Saturday, September 3, 2011

Favorite 357 Magnum Bullet Moulds and Loads


Which cast bullet and load shoots the best, most consistently?  This is about 357 Magnums and how accurately they shoot.  25 yards off a rest & sandbags, measured with calipers, then logged and sorted is how I determine what gets included in the Most Accurate Bullet Moulds and Loads TableIt's a detailed list of data regarding the best and most accurate bullets. My favorite loads, the best of the best are highlighted later in this post.

Being limited to an indoor range 98% of the time is the primary reason for the distance limitation.  Other indoor shooters often practice at 10 - 15 yards while outdoor shooters often shoot 100 or even 200 yards. With a 6 inch or longer barrel a 357 Magnum is surprisingly accurate at long distances.

Semi Wadcutters, Keith and non-Keith consistently out-shoot all other designs.  When measured center to center, with calipers, that's the way the numbers stack up.  Round-nose bullets, full wadcutters and lead-flat-nose (LFN) bullets all have their following, and their place.  Measuring groups center-to-center produces a clear winner, the SWC.

For example, when shooting off-hand, a full wadcutter may shoot slightly bigger groups (we are talking tenths or hundredths of an inch) than a good SWC.  But in Bullseye the wadcutter may outscore the SWC.  Just because that discipline doesn't measure center-to-center distances.  It scores points based on the wad-cutters bigger clean-cut-hole simply touching a ring.  I hope this a good example of how measuring the accuracy in a different way can provide a different result. 

My Favorite Loads

The 357 Magnum guns listed below are a 6.5 inch Ruger Blackhawk, a 6 inch Taurus 66 and a Rossi 20 inch Lever Action rifle.  It's included for fun, which is what this is all about.  These bullets and loads are what I cast and shoot all the time.  1,000 rounds a month total.

Favorite Moulds Blackhawk Taurus 66 M92 (Rifle) Pre-Lapped Lapped
TL-358-158-SWC 3.5, 700X 3.5, 700X 3.5, 700X 158 168
TL-358-158-SWC 5.4, Unique 3.5, HP-38 3.5, HP-38 158 168
TL-358-158-SWC 13.5, H110 11.8, H110 13.5, H110 158 168
358-429 NOE 5.1, Unique 5.1, 700X* 5.1, Unique 168 178
358-429 NOE 13.5, H110 11.8, H110 13.5, H110 168 178
 Lapped  Pre-Lapped  Lapped
*5.1 of 700X was with the 168 grain bullet, not for use with the 178 grain lapped version.  Check all loads with your reloading manuals and recipes to ensure they are not over-max-pressure.

These two moulds have proven themselves as the most accurate and most consistent for a 357 Magnum.  A few of the loads were found by doing a ton of testing.  Shooting multiple 5 shot groups and thousands of bullets.  The rest were found with using Ladder Testing: Incremental Load Development.  That approach is detailed in a multi-part series previously posted in this Blog.

Lapping is also covered in a prior post, scroll down the posts in the right hand column to find it.

The Longer List

A broader look at all the top bullets and loads is below.  For the additional data columns click on the Most Accurate Loads link at the top of the right column of the Blog.

Mould Weight Group Lube Charge OAL Velocity
360-200-SWC NOE 200 0.570 Darr 3.4, 700X 1.614 730
358-429 NOE 168 0.580 Darr 4.7, HP-38 1.620 900
358-429 NOE 168 0.580 Darr 5.1, 700X 1.620 1,200
TL358-158-SWC Lee** 168 0.590 2L/1MS 3.5, 700X 1.610 860
TL358-158-SWC Lee 158 0.610 2L/1MS 3.5, HP-38 1.610 816
TL-358-158-SWC Lee** 168 0.668 2L/Mi 5.4, Unique 1.610 940
TL-358-158-SWC Lee** 168 0.671 2L/Mi 3.5, 700X 1.610 860
358-429 NOE** 178 0.680 Darr 5.1, Unique 1.620 900
TL358-158-SWC Lee** 168 0.680 JPW 3.5, HP-38 1.610 770
358-429 NOE** 178 0.690 Darr 5.7, Unique 1.620 970
358-477 Lyman 150 0.690 Darr 3.5, 700X 1.620 989
357-446 Lyman 162 0.780 Darr 3.5, 700X Groove 890
358-429 NOE** 180 0.810 Darr 13.5, H110 1.620 1,400
TL-358-158-SWC Lee** 168 0.823 2L/Mi 13.5, H110 1.610 1,410
358-429 Lyman 170 0.850 NRA 11.8, H110 1.620 1,037
358-429 NOE 168 1.000 Darr 11.8, H110 1.620 1,037
TL-358-158-SWC Lee 158 1.100 LLA 5.1 HP-38 1.600 1,129
TL-358-148-WC Lee 148 1.100 LLA 3.5 HP-38 1.400 928
358-429 Lyman 170 1.120 Darr 3.2, 700X 1.620 800
360-200-SWC NOE 200 1.180 Darr 3.0, 700X 1.614 660
360-145-SWC NOE 145 1.200 Darr 3.9 700X Groove 1,020
357-446 Lyman 162 1.300 Darr 11.8, H110 Groove 1,020
358-429 NOE 168 1.300 Darr 11.8, H110 1.620 1,037
140-FN-LBT 140 1.400 Darr 5.8 700X Groove 1,347
** Lapped Mould

The 2L/Mi lube is the Extreme Alox, option 1 per a prior post, shot using the Blackhawk with iron sights.  The Mi is Motor Mica.  Loads listed more than once are results from different revolvers, some with a scope or red dot, some with iron open sights.  Look at the full list using the link to see all the details.


There are many of designs and moulds not listed.  I've tested a ton of them.  I'm often told that the newer breed of LFN style designs are more accurate than semi-wadcutters, you may hear the same.  However, in a 357 Magnum, the SWC is the most accurate and most consistent design.  Some of the new designs are accurate.  However after shooting many groups, measuring and sorting the results, the SWC wins.  The other bullets that I tested aren't listed because they are less accurate.

You, the shooter, have to do your part when shooting for groups.  Even when using a sand-bag, or other rest, it takes practice and repetition.  It's not a slam dunk to shoot groups less than 1 inch.  Shooting off-hand, unsupported, is even much harder to do.  The bullets and loads that shoot the best groups when rested, also shoot the best off-hand.  Albeit with larger groups.

Have fun, be safe, and shoot tight groups.