.38 spl for Practice; .357 for 'real' - Question on POI

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Merlinspop

Bearcat
Joined
Oct 16, 2009
Messages
72
Question for the group...

One of the most heavily advertised advantages of buying a .357 magnum revolver over one rated for 'just' .38 special is that one can use the less expensive .38 special rounds for practice sessions but use the full boat .357 magnum bullets for SD or carry use. It's one of the reasons, but not the main one, that I bought a GP100 last week.

But that got me to thinking...

Since my GP has an adjustable rear sight, if I were to adjust to a zero using .38 special rounds at, say, 15 or 25 yards, how far off with the zero be when then switching to .357 magnum? I know there are a lot of variables, but was just wondering about it. Has anyone found a combination of brands/bullet weights that come real close to being the same?

Thanks,

B
 

contender

Ruger Guru
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Lake Lure NC USA
Welcome to the Forum.
I saw your other post about being a new GP owner, and got to pondering things a bit. Then this post appears,,, and I feel I can offer a little insight.
POA/POI between the 2 will be different in longer ranges. What you need to do is to get some practice 38 spl ammo, and some of the SD ammo you plan on using. Then, try both w/o any adjustment at about 7 yds to see where each one hits. & yds is about the "standard" for SD so that's the approximate range you will need for serious stuff. Then, if you need to adjust your sights,, (in case the 2 different loads aren't hitting with each other,) adjust them for the "middle" of the grouping. That will dedicate the gun to SD and short range practice. After that, you can practice at different ranges to see where it hits.
 

Merlinspop

Bearcat
Joined
Oct 16, 2009
Messages
72
Contender - That's pretty much what I figured I'd need to do. It's not as if I don't like shooting. Finding the ammunition to shoot... now that's a different thing!

Essentially, come up with a good compromise zero that works for me and the ammunition I most often have, then experiment with different ammo at different distances to come up with a better feel for where I need to hold my point of aim to get the desired results. Pretty much treat them as fixed sights once I get them set to a point I'm happy with.

Thanks.
 

Jimbo357mag

Hawkeye
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Feb 22, 2007
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So. Florida
I will try and answer your question, because I shoot a lot of both 38s and 357s from a 4" GP. My experience is the 38 specials will shoot about 6" low at 50' and 3'' low at 25'. This is using 158gr bullets in the 38 specials and 130gr JHPs in the 357mags. This is not very much difference at all for a self defense situation. :D

...Jimbo
 

JimMarch1

Blackhawk
Joined
Feb 19, 2007
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Tucson, AZ, USA
Out to 25 yards, point of impact will tend to be the same regardless of caliber, as long as the bullet weight is the same. Bullet speed won't matter so much.

My 357's fixed-but-very-advanced custom sights are tuned perfectly for bullet weights of 135 to 140gr, and are acceptable from 125gr to 158.

So, best plan is, find the right 357 load and then find a practice grade 38 of the same or similar weight. 38Spl 130gr jacketed ball for example is a good stand-in for 357 125gr of triple the power or more.

Mind you, get out to 50 yards or especially 100 and now drop and trajectory factor in. But at 25 yards, even 38Spl mouse-fart target stuff won't have time to drop much.
 

Redhawk4

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JimMarch1":2umud37p said:
Out to 25 yards, point of impact will tend to be the same regardless of caliber, as long as the bullet weight is the same. Bullet speed won't matter so much.

I was going to go to the range this week to try out the very same issue, as lack of ammo availability has got me firing some different ammo and bullet wieghts.

I was under the impression that the extra recoil of 357 mag would make it shoot higher than 38, with the same bullet weight and that this would get greater the longer the barrel length, but at the same time I have no idea how much we are talking about.

I have my sights set for my SD round but POI seems pretty similar with anything at close range, which I guess is to be expected. I would like to get my sights set as well as I can with my SD round, but also experiment to be 100% familiar with any adjustment I need to make for longer range, because although statistically SD incidents occur at very short range, I can still forsee scenarios where a longer shot could be required, particularly when defending another person, like one of your children who might be at a distance when a predator threat arises.

It seems to me that if you get your sights set for your SD round, even if your practice ammo shoots higher or lower you can still practice and get good groups, even if they are inches off the POA, since it's gun control and consistency of aim we need. When we switch back to our SD round the POI will return to where it needs to be.

I hope I will have some actual results later this week, but lately, every time I plan a trip to the range it seems to be the "kiss of death" to everything else and other things conspire to prevent me going.
 

w5lx

Single-Sixer
Joined
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North Texas
John Taffin writes in Single Action Sixguns that, as a general rule, lighter and faster bullets will print lower, while heavier and slower bullets will print higher. Velocity changes will affect this rule of thumb somewhat.
 

maxpress

Buckeye
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Central Washington
an option is if you are always going to shoot the same .357 and 38 rounds then tune your sights to the .38. now where the line from the screw head lines up with the hash marks on the sight adjustment put a blue or yellow mark. the get the elevation set for the .357 and do the same thing with red fingernail polish. as long as you always turn back to the .38 and forward to the .357 you should be right on. if you go the wrong way though youll have to figure it out again.
 

jimbo1096

Buckeye
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Alexandria, LA USA
Here's the solution, Use 38spl +P in a heavier JHP or JSP bullet for S/D and lighter target load lead wadcutters or LSWC for practice. Then you know for self defense to stay withing 25 yds and aim for center mass. POI won't make enough difference that I'd be concerned with. The ticket is to practice until it becomes second nature so you can hit what you aim for.
Now if you are target shooting or hunting with the 357mag loads, You'd need to develop a good load that hit where you pointed everytime. JMHO as usual. I actually like the wadcutters for home defense, they do a great job without fear of overpenetration.
 

Carry_Up

Single-Sixer
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Dec 22, 2007
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Phoenix, AZ
Setting up your sights for the different rounds is a valid question and will depend upon the exact type of ammo you intend to use. Personally, I don't think sight adjustment is the big issue when discussing a self-defense firearm. Most people (including myself) own .357 revolvers because they are heavy and comfortable when shooting .38 spl. The overwhelming number of self-defense uses of a firearm are at ranges of zero to 5 feet. In other words, 99% of the time you will not be calmly lining up your sights or making a 25 yard shot. This fact makes your training and familiarity with your firearm much more important, in my opinion, than a bit of height adjustment on your sights. And, training and familiarity mean practicing with the firearm and ammo that you intend to use in a tense situation. Two concerns come to mind immediately and I'm sure there are many more. 1) Time to get back on target after firing a .357 or .44 mag? and 2) Can you control a .357 in a tense situation if you have done most of your practice with .38 spl? Just a few thoughts.

Carry_Up
 

Redhawk4

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UT
OK, just back from the range, my findings were that 130 gr 38 spl, 142 gr 357 mag and 158 gr 357 mag all hit in close enough to the same place at 10 yds. The more powerful the ammo, the bigger the groups. If I could get groups in 357, like the ones I got with the 38's I'd be very happy. I intend to go out longer next time and see when differences start to appear. This was from my S&W 686 2 1/2" barrel.

I also experimented with 44 mag in my 4" Redhawk. The Ammo made a big difference. 240 gr Magtechs were spot on, more powerful PMC 240 gr grains shot higher and 300 grain Hornady quite a bit higher probably, 4" at just 10 yds, so it seems adjusting for ammo is going to be very important in 44 mag. Having said that I guess any would have worked for close SD aimed at center of mass.
 

JimMarch1

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>>The more powerful the ammo, the bigger the groups.<<

There is such a thing as ammo that's both accurate and powerful. Hornady's factory 158gr XTPs in 357 tend to be pretty good. This is however one area where careful handloading appears to give an accuracy boost.
 

Redhawk4

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JimMarch1":3lsjzavx said:
>>The more powerful the ammo, the bigger the groups.<<

There is such a thing as ammo that's both accurate and powerful. Hornady's factory 158gr XTPs in 357 tend to be pretty good. This is however one area where careful handloading appears to give an accuracy boost.

I think the accuracy issue was with me and the recoil more than the inherent accuracy of the ammo. But I will have to try again with the Double Tap 158 grain, I didn't get on well with them, but I did fire it last and my accuracy does get worse after firing 5O+ rounds.
 

JimMarch1

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Doubletap is not known as the place to go for ultra-accurate loads. They might have improved some of late. Not that they're BAD, they're just combat/energy-focused instead of concentrating on accuracy.

Still, the Gold Dot 158 slug can be used to make an accurate load. The XTP appears to have a slight edge in most people's opinions; I have bench-tested them myself.

If I was handloading an ultra-accurate 357 combat load, I might well start with the Barnes all-copper HP 140gr.
 

Redhawk4

Single-Sixer
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UT
The Fiocchi 142 gr 357 fmj's I bought a while ago were a very accurate round, I'd never come across a 142 gr before, but bought them because there wasn't any other ammo available. Based on these you are probably right that a 140 gr wood be a good starting point, for an accurate round.

Looking at my targets again, the double tap group was really not that bad, if I ignore a couple of flyers, I just got such good groups with some of the other ammo it made it look worse than it was. I will try shooting some first, next time I go to the range, it's easy to get a bit tired and lose concentration after you've been shooting a while.
 

Sonnytoo

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florida
w5lx":1ifc8rke said:
John Taffin writes in Single Action Sixguns that, as a general rule, lighter and faster bullets will print lower, while heavier and slower bullets will print higher. Velocity changes will affect this rule of thumb somewhat.

Ah Yes...the master. Yes, this is correct. Another way to look at this is to consider "barrel time." The longer the bullet is in the barrel, the more it is subjected to recoil, the higher the barrel tip will be by the time the bullet exits the barrel. In a nutshell.
Heavier bullets usually are slower; they spend more time in the barrel; they print higher.
Faster bullets, of any weight, spend less time in the barrel; they print lower.

I shoot a snub .357. I put on a higher front sight and have been filing it down to point-of-aim at 9 yards. Trying all kinds of normal self-defense .38's and .357's (Gold Dots, Remington Golden Saber, Hornady Self Defense) made little difference; they all print within 1 1/2" of each other with the hot .357's printiing slightly lower than .38+P, which is what I'd expect. I need range time to check out my latest front sight filing. I was still 2" low last time; should be about there this time.
I sometimes carry .38+p for CCW instead of .357's. Lesser recoil makes for a quicker second shot, less nighttime muzzle flash. My normal 5-shot groups, offhand (two-hand) but leaning against the side of the shooting station for greater stability, gives 1 1/2" groups, with occasional one-holers, and at this short practical range, they really shoot to the same POA. This allows me to carry either ammo with confidence.
Several manufacturers, including Speer Gold Dot, make "short-barrel" loads, which utilize faster-burning powders to get the bullet up to speed out of a snub-length barrel. Good idea.
I don't like to shoot from a seated rest position, since I then have to "see" through the tops of my glasses which don't give focus at short range. And yes, I've tried single-vision lenses but my cataracts keep getting ahead of me. Getting old ain't for sissies.
Enjoy; stay safe.
Sonnytoo
 

drew76

Bearcat
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May 15, 2009
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Sacramento, CA
I shoot the same bullet (Lee 158 gr RNFP) for my mild 38 loads and hotter 357 from my 6" 686. At 10 yards, I have my sights set for a dead center hold for the 357 load. The 38's shoot about 3" higher than the 357's so I use a 6 o'clock hold for them.
 

Knuckles

Buckeye
Joined
Jan 8, 2007
Messages
1,217
Buffalo Bore has some .357mag ammo that they call "Low Recoil" or something like that... it might be a good factory loaded round to use.

The 4" GP100 should be able to tame any .357mag ammo... I dry fire for a while if I start to get out of whack.

Check 'em out.
 

Merlinspop

Bearcat
Joined
Oct 16, 2009
Messages
72
Thanks, Everyone!

Looking forward to lots and lots more range time with it. I have to remember to bring my PT1911 along so it doesn't get it's feelings hurt. :?
 

Calthrop

Single-Sixer
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Sep 27, 2001
Messages
314
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Pima County Arizona
Aside from Sonnytoo's use of my tag line of grow old is not for sissies he is right on. I carry a 3 inch KGP and use the Gold dot. The fact that the sights are fixed mean that I had a taller sight installed and practiced.

For the KGP 141's in the inventory. It sounds larger than it is. I mostly shoot any 158gr. .357 Magnum that I come across. I would like to get some 140's and if I was going to shoot them on a regular basis I would mark the sight. I guess it is laziness with the .38Specials I fire a few and watch the fall and try to "eyeball" adjust the sight accordingly. I try to get lower power .357's instead of Specials because the gun is easier to clean.
One KGP-141 is a house gun has express sights and uses fragmenting ammo. All adults train on this gun, the Wilderness holster system and the comp 11 Safariland speed loaders. No commercial and we know how to behave when the police arrive.

Now the KGP 151 is a whole different matter it was going to be my long distance gun shooting heavy bullets with a set of Bowen Rough Country sights on it. BS With a capital BS. I traded into a slightly used 4 5/8" SS Vaquero with sweetest action that has had just a box of cowboy ammo through it. And the KGP-151 is NIB and the Vaquero is getting the work up to the 200gr, hammerheads with the addition of a Hunter gripframe.

So. You are on the right track. You are getting some trigger time. Trying different loads. Keeping a record of trials and results. Most important you are asking questions of double action shooters. Sometimes it's just good to find a white rock in the distance to shoot at no mater the ammo. End rant. As for the Taurus I always come and go home from the range with a clean gun. Calthrop
 

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