357 Expansion: Handgun vs. Rifle
Kevin Felts 11.14.17
The 357 magnum is a handgun cartridge that refuses to fade away. Introduced in 1935, it was used by numerous law enforcement agencies for decades. Starting in the late 1970s and into the early 1980s, there was a gradual shift by law enforcement from the 357 to 9mm, and finally to the 40 S&W.
Even though the 357 magnum was phased out by law enforcement more than 30 years ago, the cartridge has a special place in the hearts of sportsmen. Something that helps the cartridge retain its popularity: The 357 is chambered in handguns and lever-action carbines. Buy one cartridge and you get the best of both worlds.
A couple of videos put together by Andrew at The Firearm Blog may help explain our fascination with the 357. Andrew takes a 357 revolver and fires some 158 grain semi-jacketed hollow points into ballistic gelatin. Then he takes the same rounds and fires them using a lever action carbine.
Penetration with the revolver: 19.5 and 21.3 inches.
Velocity: 1314-1316 fps.
Bullet fragments stayed near the wound channel.
Maximum expansion: 0.537 and 0.521 inches. Average is 0.529 inches.
Penetration with the carbine: 17.8 and 18.4 inches
Velocity: 1775 fps.
Bullet fragments did not stay near the wound channel. Bullet fragments traveled several inches out of the channel.
Average maximum expansion: 0.587 inches.
The longer barrel of the lever action carbine brings out the true potential of the 357 magnum.
- Velocity went up 400 fps.
- Expansion increased 0.05 of an inch.
- Bullets fragmented more with the carbine.
Bullet fragmentation can be bad, in that losing weight means the core loses mass, which means it loses momentum, which reduces penetration. Then again, these are old-school semi-jacketed hollow points. I wonder how a bullet of modern design would perform?
It seems over the past few decades ammunition manufacturers have focused on the 9mm, 45 and 40 S&W, and the 357 magnum has been left sitting on the sidelines.
Special thank you to Andrew at The Firearm Blog for the excellent video series, keep up the great work.