I had a box of Federal .38 Special LRN in the range bag already, so I tossed in a box of my carry load, Federal 158gr LSWCHP +p and a box of BVAC 158 LSWC .357 Magnum. The BVAC load is actually a little on the weak side for a .357 magnum at only an advertised 1002 fps. I have no idea how close it really is to that number, but that is what I was told. The standard pressure .38 special comes in 770 fps and the .38 special +p comes in at 890 fps. So we have right around 100 fps between each load, and they are all of the same weight.
The best I could figure out how to compare them was to compare split times from one round to the next shooting at the same target, at the same distance. I chose to use a USPSA paper practice target (because I had one), and to shoot from 7 yards. My goal being to keep everything in the a-zone. I also thought video might be nice.
The average split times are actually pretty dang close. Close enough, that I don't think it really made that much of a difference if I was shooting standard .38 special, .38 special +p, or .357 magnum. Especially if you look at the whole story and see the actual split times. Some of my fastest splits were actually with the more powerful loads at 0.34 seconds.
The real story here I think is the amount of smoke, not the amount of recoil. The difference in smoke from the .38 special and .38 special +p really wasn't that noticeable from behind the gun. The smoke from the .357 magnum was indeed very noticeable. Noticeable enough that it made it a little more difficult to track the sights on the target.
|Smoke from .357 magnum load|
I also definitely have a lot of revolver work that needs to be done to get on par with this thing. I am looking forward to it :)