The Shorter The Length, The Lower The Performance

No, this isn’t about comparing the sexual prowess of the late John (“Mr. Eleven”) Holmes with that of the average male Gender Studies college professor.

We’re talking guns and bullets.  Specifically, we’re talking about this guy’s article, in which the following statement stands out like a turd on a tablecloth:

[In shorter-barreled handguns]…averaging out a spread of .357 Mag self defense loads essentially produces 9mm terminal performance.

I truly want to carry a revolver for self defense… but I can’t ignore all the drawbacks of .357 Magnum at zero increased benefit vs. 9mm.

In other words, if I’m reading his results correctly, a .357 Mag boolet fired from a 2″-3″ revolver barrel performs about the same as a 9mm boolet fired from a pistol barrel of 3.5″ length.  So if yer going to carry a .357 Mag revolver and you want the maximum performance from the cartridge, you’ll want to carry a 6″ barrel on that revolver — i.e. it’s not going to be concealable.

Quite frankly, I feel faint.  I know a number of gunnies — very knowledgeable ones, at that — who carry .357 snubbies because of the cartridge’s assumed superiority over a 9mm.  If the tests are to be believed (and I think they should be), these guys have been wasting their time.  And, to make it worse, they’ve sacrificed cartridge count (five in a snubbie vs. eight in a 9mm subcompact) in so doing.

I’m just glad that both my primary carry guns (Browning High Power and Springfield 1911) have full-length barrels, and my S&W snubbie is purely a backup.  I’m not being smug;  I’m just relieved.

And for the record:  I’ve never enjoyed shooting a .357 Mag snubbie, because owie.

Addendum:  also note the following conclusion from the article:

In terms of FBI terminal ballistics, [the .45 ACP is] the runaway champ.  Individuals will need to consider limited capacity and felt recoil vs. less powerful calibers, and how that translates into making effective hits on a bad guy in a timely manner.  However, with a quality .45 ACP self defense round, I sincerely doubt any failure to stop a bad guy can be blamed on the choice of caliber.


  1. .357 from a snubbie? No thanks. I didn’t even enjoy firing +P .38 rounds from the S&W Airweight 642 before I sold it.

    Having said that – STILL not as bad a .40 S&W from a Glock 23.

    I think for the average armed citizen (vs. cop) a reasonably expanding .38 round is more than adequate for self defense.

    WRT the revolver-vs-semi auto question, yes the semi auto has more rounds in it but the DA revolver has a number of advantages in terms of requiring no safety, not really requiring a holster (it carries in a pocket just fine) and little to no chance of malfunction. IMO those qualities alone negate the marginally more effective ballistic performance of a 9mm.

    Of course, if one wanted the best of both worlds, I believe Ruger makes a version of the SP-101 in 9mm. So there’s your other option, a 9mm DA revolver. 😉

    1. ugh. I used to shoot with a guy (since passed) who had a Glock 43. What an unpleasant little gun.

      1. I’ve got (for the purposes of this discussion) a LCP in 380, a G43, G26 and G19.

        The LCP is actually the only one that is “unpleasant” to shoot in stock form. I currently have a hogue (IIRC) grip wrapped around it to make it manageable in my large/extra large hands (according to glove size).

        I don’t in general find glocks “pleasant” to shoot because of the way the trigger guard rubs on my social finger. But I wouldn’t consider the G43 to be “unpleasant”, just a little rambunctious in the hand.

        Within it’s intended use case it’s fine.

    2. .38spl doesn’t expand from a 2″ snubbie. Insufficient velocity in most cases. I think Lucky Gunner has gel tests on this.

      Some shooters are really bothered by the recoil of .40sw. Too snappy, it seems. So far, it doesn’t seem to bother me in my G27, but I expect to have to convert it to 9mm as I age a bit more.

    3. > I think for the average armed citizen (vs. cop) a reasonably expanding .38 round
      > is more than adequate for self defense

      I disagree in concept.

      Let’s say you’re an average beat cop, and you pull over someone in a car. You’ve got a radio, you’ve got people who know EXACTLY where you are, and help can be called IMMEDIATELY to where you are. If you think something is getting squirrely you can call for backup.

      If you’re a “civilian” you *have* to work on two contradictory assumptions:
      * You are on your own until the problem is solved.
      * The police will show up half or most of the way thorough the problem and you have to respond to their presence like a “good guy”.

      If by “.38 caliber” you mean a 5 or 6 shot snubby with a speed reloader, no. Expletive no.

      If by “.38 caliber” you mean anything from a 9mm Kurtz (aka “.380 auto” ) to .38 super or .357sig/mag, then yeah, whatever. You make YOUR choices about what your threat models are, about what risks you’re going to take and what YOU are going to do about them and arm yourself accordingly.

      Me, I scale what I carry according to where I am and how far from home I’m going to be. Right now that’s a .380 to walk the dog, and 9mm pistols of various lengths and capacities depending on where I’m going.

      Because of that shitbag in Christchurch there will likely be more shootings in churches, schools and shopping malls in this country. If you think a 5 shot snubbie is good for that problem you’re a better shot than I am.

  2. The advantage of the .357 snubbie is that if the 3’ fireball doesn’t blind them, the 164-decibel blast will stun them into submission.

    Still wouldn’t carry one. It’s like a brick exploding in your hand.

    1. “Samson gun” as in “if you make me use this it’s going to hurt BOTH of us!” 😀

  3. 3″ SP-101 is as snubbie as I’ll go in .357. At that it’s my “Stays in the Truck All the Time” gun.

    And yes, the chief advantage of a .357 snubbie is that it will burn down anything it can’t blow down.

  4. Just thinking. When you get into your vehicle to drive off after an unsavory incident with your powerful .357 Magnum, you don’t have to look around for the scattered brass that could be used as evidence of your presence. Just saying.

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