and not the typical 240 grain and heavier bullets.

          Keep in mind that most Magnum factory ammunition is not full-pressure and published muzzle velocities reflect that fact. There are some Magnum factory loads which do appear to develop close to full-pressure and those “hot” loads achieve significantly greater muzzle velocities.

          You do realize that a .357 Magnum revolver with 6-inch barrel shooting full-pressure loads and 125 grain semi-jacketed hollowpoints will develop 1,600 fps, right? Think of .44 Magnum shooting full-pressure loads and 180 grain bullets as being the equivalent.

          Last thought: if widely available 9mm Luger cartridges (with 115 grain bullets) achieve muzzle velocities of 1150 fps out of 4-inch barrels, is it any surprise that a .44 Magnum cartridge with something like three times the case volume and significantly higher allowable operating pressures would achieve 40% greater muzzle velocity with a bullet that is only 56% heavier — and coming out of a barrel that is two inches longer?

        • Remington offers a 180 grain JSP 44 mag advertised at 1600 fps. It goes off with a 5 foot fireball. I use it to train people with a flinch problem. If they are flinching with for instance a .38 special …after 10 rounds with a 44 magnum flame thrower the .38 feels like a .22 to them. it works with some people some not. Some good people only have so much marksmanship in them.

  1. Comparing Keith to Browning is ridiculous. Keith wasnt the only handgun experimenter simply one that was promoted. Browning was a genius and understood manufacture. The Colt 1911, Winchester 1894, the ‘fast firing’ Browning machineguns and the .50 Browning are just a few not to mention the adaption of gas operation making semi automatic action possible. Keith was quite a character in his own right and blew up a lot of guns, and he pushed the limits. But that is like saying Jesse James was more important than Horace Wesson. Dont trust the modern Magnums with the safety lock to defend your life. I experienced a failure in a long serving M69 myself and a gunsmith friend has suffered a failure of his modern 686 with internal lock.

    • “While Browning did a great deal, most of his work was centered around mass manufacturing and government needs.”

      Browning’s career spanned decades, and many of his most influential designs, for example numerous rifles, shotguns, pistols, and lever guns, were non-military. And actually, if I recall correctly, Browning is best known for selling his core designs to others (Winchester, FN, etc.) who would go on to actually mass manufacture them.

      Anyway, I’m not sure how Browning’s military work somehow disqualifies him from being “the most influential” (if such a thing is quantifiable or even matters at all). Military firearms have an enormous influence on the course of human history, and the world’s most prolific designer of military firearms deserves enormous recognition for his role, no?

      EK and JMB are both highly influential, extremely interesting, supremely talented, and worth knowing about.

      • The superpossed is now a military gun? Wow, the author has no grasp of history. As for .44 vs.357. Yes one of each.

  2. In terms of the two rounds if I were against 2 legged critters I’d love an 8 in the cylinder scandium gun and would flex that into the country. If it’s somewhere that there’s bears I wouldn’t mind the extra comforting weight of the .44. Overall if I had to pick one I’d pick the .357 due to the availability of J-frames and bigger in the caliber but I’ll say that it’s certainly not an easy choice.

  3. .44s make bigger holes. Besides, but being this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya, punk?

    • As stated in Magnum Force by Inspector Callahan he used a 44 special round in his Model 29, I however used my Charter Arms Bulldog a lot more effectively utilizing the same caliber as Dirty Harry “Hypothetical situation, huh? All right, I’m standing on the street corner, and Mrs. Grey there comes up and propositions me. She says if I come home with her, for $5 she’ll put on an exhibition with a Shetland pony –” bottom line don’t get a parking ticket during the commission of a crime…..

    • The .44 isn’t that much larger than the .41.

      The .41 bullet diameter is 0.410″, but the .44 isn’t .44 – isn’t actually only 0.429″ – only 0.019″ larger.

    • I LOVE all of my Ruger .327 Fed Mags, and my Taurus one as well. Oh, did I mention my Henry Big Boy in that chambering? .327 Fed Mag is a greatly under appreciated round.

    • I’m finally amongst friends! SP101 and GP100, and I WILL own that Henry one day. That load is WICKED. Blows holes in treated 4×4 pine like a 30 Carbine.

  4. Both. Different guns for different jobs. They can both do some of the same but they are both better at different stuff.

  5. Using factory loads, I’m in the .357 camp. However, I load my own and I have a nice .44 mag load that is plenty strong but is not punishing to shoot. Overall, .44 mag

    • Yup. I’ve got a pet load too.
      Just got another 500 plinkers in the mail. Time to hit the reloading machine.

  6. State Your Case: .357 Magnum vs. .44 Magnum? It depends on the use, purpose, and application. Were I in Alaska in big bear country I would choose the .44 Magnum over the .357 Magnum. Same for handgun hunting of big game from deer on up. For the lower 48 states, including general purpose use, urban metro vs. wilderness and rural survival, I would instead opt for the .357 Magnum. Remember a 50 round box of .38 Special/.357 Magnum will weigh about half of the same for the .44 Magnum, and thus be lighter to carry inside a backpack, for instance. Read on:

    Ruger’s SP-101 .357 Magnum Revolver: 4.2″ barrel, stainless steel, double-action, with five shot swing out cylinder. While perhaps not quite as concealable as a snub-nosed .38 Special, this also would be a great handgun for not only women, but likewise men. Read on:

    Were a person to own only one handgun, this would be as close to universal and versatile as possible. For the triple purpose of “self defense/house protection/concealed carry”, including as a kit and trail gun for the *outdoors man and sportsman, and likewise for urban metro vs. wilderness rural applications. At 30 oz. unloaded lightweight enough on a belt holster not to be burdensome (for the hiker, backpacker, trapper), yet heavy enough to handle the .357 Magnum. Loaded with .38 Special 148 grain lead target wad-cutter ammo (next to a .22 or .32) practical for hunting small game: rabbit, squirrel, and grouse (for the campfire skillet), for dispatching vermin such as raccoon, skunk, possum, etc.. Even for butchering livestock such as cattle with a head shot, and loaded with CCI’s classic .38 Special shot or snake load of No. 9 shot highly effective in killing a rattlesnake up close. Readily and instantly accessible in reach via a nightstand, dresser or bureau drawer, or next to a sleeping bag inside a tent very comforting armed security to have, especially at night! This handgun would also be great for a long haul trucker, or hay hauler, to carry, provided of course, they are permitted to do so. Even for the motorist traveling on a road trip. Yes bear in mind being broken down and having to spend the night alone in your vehicle. This .38/.357 revolver combination along with an Atomic Beam Flashlight, survival knife, fresh drinking water, food, toilet paper, shovel, matches, wool blanket, etc. could certainly take back the night. Even for a woman it’s smaller frame and size would still fit her smaller hands. And firing .38 Special ammo in this .^357 Magnum could still be handled by a female. I had the skimpy factory Ruger grips on my own Ruger SP-101 replaced with a pair of hand filling Pachmayr Diamond Pro-Ruger combat grips. ^Remember .357 Magnum revolvers will chamber and fire .38 Special ammo, but not the reverse.

    James A. “Jim” Farmer
    Merrill, Oregon (Klamath County): Long Live The State of Jefferson!

    *The Gearhart Mountain Wilderness Area on the Fremont Winema National Forest which straddles the Klamath/Lake County Line between Paisley (Lake County) and Bly (Klamath County, Oregon) naturally comes to mind.

    • I have the 4.2” SP as well. On trips, a 3” GP usually gets the nod. Sometimes carry it too. I have a SW 640-1 that gets most of the carry though. However, if I had to get rid of all but one, the SP would probably stay.

      • I have Ruger .357’s in 1.87″ LCR, 3″ SP 101, 3.75″ Vaquero (bird’s head grip) and 5″ GP 100.

        I like them all!

  7. How about neither .357 or .44 magnum. Having watched the pocket pistol series that Lucky Gunner did on YouTube. I prefer to have a 6 or 7 shot 32 H&R magnum or 327 Federal Magnum. Both are more controllable and are more easy to conceal. Than the larger magnums.

    Hand cannons are great for some. But if the gun isn’t fun to shoot. Then you won’t carry it or practice with it. However “safe queens” are always welcome.

    Looking at the cost and availability of ammo these days. I have found 32 H&R magnum. I have not seen .357 or .44 mag in months. And 32 H&R costs much less than the larger magnums, back when all three were readily available.

    • Lucky Gunner does like the small calibers and seems to have a preference for them. But then again,
      he is a slightly built guy, so it makes sense for him. For those who can handle mid to large calibers, his choices may not be their choices. No problem with choices of course, to each their own!

      • Yep. Your freedom to choose is the most important. But the other issue between 44 magnum and 357 is barrel length. So many people want to carry a gun. In a snub nose Magnum you’re almost totally losing the performance of the bullet. It be much more effective to have a barrel length of a minimum of 5 inches.

        But that is not the size of a carry gun. Short barrel and snub-nosed Magnums are notoriously hard to control. And uncomfortable to shoot.

  8. As usual, we seem to be asked to make a choice based on little criteria… .357 mag was an LE round to aid in stopping humans behind cover, in autos and to beef up the primary choice which was .38 Spl. Usually the greatest range would be across the street, often less.

    Keith pushed the .44 mag primarily as a hunting round where more power was needed over longer distances. The first deer I ever shot was a big doe in WY ca 1980 at roughly 90 yards with a 8 3/8” SW 29. She was dead on the spot. Handgun hunting for deer was mostly a novelty back then but the .429”/240 grain bullet was a much better choice than some .357”/158 as far as I’m concerned.

    Since then I’ve taken other deer with 44 mags and have no desire to even consider a .357. Were I needing a revolver for carry and wanted more power than my Sig 365 however, I’d probably grab my old M19 4”. Then, on another hand, we’re I fishing Alaska I’d pack my FA .454 Casull and not even consider one of my .44 mags or my old LAR Grizzly 45 Win Mag.

    As far as considering .41 over either, I’d be concerned with ready availability of ammo should Murphy stick his head into the scene. I’d probably be able to find either .44 or .357 in say, Walden, CO. I wouldn’t bet on .41 mag.

    In the end, that’s why “they” make more than one gun in more than one caliber- different demands for different tasks.

  9. I’m wed to .38/.357 pretty strongly in handguns – just too much flexibility to pass up. Love a standard 158 magnum from a 6” barrel for reaching out there.
    Now I do very much appreciate the .44 from a carbine; some full length barrel really makes the .44 sing (and thump)!

  10. Unfortunately I’ve never shot a .44 Mag yet but I love my .357 Rhino, the barrel positioning is quite interesting and helps with felt recoil as long as you remember to keep your thumb away from the gap. Been stung a couple times, not fun. Once I get a chance and ammo is easier to find I may venture out into magnum revolvers since I have pretty much all the semi-autos pistols and rifles I want at this time.

  11. The best is the most powerful that you still use well and can carry.

    For me that’s .357. Maybe if I shot .44 more I would be as accurate with it but I wouldn’t carry one as much.

    I don’t think there are any critters I’ll face that will be taken out by a .44 that wouldn’t be by a .357

  12. I own semiautomatics, but I carry a .357 GP-100, in either a 3″ or 4.2″ barrel. I never feel under-gunned. I shoot these revolvers, plus a 6″, most often at the range, the latter with excellent accuracy out to 50 yards. The 125 grain .357 hollow point is THE most effective handgun round ever made for self-defense.

    Likewise, I own an AR-15, but I have a Henry Big Boy Steel in .357 magnum ready for home defense. More energy out of the barrel than a .223 or 5.56, and at distances inside the home it is devastating. Plus, if I ever need to use it, it won’t look so scary to a jury.

    .44 mag I use for handgun hunting from a Ruger Redhawk.

  13. I owned a Super Blackhawk 44 mag in my early days as a shooter–the late ’60. Could shoot it semi good for the first 2 rounds—then I might as well throw it at ‘um. Turned to the 357 and have several including an LCR. Don’t shoot full house Remington of Federal loads in it—it is not the recoil but the muzzle flash and “explosion” that gets me now. A 686 or GP100 with at least a 4″ barrel is great fun with a full house. So for fun and defense, i’ll take the 357 every time! For elk, i’ll take the 300 Win Mag in a Ruger Number 1b—no revolvers or pointed sticks for me.

  14. I live in swfl and really have no need for either, but since I do spend a lot of time in the outdoors around critters that most Floridians rarely if ever see, I like the .357, specifically the Kimber DASA 3”. With a shot shell for the sneks and the rest hard-cast for legged critters, I doubt I will ever feel under-gunned unless I make it way above the Blue Ridge range.

  15. Situation dependent. I’ve never been too afraid of the bears and other predators in the areas I lived in. What I have had experience with and what worries me is a pack of dogs running wild for the day. .38/.357 for me.

    Now if I lived in big bear country it would be at least a .44 mag. But since the family I had in Alaska moved back to the lower 48 I doubt I’ll make any more trips there.

  16. Phillip B. Sharpe had as much or more to do with 357 Magnum development than Keith. Elmer Keith was a rancher and writer for gun magazines with a flair for self promotion. Keith doesn’t deserve to stand in the shadow of John Browning much less be considered and equal.
    Read Phillips Sharpe’s Complete Guide to Handloading to get an understanding of the man’s genius.
    Oh, to answer the troll question…..357

    • You’re full of It. Sharpe was indeed a great ballistician.

      Keith was a guy who shoot a lot of stuff and used a gun on a regular basis.

      Doug Wesson even sent Keith a 38-44 Outdoorsman to run through the ringer.

      He also went out to Keiths to shoot with him. To downplay the influence! Keith wielded is silly.

      He knew ballistics and moreover knew what it took to kill game.

      Don’t know why you would denigrate someone like Keith and the role he played in the shooting world before most of us were born.

      I imagine he had chunks of guys like you in his stool.

  17. For any needs I’ll have 357 is fine. Oh and for the dude stating 357 out of a lever gun is “more powerful” than 556 check out Ballistics by Inch. Now archived…

    • Ballistics by the inch only uses watered down .357 loads. The Buffalo Bore, Double Tap, etc. loads are not +p in .357 but just full SAAMI spec loads. Of course, downrange energies will be higher due to higher ballistic coefficients of 5.56 bullets, but muzzle energies of full house .357 will be greater than 5.56 NATO. By a smidge.

  18. Had a Python in the early 80’s. Not very responsible In those days and let it live in a leather holster unattended for months on end while living at the beach in SoCal. Effing rust bucket. Effing idiot! Like losing a good dog. However, my 8.38” .S&W500 “kinda” makes up for it. It’s my hand-tank.

  19. Scenarios like this explain the 50+ number of guns in the house. “Get both” is the best advice.

  20. Like my M29 S&Ws. The N frame is the perfect size for my hands anyway. I have a M19 and a Coonan Classic and they’re great machines, but 44 Magnum for me.

  21. I had triple bypass surgery in October so rifle and bow were off limits for me during the rut. I broke out my Ruger Super Redhawk in .44 and took down a stout 8-point at 48 yards iron sights. Buffalo Bore Deer Grenades did the job. Never handgun hunted before.
    I own several Ruger and Smith revolvers in .44 and .357, plus a Marlin lever in .44. If I had to choose one it would be my 1988 S&W 686 .357. I’d like a companion Marlin lever..

    • I’m waiting for the new Ruger Marlins to get a lever gun to go with my Ruger gp100-7. I had given up on Marlins. Now I’ll wait and see.

      • The early Remlins were garbage at best, but by the mid 20-teens they were as good as you’d expect from other Remington products (e.g. 700). Not necessarily a raving endorsement, but I bought a 336BL a few years ago, and while I did splurge on the Wild West trigger, I was otherwise pleased with the quality. Marlin was doing a pretty good job of ruining their own reputation before Remington ever bought them.

        Looking forward to owning a future Rugerlin.

        • You’re looking forward to an investment cast, poorly assembled “homage” with a hammer tortured barrel and shitty wood? I own a lot of Ruger’s , but have also seen their quality has gone markedly downhill in the recent runs… the customer is now their quality control department. Not holding my breath on this one, although I hope for the best, as I would like my 1980’s 444 Marlin to have some company in the gun safe.

        • I bought a Marlin Trapper SBL in 45-70 in 2019 and it’s pretty awesome, right there with my older Marlin levers. Won’t be able to shoot it for a while, though, it kicks harder than anything else I own, including 3 1/2″ magnums. I love it!

  22. My vote between the two is 357 due to the fact that I wouldn’t have to haul a cannon around.

    But as I don’t own either, 45 colt is still my fav!

  23. Currently own four .357s and one .44 Magnum. The .44 is a S&W 329 so it’s no joy to shoot, but theoretically fine to carry when I visit grizzly country. The .357s range from a S&W 360 AirLite to two 686 Plus 7-shots. The latter are actually fun to shoot. Of all of these revolvers, I’d keep the 3” S&W 686+ if push came to shove. It’s currently got over four thousand full-up loads through it, all double-action, and has only needed one part replaced (the hand). So even though it’s “apples to oranges,” I guess I prefer the .357 Magnum.

  24. The .44 Special/.44 Magnum/.444 Marlin is a very versatile family of cartridges capable of performing nearly any task in North America. However, I give the edge to the .38 Special/.357 Magnum – mainly due to the economic aspect of shooting and reloading in our current context. Where I live, there is virtually no loaded ammo on the shelves. Primers are non-existent, and many of my preferred powders are scarce. If you consider that a typical .357 load will use 1/2 to 2/3rd the amount of lead and powder per round, I can shoot more with the supplies on hand.

  25. Depends of the critter I’m considering. My .357 holds 7 rounds, but newer ones will hold 8. My similar .44 holds 6, and the original grips exposed the back strap and gave a sting like hitting wrong with an aluminum bat. New grips made it pleasant to shoot, but the overpenetration against 2-legged targets rules it out for EDC. When elk at 200 yards is the flavor of the day, I give up another round and go with .460.

  26. I like the .44 mag. If you load them down a bit they are a lot of fun to shoot and give great fireballs. Loaded up they knock deer over like bowling pins.

  27. Such a stupid topic, must be getting short on meaningful topics. How about “What’s better, “Oreos Super Stuff, or Hydrox Thins”

  28. Why choose. Buy both. Although I’d buy the .357 first since it’s more appropriate for self defense, and once you get used to the recoil you’ll be ready to step up to the .44.

  29. As Skeeter Skelton once said…”a good big man beating hell out of a good little man”.

    The 357 get the nod if I’m toting it around all the time for defense. (Smaller gun).

    The 44 gets the nod as the tonnage or game increases to hurtful levels.

    In an N frame or single action there is little difference in weight and my shoulder holster would hold a 44 (or 45 Long Colt).

  30. I own a .357 magnum.
    I do not own a .44 magnum.

    Therefore, .357 magnum is superior (especially in today’s world).

  31. I bought a 3” .357 and a Glock 29 10mm not that long ago to have something a bit more powerful than my 9mm’s for carrying in the woods and, honestly, I’m considering trading the .357 for a .44 mag. It just doesn’t do anything the 10mm can’t and has half the capacity, so it ends up staying in the safe.

    .44 mag I feel gives enough of a power bump over the common auto cartridges to still be worthwhile carrying in a lower capacity wheel gun. Especially if you pair it with a lever gun, where it’s a pretty solid hunting cartridge for the brush

  32. My Smith & Wesson M586 is my favorite gun, but it mostly resides in my gun safe. It’s just too big for an EDC. My S&W M29 resides next to the 586. When it’s time to go to the range, the M29 is usually the odd man out. The .357 is just more fun to shoot, and follow-up shots are faster and more accurate.

  33. I would say from a standpoint of which one is more useful on a daily basis, it would be the .357. N-frames are a lot of weight to pack around, I don’t care how big and strong you are. When you’re packing around a N-frame on your hip, you know it by the end of the day.

    N-frames are also harder to conceal unless you’re wearing winter clothes.

    Then there’s the ammo issue: It’s much easier to find .38 Special ammo to download a .357 for practice than it is to find .44 Special ammo for the same idea in a .44 Mag.

  34. Back in the last century (that sounds weird, doesn’t it?) my first duty weapon was a 4″ 686 Smith. I carried six in the gun and three speed loaders for a total of 24 rounds and I felt that I had all the gun that I could shoot quickly and accurately. My back up/off duty pistol was a Model 640 Smith which I usually loaded with .38 special +P. I served 28 years as a deputy sheriff and carried service and back up automatics in .40, .45, and 9mm depending on what was the latest and greatest at the time. Of all the pistols I own the Smith Brothers – 686 and 640 – are still my two favorites. I carry the 640 for personal defense on occasion and these days the big 686 is just a range toy.

    I reload and enjoy the variety of loads that I can build up for the .38/.357 platform. As has been noted here during normal times ammunition is readily available. Pickup brass isn’t as common as it once was but I still can find old timers with a couple of coffee cans or ammo boxes full who are willing to trade for some loaded rounds. I stocked up on primers after Sandy Hook and the caliber is very economical of powder. So yeah I like my .357s.

    .44 mag doesn’t work as well in this old man’s arthritic hands. I know that I’m probably a wimp but to me, most loads seem to be too powerful even out of a heavy pistol like my Super Redhawk. I have hunted deer with the Ruger and I can just about stand a dozen rounds to check the sights. After that it isn’t fun.

    Is the .44 a good hunting round? Its great out of a rifle and quite good out of a heavy long barrel pistol. Is the .44 a good self defense round? If I didn’t have anything else I’d play Dirty Harry and hope that the rounds stayed in the target. Given the choice and enough ammunition to stay competent, I’ll hunt with my .44 mag Henry Big Boy or Ruger and keep the Smith Brothers for range days and self defense if need be.

    • “686 and 640 – are still my two favorites. I carry the 640 for personal defense on occasion and these days the big 686 is just a range toy.”

      Same here- the 640 is my constant travelling companion. My 686 spends more time in the safe these days. My K frame M65 is easier to tote and the round butt more comfy than the sq. butt 686.

  35. I carry a S&W 340 PD .357 w .38 Special +P (I like things I have to rely on to be overbuilt), it weighs <12 oz empty (made of scandium & titanium) and conceals amazingly well. With enough practice you can group 5 shots all in X or 10 ring at 10 yds.

    Had a beautiful S&W .44 Magnum Mountain gun but just too punishing to shoot and too heavy & bulky for concealed carry even if using :44 Special, IMO.

  36. I own a 6″ S&W Model 19. I’ll shoot .357s from it but I can’t say that I enjoy the experience. This matters in a bowling pin match since it helps to shoot hot 158 grain loads. From time to time, I think about trading the 19 in on something heavier. Candidates, also with 6″ barrels, are a 586 or Model 27, Colt Python or Ruger Redhawk (5.5″ barrel). The Redhawk is the heaviest of the bunch, so it should have the mildest recoil, and has an 8-round cylinder.

    Since .357 is marginal for me, .44 Magnum is out of the question unless it’s a long gun. Even then, I’d rather have a rifle in the same caliber as my revolver.

  37. Since I left Alaska, I haven’t had much use for a.44 Mag pistol. That didn’t prevent me from buying three of them after left Alaska, though. I will never give up my 1894 Marlin 44 Mag rifle, however. The .357 Mag can do anything I need a pistol to do, and they are just plain fun to shoot. Reloading the .357 Mag is far cheaper than reloading the .44 Mag, and that means a lot nowadays. Having a 686 Smith and Wesson and a Marlin 1894 both in .357 Magnum is one of the most practical pistol rifle combinations there is.

    Having owned both .357 Mag rifles and pistols as well as .44 Magnum rifles and pistols, I’d definitely say the .357 Magnum is the more practical of the two cartridges. Besides, I can always grab the LAR Grizzly if a bigger boom of 45 WinMag pistol might be necessary.

    I like and respect the .44 Magnum. It has its purpose. One the most frustrating experiences I had as a gun owner was trying to work up a single load that was practical in both the .44 Mag pistol and rifle. I never achieved that goal. What shot well in the rifle didn’t shoot well in the pistol. The loads that worked well in the rifle were too stout for my liking in the pistol. Point of impact in the Mag varied greatly with various bullet weights. The .357 rifle and pistol combination loads are much less forgiving.

    • I saw a guy back in the 80s show up at the range with a Virginia Dragoon 44 mag and a 20 round box of ammo. He fired it once and sold it to me for $125.00. I shot it for awhile (out of 50 rnd boxes of course) and sold it for $300. Damn I wish I still had it.

  38. Don’t own either cal. but if I ever come across a Ruger BlackHawk .357 I will.

    Just something iconic about these.

  39. Difference in velocity loss with .38Spc in .357 Rem Mag cylinder is greater then velocity loss .44Spc in .44Rem Magnum cylinder,any model. Chronograph it.

  40. I’ve never heard of Hydrox Thins. Oreo Super Stuff all day. Also, if you crush them up in a bowl of milk you get Oreo soup.

  41. Caliber wars are best settled with obscure movie refrences.
    “This goes through armor and through the victim, through the wall, through a tree outside… It’s the .88 Magnum. It shoots through schools.”~Danny Vermin

  42. Revolver-wise, a .357 would be more practical for me these days. If you gents are seeing a surge of GP100 youtube flicks pop up, blame me. Although the siren song of the noted .327 pulls at me…

    Longish true story. Back when my deer hunting interest was ramping up, I became enamored with ideas of maximizing versatility. My fresh-from-college budget played no small part. This was the era of the supermags, and I was thinking targets and hunting. Self defense wasn’t a thing for us there and back then. I bought a TC Contender with .223 and .357 Max barrels, later adding a .22LR. Hands down, the Hornady 180 gr. Spire Point Single Shot Pistol slug at 1680 fps is a superb deer killer. For playing, full house Magnum loads are mighty smooth. It will also shoot .38 Specials, like a cork gun in that heavy pistol. However, I prefer to use the full length Max brass and load them up or down.

    Fast forward a couple years. One brother bought a .44 Desert Eagle, which had recently become legal for deer in our state. Cool gun & fun to shoot, but I thought it was a bit clunky for regular deer hunting. He was a handgun newbie, and put every single slug after the first one into the dirt below the target. Fast forward a box of shells, and he decided to trade it in. Of all things, he came home with an 8” Dan Wesson .445 SuperMag. Go big or go home, I spose. The other brother had just bought a .44 Redhawk, and you know, couldn’t let that go unanswered. I worked up a few loads for them, but after a year or so the SuperMag brother veered off into fishing and the Redhawk brother moved to a big city in another state. Both of their guns became safe queens.

    Fast forward again. The SuperMag brother was setting aside $$ for a pricey roof repair, and his wife said, “What about that gun?” We worked out a pawn deal to at least keep it in the family. I haven’t hunted for a few years, so it’s a range toy, but a mighty cool one. I’m working with cast slugs and Trail Boss to find a good “light” load for it.

    I don’t think of either of these as self defense guns, but I have others for that. And back to the point, being practical and versatility minded, I think the .357 is more suitable for self defense than the .44. Although I shoot & carry a 9mm LCR and would consider the .327 without much arm twisting.

    • AhHa! Another .327 Fed Mag aficionado!! Wake up, people! In the lower 48 this is a GREAT round!!

  43. I have the Taurus tracker in .41 mag. Good revolver. One issue however is the the ported barrel. After the first shot, any bear, cougar, liberal will stop due the loss of hearing, I am bewildered by how loud this thing is, otherwise good gun.

  44. The only revolver I’d be interested in anymore would be an 8-shot 3” 357Mag cut for moon clips with a red dot sight. And preferably a railed underlug to attach a flashlight. Ruger and Colt need to develop real competitors to the S&W M&P R8. It’s time for revolvers to step into the 21st century and until that happens I’m sticking with my pistols

  45. .44 because I have one and the ammo for it.

    Plus, when people ask “How are you going to do it?” you can respond “Kick in the door wavin’ the four-four!”.

  46. started with .44mag. bought more. then rifles. then .444.
    had a .357, miss it, won’t replace it.

  47. I like the .44 cal with the bufflo load,penatrating power as well impact force if someone wears a vest.

  48. Neither. 44 is often too much. 357 not quite enough.
    Have used 41 Mag for years – better balance of power and performance.
    Can load it down to 357 level with out as much muzzle blast as 357.
    Can load to near 44 mag loads, penetration is better than 44.

  49. Why not love all three magnums. I do. At present I own a dozen .44 magnums, half are Rugers, the other half are Smith Model 29/629s. I also own something less than twenty .357s. I’ve owned as many as six .41s at one time but still have three, all Ruger three-screw Blackhawks, sweet guns with stag grips that I love to carry sometimes in bear country, but my favorite in bear country is one of my 629s with a four-inch barrel that I carry in a chest holster no matter what rifle I have with me.

    I handload for all popular calibers and load and shoot thousands of 357s and .44s every year and maybe half as many .41. I have a favorite mid-range load for each of these calibers and when at the range I shoot these and finish up with a half box of full magnums in each of these calibers. My mid-range loads for my 357s are actually .38 special which is another cartridge i also shoot a lot in a number of Taurus, Colt and Smith .38 revolvers.

    While outside the subject of this article but something I’d like to comment on is that I’m also enamored with 1911 .45 ACPs and also own more than a dozen such guns which I shoot even more than the magnums.

    If you love guns and shooting you have to admit they are all great cartridges with wonderful guns chambered for them.

  50. It’s kind of like 9mm vs. .45 ACP – more power is more power, but do you NEED it when the lower power round still gets the job done with less recoil and more capacity?

    Which is why I have a .327 Fed Mag revolver – more capacity, less recoil, still goes through 2-legged predators just fine.

  51. IMHO the .357 magnum and the revolvers chambered for it have a better power-to-weight ratio than the .44. I also think the .357 has the capability for flatter shooting and greater penetration because of smaller diameter and perhaps a better BC/SD. And while I don’t think that it was brought up in the article, the .41 Magnum may be superior to both as it possesses the good qualities of both .357 and .44.

  52. 357magnum using Remington’s 125gr SJHPs are the most effective ammo for stopping 2 legged threats, it expands violently, rapidly and with explosive effect and doesn’t overpenetrate and in recorded police shootings going back 40 plus years it had a 96% +/- one stop shot but more importantly only 7% +/- survival rate , Federals 125gr 357b has been discontinued but that was a good second to Remington. Buffalo Bore’s heavy 125gr jhp is a screamer with 4″ velocities around 1500fps would be a good round after the Remington 125gr SJHP.
    Buffalo Bore’s Anti-Personnel 44mag and 44spl are excellent rounds for 2 legged threats and 44mag has plenty of payload to stop most 4 legged creatures. However Lieutenant Bob Stasch Ret. Chicago PD gave an incredible interview with Massad Ayoob, it’s on YouTube and is a must listen to interview, on his multiple shootings and he described his first shooting where he and his partner shot a perp, no significant drugs or alchohol in his system, 14 times mostly point blank with 45LC, 38spl and his 44Mag was the one shot, to the knee, that stopped the fight…he used a Federal low velocity 240gr JHP. IMO 44mag is great for self defense but ammo choice is absolutely critical to prevent over penetration so an innocent doesn’t get hit.

  53. I own a Smith mod. 69. For me it is a single shot. While on target my first round, I have a problem with subsequent rounds because I find myself turning my head, closing my eyes and gritting my teeth. (almost) I bought it because I thought I needed a .44 mag. for the collection. I don’t regret it. It is a practical firearm, in that, when at the range, it can be used to tamp down the arrogance of many un-innated people who consider themselves macho men and master gunners. Given enough time and money, I am confident I would get over the flinching, but the piece is just a range toy for me. I still carry a 1911, which is plenty enough gun for all practical purposes.

    I certainly disagree with the comparison of JMB and EK. Keith was a experimenter, Browning was a mechanical genius. There is a lot of difference in designing a functional machine gun and stuffing more powder into a brass case. Comparing the upgrading of a .38 Spl., to a .357 Mag. to the invention of the 1911 and Hi Power, is thin, by any standards. John Moses Browning’s guns will still be being copied and will still be in production when the .357 and .44 Mags rounds are as obsolete as the .32 S&W long. JMB’s name will still be on gunner’s lips when pistol shooters will be confusing the name Elmer Keith with Keith Richards.

    Happy New Year!

  54. You think some one contributed more to firearms then John Browning. Baaa ha, ha! Tinkering with ammo, and developing a new gun mechanism are no comparison

  55. First time gun owner when I was 18. 19 now. I really like my SP101 357 magnum. It’s got a 2 inch barrel and is so small you can conceal it in a pocket, forget about holsters. I use 180 grain xtp from buffalo bore for the woods and the hoods, if you know what I mean. I get about 1250 fps even from the snub. It kicks like a horse but I am 100 percent confident that if I am accurate it’ll kill anything that walks the earth on this continent. 357 magnum all the way for me.

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