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by Bob Braun 

Several years ago I got in a good discussion about the .357 being legal in Colorado to hunt big Game.  I hadn’t read the game regulations for a while and much to my surprise, it was stated it needed to achieve 550 foot pounds of energy at the 50 yard mark.  Checking the ballistic sheets in several publications and some new reloading books the .357 didn’t make the grade.  I passed it off as of little interest because I didn’t use the .357 much any way. 

A couple years after this an acquaintance on the job asked me what handgun I would recommend to start handgun hunting.  He stated he wanted to hunt deer at some point later on.  Informing him the twenty-two-rim fire was the proper starting point and he should go from there, he said he only was going to buy one handgun and that was all. It had to be capable of doing everything he wanted to do.  It went against my grain but the .357 seemed to be the only route to go. 

He had done some reloading so I told him I would check the possibilities and see what some of the reloading manuals had to offer.  The only new one that I had at the time was a Nosler #3.  Going back 20 to 30 years i found a lot of the heavy .357 loads in the cast bullet variety would do what was necessary. 

We called the Colorado Game and Fish Department and asked if reloads would be acceptable in the .357 for hunting if they maintained the 550 foot pounds of energy at the 50 yard mark. They claimed if you could prove it, if asked, it would be all right.  Before we go any farther, if you decide to go this route please call and verify this for yourself.  The proof should be well established prior to using your reloads so no misunderstanding will arise.  As you are well aware if you ask one question from three different people you may obtain six different answers on different days. 

If you do not want to reload or are not a reloader, Fiocchi has three different bullet weights that will make the grade without an argument.  125, 148 and 158 listed in the 1996 Guns and Ammo annual. It is in black and white and nothing would have to be proved.  A six-inch barrel or longer needs to be used to reach these velocities. There are custom reloads that have exactly what is needed, but most of us are handloaders so lets see what we can do.

(webmaster's note - also check Buffalo Bore's Heavy .357 loads - www.buffalbore.com )

Be very very aware each revolver will be different. Without a doubt some will show pressures before the necessary velocity can be obtained.  You will have to do your reloading very carefully and pay strict attention to what is going on.  All of this is information only and no one but you are responsible for what you do. NO ONE! If you are not up to the task at hand don’t ask any one else to do it for you. 

The slower burning powders are the best to use.  Powders like #9, 296, its twin H110 and 2400.  All of my personal loads are with 2400 because it is one of my favorite powders and works very well.  Chronographing many handloads of 2400 I found standard large pistol primers produce the lowest high and low spread between shots in the string.   

Several times using freezers and thermos’s and the truck heater I have tested hot and cold loads, both in 70 degree and 20 degree weather.  Apparently this is not enough of a temperature change to verify anything.  My loads that I chronographed showed a higher and lower spread than a difference between cold and hot.  This is not to say it will not happen, but probably at a more extreme temperature than I tried.  This is about the actual conditions we normally hunt in. 

You owe it to the game animal and yourself to be able to hit accurately and limit your range so you can do it every time.  Bullet placement is the all-important factor.  A hit around the edges with a .357 is no different than the same with a .454.  Precise bullet placement is the key and should be everybody’s goal regardless. 

The tests I ran were with cast bullets only. The only jacketed bullets I had on hand were some older Remington 158-gr. Soft point and some 158 gr. Hornady of about the same vintage.  I had serious pressure signs long before I could get to the required velocity.  Good quality cast  lead bullets normally produce higher velocity than jacketed bullets when loaded at the same pressures. Therefore we can reach the goals we need. 

If you decide to do the fun thing and develop your own loads you will need a good knowledge of reloading and working up safe loads.  A chronograph is essential as is all the reloading information you can get. You can not have too much. Magazine articles, reloading manuals, any published data, old, new, cast bullets and jacketed.  

Here are some formulas needed to calculate your foot pounds of energy, if you know the velocity at the muzzle:

Muzzle velocity squared x bullet weight divided by 450400 equal muzzle energy.  The numbers get rather large so a calculator needs to be able to do this.  The calculator on the computer will carry out far enough.

If you have a bullet weight you would like to use and know the foot pounds of energy you wish to achieve, you may use:

 Energy you want x 450400 divided by the bullet weight, equals the square of the velocity, now find the square root of the velocity and this equals the foot pounds of energy.

Example:  you need 550 foot pounds of energy at 50 yards with a 173gr Keith: 550 X 450400 =247720000 divided by 173 = 1431907.5, the square root of 1431907.5 = 1196.6 which is the velocity at 50 yards of the 173 gr. Keith bullet to achieve 550 foot pounds of energy. 

The other formula  is the so-called Knock Out formula derived by African hunter John Taylor:

Bullet weight x velocity x bullet diameter divided by 7000 equals KO factor. 

Example: 180 x 1475 x .357 = 94783.5 divided by 7000 = 13.54 KO factor. Try this on some of the other cartridges like a .243 with an 85-gr. bullet  

It is very hard to chronograph at 50 yards, so I have worked out a table that will give information to be close enough to the required velocity and energy to work.  Remember that you may not be able to achieve, in your particular revolver, the needed velocity, so you still have to be very careful.  The muzzle velocities given are the very minimum to achieve the 550 ft. lbs. of energy at 50 yards.  To reach these velocities, be very careful for not all revolvers will load this hot and will show pressure signs before these velocities are reached.  

Bullet weight MV ME  KO 50 Yard Vel 50 Yard Energy 50 Yard KO
110 1801 792 10.1  1501 550  8.4
125  1648 754 10.5 1408 550  8.9
148 1538 772 11.6 1294 550  9.8
150 1485 734 11.4 1285 550 9.8
160 1444 740 11.8 1244 550 10.2
168 1389 720 11.9 1214 550 10.4
173 1371 722 12.0 1196 550 10.5
180 1348 702 12.3 1173 550 10.7


The down side of this will be all weights of any design will equal these figures. The best interest of the game, both animal and sport, is to use the best bullet designs and the heavier weights and the highest velocity that may safely be achieved.  The best in my opinion are the Keith and the LBT designs in the 168-grain and up weights.  A little more penetration with the Keith and more destruction with good penetration with the LBT.  I really have a preference for the 180 flat nose, gas check.  Cast of wheel weights, water dropped, crimped in the crimp groves it fits all cylinders and feeds through the Rossi flawlessly.  The Keith usually needs to be crimped over the front band for some cylinders (Mod. 27,28) and the 92 Rossi to feed well. 

Interesting footnote: the Cast Performance LBT is not the same bullet from the moulds of LBT. LBT is back in business by the way.  If you have loaded the purchased LBT advertised bullets and decide to buy a LBT mould from LBT, do not use the same loading data. Being two different bullets, things could go haywire.  Each bullet will require a different approach to achieve the top loads.    

One of the interesting bullets I have used is one cast by Baers Hollows, P.O. Box 284, Eads, Colorado 81036, called a deep hollow point.  Cavity is about .160 diameter, depth .400 and a meplat of .250.  Baers used the jackrabbit, before it became a game animal, for his testing media.  Reports claim devastation like you wouldn’t believe.  I nailed one Rockchuck using this bullet, and I must say it was impressive.  A quart plastic oil container, washed out and filled with water, received one of the deep hollow points and most of the water was nothing but a mist that evaporated in the air.  The same time the jackrabbit was listed, as a game animal so was the rockchuck and the wily coyote.  About a year later they dropped the coyote but not the rest.

My cast bullets are water hardened by dropping the cast bullet in a five-gallon bucket of water when the mould is hot enough for the bullets to sizzle when they touch the water. Checking both Cast Performance with my water hardened bullet they seem to both register the same hardness on the LBT hardness tester.  This is 20 to 21 BHN.  The biggest difference is in the velocity range for I get a higher velocity with the Cast Performance over my cast LBT.  Also the few groups I have managed to keep and measure favor the Cast Performance bullet. 

Using box wine containers filled with water and lined up one behind the other I had quite a surprise.  I lined ten containers up and used  the LBT cast bullet, water hardened wheel weights, shot from a 5 ½ inch barreled Colt SAA at 1293fps.  The bullet penetrated all ten containers, 37 ½ inches, boxes and bladders and sailed off across the countryside.  The next time I lined up twenty wine boxes and shot with a load that clocked 1432fps out of the Colt and this time 15 were penetrated and recovered in the 16th.   This was 56 ¼ inches of penetration.  These out penetrated the .45 Colt factory Remington round and a 287gr. LBT cast at 1060fps. 

The factory .45 penetrated 9 boxes dented the 10th but stayed in the ninth, 33 ¾ inches. The 287gr. LBT  .45 at 1060fps penetrated 13 dented the 14th but stayed in the 13th and reached 48 ¾ inches.  The .45’s were presented by a 4 ¾  Ruger Vaquero. 

The Rossi carbine with the Cast Performance 180 gr LBTat 1900fps gave an average of ten shots with an extreme spread of 36fps.  This velocity will make the .357 legal out of a rifle with 20 inch barrel to 1000fpe plus at 100 yards.  This is the minimum requirement for the rifle loads in Colorado.  The KO factor of this load is 17.5.   

Please keep in mind this is for information only.  Your choice is your own but I do have a lot more respect for the .357 with the heavier bullets. 







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