This cartridge was quite a sensation when it was introduced in 1935. Elmer Keith, Phillip Sharp and the firearms manufacturer, Smith and Wesson, created it. The .357 Magnum is based on the .38 Special case but lengthened by about 1/10 of an inch.
Sharp was a member of the National Rifle Association's (NRA) technical staff and a firearms writer of considerable capability from the 1930s to the 1950s. It is said that he had a lot of influence with the development of this cartridge.
The initial factory cartridges were loaded up to higher pressures than the older .38 Special to a considerable degree. This meant that the early revolvers for this new cartridge would have to be heavier and stronger to withstand these higher pressures.
The .357 Magnum became very popular among police officers in the 1960s. Too many of them found out the hard way that the .38 Special standard velocity lead bullet was just a pipsqueak load.
Firearms experts say that the .357 Magnum is the gold standard of stopping power among handgun cartridges. Revolvers chambered for the .357 Magnum also have the advantage of being able to fire .38 Special ammunition. For someone who likes to shoot, this means lower cost, noise and recoil.
It needs to be emphasized that if the shorter cartridge is fired a good deal that it will erode the revolver chamber and end up making extraction of the longer magnum cases difficult. This, however, would require several thousand rounds. Therefore, I recommend that a .357 Magnum revolver be given a thorough cleaning after several .38 Special rounds have been fired in it. One of the early problems with the .357 Magnum revolvers was lead residue left in the barrels. Most current factory ammunition use copper-jacketed bullets that have solved this problem.
Today, modern semi-automatic pistols for law-enforcement use have largely replaced the .357 revolver. It is still very popular among hunters, security guards and civilians for self-defense.
In the last 25 years, the .357 Magnum has been chambered in rifles with good success. The Rossi Model 92 is a close replica to the Winchester Model 1892. I have taken two deer with this carbine that has a 20-inch barrel. The first one I took back in 1984, using 158-grain, soft-point factory ammunition. The young buck was about 50 feet away standing broadside. I put a bullet through the lung cavity. When the gun cracked, the deer took off running with its tail up as if it had never been hit. It ran a good 75 yards and stopped. I was working the lever to chamber another round when it fell. When I field-dressed the deer, the bullet went completely through the lung cavity and expanded properly. To this day, I have not been able to figure this one out.
The second deer I took in 1997 using a handloaded, 150-grain, soft-point bullet. I dropped this deer in its tracks at about 40 yards. The bullet hit about an inch below where the head and neck join and exited through the face.
Some of the other rifles and carbines chambered for the .357 Magnum include: the Uberti Model 1873, a close replica of the 1873 Winchester (the gun that won the West); the Henry Big Boy is a modern lever-action rifle that looks similar to the Marlin 336; and the Marlin Model 1894C carbine resembles the 1894 marlin of yesteryear.
Factory advertised muzzle velocities of .357 Magnum ammunition in a revolver having a 4-inch barrel include:
n 125-grain, jacketed hollow-point bullet at 1,450 feet-per-second
n 158-grain, jacketed soft-point bullet at 1,235 feet-per-second
n 180-grain, lead bullet at 1,060 feet-per-second
I have never seen any ballistics as to what these rounds would be when fired in a rifle. It would most likely be an additional velocity of 550 to 600 feet-per-second at the muzzle.