Pickle Jar Plinkers

Keeping the larder full!
; .

Tank’s Ed Brown 1911 9mm and Ruger 357/9mm dual cylinder Blackhawk
are excellent for plinking or more serious training. It’s up to you on what you
want to do, just make sure the pantry is full!

Both my grandmothers married farmers and always said how good they felt having a cellar full of canned goods for winter. We’re talking Mason jars here, along with a freezer full of farm beef. Can’t say I disagree …

Like my Grandmas, I like my cellar well-stocked with filled pickle jars, too! Except mine are filled to the brim with handloads. This gives me a secure feeling, ready for a long winter, dreaming about the upcoming spring, summer and fall and all the shooting I’ll be doing. Full pickle jars just have a way of doing that to a person.


Pickled Plinkers?

Reaching into the large mason jar, I grab a handful of my favorite plinking centerfire ammo. Having several favorites, today’s flavor is 9mm and .38 Specials. With a Ruger dual-cylinder .357/9mm Blackhawk thumb-buster, I can handily shoot both cartridges. How cool is that? Adding a few 9mm pistols, along with my Marlin 1894C lever gun, which could very well be the ultimate plinking gun ever made, I’m in the Promised Land of plinking paradise!


Cheap Treat

Scrounging provides free brass and lead for cast bullets. Precious metals? You bet! All I supply is primers, powder and perspiration for filling my pickle jars with this frugal fodder. Using 4.5 grains of Winchester 231 for both .38 Special and 9mm, with a standard small pistol primer, I’m in for less than a nickel a pickle. That’s a dilly of a load I can afford to shoot!

Pre-heating your mold allows perfect bullets to be cast on the first cycle.

Two To Tango

Checking range buckets, and the firing line, brass is for the taking. We’re after 9mm, the most abundant, and .38 Special. Today’s greybeards cut their teeth shooting .38s as bald-faced pups, while today’s progeny is all about the wonder nines! This generational anomaly keeps me in endless supply of brass for cheap plinking pleasure.


Wonder Why?

Both cartridges are easy shooting with their low muzzle blast, recoil and what was once easy on the wallet — ahem! Today’s induced panic has changed things, wallet-wise, making handloading more prudent than ever.

Wait until prices drop before gearing up, if so inclined. No sense getting hosed at the cash register now. Treat components like stock. Buying low allows reaping the benefits during high demands, i.e., high prices.

There’s no denying these cartridges are fun to shoot! The .38 Special is the first cartridge many handloaders start loading for, too. I know it was one of mine. Its abundance and straight-walled cases makes reloading pretty straightforward.

3-Step Program

The first die sizes and de-primes the spent primer. The second die flares the case mouth for powder charging and bullet seating, while the third die seats and crimps the bullet. Pretty basic, a sequence performed millions of times by millions of handloaders. Plus, you can go from mild to wild loading this demure cartridge.


Here’s a close up of Lee’s 358-125 RF bullet cast by Tank.
They are an exceptional bullet for .38/.357 and 9mm fodder.

Nine Lives

Being the most prevalent cartridge being shot today, 9mm cases are abundant. Most guns have 15-round magazines, but you can load five, or even one for that beginner you’re teaching. Teach them to savor the shot, using good semantics on every trigger press. Discourage the spray/pray mentality.

A batch of 358-125 RFs powder coated and ready to bake.

The Projectile

Using Lee’s 358-125 RF, (radiused flat-nose) six-cavity mold, you’ll cast a pile of slugs in no time. The bullets drop out at 130-grains, using my wheel-weight (WW) alloy. Designed for the .357 Magnum/.38 Special, sized 0.358″, I tried them in my 9mms, discovering they were more accurate than bullets sized 0.356″ or 0.357″. Experiment, it’s well worth it in the long run.

So, if you’re looking for a multi-purpose mold for these calibers, this is a good one to get. My Marlin lever gun loves them too, routinely chewing ragged holes in my targets while cycling better than a blood-doped Lance Armstrong. Using my Dillon 550C press, these rounds are loaded by the hundreds, until failure occurs, as in exhaustion on my part — or until my wife calls for dinner.


The Lee 6-cavity mold makes a pile of bullets in a hurry.
\Here’s six freshly cast bullets straight from the mold.


The 9mm clocks out just over 1,200 FPS while the .38 Special meanders along at 970 FPS. For a 130-grain cast bullet, they’ll take care of plenty of pest problems for you. The Marlin lever gun pushes these pickle poppers at 1,330 FPS for plenty of punch for varmint patrol.

Subscribe To GUNS Magazine

Purchase A PDF Download Of The GUNS Magazine November 2021 Issue Now!



Just One …

Wanna’ know what really gets my goat? It also raises my dander and just plain annoys me! It’s when someone asks the overused, cliché question — “If...
Read Full Article

Hearing the name Kobus, pronounced “Qwi-biss,” grabbed my attention. Anyone having such a colorful name surely lived an adventurous life. I was in South...
Read Full Article
Rossi R92...

Nothing is “funner” than a day shooting a carbine lever gun. Doing so brings back the excitement and enthusiasm you had as a kid from watching John...
Read Full Article