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March 10, 2021

The .357 SIG death watch

The decline of .380 was touched upon at this blog previously, but compared to certain other cartridges it remains positively mainstream. Here's how I commented in a THR forum thread:

Whilst I haven't done an exhaustive search, it would appear that the panic buying has resulted in the disappearance of .357 Sig pistols from the market place.

Who bought them? Was it first time gun owners, desperate for some kind of handgun, who didn't know what they were getting or didn't care? Or was it existing gun owners looking to expand their horizons regarding ammo availability?

Both.

Remember that in the past ammo shortages it was a coping strategy to rely on boutique calibers to carry one over while 9mm was gone from the shelves. So, experienced people who expected this shortage to be like the ones before, bought boutique caliber handguns with an expectation of the ammunition remaining available. They were wrong, but they had no way to know and their experience played against them.

The novices bought them too. They bought everything. I remember there was a period when a number of people asked in online forums "I see this great deal on Walther Creed, should I get it?" (and many more just picked it before asking). But that is a gun that ceased production in 2016! Clearly, Walther saw a chance to release their remaining stocks of Creed at bargain prices. Beginners snapped those Creeds. And they snapped the .357 guns.

And I'm sure some remembered that Jack Wilson used a P229 in .357.

And if all these .357 Sig have been purchased, what does that mean for the future of the cartridge? Will it be one more mainstream, resulting in high production rates of ammo? Or will these guns just sit on shelves in closets, or the back of gun safes once everything calms down again?

The latter.

The fundamental problems of .357 SIG haven't gone anywhere. This is how Chris Baker of Lucky Gunner put it:

"I was reading an article published back in the Fall of 2000 by Dr. Gary Roberts, who is probably the most well-known wound ballistics researcher active today. He was sharing the results of a .357 Sig gelatin test he performed at the California Highway Patrol Academy range. This was printed in the Wound Ballistics Review, which was a scientific journal intended for hardcore ballistics nerds, so it tends to be pretty dry and technical most of the time. But at the end of this one article, Dr. Roberts breaks into editorial mode and he says,

""Compared to a 9mm, the .357 Sig has a decreased magazine capacity, more recoil, as well as greater muzzle blast and flash, yet at best it offers no gain in bullet penetration and expansion characteristics. What is the point of this cartridge?”"

Emphasis mine. Copied from transcript of a August 2018 video.

This isn't a thread about .357 Sig vs [insert cartridge], but a general musing on how increased sales of one of the least popular service cartridges might affect its future.

The .357 is already dead. Of course, it will stay around like 7.62 Tokarev, but I do not see it staging a comeback like the 5.7 did. Fundamentally there's nothing good about it, only drawbacks, so it will remain "a hot round for cool dudes", to borrow from LifeSizePotato.

But it's interesting to watch the struggle of .380 Auto. That cartridge has peaked around 2016, when about 25% of new guns sold were in that caliber. Its share declined since and was at 17% before the pan-de-nic. I expected that the strain on manufacturers, who struggle to meet the demand for 9mm guns would crush it completely. But then, after the pandemic started to wane, SIG introduced P365 in .380. Isn't it interesting?

Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at 07:13 AM | No Comments | Add Comment
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