One advantage of the .357 Magnum chambering is, of course, versatility, since .38 Special runs in it just fine. (So, for that matter, will blanks—try THOSE in an unmodified semi-automatic pistol, bottom-feeder fans!) Accordingly, we tested the PC revolver with ammo that ranged from mild to wild.
For a walk on the mild side, we chose the always-accurate Black Hills red box 148-grain match wadcutter .38 Special. There’s no softer practice load, and some authorities—Dr. Gary Roberts and Chuck Haggard, to name a couple—have given it a thumbs-up for defensive carry in light, snub-nose revolvers. We tested all loads on a 3M rest from a concrete table at 25 yards. Each 5-shot group was measured overall center to center between the farthest flung shots, and once again for the best three.The latter measurement comes from long-confirmed observation that this can come very close to what the same gun/ammo will do for all five from a machine rest, and is a much easier test for our readers to duplicate with their own guns and loads.
Those .38 wadcutters printed a 2.60” group for all five shots. The best three grouped exactly half of that, 1.30”, all measurements being to the nearest 0.05”.
Intermediate power level? Particularly with carry-size revolvers, a lot of .357 Magnum owners load them with .38 Special +P for defense purposes. .38 +P was represented in this test by a training round, Speer’s 158-grain full metal jacket Lawman. It put five shots into four and a half inches, the best three in a more satisfying 3.20”.
“Magnum Force” level was where this gun did its best. The load was Remington’s 125-grain scallop-jacket hollow point, rated for 1,450 foot-seconds velocity from a 4-inch barrel. One errant shot that was probably unnoticed error on my part stretched the 5-shot group to 2.90”; the other four were in exactly one inch even, center to center; and the best three were barely over half an inch apart—a 0.55” group to be precise.
People wonder how much velocity they lose with a ported barrel. Test team member Steve Denney and I compared the Carry Comp to Steve’s 3-inch, unported nickel Model 13 on a Chrony F-1 chronograph. The Black Hills .38 wadcutters averaged 686.6 foot-seconds out of the Carry Comp, and a very slightly lower 685.93 feet per second from the unported 3-inch Model 13. My 2.5-inch Model 66 spat the same ammo at 765.9 f.p.s. With the 158-grain +P .38 we got 757.02 f.p.s. from the Carry Comp, 744.17 from the 3-inch Model 66: the ported gun was again, counter-intuitively, slightly faster. The 125-grain .357 Magnums roared out of the Carry Comp at an average 1,295 feet per second, and here the unported Model 13 did have a velocity advantage at 1,330 foot-seconds. Bottom line: velocity loss isn’t something I’d worry about in the Carry Comp.
S&W’s MSRP on this revolver is $1,092. We’re paying for the custom work, the slick Performance Center action and the integral compensator. If all you want is a 3-inch-ish barrel on a K-frame .357 and a full-length ejector rod, you can get it on Smith & Wesson’s stainless Model 66 K-frame .357 with 2.75-inch barrel from their standard production line, at $849. See the Carry Comp at your nearest dealer, or for more information, contact Smith & Wesson; Tel.: (800) 331-0852; Web: www.smith-wesson.com