I recently purchased a Smith & Wesson M&P 360 “Chief’s Special”, a very lightweight .357 Magnum snubnose revolver. The frame is made of a scandium-aluminum alloy, with a stainless steel cylinder and barrel, bringing the total weight to a mere 13.3 ounces. It has an exposed hammer spur for single- or double-action shooting (the single-action trigger pull is 3½ pounds and more crisp than your wildest dreams). The front sight contains a tritium-phosphorus night sight. It has a black finish and rubber molded grips. The whole thing is a flawless piece of craftsmanship.
I bought this gun to take the place of my Beretta Tomcat, which fires .32 Auto. I have two carry guns, and the Tomcat was the smaller, lighter one that I carried in the warmer months that I am obliged to wear lighter clothing. The .32 Auto cartridge is not very potent, and the blowback design of the Tomcat is not completely reliable. I have had growing concern about these two facts, and I chose this Smith & Wesson as the solution. It took a while to get around to making the purchase, but a return to warm weather is fast approaching, so I placed my order.
The thing you will hear about these really lightweight handguns is how terrible the recoil is. They aren’t kidding. The gun is so light that it is unable to absorb much recoil through inertia. With full power .357 Magnum ammunition, this handgun recoils more harshly than any other handgun I have ever fired, including the Desert Eagle in .50 AE (it is harder to catch a 4½ pound gun that is traveling toward your face, but it doesn’t shock your hands as much as this lightweight revolver). However, I wouldn’t call it painful, even if fifty rounds at the range would make my hands go numb. This is a man’s gun, and I can take it. I am hoping my control of the weapon will become more consistent with practice.
I have tried a few types of ammunition. Surprisingly, the load that has shown itself to be far more accurate than anything else I’ve tried is made by Fiocchi, a relatively new brand that has not yet distinguished itself. They make a cartridge using the Hornady 158 grain XTP bullet, and it is this which has shown superior accuracy in my new gun. Unfortunately, it has a few drawbacks. It is loud and produces a fairly large ball of muzzle flash. This suggests that it is a slow burning powder, which cannot live up to its full potential in a two inch barrel. Indeed, the recoil is less than other .357 Magnum ammunition I have tested, though I haven’t put it over a chronometer. Muzzle flash is a problem in a defensive situation at night. Loud noise might be a good thing – if it doesn’t cause permanent hearing loss. The other problem is that it does not have a Fiocchi headstamp. The cases are made by Starline, who make good brass, but it somewhat defeats the legal benefit of carrying factory ammunition for self defense. However, the experience with this load has given me hope that there is another load out there which will produce similar accuracy. There are a few more types of ammunition to try, so I will continue the search.