I have no desire to shoot 38 spl ammo. I purchased 357 mag handguns to fire 357 ammo. I have a 9mm that duplicates the performance of the 38 spl and it's a lot cheaper to shoot. I own a Ruger SP101, Ruger Blackhawk and an old Charter 357 snub nose. None of them have given me any problems. All three are very dependable. Both the Blackhawk and the Charter have fired a lot of 357 rounds. The Blackhawk is my favorite gun.
When you talk about a short barreled .357, take a look at the auction sites.
A good used .357 could fit the bill nicely. Some may have only a couple of rounds through them. A short barreled .357 is not for all people, but some may have bought one trying to be badazz, only to find that they cannot handle recoil (that is called lack of technique).
I had the opportunity to fire an LCR in 38 spc with +p rds and I suspect many will find its recoil a bit stout. Nice handling piece very light seem accurate enough it would be a good choice for CC.
I would love to try the 357 version I bet its a handful! I was impressed with the trigger not too heavy and very smooth.
I will add, while these snubbies are nice guns they are pretty hard to shoot for someone not accustomed to them, they take alot of practice especially for the hammerless models, they have a long triggerpull and by the time you get through it you will be off target, it may be easier to start off with a hammer gun so you have the option of the single action hammer to start practicing with then move up to double action shooting. Smith makes the J frames in a shrouded hammer model which gives you the single action capability yet does a decent job of hiding the hammer to prevent it snagging when drawing from a pocket or other such cc situation. I just got the wife a hammerless smith 38 airweight 642 and its taking some getting used to.
The easiest one to shoot will be the Ruger SP101. It is 28 oz loaded with 125 grain mags. Any lighter and it will be bad on both ends. The J frames wont hold up to full time mags. Occasional yes and they are nicer to carry.