My results with the .357 on wt deer


March 29, 2006, 10:54 PM
I've found some incredible information on this board and was wondering if you y'all could share some experiences.

This past season, I made the decision to make a S&W 686 6 my primary hunting tool. Most of my hunting is in central Texas at very small deer (15 does harvested last year, not one exceeded 65 pounds dressed weight). With our extremely high deer densities, big deer are almost completely out of the question. We are mainly trying to lower deer numbers and these deer are pretty easy to bring in close. Anyways, Im really curious to hear about others experiences with the .357 magnum out of handguns. What load did you use? How did it perform? My results are as follows:

Deer 1. Load - 180 grain Partition Gold factory load. 1st shot was broadside at 30 yards. I hit the 80 lb dressed weight spike in the 4th to last rib and it exited. Admittedly, this shot was further back than I would have like. The bullet results was fine - good expansion and complete penetration occurred. The deer ran to 60 yards, looked at me, then I brought it down with a high shoulder shot. This shot did not exit. It made it through the frontal shoulder blade, the spine, and lodged in the other side. Penetration was probably near 10 total and through some severe bone (frontal shoulder, spine, and rear shoulder). The recovered bullet had shed its frontal core, but the bulk of the bullet remained and the petals expanded fine.

Deer 2. Load 180 grain partition gold factory load. A small wt doe (60 lb dressed weight) was quartering towards me at about 20 yards. First shot entered squarely on front should and exited offside chest. Deer dropped to shot. Complete penetration and expansion looked good.

Deer 3. Load Speer 158 Gold Dot. A small wt doe (64 lb dressed) was perfectly broadside at about 20 yards. The shot was a high lung shot behind the front shoulder. No spine was hit. The doe was found dead after a 35 yard blood trail. After seeing exactly where the shot landed, I was somewhat worried that the blood trail might have been inadequate. It wasnt.

Deer 4. Load Speer 158 Gold Dot factory load. A small wt does (estimated 62 lbs) was perfectly broadside at 30 yards. I shot and the deer ran off. Several long, white hairs were shaved off at the location of the shot indicating a low body shot. After allowing this deer to sit, a very light/inconsistent blood trail was followed for ~325 yards. The blood trail went cold, and this deer never was found. Im kicking myself for making such a poor shot. Based on the white hairs showing the location of the shot, I think a similar result would have occurred with almost any handgun round. Im still disgusted with this result. I plan on firing at least 150 rounds from my field stands before I fire another round at a deer again.

What have your experiences been? Because these deer are so incredibly small, Id like to make the 158 Gold Dot my go to load. I think it would penetrate completely on most shots, and the recovery on deer #3 from a high lung shot was encouraging.

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March 30, 2006, 07:37 AM
interesting post-mortems but those really are some little deers.
I live in Illinois where my lab weighs 80 pounds and the deer often go over 200 pounds. average mature doe in my area is 130.

March 30, 2006, 08:01 AM

If you revolver likes them at all, you may try Remington's 180 grain SJHP. It's perfect for West Texas deer and cost less than the Gold Dots.


March 30, 2006, 08:53 AM
Kingcreek- I also hunt central hillcountry deer. Those are typical doe sizes here. We have such a dense population that you are probably doing the deer a favor harvesting it, as opposed to letting it get maimed by a vehicular collision or starving or falling prey to coyotes (or pack dogs). Maybe you could send some of your steroid enhanced does down here to breed us a line of KONG -deer!

March 30, 2006, 09:05 AM
I've shot two deer with the .357 and one was a carbine so it don't count, I reckon. That one was an 80 yard shot, behind the shoulder, with spectacular results on a small doe. She went maybe 20 feet and piled up and nothing was touched, but lung. The other was a spike, about 90 lbs dressed, shot at about 40 yards with a 6 1/2" Ruger Blackhawk, broke both shoulders and penetrated through the deer. Neither bullet was recovered. I was shooting a handload, 14.5 grains of Aliant 2400 behind a Lee 158 grain gas checked SWC. The load clocks 1470 fps for 760 ft lbs from the revolver and about 1800fps/around 1200 ft lbs IIRC for the rifle. I cast it of wheel weights and usually add a little 50-50 soldier for the tin.

The bullet had a very wide, flat point and the rifle left a 3" diameter path around the bullet of destroyed lung tissue from the rifle. The deer dropped rather rapidly after jumping about 3" in the air when hit. The only organs penetrated were lungs. I thought that was pretty impressive. The shoulder shot with the revolver broke bone and nicked the aorta above the heart. Lots of smashed bone in the on and off side shoulders, plenty of penetration. The deer dropped immediately because it couldn't run on broken shoulders and kicked on the ground for a few seconds before expiring. Both shots were broad side shots, nothing difficult.

I have a more accurate 180 grain JHP Hornady XTP load now, not much hotter in energy, but it puts 'em into a 1" cluster at 25 yards. That cast gas check bullet is a 2" at 25 yard bullet out of the revolver. It shoots 4" 100 yard groups out of the rifle, about as good as that gun can shoot, but the 180 in the revolver is pretty deadly accurate even at 100 yards with iron. I figure to keep shots to 50 yards or less due to iron sights and field positions, but the extra inherent accuracy of the bullet would make it a better choice IMHO. I don't know if and when I'll hunt with that revolver again. I've taken to hunting with my Contender since for handgun hunting. Thinking of trying my .45 Colt on one, too. That thing's pretty impressively accurate even though the barrel is but 4 5/8" and the thing is a cannon with my hot 300 grain loads.

I'm south of the hill country on the coast. Our deer tend to run a little heavier than hill country deer, but they're not huge deer. A typical big doe is 80-90 lbs dressed and a nice buck can run 130 lbs. Not your mulie sized northern deer by any stretch, but generally bigger'n hill country bambies.

March 30, 2006, 10:59 AM
Thanks for the responses.

The deer in this area really are tiny. What exacerbated the situation was a pretty bad dry-spell during the latter half of 2005. Big deer just can't grow out here with the area's deer numbers. I can turn these small deer into "trophies" by switching from the .308 to the .357. Maybe some of your deer might start a fall migration down south? ;)

I may take up the suggestion to try the 180 Remington SJHP load. I think the Cabelas near here stocks it. Another choice might be the Hornady 158 XTP which seems easy to find. Federals new 140 XPB load and their new 158 grain Fusion load seem intriguing.

The size of these deer and the power of the .357 would seem to indicate that non-expanding bullets might not be the best choice. I'd certainly consider them for deer approaching 200 lbs!

March 30, 2006, 12:04 PM

Good on you for reducing the poodle, err, I mean deer herd down there. Definitely sounds like you need to reduce the numbers to grow bigger, heathier deer. Looks like you're off to a good start.

Like Kingcreek, I also live and hunt in Illinois, and we grow some big deer up here. When you first mentioned the weights on your deer. I was tempted to ask it they still had spots on 'em...:D

As far as the loads, looks like what your using works. It's really more about proper shot placement.

Matt G
March 30, 2006, 12:47 PM
scout26, while the Hill Country (TX) deer population is too high, and thinning is a great idea, Austinite kind of understated that drought last year. Think DRIEST YEAR IN THE HISTORY OF RECORD-KEEPING, statewide. It was bad. When you're running at ~90 lbs a deer during a good normal rainfall year, a drought can drop that weight significantly. So far this year, we're catching up (since the calender flipped), but we're still down, overall, for water and groundwater. I'll be curious how the wildlife bounce back.

March 30, 2006, 12:50 PM
Hill country deer up in the northern hill country have been small for a long time. I remember hunting out around Llano in the late 60s and shooting 'em. Like hunting oversized rabbits. :D Not a problem finding one, though. Now, southern hill country around Leaky south to Junction area, the deer get bigger.

That hunt in Llano was on a huge ranch. The owner charged $10 a day and $10 for a doe. Bucks were $150, so we were after doe. Well, friggin' little bucks were everywhere on this ranch, of course, but everyone in the group got at least one deer.:D

Prices ain't that low anymore. Ranchers think the darned things are made of gold or something.:rolleyes:

March 30, 2006, 03:26 PM
I have an account for you. One blustery Blacktail hunt here in Washington I was in deep cover after having left the trail to investigate something I heard. Lever action Marlin in my hands standing ear to ear in thick young Alders. No, Thick! I could barely move, but there was clearer sunlight to the west down near the swamp. I heard something again. Could have been a couple of bucks. I don't know. Then I heard something coming up toward me. I held my breath. I didn't move. Out of the corner of my eye to my right I could see tines. He was standing still not 15 feet away. Of course my rifle as I'm right handed was pointing to my left. I reached in my jacket to pull my .357 from the shoulder holster. He moved. But only a couple steps. I could not see a kill shot. He moved again. The only shot I had was right rear rump quartering away.

The bullet grazed the socket then traveled to the left front shoulder through the blade and stopped at the under side of the hide. He ran for 20 yards or so then dropped. Skinned/Dressed he was 165 pounds. Just a 3x2, but that's a near mature Blacktail for these parts.

That bullet traveled 42" or so though flesh, meet and bone. The Speer 158gn JHP didn't expand as much as I would have thought it should, but did retain 90% of it's weight. The load is 14.4gns of AA#9. It runs 1520fps out my 8" Dan Wesson. Just a bit slower though the pistol I used that day with 6" barrel. (work your loads up. This is a load for a heavy frame pistol, not a Smith 19, 66, or the like...) I have no doubt that a broadside shot would have been through and through with a blood trail.

Yes, that was close range, but for anything under 250 pounds, a well worked up .357mag load within 50 or even 75 yards for a good shooter should be the ticket if placed in the kill zone. Open site hand gun hunting can be a challenge during rifle season. I consider it one step closer to bow hunting.

I don't tend to hunt with .357 much. But I do hunt with .44mag, and I've had great results on deer with Serria 250gn FPJ, and 300gn SP's. Although accurate, I haven't been impressed by Speer hand gun bullets when it comes to retaining the frontal jacket. The Sierra's seem to do this better here. I do shoot/hunt with the Speer Grandslams and BTSP in my rifles though.


March 30, 2006, 03:38 PM
Austinite, I live in suburb just west of Austin noted for its urban deer herd, and I know what you mean about small deer. When I first came down here from up north (People's Republic of Minnesota) I thought the German shepards were growing antlers. ;)

I haven't found a good place to hunt lately (TX deer leases are mostly overpriced, IMHO) but some years back I used a .357 on deer - a 5" S&W M27 with a handload consisting of a Sierra 150 JHC on top of a heavy charge of 2400. Deer was hit at about 30 yards, just in front of the right shoulder, quartering backwards into the chest cavity. The buck reared back on his hind legs and seemed to stand there for a long time, after which he crashed and thrashed about for about 20-25 yards before expiring.

April 3, 2006, 09:25 AM
Interesting posts on the preformance of the 357 on deer. I use either a 41 mag or 480 Ruger for just a bit more power. I have always been partial to less popular calibers. Only got one deer with handgun so far, but it felt great to accomplish that feat after thinking about it for years. I would love to hear more accounts of using the 357 on deer.

April 3, 2006, 03:04 PM
I don't know anything about deer hunting with .357, but I would like to encourage you to please keep killing as many local deer as you can. I think our neighborhood herd is up to about 30.

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