Great .357, everyday load?

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by Rodfac, Jan 19, 2022.

  1. Rodfac

    Rodfac Member

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    Recently, on a quest for a good, day in, day out, night in, night out, .357 load, I found a series of posts here and elsewhere recommending 6.0 grains of Unique behind a good 158 gr LSWC. The sheer number of replies, espousing that combination got my attention and I was interested enough to give it a try.

    While I've long held that one version or another of the much lamented passing of the old "FBI" load is often a good choice for those of us who don't really need the recoil, muzzle blast and accelerated wear on gun parts that full-house .357 loads provide, I'll agree with the suggestion by many that six grains of old Unique is equally good and a bit more robust if that's called for.

    So today I cleaned and readied my current crop of .357's for the test. Of interest too, for some, is that my .357's all have different barrel lengths: 3", 4", 4-5/8", 5", and 6". Four Smiths and a lone Ruger Blackhawk. Note too, that it includes J, K & N frame Smiths, as well as the Single Action Ruger. Here is the gun breakdown.

    Smith M-60-15 with a 3" full lugged barrel.
    Smith M-66-2 with a 4" barrel.
    Smith M-27-3 with a 5" barrel.
    Smith M19-3 with a 6" barrel.
    Ruger Blackhawk Flat Top with a 4-5/8" barrel.

    The load was 6.0 grains of Unique in new Starline brass, trimmed to 1.275 for a more consistent firm crimp. Winchester Small Pistol primers were used and the bullet was Lyman's excellent 358156. This is a gas check design that I have found works equally well without the GC up to about 1100 fps with my usual casting alloy of air cooled wheel weights plus about 1% tin for good mold fill out. This combination has kept me in cheap .38 Special and .357 ammunition for just over 50 years now.

    Accuracy with it in all of the trial guns was excellent with the M-66, M-27, M-19, & the Ruger keeping a full cylinder full at an inch or less from 10 yds fired offhand (Weaver Stance) without support. And that's for both SA and DA modes of firing. My eyes can do no better, at 75 yo. At 25 yds, from a good rest, this load will consistently shoot 2" groups.

    Recoil is as you'd expect: healthy with the 3" M-60 but easily controllable to the extent that I'd have no hesitation suggesting it to a seasoned DA revolver shooter ( and those Hogue Monogrips really help). With the bigger guns, it's really not much of a factor...it's more robust than my long accustomed "FBI" load at 900+ fps, but still allows a full morning's range practice without undue discomfort.

    While I don't particularly like Unique's lousy metering characteristics, it's remarkably consistent in charges at this level (6.0 grains), through my Dillon 550B's powder measure. All loading BTW, was done on a 550B and all charges were thrown. It's still a great powder for all around use with handguns, IMHO.

    Here's the chronograph results for 6 shots in all but the M-60 which has a 5-shot cylinder. Weather was 48 degrees, with the chrono set at 10' from my shooting position. The LSWC (Lyman's 258156 w/o gas check) weighed 162 grains full dressed, and was sized to 0.358"

    M-60...3" bbl...1020 fps, Ext Spd 36
    M-66...4" bbl... 1034 fps, Ext Spd 27.......With GC: 1060 fps, Ext Spd 21
    M-27...5" bbl... 1077 fps, Ext Spd 12
    M-19...6" bbl... 1138 fps, Ext Spd 23
    Ruger BH...4-5/8" bbl...1090 fps, Ext Spd 33

    As I also shoot a lot of wadcutters as well, I'll include it too. My load uses a Lyman 358091, a wadcutter with a crimping groove allowing about 1/8" of exposed button nose above the crimp. With a very mild taper crimp (just removing the case mouth flare), and 4.0 gr of Bullseye, in Starline Magnum brass, I get 882 fps with an Ext Spd of 15 for six shots from my 4" M-66. This is a sub 1-1/2" grouping combination at 25 yds with my M-27, M-66, & 6" M-19.

    Lastly, here are the guns. Forgot to add the Blackhawk in the grouping so it's separate.

    Best Regards...Rod

    Four_357_s.jpg

    R-BHFT-357-L.jpg
     
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2022
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  2. bullseye308

    bullseye308 Member

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    Very nice write up and great pics. My everyday load is a Lee 158 swc tumble lubed over 5.0 grains of bullseye, it is very accurate and pleasant to shoot all day out of a 6" GP-100.
     
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  3. BJung

    BJung Member

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    Thanks for testing Unique. I can't follow your MV results to the poor metering characteristics. With a powder like that, I would be tempted to use a trickler in every load. But, by just using a rotary thrower and hearing the discs crunch into pieces, were the eventual groups good still?
     
  4. 243winxb

    243winxb Member

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    The 6 grs Unique feels like a light target load, compared to 13 grs Alliant 2400. Both with WSPM in 357 Mag brass. My homecast 158 lswc hits the scale around 163 grs.
    Fired in my M28, 6".
     
  5. .38 Special

    .38 Special Member

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    My opinion exactly. Six grains of Unique is a great load, but I'd hesitate to call it a Magnum. Thirteen grains of 2400 is my go-to when I'm looking for a reliable Magnum loading.
     
  6. Charlie98

    Charlie98 Member

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    What people don't seem to grasp about Unique is... it doesn't really get picky about charge weight. I'm not saying be stupid and measure it with a shovel, but with a reasonable volumetric measure, for general loads... it's still quite consistent.
     
  7. Hooda Thunkit

    Hooda Thunkit Member

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    I remember reading an article many years ago regarding this very point. I wish I could remember more specifics, but here's the kernel of the piece-
    I read the piece several decades ago myself.

    Written in the 1930s (?), by one of the heavyweight, big name NRA testing people; he tested Unique loads in 38 and 44 Spl. He used a powder throw, and weighed loads also. He concluded that accuracy was indistinguishable between the loads.
    He did a blind study at normal handgun distances, and decided that weighing loads wasn't worth the effort.

    I think it was in an old NRA Journal, back when the NRA did useful testing like that.

    I really wish I had kept the article, but then I don't use Unique.
     
  8. Palladan44

    Palladan44 Member

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    My "Light magnum" load is using 8.0gr of power pistol with a 158gr. Hard Cast LSWC of about 18 brinell hardness, or Xtreme's 158gr LSWC that's copper plated, using enough crimp to just remove the bell so they drop in the cylinder, and no more.

    It's clean, accurate, supersonic and with a boom and flash, you'll know you're shooting a magnum...but they are in no way crazy like other full tilt 357 loads using WW296, H-110, Lil Gun or 300 MP.

    I've found the PP 8.0 load the perfect "B' Tweener" load.
     
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  9. BBarn

    BBarn Member

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    Similar to the 158gr load immediately above, I shoot 9.5gr of Power Pistol under a 125gr. plated or jacketed. Meters good, burns great, and gives a bit of the magnum flavor without heavy recoil.
     
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  10. Bayou52

    Bayou52 Member

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    For everyday shooting, I go with 13.5 grains of H-110 behind a 158 grain cast and powder coated projectile. These are shot mostly out of my 1984 vintage Redhawk with a 7 1/2" barrel. Great shooters. I like to shoot steel plates @ 100 yards, off hand, and this load, out of this revolver, is "substantially" flat in the sense that no sight compensation is needed.

    Pic:

    IMG-20190209-132830.jpg

    Bayou52
     
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2022
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  11. DMW1116

    DMW1116 Member

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    I have not experimented with a good all around load for my Blackhawk, which is my only 357 magnum at this point. I have a great target load with a Hornady HBWC and 3 grains of W231. I know, what’s the point in a 357 case and that load? 357 cases were all I had.

    My hot rod load is a 158 grain XTP with 14.1 grains of 2400. I started at 12.9 and the more powder I put in it the more accurate it was, though the differences are small and I’d be content to drop back to 13 now that my “wonder how fast it will go” phase is over. I figure if I’m using a 357 magnum I should start at just above 38 +P velocity and go from there.
     
  12. Mark_Mark

    Mark_Mark Member

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    A everyday .357 Seattle Load would have to Cover: Meth Out Homeless to Bears
     
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  13. Blue68f100

    Blue68f100 Member

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    Since I have had surgery on both hand/wrist my Mag loads are long gone. For me it shooting mouse fart loads. 4.8gr WST behind MBC 158gr (38 Match) LSWC.
     
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  14. Rodfac

    Rodfac Member

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    Thanks to all for some very insightful posts...my original post was an informational look at Unique's good qualities...and for sure it's got some not so good attributes..."Flaming Dirt" is not a misnomer! I've found it to be a good compromise between low level target punchers and the truly Magnum level stuff...at least in the K and N frame Smiths...the J's being a bit light for it in my hands. Any Ruger BH chambered in .357 would eat up that 6.0 grain load with any good quality plain or beveled base LSWC and give good accuracy with minimal leading issues.

    Some will say with adequate justification, that Unique is at its best above say 5.0 grains in any cartridge...this allowing for its ability to overcome dropped loads of +- 0.2 grains and still offer up low extreme spreads with corresponding good to excellent accuracy...that's been my experience as well...but...Unique is my go-to powder in .32 H&R at 4.0 grains from my Dillon measure...still at +- 0.2 charge weights but accuracy is superb...others here and over on cast boolits have had similar luck and with both jacketed and cast bullets. Go figgur....so thanks again for taking the time to respond...

    Bullseye:
    I too have had good results with 5.0 grains of "Bullseye"...comparable to the 6.0 grain Unique groups described above...and it measures infinitely better. For economy, it's hard to beat. I like it a lot...it's my go-to for wadcutters, in magnum or special brass.

    BJ: One of the long known niceties of Unique is its ability to give very consistent ballistics but not requiring exact metered charges. I too wish it were smoother through the measures I use, but I can't fault the results at mid-level loads. It's not a "Magnum" powder by any means, but can and does give respectable velocities nevertheless. That 6.0 load in my OP is a mid-level offering...not a "Magnum" by any stretch...but is well above "target" load status.

    243 & .38: Yep...it's no "magnum" but a good solid mid-level. I've used 13.5 grains of 2400 for decades in both .38 Special and Magnum cases with Lyman's 358156GC giving me all the "Magnum" feel I care to "enjoy". Never had the need to use magnum primers with 2400 nor Unique for ignition or uniformity over the chrono screens, do you see a difference?. Skelton used the lower crimping groove on that 358156 LSWC, with Special brass and the upper for Magnum cases as that gave almost identical internal case volume with the bullet so seated. From my 4" M-66 and a 4" M-19, I've chrono'd that load at over 1300 fps...and through my 1894CS Marlin with a 2.5x scope mounted, I've benched 1-1/2" groups for 3 shots at 100 yds. It's a damned fine rifle load, but a bit much in my estimation for a K framed Smith. In the Marlin I size to 0.359" with the same alloy and GC'd of course. The point of my OP was the 6.0 load works well for sub-magnum use...but still with more than enough punch for most uses. YMMv of course.

    Charlie and Hooda: Your comments regarding Unique's ability to vary by 0.2 grains in loads similar to that 6.0 grain load and not show significant variations in group mirror my own experience. It's one of it's more admirable characteristics which almost offsets its reputation as a dirty burning powder...flaming dirt some have called it with justification...the "new" blending notwithstanding...in lighter loadings it's still dirty...So...I clean my guns after every use...it's not a deal breaker for me.

    Paladan & BBarn: I've never tried Power Pistol, but do have some experience with BE86...a similar but slightly faster powder, cleaner than Unique and a bit slower in my use...very similar to Herco or WSF. As I recall, BE86 was formulated, at least in part to suppress some of the "flash" associated with PP. Don't know, but it worked well for me...Unique's my choice for mid-level as I've got right at 16 lbs. of it on my shelves...at 75, it's probably a lifetime supply!

    Bayou: Good lookin' piece you've got there...like the stocks but not the front sight...I'm too old to learn a new sight picture I guess. My M-63 Smith .22 has a fiber optic front that drives me nuts...I can't get a good level front / rear picture with it and suffer from elevation woes as a result. For top end loads in my .357's, a pair of .41's and the .44's, I like AC #9 or Win 296, tho I'm pretty sure 296 & 110 are the same powder as formulated currently. All three do the job, but as I spend 99% of my shooting time with mid-level loads, they get scant usage here on the farm.

    DMW: I've been to 14.0 gr. of 2400 with 358156GC at ~162 grains but didn't like the jolt in my hand and was suspicious of the pressure levels. Quickload shows it to be a very high pressure combination...at least using the numbers I've got for seating depth, etc. I'm down to 12.0-12.5 with 2400 now but have not chrono'd them. Quickload shows both to be above 1200 fps for a 4" bbl...enough for any truly serious purpose here with my guns, and good in all but the M-60 J-frame mentioned in my OP.

    Mark_Mark: You completely lost me with your post, pardner...whadayamean?

    Blue68f100: You wouldn't be a zoomie would you? I was USAFA '68...O-1E Birddog out of UPT and worked a lot of 'Huns' (Ramrod alert birds) out of Bien Hoa. 'Snake & Nape' was the standard load with Mk 82 Hi-drags as the upload. BTW, I like WST or Bullseye at 4.5 to 5.5 with 158 LSWC's in mag brass as well...5.0 seems to be the sweet spot with those powders but I don't have chrono data for them....another to-do item.

    Thanks to all who've responded....Best Regards, Rod.
     
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2022
  15. Palladan44

    Palladan44 Member

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    BE-86 is very similar to Power Pistol, BE-86 is even better IMO containing flash suppressant. BE-86 was their proprietary commercial powder they sold to manufacturers, while Power Pistol was their canister powder they sold to us...... but now we can get it. BE-86 also has a slight performance edge over PP from what I've read as well as personal experience.

    I have 1 pound of BE86 and 8lb of PP!
    Dohhhh!
     
  16. Armored farmer

    Armored farmer Member

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    IMG_20210425_130009.jpg 20200229_163817.jpg my dipper drops 6.2gr--6.4gr Unique and my revolvers like it just fine....
     
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  17. DMW1116

    DMW1116 Member

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    I probably won’t stick with that 14+ grain load even though it was the most accurate I’ve tried, shooting just over an inch at 25 yards. The range from 12.9 to 13.3 basically all shot the same, so that seems a good margin to stay within.
     
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  18. Mark_Mark

    Mark_Mark Member

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    A everyday load in Seattle would need to take care of CRAZY ( not even being modest ) knife wheeling, blood drinking from some part of their body… to A aggressive black bear or stalking cougar ( and not the kind we imagine )

    and YES, I’ve in counter that all in one Seattle day.
     
  19. AJC1

    AJC1 Member

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    That poker target is cool. I like ways to keep paper interesting for my son.
     
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  20. GeoDudeFlorida

    GeoDudeFlorida Member

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    Obviously a man of distinction and taste.
    342F94BC-A6E4-4893-AF14-64FFD4AB5516.jpeg
     
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  21. Obturation

    Obturation Member

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    357 magnum loves 2400 powder. I like about 13.5 grains with a swc. Meters great and is a real magnum load . really simple and pleasant to shoot. I've used unique but it meters poorly and is a jack of all trades, master of nothing. Every loading bench should have unique handy but it's just not my favorite to throw. Kind of dirty too.

    I've burned mountains of 2400 in my 357s and the only other powders I use for that cartridge are clays for light blinkers and h110 for the hot loads, 2400 is in the middle and loads up and down very well. If you haven't tried it, get some .
     
  22. GeoDudeFlorida

    GeoDudeFlorida Member

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    Great idea!
    (wish I’d thought of it)
    1C6E138B-A7ED-44DF-B069-A7FE946A0BE2.jpeg
     
  23. Bfh_auto

    Bfh_auto Member

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    I thought 2400 guys skip h110.
    I never used unique. But ran it's hogdon twin, universal through my 357. It was great for full power, low blast 125 grain bullets.
    I toasted my M65 using h110 and light bullets. Wish I had stuck with the medium burn rate.
     
  24. Obturation

    Obturation Member

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    I use a good amount of h110, not as much as I used to though . I like it for pushing heavier bullets and it works well for carbine loads which I generally use jhp for. If I could get the same velocities with 2400 I might skip the h110 but I doubt it can be done safely .

    I get better groups with 2400 but it seems a bit dirtier , doesn't bother me but I figured I'd mention it. I like that 2400 is way more forgiving of reduced loads but can still put out some good velocity on the top end.
     
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  25. Seedy Character

    Seedy Character Member

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    6.0 gr Unique has been my go to .357 load for years.
    I like a 125 gr powder coated bullet, also.

    For tons of fun harassing rabbits, a 95 gr powder coated bullet is real zippy.
    7.5 gr Unique makes it scream and coyotes real sick.

    My Blackhawk and granddaughter are very happy.
     
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