The 357SIG Cartridge

I purchased my first pistol chambered in 357SIG in late 1995 or early 1996.  It was a SIG Sauer P229.  I had purchased it after reading about the cartridge/gun combination in Velocity magazine.  I bought the gun and loved shooting it.  After a while, it became really expensive to feed, and it was traded for something else to which I don’t remember what.  Over the years, I have purchased guns chambered in 357SIG, kept them a while, and traded them off or sold them.  I have always been enamored with the cartridge, but the not the cost.

To look at the origin, the 357SIG cartridge was created through a collaborative effort between SIG Sauer and Federal Cartridge company.  The goal was to take a 125 grain bullet and equal the performance of the old 125 grain .357 Magnum loads.  The end result was a bottle necked cartridge that married a .40 Smith and Wesson brass and basically a 9mm bullet, of sorts.  Through this arrangement, the 357SIG achieved velocities in the 1400 foot per second range consistently.

The cartridge took off with several law enforcement agencies.  It is still in use by some today, and those agencies seem very happy with its performance.

The problems with the cartridge is and seems to always be cost and availability.  While the 357SIG is still used by major agencies, availability of ammunition never really seemed to catch up for the casual user.  The .40 Smith and Wesson and 9mm still remain king in terms of price and availability.  The cool part is that most firearms can easily be changed from .40 to 357SIG with the change of only a few parts.

I always liked the 357SIG.  A 9mm sized handgun in a cartridge that is always a crowd pleaser.

This entry was posted in Ammunition, Modern Service Pistols, Review and tagged , by Jerry Jones. Bookmark the permalink.

About Jerry Jones

Jerry Jones has been a Sheriff's Deputy in Kentucky since 1996. Jerry is currently assigned as a patrol deputy, firearms instructor and senior operator/training supervisor with a multi jurisdictional tactical team. Jerry is Kentucky POST certified to teach firearms, SWAT, and sniper operations and deployment at the Academy level. Jerry is also the President/CEO of Operation Specific Training and the Law Enforcement Representative for Apex Tactical Specialties.

16 thoughts on “The 357SIG Cartridge

  1. My agency issued the 357 Sig for twelve years. Fine cartridge and very accurate but the cost and muzzle blast were excessive. We also experienced pistols going down with broken parts (we did not replace key parts such as the RSA when needed, shame on us.) In regards to the muzzle report I ended up using double ear protection on range days, and on in door ranges I would still get headaches after a full day of running the range. We went to the 40 S&W (as did the other agencies in my area using the 357 Sig) and it is easier training new people with less experience and night training was much easier without the fireball. I still carry a firearm chambered in 357 Sig as an off duty gun.

  2. Let me suggest another reason why it may not have caught on:

    I have two friends who are instructors for a large Federal agency near me. Both of them have decades of experience as firearms instructors, and are also active shooters and trainers outside of their employment.
    They related to me that the wear and tear on the issued guns (Sig 229) is far greater in .357 Sig than either 9mm or .40 in the same or similar guns. While an agency can absorb the added costs of both ammo and earlier repair/replacement of guns, (hey, it’s not their money) many shooters cannot.

  3. Jerry, what does the 357 Sig brings to the table?

    Currently FBI is moving back to 9 mm. Here’s allegedly their argumentation:

    For discussion sake, please excuse me for posting a link to this interesting (and relevant to the topic) article, I’m sure most readers have seen it before:

  4. With the general consensus these days being that all service pistol cartridges with modern loads and properly constructed bullets are close to the same in on target performance the sig cartridge seems destined to fade away. With reloading challenges from the bottleneck case , ammo and brass availability limited at times all to add about 200 fps or less over a +p+ 9mm, does not seem worth the effort.
    Another thing that was a big part of the 357 revolver cartridges performance was the use of ammo where there was a lot of soft exposed lead at the tip of the bullet which is not possible with the auto loads.

  5. “The problems with the cartridge is and seems to always be cost and availability. ”

    I will disagree with this somewhat. The real problem is that .357 Sig doesn’t bring any real world advantages in terminal performance over 9mm /.40, certainly not enough to offset the traditional high velocity disadvantages (difficulty to master, cost, report/muzzle flash, increased chamber pressures and consequent high slide velocities causing excessive wear, etc.). Not to mention its role is pretty much limited to shooting people, with none of the hunting and target/sport versatility of the venerable .357 Mag. And it has a long,long way to go before it achieves the beloved cult status of the long cases (.38 Super, 9 x 21 and 9 x 23) amongst the competition inclined. And as a duty round it makes about as much sense as dropping a 426 race hemi into a cruiser that doesn’t have D.A.R.E. plastered all over it.

  6. why not reload? I do and it cuts the cost by at least 50-60%. it gets hard sometimes finding actual 357 sig bullets but its worth the wait and trouble…

  7. A question I’ve pondered and never seen discussed:
    How does the .357 Sig compare to the .38 Super?

    • Very similar, if the same bullets are used. However the .38 Super is longer and will not fit the typical 9mm/40 frame. The .38 Super is usually in the same frame as a .45, i.e. 1911s.

      • Thank you, James.
        I thought the performance would be similar. Didn’t think about the cartridge length.

  8. We had two guys switch to .357 Sig. There are in the top 10% of shooters at my agency. They quickly reverted to what they were using before.

    Cons of .357 Sig:
    -fewer rounds in the pistol than 9mm
    -excessive blast, noise, recoil making it harder/slower to shoot well than both 9 and .40
    -not any significantly greater penetration that top of the line 9mm
    -cost, availability
    -wear and tear on guns (it’s simple physics)

    ?????????? Are there any VALID reasons?

    • The valid reason is “Why not”?
      The “Caliber WARS” arguments are always all or none. If someone WANTS to shoot a different caliber, and can shoot it well, why not? I don’t see a thing wrong with them spending their money on what they want no matter what I think. I have always liked the performance of the cartridge. The “it doesn’t matter what the caliber all bullets are the same” argument can’t tarnish what the 357SIG offers in the terms of barrier penetration, and terminal ballistics.
      On the topic of felt recoil, the 357SIG is actually much easier to shoot than the .40, as it is not as “snappy” as what the .40 has to offer. The recoil is much more of a push, than the violent snap that some .40 pistols. This is so in the SIG P-Series pistols most notably the P229.

      These topics quickly devolve into all or none arguments. The 357SIG can be shot quite well. So if a person so chooses, why not?

      As I said above, I just can’t afford it. But, I’m not going to bag on those who can.

  9. I took the Sig Academy bullets and vehicles course recently. I was shooting my issued P229 in .357Sig (125gr speer GDHP), everyone else was shooting assorted 9mm, .40 and .45 of various types. We shot through winshields first. Out of all the rounds, my .357sig showed the leastl deviation between point of aim and point of impact after passing through windshield glass. In fact there was very little deviation. All other calibers experienced a SIGNIFICANT vertical deviation from POA. So much so in fact that you would really have needed to alter your POA significantly to have hit center mass. We then shot through the vehicle side panels from driver side through to passenger side. The .357SiG exhibited a much greater ability to penetrate multiple vehicle body panels. Granted this was only one course with one type of ammo, but I was pretty satisfied with the results. If you’re looking for pure penetration I believe .357sig is the way to go. As far as terminal results/ expansion compared to other calibers, thats a question I cant answer.

    • If everyone was using the same, quality, bullet, then you might be able to draw valid comparisons. E.g. everyone using Fed HST, or Win SXT, etc.

      The problem with shooting cars is that they are not uniform. If shooter A hits only sheet metal with cartridge Z, but shooter B hits the window crank mechanism with cartridge X, then everyone concludes Z is better.

  10. When discussing these non-standard cartridges (.45 GAP, .357 Sig, 10mm, etc), people need to remember the cost needs to figure into their choices.

    It takes live fire to develop and maintain skill. That unicorn cartridge does you little good if you can’t afford to practice with it. Plus, these all have more recoil than standard cartridges, so they demand MORE skill, which demands MORE practice.

    A review on some online ammo price trackers found the cheapest .357 Sig new ammo was 64 cents per round, whereas reman ammo was 42 cents.

    As a point of comparison, 9mm new is 20 cents and reman was found for 19 cents.

    All the above was brass cased.

  11. It is not just ammo cost that is a factor, but also availability; most large ammo vendors only make a small amount of 357 Sig each year, compared to the much vaster quantities of 9mm and other service calibers.

    As we’ve discussed before–In both our testing and that done by the FBI, there was no major differences in terminal performance when assessing the better performing loads in 9mm compared to .357 Sig. For example, when firing through heavy clothing, automotive steel panels, automobile windshield glass, interior wall segments, exterior wall segments, and plywood, both the .357 Sig Speer 125 gr JHP Gold Dot and 9mm Speer 124 gr +P JHP Gold Dot exhibited nearly identical penetration and expansion results THROUGH ALL THE DIFFERENT BARRIERS. Several .40 S&W and .45 ACP loads offered superior terminal performance through barriers compared to the 9mm and .357 Sig loads. Is the .357 Sig bad? NO! It is a very reliably performing 9mm bullet, but it is does not offer significantly better terminal performance compared with the best current 9mm ammunition. A few years ago I had an interesting conversation with an experienced ammunition engineer at one of the major ammo companies. He didn’t particularly like the 357 Sig from an engineering perspective and described their difficulties in designing and producing 357 Sig ammunition which consistently performs as well as their ammunition in other service calibers. In particular, he felt his company’s 357 Sig loads offered no better performance than their top 9 mm loads. Bottom line is that the 357 Sig is a slightly faster 0.355″/9mm bullet.

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