January 3, 2019
The .357 was created by engineers from both Smith & Wesson and Winchester and was introduced in 1934. It’s based on the older Smith & Wesson .38 special cartridge. The .357 is the oldest magnum handgun round, and is still revered as one of the excellent pistol cartridges on the market today.
So what about the .357 gives it such popular longevity?
Smith & Wesson Model 60
Smith & Wesson Model 686
The Top .357 Options Today
It’s a combination of performance and versatility. Here’s why the .357 has stuck around for so many years:
The Pros and Cons
The 8 Best .357 Revolver Reviews (Updated 2019)
Below are my favorite best revolver picks:
1. Smith & Wesson Model 60 .357 Magnum 2.125 In
Best Concealed Carry
Smith & Wesson .357 revolvers have been mainstays of the .357 community for decades. The Smith & Wesson Model 60 was the first stainless steel revolver in the world, and spurred the stainless steel revolution in revolver manufacturing.
The Model 60 is part of the Smith & Wesson J-Frame lineup, and is one of the most concealable revolvers on the market. The Model 60 features a very ergonomic grip that’s designed to fit your hand comfortably and minimize printing. The grip is a synthetic compound that helps shooters maintain a hold of the gun even with sweaty hands.
The stainless steel construction of the Model 60 not only improves durability, but it adds a bit of weight compared to other types of steel. This might seem like a bad thing, but the added weight reduces felt recoil and muzzle flip, so the Model 60 is one of the easiest snub-nosed revolvers to shoot, and is a good option for shooters with grip strength troubles.
The Model 60 has a fixed rear sight and a black blade front. These are fine for the short ranges the Model 60 is designed for. However, they can be difficult to see in low light conditions, and shooters with glasses may have trouble with the Model 60 sights.
On the upside, the front sight is fixed with a pin, so it may be possible to change the front sight blade.
The Model 60 is an ideal concealed carry gun, especially for those who need deeper concealment. However, the sights and short barrel (2.125 inches) are not ideal for home defense.
- Ergonomic Design
- Reduced Recoil and Muzzle Flip
- Fixed front sight with pin
- Fixed Rear sight
- Black blade front
2. Smith & Wesson Model 686 Plus Stainless
Best For Home Defense
The Smith & Wesson 686 Plus is (one of) the classic full-size Smith & Wesson revolvers. It’s part of the K-frame lineup, which features exceptional ergonomics in a full-size package.
The 686 Plus is built on a stainless steel frame, which is durable and adds some weight to the gun so that it’s easy to shoot. Smith & Wesson uses the standard synthetic grips to make the gun easy to handle with slippery hands and soften the recoil.
However, the things that make the 686 Plus ideal for home defense are the cylinder and the sights. The sights feature an adjustable rear notch and a high-visibility front blade for faster sight alignment and better low light visibility.
The 686 Plus is equipped with an oversized cylinder that holds 7 rounds. This is decent ammo capacity for a revolver, and minimizes the chances of needing to perform a complex revolver reload during a dynamic critical incident.
The barrel also improves the home defense viability of the 686 Plus. The barrel is stainless steel, and 4.125 inches long for exceptional accuracy and minimal muzzle flip when firing multiple shots, which is common in defensive situations.
Stainless steel models can be pricey, and the 686 Plus is no exception here. However, the 686 Plus is a great home defense piece that can also be pressed into service as a competition gun or a recreational plinker, and will last for decades.
- Long barrel for excellent shots
- Oversized cylinder for more ammo
- Synthetic grips for easy handling
- On the pricey side
- Fixed front sight
3. Ruger GP100 Double Action Revolver
Competition for The Money
Ruger isn’t the oldest revolver manufacturer around, but some Ruger .357 revolvers have
become cult classics that people know and love. The Ruger GP100 is one of the most customizable revolvers on the market, and comes at a reasonable price point.
The GP100 is designed for competition use, and comes with standard features that will improve your shooting scores.
First, the GP100 comes with swappable sights, which is rare in the revolver world. But, you probably won’t need to change the sights because the GP100 is fitted with a high-rise adjustable rear notch and a fiber optic front post. These sights will perform well for all but the most serious competitive shooters.
Next, the GP100 features a 6 inch barrel. This provides excellent accuracy at competition ranges and reduces muzzle flip for more controlled follow-up shots. However, the longer barrel can make for slower draw speeds, since there’s more gun that needs to clear the holster, so a competition holster with a cutaway is a good pairing for the GP100.
The GP100 is also equipped with a 7-round cylinder, which minimizes reloads during stages with high round counts for faster times.
The GP100 is a tad on the heavy side, but it’s not such a bad thing because it helps keep your follow-up shots flat and your groups tighter.
The grip is made of a comfortable rubber compound, with a nice looking wood insert. The grip is comfortable and ergonomic on its own, which is good because the GP100 isn’t designed for maximum grip customization. It’s possible to change the GP100 grip, but it requires some tools.
Overall, the GP100 is a viable competition pistol right out of the box, and could easily be used as a home defense gun as well.
- 6 inch barrel for excellent accuracy
- 7 round cylinder for more ammo
- Comfortable and ergonomic grip
- Swappable sights allow versatility
- Changing the grip requires tools
- Longer barrel results in slower draw speeds
4. Ruger Redhawk Double Action Mag. Revolver 2.75 In
Best High Capacity
The Ruger Redhawk 357 is a cult classic among Ruger revolvers, and also one of the most capable revolvers on the market. Ruger’s proprietary design enables the Redhawk to hold more rounds than almost any other revolver.
The first thing worth mentioning about the Redhawk is the capacity. Ruger packs an impressive 8 rounds into the cylinder. This is excellent for any defensive context—concealed carry, or home defense.
The benefits don’t stop there. The Redhawk also features a very ergonomically shaped wooden grip that improves the fit and feel of the gun, as well as the concealability.
Additionally, the Redhawk isn’t quite a snub-nosed revolver, as the barrel is 2.75 inches. This length might be a tad short for competition use, but it’s great for personal defense.
Ruger includes a high visibility front sight on the Redhawk, which is changeable if you’re not into it. The rear sight is adjustable. It’s pinned, but can be replaced with some tools. The sights are excellent for defensive use, even for those with glasses or vision issues.
The Redhawk is constructed from stainless steel for improved durability, and Ruger added metal to the top strap, sidewalls, and barrel mounting area to improve the longevity of the gun and add reliability with high power loads. This also adds a bit of weight to the Redhawk for better recoil control.
If you plan on carrying the Redhawk concealed, something to be aware of is the width of the high-capacity cylinder. While it doesn’t make the gun impossible to carry by any means, it could be uncomfortable for some shooters.
The Redhawk may not fall into everyone’s price range, but it’s a great option for those looking to get more capacity from a revolver with good features for defensive and competition use.
- Stainless steel adds to durability
- High visibility front sight
- Added weight for recoil control
- 8 Round capacity is plenty
- High capacity cylinder may be uncomfortable for concealed carry
- Barrel length might be short for competition use
5. Taurus Model 66 Fixed Front Magnum
Taurus .357 handguns are some of the highest quality, lowest priced ones on the market. The Taurus Model 66 is a great blend of quality and value, and comes with a lot of opportunity for customization.
The Model 66 sports some great all-around specifications which make it a very versatile gun. The Model 66 has a 7-shot cylinder, which is perfectly adequate for self-defense or competition shooting.
The barrel is 4 inch and made of stainless steel, for good accuracy at all common pistol ranges. Lastly, the Model 66 features a high visibility front sight and an adjustable rear notch.
Where Taurus takes the Model 66 to the next level is in the safety features. The Model 66 features an integral key lock, which locks the hammer down for safe storage. Additionally, the Model 66 has a transfer bar that prevents the hammer from striking the round unless the trigger is completely pressed to the rear.
The Model 66 grip is a comfortable rubber compound, that won’t get slippery with sweat. There are also a whole bunch of pistol grip upgrades for Taurus pistols, so you can get a grip that fits your hand, no matter what.
However, there are a couple of drawbacks to the Model 66. The front sight is fixed, and the rear sight is pinned, so the sights aren’t really changeable. Additionally, the integral safety lock isn’t ideal for storing the Model 66 for home defense, since it renders the pistol inoperable and requires a key to unlock.
Although the Model 66 isn’t perfect in every way, it’s a very affordable option for those looking to get into the revolver game, and it’s adequately equipped for most shooting contexts from home defense to competition shooting.
- Comfortable rubber grip
- 4 inch barrel for accuracy
- High visibility front sight and rear notch
- 7 shot cylinder perfect for defensive use
- Front sight is fixed
- Safety lock isn't great for home defense storage
6. Chiappa Rhino 30DS Single/Double Action Revolver Black
Chiappa wanted to design a revolver that was more comfortable and had better recoil mitigation than the competition currently on the market. The result of their efforts was the Chiappa Rhino Revolver 30DS. This is the flagship Chiappa .357 magnum, and the unique design actually provides some of the benefits Chiappa was after.
The Rhino isn’t intended to deliver specs that blow away the competition. The cylinder has a pretty standard 6-round capacity. The barrel is 3 inches, which is respectable in a small-framed pistol, but not more than other revolvers. The construction is a combination of aluminum and steel, which makes the Rhino lighter than all steel revolvers, but not a ton.
So what’s all the fuss about?
The Rhino fires from the bottom chamber on the cylinder. This means that the recoil goes straight back into almost the center of the shooter’s hand, so the muzzle flips very little when the gun is fired. This makes the recoil very manageable.
There is a caveat with this system, though. The Rhino requires some training to use, because the gun vents some gases out the bottom of the cylinder, so it’s possible that you could be burned if you’re not gripping the gun correctly. The proper grip for a Rhino isn’t complex or difficult, but you’ll need to be mindful when you pick the gun up to shoot it.
In terms of customization, Chiappa is the only manufacturer that makes aftermarket parts for the Rhino. So, even though the sights and grip are changeable, your options are limited to replacements from Chiappa.
Another serious consideration is the price. The Rhino costs as much as some competition counterparts. However, the Rhino is a very comfortable revolver, and offers a .357 platform with very manageable recoil for those looking for a light-shooting magnum.
- Firing mechanism makes recoil very manageable
- Aluminum and steel construction makes it light
- Proper grip isn't difficult
- 6 round cylinder capacity
- Requires training to use
- 3rd party parts are not available
7. Rossi R972 Magnum Revolver
Rossi .357 revolvers provide inexpensive quality for those on a budget. The Rossi R972 is an outstanding option for those looking for a home defense or recreational firearm at a really reasonable price. The R972 is even good enough for casual competition shooters.
The R972 features a great looking stainless steel construction. Unlike many manufacturers that used a brushed finish, Rossi gave the R972 a nice high-shine finish which separates it from other guns on a table.
The R972 features a 6 inch barrel, which is great for home defense and competition shooting. However, this length is a bit much for concealed carry. Competition shooters will want to get a holster with a cutaway to speed up their draw.
Rossi includes a nice high visibility front post and an adjustable rear notch on the R972. However the sights are fixed, which means limited customization. However, the grip is easily changed, and there are some good options for those that want a smaller grip, or a grip without finger grooves.
As for the rest of the specs, the R972 is pretty standard. The cylinder holds 6-rounds. The weight is moderate, but enough that it will help keep the felt recoil down. Competition shooters will find the R972 easy to control, but will need to reload more than some other competitors.
Overall, the main selling point of the R972 is that it packs some pretty decent features into a really low-priced package, which is great for those looking to use their pistol as a recreational or hobby gun.
- Easily changeable grip
- High visibility front post
- Adjustable rear notch
- Moderate weight keeps recoil down
- Requires more reloading for competition
- Fixed front sights
8. Colt Python .357 Stainless Steel Long Barrel Revolver
Unfortunately for those looking to pick up a Colt .357, they’re very hard to find these days. It’s still possible to find a Colt Python in some gun stores, but they’re very rare.
The Colt Python is a stainless steel, long-barreled icon that’s been featured in multiple movies and TV shows.
It’s not necessarily a perfect competition or defensive gun, but it’s a great addition to any gun enthusiast’s collection.
- Great addition to any enthusiast collection
- Stainless steel construction
- Long barrel designed to improve accuracy
- Different grip options are available
- Difficult to come by
- Production discontinued
Magnum Revolver Features
If you’ve read our write up on 9mm handguns, you’re familiar with the 9mm round. Well, a .357 is essentially a 9mm on steroids. The projectile itself is 9.07 millimeters in diameter and weighs up to 158 grains, which is pretty similar to the standard 9mm Luger bullet.
However, the .357 has a much longer casing, allowing for more powder to be packed in behind the bullet. The handgun achieves the same muzzle velocity with a 158 grain round as the 9mm does with a 124 grain round, which gives the .357 excellent ballistic performance.
So, although the .357 may not have the same advantages as the 9mm when it comes to cost and magazine capacity, it’s well respected for its power, and still gets plenty of use in defensive shooting contexts.
The second thing that keeps the .357 in the game is that a .357 revolver can also fire .38 special rounds. This is handy because .38 special is cheaper and easier to shoot than .357, so it makes a great alternative to blasting magnum rounds at everything during training and plinking.
Here are a couple things to keep in mind if you plan to shoot .38 special through your .357 revolver:
- Be sure to clean your revolver after shooting .38 special rounds. .38 special leaves a lot of carbon buildup in a .357 revolver and eventually could cause your gun to fail.
- Use standard .38 special rounds for training and recreation. .38 +P rounds have similar recoil to a .357 magnum and cost about the same, so shooting +P rounds doesn’t have much benefit.
A revolver is a great option for those looking to get excellent reliability and power from their defensive gun, and competition shooters who enjoy the challenge of the low ammo capacity and complex reload.
Shooters looking to use a one for home or personal defense should also consider the cost of training as part of their gun buying budget, given the complex reload and low ammo capacity of this firearm.
Smith & Wesson Model 60
When it comes to revolvers, Smith & Wesson is at the top of the heap in terms of price and quality.
For concealed carry, most shooters will be happiest with the Smith & Wesson Model 60. It’s comfortable, concealable, and sits right about in the middle of the road in terms of price.