It’s Hurrah Time for Handloaders!
By Jeff “Tank” Hoover
Happy days are here again, at least for those of you who enjoy shooting the stretched out version of the .357 Magnum — the .357 Maximum. Starline Brass has stepped up to the plate and is producing .357 Maximum brass for us!
Developed in 1983 in a partnership between Ruger and Remington — and the brainchild of Elgin Gates — this tall .357 fella’ was intended for handgun hunters and metallic silhouette shooters. Compared to the .357 Magnum, both parties wanted heavier bullets with moderate velocities, taking advantage of much improved momentum and downrange energy, to knock over their targets of choice. Remington loaded a factory load comprising of a 125-grain HP bullet instead.
The light bullet, combined with heavy powder charges, caused flame-cutting of the revolver’s topstrap to occur at a faster rate than normal. All guns will develop flame cutting in the underside of the frame by the barrel/cylinder gap, depending on how much they are shot. Magnums more so, due to the heavier powder charges. You can’t get something for nothing. Higher performance has a price.
Indeed, some say those dirty rotten gun writers exaggerated the flame cutting. Others stated once the flame cutting reached a certain depth it stopped, creating its own gas vent of sorts. One thing was certain, Bill Ruger was not happy with the criticism and yanked the .357 Maximum off the shelves, ceasing production.
Besides Ruger, Thompson Center fell in line and chambered their barrels in the caliber. In fact, I have a 20″ carbine barrel for a TC Contender frame in .357 Maximum. I call it my .35 Remington “straight” as it nearly duplicates performance of the .35 Remington, in a straight walled case with the ease and speed of being able to use carbide dies to size/decap when handloading. It’s an accurate, compact companion in carbine configuration and a favorite.
I also have a 10.5″ Ruger Blackhawk near and dear to me. When Bill Ruger designed this beast, with input from David Bradshaw, they made the ejector rod longer to positively extract the long cases. They also stretched the frame and cylinder to accommodate the longer case. Renowned for their accuracy, they were beloved by the silhouette shooters and considered a bargain in a box-stock production gun.
The Starline stamp is now on .357 Maximum brass. Cases are slightly heavier than
factory Remington brass from the old days. Adjust your loads accordingly
to get the same velocity.
With the demand and availability of ammunition over the past couple of years, the manufacturers have streamlined and prioritized production to meet the needs of top-demand calibers. Unfortunately, the .357 Maximum didn’t make the cut and fell victim. Factory loaded ammunition, and even brass, ceased to be produced, making .357 Maximum fans panic, forcing them to simply retire their guns to their safes. And that’s always a bad thing!
Just as necessity is the mother of invention, good business practice takes advantage of any holes needing to be filled. Starline Brass stepped up to the plate and answered the requests for those hardheaded, dedicated .357 Maximum shooters who know a good thing when they see it, and make their own decisions.
When I first heard about Starline coming out with .357 Max. brass, I jumped on the phone and ordered some for my undernourished children. As usual, it didn’t take long, and was delivered quickly.
Some of Tank’s guns in .357 Maximum: A TC Contender with 20″ barrel, mounted with a Weaver 2.5X
fixed power scope. It’s a compact carbine coming in handy and picks up 2-300 fps free velocity
from its longer barrel. Also shown is Tank’s 10.5″ Ruger Blackhawk, also in .357 Maximum.
Calipers in hand, the measuring began when my box arrived. The Starline brass was very consistent, with the OAL right at 1.598″. I measured five cases randomly and all were within .001″. Five cases averaged 103.4 grains in weight, with a low of 103.0 grains and a high of 103.8 grains. Some Old Remington cases I had on hand averaged 94.3 grains, using my RCBS 505 scale. This is no surprise, as Starline Brass tends to be thicker in most calibers they produce. Obviously, a tad less powder will be needed to obtain the same velocities obtained in older Remington cases.
Feeling good for my .357 Maxi babies, I can now breathe a sigh of relief. I’m well stocked and know more is but a phone call away. Thank you Starline for listening and answering the prayers of those of us determined to keep this fine cartridge alive and kicking.
For more info: www.americanhandgunner.com/index
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