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.

Comparison chart

.357 Magnum versus .38 Special comparison chart
Edit this comparison chart.357 Magnum.38 Special
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Designer Elmer Keith, Phillip B. Sharpe Smith and Wesson
Place of origin USA United States
Bullet diameter .357 in (9.1 mm) .357 in (9.1 mm)
Neck diameter .379 in (9.6 mm) 0.379 in (9.6mm)
Base diameter .379 in (9.6 mm) 0.379 in (9.6mm)
Designed 1934 1898
Rim diameter .440 in (11.2 mm) 0.44 in (11mm)
Case type Rimmed (R), straight Rimmed, Straight
Case length 1.29 in (33 mm) 1.155 in (29.3mm)
Overall length 1.59 in (40 mm) 1.55 in (39mm)
Maximum pressure 35,000 psi (241 MPa) 17,000 PSI
Primer type Small pistol, magnum Small Pistol
A man shooting with a .357 Magnum
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A man shooting with a .357 Magnum

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.

Side-by-side comparison of many common pistol rounds. L-R: (1) 3 in 12 ga magnum shotgun shell (for comparison), (2) size "AA" battery (for comparison), (3) .454 Casull, (4) .45 Winchester Magnum, (5) .44 Remington Magnum, (6) .357 Magnum, (7) .38 Special, (8) .45 ACP, (9) .38 Super, (10) 9 mm Luger, (11) .32 ACP, (12) .22 LR
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Side-by-side comparison of many common pistol rounds. L-R: (1) 3 in 12 ga magnum shotgun shell (for comparison), (2) size "AA" battery (for comparison), (3) .454 Casull, (4) .45 Winchester Magnum, (5) .44 Remington Magnum, (6) .357 Magnum, (7) .38 Special, (8) .45 ACP, (9) .38 Super, (10) 9 mm Luger, (11) .32 ACP, (12) .22 LR

Performance and Accuracy

The .38 is considered to be highly accurate with manageable recoil. It has a bullet weight of 10.2g, a relatively slow muzzle velocity of 940 ft/s and a maximum pressure of 17,000 PSI.

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.

Uses

.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.

Cost

.38 cartridges are cheaper than .357 cartridges, causing many gun owners to buy guns designed for the .357 and then frequently use them with the more affordable .38 cartridges.

References

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