.357 Remington Maximum
Handloader|December - January 2020
Loading a T/C Contender for Deer
John Barsness

The .357 Remington Maximum is the .357 Magnum revolver round lengthened .315 inch, and was basically developed by the hyper-competitive Elgin Gates, who among other things raced powerboats and obsessively hunted trophy-book big game around the world. When Gates got into handgun silhouette shooting, he decided to design a better cartridge, coming up with what he called the .357 SuperMag.

Remington and Ruger eventually coordinated to bring out a commercial version, with Remington making the ammunition and Ruger introducing a larger version of its Blackhawk revolver. However, the Maximum’s average pressure was set at 40,000 PSI, an increase of 5,000 PSI over the .357 Magnum. Combined with the increased powder charge, the Maximum resulted in quick gas-cutting of the Blackhawk’s frame, and only about 7,700 left the factory.

The gas-cutting problem did not apply to the single-shot Thompson/Center, and eventually the .357 Maximum became reasonably popular in the Contender, especially among hunters, which is how I got involved with one. Eileen and I live near a wildlife management area (WMA) administered by the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks, along both sides of the Missouri River where it flows into a reservoir. The WMA provides public hunting for a variety of game from mourning doves to moose, but Eileen particularly loves to hunt white-tailed deer, and public riverbottom whitetail hunting is relatively scarce in Montana, because the land along most rivers is often private farm and ranchland.

However, since farms, ranches and an increasing number of subdivisions surround the public WMA, centerfire rifles are not allowed. Instead, hunting is limited to archery, muzzleloaders, shotguns, and “traditional handguns, not capable of being shoulder-mounted,” with a barrel less than 10.5 inches long chambered in a straight-walled cartridge not originally developed for rifles.

Since we moved here in 1990, she has primarily hunted the WMA with shotgun slugs, taking not only whitetails but a cow moose. Around 2007, however, she started getting recoil headaches – and slug guns tend to kick pretty hard. Eventually, we narrowed the problem down to more than about 15 foot-pounds of recoil, so she switched from a 12-gauge pump to a 20-gauge single shot, using Winchester saboted ammunition loaded with 260-grain, .45-caliber Partition Gold bullets at a listed 1,850 fps (a load I had previously used on a good-sized whitetail buck in Iowa, using a T/C Contender Carbine with a rifled slug barrel).

The 20 gauge worked fine, but the human population started increasing in our rural county, and so did hunting pressure on the WMA. Eileen started hunting tighter cover to get away from most other hunters, and some of the willow and alder thickets proved difficult to navigate when toting a long gun. Since she had never shot at a deer more than 75 yards away, even in more open areas, she started thinking about using a handgun.

She shoots handguns pretty well, partly because she uses them quite a bit to hunt small varmints, especially the Richardson’s ground squirrels (locally called “gophers”) that can devastate hay and grain fields. A typical gopher weighs less than a pound, a pretty small target for an open-sighted .22 rimfire revolver or semiauto.

However, she preferred a scoped handgun on the WMA because the deer, like hard-hunted whitetails everywhere, tend to move most in the dim light of dawn and dusk. After talking it over, I suggested a Thompson/Center Contender in .357 Maximum, partly because I had always been somewhat intrigued by the cartridge. She wondered how a .35 caliber would work on deer, and I reminded her of the several whitetails she had dropped very quickly with Speer 180-grain Hot-Cor bullets designed for the .35 Remington, started at a velocity similar to the Winchester 20-gauge sabot loads.

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