.357 Magnum
.357 Magnum ammunition
TypeHandgun, Carbine
Place of originUnited States
Production history
DesignerElmer Keith
Phillip B. Sharpe
Douglas B. Wesson
ManufacturerSmith & Wesson
Parent case.38 Special
Case typeRimmed, straight
Bullet diameter.357 in (9.1 mm)
Land diameter.346 in (8.8 mm)
Neck diameter.379 in (9.6 mm)
Base diameter.379 in (9.6 mm)
Rim diameter.440 in (11.2 mm)
Rim thickness.060 in (1.5 mm)
Case length1.29 in (33 mm)
Overall length1.59 in (40 mm)
Case capacity26.2 gr H2O (1.70 cm3)
Primer typeSmall pistol magnum
Maximum pressure (CIP)44,000 psi (300 MPa)
Maximum pressure (SAAMI)35,000 psi (240 MPa)
Maximum CUP45,000 CUP
Ballistic performance
Bullet mass/type Velocity Energy
125 gr (8 g) JHP Federal 1,450 ft/s (440 m/s) 583 ft⋅lbf (790 J)
158 gr (10 g) JHP Federal 1,240 ft/s (380 m/s) 539 ft⋅lbf (731 J)
180 gr (12 g) HC Buffalo Bore 1,400 ft/s (430 m/s) 783 ft⋅lbf (1,062 J)
200 gr (13 g) Double Tap 1,200 ft/s (370 m/s) 640 ft⋅lbf (870 J)
Test barrel length: 4 in (102 mm) (vented)
Source(s): Federal,[1]

The .357 Smith & Wesson Magnum, .357 S&W Magnum, .357 Magnum, or 9×33mmR (as it is known in unofficial metric designation) is a smokeless powder cartridge with a 0.357 in (9.07 mm) bullet diameter. It was created by Elmer Keith, Phillip B. Sharpe,[2] and Douglas B. Wesson[2][3] of firearm manufacturers Smith & Wesson and Winchester.[4][5] The .357 Magnum cartridge is notable for its highly effective terminal ballistics.

The .357 Magnum cartridge is based upon Smith & Wesson's earlier .38 Special cartridge. It was introduced in 1935, and its use has since become widespread.[6]


Marlin Model 1894C – a carbine in .357 Magnum that is a companion to revolvers
Two .357 Magnum cartridges showing bottom and side views

The .357 Magnum was collaboratively developed over a period in the early to mid-1930s by a group of individuals in a direct response to Colt's .38 Super Automatic. At the time, the .38 Super was the only American pistol cartridge capable of defeating automobile cover and the early ballistic vests that were just beginning to emerge in the Interwar period. Tests at the time revealed that those vests defeated any handgun bullet traveling less than about 1,000 feet per second (300 m/s). Colt's .38 Super Automatic just edged over that velocity and was able to penetrate car doors and vests that bootleggers and gangsters were employing as cover.[7]

Though .38 Special and .357 Magnum would seem to be different diameter chamberings, they are in fact identical; as at 0.357 inches (9.07 mm), they both have the same bullet diameter. The .38 Special nomenclature relates to the previous use of heeled bullets (such as the .38 Short Colt and .38 Long Colt), which were the same diameter as the case. The only external dimensional difference between .38 Special and .357 magnum is the difference in case length; this was done to prevent accidentally loading a .357 magnum cartridge in to a .38 Special revolver that is not designed for the .357 magnum's higher chamber pressure. Case volume was not a factor in the increase in case length as the .38 Special cartridge was originally a black powder cartridge, and the .357 magnum was developed using only much denser smokeless powder.

Much credit for the .357's early development is given to hunter and experimenter Elmer Keith. Keith's early work in loading the .38 Special to increasingly higher-pressure levels was made possible by the availability of heavy, target-shooting-oriented revolvers like the Smith & Wesson .38-44 "Heavy Duty" and "Outdoorsman", .38-caliber revolvers built on .44-caliber frames. The .38-44 HV load used the .38-Special cartridge loaded to a much higher velocity than standard .38-Special ammunition. The .38-44 revolvers were made by using a .44 Special size gun with the barrel bored to accept .357-caliber bullets (the true bullet diameter of the .38 Special) and the cylinder bored to accept .3801–.3809-inch-diameter (9.65–9.67 mm) cartridges (where the name "38 Special" originated). Since the frame, cylinder, and barrel were much stronger than the standard .38 Special components, it was capable of withstanding much higher pressures. The .38-44 HV round, while no longer available, was in most cases the equal of the later .357 Magnum, which works at more than double the pressure of standard .38 Special. The .357 Magnum addresses the safety issues which earlier cartridges had by lengthening the cartridge by approximately 18 inch (3.2 mm), preventing the high-pressure .357 cartridge from chambering (fitting) in a firearm designed for the shorter, lower-pressure .38 Special.[8] Elmer Keith also contributed the Keith-style bullet, which increased the mass of bullet located outside the cartridge case, while leaving more room inside the case for powder. The Keith bullet also employed a large, flat meplat, thus enabling rapid energy transfer for greater wounding properties. At the same time, this bullet design does not deform like a hollow point, and as a result achieves greater penetration. These characteristics of the Keith bullet make it very suitable for hunting applications as well as for target shooting.

To reassert itself as the leading law-enforcement armament provider, Smith & Wesson developed the .357 Magnum, with Douglas B. Wesson (grandson of co-founder Daniel B. Wesson)[3] leading the effort within Smith & Wesson, along with considerable technical assistance from Phillip B. Sharpe, a member of the technical division staff of the National Rifle Association of America. The new round was developed from Smith & Wesson's existing .38 Special round. It used a different powder load, and ultimately the case was extended by 18 inch (3.2 mm). The case extension was more a matter of safety than of necessity. Because the .38 Special and the early experimental .357 Magnum cartridges loaded by Keith were identical in physical attributes, it was possible to load an experimental .357 Magnum cartridge into a .38 Special revolver, with potentially disastrous results. Smith & Wesson's solution, of extending the case slightly, made it impossible to chamber the magnum-power round in a gun not designed for the additional pressure.[4] However, although both .38 Special and .357 Magnum will chamber in Colt New Army revolvers in .38 Long Colt, due to the straight-walled chambers, this creates dangerous pressure levels, up to three times what the New Army is designed to withstand.

The choice of bullet for the .357 Magnum cartridge varied during its development. During the development at Smith & Wesson, the original Keith bullet was modified slightly, to the form of the Sharpe bullet, which itself was based upon the Keith bullet, but which had 5/6 of the bearing surface of the Keith bullet, Keith bullets typically being made oversized and sized down. Winchester, however, upon experimenting further during the cartridge development, modified the Sharpe-bullet shape slightly, while keeping the Sharpe contour of the bullet. The final choice of bullet was hence based upon the earlier Keith and Sharpe bullets, while additionally having slight differences from both.[9]


The .357 Magnum has 1.66 milliliter (26.2 grain H
) cartridge case capacity.

.357 Magnum maximum C.I.P. cartridge dimensions. All sizes in millimeters (mm)[10]

The cartridge headspaces on the rim of the case. The common rifling twist rate for this cartridge is 476 mm (1 in 18.74 in), six grooves, ø lands = 8.79 mm, ø grooves = 9.02 mm, land width = 2.69 mm and the primer type is small pistol magnum.[10]

According to the C.I.P. rulings, the .357 Magnum cartridge case can handle up to 300 MPa (44,000 psi) Pmax piezo pressure. In C.I.P.-regulated countries, every pistol cartridge combination has to be proofed at 130% of this maximum C.I.P. pressure to certify for sale to consumers. This means that .357 Magnum chambered arms in C.I.P.-regulated countries are currently proof tested at 390 MPa (57,000 psi) PE piezo pressure.[10]


This section possibly contains original research. Please improve it by verifying the claims made and adding inline citations. Statements consisting only of original research should be removed. (January 2021) (Learn how and when to remove this message)
Introduced in 1935, the large frame Smith & Wesson Model 27 was the first revolver chambered for the .357 Magnum cartridge.

This cartridge is regarded by many as an excellent hunting, metallic silhouette, and self-defense round.[citation needed] With proper loadings it can also be effective against large or dangerous game, such as bear and ungulates;[citation needed] however, many consider the larger and more powerful magnum cartridges to be more appropriate, such as the .41 Magnum, .44 Magnum .454 Casull, .460 S&W Magnum, .480 Ruger, and .500 S&W Magnum.[original research?] Comparatively, the .357 Magnum has less energy than the larger magnum revolver loadings but is smaller in diameter with high velocity allowing for excellent penetration properties. It is a fine small- and medium-game round and is sufficient to hunt deer at reasonable ranges if suitable loadings are used by a competent marksman. For further comparison, the .357 Magnum has a higher velocity at 100 yards (91 m) than its parent case (.38 Special) has at the muzzle.[11] The .357 Magnum's effectiveness on game is similar to that of the .45 Colt, but with a much flatter trajectory due to its higher velocity. It has been used with success for self-defense, plinking, hunting, or target shooting.[12][better source needed]

The original .357 Magnum load was a 158 gr (10.2 g) bullet with an advertised muzzle velocity of 1,525 ft/s (465 m/s) and muzzle energy of 816 ft⋅lbf (1,106 J). (Muzzle velocity was taken using a large frame revolver with a fairly long barrel of 8.75 in (222 mm)) Most of today's SAAMI conform loads are fairly mild when compared to the original mid-1930s load. Today's C.I.P. conform loads can duplicate the original mid-1930s load. When using a revolver with a shorter 7 in (178 mm) barrel, today's C.I.P. conform maximum loads with a 158 gr (10.2 g) bullet can reach a muzzle velocity of 1,502 ft/s (458 m/s).[13]

For a handgun cartridge, the bolt thrust is considerable at C.I.P. conform maximum loads and an important factor in weapons design. The greater the bolt thrust, the stronger the locking mechanism has to be to withstand it. Revolvers chambered in .357 Magnum have the significant advantage of also being able to chamber and fire the shorter and less-powerful .38 Special cartridge. Compared to the .357 Magnum, .38 Special is also lower in cost, recoil, noise, and muzzle flash. The ability to also fire the .38 Special makes .357 revolvers ideal for novice shooters who are not yet used to firing full-power .357 magnum loads but do not want the expense of buying a second lower-powered gun to train with. However, .38 Special ammunition should not generally be used with any .357 magnum semiautomatic handgun or rifle, since such firearms require the larger recoil produced by firing a .357 Magnum round to cycle properly.

The .357 Magnum has also become popular as a "dual-use" cartridge in short, light rifles like the American Old West lever-actions. In a rifle, the bullet will exit the barrel at about 1,800 feet per second (550 m/s),[14] making it far more versatile than the .30 Carbine or the .32-20 Winchester. In the 1930s it was found to be very effective against steel car doors and ballistic vests, and metal-penetrating rounds were once popular in the United States among highway patrol and other police organizations. The .357 magnum revolver has been largely replaced by modern, high-capacity semi-automatic pistols for police use, but it is still very popular for backup gun use and among outdoorsmen, security guards, and civilians for hunting, metallic silhouette, target shooting, and self-defense. The 9mm Winchester Magnum, which is also known as the 9×29mm, was developed to duplicate the performance of the .357 Magnum in a semi-automatic pistol,[15] as was the .357 SIG cartridge.

Some common performance parameters are shown in the table below for several .357 Magnum loads. Bullet weights ranging from 100 to 200 grains (6.5 to 13.0 g) are common. The 125 grains (8.1 g) jacketed hollow point loads are popular for self-defense, whereas the heavier loads are commonly used for hunting.[citation needed] Loads are available with energies typically from 400 and 800 foot-pounds force (542 and 1,085 joules) and can be selected for various applications based on desired use and risk assessments.

Manufacturer Load Mass Velocity Energy Expansion Penetration PC[16] TSC[16]
American Quik-Shok JHP 125 gr (8.1 g) 1,409 ft/s (429.5 m/s) 551 ft⋅lbf (747.1 J) fragment 9.0 in (228.6 mm) 2.7 cu in (44.2 cm3) 47.5 cu in (778.4 cm3)
ATOMIC Ammunition Bonded match hollow point 158 gr (10.2 g) 1,350 ft/s (411.5 m/s) 640 ft⋅lbf (867.7 J) 0.71 in (18.0 mm) 15 in (381.0 mm) X X
Double Tap Gold Dot JHP 125 gr (8.1 g) 1,600 ft/s (487.7 m/s) 711 ft⋅lbf (964.0 J) 0.69 in (17.5 mm) 12.75 in (323.8 mm) 4.8 cu in (78.7 cm3) 69.3 cu in (1,135.6 cm3) (est)
Federal Classic JHP 125 gr (8.1 g) 1,450 ft/s (442.0 m/s) 584 ft⋅lbf (791.8 J) 0.65 in (16.5 mm) 12.0 in (304.8 mm) 4.0 cu in (65.5 cm3) 79.8 cu in (1,307.7 cm3)
Remington Golden Saber JHP 125 gr (8.1 g) 1,220 ft/s (371.9 m/s) 413 ft⋅lbf (560.0 J) 0.60 in (15.2 mm) 13.0 in (330.2 mm) 3.7 cu in (60.6 cm3) 30.4 cu in (498.2 cm3)
Remington Semiwadcutter 158 gr (10.2 g) 1,235 ft/s (376.4 m/s) 535 ft⋅lbf (725.4 J) 0.36 in (9.1 mm) 27.5 in (698.5 mm) 2.8 cu in (45.9 cm3) 12.9 cu in (211.4 cm3)
Winchester Silvertip JHP 145 gr (9.4 g) 1,290 ft/s (393.2 m/s) 536 ft⋅lbf (726.7 J) 0.65 in (16.5 mm) 14.3 in (363.2 mm) 4.7 cu in (77.0 cm3) 33.7 cu in (552.2 cm3)

Key: Expansion – expanded bullet diameter (ballistic gelatin) Penetration – penetration depth (ballistic gelatin) PC – permanent cavity volume (ballistic gelatin, FBI method) TSC – temporary stretch cavity volume (ballistic gelatin)


Colt Pythons in 8" and 6" barrels
Smith & Wesson Model 686
Ruger GP100 (mod. KGP-161)

In terms of accuracy, the .357 Magnum has at least the same potential for precision shooting as the benchmark .38 Special wadcutter round—indeed, a good .357 Magnum revolver will shoot .38 Special wadcutter ammunition with good results. It is this accuracy and power, and the versatility of also being capable of using less-expensive, milder .38 Special ammunition, that makes a .357 Magnum revolver an excellent gun for many different disciplines, from 20-yard (18 m) precision shooting to long-range falling-plate events. It is an excellent round for those considering handloading ammunition, as it is economical and consistently performs well.

The .357 Magnum was developed from the earlier .38 Special. This was possible because the .38 Special was introduced in 1898 and originally designed to use black powder, which requires two-to-five times as much powder by volume to produce the same velocity with the same bullet as does the much more efficient smokeless powder. Thus, the .38 Special has a relatively large case capacity, and for lower pressures (121 MPa (17,500 psi) Pmax piezo pressure). The 9×19mm Parabellum was introduced in 1902 and was originally designed to use smokeless powder, and for higher pressures (235 MPa (34,100 psi) Pmax piezo pressure).[17] It therefore produces considerably more energy than the .38, despite its case having less than half the powder capacity. Many .38 Special loads use the same powders, in similar charge weights, but because the case is so much larger, light-target loads with fast-burning powders may only fill the case perhaps 1/8 full. Filling the case with slower-burning powders produces much more power, but also much more pressure; far too much pressure for older, smaller-frame revolvers chambered in .38 Special. It was to accommodate these high-pressure, high-power loads that the longer .357 Magnum, together with the stronger revolvers designed to handle it, were developed.

The .357 SIG was developed in 1994 was named "357" to highlight its intended purpose: to duplicate the performance of 125-grain (8.1 g) .357 Magnum loads fired from 4-inch-barreled (102 mm) revolvers, in a cartridge designed to be used in a semi-automatic pistol.

See also



  1. ^ "Federal Cartridge Co. ballistics page" Archived 2007-09-27 at the Wayback Machine. federalcartridge.com.
  2. ^ a b Sharpe, Phillip B. (1937). Complete Guide to Handloading. Funk & Wagnalls. pp. 405–406 – via Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ a b Wood, Keith (May 13, 2015). "10 Things You Didn't Know About Smith & Wesson". americanhunter.org. Retrieved September 20, 2019. Daniel Wesson's grandson, Colonel Douglas B. Wesson
  4. ^ a b Metcalf, Dick (February 2000). "The 20th Century's Top Handgun Cartridges". Shooting Times. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2007-08-22.
  5. ^ Barnes, Frank C. (2006) [1965]. Skinner, Stan (ed.). Cartridges of the World (11th ed.). Iola, WI: Gun Digest Books. p. 299. ISBN 0-89689-297-2.
  6. ^ Hawks, Chuck. "The .357 Magnum". Reloading Information. Guns and Shooting Online.
  7. ^ Ayoob, Massad (March 2001). ".38 Super". Guns Magazine. Archived from the original on September 9, 2004. Retrieved September 5, 2008.
  8. ^ Taylor, Chuck (May 2000). ".38-44 HV: The Original Magnum - revolver round". Guns Magazine. Archived from the original on December 27, 2007.
  9. ^ Sharpe, Phillip B. (1937). Complete Guide to Handloading. Funk & Wagnalls. pp. 293–294.
  10. ^ a b c "CIP TDCC sheet .357 Magnum" (PDF). C.I.P.
  11. ^ Taylor, Jim. "The Three-Fifty-Seven Magnum's in My Life". Leverguns.com.
  12. ^ "The Versatile .357 Magnum" by Chuck Hawks (subscription required)
  13. ^ VihtaVuori Reloading Guide, 2002
  14. ^ ".357 Mag Results". Ballistics by the Inch. Retrieved 2023-02-11.
  15. ^ Taffin, John. "Taffin Tests 9mm Magnum". sixgun.com. John Taffin. Retrieved May 15, 2011.
  16. ^ a b Marshall and Sanow, Street Stoppers, Appendix A, Paladin 2006 ISBN 0-87364-872-2
  17. ^ "CIP TDCC sheet 9 mm Luger" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on April 7, 2014. Retrieved April 5, 2014.