A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Art Lander’s Outdoors: The .357 Magnum, an American classic, for both security and hunting

Author’s note: This is the first article in an occasional series about modern rifle and pistol cartridges and their uses in hunting.

A revolver chambered in .357 Magnum is an American Classic.

This venerable “muscle” cartridge was embraced by law enforcement for decades, has been proven to be efficient on deer at a reasonable range and has given many a homeowner a sense of security in being able to protect loved ones and property if faced with an intruder.

Today, revolvers, lever-action rifles and single-shot rifles are chambered for the .357 Magnum.

Cartridge History and Specifications

357 Magnum (Photo from Wikipedia Commons)

Its formal name is .357 S&W Magnum.

Introduced in 1935, the .357 Magnum was based on Smith & Wesson’s earlier .38 Special, which was developed at the end of the 19th century.

This souped-up version of the .38 Special was the first magnum handgun cartridge. Ballistics expert Phillip B. Sharpe and Douglas B. Wesson, the grandson of Smith & Wesson’s co-founder, Daniel B. Wesson, developed the cartridge, with the help of gun writer and handgun hunting pioneer Elmer Keith.

The .357 Magnum is a rimmed, straight walled cartridge, identical in dimensions to the .38 Special, except the case length is 1.29 inches, which is .135 longer.

Its bullet diameter is .357, and when loaded its overall length can be as long as 1.59 inches.


Alliant Blue Dot, a smokeless magnum shotshell and handgun powder, is a good choice for handloading the .357 Magnum.

The following recipe is a good balance of accuracy and terminal performance, ideal for deer hunting: 10.0 grains of Blue Dot powder, a 158-grain Hornady XTP bullet, and CCI 500 primer. This load develops a muzzle velocity of about 1,150 feet per second.

Late winter is a good time to work up and test new loads for hunting by shooting from a bench at targets. Never sacrifice accuracy for power.

Art Lander Jr. is outdoors editor for KyForward. He is a native Kentuckian, a graduate of Western Kentucky University and a life-long hunter, angler, gardener and nature enthusiast. He has worked as a newspaper columnist, magazine journalist and author and is a former staff writer for Kentucky Afield Magazine, editor of the annual Kentucky Hunting & Trapping Guide and Kentucky Spring Hunting Guide, and co-writer of the Kentucky Afield Outdoors newspaper column.

Other powder/bullet combinations that yield good results for deer hunting with a revolver chambered for .357 Magnum are: Alliant Unique or Alliant Bullseye powder, and the 158-grain Speer Gold Dot bullet.

The .357 Magnum cartridge can be “loaded up” significantly if fired from a rifle. Consult a Hornady or Speer reloading manual for the most current data for .357 Magnum (for rifles).

Deer Hunting

Hunting big game with a handgun is one of hunting’s most rewarding challenges.

The approach to hunting deer with a handgun in the woods is a lot like bowhunting.

Hunt from a treestand and position it where most shots are likely to be within 30 yards. Hunt the stand when the sun is at your back and the wind is in your face.

When the .357 Magnum is loaded with a quality jacketed bullet propelled by a near maximum charge of powder, even the largest buck can be taken.

In this era of immense popularity of semi-automatic handguns that shoot the 9×19 mm, .40 S&W or .45 ACP, a revolver chambered in .357 Magnum has withstood the test of time.

This American classic will always remain a favorite with hunters and target shooters because of its power and inherent accuracy.

Related Posts

Leave a Comment