03 March 2024

Constitutional Carry - 20 States! And That Makes 27

Of these United States, 20 have officially enacted laws that remove the requirement to have a permit to actively carry a firearm in public.

2021 has seen advancement of constitutional carry laws in several states with Iowa and Tennessee being successful in passing the laws off to their governors who signed them. They join the ranks of the several States such as Alaska, Kentucky and my home state of West Virginia who have chosen to return the power and control back to the people at large. These states still maintain permit systems so that residents may apply for a permit that is recognized by external states giving legal recognition to the People that travel outside of their resident state and exercise their natural right to self defense. I'll explain why this setup is important and a huge benefit to the free People at large. 

The process of applying for a permit can be time consuming and expensive. In Georgia, our carry permit application costs around $70 to $80 and takes several weeks (my original application took about 3 weeks before I had my permit). You are required to have a permit for both open and concealed carry. While the application in Georgia isn't difficult, you are still subordinate to the bureaucracy before you can defend yourself with a firearm in public legally. If you are one of the people who don't have a permit and your life is in danger, you probably want the permit NOW and not 3 weeks from now. Dying because you had to wait around is not ideal. With COVID creating havoc in 2020, it took my resident county 2 months to renew my permit and it technically expired even though I had applied weeks before the expiration date. I have friends whos process took longer. Do your rights end just because a printed date on a plastic card has passed? No. No they do not. 

The above is why I have and will always advocate for a system that, if you need the gun now to defend yourself, you have an option or method of carrying that gun that is legally recognized while you wait for your permit application to get through the system. Most people who get a permit don't do so preemptively. There is usually a trigger in their life that says "maybe I should do this." Thankfully for many people, they are able to get one before something bad happens. When I talk to new shooters who start down this path, I explain that they need to start the permit process right now before they even choose the gun because of the time involved. 

If you have ever thought about buying a gun for personal defense, you need to go apply RIGHT NOW for concealed carry permit because the time it takes you can take longer than you may have.

Even if you never buy a gun, you'll at least have the carry permit so that SHOULD you purchase the gun, you'll be able to carry it. In a constitutional carry state, you'll be able to carry your newly purchased gun immediately. You've already done a background check to buy the gun and the likely chance is that, the background check system used to buy the gun is the same system used to run your information for the carry permit. Why not just run them at the same time or just use the original check for your authorization.

BUT ISN'T THAT DANGEROUS?

Not really. Most people's idea of a carry permit is based on the idea that maybe you shouldn't be allowed to do so as if you are a dangerous person. If that's the case, you shouldn't have the gun in the first place. If you are barred from a carry permit for criminal reasons, then you're barred from ownership. 

Simply put, if you can own the gun, you can carry the gun. 

I know that many people like the idea of requiring a demonstration of competency before authorizing carry, however, learning to use a pistol correctly is time consuming and could take longer than the process of the application. Not every person has the time to go to the range every week for the next 2 months and take classes to learn. It also interferes with the concept of immediate need. If you are in danger now, NOW is the time to carry the gun. You can learn as you go. It's why I advocate constitutional carry for domestic violence victims. If someone finally breaks away from a bad relationship, I don't want that victim to have to wait for the State or county to give them a permit. Go buy the gun, ammo and a holster then immediately go into the range and start learning. 

So in short, I am very excited to see that two fifths of our Free Nation have removed the control of the People's rights from the State's regulation under the control of bureaucrats and restored the power of choice back to the People. 

UPDATE June 2021 - 21 States thanks to Texas! 

UPDATE March 2022 - Several states are moving toward constitutional carry. Ohio just sent theirs to the Governor after clearing both chambers. Georgia's passed the Senate and has gone to the House committee for review and I'm hoping they get it done soon. Alabama just sent one to the Senate floor and Indiana has one but I haven't done any research about it. 

15 MAR 2022 Update: Ohio makes 23! On 14 March, the governor of Ohio signed their bill removing the need for a permit! Georgia has two competing bills currently. I'm hoping the Senate one gets passed by the House. 

24 MAR 2022 Update: Indiana signed theirs into law on the 21st which makes 24! 

01 APR 2022 Update: The Georgia House had been playing games with the SB 319 but the two chambers got a neutered-but-still-good bill passed and Georgia will send a Constitutional Carry bill to Governor Kemp soon.

08 APR 2022 Update: Kemp is expected to sign SB 319 into law as of next week. Additionally, Nebraska has sent their permitless carry bill to the Senate. If it clears, it'll go to their governor for signing which, if passed, would make it so more than half of the US states you can carry a pistol concealed with out permission from the State first. Huge retaking of freedoms going on!

18 APR 2022 Update: Louisiana is trying again and moved a bill out of their House committee. Here's hoping LA can get it done. I hear Florida is trying again as well. 

22 APR 2022 Update: Louisiana's attempt passed the House and it off to the Senate. The Senate tried in 2021 but their Governor doesn't like freedom so he vetoed it. The Senate didn't override. Here's hoping they get it right this time. No update on Florida. Mini update. I was wrong, the FL bill died in committee. Lame.

04 MAR 2023 Update: Florida is back at it along with Nebraska, South Carolina and North Dakota. So far, those states have active bills in play to make Constitutional Carry a thing. If all 4 get it this year, that would make 29 states where you don't need to ask permission to carry a pistol.

1 APR 2023 - This isn't an April Fools Day joke, Florida finally passed a bill out of their Congress and sent Constitutional Carry to the Governor. As it sits now, DeSantis will likely sign it making Florida number 26.

03 APR 2023 - DeSantis signed permitless carry. 

07 APR 2023 Update: Looks like South Carolina is getting a bill in the mix with S109. It has to be passed and go to their House for passage before it can go to their Governor. 

20 APR 2023 - Nebraska is poised to become number 27 as their permitless carry bill has left their unicameral (one Chamber instead of a House and Senate) after being passed and is on it's way to the Governor who says he'd sign it. Once completed, Nebraska will become the 27th state in this Union to return to the traditional ways of firearms. Remember that permits weren't really a thing until the early 1900's. That statement is ignoring the restriction of concealed carry and preference of open carry in the mid 1800's. Which still highlights that both options were available at founding in the late 1790's.

12 SEPT 2023 - Nebraska did sign that bill and it has gone into effect on 02 SEPT. 

24 JAN 2024 - South Carolina introduced a bill and will start debating it soon. Here's hoping SC gets permitless carry soon as the last one didn't get out of their Senate. HB3594 is this year's bill. 

MAR 2024: Louisiana has completed the process to get constitutional carry out of their Congress and off to the Governor to sign. I don't know when he will sign it but the current expectation is that he will. Number 28, folks. Praise the Lord, We the People are clawing back our Rights. SC is making some amendments to their bill HB3594. We will see how this goes.


02 March 2024

Massey Ferguson 135 - Making Repairs

 Our Massey Ferguson 135 is worn out but with some effort and new parts, I think we will have a great maintenance machine to fight the grass with. The engine runs fine enough but would stop running after about 10 to 15 minutes from fuel starvation. The 3 point hitch will lift but its rough and slow and feels shaky. It also had an engine oil leak somewhere that in some cases will launch blobs of hot oil out of the right side with the correct hill angle. I was hoping that all I needed was a new valve cover gasket and a replacement gas tank. As a result, I got it in my head I can once again pretend to be handy and work on a machine myself. 

Thankfully, we were able to order most of the parts needed from Steiner tractor parts. A full gasket set for the cylinder head region, a new gas tank and replacement fuel sender unit. I don't need to know how much fuel there is in the tank but it does come with the gasket. The kit wasn't too expensive. 

I waited for cooler weather so the grass to stop growing to begin working on this. Just in case I ruin something, I have time to fix it. It turns out, working on the Massey was a great decision. The first thing that needed to come out was the gas tank. 



The inside is just as bad as the outside.

The inside of the original tank is extremely rusty and forced the previous owner to put a filter in place. Otherwise, the rust would get into the carb and engine. The filter would never truly be full of fuel causing air to bleed into the system causing a vapor lock in the hard line. Removing the filter was necessary but only until the tank was replaced or lined. I chose to replace it. 



Being that the engine is under the gas tank, I took the opportunity to replace the valve cover gasket. It's a good thing I did. It was bad. First, there was a rubber gasket instead of a cork gasket. Second, it looks like someone attempted to use something like RTV in addition for some reason. I had to remove that. 



No wonder there was a leak.

When I removed the cover I was immediately greeted with stuff that I know doesn't belong in an engine. I was shocked but I guess I shouldn't have been. I'm not sure as to what happened or even what the stuff is, but the case pressure clearly was attempting to push some sort of organic tree nut matter out under the gasket. I took the time to remove the RTV from the head and pick out anything that looked like it didn't belong from the valve area. 



I have no idea what this is but I'm glad it's out.

It took some working but I got the new cork gasket lined up and pressed into place. With the valve cover back on, I took a chance and rigged up a fuel system to see if I could test the gasket. I figured that there wasn't much sense in putting everything back together only to have to take it apart later. Once I had everything back together. 



That's some fine redneck engineering there.

The engine ran just fine with the makeshift fuel system and the gasket didn't leak so I took to putting the whole thing back together. It took some doing but once I was done, I got the tractor to run without much issue. I replaced the section of fuel line that had the filter with a new section of filter-free rubber line. No more filter. Just straight line into the carb. I let the tractor run at various engine speeds to make sure there weren't more issues.

I did find that the sediment bowl was leaking gas. It took a few attempts at troubleshooting that and just needed tightening down. The concern was that the hardline wasn't a part I could just order and making a new one had me worried. I would get the leak to stop then go back a little bit later to check. When I open the valve, gas would leak again. The connector seemly never stopped tightening and I was worried about stripping the threads. I'm great at doing that. I'm continuing to tune small stuff like the fuel line which I may end up just making a new one. I have a link for a replacement bowl assembly if needed.



All in all, the decision to replace these parts was good. The tractor shouldn't give me fueling issues like it was. We shall see if this MF 135 runs fine over the summer but I already have a few things I want to work on next. 

After seeing everything that wasn't supposed to be in the valve area, I've hunted down a replacement oil filter and will replace the oil.

Most of the gauges aren't working. I would like to replace the fuel gauge and the tachometer. If I can get those two running, then the instruments should be good for now. The oil pressure and temp gauges are working well enough but I don't know if they are accurate. 

The next big thing I need to look at is the hydraulics. The hitch shudders when picking up the brush hog. It could be a few things but I'm thinking the pump is a good place to start.  

Additionally, I would like to add a slip clutch and replace the drivelink. I've broken enough shear bolts already doing land reclamation and that part could really save me in the long run. Plus, the current link doesn't actually stay on the output shaft. The pin is stuck open. Super safe.

Thanks for reading. Check back for more details!

357 Magnum and 38 Special Handloads - Including Subsonic


 I've been tinkering with what little powder and primers I have but I have been able to pick up different cast bullets. The only two powders I have are HS-6 and Trail Boss. While neither seem to be especially suited to 38 Special and 357 Magnum, they can be used. The only small primers I have are Remington 5 1/2 "magnum" small pistol primers. They work just fine for what I'm doing with my revolvers and lever action 357 rifle. That said, if I find a good opportunity to buy up some Alliant Unique or similar powder, I will. I'm not sure I'll buy up more primer anytime soon since I just took supply of a new box. On a side note, if you attempt to replicate any of these, you are responsible for your own actions. I am not responsible for your actions since reloading can be risky if you don't know (or do know) what you are doing.

Also, this post will be a rolling update as I find stuff. 




200 Grain

My first 357 Mag / 38 Special hand loads were using Trail Boss with a 200 gr hard cast flat nosed bullet with a gas check from Cast Performance. They're a bit expensive but for fun, heavy weight loads for suppressed shooting, I figured they'd work great. Turns out that maybe Trail Boss was not the best choice since they were very inaccurate and also seemed to be tumbling out of my Marlin 1894 CST but I did find that 5.5 grains of HS-6 using a 38 Special case makes for a GREAT plinking round. See the below video of that rifle getting hits on a 6 inch gong at 50 yards. That charge of HS-6 from my 16 barrel Marlin 1894 is chronographing at 1035 FPS. I believe that is impressive though Buffalo Bore can push a 180 gr bullet at 1800 FPS from the same gun so maybe not. That said, for a thumping good time, that load is fairly quiet and fun to shoot. 



As you can see, the HS-6 load is a pretty capable load for shorter ranges with some hold over at distance. I haven't tried it for dispatching varmint critters such as armadillos yet but give me time. Sadly, I used up the last of my 200 gr cast rounds on that visit. I do have a Lee 2-cavity mold that I can try to make my own but that's for a later date. 

Update Feb 2024: I had ordered 200 more in 2023 but have shot most of them with just over half a box left. The availability of the 200 grain Cast Performance bullets is sporadic so I will start looking at casting with the Lee 200 grain mold. 

Lee Precision C358-200 2 Cavity Mold

This is the first mold I ever bought. I figured at the time that I could use .357 Magnum like .300 Blackout by using a very heavy bullet with a small charge. Well, I proved that with the Cast Performance 200 grain bullets so now it's time to start making my own. 

The mold is not the same as the CP bullet. The Lee mold has a large lube grove with two very thick driving bands. It does have a gas check but I don't think I'll be using that feature. I may just have someone mill that out so it's a plain base. 

The idea is the same. Maybe do a hard cast, 15+ BHN, and load with 5.5 gr of HS-6.

160 Grain

I had ordered a box of 160 grain hollow points that have a very wide cavity from GT Bullets here in Georgia. I tried loading up with varying amounts of HS-6 starting at 6.2 grains and running up to 9.7 grains per the Lyman Cast Bullet book. I forgot to take my chronograph out on the first visit and from my Taurus 66, none seemed to be particularly accurate. I did have to seat them deep and may have damaged the driving bands. I will need to test again. I'm thinking a few test loads for subsonic loading might be a good choice that I need to tinker with since these are MUCH cheaper than those 200 grain pills. 

Update: After tinkering with the 160 grain bullets over various amounts of HS-6, the 9 grain range really gets them moving but are very smoky. I had clocked the 9.7 gr loads from a Taurus 66 with 4 inch barrel pushing into the 1300 fps range. I believe that would put these bullets into territory that will cause good expansion of the hollow point design but I haven't tested that yet. 

I did find that a lighter load of 6 grains will push these bullets from a 16 inch rifle barrel to around 1200 fps and might could be a good choice for hunting. I don't have ballistic gel blocks but I might try the redneck science way of shooting old milk jugs full of water. It's not ideal but it does something. 

Update 2: I tested subsonic versions of the 160 gr cast hollow points from my Marlin 16 inch rifle since the 200 gr cast are expensive. Both the 4.0 grain and 4.5 grain loads of HS-6 were quiet enough. I have not yet run them over a chronograph to see how fast they move. I'll update that later.

Update 3: I ran out of bullets. They were fun. I will need to order more.

Lyman 358439 HP

Here in Spring of 2023, I think it's time for me to start casting my own bullets. I have a single cavity bullet mold for a 155 grain hollow point from Lyman I bought as part of a self-sufficiency project I was working on. It's the 358439 HP mold. Essentially, it's a lighter-weight "Keith" style bullet with big lube grooves and big drive bands. It looks like it will do well in 38 Special cases given the size of the first drive band being thick. What I want from this pursuit is to have a deer load for my Marlin 1894 or a single shot pistol like a T/C Contender that I can make on the homestead without having to buy commercial products. On a side note, the 358439 may end up being 160 grain so we'll see how that plays out.

Looking over the Lyman Cast Bullet book, we're looking at around 9 to 10 grains of HS-6 for magnum loads but I started doing research for rifle specific data. That's led me to Hodgdon's H110. I knew that Alliant's 2400 powder has been used successfully for 357 for decades and that many people have also used Unique. I'd also seen where people have loaded other cartridges with those powders like .300 Blackout making me think that having a bottle or two of either would be a good universal powder. Continuing down that research hole, I found that people have also used H110 for powerful 357 loads but are also successful in using it for .300 Blackout. You can also make cast bullets for .300 Blackout and might be useful for something like my bolt-action Remington 700 in 300 Blackout. I don't expect it would be optimal but it might be worth having around. 

Given that I can order H110 from the same LGS I got the HS-6 from, I think I should put in an order some time this year and start the casting crusade. 

Taking a closer look. I believe the mold I have is the same or nearly the same as the GT Bullets 160 grain. If that's the case that would give me a mold to make those bullets. I suspect that the GT Bullets' option is capable at taking a whitetail deer. That is something that I have been wanting to consider. 

125 Grain

Berry's Bullets makes a flat nose jacketed bullet that are somewhat inexpensive at around 22 cents per round after shipping, which is steep. That said, Hodgdon has load data for a cast 125 bullet for Trail Boss starting at 3.5 grains moving up to 5.3 grains and staying subsonic. That information is likely for a revolver but somewhere in there could be a good subsonic rifle load to use up some of the Trail Boss I have. What I've read is that the high levels of powder should use the 357 Mag cases. I found around 4.5 grains in 38 Special cases puts the powder into compression or near compression. I stopped loading at 4.7 grains for the 38 Special cases but then did a 5.6 gr load for 357 Mag cases. 

After getting out to shoot, it looks like the 3.5 grains in 38 Special cases is just fine and don't seem to tumble. At around 4.3 grains, they got a little louder than what I want and the 4.7 grains seemed to be supersonic from the 16 inch barrel. I realized that I don't need the maximum charge possible. All I need is an inexpensive load I can whip up for when I want to take someone new to the range with while being quiet. I still need to run them over a chronograph and shoot groups but I think the 3.5 to 4.0 grain load with Trail Boss is a real winner for shortrange subsonic plinking. 

When I took those 3.5 and 4.0 grain Trail Boss loads out, I was able to run both over my chronograph. The 3.5 gr load was pushing around 641 FPS with an extreme spread of 66 FPS and the 4.0 grain load around 801 FPS with an ES of 38 FPS. I didn't find much difference in the auditory experience between the two so I think I'll stick with the 3.5 grain version with the 125 grain Berry's Bullet for when I take someone to the range. Trail Boss is fairly inexpensive at around $30 for a 9 oz bottle and the bullets at $0.22 per bullet. If you use your own brass and you get the powder local like from Bass Pro but have primers shipped in like I did, these will cost around $0.35 per round. That's pretty good for these days but I think I can do this cheaper. Maybe around $0.25 per round. 

I do have a possible recipe for HS-6 and the Berry's Bullets 125 gr JFN that could make for fun revolver loads but I'm looking for cheap, subsonic plinking loads for now. 


105 Cast Subsonic Plinking Loads

Update November 2023: I found a company called Slippery Bullets that makes a 105 gr cast and powder coated truncated flat point for cowboy action shooting. I still have some Trail Boss powder so I figured I'd load up a few. The bullets were 9¢ per round with shipping. Not too bad. They aren't meant for anything serious, just cheap plinking with the suppressed lever action and my revolvers. 

The suggested loads I've found are starting at 3 grains of TB with a 38 Special case for Cowboy Action and similar. I started loading at 3 grains and ended at 4.0 grains of Trail Boss by Hodgdon. The velocities I got are below using my Caldwell chronograph. It was 70 degrees out. Georgia is weird. It should be cold in November. I made 11 rounds of each except for the 4.0 grains load. For whatever reason, I had a total of 54 primers left in the 100 count box of Remington 5 1/2 Small Pistol Magnum.

3.0 Grains - 844 FPS Average

3.3 Grains - 905 FPS Average

3.5 Grains - 949 FPS Average 

3.7 Grains - 997 FPS Average

4.0 Grains - 1057 FPS Average


After running the loads over the chronograph, I attempted groups at 25 yards to see if any were better. The 3.3 grain loads grouped the best but the 4.0 grain loads started to look good. I didn't have enough after chronographing as I used 8 rounds of the 10. 



Running them through the suppressed Marlin 1894 is fun. They hit steel nicely and make a satisfying noise. The point of impact isn't majorly different at short range so these fit nicely into the Ambassador roll the ArgentVaquero project was built for. A 9 oz bottle of Trail Boss will produce around 1,100 rounds of those 3.3 grain loads. That said, the 4.0 grain loads looked like they may have grouped pretty nicely had I not ran out. I may make a few more of the 4.0 grain loads to check accuracy. At 4 grains, a bottle only makes around 980 loads. Reducing that to 3.9 grains should get to around 1,000 rounds. I need to see how these loads do in my revolvers. Currently, this load works out to 19 cents per reload with the CCI primers I now have plus the TB and these cast bullets. I think this is the cheapest subsonic range load I have for any of my centerfire guns. 

A 2 lbs bottle at 3.3 grains produces around 4,200 rounds. I have enough for a while but given that a 2 lbs. bottle is $90 I think I'll keep my eye out for a resupply. That would bring the cost per round down to 18 cents. That said, if it continues that I can't get Trail Boss like it has for a while now, HS-6 can be substituted according to Hodgdon's website. A charge of 6.2 to 6.6 grains can push to under 950 fps. That's from a 7.7 inch barrel and will require some experimentation to get keep the load slow.

Update NOV 2023: Trail Boss is not being made at this time per the manufacturer's website. I will need to find a substitute for the TB based 105 gr loads.

Update FEB 2024: I've started loading and will test soon, an HS-6 based load for subsonic use in .38 Special Cases. It starts at 6.2 grains and ends at 6.6 grain so no much testing to do with the 105 grain cast bullets. I did also find a load of Titegroup with I think is going to be a winner if they are quiet. If they are, Titegroup can be had locally for under $30.00 for a 1 pound bottle. If the minimum charge of 4.8 grains works, that's 1458 rounds per 1 lbs bottle. That works out to $0.02 per shot. Given that Trail Boss is dead for now, that would likely be the cheapest I can put together something for the Marlin to spit out at $0.18 per round. In retrospect, I suspect that these will be supersonic as the 200 grain load is 5.5 grains and it's very close to supersonic. Thankfully, I only made 15 rounds total. I also have some loads for the 4.5 grain range.

Update MAR 2024: I got to test some of the HS-6 loads with the 105 grain bullets but my chronograph didn't work due to overcast skies. I didn't get velocity data but I was able to confirm subsonic levels by ear. The loads work but the amount of unburnt powder is incredible. I fired 10 rounds and the barrel looked like I had been shooting black powder. I have heard that HS-6 is better for hotter loads and heavier bullets. These are neither. I only fired 5x of 4.5 grain loads and 5x of the 6.2 grain loads. The 4.5 grain loads sounded great but there was powder coming out of the case on extraction. The 6.2 grain loads were mixed in terms of breaking the sound barrier. 2 of the 5 rounds didn't break the sound barrier on the 39 degree day.

I'm thinking I will whip up some 6.0 and 5.8 grain versions to try but I think the 105 grain bullet with undercharged HS-6 isn't what I want due to how dirty it is. The current best subsonic, cheap plinking round I can put together is the Trail Boss load of 3.3 grains with the Slippery Bullets 105 grain cast bullet. I checked to see how much TB I have left and it should be more than enough to use up the last of my 105 grain bullets. 

I'm currently thinking the best approach for long term is using HS-6 and to collecting as much wheel weight lead as I can get and start casting either the 200 grain Lee or the 160 grain Lyman. We shall see. 




Current Winners

The 2023 Cheap Plinking Load is the 105 cast bullets from Slippery Bullets. A 500 count box for $35 but are $9.50 to ship. This puts us at 9 cents per round. The 4000 count box is the same in shipping for some reason which puts us at a nice 7 cents per round. If I can find a good source of 2 pounds of Trail Boss and primers for the price I got recently around $7 for 100, we're looking at somewhere around 17 cents per round. That's the cheapest load I can currently make up that does what I want for a subsonic round for suppressor use. 

.22 LR is still cheaper plus, sadly, Trail Boss doesn't seem to be made anymore so we'll keep looking.

The Cast Performance 200 grain gas checked bullet with 5.5 grains of HS-6 is my pet plinking load. They have lots of thump and are subsonic. The only downside is I can't get a reliable supply of the bullets and are regularly out of stock. They are also somewhat expensive at $32 a box of 100 when they are in stock. Sadly, I only have a half a box left. The plus side is that I have the Lee 200 grain 2 cavity mold. I don't know that these bullets are the same as that mold is but it would be great if they were. 

It seems that my 2 winners here are hindered by availability problems so I will endeavor to find loads that work. 

Other Bullet Options 

I also remembered that there's a company called Oregon Trail with their Laser-Cast bullets. I use their 200 gr lead for my 45 Colt rounds. They have a cast 125 gr that's $38 for a box of 500 but it's $20 for shipping so make sure you get a bunch. It is WAY cheaper than the Berry's. I'll be looking at buying a box of those real soon since I'm just about out of the Berry's. I think I can get this down to closer to $0.22 per round if I play my cards right.

Bayou Bullets seems to also have cheap options for cast, powder coated bullets. They have a 95 grain round nose that's $78 for a 1000. 3 grains of Trail Boss could make them potentially subsonic. That's also a tiny amount of powder making that load a very cheap option.  


Powder and Primer Considerations

Getting powder is tricky business these days. To ship both, there is an automatic $25 HAZMAT fee on top of the normal shipping and handling. It's best to find a local shop that can get powders and primers delivered to them and you go pick it up. The cost of both plus the extra fees is what is driving up the cost of reloading. 

In an update, I was able to pick up from HS-6 from an LGS without HAZMAT fee which is great! 

I'll keep updating this post as I tinker around with loads but so far, I'm becoming more and more happy with the original load of 5.5 grains of HS-6 under the 200 grain gas checked cast bullet for generic range use. I caved and ordered 200 more bullets for the 200 gr loads and I want to load up a few more to confirm accuracy and point of impact shift compared to my Remington HTP 158 gr 357 Mag factory loads.

Update NOV 2023: H110 has been sourced from a location I didn't know had powders. I expect to use the H110 for full power 357 Mag loads with a likely focus on Hornady XTP bullets. I also found out that the reason we can't get Trail Boss is because it's made in Australia and apparently Thales stopped producing pending some research project. The ADI website hasn't had an update since DEC 2021 saying the same thing about Trail Boss. Looks like I will need to start working out that HS-6 load for the 105 grain sub sonic


Resources 

The below links have provided huge amounts of information but are not the only things I've used. I read old articles written by folks such as Elmer Keith and Skeeter Skelton themselves to piece information together. 

http://www.lasc.us/Fryxell38KeithHP358439.htm


Paco Kelly on the .357 Magnum 

https://www.leverguns.com/articles/paco/357_magnum_and_the_literature.htm


I found a powder comparison chart from ADI World Class' website.



01 March 2024

Henry Homesteader - A Small Update

I've had the Henry Homesteader for a while now and I've come to enjoy it.  In my last writing about the Homesteader, I had settled on using a Leupold FX-II 2.5x fixed magnification scope and a very low profile Ashley Performance mount intended for the Marlin 336. While this seems silly, the rifle was zeroed for 20 yards using Speer's Gold Dot 124 grain +P load. That keeps the bullets flight path below 1 inch out to 70 yards or so giving the user a good anti-varmint gun for larger critters such as armadillo or ground hog. A coyote and feral hog should watch out for such a rifle. 



Estimated ballistics chart for the Speer 124 gr +P load

I've found that the rifle has been reliable since the beginning. While I don't have a massive round count through it, less than 500 rounds, what rounds I have fed through it have had not issues. This includes hollow points, flat nose and round nose. I have used 115 grain, 124 grain, 147 grain and 158 grain jacketed bullets in the rifle without a hiccup. I haven't set it down to see what sort of groups or accuracy I can get with any of the loads available. 

I have noticed that while it runs great, as a suppressor host, I wonder if it could use a heavier recoil spring. The port pop from the ejection port as the action opens can be uncomfortable to my right ear so I use a ear plug on that side while in use. The left side has no issues. I don't remember having issues with my AR-9 like that. That was using 147 grain subsonic loads. The 158 grain PPU subs don't seem to have that issue. The video below was taken from about 15 yards away from the shooter and is using those same PPU rounds. I had been working on making a cast 160 grain load for plinking but haven't really gotten to it yet.



A few companies have stepped up to make cool products. Midwest Industries made a handguard for the Homesteader that has lots of MLOK slots and a skeletonized stock to match. 



From Midwest Industries' website

Personally, I think the stock kills the aesthetic but I know there will be people who take this setup to the next level and it will look amazing. Think Mad Pig Customs Thumper but on the Homesteader. It would probably be pretty cool. As for just the rail, I do like the idea of adding one to mine. Currently, I still have the original handguard but added a cheap Surefire knockoff light. Since there aren't any good ways to correct the mounting issue, I resorted to a cheap barrel clamp with a picatinny rail section on it. It's sure ugly but at least the rifle has a forward mounted light. I'm holding out for WOOX to make something but maybe the MI rail would be best. I can add wood panel sections to the sides to try to keep the wood aesthetic while still being able to forward mount the light. 



Thinking over the build idea, if I really wanted to go nuts with the rifle, I would take both the MI handguard and stock and send the barreled action over to Mad Pig. I would have MPC cut the barrel down to 14.5 inch and have them pin and weld a JMAC G-36 flash hider,. Move the front sight back a shade and install the handguard and stock. Once the gun is fully back together, have them do a Cerakote camo job. I think it would be their Thumper package V1HA1. Their website says $1999 for the work.

Additionally, I would replace the 2.5x FX-II with the Leupold 1.5-4x LPVO.

Anyway, I don't have any plans on doing any of that so I'll keep it as is though I think the scope change would make a ton of sense. No word yet from Lee Mason on a stock cuff that holds a magazine. I still think that would make for a great addition. 

28 February 2024

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

Original Published on 17 SEPT 2023 but updated in FEB 2024.

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 re-released 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 these were from a 32-20 based rifle. The earliest reference to a .357 Magnum Winchester 92 in print I have been able to find was 1956 and the article made it sound like it had been going on for a while. I also found an article from 1939 where a rifle was mentioned that turns out to have been a converted Remington rolling block used to take deer. 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 me that the consumer market didn't have a lever action .357 Magnum rifle sooner than the late 1970's. It just seems like a no-brainer combination.

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 

 https://www.leverguns.com/articles/paco/357_magnum_and_the_literature.htm

https://www.leverguns.com/articles/paco/why.htm


Dark Horse's Host of the Skeeter Skelton on 357

https://darkcanyon.net/Skeeter_Skelton_Rifleman.htm


Bob Meinecke - The .357 magnum round still solid choice for backcountry

https://www.codyenterprise.com/news/sports/article_f3ae8296-f045-11e9-afb5-3bda9b8d0892.html#:~:text=357%20was%20regarded%20as%20the,even%20some%20African%20game%20animals.

Update FEB 2024: I found an GUNS magazine issue from January 1956 that talks about Ward Koozer and another gunsmith that converted Winchester 92s. Apparently, the Martini rifles were good candidates for conversion. That led me to find the Australian Cadet rifles that many were converted to .357 Mag. I still haven't found a date where people were regularly converting rifles to .357 Magnum but the 1940's seems like the best guess.

https://gunsmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/G0156.pdf

Update FEB 2024 #2: I also found two American Rifleman articles from 1939 that talks about a rifle in .357 Magnum but did not give much details in the first. The second, however, is much better. The build appears to have been using a Remington Rolling Block type rifle. After looking at the magazines, both articles are by the same author F.C. Ness. The likelihood is that the January article uses the same rifle from the March issue where the details are more available. Given that the rifle would have taken some time to make, I would argue that 1938 is the earliest confirmable timeframe that a .357 Magnum rifle was made. It's likely there were other one-offs before then but somewhere between 1935 and 1938 is when the first rifles where being made. Interestingly, the March 1939 issue runs through performance metrics that are very similar to what my Marlin seems to be capable of doing. I'm just over here, re-discovering what folks already knew. 

I then found a 1952 article where Elmer Keith himself suggested that a person, who had asked about their old Winchester 1892, could have a gunsmith convert their rifle from the older barrel to "remodel it to take the .357 Magnum with a new barrel." I couldn't find American Rifleman magazines in the archives from 1942 to 1950 but did get the issues from 1951 and newer. So far, no mention of any specifics on the 1892 conversions but we're looking at before 1952. I also found a later article from 1953 that mentions Mr. Koozer by name. So there we have it folks. The first rifles for .357 Magnum were made in the mid to late 1930's and the Winchester rifles started being converted no later than 1953. It's possible some folks were doing 92 conversions in the 1940's but I can't read them yet. 

I don't know what other magazine publications exist that would have this level of information but American Rifleman seems to be the best so far.

https://archive.org/details/sim_american-rifleman_1939-01_87_1/page/18/mode/2up?q=357&view=theater

https://archive.org/details/sim_american-rifleman_1939-03_87_3/page/14/mode/2up?q=357&view=theater