Your revolver is a .357 magnum, but people say it shoots .38 special.
Your new AR-15 says it can shoot 5.56x45mm NATO, but your friends say just pick up a box of .223.
What’s going on here?
Has the world turned upside down? Don’t they realize we’re dealing with BULLETS here?
Have a cup of tea. Let’s talk. It’s possible that a firearm chambered for one round can safely fire another.
There could be any number of reasons for this. Some guns, like the Taurus Judge, are designed to do that, and with some, it’s just a happy coincidence.
The best example of this is the .357 Magnum revolver. You see, back in the long-long-ago, the 1930s, police officers were issued .38 Special revolvers as their sidearms.
About this time, bullet-proof vests were just coming into being and gangsters were using their car doors as cover during shoot-outs.
Well, .38 Special couldn’t pierce body armor and it wouldn’t go through car doors, so police departments looked for a solution.
Smith & Wesson provided one in a new round that used a standard .38 Special bullet but with a lot more power behind it. It was dubbed the .357 Magnum.
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The bullets have the same diameter, but the .357 could punch through the new body armor that was showing up on the streets.
As mentioned, the .357 Magnum has a lot more power, which means more pressure.
Regular .38 Special revolvers couldn’t handle the pressure, which meant that .357 Magnum revolvers made specifically to handle the load had to be developed.
As an added safety precaution the length of the .357 Magnum case was extended by 1/8 of an inch. This way, a person couldn’t load and close a .38 Special revolver with .357 Magnum ammunition and accidentally blow themselves up.
But because the diameter of both bullets are the same and the pressure in a .38 Special is less than that of a .357 Magnum, a .38 Special round can be safely fired in a .357 Magnum revolver or lever gun.
So to sum up in one sentence: You can shoot .38 Special in .357 Magnum guns, but you can’t shoot .357 Magnum in .38 Special guns.
Got it? If you want to learn more and get some great ammo recommendations, read our Best .38 Spl & .357 Mag Ammo article.
Pressure is the big determining factor because a firearm rated for one kind of ammunition may have features beyond safety designed specifically for that round.
For instance, the 5.56x45mm NATO and the .223 Remington look the same, but the 5.56 is loaded for a higher pressure to increase velocity.
Chambers that are designed specifically for .223 have a narrower leade (the unrifled portion of the chamber ahead of the rifling) and a steeper angle of rifling. This is because the .223 was designed primarily for accuracy.
The 5.56 was designed to deliver more power and reliability, so the leade is wider and longer to allow more build-up of crud and a more gentle angle of rifling to accommodate the power of the 5.56.
Bottom line, .223 Remington is always safe to shoot from a 5.56 NATO chamber — but you should avoid sending 5.56 ammo through a .223 chamber.
For all the details read more about AR-15 chambers and get the whole story on .223 vs 5.56 NATO vs .223 Wylde: Will Your Gun Blow?
What about .308 and 7.62x51mm?
There’s a similar issue between .308 Winchester and 7.62X51mm. The .308 is a hotter load and the headspace is different from that of the 7.62.
So while they look identical and people will say you can use them interchangeably, they’re different rounds.
Generally speaking, you can safely shoot 7.62mm in a .308 rifle, but you’re taking a risk going in the other direction.
These three examples aren’t the only ones out there.
Like with the .357 Magnum example above, you can shoot .44 Special (I bet you didn’t even know there was a .44 Special, huh? Learn something new every day!) in a .44 Magnum, but not the other way around.
Taurus straight up advertises that you can shoot a .45 Long Colt or a .410 shotgun shell in their Taurus Judge. It’s just a matter of knowing what you can fire from your weapon safely.
Like a lot of things with firearms, it all comes down to safety. When in doubt, use the ammunition that’s stamped on the firearm. But it’s nice to know that there are other options out there.
Know of some other firearms that can shoot two different cartridges? Tell us about them in the comments! Any other questions…we cover almost everything in our Beginner’s Guide to Guns.
Want to learn more about calibers and bullet types? Check out our Common Calibers Guide.
47 Leave a Reply
Can I shoot a 243 or 223 out a 22-250????
can i shoot a pistol round in a revolver?
Can I shoot my .38 special in a .357 magnum safely?
So I can shoot my .38 special in my .357, right?
I have accidentally shot .380 rounds through a 9mm semi-auto handgun. The rounds fired OK but there wasn't enough energy to cycle the slide.
Tube fed lever action rifles like the Henry can accommodate 22 short, long, and long rifle at the same time.
And, here’s a humdinger. The .327 Federal Magnum can also fire, in descending order, the following ammo: .32 H&R Mag, .32 S&W Long, .32 S&W, and .32 ACP but you can’t fire the .327 in any of them in descending order. I love me some .327 Federal Magnum because it’s a bad#ss round AND it’s versatility.
sig 357 and smith and wesson40/
I have a Smith $ Wesson Revolver, it says I need .38 S&W SPL+p ammo???
You don't NEED SPL+p ammo. It means it is OK to use +p cartridges along with standard 38 special cartridges
I gathered from the question that he didn't know what +P ammo was. 38 special +P is designed to be used in a more modern firearm than the older 38 specials. It's a step (although a small step) closer to a .357 Magnum in power. You can find the same thing in .45 ACP.
+P indicates a little more powder. +P+ is very hot loads. Your pistol is indicating it will handle 38spl & 38spl +P.
I have a Smith and Wesson M&P 40 4 1/4" barrel.. It says caliber 40 S&W. Can I shoot the same ammo that I use for my Glock ? probably a silly question but would like an answer. It also sound like I can shoot a 357 cal in that S&W M&P 40. I would appreciate some advice. Thank you
If your Glock is also 40 S&W, then you can use the same ammo. 357 will not work in either gun, unless you do a 357 SIG conversion. Know that 357 magnum & 357 SIG are different rounds.
How about shooting a 32-20 out of a 357,?
I wouldn't recommend it. .38 Spl and .357 mag only out of a .357 mag gun.
A friend of mine just purchased her first gun. A SW 642. The gun will fire 38 +P. The gun dude sold her a box of .357 ammo. I told her not to use it. Am I missing something here ?!?!?
You are correct, the SW 642 is not rated for .357 Magnum.
Hi. Very helpful.
Next question is Can I shoot a 44/40 in a .45 But are black powder. My dilema is what to buy either the Uberti .357 magnum buntline .44/40 or .45 long colt.
Purpose is just casual target shooting and I don't want to reload! Many thanks J
I shoot the xdm 10 mm and see no info on it it also shoots 40 cal but requires cleaning good
I sure wish I knew how to get some 380 ammo. Everywhere I have checked indicated "Out of Stock." Anyone with ideas?
Clear, accurate information. Well done. But the .gif?
Freedom seeds? Go say that sh*t in Sandy Hook or Columbine. Tell that to the families of police offers killed in the line of duty. Or to the parents of the four-year old killed last week when his Dad's gun went off when they were playing. I own lots of firearms and thousands of bullets, but I don't trivialize them with stupid memes like that one. When you plant a seed, it grows. Bullets tear through whatever they hit, and are designed to kill. Birdshot and buckshot are named for what they kill. Okay, wadcutters aren't, but you get the point. I have a conceal carry permit, but I don't joke around about guns. They are serious. Not everyone should own or carry one, and those who do should respect the destructive capacity of firearms.
Ay, I second that. I live in AZ, own many guns, support the Second Amendment, but I don't share the militant / fanatical groups' interpretation and practice.
Except that literally the only thing that ultimately stands between the people and the government becoming tyrannical (read: losing freedom) is the people's right to defend themselves. Ergo, to plant freedom, bullets are the necessary seed. Some people use them in evil ways just as every apple seed contains some arsenic. Doesn't detract from the main purpose. Proper use of firearms doesn't destroy; it builds: Food/ livelihood, safety, security, and freedom for me and my family. It's not a stupid meme or a fanatical interpretation if you've been paying attention.
Preach, and misinformation.
Apples contain cyanide.
I did. I’m a Veteran. The meme is wrong in every sense. I also carry a gun everyday. It doesn’t shoot seeds, it fires heavy bullets meant to do damage. No crap, the gun is a tool to be respected.
The meme is hardly "wrong in every sense" just because it offends your sensibilities. Just because their opinion on something subjective like this differs from yours, that doesn't make it "wrong". You can argue that it might be in poor taste, but saying it's "wrong" is, well, wrong.
Taking a metaphor, or any figurative language literally doesn't reflect well upon you. So you're a super serious guy who takes everything literally. Great. Not everyone shares your opinion. People make jokes. That doesn't make them unsafe, or terrible people. Great. Get a grip.
you should do an article demystifying ammo grains, ie 115 vs 124 vs 147, for noobs like me. Is one cleaner, better for range, proves more difficult to feed for different pistols, etc. I see no real info on this besides forum talks, where ppl mouth off half of whom are over opinionated. Thanks for your site, it's been my introduction to firearms, very helpful.
Can anyone tell me if you can fire a.32 caliber bullet in a .38 hand gun?
Not safely or accurately.
Anyone know about the .17 caliber rifles ... is there any new product/rifle out that can shoot centerfire variations of the 17 caliber ..... Is there any high-capacity bullet rifles of this caliber
... I’m very interested in this caliber and I’m interested in buying a rifle I want to get one that says versatile I’d appreciate any information thank you .
There are lots of inexpensive .17 rimfire rifles out there. They got popular in the 60s, and they're dirt cheap. The Ruger M-77 is the one I am most familiar with. They're great varmint guns, and their trajectories are flat and accurate. There are a a few new AR-15 style rifles that fire .17, but I haven't used one, and I am not sure what they'd be used for.
Can a shotgun have two different bullets that can switch in the same barrell
Hi, if I'm understanding correctly, shotguns can have a variety of different shells if they are the correct gauge and length. Eg...one buckshot, then one birdshot, then one slug, etc.
We can shot a ak 47 bullets from scar heavy or any other 7.62 weapons
AK47 rounds are 7.62x39 while the SCARH and other "7.62" guns are 7.62x51mm.
Doing research for genealogy, I came across a 1928 murder/suicide. Long story involving a bigamist and a couple of her "husbands". The death reports say that only one gun was used but the shooter was shot with a 32 cal bullet and the other husband was killed with a 38 cal. I haven't been able to find out anything about the woman. The shooter was a WWI Marine veteran. I haven't found anything on the model gun, other than one newspaper referred to it as a pistol.. So do you think a 1928 pistol could shoot 32 and 38 cal bullets?
Thank you for the info. I inherited some 7.62X51mm rounds and needed to know if I could use them in my .308 Winchester rifle.
Normally you can do that but I would ask Winchester with the specific ammo to be safe.
Hey Marcus. I checked with bushmaster as I purchased An XM-15 E S in 2016. Yes it will shoot 5.56. I've shot Barnes 5.56x45 69 and 85 grain OTM BT with no issues.
I have a XM15 Bushmaster that says 5.56 .223. Can any gunsmith check the leade/throat for me, what numbers am I looking for. Are there other round that I could use for my 30-06 and 30-30.
The "Basic Bullet Guide: Sizes, Calibers, and Types" was very helpful for me.
Good article, but the .460 wasn't mentioned. If memory serves; the .460 S&W can also safely fire a .454 Casull and .45 LC. Just thought I'd throw that little addition on the end.
Hey Adam, that's great info!
You can not shoot the 460 out of the 454 I have a 454 and 45 the ragging judge pistol that shoots 45 lc and 454 casull and 410 3 inch out of the same cylinder I bought it last year at guns and ammo 800 dollars new I collect guns .460 is bigger just like the 45 a 44 mag will fit in a 45 but the 45 will not fit the 45 I have done proved that .