The .38 Special and .357 Magnum are both rimmed, centerfire cartridges commonly used in revolvers. Except for case length, the .38 and .357 are virtually identical. .38 cartridges can be fired from revolvers chambered for the .357, but the converse is not true; .357 cartridges cannot be used in revolvers designed for the .38.
History and Evolution
The .38 Special was introduced in 1898 as a military service cartridge because the .38 Long Colt had insufficient stopping power against the wooden shields of Moros during the Philippine-American War. With its rising popularity, the .38 Special began to be manufactured with smokeless powder loadings.
The .357 was a collaborative development in the early 1930s based on the .38. It was designed by Elmer Keith, Phillip B. Sharpe, and Colonel D. B. Wesson from Smith & Wesson, and its use has become widespread since its introduction in 1934. The .357 Magnum was best known for its stopping power. The .357 Magnum addresses the safety issues earlier cartridges had by stretching the case by approximately 1/8 of an inch, preventing the high pressure .357 cartridge from chambering in a firearm designed for the shorter, lower pressure .38.
Performance and Accuracy
The .357 is known for its stopping power. It has a muzzle velocity of 1090 ft/s and a maximum pressure of 35,000 PSI.
Accuracy of shooting is dependent more on the skill of the shooter than the cartridge or gun. Hoiwever, the .38 Special is especially renowned for its accuracy.
.38 cartridges are most commonly used in revolvers, although they can also be used in some semi-automatic pistols and carbines. They are the most popular revolver cartridge in the world and are used for target shooting, personal defense and hunting small game. They were the standard cartridge used by police departments in the United States from the 1920s to the 1990s. They were also used during World War I.
.357 cartridges are used for self-defense, as they have strong stopping power. They are also used to hunt small game including deer, and for target shooting.