Modern Self-Defense: .357 Magnum

FEATURE | Modern Self-Defense: .357 Magnum | Revolver

The .357 magnum is around and has seen action for many years. It is a powerful little bullet with enormous stopping power.

Even just the sound of the discharge is so loud that anyone listening would sooner flee than take a chance on being shot. Here's everything you need to know about the.357 magnum and its role in modern self-defense.

Modern Self-Defense: .357 Magnum

The Root: How The .357 Magnum Came To Be

As we get ready to share our gun review of the Coonan Classic .357 Magnum 1911, I want to share some ballistics and history on this powerhouse self-defense cartridge and why many gun carriers trust their lives with it each day of the year.

The .357 mag is a rimmed, center-fired magnum cartridge that propels a .35 caliber projectile at astonishing speeds.

The Root: How The .357 Magnum Came To Be | Modern Self-Defense: .357 Magnum | Revolver

In fact, all of the powder sitting inside the magnum cartridge helps push some of the hotter loads upwards of 1,800 feet per second as it leaves the muzzle.

That's faster than just about any other *reasonable* self-defense cartridge on the planet, with the exception of just a couple of others (like the .357 Sig, which I covered in a previous article).

The history of this classic round started back in the 1930s when Smith & Wesson set out to improve upon the .38 Special.

The first revolver chambered in this venerable magnum cartridge was sold to none other than J. Edgar Hoover, in 1935. And the rest, as they say, is history.

How Far We've Come

Today, the tradition lives on—only this cartridge isn't limited to the revolver anymore.

You can find it in lever-action rifles and carbines, like these ones from Henry Repeating Arms, as well as a very small number of semi-auto pistols, like those offered by Coonan Inc.

Applications for this cartridge range from self-defense and law enforcement to competition shooting and hunting.

How Far We've Come | Modern Self-Defense: .357 Magnum | Revolver

Heck, even companies that've never before entered the revolver market have begun selling them chambered in .357 magnum, much like this Kimber:

Versatility and Power

There is almost no other cartridge more versatile than the .357 Magnum, and when you just need for an attacker or medium-sized animal to hit the ground, there is almost nothing better to turn to.

In fact, ammo makers have developed a wide range of grain-sized bullets.

Versatility and Power | Modern Self-Defense: .357 Magnum | Revolver

The most popular is the original 158 grains, with sizes generally starting in the 125-grain area. The bullets shown in the picture above are, from left to right: 9mm, .45 ACP, .38 Special, .357 Magnum, 5.56 Nato, and .308 Winchester.

The .357's Role In Survivalism

Most preppers and survivalists would gravitate towards the .45 ACP as their go-to ammo. This comes as no surprise, as it is a highly reliable and readily available round.

It's easy to find guns that chamber the .45, and a lot of people stockpile it. It's got a great history as a combat round and has always proven to be a sound choice.

However, it's not the round you'd want when you're out there hunting game or doing some serious home defense. That's where the .357 Magnum shines.

Its ability to be powerful, impressive, and intimidating is uncanny. A gun chambered for this round is powerful. And it's not overcompensating either. If you want something dead, you go for the .357.

Best Guns Chambered With .357 Magnum

The versatility of the .357 Magnum is a testament to its longevity. As such, scores of firearms have chambered the .357 Magnum, and some stand out more than others. Here is a quick list of the best guns you can chamber with the .357 Magnum round:

Smith & Wesson Model 27

One of the very first guns that held the .357 Magnum is the Model 27. It made is debut in 1935 and is still in use today.

Winchester 1873 Sporter

If you've seen your share of Wild West movies, you know that this gun “won the West.” This lever-action rifle has seen action for… well, over a century now.

.357 Desert Eagle

Goodbye, unwieldy .50 Action Express. The Desert Eagle also comes in a .357 Magnum configuration. Taking advantage of the Desert Eagle's novel recoil reduction system, firing a .357 Magnum from this gun makes it feel like you're shooting a 9mm… but with more boom.

Check out LifeSizePotato's video on the best .357 Magnum revolvers in the world:

There's a reason why so many guns chamber the .357 Magnum. This versatile and powerful round has served generations of gun carriers so well that it's still in production. The best thing about the .357 Magnum is that it serves a variety of functions. From home defense to hunting, this round will serve you very well.

Sound off Gun Carriers! Let us know which guns you've got chambered with this hard-hitting round in the comments below.

When you're done with that, make sure you like the Gun Carrier Facebook page, so you never miss a beat!

Up Next: EAA Windicator .357 Magnum

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on June 12, 2018 and has been updated for accuracy and relevancy.

39 Responses to :
Modern Self-Defense: .357 Magnum

  1. Dale Gardner says:

    I carry a S&W Model 65 3″ every day. Loaded with 135gr. Speer Gold Dot. .357 Magnum is a great round.

  2. Tom Wells says:

    I’ve hunted with a 6″ 686 for years, taking over 7 deer. I’ve preferred heavier bullets, the Cor-Bon 180 gr soft nose has worked for me.

  3. Bob M. says:

    In response to Robert P. I also own a Ruger Security Six (RDA34) 4 inch in blue. You have me by a few years, I purchased mine on 5-21-79. I also love mine. Of all the handguns I’ve owned over the yeas or own right now this one is still my favorite. Mine also is a straight shooter and never fails. Have shot it more than any other as well. Would like to find a 2.74 in her for C.C.

  4. Joshua Gillem says:

    Hi Matt Bat. I’m not sure if you’re talking to me and my point about it being a .35 caliber. If you are, allow me to explain. The diameter of the bullet itself (both .38 Spc and .357 Magnum) are .35 caliber bullets. The .38 Special isn’t actually a .38 caliber. The reason why it’s called that, is because this is an updated version of a much older cartridge that started way back to when they used little balls of lead, one at a time. That old “ball” firing gun, actually used a .38 caliber ball. It continued to change once metal casings were used, but the name “.38” simply stuck around. Thanks for the comment.

  5. Rob M says:

    The first handgun I ever fired was my late uncles 4″ Colt Python .357 Mag. Guess what the first handgun I ever bought was? Yep, a 4″ Colt Python. Almost 40 years later and it still has pride of place in my collection.

  6. D. Hodges says:

    Dad hunted bear with a .357 mag. An old cowboy gun. Single action, 2 screw, Colt Pistol. Which is still in excellent condition. So I learned about .357 from the best. Versatile? Yes, indeed. You can use a .357 mag pistol to shoot both, .357 and .38. But a .38 pistol can shoot only .38 rounds. So presently, I use a S&W, 686, Stainless w/6 in barrell. My self protection piece is a Stainless ,45 Colt. (Officers Model). But am considering switching to the .357 Coonan.

  7. Dick Burgess says:

    Previously had a Smith & Wesson model 26 6″ barrel. Now have A Taurus mod 605 357magnum. Great round.

  8. Jeffrey Price says:

    I have a model 19 and a Taurus hammerless. I carry both at different times depending on the situation. Wouldn’t trade either of them. They will take care of anything/anybody I run up against. They are also easy to reload for.

  9. Joe says:

    I have a 7 shot S&W 686, a Taurus 7 shot 66, and a 2 in Rossi 461. Have shot the Taurus a lot more. Would love to get a 8 shot S&W 627 and a Henry 357 rifle.

    1. J says:

      Have got a Taurus 66 myself. 7 shots of .357 magnum is a lot of handgun for the money you pay.

    2. Richard Dewey says:

      I have an older 6 shot S&W 686 with a 6 inch barrel and love it. It’s my favorite range gun of all time. I also recently got a Henry .357 lever action and love it just as much. I have a nice scope on it set at about 100 yds. Guessing the 2K rounds of ammo i have will only last half as long now.

  10. Diane says:

    A couple of things here: I know a guy who was in Nam. He had .357. An enemy soldier ran toward him so he unloaded all 6 in the guy. The enemy kept coming and stabbed him in the shoulder. One of the other guys shot the arm off the enemy with his .45. Not sure what he had in that .45 or what kind it was, but it got the job done. What did the guy with the .357 do? He borrowed the .45 and shot his gun up.

    I also know a guy who has shot a number of bears with his .357. So, it all depends on the situation.

    I do have concerns about over-penetration with a .357. That is something that anyone who carries has to take into consideration, as you all know. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with it. There isn’t. Just things to think about as with any caliber that is carried.

    1. Jimburdine says:

      FMJ .357 will over-penetrate, and except for a head shot might allow a guy to keep coming. Interestingly enough, knew one Korean war vet that loved the .357 for its ability to penetrate the quilted coats that stopped other rounds during that cold war action.

  11. Tom K. says:

    Check out Buffalo Bore ammo site for exact muzzle velocities of their 357 ammo from a 1 7/8″ S&W 340 PD to a 6″ barrel..

  12. Larry says:

    I have Colt Trooper 357. Love it.

  13. RLD says:

    I have an older S&W 686 (6 shot) and a newer Henry lever action in .357. Love them both for the range and the pistol is my night stand (safe kept) home defense weapon of choice, because I know that in the over 1000 rounds I have put through it, it has never failed yet. I also keep a couple of speed loaded speed loaders in the safe as well. Would like to get a semi auto in .357 also but the price is more than I want to spend at this point in time so the Walther PPQ M-2 will have to do for now. Yes it’s a larger CCW but I’m a big guy so its doable.

  14. ihatelibs says:

    So is Mine. I fell in love with the 357MAG , back in 73. I Too am a Proud US NAVY VET . 100% Disabled tho

  15. BigGary4545 says:

    I carry my S&W Model 19 2 1/2″ in a cross-draw holster whenever I am camping and/or hunting in the mountains or desert here in Arizona. In the desert, the first round is always a snake-shot load, and it’s usually effective to about 3-4 yards from the short barrel. When hunting in the mountains I carry it because I just feel more comfortable carrying it. I’ve had it for so long I feel undressed when out in the boonies without it.

  16. Deplorable Dirty Harry says:

    My colt 357 4″ king cobra is the best weapon around the house and CCW, and next is Kahr cm9.
    In polished stainless-the Colt gets the attention at the range, flames and awl.

  17. bphoon says:

    I’ve been carrying a Rossi M971 .357 for several years. My other hand guns are semi-autos but there’s nothing like an old school wheel gun for reliability and simplicity. No jams; point, pull the trigger and it works. And, for self loaders, you don’t have to crawl around recovering brass. What’s not to like?

    1. Bob Williams says:

      I carry a Rossi too. The only jam I’ve ever had was when a primer busted and wouldn’t allow the cylinder to turn. Super reiiable and accurate for a snubby. I’d love to play with a Coonan but its out of my price range right now.

  18. Jim Symons says:

    649 edc 125 Corbon

  19. wdcraftr says:

    S&W 340PD in my pocket, Rossi M92 16″ bl. w/reflex red dot and a Streamlight at bedside, and a Ruger GP100 4″ on my hip when hiking.. The 357 covers all my needs nicely…

  20. Jeff Robertson says:

    I love my 35 yo Model 28 “Highway Patrolman”. Too large for concealed carry so it gets noticed when I do have her wrapped in a Bianchi 5BH. Able to safely push 125 grain loads that vaporize targets upon impact!

    1. R.G.Sorick says:

      I have the same gun. Bought for 175.00, 15 years ago, and love it. Even my wife likes to shoot it.( She calls my 44 mag a cannon, and my 45 auto a beast, but she is a good shot with the 357) For an old pistol, it still as good as the day they made it. Had to have a new ejector slide put in as the little pins or nubs wore down that catch the empty shells and push them out. Other than that, a tight pistol.

  21. Joe White says:

    I carry my Ruger SP101 when I venture out in the woods without fail.

  22. Tony Coyle says:

    I started off with a Dan Wesson… a pistol pack. I still own it after 38 years.
    My next fav is my Ruger Security Six 4 inch. I can pack that one in my off body.
    .357 is a great cartridge. I will always own at least one.

    1. Oscar Pearson says:

      I was given one by an old friend! Haven’t even practiced with it yet – how much of a kick does it have?

      1. Oscar Pearson says:


      2. Oscar Pearson says:


  23. An american says:

    I purchased a S&W Mdl 19 (4″) in 1977 for duty work (uniform patrol LEO). Still have it and it is a smooth as the day I got it. Other than holster wear (after 40 years!) It looks great. .357 is the way to go.

  24. DWC says:

    I carry a Ruger Blackhawk 9.5″ 357 maxim when I’m deer hunting. Purchased in 1982. Only problem is finding ammunition.

  25. Alaska Dan says:

    I have a colt python great pistol and carry it with bear loads when hiking in Alaska.

  26. Stephen Porter says:

    Have never heard very much about the armor piercer .357. Are they still allowed? Shot 1 load at the rear ends of some old car bodies (real steel) and penetrated 4 1/2, almost 5 bodies. Believe it or not. Was also informed that they could bust an engine block. The police officer who let me shoot his .357 Magnum was a friend in 1969. 48 years ago!

  27. Steve says:

    Off duty, I carry a Taurus Poly Protector .357 Magnum with a 2 inch barrel. I love it.

  28. Don Welsh says:

    I have 2 .357 magnums. S&W 686 that’s had a trigger job done to it & a Colt Trooper MK III.
    Both are strong solid weapons & have been excellent performers.
    On fact my 686 was my first handgun it’s a very menacing looking gun with it’s 6″ barrel & nickel finish, walnut handle.

  29. Gerald Jessup says:

    2.5 inch nickel plated 3/4engraved Colt Python and a Taurus 608 hammerless with a 3inch barrel

  30. Robert McCabe says:

    My .357 magnum was my second handgun purchase. I dropped my second biggest whitetail with it (175 pounds field dressed). Great power with moderate recoil make this classic a versatile cartridge.

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