American Eagle .357 Magnum 158 grain SJSP ballistic gel test

  • BB calibration: 607 fps, 3.4″
  • Impact velocity: 1,182 fps
  • Penetration: 22.1″
  • Retained weight: 157.3 gr
  • Max expansion: 0.398″
  • Min expansion: 0.363″

A couple of interesting notes from the forum post on the test, the bullet yawed 180 degrees and ended up with the business end pointing back towards the point of origin. The tester believes it yawed near the end of its travel, not the beginning.

Obviously, this load has plenty of penetration. In fact, when I was young and broke, it’s what I carried in my .357 Magnum guns, because I was young and broke and believed that hitting someone with a .357 Magnum would instantly turn them into a shower of sparks. Of course, these days I know better, but I’d still not be too concerned if this was the only round I had available. Sure, it only expanded to .40 out of the pistol, and it probably overpenetrated, but if I’m choosing between this and a 125 grain FMJ? I’m picking the heavier bullet with some exposed lead.

There’s a real conversation to be had around this topic. You should carry the most effective bullet you can get in your gun, which is why I usually recommend Gold Dots, HST, or Ranger for concealed carry. Also, carrying the same round that your local police carries probably ads a layer of safety if you ever end up in court. But even more importantly than that, you need to carry something in your gun. And you need to be able to hit whatever it is you’re aiming at with that something. There are entire graveyards full of dudes that have been killed with 9mm ball ammo, or 158 grain LRN.

I’m not saying that you should ditch your Ranger T-Series and carry FMJ in your gun. Of course not. More to the point, I’m saying if you don’t have access to the best quality ammo, don’t sweat it. Buy some good FMJ ammo from a reputable company like Federal, and carry that instead. One thing I would say is that if you can’t get Ranger/HST/Gold Dot/Critical Defense, don’t compromise and get something weird like Glaser Safety Slugs or some of those strange boutique rounds. Carry ammo should be from a major manufacturer with a good reputation for quality control. That’s actually why if I had no other choice, I’d carry FMJ from one of those same companies.

In my opinion, it’s a much better idea to carry FMJ from a reputable company than it is to carry a JHP/boutique round from a small company.


  1. ATK now owns Federal & CCI/Speer – Freedom Group owns Remington & Barnes – Hornady – Fiocchi – Geco/RWS – Winchester – Out of all those brands, the only one I’ve had feed issues or dud issues with; Winchester/Olin. Recently began using Geco in a variety of calibers, 380, 9, 40 & 45; it is proving to be a very consistent, trouble free product.

  2. I seem to recall hearing someone at the local range say they only carry hardball because nothing else feeds in their Auto Ordnance…

    What they said afterwords, I don’t know, because I stopped listening after hearing “Auto Ordnance”


  3. Having been in a position to have to carry less than the best available ammo, military ball, poor quality JHPs, etc., I agree. Way too many people are looking for magic bullets instead of training to make the ammo they have work. In many cases, such as your noted ball ammo vs Glasers, one is better off with high quality ball ammo than a magic bullet.

    The .357 load in question will most definately exit on a human target when launched from a service sized revolver, I have seen that in the past. But it’s actually shows less penetration in gel that some loadings like 9mm ball ammo. One just needs to be sure of “rule 4” and line up the shot well if need be.

    1. It certainly penetrates less than the 158 grain LSWC .38 load from DoubleTap that I have. That thing goes on FOREVER.

  4. Carrying the same round as local law enforcement may protect you from a jury, but might not do so well protecting you from an attacker, unless you’re carrying a weapon that’s reasonably similar to what the cops have. A round that penetrates reasonably and expands well from a service-sized barrel may be a dud from a pocket pistol.

    1. Similar to the line: the gun you carry is better than the one you don’t, ammo you fire is better than none if the need arises; just make sure it functions in your weapon reliably. If you carry a reputable, tried and true product (as mentioned in the post) then the chances are you are in good shape. If you buy something new like Death Star Ammo (hint hint) then who knows.

  5. I’ve seen your reco for WIN T/HST/GD before and wonder why you (and nobody else really) seems to have much love for Remington’s Golden Saber ammo? Aside from it is an older design than the aforementioned, I think it is a pretty darned good bullet design that feeds well, is readily available and isn’t overly pricey. If you’re worried about weight retention/jacket separation, Remy produces a bonded version.

    1. I actually have Golden Sabers loaded in my VP9 right now. That being said, I have heard from reliable sources that the FBI had some issues with their .45 ACP Golden Saber load that their tactical teams used.

      However, on the topic of magnums, the 125 grain Golden Saber is the gold standard of .357 Magnum ammo.

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