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Which powder for .357 Magnum?

This is a discussion on Which powder for .357 Magnum? within the Reloading forums, part of the Firearm Forum category; Bountyhunter, glad you are getting into the hobby of reloading. I really enjoyed moving into this area of the gun hobby and know you will ...

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Old March 4th, 2008, 06:00 PM   #31
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Bountyhunter, glad you are getting into the hobby of reloading. I really enjoyed moving into this area of the gun hobby and know you will find joy cooking up some Bountyhunter foder. Just reload when you are alone and don't have the TV or radio on. The focus should be on the reloading and doing everything the same for every round. Distractions are not good. It is truly an individual activity. When you find that first matched load to one of your guns that groups tighter than your factory stuff you will grin for a week!! Enjoy my friend.

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Old March 5th, 2008, 02:17 AM   #32
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Thanks, Stoble.
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Old March 6th, 2008, 07:14 AM   #33
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I use several powders for my 357 reloads. Unique was giving inconsistent results for a while. I attributated this to the powder not filling the case. Sometimes being close to the primer and other times not so close. So I have been using the cotton from medicine bottles to put in the case over the powder in order to hold the powder next to the primer. Now the ammo is more accurate than I can hold. I use just a small ball of cotton and push it in place with a pencil. It has not affected the cleaning of the pistol afterwards in any way. I also use Titegroup for medium loads with excellent accuracy.

For full power loads I use 2400 or H4227. There have been cautions about reduced loads with H110 so I stay away from it.
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Old March 6th, 2008, 05:53 PM   #34
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About the only kind of pills I take are asprin. So I don't get much cotton. What else would be good filler material to use for re-loads?
I tried some little pieces of old used underwear a while back, but poncaguy & 23-T didn't like the smell!
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Old March 6th, 2008, 08:43 PM   #35
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I don't have a cronagraph but I've had good accuracy with 158 hornady jacket bullets and lil'gun powder. H2200 and 2400 works well in my 41 blackhawk and 44 629.
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Old March 7th, 2008, 03:22 AM   #36
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Originally Posted by kansas45 View Post
About the only kind of pills I take are asprin. So I don't get much cotton. What else would be good filler material to use for re-loads?
I tried some little pieces of old used underwear a while back, but poncaguy & 23-T didn't like the smell!
Be very cautious when using fillers. With such a large selection of powders today you should be able to find a powder that doesn't need a filler. After saying that I have read of people using all kinds of materials for fillers with varying success. Cream of wheat, dryer lint, and pillow stuffing are just a few. I have used a product called PSB as a filler in some of my rifle loads with measured success. PSB stands for Powdered Shot Buffer designed for use in shotgun loads. PSB looks like salt but behaves like very small ball bearings. I measure it with Lee Powder Scoops.
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Old March 9th, 2008, 01:49 PM   #37
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For my target loads in .357 Mag I use Universal Clays. For full blown hunting loads in the .357 Mag and in the .454 Casull I use 2400. That being said, I think powder is a personal preference. I've had numerous discussions on the Marlin Forum about powder for my .35 Remington. I use H-4198 and it shoots great in my guns. Other people would never use it and tell me I'm nuts. So my feeling on powders is find one you like and that works for you.
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Old April 15th, 2008, 01:28 AM   #38
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Preacher Man

With soft lead in the .38 158s, you should be able to go down to 2.5 grains of Bullseye. That will reduce your smoke a bit. But 231 is a great alternative IMHO. If you run the lead bullets very fast, you might consider a gas check or switching to a plated bullet. That should further reduce emissions at the range.

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Old April 18th, 2008, 10:15 PM   #39
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Originally Posted by kansas45 View Post
About the only kind of pills I take are asprin. So I don't get much cotton. What else would be good filler material to use for re-loads?
I tried some little pieces of old used underwear a while back, but poncaguy & 23-T didn't like the smell!
If you use Unique no filler needed , it's not powder position sensitive like
other powders.. 2400 is a great powder but it has and will ring a chamber
with reduced loads with fillers or wads .. 296 you can higher presures by
reducing charge sometimes.. So know your powder your loading.. I reload
everything I've owned , own and will own with these 3 powder .. Unique ,
4227 and 3031 for the last 30 yrs in 20 different caliber with great luck
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Old April 19th, 2008, 07:55 AM   #40
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Another vote for Unique, it's what I use for cast target loads @1000fps or less. Great for .45Colt plinkers also. When I want to go hotter in the .357, I've always used 2400 and mag primers. My 3rd powder choice is Bullseye, it's a natural for .38 target loads. It's all I've ever used in 9mm or .45acp cast or jacketed reloads.

With todays pricing, a lot of guys are trying or at least thinking about consolidating powders down to 1 or 2 . Well, here's my three pistol favorites for general shooting. Hot loads and rifle calibers are for another post....

Last edited by 2Late45; April 19th, 2008 at 07:57 AM.
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Old April 21st, 2008, 06:07 AM   #41
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.357 Powders

When I began (starting with .38's), I picked up a pound of Hodgdon 'Universal Clays'. I've found it to be a good all around powder for most straight wall handgun cartridges.

For my target loads in .357 Mag I use Universal Clays.

+1 on the Universal Clays, I started out with Bullseye and tried a few others
but I really like universal for both .38 special and .357
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Old May 1st, 2008, 01:35 PM   #42
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There's no doubt that Unique is the most recommended powder for your needs and it will cover a lot of bases from plinkers to near full power magnum. As your loads increase in intensity, should they need to, there are some very good choices. My personal belief is that the powders burn rate should be matched to the case capacity of the cartridge. H110 and 296 are great powders for magnum loads, but a bit slow for the .357 Magnum, imo. I've burned more Blue Dot than anything else. Then, I switched to AA#9 and have had some of the best accuracy I've obtained. Recently, I've made the switch to Ramshot Enforcer that is about identical in burn rate to AA#9. They are not the same powder, however. #9 is made in the Czech Republic and Enforcer comes from Belgium. The reason I switched to Enforcer was that I became aware of slight lot to lot variations in bulk density with AA#9. I'm very pleased with Enforcer so far, and the price tag is nice as well.

Since many others have recommended Unique, I'll recommend something relatively new. Ramshot True Blue can also be loaded in every handgun cartridge your likely to load for. It is a ball propellant and uniformity is the best I've ever seen. It is possible to get single digit standard deviation in all calibers from the .380 to the .454 Casull. That's a pretty tough chore. It's also the propellant used by FNHerstal to load the 5.7mm and sees use with comp shooters that load and shoot 9mm Major in IPSC. It's also one of the better choices for 7.62 X 25mm if you happen to own a CZ-52. I think you'll find it extremely versatile for all-around loading and it meters like hourglass sand. Enforcer is great, but not as flexible. It can be loaded in .38 Special, but the loads will be top-end loads with 158 gr. bullets.
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Old June 6th, 2008, 09:38 PM   #43
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Personally I like Unique for my lighter loads (.38 spl) but for full house loads I prefer 2400. My most accurate out of my 6" GP100 has been either 5.6 of unique under a 125 JHP or 14.7 of 2400 under the same bullet. For heavier loads 13.9 of 2400 works great under a 158 grain JHP.
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Old June 26th, 2008, 06:20 AM   #44
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Originally Posted by jimbo1096 View Post
I would stay away from the 2400 until you get experienced in reloading.
Jimbo can you explain this? I've used both win 296 and 2400 for max loads in my .357's and my experience has been that the 296 is the powder to be more cautious with. Winchester 296 requires the use of magnum primers and every load I have seen published in any manual has always stated to use them under this powder. Another warning is to not reduce the loads when using 296 as a dangerous pressure spike can occur when you use too little of it.

OTOH 2400 can be used with standard small pistol primers and isn't nearly as sensitive to changes in load density IME.

Personally I like them both but I tend to use more of the 2400 mainly because I don't need magnum primers to light it off.
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Old June 26th, 2008, 01:47 PM   #45
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Revolver loads are extremely versatile because you don't have to worry about operating a slide, feeding, and extraction like in a semi-auto. There are three basic levels of revolver loads ... light target, mid-range, and magnum. Each of the three has powders that works best to deliver the desired velocity at the best chamber pressure for accuracy.

Revolvers have a strange characteristic that you don't find in other types of firearms and that is "obturation". In order to achieve decent accuracy and avoid bore fouling, the bullet must be matched to the powder burn rate. Obturation is the process the bullet goes through from the time the powder starts burning until the bullet exits the bore. The word "obturation" basically means to obstruct. When related to revolvers, it means to change size when pressure is applied so it ends up fitting nice and snug in the bore, thus minimizes fouling and maximizes accuracy. Obturation starts in the cylinder throat. Several tons of chamber pressure will make the bullet "puff up" in diameter just like it would do if you set a bullet on an anvil and hit the nose with a hammer. The diameter of the throat is what restricts the bullet's diameter. As the bullet starts into the forcing cone, it will get swaged down to bore size. With continued applied pressure, the bullet will maintain a good seal in the bore, develop velocity, while maintaining accuracy and leaving minimal fouling behind. If the obturation process doesn't work, fouling increases, accuracy and velocity decreases. Obturtation works best in a 357 Mag when chamber pressures are near the upper limit.

In general, chamber pressure is grossly misunderstood by most shooters and handloaders. Many think you should select a powder charge with the lowest chamber pressure. This is absolutely NOT TRUE. You NEED enough chamber pressure to force a bullet to obturate. The formula for obturation is related to the hardness of the bullet vs the amount of pressure applied. The more pressure applied to a bullet, the more it will be reshaped.

The Small Arms and Ammunition Manufacturer's Institute (SAAMI) sets realistic standards for all cartridge dimensions, chambers, bores, etc, and the maximum chamber pressure for safe operation. There are actually two different SAAMI max pressure standards for a 357 Magnum. The original 357 Magnum was too powerful for S&W K-frame revolvers so S&W petitioned SAAMI to lower the pressure limits ... which they eventually did. Soon after, S&W dropped their K-Frame 357s. Note: This has never been a problem with any 357 Mag Ruger revolvers. The original SAAMI chamber pressure spec was 46,000 CUP, which equates to 43,500 pis. The newer spec lowers chamber pressure to 35,000 psi. It is safe to shoot either SAAMI rated ammunition in any Ruger revolver.

For light target loads, fast burning powder is used so the chamber pressure peaks very quickly to force the bullet to obturate, then rapidly drops off. This will produce very accurate lead bullet loads for target shooting, yet stay just under the SAAMI maximum safe chamber pressure. A typical powder would be Bullseye ... at the fast end of the chart (see the powder burn rate chart in the "sticky" at the beginning of the Reloading Forum). A good way to think of a fast burn powder ... it's like kicking a football. A quick start that is enough to propel the ball a fairly short distance at a slow velocity.

Magnum loads work quite a bit different. You still need to keep chamber pressure up for proper obturation but you want much higher velocity. If you used a medium or fast burning powder, you would exceed max chamber pressure and could blow up the gun. A slow burning powder will increase velocity over a longer period of time. It relates to archery where the bow string tension propels an arrow through the full length of pull. Instead of a quick kick like the football, the arrow continues to increase in velocity until it is released. In a magnum cartridge, a slow burning powder is used to get the desired affect of increased velocity without exceeding maximum chamber pressure. W-296 and H-110 are about the perfect burn rate for magnum velocities in a 357 Mag. They develop just the right amount of chamber pressure for good obturation while not exceeding the maximum SAAMI pressures. The reason for the "Do not reduce powder charge" warning and the recommendation for magnum primers is simply ignition. Slow burning powders do not ignite well unless the case is nearly full; so you could get a "squib" where the bullet lodges in the barrel. The next full powder load blows the gun to shreds. Likewise, slow burning powders are hard to ignite so magnum primers are used for the same exact reason.

Medium or mid-range loads have their unique issues and are the hardest ones to load safely and accurately. You can't use a fast burn rate powder without exceeding max chamber pressure. Slow burning powders are out because they don't ignite well with lower charge levels. That means you need a medium burn rate powder that will achieve the desired velocity, provide enough pressure for obturation, and stay under max chamber pressure. Powders in the AA#5 or Unique burn rates seem to work the best. The bullet is propelled somewhere in between a swift kick of a football and shooting an arrow ... a longer burn time than a fast burner and a shorter burn time than a magnum powder.

My measure of a good load is equal accuracy and performance in several different different guns .... much the same as factory ammo. When you get a load that is fussy and only likes one gun, there's an issue because the next time that gun is used, the temperature or some other influence will make the fussy load shoot poorly even in the gun it was "tuned" for. This is probably the best definition of 2400 powder. A particular load can be very powerful and accurate in one gun yet shoot like crap in another. Magnum primers make 2400 go ballistic and change the burn rate from slow to fast... a potentially very dangerous condition. Typical loads with H-110/W-296 work equally well in all revolvers ... assuming they are in good working condition.

So ... here's my conclusion. Use Bullseye for low velocity lead bullet target loads. Use Unique for mid-range loads and H-110/W-296 for magnum loads. Any reputable reloading manual will have the charge weights, bullet weights, and predicted velocities for the above powders.
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