Smith & Wesson M&P 360

This is my Smith & Wesson M&P 360 "Chief's Special", a snubnose J-Frame revolver chambered in .357 Magnum. This is my normal carry gun.

It fits my hand wonderfully. The double-action trigger pull is rather heavy, more than my trigger pull gauge can measure. I should get some snap caps and practice dry firing double-action. However, the single-action trigger pull is only 3½ pounds and is so crisp and free of creep that it will make you cry.

Physically, it is bigger than my Beretta Tomcat. However, it is lighter, and I have no worries about performance, neither reliability nor terminal ballistics.

Because this gun is so light, it has very sharp recoil, shocking my hand very aggressively with each shot. It is not pleasant, but it is not bad enough to scare me away from the gun. I wonder if regular practice will cause my hand to become less sensitive to the recoil, much like rifle shooting does to my shoulder.

I purchased this handgun in 2011.


I need to select a defensive round for this revolver. I like the idea that the 158 grain load has the highest one-shot-drop rate of any handgun cartridge. However, the practicality of using a snubnose is pushing me toward a cartridge designed specifically for the short barrel.

The Speer Gold Dot Short Barrel cartridge in .357 Magnum is a 135 grain bullet specifically designed for use in a short barrel. From a 2" barrel, it should have a muzzle velocity of 990 fps.

I am quite intrigued by the Fiocchi 158 gr. XTP ammunition I tested out. It was much more accurate than anything else I have fired in this gun. It's not just the lighter recoil, because the .38 Special wasn't even close to being that accurate. The Fiocchi load has drawbacks, such as the huge muzzle flash and loud report, and also it has a Starline headstamp. However, it holds out the hope that there may be another accurate load out there. I need to try everything.

Federal 158 gr. Hydra-Shok 1052 fps
388 ft-lbs
Typical recoil. Medium accuracy. Zero muzzle flash.
Barnes 125 gr. TAX-XPD Slightly less recoil. Medium accuracy. Bright muzzle flash.
Fiocchi 158 gr. XTP 948 fps
315 ft-lbs
Lower recoil. Best accuracy. Significant muzzle flash, and very loud. Starline headstamp.
Winchester 130 gr. FMJ (.38spcl) 707 fps
144 ft-lbs
Almost pleasant recoil. Not terribly accurate.
Speer 135 gr. GDHP-SB 974 fps
284 ft-lbs
Harsh recoil. Low muzzle flash. Poor accuracy.
Speer 158 gr. GDHP Typical recoil. Keyholes. Poor accuracy.
Hornady 125 gr. XTP 1164 fps
376 ft-lbs
Ouch! This has been the worst recoil of anything I've tested so far. Poor accuracy.
Hornady 158 gr. XTP 1065 fps
398 ft-lbs
Not as harsh as the Hornady 125 gr. XTP, but still the second most harsh recoil I have tested. Poor accuracy.
Corbon 125 gr. DPX 1057 fps
310 ft-lbs
Typical recoil. Poor accuracy. Big, bright muzzle flash. Starline headstamp.

Others to try: Remington 125 gr. Golden Saber, Magtech Guardian Gold 125 gr., Federal Premium 130 gr. Hydra-Shok (reduced recoil).

Lucky Gunner's Lab .38 Special and .357 Magnum Self-Defense Ammo Ballistics Tests

When the pandemic and ammo shortage are over, I need to test newer loads. The 158 gr. Hydra-Shok probably over-penetrates. In particular, I would like to try: