Does “Five To Stay Alive” Still Count?
By Mark Kakkuri
While handsome in a serious way, the Model 360 is still a handful with .357 loads.
Doable, sure, but is it fun? Nope.
Is five enough? You’ll have to be the judge. Five is definitely better than none though, right?
Compared to many concealed carry guns in today’s market, Smith & Wesson’s Model 360 carries half as many rounds — 5 — and costs almost twice as much, at $770 retail. It not only fires the mighty .357 Magnum but also the more-than-adequate .38 Special. And the 360, like virtually every J-Frame, is eminently concealable and, at last count, accessories included a hundred billion holsters. To be clear: There’s no mistake or mystique with this gun. But for whatever reason, the relationship between its capacity, caliber, cost and concealability continue to make it — like many J-frames before it — a top choice for concealed carry.
This Eclipse holster shows off why people love J-Frames — they’re small and easy to carry!
The Model 360’s un-fluted cylinder is honestly just for show, but it’s compelling and a strong part of its appeal.
Capacity: For generations, the idea of “five to stay alive” has put the iconic snub-nosed revolver at the top of any list of capable backup guns. Although some snubbies give you six, seven and eight rounds on board, five seems most common. That’s “two pair, one spare” to keep track of in a gunfight, which you’ll hopefully be avoiding — or exiting — with this gun.
Caliber: A .357 Magnum revolvers can fire .38 Special cartridges, but not vice versa. Despite the different numbers naming these popular carry rounds, both fit the same chamber of a .357 Magnum revolver. You’ve probably heard horror stories about firing a .357 Magnum cartridge from a .357 snub-nosed revolver — how it really hurts your hand, how it’s a great ball of fire, etc. For the record — it’s all true. But it’s also able to be mastered and it’s a load of fun when you do. You won’t shoot more than, say, 10 rounds in a single range session unless you’re a glutton for punishment, but you’ll smile and laugh and wince because of the pain.
As for .38 Specials, it’s still a solid self-defense round made better with each year as ammunition manufacturers increase in technology and ballistic know-how. The 360 sports a 1.875″ barrel which, for the record, can fire .357’s or .38’s accurately, because accuracy is more a function of the shooter and less a matter of the length of the barrel.
This older S&W Bodyguard has an enclosed hammer, fluted cylinder and different grips. It still
allows hammer-cocking but looks very different. They both perform the same, but one might
appeal while the other not-so.
Wood grips are classic but Mark found the synthetic grips of the Model 360 to offer sure grip and support,
especially with .357 loads.
Cost: You can find a truckload of defensive handguns for well under the 360’s retail price of $770. The guns you find will hold more rounds, provide an easier and less painful shooting experience, and make range sessions more satisfying as you master the gun and all of its functionality. But you won’t be firing two calibers, and one of them won’t be the mighty .357 Magnum. Moreover, you won’t enjoy the concealability a part of J-Frame use for, well, forever.
Concealability: Some auto-loading pistols are smaller than the 360 and other J-Frames, but they’re not necessarily easier to shoot and carry. The size and shape of the 360 lends itself well to concealed carry, primarily for two reasons. You get what amounts to a full-size grip on a gun that can disappear in a pocket or other holster. Since there’s no reciprocating slide on a revolver, the area around a revolver’s hammer is rounded and easier to hide. Granted, the cylinder on a revolver is usually at least an inch wide, and this part generally finds its way between me and my belt when carrying inside the waistband, but the width is hardly uncomfortable. In fact, because a J-Frame is a very lightweight gun, you’ll endure whatever discomfort there may be from the width of the cylinder. In fact, the S&W Model 360 weighs in at 14.9 oz., thanks to its Scandium Alloy frame. So this is an all-day carry gun.
Design and style means this Airweight, while still a J-Frame, carries differently and has different
holster needs than the Model 360 due to the hammer shroud.
The PVD finish (including on the stainless steel cylinder), dark earth grip color and barrel “flats” make an
attractive package. Note the barrel has the modern shroud over a steel barrel insert construction method.
The gun weighs 14.9 ounces.
The Model 360’s other features include a great-looking unfluted cylinder. I don’t think there’s any tactical advantage to it; it just looks great with its super-durable PVD finish. Also worth noting are the 360’s stocks. The synthetic material feels rubbery, providing excellent purchase. Even though it looks like a squeezed banana, it’s one of the more comfortable J-Frame grips I’ve experienced. There’s a place for my little finger, and the grip helps absorb some of the recoil while helping me hang on.
As for sights, you get a fixed notch in the rear and a red ramp in the front. They’re adequate, but actual use of this gun will likely be more of a point-shoot and not so much a disciplined, time-consuming alignment of eye to front sight. Finally, the 360 is a single/double action, meaning you can just enjoy a long, smooth trigger squeeze for every shot for cock it manually for a single-action shot.
So to wrap up with more C’s, there’s the cylinder, comfortable grips, close-range sighting system, and the fact the 360 can be hammer-cocked too. Good features — but capacity, caliber, cost and concealability is the real story of the S&W Model 360.
For more info: https://americanhandgunner.com/company/smith-wesson/
Mark Kakkuri is a freelance writer who covers guns, gear, and the business of the firearms industry. You can follow him on Twitter @markkakkuri.