The .357 Magnum cartridge was originally created in 1934 as a revolver round with a 0.357-inch diameter. It was the first round of its type and effectively ushered in the era of the “Magnum”. It was based on the incredibly popular 38 Special round that was made famous by Smith & Wesson, and the first version was a flat bullet that was semi-jacketed.
This semi-jacketed cartridge made more room in the case for gunpowder, and the 158-grain bullet allows for an immediate and damaging transfer of energy upon impact. Not only is the .357 Magnum more powerful, but the additional 0.125-inch spacing in the cartridge also allowed the manufacturer to pack in more gunpowder.
This also means that while a .38 Special round can occasionally be used in a .357 Magnum revolver, the reverse isn’t true because the longer case prevents the cylinder from closing and locking. The first .357 Magnum revolvers to hit the market were Smith & Wesson and were large, N-frame guns that were some of the largest handguns at the time. Let’s take a look at the best .357 Magnum revolvers out there right now.
Best .357 Magnum Revolvers
One of the newest options on the market, the Kimber K6s is a powerful double action revolver, with a few models that you can choose from. Whether you go with the DCR, stainless, DASA, or one of the special editions, you’re sure to have a reasonably sized handgun that you can conceal without issue.
As a concealed carry weapon, this is a fantastic choice. All of the edges are nice and smooth which cuts down on printing and any snags you’d expect. These revolvers are lightweight and they’re available in different sizes so you can pick the one that’s just right for your needs.
- 3 different length choices
- The trigger is nice and smooth
- The textured handle gives a firm grip
Made from nickel steel or blued steel, the Colt Python is a powerful little 6-shot DA/SA revolver. First manufactured in 1955, this revolver has been a favorite amongst revolver enthusiasts for decades, and for good reason. There are 5 different barrel lengths available: 2.5 inches, 3 inches, 4 inches, 6 inches, and 8 inches. With so many sizes available, the Colt Python is a versatile weapon with options for everyone.
One of the most impressive parts of this revolver is the trigger. The V-shaped mainspring gives the Python a crisp break and a nice reset. The tricky part for some users is that it is a double-action trigger, but once you get the hang of it, the smooth shooting will have you hooked. The biggest downside is that buying a Colt Python is generally going to be an expensive purchase, but the performance could make it worth the high price.
- This classic revolver has 5 barrel lengths to choose from
- The weight of the gun helps to stabilize recoil
- Ventilated top rib protects the ejection rod
The Ruger Redhawk is a sturdy and durable revolver that was built to withstand heavier ammo, making it an excellent option for hunting bigger game. The barrel comes in at 2.75 inches, making it easy to conceal. Carrying it in a fanny pack or holster is a piece of cake. With the weight and stability of the Redhawk, you don’t have to worry about intense recoil.
- Great stopping power, stops humans or large game
- Light recoil
- The short barrel is easy to conceal
Colt Trooper MK III Series
The Colt Trooper MK III is a DA/SA revolver, featuring a blue steel finish, sturdy 4-inch barrel, and a 6-shot cylinder. The rear sight is adjustable and it has an exposed hammer. Whether you’re new to shooting or a pro, the Trooper is a great choice because it’s solid enough to handle the recoil without issue.
- Front ramp sight
- DA/SA is easy to use
- The cylinder holds 6 shots
This medium-frame revolver is a stainless steel 6-shot revolver that’s heavy enough to handle the recoil of the weapon. With the adjustable rear sight combined with the ramp front sight, getting a good look at your target is easy. The black Hogue grips give you a
- Barrel options from 2.25 to 6 inches
- Triple cylinder lock
- Transfer bar
Benefits Of A .357 Magnum Revolver
There are several benefits to the .357 Magnum revolver over other calibers and even some semi-autos.
The .357 Magnum revolver is widely regarded as one of the most accurate handgun or revolver rounds, which is often attributed to its overall power. It is prized by target shooters who work silhouette targets 100 yards or more away, as well as dropping steel targets. It can also be used for accurate close-range defensive shooting and even hunting at applicable ranges with consistent killing power.
Even with the power and energy that the .357 Magnum revolver puts into its targets, it is still incredibly manageable no matter what frame style you end up choosing. This is generally because of the mass of the frame being closely matched to the round’s recoil production, which also means that lighter alloy or polymer .357 Magnums will have much more significant recoil than traditional steel frames.
Penetration is the energy that is needed to move the bullet through an intermediate barrier such as walls or automotive paneling. This can be both a benefit and a drawback, however, since you should always be sure of what is behind your target before firing. With the penetration present in many .357 Magnum rounds, you may find that your shot penetrates further than you anticipate.
For hunting and personal defense, this penetration factor can be crucial, however, since it will allow for a more effective and damaging shot. When hunting this means your target goes down quickly and without suffering, with defensive applications, it means your attacker is quickly stopped and their threat largely neutralized.
These days, ammo selection can be a crucial component to a potential gun selection, since shelves are consistently lean or even bare, and you may have to make do with what you can find or order online. This problem of high demand and struggling supply doesn’t seem to have an end in sight, but the .357 Magnums will be one of the least-affected platforms overall.
When you are able to find some .357 Magnum ammo in stock, you can find an incredible variety of rounds to try. There are reduced recoil rounds, super-fast target rounds, and even high-pressure hunting rounds. In the event that you can’t track down any .357 Magnum ammo, you can revert to .38 Special which will still fit the chamber and give you something to shoot in the meantime.
One of the things many people don’t think about is the potential aftermath of a self-defense shooting in which you come out the other side alive, or at least less harmed than your assailant. In many cases, the prosecuting attorney or the legal entity in charge of determining what charges, if any, that you may face, may try to vilify you and your weapon of choice.
If you ended up using a .357 Magnum revolver to defend yourself, however, those arguments tend to fall by the wayside. Since the .357 Magnum is such a popular and prominent law enforcement revolver platform, it is often viewed much differently and is more susceptible to being successfully defended in the event you face e legal action following your self-defense incident.
What To Look For In A .357 Magnum Revolver
If you are in the market for a .357 Magnum revolver, there are tons of great choices, even beyond the best we could find for you here. But no matter which makes and model of revolver you’re looking at, there are a few things that are going to factor into your decision and ability to use the gun effectively. The frame size, the weight, and the subsequent concealability of your .357 Magnum revolver should all be considered before you click that checkout button.
There are 3-4 general frame sizes that you will see represented by all models of .357 Magnum revolver. There are small frames, often called J-frames, medium frames called K-frames, medium-large L-frames, and large N-frames. The frame sizes are going to directly correlate to the weight of the gun, as well as the overall use cases and subsequent concealability.
The weight of your .357 Magnum revolver will have a strong effect on how you can handle and operate the gun. A higher weight will give you more mass to reduce the felt recoil, however, a lower mass will make the gun easier to conceal, carry, and wield.
In the end, the weight is what it is, and there isn’t much you can do to change it. Just be aware of the various barrel lengths and shroud options, if available, as those will add considerable weight in non-polymer applications.
Concealability may matter greatly to some, and be a non-existent concern for others. If you are planning on carrying concealed, you should limit your options to small or medium frame revolvers.
Not only are they going to be the smallest guns physically, but they will also have the lowest weight and the shortest barrels. Longer barreled .357 Magnums and those with larger frames can still be carried easily, but they are much harder to effectively conceal.
Choosing a .357 Magnum revolver can feel like a big choice, but overall the platform is incredibly versatile. Be aware of your potential recoil response, and make sure you consider your concealment needs when choosing a frame size and looking at a weight, and the rest should fall into place.