I would seriously consider an M&P 9 if you want something to shoot at the range that can also double as a good defense weapon. I have a few M&Ps as well as a Jframe. The .38 Special is "fun", but only for about 30-50 rnds. The 9 in +P has comparable balistics to the .38 and the .357 is better balistics but the short barrel mixed with the hot .357 load makes for a slow 2nd shot as far as target reaquisition goes.
I have 5,000+ rounds through my M&Ps with 0 complaints (I switched from a Glock 36 to a M&P 45c as my primary carry.)