They say there are no dumb questions so here goes. Can 38 Special cartridges be shot in a 357 Magnum handgun. Bullit dia. is the same. Case dia. is the same, but the case length and total cartridge length are different.
.38 Specials work in the .357 same as .44 Specials may be fired in the .44 Magnum. In each instance the longer Magnum case was designed simply by lengthening the Special case. The longer case prevents accidentally chambering a Magnum in a Special, but does not prevent the reverse. There is no reason to prevent the reverse, as the Specials are all lower pressure than their Magnum counterparts.
The only drawback to shooting Specials in Magnums is lead bullets will gradually build up a ring of lead in the extra space the longer Magnum cases otherwise occupy. That can prevent chambering a Magnum cartridge or can make it very snug. You should not fire the Magnum cartridge in that instance, until you clean the deposit out of the cylinder. It can raise pressure substantially if you don't clean first, because the snug constriction prevents the case mouth from letting go of the bullet normally.
As I mentioned, the longer Magnum cases specifically prevent the accidental chambering of a Magnum in a Special chamber. That's why the extra length exists. Magnum loads were developed by overloading heavy frame Specials originally, so the Special cases are up to the task. They just didn't want to sell the high pressure rounds to someone who didn't read the box labels and wound up running them in a light gun and doing damage. So they made the new Magnum cases too long to fit in.
Yes the 38 spl can be fired in the 357 mag and the 44 spl can be fired in the 44 mag, because thay headspace on the rim, but the 380 auto can NOT be fired in the 9mm because thay headspace on the case mouth
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