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38 Special & 357 mag question

Discussion in 'Centerfire Pistols & Revolvers' started by oldtool53, Sep 28, 2008.

  1. oldtool53

    oldtool53 New Member

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    Hi Folks,

    I have been a rifle, shotgun and black powder shooter since I was 10 but never owned any pistols (other than black powder) until now. Due to passing of relatives I now have a Rohm 38 special and a Ruger 357 mag, both revolvers.
    I am told that the 38 special round may be fired in the 357 mag but not the opposite. Can someone please clarify. I am looking foward to using these fine revolvers but I want to do so correctly of course.

    Thanks, :D
    Mark
  2. CampingJosh

    CampingJosh Moderator

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    What you have been told is correct.

    The .38 Special and .357 Magnum rounds have the same diameter, but the the .357 round generates MUCH more pressure in the chamber when it fires than does the .38 Special. (If I remember right, it's something like 3 times as much.)

    Since the .357 creates more pressure, a gun designed to fire it (such as your Ruger) will handle the pressure of the .38 Special just fine. It is OK to shoot .38 Special in a .357.
    In the same way, since your Rohm is rated for only .38 Special, the .357 round will create too much pressure--likely damaging your gun, and possibily causing injury (or worse) to you. DO NOT FIRE A .357 ROUND IN A .38 SPECIAL GUN!
  3. TranterUK

    TranterUK Guest

    If I remember correctly the .357 is the same as the .38 special in dimension, but with the case one-tenth of an inch longer so it wont chamber in a .38 spl cylinder.

    It comes from when they increased the power of the .38 special cartridge for stronger built revolvers, but needed a way to stop shooters putting the higher powered round in the weaker revolvers. Thus the extra one tenth of an inch and change of name from .38 special to .357 Magum.
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 29, 2008
  4. Exactly so, Tranter. Actually, the .38 special casing itself was originally designed for use with black powder, thus the case capacity is ample to hold enough modern smokeless powder to push a bullet to .357 magnum-level velocity. DON'T do it! That much powder would likely blow a .38 special revolver into the next universe! :eek: The original idea with the. .357 Magnum revolver was simply to get the maximum capabilities out of the .38 (.357) caliber bullet when the revolver was designed in the mid-1930s. The idea succeeded, but the developers wisely lengthened the casing by 1/10 of an inch to prevent mis-chambering it in a .38 special.

    I've always found firing .38 specials in a revolver chambered for the .357 Magnum makes the .38 rounds very pleasant to shoot due to the greater weight of the .357 revolver frame.
  5. BillP

    BillP New Member

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    Now that you have the information you need we will start to confuse you. :D In some cases the only difference between two gun models is the length of the chamber. (S&W M10 v M13) and I think Ruger has a couple of models with the same situation. A good reason for doing this is (or was) that police or security agencies that wanted to issue a .38 Special revolver could do so without having to worry about officers using .357 ammunition and of course they avoided the stigma of the terrible .357.

    Now of course, the .38 Special is not an outstanding man stopper so, along comes the .38 Special +P round. The +P fits the same chamber but it is quite a bit hotter. Good in modern guns but could cause problems in historical guns, lightweights and those of questionable quality. Good thing for .38 Special guns but surprise surprise, perhaps as many +P rounds are used in .357s as in ,38 specials. The reason is that the .357 round is usually commercially loaded with a powder that is optimized for barrels longer than 4". That means you get a rather obnoxious recoil in the short guns and a frightful muzzle flash at night. The .38 Special +P is less powerful than a .357 Mag. but much better than the ordinary .38 Special.

    OK, who wants to tell him why a .38 Special is not a 38 or perhaps why the gun makers had to beef up the lightweight .357s. :)
  6. TranterUK

    TranterUK Guest

    Now dont go and get confused with any old .38s, .38 S&Ws .38 Colts or .380s. The last ones are easy to spot because they are also 9mm Short, or 9mm Kurtz which is the same as the .380 but nothing to do with the .38, .38 special, or .38 colt.

    Any thing else we can clear up for you?

    An old soldier and ammunition technician once said to me there is one way to learn calibres, the hard way, one by one.
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 29, 2008
  7. Despite its name, the so-called .38 caliber is actually .357–.358 inches (9.0678 mm) in terms of bullet diameter, with the ".38" referring to the approximate diameter of the loaded brass case. This came about because the original .38-caliber cartridge, the .38 Short Colt, was designed for use in converted .36-caliber cap-and-ball Navy revolvers, which had cylindrical firing chambers of approximately .374 inch diameter, requiring "heel-based" bullets, the exposed portion of which was the same diameter as the cartridge case. When the .357 Magnum revolver came along in 1935, the designers chose the name ".357" simply to differentiate clearly it from the very common .38 special. Confused enough yet, Oldtool? :D;)
  8. oldtool53

    oldtool53 New Member

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    Thanks everyone for all of the useful information !!

    Mark
  9. 358 winchester

    358 winchester *TFF Admin Staff*

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    Now I knew all of the above info but y'all sure did confuss me some :confused:
  10. oldtool53

    oldtool53 New Member

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    Well I finally got to the range a week ago and fired these for the first time. I shot both 38 special and 357 mag rounds through the Ruger. I had my targets at 15 yards and fired much better groups with the 357 mag rounds even though there is a lot more recoil. I was expecting the opposite.
    Thanks folks for all the info.
    Mark
  11. ProactiveShooters

    ProactiveShooters New Member

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    I've never heard of a Rohm before....how old is it?
  12. Xracer

    Xracer *TFF Admin Staff Mediator*

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    Minn-eeee-sota, ya, sure, you bet!
    Rohm revolvers were very cheap and poorly made guns made in Germany and mainly imported in the 1960's and 70's.

    I'd stick to low powered .38 Special rounds in the Rohm.....definitely no +P's or high powered stuff. Better still, use it as a paperweight. (Sorry, but they're not well made guns like the Ruger. :( ).
  13. Terry_P

    Terry_P New Member

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    Sell the Rohm and take what you get and buy ammo for the Ruger.
  14. UncleFudd

    UncleFudd Member

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    I hate to bring bad news but fore what its worth. If you shoot the Rhom very much it will take care of longevity all by itself. I have never known one to last much beyond 500 to a 1000 rounds and i doubt if this one will break the record.
    As mentioned, if you don't like someone, sell him the Rohm for a good price and buy ammo for the Ruger.

    UF
  15. UncleFudd

    UncleFudd Member

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    Point of interest.
    I had an SP101 Ruger that was marked 38 special on the barrel. I could chamber and fire 357 with no trouble.
    I called Ruger to ask about it and told them what I had and they said "shoot it" and do not worry. Apparently, somehow a 357 cylinder had been installed in this gun and they were not a bit worried about it.
    I shot a lot of 357 through it before trading it for my GP series and never had problem one as it was strong enough to handle the rounds without failing.

    UF
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