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357 Magnum Background & Common Uses

Compared to many other popular pistol rounds, the .357 Magnum is actually relatively new to the market. Introduced in 1934, the .357 Mag outperformed the vast majority of old revolver cartridges then in use by law enforcement and quickly became a favorite among police officers due to its impressive performance. Though mostly retired from police work due to the rise of semiautomatic handguns in that field, .357 Magnum ammo is still widely used for target shooting, concealed carry, home defense, and occasionally (and somewhat anachronistically) cowboy action shooting.

A powerful cartridge with a kick to match, the .357 Magnum fires a weight bullet of 110-158 grains at a muzzle velocity of about 1,200 to 1,500 feet per second in revolvers. Compared to other handgun calibers, this is a medium weight bullet fired at a high velocity. Long guns (typically lever actions) firing .357 Magnum ammunition achieve even higher velocities and can excel at close to medium range hunting against game of appropriate size.

The versatility of this cartridge means that many different types of .357 Mag ammo are available. Low-powered action and target shooting loads are designed to aid with rapid, accurate fire against paper or steel targets. Defensive jacketed hollow point (JHP) ammo is typically of medium power and designed to keep recoil and blast to a reasonable level while still achieving strong terminal performance; full metal jacket (FMJ) and lead round nose (LRN) ammo provides a cheaper, similar-handling alternative for training. The most powerful loads are often soft points are optimized for hunting applications where the fragmentation produced by a JHP would be unwelcome but high diameter expansion is crucial.