The Best .357 Magnum Ammo for Range Training

.357 magnum revolver

Using .357 Magnum ammo for range training gives the shooter options regarding the type of weapon. The ammunition switches easily from a handgun to a rifle for a well-rounded test of one’s skills. The .357 cartridge remains popular with trainers, hobbyists, and professionals because of its versatility. Additionally, a .357 Magnum handgun can fire a .38 Special ammo. The cases of the two rounds match each other except for the length. Manufacturers made that deliberate design choice to prevent shooters from firing the .357 from a .38 Special revolver. The .357’s pressure rates higher than a .38 Special and could cause harm to the shooter or damage to the handgun.

History

The .357 Magnum cartridge was designed and developed in the mid-1930s by a team of firearms enthusiasts. The project goal included creating ammunition that could compete with Colt’s .38 Super. Elmer Keith, Phil Sharpe and D.B. Wesson of Smith & Wesson and Winchester joined forces to top Colt’s breadwinner. Criminals began to outsmart police and the police needed to fight back. Colt’s .38 Super was the only ammo on the market that fired at over 1,000 FPS. High velocity gave the ammo the ability to penetrate auto glass and ballistics vests. The gangster era had begun, and the cops couldn’t take down targets when they hid behind their automobiles or wore bulletproof vests. The .357 Magnum ammo allowed law enforcement to retake the streets while providing a versatile round for military, law enforcement, and civilians.

Current specs

The design team modified the original .357 Magnum slightly to incorporate Sharpe’s bullet. Currently, it’s known as the .357 S&W Magnum or 9x33mmR. The rimmed centerfire cartridge houses a .357-inch (9.1mm) diameter bullet housed in a case measuring 1.29-inches in length. The total length of the cartridge is 1.59-inches. According to SAAMI, the ammo’s maximum pressure is 35,000 PSI with an average muzzle velocity of 1,090 FPS.

The 1924 design loaded the .357 load with a bullet weight of 158 grains. The muzzle velocity clocked at an impressive 1,510 FPS. Today’s loads offer less muzzle velocity but enough to make the round effective and deadly when needed.

Shooters chamber light carbines in .357 Mag ammo, often for use in guns similar to the American Old West lever-action rifles. Specs differ in a rifle. The ammo exits a rifle barrel at around 1,800 FPS. The high velocity makes the round more versatile popular guns like the .32-20 Winchester.

Popularity and Use

The .357 Magnum ammunition received notoriety for kicking off the “Magnum Era.” The .357 Magnum revolver sparked the attention of law enforcement and military personnel. Soldiers used the gun and ammo throughout WWII and the Vietnam War. General George S. Patton chose the gun as one of his favorite sidearms. He carried an ivory-handled S&W .357 Magnum revolver on one hip and a single action .45 Long Colt on the other.

Law enforcement, military personnel and members of the U.S. Special Forces still use .357 Magnum handguns, mostly as back up pieces to semi-auto pistols.

Shooters continue to choose the dual-purpose cartridge because it is powerful, inexpensive, and can be used in both .357 Magnum handguns and rifles. Most common uses include range training, plinking, home defense, hunting, target shooting, and self-defense. It offers excellent stopping power with manageable recoil.

Range Training

Seasoned shooters recommend regular range training regardless of the person’s experience. Range training keeps a person sharp and improves skills. It also allows shooters to test drive different guns and ammo to see which works best for their needs.

Shooting ranges operate in rural and urban areas. Rural areas host more outdoor ranges since there isn’t a concern about shooting into a building or street. Urban areas have more indoor shooting galleries due to limited space. The containment dampens noise, prevents collateral damage, and other concerns. Indoor ranges operate despite weather conditions. They often restrict caliber and weapon use where outdoor ranges are more accommodating to unusual requests.

Hunters prefer outdoor ranges because the terrain and atmosphere are similar to what they might encounter in the field. Shooting competitions occur most often at outside ranges.

Using Your Ammo

Shooting .357 ammo deters some users from taking it to the range due to a few downsides. First, firing a .357 indoors causes damage to the shooter’s ears, perhaps even if the shooter is wearing hearing protection. The loud report throws off a person’s accuracy and causes one to hesitate when making a second shot. Some shooters chose a .38+P to make follow up shots to avoid the noise. Second, some find the recoil to be too strong. This is especially true when the ammo is used in a short barrel, or snubnose, revolver. Third, a bright muzzle flash causes temporary blindness in the dark. The latter proves to be a problem in a self-defense situation at night.

The real problem lies in the fact that many shooters practice with one ammunition and intend to use another. That makes no sense. Shooters must experience a certain comfort level with the gun and the ammo. If the combination causes problems, then the user should switch to another gun, ammunition, or both. Inexperience or discomfort leads to poor aim and inability to pull the trigger. The shooter freezes at the crucial moment, whether it’s in the field, or during a competition when faced with a large animal or intruder.

Performance

People train for many purposes, including hunting. The .357 ammo performs well against medium-size game like whitetail deer, hogs, and coyotes. Heavier loads face-off with large game like elk, caribou, and bear. Some hunters prefer big bore cartridges like .41 Mag, .44 Mag, .454 Casull, 460 S&W Mag or .50 Action Express. While the .357 gives off less energy, its small diameter and high velocity serve up deep penetration. The round is similar to a .45 Colt but with a flatter trajectory. Those specs make it highly versatile ammunition desirable to many hobbyists and professionals.

Bullet Types

Manufacturers develop new ammunition every day for popular calibers like the .357 Magnum. The most common styles include Full Metal Jacket, Jacketed Soft Point, Jacketed Hollow Point. The list below shows three common types of bullets and their uses.

Full Metal Jacket (FMJ)

FMJ bullets cost less than other rounds which makes them ideal for high volume shooting at the range. The bullet houses a soft center metal (often lead), surrounded by a harder metal, usually copper. The ammo cuts small channels upon impact and as they travel into, or through, the target. FMJs work best in short-range shooting, target practice, range training, plinking, and competition shooting.

Hollow Points (HP)

Most people associate hollow points to self-defense and home protection. HPs cost more than FMJ, but the round performs better in face-to-face confrontations. The ballistics of HPs are comparable to the FMJ.

HPs work best as concealed carry for home protection use. The design allows the bullet to expand, creating a larger wound channel than the FMJ. The expansion offers excellent stopping power, halts attackers quickly and therefore, the shooter is protected.

Soft Points (SP)

Hunters choose soft points more than any other ammunition. The SP expands over and above an FMJ, which makes it ideal for stopping the target in its tracks. The round is comparable to an HP, except for the expansion. An SP allows the shooter to have more control. SP ballistics outshine other bullets, especially when they are made with a boat-tail design. Jacketed Soft Points (JSP) are another option.

Best .357 Mag Training Ammo

Sellier & Bellot 158 Grain FMJ-FN

  • 889 FPS Muzzle Velocity
  • 158 Grain
  • Full Metal Jacket Bullet
  • Nickel-plated Brass Casing
  • Boxer Primer
  • 278 ft-lbs. Muzzle Energy

Tula Ammo 158 Grain FMJ

  • 1,280 FPS Muzzle Velocity
  • 158 Grain
  • Full Metal Jacket Bullet
  • Steel Casing
  • Boxer Primer
  • 464 ft-lbs. Muzzle Energy

Fiocchi 142 Grain FMJ-TC

  • 1,420 FPS Muzzle Velocity
  • 142 Grain
  • Full Metal Jacket Bullet
  • Nickel-plated Brass Casing
  • Boxer Primer
  • 636 ft-lbs. Muzzle Energy

Hornady Critical Defense 125 Grain FTX

  • 1,500 FPS Muzzle Velocity
  • 125 Grain
  • FlexTip Bullet
  • Nickel-plated Brass Casing
  • Boxer Primer
  • 824 ft-lbs. Muzzle Energy

Magtech Ammunition 158 Grain .357 Magnum SJSP

  • 1,235 FPS Muzzle Velocity
  • 125 Grain
  • Full Metal Jacket Bullet
  • Nickel-plated Brass Casing
  • Boxer Primer
  • 535 ft-lbs. Muzzle Energy

Tula Ammunition 158 Grain FMJ

  • 1,280 FPS Muzzle Velocity
  • 158 Grain
  • Full Metal Jacket Bullet
  • Polymer coated steel Casing
  • Boxer Primer

CCI Ammunition Blazer 158 Grain JHP

  • 1,150 FPS Muzzle Velocity
  • 158 Grain
  • Jacketed Hollow Bullet
  • Nickel-plated Brass Casing
  • CCI Primer
  • 464 ft-lbs. Muzzle Energy

Sig Sauer Elite Performance Ammunition 125 Grain FMJ

  • 1,450 FPS Muzzle Velocity
  • 125 Grain
  • Full Metal Jacket Bullet
  • Nickel-plated Brass Casing
  • Boxer Primer
  • 584 ft-lbs. Muzzle Energy

Magtech Sport Ammunition 125 Grain FMJ

  • 1,405 FPS Muzzle Velocity
  • 125 Grain
  • Full Metal Jacket Bullet
  • Nickel-plated Brass Casing
  • Boxer Primer
  • 548 ft-lbs. Muzzle Energy

Speer Gold Dot Short Barrel Ammunition 135 Grain JHP

  • 990 FPS Muzzle Velocity
  • 135 Grain
  • Jacketed Hollow Point Bullet
  • Nickel-plated Brass Casing
  • Boxer Primer
  • 294 ft-lbs. Muzzle Energy

Hornady LEVERevolution 140 gr FTX

  • 1,440 FPS Muzzle Velocity
  • 140 Grain
  • Hornady FTX Bullet
  • Nickel-plated Brass Casing
  • Boxer Primer
  • 644 ft-lbs. Muzzle Energy

Ruger ARX 86 Grain

  • 1,650 FPS Muzzle Velocity
  • 86 Grain
  • Injection Molded Copper Polymer ARX Projectile
  • Brass Casing
  • Boxer Primer
  • 552 ft-lbs. Muzzle Energy

Barnes VOR-TX, XPB HP, 140 Grain

  • 1,170 FPS Muzzle Velocity
  • 140 Grain
  • Solid Hollow Point Bullet
  • Nickel-plated Brass Casing
  • Boxer Primer
  • 429 ft-lbs. Muzzle Energy

Federal American Eagle Cartridge 158 Grain JSP

  • 1,240 FPS Muzzle Velocity
  • 158 Grain
  • Jacketed Soft Point Bullet
  • Nickel-plated Brass Casing
  • Boxer Primer
  • 530 ft-lbs. Muzzle Energy

Conclusion

.357 Magnum ammunition continues to be a popular round with many uses. Experts recommend extensive range training with any new ammunition or weapon. Situations happen quickly, often leaving the shooter without time to think. Preparing yourself can mean the difference between life or death. Consider trying several types of ammunition in different bullet weights before deciding which works best for your skillset, experience, and end use.

The Iconic Colt Detective Special

Colt Detective

Manufactured by Colt’s Manufacturing Company in 1927, the Colt Detective Special is one of the most iconic snubnosed revolvers ever made. It’s a six-shot, double-action revolver with a 2” barrel historically used by plain clothes police detectives when carrying concealed. It also became a popular model to carry off-duty.

History

Colt employee John Henry Fitzgerald came up with the concept of the “Fitz Special” snubnosed revolver in the mid-1920s. Fitzgerald wanted to reduce the barrel size of the .38 Special Colt Police Positive Special revolver to make it easier for police to carry concealed. He shortened the barrel and ejector rod and removed the front of the trigger guard to enable faster trigger acquisition. Fitzgerald also modified the butt and bobbed the hammer spur to make it faster to draw without catching on the policeman’s clothing.

The Detective Special

The Fitz Special made such an impression on Colt that they made some modifications to the design and introduced the Detective Special. Upon its release in 1927, the Detective Special became an instant success. Several law enforcement agencies worldwide still use the gun.

Five Generations

There have been five generations of the Detective Special, starting with the first generation in 1927. Some purists only consider the gun to have had four issues, since the fifth issue was a last-ditch attempt at reviving the weapon by making a run using spare parts. 

First Issue

The Detective Special was first manufactured from 1927-1946. This issue was the pared down version of the .38 Special Colt Police Positive Special revolver. Distinctive features of the “snubby” included a shortened ejector rod with an ungrooved, knurled tip; a checkered cylinder latch and hammer spur, wooden grip panels, and a “half-moon” shaped front sight. The earliest model, featuring a 2” barrel, retained the original square butt grip frame. In 1933, Colt rounded off the grip frame to make the weapon easier to conceal. Colt switched over to the rounded butt for the Detective Special. However, the original square butt was used into the 1940’s.

Detective Specials were manufactured for the U.S. Government during World War II. Due to the high demand and quick turn-around required, many of the weapons had the original square butt. Historians believe that the guns were pre-war Police Positive Specials retrofitted with 2” barrels.

Second Issue

The second issue of the Detective Special was sold from 1947 to 1965. After World War II, Colt began to make changes to its line, including the Detective Special. The company changed a variety of things including the cylinder retention system. They also replaced the front sight, altered the hammer spur, and lengthened the ejector rod.

The gun’s grips were known as “Coltwood,” made from a reddish-brown plastic. This was common throughout the 1940’s and 1950’s. In later years, Colt returned to using checkered American Walnut embellished with silver Colt medallions.

The second issue offered a 3” variant with a lengthened ejector rod. Colt changed to a serrated trigger spur, and the cylinder latch was smoother than the original.

Third Issue

Produced from 1966 to 1972, the Detective Special’s third issue only offered a minor change. Colt changed the grip frame to match the short, “stubby” frame used on the Colt Agent. Colt changed the grips to simplify and reduce the cost of production. Other changes included adding a new shroud to enclose and protect the ejector rod. Designers changed the front sight to a full ramp, and oversized wooden gripstocks covered the front frame strap.

Variations on the third issue included a limited run of nickel-plated guns as well as a 3” barrel variant.

Fourth Issue

Produced from 1973-1986, the fourth issue was the last of the series and featured the last major design change made by Colt. In 1973, Colt changed the barrel to a heavier version, adding a shroud designed to cover ramped front sight and the ejector rod. They also changed the narrow, old-style grips to a sleeker combat-style that wrapped around the frame. Additionally, the formerly grooved trigger was now smooth.

In 1986, faced with dwindling sales and rising costs, Colt discontinued the Detective Special.

Fifth Issue

Manufactured from 1993-1995, the fifth issue was a last hurrah for the Detective Special. Colt had just recovered from bankruptcy. The company decided to take leftover parts and made a short production run of Detective Specials. The reissue was an instant success.  There was enough demand from the reintroduction that Colt continued to produce the gun until 1995.  The guns were identical to the 1973 model except for the introduction of Pachmayr’s “Compac” rubber grips.

The Detective Special’s revival only lasted until 1995, when Colt introduced the stainless-steel SF-VI.

Many experts tout Colt’s Detective Special as one of the finest snubnose revolvers ever made.