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357 magnum concealed carry

The Agony And The More Agony: .357 Magnum Concealed Carry

A few folks are bound and determined to carry nothing less than a magnum, making .357 Magnum concealed carry their setup of choice. This requires a compact revolver, prudent load selection and a certain gluttony for punishment.

Are the benefits of .357 Magnum worth the pain? Arguably, but also arguably not. There are, of course, a few ways to make it more tenable than at first glance.

If you're determined to only pack a magnum on the daily, here are some tips and tricks to doing it right.

.357 Magnum In A Small Gun Is Downright Masochistic

357 magnum revolver

Don't listen to the hype too terribly much; the .357 Magnum is the king of the medium bores but is not one of the big boys. Rather, it's one of the big boys' kid brother. The big boys start at the upper end of 10mm and .41 Magnum, though .357 comes close.

In a medium-frame revolver, all but the stoutest loads are quite manageable. That's why so many a Ruger GP100 review has noted how soft it shoots. In fact, the round was conceived of and developed for shooting through an N-frame Smith and Wesson revolver, which is the same frame size of the gun in the "Dirty Harry" movies.

In a snub-nose revolver...it hurts.

The .357 Magnum cartridge can generate almost double the recoil energy in a lighter pistol. According to Chuck Hawks recoil table, a 2.75-lb revolver firing a 125-grain load at 1220 fps generates 4.6 ft-lbs of recoil energy. A 1.75-lb revolver firing a 125-grain load at 1209 fps generates 8.9 ft-lbs of recoil energy. Therefore, a 1-lb reduction in weight results in twice the recoil force.

That same load in a heavier pistol (2.75 lbs is about 44 oz, equal to about a Ruger GP100 or S&W Model 19; 1.75 lbs is about 28 oz, a tad heavier than a Ruger SP101) is going to be murder in, say, a J-frame that weighs less than 20 oz.

Of course, short-barrel and reduced-power loads are available, so you don't necessarily have to beat yourself up with full-house magnum loads.

Picking A .357 Magnum Revolver

magnum revolver

So, let's say that you were fine with the abuse and wanted a .357 Magnum revolver for concealed carry. What should you look for?

There are a couple of different viewpoints on this. One school holds that you should get a medium-frame revolver optimized for concealed carry, like a round-butt K-frame or L-frame with a shorter barrel. They're a bit on the heavy and large side (about the size of a Sig P226) but are concealable and carryable enough.

The other school of thought is to just grin and bear it with a J-frame or other small-frame gun shooting a magnum round. Not everyone wants to carry a Ruger GP100 or SP1011.

Plenty of pistols fitting both descriptions are available. Small revolvers, such as the Ruger LCR/LCRx and the S&W J-frame, abound in .357 Magnum with many different features like DAO firing systems, integrated Crimson Trace lasers, lightweight alloy frames; the number of features are too large to keep listing.

Compact medium-frame revolvers typically feature a slightly shorter grip frame, rounded in the back (the butt of the frame) for easier concealment as well as a shorter barrel, typically 2 to 3 inches. Besides taming recoil a little better, these pistols also feature full-length extractors, which makes a big difference when it comes to ejecting magnum shells.

Make sure that the pistol fits your hand well, as fitment for the shooter is crucial for any potent potable handgun. It is highly advised that you try before you buy, as a lot of shooters have gotten a compact magnum only to find out that they hate it and get rid of the thing a year or two later.

Is .357 Magnum All It's Cracked Up To Be?

357 magnum

Some people get fixated on caliber; people who carry .357 Magnum or .45 ACP or 10mm will often rant and rave about how their gun is Ol' Death and Destruction because they carry the mighty...whatever.

Is it true, though?

To be sure, the .357 Magnum is a proven defensive round. It offers at least 1.5 times the power of .38 special revolvers. Law enforcement personnel found it more than suitable for their needs when the round debuted in 1934. People have successfully defended themselves with it and - with the right load paired with the right gun - it's also adequate for short-range hunting of small/medium game.

But it also doesn't have a stoppage rate any better than other proven defensive calibers, and the low capacity of revolvers plus the stout recoil in light, compact guns put it at a disadvantage compared to modern semi-auto pistols. Additionally, 9mm +P loads and +P+ loads of all but the stoutest of .357 Magnum.

10mm and .45 Super exceed it.

So is it worth it? That kind of depends on you. If that's what you like, and what you shoot well, then by all means do so. But in and of itself? Not really. The truth about handgun rounds is that the "stopping power" of handguns is drastically exaggerated short of the largest of magnums, and not too many people are concealing a S&W 500.

About The Author

Writer sam hoober