How come a .357 can shoot a .38 caliber, & a .38, cannot shoot a .357?

Did I miss something when I was handing out the gunsmiths molds?

I don't get it? It should be interchangeable both ways, right?




Ahhh, I get it now! thanks xx

11 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favourite answer

    I was looking for the proper way to answer this and came across another answer from a different answer site. This is copied verbatim from wikianswer page.

    "The 357 magnum cartridge is based on the 38 Smith and Wesson Special cartridge case, which is the "parent case". The magnum case is lengthened by .100 inch so that the magnum will not chamber (fit) into a 38 Smith and Wesson special firearm.

    However the 38 Smith and Wesson special will always fit into a 357 magnum chamber.

    The pressures generated upon firing the 357 magnum cartridge are much higher than the 38 special, the maximum allowed pressures being 35,000 psi for the 357 magnum and 17,000 for the 38 special. For this reason it would not be safe to fire the 357 magnum in a 38 special chamber.

    The 38 special will not damage a 357 magnum firearm in any way, but firing 38 specials in a magnum chamber might allow dirt residue to build up in front of the shorter 38 special cartridge, eventually causing a problem chambering the longer 357 magnum once again. A cleaning of the chamber should solve this."

    I hope this helps. In other words, all apples are fruit, but not all fruits are apples :)

  • ERIC
    Lv 6
    1 decade ago

    the .357 is about 1/10" or so longer than a .38 spl. both fire the same diameter bullet (.357") most calibers are rounded off a bit in what they're called vs what they really are. Also revolver cartridges headspace (hold it's place in the chamber) on the rim, so going shorter is no issue.

    the reason for this is a 357 operates at a higher pressure than the 38 spl so they make the case a bit longer so it can not accidentally be chambered in the wrong revolver. Historically anytime someone wanted to beef up a revolver round they would make the case longer just for this reason. Older firearms didn't have the same quality steels available so the pressures may be too high and cause damage or the design of the firearm may not have enough to support more pressure safely

    Other common interchangeabilities are:

    .22 short & .22 long in a .22 LR

    .32 long in .32 H&R mag and now either in a .327 Federal Mag

    .44 special in a .44 mag (.44 russian work in either if you can find them)

    .45 LC in a .454 Casull and now either work in a .460 S&W (.45 Schofield works in all of the above if you can find them)

    I know there are others out there but these are most common

    Almost forgot, when shooting 38's in a 357 or any other special in a mag remember to clean out the cylinders fairly well, there gets to be a bit of grime buildup at the very front where the shorter case ends which can make feeding the longer ones a bit more difficult

  • 5 years ago

    The brand names shouldn't matter, but to make sure, lets say you own a S&W Model 19, use the S&W ammo. Not positive but i think there is no alternative to the .357 magnum (at least anymore) Most rounds like .22, .25 and .38 mean the diameter of the round in decimal inches, the .38 Special and .357 Magnum rounds are the same diameter. The differences are in length, powder loading and bullet size and weight. The .357 Magnum is bigger, heavier and more powerful. Although you CAN NOT use a .357 in a .38 using firearm. Also don't use .38's in a lever action, semi automatic, or bolt action .357 using firearm. To answer your question about the Desert Eagle .50 AE, well what do you think? If you are used to shooting heavy caliber firearms, like ALOT, it still wouldn't be recommended. You could be able to shoot fast with discipline, but you wouldn't be able to hit SH!T. Also, do not, and I repeat DO NOT use a Desert Eagle as a PDW (personal defense weapon) It is far too large. Only use it for Rec. shooting or showing off to your friends (safely). I would recommend the Smith and Wesson .357 Magnum 6'' giving you massive firepower and portability, reliability, and just a great shooting gun. Also a .38 has less recoil but has slightly less firepower. And if you shoot .38s a bunch in your .357 than it might be hard to fit a .357 in. A simple cleaning should do the trick. By the way, NO IDEA about the Guns Show question, don't live in Ohio. Sorry.

  • 1 decade ago

    A little history is in order. The 357 Magnum was developed by loading 38 Specials extra-heavy in sturdy revolvers. They kept adding a little more propellant, and then a little more still, until the guns blew up. Then they made the new guns strong enough to handle the higher pressures, and also before selling them to the public, they lengthened the case a little bit to keep the 357 Magnum from chambering in weaker 38 Special revolvers. The operating pressure of the typical 38 Special load is about 15,000 CUP, and it's more like 35,000 CUP in 357 Magnum. You may be able to get a 38 Special revolver to accept the longer cartridge, but you can expect that when you fire it, the topstrap will peel back, and part of the cylinder will probably wind up embedded in the ceiling.

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  • 1 decade ago

    In terms of width they are the same but the .357 has an extra 1/8" longer so it will not operate in a .38 revolver. They used to be the same length but people would get them mixed and the .38 cannot handle the .357 higher operating pressures and could lead to catastrophic failure.

    Revolvers made in .357 can handle both as it was made for the higher pressure and because the cartridges are nearly identical in every other measurement except casing length it can fire both. The .357 magnum was developed later and .38 special revolvers didn't have the structural integrity.

  • 1 decade ago

    Not all of the above answers are correct.

    About 110 years ago they had the 38 cal revolver. 90 years ago when a new 38 revolver was designed they did not want to get the ammunition mixed up and the 38 Special was invented. In the 1950's about 40 years later - the arms companies had a delima. They wanted to produce a powerful pistol for police use, but, they needed to make it wimpy to take into account all those 40 year old guns. This is where the 357 was invented - guns designed for this 'new' cartridge can use it and 38 Special, but, the older 38 Specials cylinders will not close when this ammo is loaded.

    Used to be cartridges became obsolete. Not so much today - they just make a new one that is a little longer and call it good.

    Hope this helps

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    I'm not all good with explaining this but I'll try.

    The .357 is slightly longer and has a more powerful charge. This difference is more than a .38spl frame is designed to handle. So shooting .357 in a .38spl could be extremely dangerous. Now on the other hand, the .357 Magnum is designed for more abuse so the 38spl being a light weight charge and smaller dimensions, has little effect.

  • Mr. P
    Lv 5
    1 decade ago

    Mainly because 38 Special revolvers are not built to withstand the higher pressures produced by the 357 Magnum cartridge. Also because they don't fit because they are longer than a 38 Special.

  • 2A
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago

    .357 mag is a longer more powerful round. The .38spl being a little shorter and less powerful....will chamber in a .357 gun fine. A .357 round will not fit in the cylinder of a 38spl nor would it be wise if it could....since the 38spl revolver is not designed for that power.

    Many people shoot 38spl in their .357 because its much cheaper.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    357 casing is slightly longer. Also even if it fit, 357 operates at higher pressure, so on so fourth. So it wouldn't be good if someone did.

    Source(s): me gun owner.
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