With its competent terminal performance, manageable recoil, and easy accessibility, it is no surprise that the .357 Magnum remains a popular cartridge. Incredibly accurate and highly versatile, .357 Magnum is used for personal protection, high stakes competition, serious big game hunting, and even casual recreational plinking. Because the .357 Magnum is perfect for so many applications, finding the best 357 ammo for your specific needs isn’t always a clear cut endeavor.
If you need help finding the right of ammo for your .357 Magnum, we’re here to help. Get ready to dive into the world of the .357 Magnum. In this article we’ll cover the cartridge’s capabilities, what sparked its design, and some of our favorite loads for range shooting, hunting, and personal protection.
Table of Contents
- A Brief History Lesson
- .357 Magnum Stats
- .357/.38 Special Compatibility
- Best 357 Ammo on the Market Reviews
- Best .357 Magnum Ammo for Range Shooting
- Best .357 Magnum Ammo for Personal Defense
- Best .357 Magnum Ammo for Hunting
- Wrapping It Up
A Brief History Lesson
Like most cartridges, the .357 Smith & Wesson Magnum (usually shortened to simply .357 Magnum) was born out of necessity. This cartridge's backstory is a little different. While many cartridges were developed in response to changing military needs, the .357 Magnum emerged to help police officers encountering domestic threats.
The Effects of Prohibition and the Great Depression
The .357 Magnum was developed during the early to mid-1930s. The United States was just waking up from Prohibition and the Great Depression.
The massive economic crash of the Great Depression financially ruined the lives of countless Americans. With little left to lose, desperate men and women turned to any source of cash they could get their hands on. One of the few sources of cold hard cash were local banks. Financial institutions were often easy targets due to short-handed local law enforcement and primitive security systems.
Prohibition also helped fuel the flames by strengthening the criminal underworld. The thriving world of organized crime provided a ready supply of bootleg firearms as well as bootleg alcohol.
This set the stage for the rise of the bank robber. The early 1930s was the great age of the hold-up, creating legendary folk heroes like Bonnie & Clyde, Baby Face Nelson, and Pretty Boy Floyd.
The Rise of the Automobile
The rise of the automobile also contributed to bank robber success. As the technology of motorized cars improved, criminals were provided a fast and effective getaway method.
Since the auto bodies of the time were made with much thicker steel than the cars we enjoy today, the standard round-nose .38 Special bullets used by the average policeman was incapable of penetrating the bodywork. This allowed bank-robbing bandits to easily escape.
In 1934, in response to law enforcement’s auto body dilemma, Smith & Wesson introduced a more powerful loading for the .38 Special. It didn’t take long for police and sheriffs across the United States to adopt the .357 Magnum.
.357 Magnum Stats
The one major difference between .38 Special and .357 Magnum cartridges is the case length. While both cartridges use a .357-inch diameter projectile, the .357 Magnum case is longer than the .38 Special’s (1.155 inches compared to 1.29 inches). The extra case length allows more room for propellant, allowing the .357 Magnum to hold three more grains of powder.
As a result of the more powerful powder charge, a .357 Magnum fires a 125-grain bullet at an average velocity of 1450 feet per second with 583 foot pounds of energy. This is significantly faster and more powerful than the average capabilities of the .38 Special, which propels a 125-grain projectile at approximately 900 feet per second with only 225 foot pounds of energy.
The extra punch of the .357 Magnum delivers deeper penetration through both soft tissue and tough auto body steel.
.357/.38 Special Compatibility
If you have a .357 Magnum revolver you can safely load and shoot .38 Special cartridges in your weapon. However, because of the longer case length and more powerful powder charge, it is highly unsafe to shoot .357 Magnum cartridges in a revolver chambered in .38 Special.
Best 357 Ammo on the Market Reviews
.357 Magnum is one of the most accurate and versatile cartridges available to modern shooters. Not only is it a capable hunting cartridge, it is also well-suited for home defense. Since .357 Magnum is often used for a number of shooting disciplines, we’ve broken up our list of top picks into categories. This should make it easier to find the ammo you need.
Best .357 Magnum Ammo for Range Shooting
Whether you plan to hit the range for practice or serious competition, .357 Magnum has ballistic performance capable of nail-driving accuracy. With the right load, it can even ping steel out to 100 yards. Here are just a few of our favorite target and range loads.
Designed specifically for revolvers, this Performance Wheel Gun ammo from industry leader Remington is perfect for competitive target shooting. Each round is loaded with a 158-grain semi wadcutter lead projectile. The flat tip design of these semi wadcutter bullets punch perfect holes in paper, making it easier to score targets.
All Remington ammo is made with high-quality components. This includes Kleanbore primers, which are specially formulated to prevent barrel corrosion. Wheel Gun ammo is perfect for use in both full size and snub nose revolvers.
Sellier & Bellot is manufactured in the Czech Republic. One of the oldest companies in the world, Sellier & Bellot has been producing ammo uninterrupted since 1825. Despite its long history, Sellier & Bellot uses state-of-the-art machinery and techniques in their manufacturing process. The company also holds all of its ammunition to incredibly exacting tolerances. The result is extreme consistency in diameter, weight, accuracy, and performance.
These FMJ loads are a reliable and surprisingly affordable option for both casual target shooting and serious range training.
PMC Bronze ammo delivers incredibly consistent performance. Manufactured in the company’s cutting-edge facility in South Korea, PMC rounds are made using an automated system that accurately measures the propellant charge in each round. All PMC loads must undergo a rigorous inspection process that guarantees variations of no more than 2/10ths of a grain.
Not only does PMC ammo promise reliable and consistent performance, it is also perfectly priced for high-volume shooting. These loads feature versatile jacketed soft point (JSP) projectiles that work well for everything from plinking to hunting.
Best .357 Magnum Ammo for Personal Defense
The .357 Magnum was built for defensive shooting. The following loads are formulated for effective personal protection.
Fiocchi is a family-owned ammo business that has been headquartered in Italy since its founding in 1876. Since 1986, Fiocchi has manufactured most products for their American market in a modern production facility located in Ozark, Missouri.
Fiocchi’s Defense Dynamics line is engineered to deliver reliable performance in almost any environment. These high-quality self defense loads feature quality cases, hulls, powders, and primers. Topped with a premium jacketed hollow point, these .357 Magnum rounds deliver effective expansion in soft tissue.
Although some defensive shooters consider a 125 grain bullet a lightweight for personal protection, Remington Ultimate Defense .357 Magnum ammo features tough BJHP projectiles plenty capable of stopping a serious threat. BJHP (brass jacketed hollow point) bullets are made with a hard brass jacket rather than the typical copper jacket of most defensive rounds. The brass design allows these projectiles to penetrate deeply while producing massive terminal expansion.
Remington optimized every detail of their Ultimate Defense rounds for personal protection. The loads are made using propellants treated to reduce muzzle flash. Cartridges feature special waterproofing to increase reliability, and all components are loaded into highly visible nickel-plated brass cases that resist corrosion and promote dependable performance.
Designed specifically for law enforcement applications, Federal Premium HST is the duty-load-of-choice for police officers around the globe. The features that make Federal Premium HST a favorite of police officers, also make it ideal for civilian self defense.
These Personal Defense rounds utilize Federal Premium’s patented HST (Hi-Shok Two) jacketed hollow points. These unique hollow points are engineered to penetrate a variety of tough barriers. The construction also features a bonded core/jacket design that delivers 100 percent weight retention while delivering effective terminal expansion.
Federal Personal Defense ammo is formulated to provide the utmost reliability. These loads feature nickel-plated brass cases and a dependable, patented primer.
Sometimes your personal defense gun may need to stop something tougher than two-legged threats. That is why we’ve included these Buffalo Bore Outdoorsman loads here on our list. Designed to add more power to your .357 Magnum revolver, this ammunition is a smart option for bear defense.
These loads feature hefty 180-grain hard cast flat nose bullets. These bullets are designed for deep penetration and are perfectly capable of busting through tough hide, bone, and muscle, especially at close range.
Buffalo Bore Outdoorsman may be tougher on your handgun than most standard .357 Magnum loads. However, it is safe to shoot in modern steel-frame revolvers, even if those revolvers have a short barrel.
Best .357 Magnum Ammo for Hunting
The .357 Magnum is a capable cartridge commonly used for handgun hunting. If you’re up for the challenge, these loads are built for tough game.
Designed specifically for handgun hunting, Barnes VOR-TX ammo features all-copper, lead free expanding bullets. XPB projectiles are engineered to maximize muscle and bone damage, while delivering deep driving penetration and massive energy transfer. These bullets expand instantly upon target contact, opening violently into six surgically-sharp copper petals. These petals slice through soft tissue while the bullet drives deep into the target to deliver a quick, humane kill.
If you’re looking for a load that is just as suitable for hog hunting as it is deer hunting, this is it.
As the name implies, Hornady designed this ammunition specifically for handgun hunting. It features a 130-grain projectile made from a tough copper alloy. The construction preserves most of the projectile’s weight, producing enough penetration to reach deep-set vital organs.
The bullet also features a unique elastomer Monoflex material that fills the hollow point cavity. When the projectile strikes the target, the Monoflex material is compressed, pushing out on the interior walls of the hollow point. This results in rapid expansion that is far more reliable than standard hollow points.
Like all Hornady ammo, Handgun Hunter is made using only the best quality components available. These rounds are assembled using premium reloadable brass cases, reliable boxer primers, and specially formulated propellants.
The .357 Magnum isn’t just for plinking cans. It also isn’t just for revolvers. If you want to use your Henry Big Boy for deer hunting, Hornady’s LEVERevolution is the perfect tool for the job.
Designed to provide improved ballistics in lever action weapons, LEVERevolution features a FTX (Flex Tip Expanding) projectile that is perfectly safe to use in tubular magazines. The FTX tip is a more aerodynamic design than the standard flat nose soft points most lever action shooters are bound to. The spitzer-like profile results in a higher ballistic coefficient, a flatter trajectory, and repeatable downrange accuracy.
Wrapping It Up
The .357 Magnum really is a jack-of-all-trades cartridge. Powerful, accurate, and insanely versatile, the .357 Magnum can put meat on the table and then turn right around and defend the family sitting around it.
With so many diverse applications, the best .357 ammo may not mean the same thing to everyone. We have attempted to include quality, reliable options for a number of operations. If you have a favorite .357 load that didn’t make our list, be sure to tell us about it in the comments.