What's the difference between a .38 Special and a .357 round?

Discussion in 'General Reloading' started by Airweight38, Aug 11, 2008.

  1. Airweight38

    Airweight38 G&G Newbie

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2008
    Messages:
    333
    Location:
    Kansas City
    Okay, so I just got a Smith and Wesson Model 686 .357 (in great shape!) ridiculously cheap at a pawn shop to fart around with until my metaphorical $600.00 ship comes in with the Ruger GP-100. I likes it.

    And now I'm looking at my .38 special reloading stuff going, "Now what's the difference between .38 Special and .357 rounds?

    Both have the same diameter, right? .358

    The 38 Specials use Sm. Pistol primers, whereas the .357s use Magnum, right?

    I've confirmed that my Lee Carbide .38 dies will work for .357 as well.

    So is the only difference that .357s have a longer cartridge, more powder and use a magnum primer?

    Can I use all of my 38 bullets for .357 loads, provided I can find a recipe for that weight?

    Also, can I assume that all .357s will shoot .38 special rounds? Also 38 special +P rounds?

    Just looking for a little direction. I'm headed to the gun club to shoot the smurf out of it tonight. Thanks for any help.

    /Jason

    :feedback:
  2. Mike Franklin

    Mike Franklin G&G Newbie

    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2008
    Messages:
    1,267
    Location:
    Poteet, Texas
    Both have the same diameter, right? .358, varies from .355 to .359 depending on the maker.

    The 38 Specials use Sm. Pistol primers, whereas the .357s use Magnum, right? There are some .357 loads that work fine with standard primers.

    I've confirmed that my Lee Carbide .38 dies will work for .357 as well.

    So is the only difference that .357s have a longer cartridge, more powder and use a magnum primer? Except for the primer part

    Can I use all of my 38 bullets for .357 loads, provided I can find a recipe for that weight?
    Yes
    Also, can I assume that all .357s will shoot .38 special rounds? Also 38 special +P rounds? Yes
  3. DWFan

    DWFan G&G Enthusiast

    Joined:
    Feb 7, 2008
    Messages:
    7,166
    Location:
    Central Oklahoma
    Other than case length (1.155" vs 1.285") and SAAMI pressure levels, everything is the same. Any .357 will handle .38 Special and .38 Special +P ammo; but not vice versa.
  4. Taurus Fan

    Taurus Fan G&G Newbie

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2008
    Messages:
    1,954
    Location:
    COBRA COMMAND HEADQUARTERS
    The use of magnum versus regular pistol primers in the .357 (or any cartridge) depends on how fast or slow the powder is that you're using. You wouldn't use a magnum primer with Bullseye, for example, but the very slowest powders need them or ignition may be erratic.

    In a pinch I once loaded some .45 Colt using 296 with regular primers even though the manual said to use magnum , and the results were horrible. Some rounds went boom, some had incomplete ignition , went poof, and launched the bullet very casually with a lot of unburned powder blowing out of the barrel.
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2008
  5. Mike Franklin

    Mike Franklin G&G Newbie

    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2008
    Messages:
    1,267
    Location:
    Poteet, Texas
    Most reloading manuals tell you when a magnum primer is needed.
  6. billy

    billy G&G Evangelist Forum Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2006
    Messages:
    25,477
    Location:
    a secret lab on the shores of lake titicaca
    yep!
  7. big boomer

    big boomer G&G Enthusiast

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2007
    Messages:
    3,184
    Location:
    Minn.
    When the 357 was developed it was made 1 tenth longer so as not to fit in a 38 because the 357 was loaded to higher pressure. other wise they are identical so you can shoot 38 specials all day long in a 357. The only drawback is you have to clean the residue out of the cylinders or the 357's will stick in that last tenth if not clean. Its just like 22 shots in a long rifle chamber.
  8. Airweight38

    Airweight38 G&G Newbie

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2008
    Messages:
    333
    Location:
    Kansas City
    Wow. Thanks for the quick replies. I shall consider myself properly educated on .357s now. :) That's interesting about the diameter part.

    I just shot a box of someone else's reloads in my Bodyguiarand there was a noticeable (yet not to an alarming degree) bulge in the case around the base of the bullet. I'm wondering if that's just a sign that maybe he used a .357, .358 or .359 bullet.
  9. Mike Franklin

    Mike Franklin G&G Newbie

    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2008
    Messages:
    1,267
    Location:
    Poteet, Texas
    Before you shot it or afterwards?
  10. samuel

    samuel G&G Newbie

    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2006
    Messages:
    15,238
    If you want to keep both hands and both eyes (and maybe your life) you will never shoot another persons reloads.They may be just fine in his firearm but leave bulges in the casings in your firearm.Those bulges sound like over pressure and very dangerous to me.I just hope you didnt ruin your cylinder.I advise taking it to a gunsmith and getting it checked. sam.
  11. Taurus Fan

    Taurus Fan G&G Newbie

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2008
    Messages:
    1,954
    Location:
    COBRA COMMAND HEADQUARTERS

    Yes, never shoot another persons handloads, a lot of reloaders are n00Bs who load at max or more and brag up how hot their rounds are, some even pointing out with pride their cracked/bulged cases as proof of their power. Bad news. When I first started handloading the bunch that introduced me to it were not nearly as knowladgable as they thought and were doing some dangerously stupid things, like using max load data for jacketed .357 bullets but substituting lead .358 bullets for economy, thinking that as long as the weight of the bullet was the same it'd be OK. Durhhhhhh.
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2008
  12. gandog56

    gandog56 G&G Enthusiast

    Joined:
    Oct 8, 2006
    Messages:
    26,729
    Location:
    Mobile, Alabama
    Ehhhh, .355-.356" is more like a 9mm. I don't think I ever saw a .38/.357 sized that low. Possible, I suppose, but not probable.
  13. Airweight38

    Airweight38 G&G Newbie

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2008
    Messages:
    333
    Location:
    Kansas City
    Hey, whoa. I think I instilled undue panic in my observation regarding case "bulges."

    The cases were very slightly bulged (as in, I could see a subtle seam around the base of the bullet through the casing) PRIOR to shooting. They chambered fine in the cylinder and shot fine. Casings extracted fine. And this was this morning, in my S&W Bodyguard--not my "new" one. AFAIK, everything's hunky dory. No real signs of pressure, fireworks, death, dismemberment, etc.

    Also: duly noted re: shooting others' reloads. This is a box a PI gave me that he got from a good friend. They were supposedly target loads, and he shoots them in his J-Frame S&W fine. So it wasn't like I traded crack for them or anything. But I recognize your point, and the more I think about it, the more I think it's probably a dumb idea I won't entertain any longer.

    Incidentally, WTF is up with the inherent infatuation with shooting hot loads? I don't get that. I mean, I'm a guy and I like my loud rock and my bang! guns and all kinds of other simian stimulation, but hot loads are...a) never supposed to be the most accurate b) therefore a waste of gun powder, making the loads more expensive than they have to be and c)fricking retarded, given that they come with a risk of destroying yourself and your gun. I don't get it. I truly don't. If I want more bang, I'll get a .44. Jeepers.

    /rant

    Anyway, I got my first taste of going to the range, staying open to close , burning through one and a half batches of reloads and going home reeking of powder today and I've to to say, it kind of beats the pants off out of shooting my .22s or my usual 25 rounds a night through my 9mm. :veryhappy: This reloading? I'm rather enjoying it.
  14. samuel

    samuel G&G Newbie

    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2006
    Messages:
    15,238
    Sounds like you are doing fine.As to hot loads,maximum effort for minimum gain.Max loads are rough on everything,including firearms.I agree with your last post,especially if you want more power,get a bigger gun. sam.
  15. Mike Franklin

    Mike Franklin G&G Newbie

    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2008
    Messages:
    1,267
    Location:
    Poteet, Texas
    Some of the older Colts, from the 60s and 70s had real tight bores. Pythons especially, .355 to .356 was found on occasion but not frequently. The old target shooters I knew liked that tight barrel they would actually take calipers to gun shows and check for a tighter bore. S&W tended to be .357 to .358.
  16. twtalbot

    twtalbot G&G Newbie

    Joined:
    May 17, 2008
    Messages:
    603
    Location:
    Louisiana
    That bulge around the base of the bullet is probably just the result of seating the bullet in a tightly sized case. I noticed the same thing in my .38 loads in several brands of brass. Not in Winchester though. I think the brass is a little thinner and so the bullet doesn't force the walls back out as much when it's seated.
  17. nathangdad

    nathangdad G&G Newbie

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2007
    Messages:
    11,239
    Location:
    Canyon, Texas
    It is not so complex

    The .38 round has a history of lengthening the case when more power is presented. The .38 special was very popular until the mid-1930's when it became apparent automobile bodies could stop the round. The case was lengthened, more power was added, and it became the .357 magnum. It was important to lengthen the case so the the .357 magnum round would not fire in a revolver designed engineeringwise for the less powerful and less pressure producing .38 special. It was a safety design no one could screw up.

    There exists a vast amount of published material on handloading the .357 magnum to various power levels. And yes, the .357 magnum revolver will chamber and shoot the .38 +P's as they are less powerful than the .357 magnum round. A bit of reloading research should provide any and all answers to questions you might develop.

    The 158 grain bullet is generally the standard, or most popular bullet weight for the .357 magnum.
  18. Airweight38

    Airweight38 G&G Newbie

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2008
    Messages:
    333
    Location:
    Kansas City
    While it did occur to me that any .38 +P round should yield lower pressures than a .357, it has also occurred to me that reloading can be very subjective and that superficial logic isn't always the final authority of providing predictable results. For example, one cannot always safely substitute comparable powders in recipes based on assumption or always factor pressures relative to a mathematical increase of powder in the shell (as in some cases, compression can actually slow burn rates). Many times, there are unseen variables that can make for disastrous assumptions. Herego, my move is always to assume it's more complex than it is and err on the side of caution, rather than say "well, it stands to reason that..." That may make some of my questions seem like I'm making things out to be more complex than they are, and I assure you that is on purpose. :)
  19. Airweight38

    Airweight38 G&G Newbie

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2008
    Messages:
    333
    Location:
    Kansas City
    This shouldn't be a sticky

    I have no idea how I posted a sticky, but even I am tired of seeing it by now. Can a mod move this to the regular reloading forum?

    Many thanks.
  20. sagehopper

    sagehopper G&G Newbie

    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2008
    Messages:
    51
    Location:
    Reno Nv
    .357

    Just a 10th of an inch. Reg primers for .38, or .357. Large pistols too big. Bullets are interchangeable, but if you go cheap, lead ones with gaschecks work well for this calibre. If you don't use gascheck, the barrel gets a bit cruddy pretty fast. Carbide dies are great if you can afford them. I like to use Unique for both, but watch the weight carefully. Don't get too adventurous. I have a nickle plated SW 586, and it is plenty strong, but I still treat it like my baby.
Similar Threads
Forum Title Date
General Reloading Lyman reloading Manual, 47th / 48th what's the difference? Mar 17, 2008
General Reloading What's everyone working on? May 13, 2012
General Reloading What's the Consensus About Running Oversized Bullets? Oct 20, 2011
General Reloading Loading 40 S&W What's Your Favorite? Jun 26, 2011
General Reloading What's your best shoot to POA fixed sights loads? Apr 8, 2011