03 April 2023

357 Magnum - Hand Loads. Some work and some don't

 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 Trailboss. 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 Trailboss 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 Trailboss 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. 

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.

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 cruisade. 

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 TrailBoss is a real winner for shortrange subsonic plinking. 

When I took those 3.5 and 4.0 grain Trailboss 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 empierce 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. Trailboss 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. 

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 

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.


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


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