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We study numerically the nonlinear switching characteristics of optical pulses transmitted though fiber Bragg gratings. We consider both the uniform and phase-shifted gratings and compare their performance as a nonlinear switch. The nonlinear coupled-mode equations were solved numerically to obtain the pulse-switching characteristics. The steady-state behavior known to occur for continuous-wave optical beams is realized only for pulses wider than 10 ns with long tails. For pulsewidths in the range 0.1-1 ns, the use of phase-shifted gratings reduces the switching threshold, but the on-off contrast is generally better for uniform gratings. We also quantify the effects of rise and fall times associated with an optical pulse on nonlinear switching by considering the Gaussian pulses with smooth tails and nearly rectangular pulses with sharp leading and trailing edges.