Smith & Wesson introduced their J-frame revolvers to the world in 1950. The Chief’s Special – later, the Model 36 – became a popular gun for concealed carry because of its small size and lightweight design. Over the decades, other models have evolved from the original Chief’s Special design, including the lightweight Model 360 in .357 Magnum.
When I picked up the gun from my FFL, I would have sworn the box was empty had I not seen them place it back inside after doing the paperwork. Yes, it’s that light! Weighing in at 14.9 ounces (or 0.93 pounds), the gun truly lives up to the “Airweight” moniker engraved on the right side of the frame. Don’t let that fool you, though, because the gun is definitely robust. The frame is made of a scandium alloy that is light but incredibly durable, and the cylinder is made of corrosion resistant stainless steel with a PVD finish.
The synthetic combat grips are slightly longer than the normal grips you find on J-frame revolvers. Obviously, this adds a bit more surface area to the gun’s overall footprint when it comes to concealment, but I personally don’t mind that trade-off because I like to have a solid place to put my pinky finger.
The gun’s all-black finish and unfluted cylinder are accented by Flat Dark Earth combat grips and a red ramp front sight. Generally, I’m not a fan of unfluted cylinders, but this combination makes for a very attractive gun. It’s almost too good looking to be relegated to a pocket or ankle holster!
Comparable in size and weight to the Model 638 J-frame that I normally have in my pocket, the Model 360 felt good in my hand. Again, part of this is, I’m sure, due to the size of the grips. When my pinky has a place to rest, I’m a happy shooter. The red ramp front sight is also a nice touch, as it made target acquisition easier. Plus, it saves other shooters the extra step of adding some paint to the front sight!
Both single-action and double-action trigger pulls performed exactly how you would expect. The double-action pull is long and heavy, breaking at just over ten pounds. The single-action pull is short and crisp, breaking right at three pounds.
For starters, I loaded the revolver with .38 Special ammunition. As expected, the gun handled that caliber like a champ. I put 150 rounds of Federal, Blaser, and Remington ammo through the gun with no issues. Round nose or hollow point, it made no difference.
The gun grouped nicely and gave me confidence in using it for self-defense purposes. For reference, the target in the photo was shot at self-defense distance (7 yards) with Remington 130-grain FMJ ammo. The red circles are 3” in diameter.
Then came time to really put the gun to the test. I loaded five .357 Magnum rounds into the cylinder and took aim at the target. The result was a sight to behold! Its lightweight design created a substantial amount of recoil and was accompanied by a sizeable muzzle flash. What was not a sight to behold was the target. I missed completely on my first shot, with the errant round lodging harmlessly in the large shooting berm.
The Model 360 is a fierce little gun when loaded up with magnum rounds. That said, this is to be expected when firing .357 Magnum cartridges out of a gun that weighs less than a pound and is designed for easy concealment. The extra length on the grips comes in handy when shooting heavy loads through this revolver. You’ll be glad you’ve got that extra bit of purchase on the gun!
I used an assortment of target and self-defense ammo in my range testing and the Model 360 accepted the challenge with ease. Truth be told, my hand took more of a beating that the gun did. Firing 100 rounds of .357 Magnum was much more challenging for me than it was for the 360!
Thankfully, most time at the range with this gun will be spent shooting .38 Special rounds. Occasionally, a few cylinders of .357 Magnum are a good idea, just to remember what it feels like. This revolver fits the concealed carry bill perfectly. It is designed to be carried a lot, but (hopefully) only shot a little.
Make no mistake, though: this revolver is a lot of fun to shoot – and shoot it you should … just not with box after box of magnum rounds. Overall, it handles very well and you could spend a couple hours at the range having a great time with .38 Special loads and different shooting drills. After all, who doesn’t like shooting a snubnose revolver?
It would be nice to see variations on this model in the future, including both hammerless and shrouded hammer options. At any rate, the exposed hammer hasn’t hampered the reliability or concealability of the J-frame design for more than half a century, so I won’t knock it for having an external hammer.
If you look up “hand cannon” in the dictionary, you’ll see this revolver. It packs a lot of punch into a small package. If you’re looking for a reliable revolver capable of firing magnum loads, but also something that’s small and lightweight enough to disappear when carrying concealed, then this is the gun for you.
However, it should also be acknowledged that shooting a gun like this is an acquired skill. Or rather, shooting it well is an acquired skill. It takes time to learn how to properly shoot something so powerful out of something so small. If that’s a skill you already have, or it’s one you’re ready to learn, then this is a great gun to add to your self-defense arsenal.
It is not, however, a gun that I would recommend for a new shooter or someone new to the self-defense world. That’s not a knock on newbies; it’s just that this kind of gun is not designed with those people in mind.
The Smith & Wesson Model 360 is a very nice addition to their wildly successful J-frame lineup. Both functionally and aesthetically, it is a great little revolver. Its size almost masks the tremendous power that it is capable of unleashing. Countless law enforcement officers and civilians alike have trusted their lives to a J-frame over the decades. The new Model 360 is ready to take on that role as well.
Specs: Model 360
|Caliber:||.357 Magnum, .38 S&W SPECIAL +P|
|Front Sight:||Red Ramp|
|Rear Sight:||Fixed Notch|
|Cylinder Material:||Stainless Steel with PVD Finish|
|Barrel Material:||Stainless Steel|
|Frame Material:||Scandium Alloy|