American Handgunner May/June 2013 Digital Edition - Page 34

HANDLOADING the #358156, loaded using the top crimping groove in .38 special, bottom crimping groove in .38 special and top crimping groove in .357 magnum. the #358156 and smith & Wesson .357 magnums always get along! sage aDvice from the haNDloaDiNg gurus JohN taffiN reAl MAgic BulleTs K Use CaUtion e often hear “There are no magic bullets.” I beg to differ. There are bullets seemingly magical in their performance; doing everything we could possibly want them to do. However they won’t compensate for poor shooting or faulty reloading practices. If we do our part behind the sixgun — and at the loading press — the performance of these bullets is absolutely magical. When the .357 Magnum was introduced in the middle 1930s, bullets of the time were plain-based, and therein lies the problem with original .357 loads. Those relatively soft cast bullets, at a then unheard of muzzle velocity of 1,500+ fps, resulted in severe leading, often with the first cylinder full fired. This problem was to last for at least 20 years. The large proliferation of jacketed bullets available to us today was unheard of in 1935 when the .357 came out. The only jacketed handgun bullets I ever saw in the mid-1950s were FMC hardball loads. So, people wondered if using gas-checked bullets would help with leading in the .357. Keith always claimed gas-checked bullets were worthless in a revolver, though. The gas-check design itself goes back prior to WWI for use on cast bullets in rifles. So what next? It remained for Ray Thompson to come up with “Magic Bullets” for use in sixguns. hen in the 1950s gunsmiths such as Arizona’s Ward Koozer, began conHe designed #431215 and #431244 for use verting Winchester Model 92s to .357 Magnum and the problem with in the .44 Special and #452490 for use in the original sixguns was magnified several times over. I have yet to find the .45 Auto Rim, however, his most maga plain-based cast .357 Magnum bullet which will give any kind of satical of bullets is #358156. The 2-decadeisfactory results in a levergun when loaded to full power. The Thompson long problem associated with loading for designed #358156 is simply magic in both sixguns and leverguns. the .357 Magnum was over. When Thompson designed his bullet he went against everything The #358156 designed for the .357 Keith had been preaching for more than 2 decades. His bullets don’t Magnum is my favorite .357 bullet and I have a deep crimping groove, they do have multiple small lube grooves have found it to be the best bullet availinstead of one large groove, and of course instead of a plain base they able for full-power loads in .357 Magnum use the snap-on copper gas check. With #358156, Thompson took an sixguns. And, its gas-checked feature is extra step and provided two crimping grooves. The top groove is for use absolutely mandatory when using cast in .357 Magnum brass, and especially in short-cylindered sixguns such bullets in .357 leverguns. It simply does as the original .357 Magnum and some early Ruger Blackhawks. The about everything I want a .357 Magnum bottom groove on #358156 is for use in .38 Special brass. bullet to do. This provides more powder space. W eith’s original heavy .38 Special load, only for use in heavy frame .38 Special sixguns or .357 Magnum revolvers, was assembled with his 168-grain, plain-based bullet over 13.5 grains of #2400. This is a heavy load running more than 40,000 psi and should be used with extreme caution. When Skeeter Skelton finally got his first .357 Magnum in the 1950s he settled on the same powder charge by using the Thompson bullet loaded in the bottom groove in .38 Special brass. This results is about 100 fps less muzzle velocity, and is easier on both shooter and sixgun. My standard loads for this bullet in .357 Magnum brass, crimped in the top crimping groove, are 14.0-15.0 grains of #2400 for 1,300-1,450 fps depending upon barrel length, or 15.5-16.0 grains of #4227 for slightly less velocity. Accuracy is excellent. I might mention one other Magic Bullet, the Hornady 240grain XTP jacketed hollowpoint. Most of my use of this bullet has been with Black Hills factory loads rather than handloads but I could duplicate the same 1,350 fps muzzle velocity with the proper powder charges. When I was regularly hunting Texas this bullet took 24 whitetails with 24 shots. Of those deer, 22 never took a step, one went about 30 yards, and then there was the exception. This one, shot at dusk, took off like it had not been hit. I tried to convince here’s the #358156 loaded in myself I had missed, but my .38 special brass, using shot felt too good for that. It bottom and was almost dark, and cold, top crimping so we waited until the next grooves. morning and found that deer — it had run approximately 300 yards. T Real Magic * 34 WWW.AMERICANHANDGUNNER.COM • MAY/JUNE2013

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