Hello all, I have been a hunter and firearms enthusiast for about 15 years but have just purchased a .357 and reloading supplies this year (worst possible time to get into reloading, I know). I want to be safe in this new endeavor and have many questions regarding my hodgepodge assembly of components. The revolver is a Ruger SP101 4.2" .357. My goal is to become proficient enough to use this as a hiking personal protection sidearm for bears, big cats, 2-legged predators as well as for hunting jackrabbits, and eventually antelope and deer. I know many would have gone with a larger caliber, but I could not argue with the weight, strength and barrel length of the SP101. I also wanted something I could learn to shoot very proficiently. *I really don't want this to become a philosophical discussion about whether a headshot on a charging bear with hard cast from a .357 is really adequate or not. I have the budget for ONE handgun I will not be be buying another one or firing my handloads in any other firearms.* This said, With COVID shortages I managed to get a box of 50 .357 mag bullets to use for for brass, 100 .38 special bullets, and an unopened package of 100 .38+p Starline brass. I found 2000 small magnum pistol primers, 1 lb of Clays powder, 1 lb of Win 296 powder, 250 HSC 158 gn hollowpoint plated bullets, 500 158 gn swc hard cast bullets, 100 180 gn XTP hollowpoints. I got a used single-stage Lee, RCBS carbide dies, Lee ram prime, Redding beam scale, and calipers. I could not find any .357 brass. I have loaded .30-06 with a LEE Loader hammer kit with good success. Now to the questions: 1. Given that I have all this .38 special and +p brass, would it be unwise to attempt to load up higher pressure loads (with the 296 or Clays and magnum primers I have) to practice and get used to recoil in my .357? Can the brass take it? Thoughts: -I've read about looking for signs of excessive pressure -This would only be fired in MY Ruger .357. (I would mark them "FOR USE in .357 MAG ONLY") -I find no published data for high pressure .38 special but I understand that there is some older high pressure data available. 2. I'm hoping to use the 158 gn hard cast loads as mountain protection and possibly for hunting but also figured the 180 gn XTP would be good for hunting. Do I need to load hard cast lead and jacketed bullets to a different velocity? I have read so many conflicting ideas about barrel leading I don't know who to believe. 3. Given COVID times and the limitations of my current supplies, how would you seasoned reloaders and shooters proceed with getting into shooting/reloading the .357 with the goals I have in mind? Am I missing something critical? Would you hold out to get a different powder? Should I find someone to trade my .38+P brass for some proper .357 brass? Is the 50 .357 brass that I have enough to get by for awhile? I appreciate any help in these matters and will be happy to clarify anything if needed.