Classic Powders

Despite newer powders, H110/W296 (the same powder in different in different canisters) and Alliant 2400 are still about as good as it gets with the .357 and heavier bullets. Of course, part of the reason for the long career of 2400 is that, like other older powders, it’s been improved over the years.

The classic 158-grain jacketed bullet in the .357 was once touted as the all-around load, but this was mostly because lighter bullets tended to penetrate insufficiently back in the days when jackets and core often separated on impact. These days more shooters are choosing lighter bullets for urban defense, and heavier bullets for medium-sized, big-game animals such as deer, mountain lions or black bears.

For inexpensive practice, however, it’s hard to beat a good 158-grain semi-wadcutter cast bullet, such as the Lyman 358156. Such bullets almost always shoot very well, whether at mild .38 Special velocities or pushed hard in .357s. In fact, in my 66 this bullet and 12.0 grains of 2400 is more accurate than any jacketed bullet, and works not just for punching paper but for small game and varmints.

Shooting cast bullets from soft to moderate hardness also results in much longer barrel life, due to less gas blow-by than with jacketed bullets in the cylinder/forcing cone gap. One of my friends is still shooting the .357 Ruger Blackhawk he bought back in high school almost 40 years ago. It shoots great, mostly because only one box of jacketed bullets has gone down the barrel since then. Or at least that’s what he claims!