WHAT LENGTH OF BARREL IS BEST?
My answer: I am not the one using it and don't know the conditions. There is no "best" barrel length.
.357 Rem. Max. is using a small volume of relatively fast powder in a largish bore size that is not as dependent on a lot of barrel length to produce velocity. Good testing should be done to show the curve where velocity gain per inch really diminishes, but 18-20" handles best and depending on the powder burning rate chosen, probably delivers optimum velocity. 2 to 4" of additional barrel length as a good guesstimate probably adds no more than 30 to maybe 60 fps.
Optimum barrel length for maximum velocity and good handling qualities of the gun is +/- 20".
12" handguns handle nicely and produce good velocities while 10" barrels are better manageable for off hand shots. 14" and longer barrels depend more on conditions that allow you to shoot from a rested position.
.357 Max is one of THE very best rounds for 10" Contenders. Recoil is modest, and this is one of the most efficient rounds there is in 10" barrels!
I like the weight, balance, and feel of the .810" untapered 12" G2 Contender handgun barrels and prefer the .8" diameter untapered Encore rifle barrels. Ie, put some weight in the barrel, but don't make it too long.
"Best" barrel length is what is best for YOU and how you shoot it.
I see no need for a brake on either .357 Max. handgun or rifle barrels.
In handgun lengths, recoil of maximum .357 Max. loads is modest compared to .44 Magnum as a benchmark.
In rifle length barrels, consider the fact that the Max. uses about 1/3 less powder than a .308 Win. with the same bullet weight, yet gives nearly the same energy . That greater charge of slower powder from a .308 Win. produces a lot more muzzle blast that propels the gun back at you much harder!
Also, the faster powders used in the Max., much faster than those used in .308 Win., result in lower muzzle pressures. Thus percentage-wise you get less recoil reduction from a muzzle brake on a Max. compared to the effects of a brake on a .308 Win.
Recoil from the .357 Max. is moderate enough for kids and ladies to be comfortable with without a muzzle brake.
If you just want a brake, then brake the barrel.
Do I feel you need one? No.
Save your money.
The vast majority of barrels have been the most commonly available 1-14 twist, which has proven great for all bullet weights except for extremely long, heavy bullets shot sub-sonic. Based on David White's work, for years I have said, "1-20 twist is fine up through 160 gr. bullets but may not stabilize heavier or longer pointed bullets. 1-18 twist handles up through 180 gr. bullets and short for weight 200 gr. round nose."
However, 2016 tests by Match Grade Machine produced excellent accuracy AND bullet stability all the way up through the 225 gr. bullets they tested.
1-16 is what Remington has used for years for everything they have made in .35 Rem., .350 Rem. Mag, and to my knowledge .35 Whelen. 1-16 is probably the optimum for .357 Maximum, but is less commonly available.
.357 Max. is not fussy about twist rate. One customer shooting a 1-10 twist AR-15 prototype barrel I chambered in a rimless .357 Maximum with NO load development at all shot its very first 5-shot group into .530".
BOTTOM LINE ON TWIST RATE:
Does it really matter?
Everything from 1-10 twist through 1-20 twist has proven accuracy.
.357" OR .358" GROOVE DIAMETER? WHICH IS BEST?:
I see no difference in accuracy.
The throat diameter and the way I throat barrels is the key, regardless of groove diameter. .357" bullets shoot phenomenal groups in .358" barrels, and conversely, the undersize TC barrels with groove diameters around .356" shoot .358" bullets equally well.
From its inception as a revolver round with early experimental loads exceeding 75,000 psi in the Ruger revolvers, the Remington No. 7 1/2 primer was used. It is considered a MAGNUM RIFLE primer. Use rifle primers, not handgun, and generally use MAGNUM primers, especially with ball powders.
For reduced loads, use bulky, faster burning, easier to ignite flake powders like Unique and Blue Dot, powders known for good accuracy in moderate pressure rounds. Trail Boss is noted for being excellent in very reduced loads. IMR-4759 and 2400 for intermediate loads equivalent to or a notch or two above .357 Magnum levels. One thing I have noticed about 2400 is that lower pressure loads leave a lot of unburned powder in the barrel while hotter loads leave virtually no unburned powder in the bore. Why velocities published for 2400 are on the low side may be due to producing less consistent pressures with hotter loads, which is only conjecture on my part. However, 2400 is worth experimenting with at charges a few grains higher than are normally published.
For full throttle loads, the 4227 powders (IMR and Hodgdon), Hodgdon Lil Gun, and similar are about the fastest burning rate powders that should be used.
WW-296/H-110 (one in the same powder) are rated faster burning than the 4227 powders but for velocity WW-296/H-110 beat the 4227's and are pretty much the go-to choice with 140 gr. to 180 gr. bullets. Following the manufacturers' recommendations for WW-296/H-110, do not use less than published charges. I would add that with bullets seated out, start with near maximum published charges and go up a grain or two OVER published maximum loads..... and crimp.
Not much has been done with AA-5744, which falls in between WW-296/H-110 and AA-1680 for burning rate, but this less-in-demand powder may be more available and prove to be a good one. The jury is still out.
AA-1680 is pretty much the benchmark for top velocity with 180 gr. to 200 gr. bullets and has the benefit of being the safest powder to push to the extreme since you virtually cannot go over-pressure with it. Reloader 7 is the slowest powder to choose, works well, and falls into this same general description.
Other powders by Scott, Norma, Vihtavouri, Ramshot, etc. should fall into the above burning rate range between Lil Gun on the fast end and Reloader 7 on the slow end. Do a web search for powder burning rate charts.
Alliant 300-MP is in the right burning rate range and should work well in the Max., especially with 180 gr. bullets.
For those who like to experiment where no data is published, the Max. offers plenty of opportunities.
JACKETED BULLETS FOR LARGER GAME, ESPECIALLY DEER:
Some report good results on deer with Hornady's 140 gr. Flex Tip bullet, but this is the lightest bullet for deer.
Barnes' 140 gr. solid copper handgun bullet will withstand all the speed you can feed it, but from full throttle loads in rifles will break off the petals at the nose yet retain about 65% of its weight for penetration.
Results posted on this page with various brands of 158 gr. bullets favor those by Hornady and Remington for deer while other brands not loaded to full potential velocity may prove to not break up and be quite alright for deer. 158-160 gr. is plenty adequate for deer.
Most jacketed handgun bullets have very thin jackets and will literally unfold on themselves and not penetrate when run at full speed on closer shots where the terminal velocity is up close to 2,000 fps yet.
For rifle velocities, choose bullets the makers list as hunting bullets!
Speer Deep Curl bonded bullets are touted for hunting, though I have little further information on them. Speer has stepped up to the plate with a 170 gr. Deep Curl hunting bullet in addition to their 158 gr. Both should be good while the 170 gr. has a better point form for better long range trajectory.
Sierra also promotes their 158 gr. flat point and hollow point bullets for hunting and list B.C.'s for velocities over 2,100 fps. Off the cuff, I think I would choose the flat point for maximum velocity rifle loads and the hollow point for handgun velocities.
For velocity, longer range trajectory, and penetration 180 gr. is generally optimum while 200 gr. bullets may be preferred for larger hogs. Reserve the pointed bullets for rifle velocities to assure expansion. As noted elsewhere here, the Hornady XTP and Remington flat nose and hollow point bullets perform well in both handgun length barrels and rifle lengths.
Remington bullets are out of production at present. Hornady has suspended production of their 180 gr. XTP and 180 gr. Single Shot Pistol bullets, though some are still in the distribution pipeline. Check your sources for availability.
The Swift A-Frame 158 gr. partition bullet should be outstanding at any speed. Being a partition bullet, like Nosler partition bullets, it can handle all the speed you feed it from the Max, give good expansion, and best penetration of the 158 gr. bullets.
While the price of premium handgun bullets like Hawk, Swift, and Northfork runs a buck or more per pop, these bullets will expand and hold together at just about any speed the Max. will drive them. My suggestion is go ahead and spend $50 or more on premium 180 gr. bullets, make sure you are sighted in with them, and simply reserve them for serious hunting. We hate $3 to $4 a gallon gas to get to where we hunt, but spend it anyway. Look at your hunting bullets the same way. Hunting bullets are not the place to pinch pennies unless you are sure you can place head, neck/spine, or heart shots where bullet failure is not an issue for you.
CAST LEAD BULLETS:
Reduced loads are ok with most any weight and type of plain base or gas checked bullet.
Slower powders tend to minimize potential to lead the barrel.
Hunting bullets should be gas checked and have a WIDE FLAT NOSE design for best effect on game.
Stick with 180 gr. and heavier bullets for deer with the benefit of a potential velocity increase of 100 to as much as 150 fps over the same weight of jacketed bullet. With the throats I cut, .358" sized diameter should be best across the board, but would not dismiss .357" diameter.
CRIMP OR NOT TO CRIMP:
I've always said it is not necessary to crimp the Max, BUT all those nice groups David White has posted here were with crimped loads, crimped in the factory cannelure, meaning a largish jump to the rifling and raising doubts about the common wisdom of seating bullets to the lands for best accuracy.
TIP REGARDING CRIMPING:
I have not done anything with or given much credence to the Lee Factory Crimp Die, BUT, recent reports are that with the thin jackets of handgun bullets especially, the Lee Factory Crimp Die will effectively make its own cannelure groove in the bullet.
Try it with bullets seated out where no cannelure/crimp groove exists.
One caveat is the carbide ring used in Lee's dies, both the factory crimp die and the carbide size die size quite small and tend to overwork cases. If your fired case diameter is much over .381" at the base, I would suggest another brand that does not size so small.
MINIMUM SEATING DEPTH:
Interestingly, the old discontinued pointed 150 gr. .35 Remington bullet measures a scant .2" from its base to the center of the cannelure. 3/16" to .2" is a sufficient length of bullet shank in the case. Seat bullets out as far as you need to for full charges of 1680 and Rel 7 powders! Make use of all that powder capacity wasted on revolver length loads.
WHO MAKES THE BEST RELOADING DIES FOR .357 MAXIMUM?
Redding usually works the cases the least and has the best overall finish.
Carbide dies are well worth the extra cost.
Seat stem in current production Mag/Max dies is shaped to handle all bullet profiles by contacting down close to the bullet shank.
Another plus. No need for separate seat stems for round nose and flat nose bullets.
Note the caveat about Lee's carbide size die sizing too small for some chambers and overworking the case at the head. In general, I would avoid the Lee carbide size & factory crimp dies.
If your seat die leaves a bulge below the crimp, go to a taper crimp die to straighten out the bulge of a roll crimp.
From over 30 years of chambering and test firing .357 Maximum barrels with loads that crater primers "proofing" chambers, for good, safe, functional maximum loads, I recommend taking powder charges up to the point primers begin to show a light crater around the firing pin indent that you can snag with a finger nail, then backing charges off to JUST below the point where the cratering first appears. Or, crater them a little if you like.
This small diameter cartridge, even in Contenders, is very forgiving!
STARLINE .357 MAXIMUM BRASS:
Not as hard as Remington brass and cannot be pushed to the same pressure extremes as Remington Max. brass, but is top quality as expected from Starline.
Sample loaded .357 Maximum ammo from Jamison/Captech had about a 20% failure rate on the first firing as the ammo came from them.
Cases split lengthwise about 1/2" up from the case head.
This brass was apparently from an earlier production run. Current 2015 Jamison brass is reported to be working well with no splits.
Bottom line is that I would not get buried too deeply in Jamison/Captech brass in anticipation of Remington running its outstanding Max. brass, IF and when they get hungry enough to take care of the smaller niche markets again.
WHAT ABOUT .360 DAN WESSON?
This brass is enough shorter that I would not rely on it for accuracy from the much longer .357 Maximum chamber, but since Starline has the brass in stock as of this 2015 writing, I certainly can cut the chamber for it, and this length of chamber makes shooting .357 MAGnum ammo in the Dan Wesson chamber much more likely to give decent accuracy than attempting to get good accuracy from .357 MAGnum in the still longer .357 MAXimum chamber.
.360 Dan Wesson will not realize the velocity potentials of the .357 Maximum, but is a good step up from .357 MAGnum. If shots are normally in the 100 to perhaps 200 yard range, .360 Dan Wesson should to the job well.
NERVOUS ABOUT BRASS SUPPLY BUT NEED A ROUND LESS THAN 1.8" FOR YOUR STATE'S DEER REGS?
Consider .357 Bain & Davis, very easily made from always available .44 Magnum brass.
Velocity potentials are on par with the .357 Maximum, but due to the larger chamber diameter and the high pressures produced by published loads, it is better reserved for Encore barrels.
It was for a time chambered in Contender barrels, but is a bit hard on Contender frames.
G2 frames are less "stretchy" and will stand up to the B&D better than Contender frames.
.357 Herrett is likewise an excellent choice where regs do not stipulate "straight wall case". It is made from .30/30 brass, readily available, but is a bit of a pain to many reloaders who object to having to cut cases back to 1.750".
It is extra work, but file and trim dies make the chore easy enough for anyone to do.
NEW TO RELOADING???
.357 Max. is a good place to start and the cheapest of setups like Lee's cheap presses & powder dippers, Lee's original "smash and bash" "Lee Loader", and Lyman's Tong Tool, will produce good results for the rankest of amateur with a smattering of common sense using published loads.
YOU DON'T RELOAD AND DON'T WANT TO?
FINE...... no problem. Buy loaded ammo, save the empty brass, and send it to a company such as Colorado Custom Cartridges and have them reload it for you! Minimum lots of 100 pieces are usually required.
Colorado Custom Cartridges will also load .357 Bain & Davis, .360 Dan Wesson, and .357 Herrett.
Or.... since it is hard to go wrong loading .357 Max ammo or .360 Dan Wesson, have a reliable friend load it for you.
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There are a lot of custom ammo makers to choose from, but Colorado Custom Cartridges is our favorite and one we work with extensively. For both new ammo, loading your new and/or fired brass with standard loads or customized loads, contact them! They are a cut above the rest and will work in smaller quantities, 100 or more, as well as larger production runs.
Colorado Custom Cartridges loads and reloads a wide variety of all types of standard ammo plus a lot of obsolete ammo tailored to your gun & needs.
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Grizzly Cartridge Co. is geared more for volume and specializes in more standardized newly loaded ammo, both with jacketed bullets and cast lead bullet loads in conjunction with their Cast Performance side of their business.
They will also do production runs reloading your fired brass.
Buy directly from Grizzly or via Midway-USA where Grizzly ammo is featured.
|Neither of these two companies are jacklegs in a shack out back with a Dillon working willy-nilly.
The personable owners of both companies come from high tech industry experiences, VERY well educated professional tech types with a keen attention to detail, insured, and very reliable.