I JUST BOUGHT a Taurus Model 605B2 .357 wheel gun (revolver).
.38 (caliber) ammunition and .357 (caliber) ammunition have the same diameter; in other words, the gun I bought will fire both .38 and .357 bullets.
So far, so good.
.38s are less expensive to buy than .357s. The .38's also have less recoil (kick). Together this makes the .38 the preferred cartridge for target shooting.
But there is a problem.
THE PROBLEM IS SIZE.
According to a Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers' Institute (SAAMI) pressure table on the Hamdloads.Com web site, the pressures of the three cartridges are:
- 38 Special 17,000
38 Special +P 20,000
357 Magnum 35,000
There was, once, a .38 Long Colt (.38 LC) with a case length of, according to Wikipedia of 1.031 inches/26.2 mm.
The case length of a .357 cartridge, again according to Wikipedia is 1.29 inches/33 mm.
By comparison, the case length of a .38 Special is 1.155 inches/29.3 mm. Wikipedia again is the source of the information.
The .38 LC was discontinued in 1909, apparently sans tears from the soldiers who tried to hit a target with it.
The Grey Arsenal site includes an article titled Fouled Cylinder Chambers From Using .38 In .357. The article gets into detail on the problem and what is needed to remove the residue left by the short cartridge.
The article's author comments that "Even if cleaned normally after shooting .38 Spl, you still may need to go a bit further to remove this fouling. You could use a slightly oversized brass brush (for instance, a .40 S&W brush in a .357 Cylinder) soaked in solvent and just have at it for a while. A serious while. It takes A LOT of effort to remove this fouling this way."
The bottom line: Since the .357 has been around for a l-o-n-g time - since 1934 - it would seem reasonable that someone would sell a .38 Special "Long" (as well as a "+P" version) for use in .357 magnum revolvers.
It would save a lot of elbow grease and dealing with small pieces of a gun.