The .357 Magnum for Survival: You Can’t Do Better
AllOutdoor – As a martial arts/firearms’ instructor, I’m often asked what constitutes the “best” gun for a survival situation. My stock answer is, “A good .357 Magnum stainless steel revolver with a 4-inch barrel.” However, when asked this question at other times, I’ll simply tell the person that the gun they are carrying is the “best” because it’s what they are carrying at the time they might need it.
But really, when it comes to the .357 Magnum, there isn’t a better gun/ammo combination anyone could ask for in an all-around “best” gun set-up. I don’t make this statement lightly, either. The .357 Magnum round in a good, solid, stainless steel revolver can put meat on the table or save your bacon if need be.
I’ll not delve into any great history of the mighty three fifty-seven. However, no article on this subject would be compete without mentioning a few things.
Production of the first three fifty-seven’s began in 1935 at Smith & Wesson under the direction of Major D.B. Wesson. The original guns were rather large (N frame) revolvers with 8 3/8″ barrles. This gun threw a 158 grain, lead semi-wadcutter bullet at over 1,500 fps. It was hailed as the “most powerful handgun in the world” (at time). Major Wesson proved the capability of the gun/ammo set-up during his fall hunt in Wyoming in 1935. Wesson killed antelope, moose, elk, and a grizzly bear with a brace of “three fifty-seven’s.” As an aside, Smith & Wesson had the name “.357 Magnum” registered as a trademark on April 23, 1935. S&W even went so far as to register the word “Magnum” as a trademark on June 4, 1935.
Stories abounded of the “killing power” of the new gun/ammo combination. The FBI reported that during the first year of production of the “Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum,” 63 agents purchased these guns, favoring the 3 1/2″ and 4″ barrel lengths. The very first registered Magnum to leave the S&W factory was an 8 3/4″ barrel Gun with serial number one. This went to J. Edgar Hoover, then director of the FBI.
My S&W 686
Enough history, though. What can the three fifty-seven Magnum do for you? Well, that’s purely a subjective question. I’ll give you my impressions and results.
I own a S&W model 686, stainless steel revolver with a 4” barrel. Nothing fancy has been done to this particular gun outside of replacing the factory grips with a set of Hogue rubber Monogrips. Matter of fact, this gun was picked-up in a trade. It was covered with scratches and the rear sight assembly was rusted.
A few minutes spent with some oiled, extra-fine steel wool on the rear sight removed the rust. Then the sight was re-blued with some cold bluing. The rest of the gun demanded a good cleaning, inside and out. Then, a soft towel was used with some auto “polishing compound” to remove the many scratches. No more than 45 minutes were spent refurbishing this gun. It looks almost factory new with very little effort.
I’m a habitual gun “trader.” I’m always trading or buying into something different. However, this particular model 686 has found a permanent home in my battery. Without a doubt, it is the best shooting revolver I own. Those who know me will attest to the fact that I’m a real fan of the semi-auto pistol. I carry one everyday on my right hip. I can shoot an autoloader better than a revolver most of the time.
The 686 was put through its paces at the local outdoor gun range. Using slow, single-action fire, I was able to place 6 rounds of Black Hills Ammunition 158 gr. JHP into a group of slightly over one inch at 25 yards. I don’t attribute this to my shooting skills, rather to the gun/ammo combo.
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