History of the .327 Federal Magnum and .357 Magnum Caliber
When Federal introduced the .327 Magnum caliber, they arguably created a better-balanced self-defense version of the classic .357 Magnum. Before World War II and until the latter part of the last century, the .357 Magnum revolver was the primary sidearm for police officers. In fact, I was personally issued a 357 Magnum revolver in 1992 when I first became a police officer.
However, within a year (like many police officers) the 357 Magnum revolver was replaced with a Glock 22 police service pistol. *The Glock 22 fires the potent 40 Caliber S&W cartridge, holds a vast amount of ammunition for its size and is now by far the most commonly used police service pistol in the United States.
Whether by police officers or civilians alike, "Replacement" has been the ongoing theme of the .357 Magnum for roughly 30 years. Owners continued to search for better options. Thus introducing a new cartridge that appealed to both concealed-carry practitioners and sporting enthusiasts called the .327 Federal Magnum.
While it's true that virtually no semi-automatic cartridges compatible with handguns are small enough to carry on duty or for concealed carry can equally match the power of 357 Magnum ammunition, the 327 Federal Magnum cartridge does come close.
The 327 Federal delivers less recoil with each shot and for compact (concealable) revolvers, it has the advantage of housing six rounds as opposed to five.
Using .357 Magnum Ammo for Hunting
If you want a revolver for hunting critters larger than feral hogs or deer, then .357 Magnum ammo would be a favorable option to consider. Out of a 4- to 5- inch barrel, the 170-grain bonded bullet load in Federal’s HammerDown line will generate almost 1,300 fps, 630 foot-pounds of energy, and will push up to 20 inches in 10% ordnance gelatin. No load for the .327 Federal Magnum can come close to this level of performance.
However, many firearm enthusiasts will tell you that firing off one of these loads in Ruger’s little LCR revolver will feel like a mini-grenade just went off in your hand!
.327 Federal Magnum Shootability and Performance
When it comes to performance (specifically performance relating to personal protection), the advantages of using .357 Mangum ammunition are not as clear-cut. Although it's well-known that 357 Magnum self-defense loads are legendary in their "fight-stopping and target elimination" abilities, what is less well known, is that these loads bite on both ends and can recoil twice as hard as .327 Federal Magnum loads.
That being said, from a terminal performance perspective 327 Federal Magnum ammo is no slouch and many of their best loads nip closely on the heels of the .357 Magnum ammo. From my point of view, the key differences in overall performance between these two cartridges are (1) the versatility in load options and (2) the overall difference in recoil.
And make no mistake folks - recoil matters when it comes to precision and shot placement. In fact, the heavy recoil of the .357 Magnum has been the driving force in the efforts to replace it. The harder a revolver/firearm recoils, the harder it will be to shoot with accuracy, especially when firing the handgun at a quickened pace.
Not only is hard recoil intimidating, but you can also expect the time it takes you to fire multiple shots to increase proportionally to any increase in recoil. But, because a .357 Magnum revolver can also fire .38 Special ammunition, and because modern +P .38 Special ammunition is pretty darn impressive, this recoil gap can be reduced without a tremendous loss in shooting performance.
Capacity Advantage of .327 Federal Magnum Ammo
Despite the routinely believed concept that more is better, it's important to remember that situation dictates. That being said because a revolver's ammunition capacity cannot be adjusted, the clear advantage goes to the .327 Federal Magnum caliber.
A compact .357 Magnum revolver contains only five shots whereas the same size revolver chambered for the .327 Federal Magnum will hold six rounds. *Hint for the mathematically challenged - that’s a capacity advantage of 20 percent and in a self-defense shooting situation, one round can make all the difference.
From a concealed carry standpoint, the .327 Federal Magnum will give you slightly less effective terminal performance when compared to the .357, but similar and even better performance when compared to .38 Special +P ammo.
Additionally, the .327 Magnum revolver will not only be easier to shoot faster and more accurately, but it will also hold 20% more ammunition. At the end of the day, it's up to you (the firearm owner) to make the call about which of these considerations are most important.
However, before you do, there’s something else about a .327 Federal Magnum revolver you should know.
Multi-Cartridge Compatibility with .327 Federal Magnum
Just as the .357 Magnum is an elongated .38 Special cartridge loaded to a higher pressure, the .327 Federal Magnum is a lengthened .32 H&R Magnum cartridge loaded to a higher pressure.
This means that just like a .357 Magnum revolver can fire 38 Special ammunition, a .327 Federal Magnum revolver can fire .32 H&R Magnum ammunition.
All things considered, there’s really no all-encompassing replacement for the .357 Magnum. It truly is a unique and special ammunition, but that does not mean it is always going to be the best tool for the job.
When considering which firearm and ammunition combination for hunting, personal protection, or recreation is right for you - it's always recommended to look at the totality of all circumstances like recoil, versatility, availability, and purpose.