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Cast Bullets for a 357 Lever gun

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by tkcomer, Aug 7, 2007.

  1. tkcomer

    tkcomer Well-Known Member

    I'm getting a lever gun in 357 and I want shoot shoot cast bullets for my plinking rounds. I know I need to keep the bullets under 1200fps to prevent leading which is no problem in a pistol. But they come out of a rifle a lot faster from what I've been reading. I'm using True Blue powder and there just isn't that much load data for it. I'll try loading somewhere between the 38 load and the 357 load data to start off with. Would a soft plated bullet like Berry's do a better job at this or would a hard cast bullet like Meister's be better? I figure a 158gr bullet would have a better bearing surface to bite the grooves for more accuracy. I've never loaded cast for a rifle, so I could use a little guidance here. Any help would be appreciated.
  2. Bluehawk

    Bluehawk Well-Known Member

    TK this is a tough one because when you don't know the exact alloy of the cast bullet it's hard to know how fast you can push it before it starts to lead .
    I cast all my bullets and most of them with linotype so I can push them pretty fast....especially if gas checked!
    Your best bet is to look around and see what companies offer hard cast bullets and contact them and ask what their recommendations are. One trick you can use is to coat whatever bullets you do get with Lees liquid Alox over the existing lubricant...seems to work well for pushing softer alloys a little faster.
  3. ReloaderFred

    ReloaderFred Well-Known Member

    I've been doing some experimenting with 180 grain cast bullets in my Marlin .357 carbines and they work really well. They have a long bearing surface and I'm driving them hard. In fact, the energy level is right up there with the 30-30 Winchester with 150 grain bullets. I've cast them from straight linotype and they come out at about 175 grains, where wheel weights from the same mold come out about 185 grains. I've settled on Lyman #2 alloy and that drops them right at 180 grains. All three alloys hold the Micro-Groove rifling just fine. So far, Hodgdon's LIL'GUN is producing the highest velocities and decent accuracy in the Carbine.

    In your case, you can't go wrong with Oregon Trail Lazer Cast Bullets. They're about as hard a cast bullet as you're going to find, without casting your own.

    As for plated bullets, they really shouldn't be run over about 1,250 fps, or you'll have them strip the rifling and tumble. I'm running Berry's 124 grain plated bullets at 1,300 fps in my 357 Sig Springfield XD and they're very accurate, but at anything over that velocity, they tumble. I haven't tried the Berry's plated bullets in my Carbine, though.

    My wife and I shoot several thousand cast bullets per year through our Marlin Carbines for SASS matches and practice, but these are light loads. I'm currently using 128 grain RNFP cast bullets from Berry's Manufacturing. It's a good bullet and feeds very smoothly through the lever action Marlins. I don't publish loads, but I'm using a light load of Bullseye at this time, but when this keg is gone, I'm switching over to Hodgdon's Clays for a cleaner burn and less smoke, though with cast bullets a lot of the smoke is due to the bullet lube. When I run out of the Berry's 128 grain bullets, I'm switching to Bad Man Leather & Bullets 130 grain RNFP, since a four of us went in together and bought 40,000 of them.

    Some of the lever guns can be tempermental on what they will feed. Generally, the Marlins like a longer overall length when shooting .38's through them. Each one is different, so you'll have to experiment with your rifle when you get it and see what length feeds the smoothest. Our guns have had action jobs from Pioneer Gun Works, in Springfield, OR. He does a really nice job of smoothing up the action and takes all the jerkiness out of them. Here is the link to his action job page: http://www.pioneergunworks.com/wst_page7.html

    Hope this helps.

    Last edited: Aug 7, 2007
  4. tkcomer

    tkcomer Well-Known Member

    I'm not looking for load data. Kind of an idea what kind of bullet to use. Since I don't cast, I have to buy online. The gun is a Puma. Only one that I've found that comes in a carbine length that is stainless. It's going to be a double duty gun. Fun and home defense. That's why I want stainless. Just stick it under the bed and wipe it down every so often with no worries about rust or a case to fool with. I just looked up the Lazer Cast bullets. That's another question I have. Some size their cast bullets at 357 and some at 358. Is that due to a difference in hardness? I've read I'll have to play with OAL to get it to feed smoothly. I'll start a few thousands under and see how that does. This is a lot different than loading for pistols.
  5. wcwhitey

    wcwhitey Well-Known Member

    My .357 Puma has no feeding issues with .38's at all. Holds 10 of em in the magazine. I have shot 158 SWC's an 158 Grain RNFP's in my own handloads using Unique at +P 925 fps out a 4" revolver. I would have to say that they probably travel close to 1100 fps from the 16" barrel (quess not test). No leading has been observed and accuracy favors the SWC at 2.5" at 50 yards. A very quiet, low recoil, easy to shoot combo. If you have issues cycling the .38's in yours you can alway load the same bullets in .357 brass at similar velocities. I have also experimented with some bulk pack Remington 125 gr sjhp's traveling at 1200 fps from a 4" revolver, again should be must faster from the rifle. This is a light magnum loading that shoots sub 2" @ 50 yards. Would be more than adequate on small to medium game as well as for self defense. You will enjoy your rifle, I love mine. The Marlins seem to be getting all the press, but I prefer the Winchester lines of mine.
  6. Piney Woods

    Piney Woods Well-Known Member

  7. jcord

    jcord Well-Known Member

    I cast mine from wheel weights and water quench. With no gas checks I have fired them at 1500 fps with no leading. My fast load uses a gas check and I push it to 1800 fps I use H110 powder. I have never purchased cast bullets before so I can not help with a choice. My bullets are 158 grain from a
    lee mold. I also load a similar bullet in my 30-30 and 45-70.

    With cast bullets harder is better. I tried softer lead and always had leading problems. It also important to make sure your bullet diameter matches your bore. a loose bullet will lead up your barrel faster than soft lead. Several cast bullet makers have several sizes in a given caliber to match your barrel.

    The only way to know what you need is to slug your barrel.
  8. jeepmor

    jeepmor Well-Known Member

    Can't help you on the carbines, but I can say that I've pushed the Oregon Trail hardcasts out of my 10mm quite fast with no leading. I loaded them just shy of max loads with Blue Dot.
  9. tkcomer

    tkcomer Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the answers. I'm getting the idea that the hard cast bullets are the way to go versus the soft plated bullets from some companies. I don't have any problems with leading out of my pistols, I was just worried that the higher velocity from the same powder load out of a rifle might cause problems.
  10. jhansman

    jhansman Well-Known Member

    Either Oregon Trail or Bear Creek 158gr. RNFPs will serve you nicely. .357mag out of a cowboy rifle is pure fun!
  11. Hook686

    Hook686 Well-Known Member

    I was very happy with Hunter's Supply 158 grain hard cast bullets, in my Marlin 1894C. Those folks said they were good, with no leading, up to 1600 fps. These folks make some bullets just for lever guns.


    I've lately been using Magtech 158 grain SJSP. I get these at http://midwayusa.com.
  12. GooseGestapo

    GooseGestapo Well-Known Member

    The problem with most of the commercial cast bullets is both the alloy and the hard lubes.

    If you can find some bullets intended for use by black-powder shooters that have SPG lube, you can shoot these over smokeless for any reasonble cast bullet velocity.

    I've gotten excellent accuracy from both my .45colt and .357mag Win M94's with cast bullets. Both gas-checked and non-gaschecked.

    I've found best cast bullet accuracy has come from #2400 from these two calibers.

    An especially accurate combo in the .357 has been the Lee 158grRF (lubed with SPG or 50/50 alox) over 13.5gr of #2400. It gives about 1,700fps from the rifle and is adequate for any .357mag use (I've killed ~250lb pigs with this from a handgun at 1,200fps- but not with rifle...yet).

    However, my favorite load is the Lee 158swc-gc bullet (mine casts to 165gr w/gascheck and lube) over 13.5gr of #2400. Accuracy equals or betters jacketed bullets and 100fps faster than 158gr JHP at same powder charge. This has hammered several pigs with excellent mushrooming of bullet (on those recovered....).

    Conditioning of the bore before shooting lead is important for best accuracy. Attempt to remove all copper fouling from the barrel before shooting cast. Then, after 30-50rds of cast, re-clean and then "foul" the bore with 1-2shots before accuracy testing. The results may amaze you !!
  13. Souris

    Souris Well-Known Member

    I second the Oregon Trail Laser cast bullets. Even though I push them relatively slow out of a Marlin 1894 (cowboy action loads) They perform very well in my Rugers and my marlin with no leading.
  14. Handgunr

    Handgunr Well-Known Member


    Pretty good advice all around I guess.......

    One of the better bullets for lever guns is the 180gr. Saeco gaschecked round. I know you said you don't cast, and needed to buy yours, but this design will give you a general idea.
    After casting bullets in many of my .357 Mag's, & Maximums, I've used SWC's and all, but they really don't work very well in the lever guns unless you crimp on the very upper edge. I've used the Lyman #429 casting in my old Marlin and it worked pretty well.

    The Saeco is much more lever gun friendly.
    WW's usually run about 9BHN in hardness, and Linotype is 21-22BHN. Wheelweights cast and then water quenched, after sitting for a few days will stabilize at 14-15BHN.

    Being a cheapskate myself, I've used these gaschecked in my old Marlin, and they shot very well without leading problems.

    Doing it again today, I'd opt for a lead hardness of 15-18BHN as optimum, and probably still use a gascheck.

    Lube & sizing was key, as I remember, and although I used a NRA 50/50 alox-beeswax mix back then, I'd use the Orange Magic, Rooster Red, or LBT's Blue lube now.

    Good luck,
  15. glockgod

    glockgod Well-Known Member

    Just finished running some cast loads thru the Chrony. Used Penn 158gr .358 TCBB and 4grs Unique using 38 Special brass. Average velocity 1017fps-shot like a million dollars thru the Marlin 1894.
  16. tkcomer

    tkcomer Well-Known Member

    I bought some Laser Cast bullets. 158gr flat nose. I'm banking on 8.0grs of True Blue should be under the 1200 fps mark. I don't want to load any until the gun comes in. I just found out about Penn Bullets today. I may order some for my 30-30. I have another thread on trying to find light loads for that gun.
  17. jhansman

    jhansman Well-Known Member

    If you are up to trying other powders, give Trail Boss a whirl. It is for lead bullets and was designed for the Cowboy shootist in us all. Gives off an ammonia oder, but burns fairly clean and its sheer volume helps prevent double loads.
  18. IDriveB5

    IDriveB5 Well-Known Member

    Take a look at Black River Bullets. I shoot their 170gn Keith over 2400 out of my 686 for 1380fps. No leading.

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