Is it safe to fire .38 rounds out of a .357, or will it damage the revolver?

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Rlvr

Bearcat
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Mar 12, 2024
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I recently got a .357 Magnum and am considering using .38 Special rounds for practice due to cost and recoil benefits.

However, I'm concerned about potential issues like chamber buildup. I'm seeking advice from the more experienced revolver users here on balancing .38 Special usage and maintaining the .357 Magnum.

  • Does shooting .38 harm when shot from a .357?
  • What are your maintenance tips and cleaning routines to keep the revolver in good condition?
  • Do I have to do anything special when shooting?
  • Do I need to be sure I clean it any differently afterwards?
  • Can I mix the two rounds while shooting at the range? Is that dangerous?
I feel like a complete newbie posting this, but this is my first dive into the revolver world, so I want to be sure I don't harm my LCR.

Thank you.
 

Durango Dave

Single-Sixer
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Durango CO
There's no problem shooting both out of the same gun. You can even load and shoot 3 of each if you really want.
You will end up with a crud ring in front of the 38 special brass, up to the point where the 357 brass ends. Just make sure to clean the cylinder. If you don't do a good job of cleaning the cylinder you may have the 357 brass hard to eject. Some people don't like shooting a mix of 357 and 38 special because of this crud ring but it's no big deal to clean.
 

Gadgetsrfun

Bearcat
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Jan 3, 2024
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Cleveland, GA
It is 100% safe to shoot a 38 special through your 357. Make certain it is 38 special and not 38 Smith& Wesson although I don't think the latter will fit. It has been done for lifetimes and has been a "selling point" of the 357 mag. As has been mentioned a little extra cleaning of the cylinder is needed but absolutely no issue with forcing cone or barrel.
 

JoeA

Bearcat
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Central tax-achusetts
Yep, it's safe to shoot .38 rounds out of a .357. I always use at least semi-jacketed rounds to avoid any lead build-up and to make cleaning easier. As long as you do not choose a really wide mouth hollow point bullet you should not have any problems with rounds feeding. The felt recoil of the .357 in a rifle is minimal. When shooting .38 special the recoil is almost nonexistant.
 

GunnyGene

Hawkeye
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I've shot thousands of .38spc & .357mag out of a S&W 60-10. Never had any problem with either load. Don't worry about it. Regular recommended cleaning per the user manual is sufficient. There are also rifles (usually popular lever actions such as Henry) that will handle both with no issues.
 

Phownman64

Bearcat
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Jan 11, 2022
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If your going to shoot .38 I would only shoot jacketed or semi-jacketed rounds. If you shoot a full leaded .38, I would shoot some FMJ .357 through it to help clean out some of the potential lead build up. Something I always do based on my father's advice. Not sure if it really makes a difference but the lands and groves always looks nice and bright after being cleaned.
 

contender

Ruger Guru
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I enjoy seeing a person who asks an honest question before making a mistake. It proves once again that good gun folks try to be well educated.

As noted many times above,,, yes,, you can safely shoot .38 Spl ammo through a .357 Mag chambered revolver. Your LCR can handle it easily.

Also noted,, good cleaning is necessary to prevent the PIA "crud ring" buildup that .38 Spl can create. The only dimensional differences in .38 Spl & .357 mag ammo is the length of the case. The .38 Spl is shorter,, so when fired, the crud ring starts at the edge of the case. Depending upon the ammo choice,, it can take a lot of ammo to notice it,, or sometimes just a few cylinders full. The crud provides resistance to a .357 round. This resistance can be minor or major depending upon the ammo used. It can make seating a .357 round very hard, to not allowing it to fully seat. And if you do get the rounds to seat properly, it can make extraction of the empty brass harder to very hard.

Some people like using lead bullets for economy. That's fine. Lead can create the crud ring quicker than jacketed bullets. BUT,, some people say to shoot some lead then follow it with jacketed bullets to help "clean it out." This is often incorrect. All it does is embed the lead crud even harder into the gun. It may LOOK clean & shiny,, but you will still have lead in the lands & grooves of the rifling. You can alternate using .38 spl & .357 in a shooting session, but you will most often find it harder to clean afterwards. Plus,, sometimes it may cause a build-up quicker. If I plan on shooting some of both calibers,, I start with the .357 & follow with the .38 Spl. Easier to load ammo into the gun, and to clean afterwards.

Only proper cleaning will remove the crud.

A proper cleaning can also depend upon the type of bullets fired. Jacketed bullets ten to be a bit easier to clean up after,, while some lead bullets can leave a lot of lead & crud behind.
There are a lot of good cleaning products available for proper cleaning. Hoppe's No 9, Ballistol, do a good job in general. If using a lot of lead bullets, you may need a better lead removing agent too. Always clean the cylinder from the rear, and use care for the barrel. Don't damage the muzzle end with the brushes or the rod.
Excessive lead build up can be an issue,, and some folks use a "Lewis Lead Remover" or others opt for a brush,,, with the addition of REAL copper mesh (REAL copper, not copper colored Chore Boy scrubbers) wrapped around a brush.

It's a good idea to clean after a shooting session, that way you know the gun is clean, and ready to use again easily.
 
Joined
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Rivr, welcome to the Forum, all good answers and opinions above, yes it is "safe" to use both those ammos,,,all the answers above "touch" on the why's and the wherefores, the 38 special being shorter, the lead bullets of either caliber being softer and can "lead" the forcing cone and barrel, so cleanliness is your friend, and we too will run a few "jacketed " bullets through the gun after using say "lead" wadcutters in practice, this helps make you cleaning a bit easier, but then we may use a .38 cal. Lewis lead remover from time to time as we use mainly 38 special wadcutters in our 357s...one cleaning trick we learned LONG time ago at the police range, take a "spent" ( fired) 357 mag cas that came out of YOUR gun, and run it into each of the cylinder chambers after using the 38 special rounds, this helps scrape, clear some of the fouling in the chamber BUT a good proper sized brass brush does the job, with a soaking in Hoppes.......good luck and enjoy using your firearm, safety first and always.:cool:;)
 
Joined
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  • Does shooting .38 harm when shot from a .357? Shooting .38 Special ammunition from a .357 Magnum revolver is perfectly safe. The .357 Magnum revolver is designed to chamber and fire both .357 Magnum and .38 Special cartridges. The .38 Special cartridge is slightly shorter than the .357 Magnum, so it may not engage the rifling as fully as the longer .357 Magnum cartridge. This might affect accuracy to a small degree, but it won't harm the revolver.
  • What are your maintenance tips and cleaning routines to keep the revolver in good condition? Clean as you would any other revolver nothing special. side note please and I repeat please, do not swing open the cylinder as you see in the movies this will cause the yoke to bend and can cause issues with cylinder turn where it gets tight is certain areas.
  • Do I have to do anything special when shooting? Not really, same safety and handling measures as any other revolver.
  • Do I need to be sure I clean it any differently afterwards? Nope, clean as you normally would.
  • Can I mix the two rounds while shooting at the range? Is that dangerous? Mixing .357 Magnum and .38 Special at the range is safe as long as your revolver is chambered for .357 Magnum. However, be mindful of the different recoil and ballistics of each round. Start with the lighter recoil of .38 Special if you're new to shooting or if you're practicing extensively. Ensure you keep track of the cartridges you're loading into your revolver to avoid mixing them unintentionally
Hope this helps.
 

GunnyGene

Hawkeye
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Also, besides the usual FMJ, JHP, etc. you can also shoot .38 and .357 shot shells. Good for very short range (10 ft or so) on venomous snakes, rats, etc.

shotshell.jpg
 

Pál_K

Guns. I has it.
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To put it simply:

Yes, you can safely shoot .38 Special in a .357 Magnum revolver. If you do this, clean the chambers in the cylinder to remove buildup of deposits (a good thing to do regardless).

You can't shoot .357 Magnum in .38 revolver because the case is deliberately longer - the longer case prevents you from chambering the more powerful .357 Magnum round in the weaker revolver.

Both .38 Special and .357 Magnum use the same diameter bullets (usually 0.357" or 0.358").
 
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"Yes you can shoot a 38cal bullet in a 357 gun👊🤡👍 but you can not shoot a 357 bullet in a 38gun"
^^What John said. with a bit added. The 'bullets" are the same. It's the case length and powder charge that's different.
A 38 Special revolver might chamber a 357 magnum cartridge if the chambers are sloppy but due to the higher pressure of the 357 mag cartridge the 38 special firearm could be damaged or destroyed if fired. A 357 magnum firearm can fire 38 special ammo w/o damage although residue will build up between the shorter cartridge and the end of the 357 chambers.
 
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