17 September 2023

357 Magnum Rifles - An Underappreciated Hunting Rifle and A Little History

I think the 357 Magnum rifle is highly underappreciated as a hunting rifle. The likes of writers and hunters such as Paco Kelly and Skeeter Skelton have written about their use of rifles in 357 magnum to take deer. Maybe some people will claim 357 Magnum just isn't enough but I disagree.  

I got to wondering about when was the first rifles offered in 357 Magnum. Today, I take for granted that lever actions come in the cartridge but before then, the old Winchester cartridges were the standard. Those 44-40, 38-40, 32-20 and 25-20 Winchester Center Fires would have been the pistol caliber of choice. Today, we have the 44 Magnum, 357 Magnum and 45 Colt as our standard options. Occasionally, you'll run into the odd rifle in 327 Federal Magnum / 32 H&R Magnum or something like 454 Casull or the 460 and 500 S&W Magnums. As it turns out, the cartridges we think of today as being the standard didn't become the standards until not all that recently. 

So far, I can't speak toward single shot rifles or bolt action platforms where the only thing I've found have been modern rifles like Ruger's M77/357 that was released in 2011 per the Ruger serial number website. What I have found so far is that factory lever action rifles started being offered in 357 Magnum around the late 1970's. I have not reached out to either Rossi or Marlin to confirm these details but what I'm finding I think is a bit shocking. Marlin had rereleased the 1894 back in 1969 and did so in 44 Mag. They followed up with the 357 version around 1979. The dates on the Winchester, Browning and Rossi rifles has been harder to find but it appears that the rest finally got the memo around the 1980's. Browning with the B92 in 1982 according to the Browning website. Interestingly, there is anecdotal Internet data to support that Rossi was the first to have a factory 357 Mag lever action in the US in the mid 1970's when they were imported by Interarms. I can't prove that at this time. I'm still working on Winchester and Rossi years but I think we get the gist of it. 357 Magnum was not the standard lever action rifle cartridge it is today until the late 1970's and early to mid 1980's. That blows my mind. 

That said, 357 Mag caliber lever action rifles have been around much longer. From what I dug up, gunsmiths have been converting Winchester 1892 rifles over to caliber for decades. Usually from a 32-20 based rifle. The widely read gun writer, Skeeter Skelton, says he got his 357 Mag Winchester sometime in the mid to late 1940's, early 1950's from Ward Koozer, a gunsmith down in Douglas, Arizona. His article Rifleman was got me started on the history side of things. Based on what Paco Kelly wrote about in his article 357 Magnum and the Literature, that's about how he got his rifle too, though not likely from Mr. Koozer. It surprises my that the consumer market didn't have a lever action 357 Magnum rifle sooner than the late 1970's. 

What makes a rifle in 357 Magnum such a great choice? Barrel length, plus case capacity and pressure rating. The 357 Magnum case can hold a good bit of powder and the pressure rating is high enough to handle more pressure than the old WCF cartridges. Combine those two with a longer barrel and a good slow burning powder and you get velocity.

Generally speaking, when you load a given cartridge into two firearms with different barrel lengths, the velocity will change. A shorter barrel such as 4 inches will result in one velocity then from a 18 inch barrel you should see a bump in performance. In many cases, the increase will only be around 200 to 400 feet per second with various calibers but with the Magnums and how you load the cartridge, you can pick up more. Paco Kelly wrote as such that he neared 500 fps in once instance. That's a huge increase. 

Let me give you an example. My current go-to factory loading is the Remington brand High Terminal Performance 158 grain semi-jacketed hollow point. This is a lead hollow point where the copper jacket comes up around 2/3rds of the bullet. The edge of the copper jacket has almost these curved leaves supporting the lead. From a 2 inch barrel, that load is pushing around 1125 fps. From a 4 inch barrel, you can expect around 1250 fps. From my 16 inch barrel rifle, I'm getting right at 1800 fps with my chronograph. Those are huge gains. If you care about muzzle energy, the 2 inch barrel is getting 464 foot pounds with my rifle getting over 1100 ft/lbs. Those are impressive results from factory ammunition in such a small case. The powder's burn rate has a lot to do with that but I have no idea what powder Remington is using.

Where this helps us is the velocity window where a bullet will expand. From a revolver, we may only be able to get reliable expansion from a specific load out to 50 yards but from the rifle, we can push that window out to 125 yards or so. You might be able to change the bullet construction and materials (cast lead hollow point) and velocities toward the 200 yard range. You can tune the bullet weight higher and lower to match which animal you are hunting. Going after coyotes or jackrabbits? Try a fast 125 grain jacketed hollow point. Going after bear? Feel free to load up a 180 grain cast bullet if you like. I use the 158 gr SJHP for deer and just general use. Using the correct bullet is critical as the bullet can underperform but Paco Kelly noted that he didn't have too much issue with bullets breaking up. 

That enlargement in the window allows a hunter who only operates in the shorter ranges, say under 200 yards, to use a 357 rifle successfully. No need for a 270 Winchester or a 7mm Remington Magnum for those short ranges. If you're going to hunt a deer stand with a shot no longer than 100 yards, then why bother to shoot the heavier recoiling, more expensive and louder rounds? I can understand if you only have the one rifle but having a smaller rifle makes for a better experience in general. 

Additionally, expansion of 357 bullets works well as there is usually enough material and can push into the .60 caliber range when they expand. In gel, those bullets may not penetrate but the Remington HTP 158 grain seems to penetrate nicely and expand with Lucky Gunner Labs getting around 19 inches with .53 inch worth of expansion. I'm very confident that those Remington's really perform well. I would like to see how they test at 100 yards. 

So far, I've never had a place to hunt where I needed to be able to take shots past 100 yards. The longest shot I've taken in my short experience with hunting has been around 87 to 90 yards according to estimations I made after taking a specific deer.  In most cases, I've waited for them to come in closer or I've closed the distance to them for much shorter shots. That would put all of my hunting within the distances a 357 Magnum rifle is capable of handling. 

The only downsides that I can think up are accuracy and ammunition selection. If you want a sub-MOA rifle then a lever action rifle just isn't your choice period. Maybe the Henry Long Ranger or a Browning BLR can help you but in the pistol calibers you're going to see larger groups. I've never sat my rifle down and tried to shoot small groups in earnest. When zeroing my Marlin 357, I was able to consistently hit a 6 inch target at 100 yards. Even if my rifle is 4 MOA, which it's probably better than that, the vital zone of a deer is much bigger than 4 inches. It's closer to 8 inches. In my situation, the accuracy is more than enough to do what I need it to do. The other size of this is making sure you have chosen good bullets for the velocities the rifle barrel will generate. With the traditional rifle calibers for hunting, the manufacturers have figured out how to make bullets. I like to make the equation of hunting ammunition selection to the ring toss carnival game. Take all the big name boxes in your favorite caliber and put them into a grid. Close your eyes and throw the ring. Whatever the ring lands on with probably work in most hunter's situations. While that notion is a bit callous, I wouldn't do that with 357 Magnum. Federal is working on lever action specific loads in calibers like 357 Magnum and 44 Magnum such as the HammerDown line up. I have not yet seen them on the market or anyone testing them in gel at distance but I'm sure they would perform well enough to kill a deer. 

All in all, I think 357 Magnum is a fine caliber and in a rifle, the cartridge is transformed into something more capable. Also, I've found that I love hunting down old articles and reading what the Old Guys did.

Here are some of the links to just a few of the Old Guys articles I've read. 

Paco Kelly 



Dark Horse's Host of the Skeeter Skelton on 357


12 September 2023

New Mexico's Governor - She's Very Wrong

 Recently, the New Mexico Governor Michelle Grisham surprised the state and country by signing an executive order that bans all forms of defensive carry of firearms within the county where the capital city of Albuquerque is for 30 days. It can be renewed if certain metrics are not met. A person cannot carry a concealed or open handgun or other firearm even if they have a permit within the county. She based her order on emergency powers regarding public health she claims overrides both the State's and US Constitutional protections on carriage of a firearm. 

So far, just about everyone has told her that she's wrong. The sheriff, ACLU, NRA and numerous other organizations have chimed in saying as such. There are even anti-gun groups saying she's wrong. The scary part is that the Governor has already said that she will direct the State Police to enforce the ruling.

That's a level of irony right there. Democrats calling Trump a fascist while a Democrat uses emergency powers to restrict rights protected under State and Federal law.  Actually, that is what happened in Nazi Germany in 1933. The German government used emergency powers to rescind civil liberties protected under their laws. Basically, Governor Grisham is more of a Nazi than Trump has ever been. One could argue that emergency powers led to the murder of 6 million Jews. That's not the point of this post. 

What's important here is what can come from this. Specifically, prison could come from this. Let me explain. 

Under Federal law, specifically Title 18 Section 241, if two or more people conspire to "injure, oppress, threaten or intimidate any person... in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right" and if found guilty can result in as much as 10 years in prison. Cornell's Web Page has more specifics to the text. Please go read the text.

Given that the Governor likely did not write this executive on her own. She likely had help, which means that at least one other person knew about this action before hand. That makes this conspiracy in my opinion. I'm not a lawyer though. 

At this point, given the Supreme Court cases such as Heller and Bruen, she fully knows that she's in the wrong and that she decided to do it anyway. She even said in a CNN interview that she needs to "test" what applies. I imagine there are cases regarding emergency powers and rights that she could have referenced. Simply put, I believe that the Governor knowingly and willingly is violating both State and US Constitutional law to push gun control waters to see what she can get away with. She is actively attempting to deny citizens their rights and she should be punisher for it. 

I don't know who will be able to bring a suit against her but it needs to happen. 

In my opinion, she is just another person here in the US who blatantly looks at the Constitution as a speed bump to get what they want. In this case, it's gun control. 

She says that she'd trying to save lives from violence but apparently she thinks she needs to do EVERYTHING she can try including violating constitutional law. Personally, I'm tried of politicians who think they can stomp on peoples rights and she needs to be made an example of to remind the rest such as the Governors of New York, New Jersey, Maryland and California that they can't keep messing with The People's rights. They keep trying and are getting away with it. That needs to stop. Sadly, the people that are needed to arrest her are likely playing for the same Authoritarian team as Grisham so favoritism wins again. 

What will matter is what happens next. Will the State Police operate as Grisham's own personal Sturmabteilung (Nazi Brown Shirts). Will they operate on the same "we're just doing out jobs" mentality of 1930's / 1940's Germans? Where will this escalate to? I have no doubt that, in the end, We the People will keep our rights unless the current administration eliminates Supreme Court Justices and stacks the deck in their favor. That said, winning this fight is important as it sets a precedence saying emergency powers do not trump gun rights.  

Update: I found a video that mentioned something interesting. Apparently, Governor Grisham signed a law in 2021 called the Civil Rights Act for the State of New Mexico. This could go hilariously as it would cost the state or county if a police officer made good on the Governor's monarch-like decree and arrest someone. 

Update 12 Sept 2023: Apparently, a judge has been assigned to the first case and is a Biden appointee. That's likely one of the reasons this action was started. A Trump appointed judge would have likely started hearing the case sooner as they would have likelier be more favorable to gun rights. 

In continuing to think on this issue, it wouldn't surprise me if the judge allows this to drag on and the governor routinely renews the order until forced to stop.  

Update 13 Sept 2023: It appears that I was wrong about the judge assigned to the case. According to The Firearms Policy Coalition X page, the judge issued averbal temporary restraining order to put the executive order on hold. An official written TRO will be issued afterward. The courts just shut her down for now. 

Update 17 Sept 2023: Apparently, she's amended or submitted a new EO that no longer suspends carry. The backlash was clearly too much and maybe the numerous lawsuits helped with that. I'm hoping that the court system runs through entirely instead of just dropping the case. We can't let this ever happen again. 

08 September 2023

Updates for the Henry Homesteader - Accessories Available from Midwest Industries and Mason Leather

 If you know me, I like some of the products that Midwest Industries makes. I use their T1 mount with integrated sights for my Marlin 1894 to host a SIG Romeo5 and one of their QD mounts for my Primary Arms LPVO for my primary AR-15. They make a bunch of other cool for level action rifles and other platforms but now they've released a handguard for the Henry Homesteader.

While generally I'm not a fan of these modernized handguards on classic looking rifles, I think this is a welcome option for the classy Homesteader. The ability to add a scout light closer toward the muzzle, while not attaching it to the barrel, is highly welcome and will help push this rifle further into a defensive oriented roll. There are other accessories that one could add to the several MLOK slots but for me a weapon light is just right. 

Looking at the length of the rail, MI confirms the length is 13.6 inches. I don't much like how far overhanging the barrel is from the end of the handguard. Want I'm thinking is, trim the barrel down from 16.37 inches to around 14.5 inches to move the muzzle toward the end of the handguard. Then permanently attach a JMAC customs flashhider to achieve the 16 inch minimum NFA Title 1 requirement. Never pay taxes unless you have to. Then have the front sight moved back. If one was willing to Form 1 their Homesteader, they could reduce the length further and cut flush or recess the muzzle for use with a silencer.  

These options would reduce the overall length of this beautiful and utilitarian rifle while still maintaining a usable barrel length. To be fair, 4 inches is enough barrel for 9mm in general so 14 is more than enough. All in all, the reducing in barrel length only increases it's utility in my opinion. 

Additionally, Mr. Mason of Mason Leather, aka the Cartridge Cuff Guy, posted a teaser on his Instagram recently of a magazine pouch for the Homesteader. I didn't see how long of a magazine one will be able to fit but having and additional 15 to 17 rounds already on the rifle really sets the Homesteader up nicely. I will definitely be adding the leather pouch to my rifle when I can order one.

I look forward to seeing what other great options become available for the Homesteader as things move along. 

06 August 2023

Rossi Brawler - A Single Shot Pistol

 I'm not sure what's going on with Thompson Center these days but I haven't seen a Contender or Encore for sale in a while. With my increased focus on hunting guns, I like the idea of having a pistol of some kind that could be used to take whitetail deer. I don't have lots of money to buy a good revolver and do any work needed to accurize. I had thought about hunting down a Contender frame and building out a 44 Magnum or 454 Casull to hunt with but the frames can only be found on Gunbroker and are usually price gouged. Then I found out that Rossi has the Brawler. 

From the Rossi website.

The Brawler is a single shot, break action type weapon with a 9 inch barrel. It's chambered for 45 Colt and 3 inch 410 shells. Similar to the Taurus Judge revolvers, it still has a rifled barrel. 

I personally don't have much use for the 410 shotshell portion, however, I have seen some people hunt turkey with a similar 410 which I thought was interesting. I'd rather handload some hot 45 Colt for deer. According to Ballistics By the Inch, a +P loading of 45 Colt with a lightweight bullet should reach around 1100 to 1200 feet per second velocity from a 9 inch barrel. You can find their chart here. That said, the manual says to not use +P ammunition or .454 Casull. 

With the correct hollow point, that should be enough velocity out to around 50 yards for whitetail by my guess. That would, of course, depend on the bullet's velocity window. 

The pistol appears to come with a picatinny rail for mounting an optic of some kind but does have iron sights. The barrel doesn't have threads for a silencer and based on the profile of the barrel, it cannot be cut for it. The sides of the barrel are flat and close cut leaving no room for threads most likely. 

In the current configuration, it could be useful but what I'm holding out for will be either a .454 Casull version or even a 44 Magnum version that doesn't use shotshell. 

The best part of this is the price. The MSRP is $239 and I'm seeing early street prices under $200. That is very hard to ignore. Given the price, I may purchase one anyway, even if it isn't setup for good hunting ammunition. I do really hope that Rossi brings out a 44 Magnum or 454 Casull version of the Brawler. 

05 August 2023

8.6 Blackout - I'm a Sucker for New Things

 If you haven't heard about it, there's a new cartridge that's been around for a while now. Jokes aside, the boys over at Q LLC along with industry friends had been working on their newest Blackout cartridge and this time they based it on the 308 Winchester. Like they did with the .223 Remington case, Q, Discreet Ballistics and Hornady bumped up the diameter of the bullet and made it longer while trimming back the case. All the same characteristics of the highly versatile .300 Blackout, Q and co gave the 8.6 BLK. The same quiet performance but more of it. 

8.6mm works out to a .338 inch bullet but it's not the same as the 338 Federal. It's wildly different. First, looking at the bullet, the 8.6 BLK is substantially longer. To keep the same overall length to make 8.6 BLK compatible with current 308 Winchester rifles, the case on 8.6 BLK is shortened to 1.68 inches long. The venerable 308 Winchester is 2.015 inches in case length. The extra length bullets means we are seeing massively heavier bullet weights for caliber compared to the contemporaries. Gorilla Ammunition, for example, is producing 300 grain loads for subsonic hunting using Sierra MatchKing bullets. .338 Federal is usually well below that. Granted, those weights are for supersonic loads, the 8.6 cartridge can be loaded to supersonic with similar bullet weights. You likely won't get the same velocity performance from the 8.6 BLK compared to the 338 Federal barrel for barrel but you're not loosing that much. Kurt the Gunsmith did a post on his blog about the differences you can expect here

Where the 8.6 BLK will shine is in shorter guns just like the .300 BLK round does. You simply will not get the same performance from 338 Federal in a short rifle like 10 inches that you will from 8.6 BLK. 

What's also exciting is that this cartridge has a trick up its sleeve. Apparently, in order to stabilize the super heavy bullets, the barrel's twist rate is astronomically fast compared to other more contemporary hunting calibers. The 8.6 BLK uses a 1:3 twist rate. Your usual .308 Winchester is around 1:10. It's not that faster rates don't exist, it's just the fastest rate I've ever heard of in a commercial application. You'll often find 1:7 twist rate in rifles for .223 Remington. The faster rates work with higher ballistic coefficient bullets. The higher the BC, the better they do in flight to retain what velocity they have. 

As it turns out, when you spin a bullet that fast, the bullet will impart additional effects at the target. I would highly recommend watching the video that Faxon Firearms put together. 

The terminal effects on ballistic gelatin are truly incredible. By simply increasing the rotational velocity of the bullet, the terminal wound cavity increases. Now, weather that increases it's ability to take Big Game animals, I don't know, but Kevin Brittingham has been hunting with a short barrel rifle in Africa over the last few years with the 8.6 Blackout very successfully. The biggest downside is that the bullets need to be solid copper instead of traditional lead core as the bullets apparently will spin themselves apart. Many people are already hunting with solid copper bullets successfully so I don't really see that as a downside unless you love casting your own or love cup-and-core construction. I'm using solid copper in my .300 Blackout WWSD AR-15 build.

The biggest benefit the 8.6 Blackout can give the average hunter will be performance with silencers. I have hunted and intend to do so again, with a rifle in .300 Blackout and a silencer. The Hornady SUB-X bullet and factory load was able to successfully take a small doe from short range. I've only taken the one deer but it did work. I'm not sure that the 190 grain SUB-X had the expansion that I want so I've ordered several sleeves of the Discreet Ballistics 188 grain Selous rounds tailored to the 16 inch Remington 700 I've been tinkering with for several years now. I'm interested to see how quiet I can make my setup with a full length silencer. 

DB also makes an 8.6 Blackout load using a bullet that's wild looking. Their Machined Expander bullet design starts to look more like a mechanical broadhead for archery that a bullet once it expands. 

The Discreet Ballistics Machine Expander for the .300 Blackout. 

They have a version of those pills for the 8.6 BLK that I would expect does the same as it does in the .300 BLK. 

Okay. So bottom line, upfront. What reason would make someone run out and buy one of these 8.6 Blackout rifles or rebarrel a .308 Winchester or .243 Winchester rifle? Honestly, nothing the current average American hunter is doing requires it. Where the new 8.6 Blackout shines is for people like me who are trying to hunt with silencers that want to keep things peaceful. Having a dedicated, subsonic hunting rifle that can easily put down a deer without rustling the neighbors jimmies at 8:30 AM on a Sunday morning is a blessing. 

I recently learned that both my Dead Air silencers are able to handle 8.6 Blackout subsonic loads without any issues. The hard part I would have is finding mounts for the KeyMo quick disconnect system as the 8.6 BLK barrels from the current manufacturers seem to not use standard shoulders. Alabama Arsenal has a great video on various silencers on a very short barrel. 

Giving it time, I'm interested in seeing how the new cartridge plays out and what options become available. I do know that Faxon makes barrels for both the Remington 700 platform and AR-10 based guns. Q has a version of their The Fix rifle along with a rifle based on the AR-10. It's like the Honey Badger but bigger. They call it the Boom Box. They have great names for their stuff. 

In parting, I absolutely will be keeping an eye on the 8.6 Blackout cartridge. I would love to build a new rifle to hunt whitetail but as it sits now, the Marlin 1894 and Remington 700 are my go to rifles for taking deer. Maybe in a few years, I can chase this rabbit. 

27 July 2023

Falling Into Old Traps - Hunt With What You Have

 We're less than 90 days away from rifle season in Georgia for whitetail. I don't think I can be more excited. The anticipation is palpable but I'm getting anxious about taking out the Marlin 1894 CST in 357 Magnum. 

Marlin 1894 CST in 357 Magnum and Dead Air's Primal

I know that 357 Magnum is plenty enough for the Homestead and that 16 inch barrel will help get it done. The math shows I should be fine out to at least 125 yards with the Remington HTP 158 grain factory loads. I don't plan on shooting that far given how the Homestead is laid out. 

The problem is I've never done it before and I keep wanting to go back to something I've used before, like my Winchester 94 or go buy something new like the new Savage 334 and build it out for the season. That's just stupid. What I need to do it get out there and take that 357 Mag with me to build experience. 

You can do all the math in the world and research all you want but eventually, you need to just get out there and do it. Happy hunting y'all. 

With all the parts the Marlin is just under 9 pounds.

Rossi R95 - Apparently Rossi Has a New 30-30 Coming

Today I learned that Rossi is bringing out a 30-30 chambered rifle and it's a knockoff 336. Honestly, I don't see that as a bad thing. On a side note, I'm pretty sure the Henry 30-30 is very close to the 336 action if it isn't a dead clone. You don't see me complaining about all the non-Colt AR-15 pattern rifles or the third generation Glock pattern pistols available. That goes doubly for the inexpensive ones that a poor man can afford. 

For some people, they might think a knock off of the Marlin classic is terrible especially that Ruger is bringing the Marlin brand back. My point is cost. Go look at what the Marlins are running in price. At over $1000 your are getting a very nicely made and beautiful rifle with the correct name. The Rossi is lower in it's street price point and the fit and finish will likely show it. That doesn't mean it won't shoot fine enough. I've seen initial street price under $900 over at Scheels so it's a little more affordable for the everyman. The days of a $500 Marlin 336 from Academy are gone, folks. That said, it's probably better that they are. 

I appreciate the wood stocks and blued finish but if you know me, you know what I'm about to say. Where's the threaded barrel option? 

Well, as it sits, I'm not seeing one so far. The 20 inch barrel wouldn't be hard to convert over. Move the front sight back a shade and have at it. No need to trim the magazine tube. That said, Rossi has a version of their R92, which is a knockoff of a Winchester 1892, that comes with a threaded barrel called the Triple Black. It's another one of the Marlin Dark series or Henry X series guns with black on black on black sort of look.  I assume it's just a mater of time they do a version to match in 30-30. 

In summary, I like that there is a less expensive 336 available. Not everyone can afford the Ruger price tag. I'll still be holding off on buying any new release lever action to see who comes out with a wood stocked, threaded barrel 30-30 first. So far, no one's done it.