Rifle|January - February 2021
Brian Pearce

The .357 Magnum was first introduced in 1935, which was a joint development between Winchester and Smith & Wesson. The Smith & Wesson .357 “Registered” Magnum revolver, built on the N-Frame, was the company’s finest effort and its most expensive gun. It offered outstanding fit, finish, accuracy and overall quality, and was offered with many custom order options. The cartridge delivered high velocity, accuracy and enough performance that Doug Wesson managed to take antelope, deer, elk, grizzly and other big game at 200 yards and beyond. It has become one of the most popular sixgun cartridges and has been chambered in a large variety of handgun types. However, its popularity in rifles, especially lever actions, has become huge. While it is certainly an interesting sixgun cartridge, when chambered in lever-action rifles it is lightweight, fast-handling and offers terminal performance that is out of proportion to its humble size.

My experience with .357 Magnum leverguns dates back to the 1970s and has included converted Winchester Model 1892s, reproduction Model 1892s from Rossi, Browning and USRAC, Marlin Model 1894s, Uberti Model 1873s and others. In addition to hunting with them, I have used most factory loads, developed considerable handload data and posses a pretty good idea what to expect in terms of accuracy, performance, etc. While original .357 factory loads were advertised to push a 158-grain lead bullet at 1,510 feet per second (fps) from long barreled revolvers, this was a bit optimistic in most revolvers. Today, The Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute (SAAMI) has reduced pressures to 35,000 psi, with most factories listing a 158-grain jacketed bullet at 1,235 fps from a 4-inch vented test barrel, but will record faster velocities from revolvers with tight tolerances and longer barrels. When these loads are fired from carbines with a 20-inch barrel, velocities will usually run at least 1,600 fps, but usually around 1,750 fps; however, some factory loads will break 2,000 fps, placing it in a similar category as the .30-30 Winchester. Rifles with a 24-inch barrel will run faster while shorter barrels (such as the rifle tested here) will have some velocity loss. In the hands of skilled shooters, an accurate rifle equipped with good sights (aperture or scope) is capable of groups running 1.0 to 1.5 inches at 100 yards; however, they are generally capable of around 2-inch groups.

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