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Modern Self-Defense: .357 Magnum



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

The .357 magnum is around that has seen action for many years. It is a powerful little bullet with enormous stopping power. The sound of the discharge alone is so loud, intruders who hear it would sooner run than risk getting 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

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

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.

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

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

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.

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

Versatility and Power

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

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. 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.

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  3. Gary lish

    November 21, 2020 at 5:50 PM

    I have 4) 357 revolvers
    Ruger SP101 1 7/8”
    Ruger GP 100 4”
    S&W 586 6”
    S&W 627 4”
    I love everyone of them I also reload all different kinds of 357 magnum and 38 special rounds. I can reload mild to magnum loads and make every gun feel like a totally different gun with all the different rounds. It’s the most versatile gun ever made

  4. Robert McCabe

    April 24, 2017 at 1:32 PM

    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.

  5. Gerald Jessup

    April 22, 2017 at 7:45 PM

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

  6. Don Welsh

    April 20, 2017 at 10:50 AM

    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.

  7. Steve

    April 20, 2017 at 5:10 AM

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

  8. Stephen Porter

    April 20, 2017 at 4:07 AM

    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!

  9. Alaska Dan

    April 20, 2017 at 1:10 AM

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

  10. Marvin Zeichner

    April 19, 2017 at 11:20 PM

    I have a Rossi 357 magnum revolver 2″ barrel in stainless. When you fire it you can feel the shock to your hand from the recoil. I do like it.

  11. DWC

    April 19, 2017 at 10:39 PM

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

  12. Johnny Nightrider

    April 19, 2017 at 7:54 PM

    The most accurate handgun I ever fired was my Smith And Wesson 686 Plus.The 7 shot .357 Magnum revolver on the L-Frame.Mine was 4 inches,the barrel.I liked firing Corbon 125 grain JHP thru it and some 180 grain loads.I could shoot Magnums all day in single action mode.Like a dumbo I sold it.Stupid I should have kept it as I had got such a great deal on it.I hope to purchase another one as it was loud,powerful,and I had no fear with that caliber on my hip.

  13. Sarcastic1

    April 19, 2017 at 5:37 PM

    I have a S&W M&P R8 revolver in .357 that I LOVE. Super fun to shoot and dead accurate. Nice!

  14. Timothy Toroian

    April 19, 2017 at 11:50 AM

    A .357 revolver with 4 to 6 inch barrel is a very versatile firearm. It would have a decent sight radius and can fire everything from .38 Wadcutters to the most potent .357 heavy weight. You can target shoot in competition,defend yourself and sustain yourself with it. If I were limited to just one hand gun a 6 inch barreled stainless revolver would be it. Put a red dot on it and one could do some accurate shooting at cartridge range limits.

  15. An american

    April 19, 2017 at 9:07 AM

    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.

  16. Tony Coyle

    April 19, 2017 at 9:00 AM

    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.

    • Oscar Pearson

      April 19, 2017 at 5:04 PM

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

      • Proud US vet/American

        April 19, 2017 at 9:38 PM

        The recoil is manageable. It is the “Ringing” of the ears it gives you that is hard to master a liking to. LOL Just remember that the smaller the barrel on your revolver, the more recoil you will get. My 2″ snubby does have a conciderable recoil, but you get used to it will practice-that is the key, PRACTICE with it to get used to it.

        • Oscar Pearson

          April 20, 2017 at 8:24 AM


      • Tony Coyle

        April 20, 2017 at 11:07 AM

        Oscar, you will find them to be very pleasant to shoot. As with all firearms, smaller and lighter equals more recoil. Try it first with .38 spl and move into the magnum loads.
        Most medium frame revolvers will be very controllable. wear hearing protection for sure.
        enjoy your time at the range!

        • Oscar Pearson

          April 20, 2017 at 12:45 PM


  17. Joe White

    April 19, 2017 at 8:57 AM

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

  18. Jeff Robertson

    April 19, 2017 at 8:45 AM

    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!

    • R.G.Sorick

      April 21, 2017 at 1:47 AM

      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.

  19. wdcraftr

    April 19, 2017 at 8:36 AM

    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. Jim Symons

    April 19, 2017 at 8:33 AM

    649 edc 125 Corbon

  21. bphoon

    April 19, 2017 at 8:16 AM

    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?

    • Bob Williams

      April 19, 2017 at 12:22 PM

      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.

  22. Deplorable Dirty Harry

    April 19, 2017 at 7:22 AM

    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.

  23. BigGary4545

    March 13, 2017 at 1:12 AM

    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.

  24. Proud US vet/American

    February 7, 2017 at 4:15 PM

    My snub nosed 2″ .357 mag is my go to CCW everyday carrier. I want to know that if I need to use a gun, it will first work all the time, every time. And second, when I hit something it is not going to get up and keep coming. Out to 30 yards, all 6 rounds inside a target about the size of a 5″ circle. Good enough for my old combat eyes.
    Old school maybe! But, my “snubby” revolver, it still, and will continue to get the job done for many years to come.

    • ihatelibs

      February 10, 2017 at 12:11 PM

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

  25. RLD

    August 3, 2016 at 10:04 AM

    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.

  26. Larry

    June 27, 2016 at 9:43 PM

    I have Colt Trooper 357. Love it.

  27. Diane

    June 27, 2016 at 3:04 PM

    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.

    • Jimburdine

      June 30, 2016 at 8:18 AM

      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.

  28. Joe

    June 27, 2016 at 1:45 PM

    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.

    • J

      June 27, 2016 at 9:16 PM

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

    • Richard Dewey

      August 3, 2016 at 9:59 AM

      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.

  29. LarryE

    June 27, 2016 at 1:09 PM

    Ruger SP101 2-1/4″ bbl (was a great EDC gun), also SP101 4″ bbl, and Ruger Security Six 6″ bbl, all three in stainless and in .357 caliber. These are home defense and car guns, never for sale. Used to carry them, but went to a semiautomatic Ruger P944 for 10+1 capacity in 40 S&W (which is only about 10% less hitting power than .357), then to Glock for 13+1 in 40 S&W (a compact frame G23) with over twice the number of rounds of the revolvers and yet lighter than the all-metal P944. Wife’s Glock is 9mm (compact frame G19) holding 16+1, a light gun with moderate hitting power. All great guns, no stovepipes ever with decent ammo.

  30. Cj

    June 27, 2016 at 10:49 AM

    I have the S&W PC 8 shot revolver , and it is a beautiful piece of work! Very accurate, and a wonderful hiking companion. Just like a famous credit card slogan…Don’t leave home without it!

  31. Jeffrey Price

    June 27, 2016 at 10:47 AM

    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.

  32. Dick Burgess

    June 27, 2016 at 10:27 AM

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

  33. D. Hodges

    June 27, 2016 at 9:38 AM

    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.

  34. Bill in ID

    June 27, 2016 at 9:36 AM

    I LOVE the .357 Magnum – B U T . . . If you are using a barrel any shorter than 12 inches (from the chamber nose) you are getting Nowhere Near the Muzzle Velocity shown on the box. Do the chronograph test at say 20 feet – you’ll see. I Have. The short snubbies are a joke – unless you are a arsonist. My Charter Arms Bulldog (CCA) with 4″ bbl. gets 915 – 954 fps with .357 Mag., .38 Sp +P, and .38 Sp. Check me out.

    • Tom K.

      June 27, 2016 at 9:42 PM

      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..

      • Bill in Idaho

        June 28, 2016 at 10:40 PM

        To Tom K. : Thanks for the reply, Tom. I believe what I get from my Chrono Screen, and Not what I might read in print. Best of luck on your searches. Bill M.

  35. mike dawson

    June 16, 2016 at 8:06 PM

    I have a s n w 686 357 6in barrel and a rugar 357 both revolvers the later was givun to me and never shot it.mld

  36. Rob M

    June 15, 2016 at 9:31 PM

    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.

  37. Matt Bat

    June 15, 2016 at 6:18 PM

    I think you mean it’s a .38 caliber.

    • Joshua Gillem

      June 15, 2016 at 8:13 PM

      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.

  38. Bob M.

    June 15, 2016 at 11:15 AM

    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.

  39. Tom Wells

    June 15, 2016 at 10:05 AM

    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.

  40. John Teague

    June 15, 2016 at 10:01 AM

    I have a couple of revolvers and a pair of rifles in .357 wouldn’t trade them for anything. 357 in a rifle is a real pleasure to shoot and really packs a punch with the extra velocity from a 24 inch barrel.

  41. Dale Gardner

    June 15, 2016 at 7:19 AM

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

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