If you had to pick one, which caliber is better – 9mm or .357 ammo?
Folks in the shooting world show up to the range for one reason: practice and maintenance of their weapon. While setting up, the ever rivaling question is, “What made you go with (insert weapon of choice)?” Of course, you unload said weapon out of its case and proceed to boast on your choice.
Considering 2 of the most popular ammunition choices today are still the 9mm round or the .357 magnum, one of you likely owns one or the other. Let’s take a look at both and see if maybe one can be persuaded to change the mind of the other, shall we? After all, what’s a day at the range without some friendly competition to make it fun.
What is the Difference Between 9mm and .357 Ammo?
First off, it is essential to point out the very clear differences between these two calibers. The 9mm bullet is used in pistols, whereas the .357 mag is typically shot out of revolvers but is used in rifles too. The comfort of a handgun is essential to the shooter, so if you are partial to a revolver, it is quite possibly a moot point what the 9mm bullet can accomplish on and off the range. I, myself, prefer a pistol due to my small hand size and preference of carrying a magazine over being limited to 5 or 6 shots at a time.
Another big difference is the initial purpose of each round at its beginning. The 9mm was introduced in 1901 primarily for military use by the German and US military. It has carried on that popularity throughout recent years in the US Military. Many military police and officers are still seen carrying a 9mm in and out of uniform. This round has continued its popularity over to the civilian population for multiple purposes such as personal defense, target shooting, and concealed carry. About 33 years later, the .357 magnum was introduced specifically for the civilian police and FBI going up against the mobsters and robbers now using getaway cars. They needed a bullet to penetrate car metal, and the .357 magnum proved to do the job.
Let’s take a deeper look into which ammunition is preferred today regarding the most common aspects of the 9mm vs 357 magnum.
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Which Caliber Is The Most Accurate?
When you think of accuracy and shooting, it is about 98% shooter, and your skills, but good clean ammunition and a well-maintained weapon still play a hand in the game. The .357 magnum was a reinvention of an existing caliber, the .38 Special. The .38 wasn’t cutting it; thus, the .357 was born and joined the lineup of calibers. All they did was pack more powder into a cartridge a bit longer and make it fly harder and faster. The faster part surprised many, and rightly so. An object which becomes bigger and heavy typically slows down, right? Not this bullet, and with its increased power, comes a bigger hole in the target paper. Now it isn’t all good news.
The .357 still lacks a bit in the accuracy category as it is a big and slightly sloppy bullet. More power tends to cut out on accuracy when the weight drops your projectile more quickly. Now, look at the 9mm bullet. It’s a bit slimmer and a little less powerful. That said, it doesn’t seem to affect accuracy as much as the weight of the .357. Yes, the 9mm is a weaker powerhouse, but many like it as a practical and compact comparison if you prefer a pistol over a revolver.
I think recoil fits in this section and how it affects rapid succession fire and reconnecting with the target each time. In terms of accuracy, recoil is a considerable concern. Shoot all six rounds of your .357 ammo in succession, and your hand will need some serious break time, especially if you want to carry compact or concealed. The smaller the weapon with this big of a round, the more recoil and possible hand injury you may endure. Also, your paper might look more like swiss cheese than a tight grouping. A revolver on its own is going to kick the barrel up every time you shoot, and even more so with more firepower. Now rack your magazine of 12-15 and let’em rip with 9mm ammo. Recoil is noticeably less, and you can keep your barrel more level for a tighter shot group.
Which Caliber Is The Most Reliable?
What comes to mind when you think of reliable ammunition? Maybe how clean the ammo shoots, not jamming in the weapon, or perhaps hitting the target at every shot. In this article, I want to cover reliability going down range to the target. Clean ammo is just that. If you reload or buy a cheaper brand and it mucks up your barrel, it will make your weapon jam or misfire, but which caliber will get you on paper or hit your target more times than not?
Shooting a handgun of any type is not meant to hit long-range, so anything over 50 yards, every handgun is going to drop significantly in the reliability of hitting your mark. In terms of ballistics and velocity, the 9mm vs 357 magnum will favor the .357 every time. It is a heavier, faster bullet that packs a punch and simply keeps going. The 9mm is a straight forward powerful bullet; however, it will lose flying power much sooner as it doesn’t have the lead weight propelling it down range like the .357.
Which Caliber Has The Most Penetration and Stopping Power?
We discussed all these aspects, but what do they mean for actual stopping power. I mean, isn’t that ultimately why we practice? Stopping the intruder or animal we hunt is the reason we care so much about what caliber to use in the first place. Kinetic energy, density, and momentum all play an integral part in determining stopping power. Penetration power is where your grain choice is going to come into play.
A 158-grain full metal jacket bullet in a .357 will go a long way but not leave a big expansion hole. It will not have as much stopping power as it will keep on moving, whereas a flat-nose bullet will have a shorter transportation line and more stopping power. The same applies to a 9mm caliber. A pointed tip will keep momentum, and you will not likely have stopping power with just one shot, and a wider, heavier bullet will show its expansion on impact.
Preferred Usage – Which Caliber Should You Use In Specific Situations?
Everything discussed today comes down to what you are shooting at and your desired end game. Are you looking to spend all day at the range for practice? A 9mm caliber is probably the best way to go for cost-efficiency. If you are looking for a defense round that will do more damage, check out a .357 magnum.
Both options will serve you well in home defense; however, you will need to decide if you are ok with a limited number of rounds like the .357 or can carry multiple rounds with a large magazine filled with 9mm. If you are a hunter, you will likely want something bigger like the .357 family for more stopping power on large game.
How Does Cost Compare?
Now, all of this information is well and good, but what about the cost of ammo? To keep it fair, I’ve gone to Cabelas.com to search for the most recent ammo prices, and before I even start to explore, the first page of ammo is all over the 9mm selection. There are 33 options, brands, and types to choose from, meaning 9mm ammo is still readily available and priced to sell even after many years. Even with the current ammo shortages and inflation, you can still stock up on a box of 50 rounds for an average of $20 a box. That puts 9mm rounds at 40 cents a round, compared to 20 cents around it used to be in early 2020. Still an affordable and accessible round.
Using the same brand at Cabela’s, I found a box of 50 rounds of 110-grain hollow point .357 mag bullets for a whopping $52.99! That is just over 1 dollar a bullet! Good thing you can only load six at a time in one go-round. Now, of course, you can buy in bulk buckets, ammo cans, boxes and get them cheaper, but when it comes to your typical purchase, you can see the price difference clear as day. It gives you a better idea when choosing what to buy if you are on the fence. Yes, the .357 magnum packs a bit more punch, but you can only carry six at a time, and it is going to cost you more than a dollar every time you pull the trigger.
When taking a 9mm stacked magazine with you, it is more than half the cost, and you can easily carry 12-15 or more in one rack, plus reload with extra magazines in no time flat. Comparing 9mm vs 357 magnum ammo is more like deciding what you plan to shoot. If you are cost-conscious and want to carry more rounds at a time, you’ll likely lean more towards a handgun that holds 9mm, but if you are hoping to put some real power behind your trigger squeeze, you’ll want to step up to the .357 magnum. Personal preference with comfort and carry options are going to help make your decision as well. I have small hands and prefer to carry a pistol close to my person, so I use a Smith and Wesson 9 mm caliber pistol for my everyday carry option.