I grew up in a home where watching The Lone Ranger was a very common form of entertainment. I watched episode after episode of the series with my grandfather during weekends, and I remember when I was six years old, he bought me a toy revolver. I wept when it broke years later.
When I was 10 years old I would sneak into my parents’ room whenever they’re away just to fondle the Smith & Wesson 686 hidden in my father’s nightstand, and I had my fair share of scolding from getting caught a few times but it didn’t matter. All that mattered was I get to hold the damn thing.
Fast forward to today, I’ve owned and sold a few revolvers but I still have two in my collection: one is a parkerized Rock Island M206 chambered for the .38 Special, and the other is a stainless Taurus 689 with a 6-inch barrel chambered for the venerable .357 Magnum.
I know, I know. You’d think I’m cheap because of my El Cheapo RIA and Taurus revolvers — and yes, you’re absolutely right. I never shy away from the fact that I like the cheaper and more affordable options on just about anything, from food and wine to computer hardware to firearms.
Table of Contents
- 1 My Very Own “Colt Python”
- 2 Caveats
- 3 Flicking the cylinder
- 4 Dry firing
- 5 Shooting .38 Special in a .357 Magnum revolver
- 6 Flame Cutting Worries
- 7 Revolvers more reliable than Semi-autos
- 8 Proper Reloading
- 9 Proper Grip
- 10 11. Amadeo Rossi SA (Brazil)
- 11 12. CzechPoint Alfa Proj (Czech Republic)
- 12 13. Charter Arms
- 13 Recommendations
- 14 Conclusion
My Very Own “Colt Python”
So why did I get a Taurus 689?
Well, I’ve always been a sucker for revolvers with a vented rib and full underlug, all thanks to the first Resident Evil video game that came out in 1996. It caused many nightmares and countless sleepless nights in my adolescent years, but it introduced to me the legendary Colt Python — which could easily make it to the first or second spot of our Top 10 list, if Colt didn’t stop manufacturing them some decades ago.
I have no intention of spending upwards of $2,000 on the few NIB or mint condition units still available online.
And I don’t think I can legally purchase any Colt Python copies like the Italian 1955 Model P (a Python copy supposedly going to be produced by Italian company Fap Pietta for the US market but was canceled for some reason) or the Turkish Gumusay (a Python copy produced by Turkish companies Küssan A.Ş. and MKEK but the factory was reportedly shut down).
So I had to make do with the Taurus 689, which looks similar to the Python because of its vented rib and full underlug. It’s a shameless copy of Colt’s most respected “snake gun” as far as aesthetics.
And unlike a lot of Taurus owners I know, I consider myself very lucky as I’ve never had a single issue with it. I’ve lost count of how many rounds I shot in it but then I stopped counting after emptying around 30 boxes of factory .357 Magnum rounds within the first six months of my purchase.
My Taurus 689 is a fine nightstand gun that’s as aesthetically pleasing as it’s reliable. It will get the job done. And with proper care and maintenance it should outlast me, heck my grandsons would still probably be able to shoot it someday.
But it’s no Colt Python.
So on to the subject of this article. Recently I’ve been looking up the newest .357 Magnum revolvers on the market as I’ve yet again started feeling that all too familiar “itch” to buy another one. For what purpose?
I’m not really sure yet — I could use a new revolver for backup carry or maybe for hunting whitetail or maybe just so I have another piece to brag about. Maybe I’m just like any other gun nut — I want a new piece for no particular reason other than to add to my collection.
Or maybe I’m just getting tired of staring at my Taurus 689, beautiful as it still is, and I just want a new .357 Magnum revolver for a change.
So I decided to create a list of what I think are some of the best .357 Magnum revolvers in 2018 for any budget. If you’re new to revolvers or you’re more like myself and you’re looking to make a purchase for whatever purpose, stick around. Maybe you’ll find info to help you make a good decision.
Before we kick things off, just a few words of caution for our newbie friends (feel free to skip this section of the article and jump straight to the recommendations part if you don’t consider yourself a newbie):
Flicking the cylinder
You might see people flicking their revolver’s cylinder after loading ammo in the chambers (this is very common in movies). This might look “cool” but constantly doing this will break your gun.
The weight of the cylinder (empty or loaded) can bend the yoke, i.e. that part of the crane that holds the cylinder in place and aligns it to the frame.
If the yoke is bent, the cylinder might not align with the frame, causing timing problems. Worse, the cylinder might not completely lock up when shooting. How is that, you might ask.
A revolver’s cylinder typically locks up from within these three places:
- One is via the notch in the frame where a spring-loaded tiny piece of metal (usually called the ball detent lock) locks the crane to the frame;
- The other is via the notches (or leedes) on the cylinder where another spring-loaded tiny piece of metal (often called the cylinder stop) latches on to each leede every time the cylinder rotates;
- And the last one is via the notches on the extractor where again, another tiny piece of metal (often referred to as the bolt) locks the cylinder in place.
If you noticed, all these locking mechanisms utilize tiny pieces of metal (which are commonly MIM or metal injection molding parts, i.e. not as strong as forged metal). These pieces can break with repeated flicking of the cylinder. Breaking any of these pieces will render a revolver unusable.
So whatever you do, don’t flick the cylinder when loading your revolver. It only looks cool to the ignorant and undiscerning.
My Taurus 689 manual specifies not to dry fire as it can break the transfer bar safety inside the gun. But I’ve seen a friend’s Ruger GP100 manual and it says it’s okay to dry fire the gun.
Dry firing has its benefits (whether you want to develop muscle memory for proper grip and trigger pull without spending too much on ammo or it’s just raining outside or your neighbor’s just a crybaby). But consult your gun’s manual first if you’re going to dry fire.
If it’s not on the manual and you really want to be on the safe side, consider buying or making DIY snap caps.
Shooting .38 Special in a .357 Magnum revolver
You may have heard or read somewhere that it’s safe to shoot .38 Special in a .357 Magnum revolver, and yes it is.
One great thing about .357 Magnum revolvers is you can load it with the cheapest.38 Special rounds you can find for plinking and target practice, and you can load it with full-power .357 Magnum rounds when you’re carrying it. It makes the platform cost-effective as far as ammo consumption.
But there’s a caveat to this dual-caliber feature. Since the .38 Special’s case is shorter than the .357 Magnum’s, shooting a lot of .38 Special rounds will result to lead fouling a little further back inside the chambers. If all that lead buildup isn’t thoroughly cleaned, loading the same gun with .357 Magnum ammo and firing them might result in their empty cases getting stuck in the chambers’ walls.
So if you’re looking to shoot .38 Specials in your .357 Magnum revolver, just make sure you clean it thoroughly after each shooting session.
Flame Cutting Worries
Because of the revolver’s inherent design, they’re all susceptible to flame cutting (except the old Nagant M1895 which uses a unique gas-seal system, but it fires weaker rounds and is an entirely different topic) — and there’s a never-ending debate among revolver enthusiasts as to how big or small the issue really is. But what is flame cutting?
Unlike a semi-auto handgun where the chamber (the part that holds the cartridge) is integral to the barrel (being a single piece of steel with the chamber recess machined to it), a revolver has six chambers in its rotating cylinder.
Because the cylinder has to rotate, it is an entirely separate part from the fixed barrel. As such there’s a gap between the cylinder and the rear of the barrel where the forcing cone is. This gap is aptly and commonly referred to as the cylinder gap.
The measurement of the cylinder gap varies depending on different revolver manufacturers’ specifications, but all revolvers have this gap.
Whenever a loaded revolver’s trigger is pulled, the expanding hot gases that push the bullet out of the cylinder and into the revolver’s forcing cone escapes through the cylinder gap. This results in a cosmetic damage on the bottom part of a revolver’s top strap that gets more and more visible with continued shots.
Skeptics are of the argument that flame cutting can result in a revolver’s top strap breaking, that it is usually caused by repeatedly shooting lighter (but faster) 110 gr. to 125 gr. bullets in full-power loads.
Since a lighter bullet is shorter, it supposedly leaves the cylinder gap and pushes itself into the forcing cone earlier, leaving more room for the still-expanding hot gases to escape. Shooting anything heavier than the 125 gr. (e.g. 140 gr., 158 gr.) supposedly alleviates this issue.
Optimists on the other hand claim that it’s a self-limiting problem — that, regardless of the bullet weight, as more and more of the top strap’s metal is cut by the hot gasses, eventually there will be no more metal to cut through and more space for the gases to dissipate, hence stopping the flame cutting.
In my years of owning and shooting a .357 Magnum revolver, I’ve never had to deal with flame cutting. But I only purchase 158 gr. factory ammo.
Since I’ve never shot a single 125 gr. round in my Taurus 689, I wouldn’t personally know how many rounds it would take to break its top strap via flame cutting (nor would I want to find out). And since there have been no scientific studies and tests concerning this subject, I cannot say with 100% certainty that either of the above parties is correct.
What I would recommend is, contact your manufacturer about the revolver you purchased and how susceptible it is to flame cutting, then ask them if their warranty covers replacement in case you need one. If you can’t do any of the above or you just can’t get an answer, then don’t shoot bullets lighter than 140 gr. just to be safe.
Of course, the bullet weight warning doesn’t apply to pure copper bullets — a 125-gr. copper bullet will be taller than a 125-gr. lead bullet because of the simple fact that lead has more density than copper. If you’re inclined to shoot only 125 gr. loads, then stick to pure copper bullets (they’re more expensive though — you’ve been warned).
Revolvers more reliable than Semi-autos
What’s great about revolvers is if a shot fails, the user only needs to cock the hammer and/or just pull the trigger (for SA/DA revolvers the trigger only needs to be pulled). Since the cylinder will rotate and cycle the next chamber, assuming the previous round happens to be a dud, it should fire the next round.
Some revolver purists, often to their detriment, make the claim (especially when they talk to newbies seeking advice) that revolvers are more reliable than semi-auto handguns citing just the scenario described above.
While this common claim can be true to a certain extent, it isn’t 100% accurate. Granted, a revolver doesn’t have too many moving parts (on the surface at least) compared to semi-autos, which means it doesn’t jam nearly as often.
But when a revolver does jam, it can be a real nightmare to fix — unlike with semi-autos where most FTFs and FTEs can usually be remedied by just racking the slide.
And then there’s the fact that a semi-auto’s slide and recoil springs absorb recoil, which in general, all things between the two platforms considered, makes modern semi-autos more newbie-friendly compared to revolvers.
Reloading a semi-auto is fairly simple and intuitive. You push the mag release, the mag comes out, you push a fresh mag in, rack the slide (or actuate the slide release) and you’re ready to go. Things aren’t as straightforward with revolvers.
Most people, regardless of whether they’re new or long-time revolver shooters, for some reason don’t seem to know how to properly load a revolver. It’s not uncommon to see someone who uses their weak support hand to load rounds into the chambers.
The proper way is Massad Ayoob’s “Stressfire” reload. Upon opening the cylinder and ejecting the empty cases, with the revolver’s barrel pointed downward, the weak hand’s middle and ring finger tightly holds the cylinder at an angle (avoiding the hot forcing cone) and the strong hand loads fresh rounds into the chambers. The weak hand then gently locks the cylinder back in place and aligns a loaded chamber to the barrel.
Speed strips, speed loaders and moon clips (for revolvers with a cylinder recessed to accept such) still allow for faster reload but with enough practice, the method described above allows for fast reloads without using any kind of tool because with your strong hand you can load two (even three) chambers at once.
Semi-autos don’t have that cylinder gap that revolvers have which makes them easier to grab on to. With semi-autos, the shooter can use practically any grip method they prefer (straight-thumb, cross-thumb, etc.).
With revolvers though, using the straight-thumb grip method (which allows for more stability and better recoil control in semi-autos) will result in the shooter losing a piece of skin, even flesh, on their support hand’s thumb because of the hot gases that escape from the cylinder gap. And no gloves will help.
Another thing about proper grip, when shooting .357 Magnum loads, you have to grasp the revolver grip as high up as possible for better recoil control. This will mitigate a common issue with revolvers wherein the barrel’s axis is sitting just too high up from the user’s arm (the only exception being the Chiappa Rhino, more on that below).
I mean not to disrespect the revolver platform by talking about these caveats — God knows I’ve always been in love with revolvers. I’ve had one for over a decade before I owned my first semi-auto (a custom 1911 which is itself more than a decade old). Revolvers will always have that special place in my heart. But I’m not blinded by my love for revolvers. I’m just keeping it real.
So now that we have all of the caveats out of the way, let’s get to the meat of this article.
1. Korth Arms (Germany)
Founded in the early 1950s by Willi Korth, a railway engineer, Korth-Waffen is a luxury firearms manufacturer based in Lollar, Germany. They make some of the finest pistols and revolvers for competition, but what really got me interested in their firearms is their Korth Combat, an ultra-expensive luxury revolver chambered in .357 Magnum that is supposedly more durable than the Colt Python and sold for $4,700 in the early 2000s.
Nicknamed the Rolls Royce of revolvers, each Korth takes about four months to build, and unlike most of the other revolver brands and models on this list which use MIM parts, Korth’s parts are hand ground out of forged deep hardened proprietary steel.
All Korth revolvers are custom made for each customer, and all parts are hand fitted with care, giving them unrivaled durability and accuracy even after 50,000 rounds. The luxurious deep blueing on these revolvers is so strong that it reportedly doesn’t need solvent to clean lead and powder residue from continuous firing of up to 300 rounds.
This makes Korth’s some of the rarest and most expensive revolvers on this list. If you’d like to know more, here’s a somewhat dated but still relevant write-up which has all the info you’ll need just to give a bit of a background.
Nighthawk Custom, a specialty 1911 manufacturer, teamed up with Korth-Waffen to produce three new Korth revolvers intended for the US market — two of which are chambered for the .357 Magnum: the Mongoose and the Super Sport. Both are medium-frame, 6-shot revolvers that feature a polished trigger assembly, combat trigger, skeletonized hammer, Hogue rubber grips and a matte blued finish Nighthawk refers to as “DLC”.
The Mongoose has an optional cylinder that allows it to shoot 9x19mm Parabellum rounds with no moon clips required. It’s available in 3.5-inch-, 4-inch-, 5.25-inch- and 6-inch- barrel configurations.
Both models’ barrel and cylinder are machined from ASIS 4340 billet steel while the frame is milled from ASIS 4140 billet steel.
It might not be as expensive as the Korth Combat revolver but for $3,499, the Mongoose screams unprecedented craftsmanship, durability and accuracy through and through, not to mention Korth’s reputation and the bragging rights that come with owning one of their guns.
I wouldn’t recommend the Super Sport as I feel like for $4,799, it’s just way too expensive for any purpose outside of revolver shooting competitions. The accessory rails on both sides of the barrel and the top strap allow for mounting several attachments (laser, flashlight and scope) all at once, but I really don’t see the point.
I could easily buy a 7-shot S&W 686 and have Glenn Custom convert it to a PPC revolver for $800 if I wanted something similar at around 1/3 of the Super Sport’s price.
As for the Mongoose, it can be considered a hard sell but if money isn’t an issue, don’t bother taking a look at the other revolvers on this list and just buy it. The Mongoose is the crème de la crème — literally the best wheelgun your money can buy.
2. Chapuis Armes (France)
Like Korth Combat revolvers, Manurhin revolvers are the stuff of legends, specifically the MR73. The Manurhin factory museum has an MR73 used by the GIGN (the elite police tactical unit of the French National Gendarmerie) on exhibit that has a round count of 96,000 full-power .357 Magnum. This round count is only rivaled by Korth revolvers (and properly built pre-1972 Colt Pythons).
Manurhins aren’t as expensive as Korths though, which is why among the really passionate (and rich) revolver enthusiasts, Korths might be considered the best revolvers in the world but Manurhins are considered the best practical revolvers in the world.
Designed and developed by Chapuis Armes of France, these revolvers are robustly built and guaranteed to be pinpoint accurate out to 25 meters. The specific model we recommend, the stainless MR88, is a 6-shot revolver with a frame and cylinder release that resemble those of Ruger GP100 revolvers (because they purchased the rights to use Ruger’s proprietary investment casting process).
The MR88 is available in 3-inch, 4-inch, 5.25-inch and 6-inch barrel configurations. There is no pricing data available from the manufacturer’s website but I recently emailed them and got a reply from a gentleman named Pierre Laurent. He informed me that the only US importer of these revolvers is Kebco LLC of Hanover, Pennsylvania.
I forwarded the inquiry to Kebco LLC and got a reply from another gentleman by the name of Ken Buch. He told me they will have some 6-inch MR88s available this coming summer and it costs $1,600. It will be delivered straight to my FFL and they’ll require a 50% deposit to reserve one for me.
Given the reputation of these Manurhins for strength and accuracy, I wouldn’t hesitate to shell out $1,600 if money wasn’t a concern (my wife would kill me if I did though, so sadly, no Manurhin for me).
3. Dan Wesson Firearms
Can it be just a coincidence that this firearms manufacturer’s name sounds very much like their competitor, Smith & Wesson? If you think it can’t be, that there might be a story behind its name, then you’re right.
Daniel B. Wesson, one of Smith & Wesson’s founders, had a great-grandson named in his honor, Daniel B. Wesson II. Daniel II worked for Smith & Wesson from 1938 onward and left when the company was purchased by a corporation many Taurus fans are familiar with: Bangor-Punta (more on this later).
Upon leaving the family-owned company, Daniel II founded a new company called Dan Wesson Arms which has a long history. To make it short, they had developed numerous revolvers well known for their extreme levels of accuracy, but at some point in the 90s they stopped production of these revolvers as they went bankrupt. After some more financial trouble, in 2005 they were purchased by CZ-USA.
CZ semi-auto pistols have gained quite a reputation over the years that in late 2014, CZ-USA decided to try their luck in the revolvers market. They started producing a new version of the model 15-2 — the best selling production revolver Dan Wesson Arms had built.
The new production was christened the Dan Wesson 715. Retailing for $1,558, the 715 is one of the more expensive revolvers on this list. It only comes in a single configuration: its frame and 6-inch barrel are cast from stainless steel, it has Hogue rubber grips and unique to its design is its proprietary forward crane latch.
All other revolvers on this list have the cylinder release mounted on the rear of the frame but the 715’s is located is on the crane, which CZ-USA claims contributes greatly to its accuracy (the same crane latch design can be found as an additional cylinder locking feature on Taurus’ heavier Raging Bull series revolvers though).
But what’s so awesome about the 715 is with a single revolver, you can have multiple different barrel lengths. Other revolvers have fixed barrels, but the 715’s barrel can be detached from the frame (after using the included barrel wrench tool to loosen its barrel shroud), allowing for a shorter or longer barrel and shroud assembly to be installed.
The 715 Pistol Pack will set you back $1,999 but aside from the pre-installed 6-inch barrel, it also comes in a hard case that has the barrel wrench tool and additional 4-inch and 8-inch barrel and shroud assemblies.
4. Armi Sport de Chiappa (Italy)
If you thought the EAA Windicator on this list is ugly, next to the Chiappa Rhino it’s not at all bad looking. At least that’s what a lot of people I know would say.
Designed and developed by six-decades-old Italian firearms manufacturer Armi Sport de Chiappa, the Chiappa Rhino is a unique take on revolvers, so much so that it’s the only revolver on this list that has the barrel in the 6 o’clock position.
Conventional designs typically have the revolver barrel in the 12 o’clock position, which naturally leads to muzzle flip upon firing (more so with .357 Magnum rounds) because the barrel is positioned high above the top of the shooter’s hand. More muzzle flip means slower recovery time which leads to slower follow-up shots.
The Rhino isn’t the first revolver with its barrel in the 6 o’clock position, but it was designed by the same Italian guy who designed all the others that came before it — Emilio Ghisoni. The Mateba revolver, his penultimate brainchild, was the first to really popularize this concept.
With the Rhino barrel’s positioning and its high grip greatly lowering the bore axis, recoil can be easily controlled and there will be less muzzle flip, allowing for faster follow-up shots.
Unfortunately, because of all the mechanical alterations to the design, it has this weird rhino-ish look that a lot of revolver enthusiasts don’t like (though most non-enthusiasts see it as futuristic — it even already made its way into a few Hollywood films like this one).
Also, the Rhio’s hammer doesn’t work the same as the conventional revolver’s hammer does (again because the barrel is sitting really low). And for all of its design’s ingenuity, it still won’t beat the Medusa.
But whichever way you look at it, one thing’s for certain. It has the best handling of all the revolvers ever made, bar none. If you’re a first-time .357 Magnum revolver shooter, you’ll find taming the .357 Magnum’s recoil easy with this piece.
These 6-shot, hexagonal-cylinder Rhino revolvers are available in 2-inch, 3-inch, 4-inch, 5-inch and 6-inch barrel lengths and in black anodized, nickel-plated, and “gold” finish, with prices ranging from $1,089 to $1,652 depending on the particular configuration. Considering that these guns are designed to shoot fast, I’d highly recommend the snub-nose model as a CCW.
5. Kimber Manufacturing
Everyone knows Kimber. They make some of the more expensive production 1911s and while a lot of people love them, I personally know a few who hate them to their core. They’re nothing like Taurus though — in general, their products are of relatively high quality and they don’t compete in any budget segment of firearms.
In the January 2016 SHOT Show, Kimber announced that for the first time, they are stepping into the .357 Magnum revolvers market with the launch of their K6s series DAO revolvers developed solely for concealed carry.
All K6s revolvers come completely dehorned (i.e. there are no sharp edges anywhere so it doesn’t snag clothing). Most notably, these revolvers are only slightly larger than its more established small-frame concealed-carry counterparts on this list (i.e. the S&W 360 and the Ruger SP101) but it holds 6 rounds instead of just 5.
Also, these K6s revolvers were initially only available in 2-inch barrel lengths, but just this year Kimber announced that they are producing 3-inch barrel variants. Depending on the finish, the type of grips installed and the barrel length, the K6s revolvers can cost anywhere from $850 to $1,100.
6. Smith & Wesson
I wouldn’t bother discussing Smith & Wesson’s background as a company as theirs is a household name in the world of firearms — everyone has heard about them at some point. Of the three big revolver manufacturers in the US (the other two being Ruger and Taurus — sorry, Colt, you’re not included), Smith & Wesson sells some of the more expensive mid-priced revolvers on our list.
We have three specific models to recommend from Smith & Wesson, the first of which is the Model 360 which is a 5-shot small-frame snub nose. Its unfluted cylinder is machined from stainless steel coated with PVD finish making it highly corrosion resistant.
The Model 360 uses a scandium alloy frame that makes it lightweight but strong enough to handle the most powerful .357 Magnum loads, and it has round-butt synthetic grips for comfort. If you want a lightweight CCW piece that is light enough to carry with your person all day, for $770 this is arguably the best option on this list.
Our second Smith & Wesson recommendation is the Model 686, which comes in a 6-shot and a 7-shot version (the one with the PLUS suffix). The Model 686 is one of the most common S&W revolvers out there and enthusiasts swear by them.
Size wise it’s technically not a medium frame revolver — it’s larger than conventional medium frame (S&W K-Frame) revolvers but a tad smaller than true large (S&W N-Frame) frame revolvers. But its weight and solid construction help in soaking up recoil. And it shouldn’t have too much of a problem with flame cutting because of its thick top strap (though again it’ll be safer to only sparingly shoot 125 gr. bullets).
Both the Model 686 and Model 686 PLUS are in stainless steel and both are available in 2.5-inch-, 3-inch-, 4.125-inch- and 6-inch-barrel length configurations, with the PLUS variant being the better buy simply because it only costs $20 more (the 6-shot retails for $829 while the 7-shot PLUS variant retails for $849).
My last Smith & Wesson recommendation is their Model 627 revolvers in their Performance Center line of pistols. These are all built on Smith & Wesson’s N-Frame (which is usually within the .44 Magnum revolver weight class). Having a large frame means these revolvers can accommodate a bigger cylinder which holds 8 rounds of .357 Magnum.
These 8-shot wheelguns represent some of Smith and Wesson’s top-end models, the lowest-priced being the 4-inch-barrel Performance Center PRO Series at $999, followed by the snub-nosed 2.625-inch-barrel version at $1,079, then there’s the 5-inch-barrel version with classy wood grips at $1,289, and the M327 TRR8 (Tactical Rail Revolver 8-shot) that retails for $1,329 which I personally think is too big and cumbersome for its intended “tacticool” purpose.
7. Sturm, Ruger & Co.
Every revolver guy I know loves Ruger. They have a reputation for building the thickest-framed, heaviest, sturdiest revolvers that can withstand even the hottest .357 Magnum loads, whether we’re talking factory ammo or the original Keith load (173 gr. at 1,400 fps).
The common expression “Rugers are built like a tank” is no exaggeration, as Ruger revolvers have significantly thicker frames compared to their competitors which makes them unique. Another Ruger-only feature that contributes to these revolvers’ strength is the fact that they don’t have a removable side plate.
All single-piece solid frames are formed via Ruger’s patented investment casting process. Granted, they’re cast and not forged (forged metal is always stronger than cast), but Ruger has perfected the process over decades that at one point, French firearms manufacturing company Chapuis Armes bought Ruger’s patent to build their own revolvers.
We wholeheartedly recommend three revolvers from Ruger: their small-frame 5-shot SP101; their medium-frame GP100; and their large-frame Redhawk which was originally designed and built for the .44 Magnum but since last year was also released for the .357 Magnum.
The SP101 revolver has been a popular choice among hikers and campers as a trail gun with the original models only available in two barrel length options: the 2-1/4 inch Model 5718, and the 3-1/16 inches Model 5719. Both are priced at $719.
These early small-frame models have fixed rear sights, but a few years ago Ruger added another model to their SP101 line which has adjustable rear sights, fiber optic front sights and a longer 4-1/5-inch barrel: the Model 5771, which retails for $769.
The GP100 is well-known among revolver enthusiasts as the successor to the Ruger Security Six, itself a robustly-built 6-shot SA/DA revolver priced just right. It’s been around for decades but just in the third quarter of last year, Ruger introduced 7-shot GP100 models.
The GP100 is available in several different barrel length configurations (2.5-inch, 3-inch, 4.2-inch, 5-inch and 6-inch) but we find that the longer 4-inch-, 5-inch- and 6-inch-barrel options have better balance compared to the shorter barrel ones. In general, a stainless GP100 6-shot costs $829 while a stainless GP100 7-shot costs $899 ($50 more expensive than its Smith & Wesson counterpart, the 686 PLUS).
If seven shots of from the newest GP100 isn’t enough or if you simply want the biggest Ruger revolver in .357 Magnum, then you might find their Redhawk line of revolvers in .357 Magnum more appealing.
Also released later last year, the Ruger Redhawk chambered for .357 Magnum are available in three different barrel lengths: 2.75 inches, 4.2 inches and 5.5 inches, all variants are priced the same at $1,079.
Like the competing 8-shot Smith & Wesson, I personally think Redhawk revolvers are too big for the .357 Magnum but if you need more recoil control for some reason, the extra weight will help.
8. Forjas Taurus (Brazil)
Talking further about the conglomerate Bangor-Punta purchasing Smith & Wesson in 1965, in 1970 the same conglomerate purchased 54% of Forjas Taurus, a firearms manufacturer then based in São Leopoldo, a city within the state of Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil.
Both having the same parent company, Smith & Wesson and Taurus would freely share technology and manufacturing methodologies in the next seven years. A new Brazilian ownership took over full control in 1977 when Forjas Taurus was purchased back from Bangor-Punta, and from then until recently, Taurus has been manufacturing revolvers that are similar to Smith & Wesson in form and function.
Today, Taurus is shaping up to be one of the most innovative firearms manufacturers company in the world as they come up with new weapon designs almost every year. But their reputation as a company isn’t like any of the others’ on this list. They’re the type that people either like so much or hate so much (I personally lean a tad bit toward the former — I can’t say I like them 100%).
Depending on how lucky you are, you can get a fully functional, no-frills, aesthetically pleasing piece of Brazilian craftsmanship at significantly less than its expensive brand-name (i.e. Smith & Wesson and Beretta) counterpart — or you can get a very expensive paperweight not too different from those your local Saturday Night Special dealer sells that even with Taurus’ no-questions-asked Lifetime Repair policy, you’d wish you never purchased.
Yes, there’s always that risk of getting a lemon no matter which company you buy from but that risk is somewhat higher when buying a Taurus, at least as far as I’m aware. Then again, the higher the risk, the higher the reward. If you’re a risk taker, we can recommend three Taurus .357 Magnum revolver models.
The Taurus 617 is a medium-frame stainless steel snub nose revolver with a 2-inch barrel and a 7-shot cylinder. It has fixed rear and front sights and black rubber grips and for $589 it’s around 18% cheaper than the Ruger SP101 but it offers 40% more ammo capacity.
The Taurus 692 is the newest revolver on this list, just recently making its debut in the 2018 SHOT Show. I was going to recommend the medium-frame 7-shot Taurus Tracker 627 (which I’ve known forever — I used to own one) but upon seeing how the 692 is a little different (in that it’s still a 7-shot revolver but it comes with an additional cylinder chambered for the 9x19mm Parabellum), I decided to recommend the latter instead.
At the time of this article’s writing, the 692 is reportedly not yet in stock everywhere so if you’re itching to get a 7-shot Taurus with a 4-inch or a 6-inch barrel, you might want to look into the Tracker 627. It retails for $709. But if you’re willing to wait it out (maybe give it a year tops), the Taurus 692 in the 3-inch or the 6-inch barrel configuration (matte black or stainless steel) should sell for only $659.
But as with its direct Smith & Wesson and Ruger competitors (S&W 627 and Ruger Redhawk in .357 Magnum), I think it’s too big for the cartridge and for whatever its intended purpose is. And seeing how no one really likes this model, I wouldn’t really bother with it.
9. Sarsilmaz Firearms Industry (Turkey)
The first time I heard of Sarsilmaz was in January of 2012. I was scouring the web for the newest revolver brands on the market and got a bit of info on their SR-38 (which back then didn’t have that model number).
Based in Düzce, Turkey, Sarsilmaz is reportedly the only private institution in the country that produces small arms in large quantities for military and law enforcement use. Founded in 1880 when Turkey was still a part of the Ottoman Empire, they’re one of the oldest and largest firearms manufacturers in the country. Their guns are of such good quality that they export to 66 countries worldwide.
It took around five years for the SR38 to make it to the US — maybe the ATF really took their time approving the importation and sale of these revolvers (because let’s face it, some Americans don’t like Turks). As far as I’m aware, the SR-38 only started becoming widely available last year via TR Imports from Texas.
If you’re not bothered by the fact that it’s made in Turkey (I know some aren’t), the SR-38 looks and feels and shoots like a 6-shot Smith & Wesson 686. It’s got all the bells and whistles: the fully adjustable rear sights, the Hogue-like rubber grips, the barrel rib and underlug design, the cylinder release button, even the leaf spring used as its mainspring. It also has an all-steel construction and its weight really helps soak up recoil.
So far, all the reviews on this newcomer are positive. Check out this review by sootch00 for more info. All in all, I think this is a beautiful, solidly built revolver that will get the job done for significantly less than the cost of a 6-shot 686.
The SR-38 is available in blued and stainless finish with 4-inch and 6-inch barrel configurations. Blued models regardless of barrel length (SKUs SR38-357-4 and SR38-357-6) cost $481, while stainless models, again regardless of barrel length (SKU: SR38-357-4-SS and SR38-357-6-SS) cost $558.
10. EAA Corp.
Unlike the other brands on this list, EAA Corp. (European-American Armory Corporation) is not a firearms manufacturer. Rather, they’re an importer of firearms manufactured from different European countries. They are well known in the semi-auto handguns market for importing the Italian-made Tanfoglio 9mm pistols (in the US these are sold under the EAA Witness brand).
The revolver they import and market under their EAA Windicator brand is manufactured by Hermann Weihrauch, a firearms manufacturing company based in Mellrichstadt, Bavaria, Germany. Founded in 1899, Hermann Weihrauch is well known for their solidly-built target/sporting air rifles, air pistols and all sorts of firearms.
With its 6-shot cylinder and heavy construction, the EAA Windicator (known locally in Germany as the HW 357) is one ugly revolver in my opinion. The manufacturer attempted a vented-rib look but the vents look wrong (they aren’t even real vents — they don’t allow for air to flow through the top of the barrel because they don’t have holes), the rubber grips look God-awful and the cylinder release looks like a piece of serrated metal hastily screwed onto the frame.
But as EAA Corp. claims, “It not the sleekest, or the lightest, or even the prettiest, but the Windicator is ready when you need it!” This revolver is a beater, built to shoot every time the trigger is pulled. Just read through the comments on this blog post — people who own the EAA Windicator have a lot of nice things to say about it.
The EAA Windicator is available in 2-inch or 4-inch barrel configurations with a choice of blued and stainless steel finish. The 2-inch barrel blued model (SKU 770130) sells for $373 and the 4-inch barrel blued model (SKU 770133) sells for $392, while the 2-inch barrel stainless steel model (SKU 770127) sells for $442 and the 4-inch barrel stainless steel model (SKU 770128) sells for $458.
If you’re looking for the best bargain-basement type deals on .357 Magnum revolvers and you don’t mind buying things not made in America, these are some of the best you’ll ever find.
11. Amadeo Rossi SA (Brazil)
I couldn’t get much info online about Rossi, the only thing I know is they were founded in the Brazilian city of São Leopoldo (the same city where Taurus originated) in 1889 which means they’ve been around longer than Taurus, and they manufacture shotguns, youth rifles, revolver rifles (like the Circuit Judge) and revolvers chambered for .38 Special and .357 Magnum.
Their production line of revolvers and handguns were acquired by Taurus sometime in 2008, and Taurus manufactures Rossi’s .357 Magnum revolvers under contract with them. This explains why, like Taurus, people either like Rossi so much or hate them so much.
Rossi only has three .357 Magnum revolver models available, all of which have a 6-shot cylinder. Unlike all the other brands’ revolver models on this list, Rossi revolvers aren’t available in different barrel length configurations and finish.
The stainless R92706 has a 6-inch barrel with adjustable rear sight, retailing for $429; the blued R97104 has a 4-inch barrel with adjustable rear sight, retailing for $399; while the R46202 is a 2-inch snub nose model with fixed rear sight, also in stainless finish, retailing for $359.
I personally wouldn’t bother with any of these revolvers as there are cheaper and more reliable options available (like the Sarsilmaz and EAA Corp. offerings on this list). But if these are the only revolvers available in your LGS and you really need one, or if you already happen to have one, it might be a relief to know that they have a pretty good warranty policy.
As long as your revolver has the “Braztech Int’l L.C. Miami, FL USA” stamp, then Rossi has you covered with their Revolver Lifetime Repair Policy (being related to Taurus, it’s no surprise they offer the same type of warranty policy). Hopefully, whatever problem your Rossi revolver has is fixable. If not, then unfortunately you have an expensive paperweight.
12. CzechPoint Alfa Proj (Czech Republic)
I’ve been reading about these revolvers since 2010. They’re manufactured by Alfa Proj based in Brno, the second largest city in Czech Republic which is a country well known for producing some of the best firearms in the world. I recently did a write-up on a handgun being touted as the most powerful double-stack semi-auto in the world — it originates from the same city and is even named after it.
Sadly, if you were looking to get info on any of these Alfa Proj .357 Magnum revolvers and you end up reading this article, I regretfully have to tell you that I can’t recommend them.
For one thing, they’re not in stock on the importer’s website (CzechPoint). Another reason is I’ve read this review by GunTests. It’s a very detailed review comparing a Smith & Wesson 686 to an Alfa Proj revolver.
After reading it, I’ve never been so disappointed. These revolvers are supposed to work great because they’re from the Czech Republic. But apparently, some of the parts can break and there are tool marks that can be seen all over the recoil shield.
Granted, the review I referenced is old, and there’s this other review by a guy on YouTube who seems pretty happy with his purchase. But still, I think an SR-38 or an EAA Windicator would be a better deal for around the same price. I can only hope that these Alfa Proj revolvers are better 11 years after that horrible review came out — I just love the way they look.
13. Charter Arms
An American firearms manufacturer based in Shelton, Connecticut, Charter Arms has been around since 1964. The company was founded by a gun designer, Doug McClenahan, who reportedly worked for Colt, High Standard and Ruger before starting his own business.
As just another firearms manufacturer with a long history, I will not go too deep with Charter Arms’ background as a company. They state on their website that their company is 100% American-owned — and all their products are American-designed, American-made using American parts. I’ll take their word for it.
If you’re looking for a budget wheelgun but find it difficult to buy anything made outside of the US, then Charter Arms might be an option. Their Mag Pug line of revolvers chambered for the .357 Magnum all have a 5-shot cylinder and a stainless steel finish.
Prices are within the $400 range but they have a particular model 73524 selling for $609 fitted with Crimson Trace laser grips. There’s a Mag Pug with 4.2-inch barrel (model 73542) that sells for $470 but for some reason, there’s no picture of it on their website (I believe it’s the Target model).
Beware though. Like some of the other brands on this list that are geared toward budget-minded folks, the Mag Pug (and Charter Arms products in general) suffers from a bad reputation. The gun is highly inaccurate, often shooting way too low — up to 5 inches lower — from point of aim.
Some people like the Mag Pug, others hate them. The general consensus is the quality of Charter Arms’ revolvers is so-so. If you want to buy an All-American revolver but you don’t want to risk spending $400 on a piece that won’t work as intended, just save up another $300 and get yourself a Ruger SP101 (if you’re lucky maybe you can find one for around the same price, like the one on this ad).
All in all, we looked at 23 revolver models from 13 different manufacturers.
Here are our Top 10 picks for 2018:
- Nighthawk/Korth Mongoose (the Rolls Royce of revolvers, also shoots 9mm)
- Manurhin MR88 (the Korth’s and Colt Python’s rival in durability from France)
- Dan Wesson 715 (offers the option to change barrels)
- Chiappa Rhino (most innovative design, easiest to handle)
- S&W 686 PLUS (still the top American brand with 7 shots to boot)
- S&W 627 (when 7 shots are not enough)
- Ruger GP100 (the stronger and beefier S&W 686 PLUS’ counterpart)
- Ruger Redhawk (the stronger and beefier S&W 627 counterpart)
- Taurus 692 (can shoot .357 Magnum, .38 Special and 9mm, also has 7 shots)
- Sarsilmaz SR38 (new kid on the block that wows everyone, including me)
Coincidentally, the above-listed revolvers all have barrel length configurations longer than 4 inches, which means for hunting, you can’t go wrong with any of our Top 10 picks.
Some of these revolvers already have a vent rib or come out of the factory drilled and tapped for attaching a scope mount, others don’t. But I doubt mounting a scope would be a problem. The cheapest SR38, being a S&W 686 clone, should be able to use a S&W 686 scope mount without too many problems.
The .357 Magnum can easily take deer, even up to 133 yards as demonstrated by Fred Eichler, a renowned handgun hunter. What’s important when shopping for a hunting revolver is the barrel length. I’d want a barrel length minimum of at least five inches for accuracy but generally I’d just go with a six-inch barrel.
For Concealed Carry
If you want a revolver for concealed carry, we can only recommend these models:
- Chiappa Rhino with 2” barrel
- Kimber K6s with 2” barrel
- S&W 360
- Ruger SP101 with 2.25” barrel
- Taurus 617 7-shot
- EAA Windicator with 2” barrel
I would say for a CCW piece, carrying a ultra-compact or a sub-compact semi-auto makes more sense because it is smaller, lighter and have more ammo capacity. By its design, .357 Magnum revolvers just aren’t as easy to carry concealed. If you’re carrying one concealed, you’ll want a revolver with a 2-inch barrel so you can easily conceal it.
That isn’t to say 4-inch barrel revolvers can’t be concealed. It can be done. It’s just not going to be easy.
Of the six CCW recommendations, the most affordable option is the EAA Windicator, the one with the highest ammo capacity is the Taurus 617 and the lightest is the S&W 360 (which allows you to carry it all day without getting sore, but it will have the worst recoil).
For all other things
If you’re looking for a general purpose beater gun that you can put in the car’s glove compartment, in a backpack while hiking or in a tackle box while fishing, we would recommend any of the revolvers we looked at that has a 3-inch or a 4-inch barrel.
I’m particularly biased toward these three because they’re the most affordable (I wouldn’t weep over any of these if they were stolen or something):
- Taurus 692 with 3” barrel
- Sarsilmaz SR38 with 4” barrel
- EAA Windicator with 4” barrel
If you want a high-end revolver for range shooting and competitions that can double up as a night stand gun for home defense, just get the most expensive revolver you can buy. I would personally pick between the MR88 and the Dan Wesson 715 for those purposes but it really depends on your budget.
There are hundreds (maybe even more than a thousand) of good .357 Magnum revolvers out there. It’s just impossible to cover them all in a single write-up.
If there’s a particular revolver brand or model that you’re interested in but wasn’t covered in this article, feel free to comment down below. We’ll help you decide if it’s a good fit.
As for me, it took me a few weeks to gather all the info on this article and complete the whole write-up. It was exhausting. But with all the wonderful .357 Magnum revolver options on the market today, I knew that making recommendations was going to be really tough.
Then again, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Having more than a few options to choose from is always good for us consumers because we get to choose. And with choice, there is power.