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Hi,
I am new to hand loading and I am looking for some advise on what weight bullets to use and what type of bullet to use, along with how much powder and what kind to use for harvesting deer? I am going to be using a Ruger GP 100 .357 mag with a 6 inch barrel and was wondering if anyone could help me create a load or if they have loading information that would work for me. I appreciate all the help and information.
 

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Welcome to the board. Your first post is one I can really appreciate. I've been hunting deer with the handgun since 1980 and used a handgun almost exclusively during the gun season until just a couple of years ago when I developed an interest in single shot rifles. A point of caution is advised here: if you don't have a reloading manual(s) to verify suggested loads, don't use any data provided on the internet without confirming its safety before use and look for links referencing appropriate data. I've shot somewhere over fifty deer with the .357mag alone and by far, my best results have been with Hornady XTPs in either 158g or 180g weights. My preferred powder for accuracy and power factor (accuracy being of paramount importance) has been WW296 or H110. The most important thing about hunting deer with the handgun is working within the range that you can accurately shoot in and placing your shot in the kill area. I'd limit my shots to where you can reliably place the bullet within a six inch area under the circumstances that you're taking the shot. In other words, shooting off hand or using some type of rest. Your largest and most reliable area to shoot at is the heart/lung area, the same as you would bow hunting. One thing you will find if you stay at this long enough, and have enough success to analyze the results, is that these handgun bullets quickly run out of steam in a handgun no matter how fast you load them. Attached are a pic of two bullets recovered from the same deer hit almost in the same spot. One shot was at approx 90yds broadside and the other was at approx 35yds. Both bullets were recovered from the off side right under the hide. They were 180g XTPs. The heavier bullets such as the 180g provide a bit better penetration but a little less expansion....a fine balance when hunting with a handgun. Become proficient, practice, and shoot within your personal comfort zone for accuracy. Take in the adrenalin factor also. Good luck.
 

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I've shot somewhere over fifty deer with the .357mag alone and by far, my best results have been with Hornady XTPs in either 158g or 180g weights. My preferred powder for accuracy and power factor (accuracy being of paramount importance) has been WW296 or H110.
Fifty is a pretty good number ;)

If somebody can point me at a better powder than W296/H110, for full on loads in the .357/.44M, I'd really appreciate it.

The GP/6" is a really good place to start. Forgive me S&W shooters, in a class with a 586/686 S&W/6".

Just practice a lot, and pick your shots.
 

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"If somebody can point me at a better powder than W296/H110, for full on loads in the .357/.44M, I'd really appreciate it."

The only thing that may be better is 300-MP but only your chronograph/target will give the answer. Other than that, you are in the experimental zone.
 

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My favorite powder for .357 Magnum with 158 gr. Hornady XTP's is Accurate Arms #9 at 13.0 grains. I get better accuracy using standard CCI primers rather than magnum. Accurate Arms has data on-line. In their 1st manual they tested with CCI 500 primers but their latest manual tests with magnum primers. I prefer AA#9 but Win 296 is another good powder. I shoot the same load in both a 6" revolver and Marlin Lever Action rifle.
 

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I have a few experiences to share regarding the .357 mag. for deer, mule deer actually.

A few years back my one of my sons happened upon a big buck by chance while at camp, so the only thing he had was a S&W M66.357 snub loaded with some of my 158 gr. Gold Dots. full throttle H110 powder charge, CCI-550. He shot him from about 75 yds., hit him in the neck and went through and through, DRT.

Also a while back one of my sons shot a mule deer from about 100 yds. with a 4" Taurus 608. The load he was using was again fully worked up to maximum H110 powder charge. Without realizing it, he grabbed the wrong box of reloads out of my closet, he grabbed the box of 125 gr. XTP's instead of the 158's. But when he shot the mule deer. he hit it directly between the eye ans the bullet exited out the back of it's head.

Then back in my earlier years I shot a mule deer with a 4" S&W M19. I loaded some Speer semi jacketed RN 158's, and H110/296 Speer #10 data, and CCI-550's. I hit that deer right behind the shoulder and the bullet passed all the way through, deer was DRT, well it actually walked about 20 yards before falling over.

So three different examples, and three successful accounts, I guess my thoughts would be to use a good magnum powder like H110 / 296 to obtain as much velocity as possible, then a good quality bullet like Gold Dot, or an XTP RN are probably fine options.

SMOA
 

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I too shoot a 6" GP100. I'll echo the sentiments for an XTP over some 110/296. I've been shooting a 17gr load with a 158gr XTP for years, though I guess they've dropped that max by a few tenths in more recent years. I haven't shot the 180gr nsb mentioned.
 

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Cool recovery NSB. That is a classic example of good controlled expansion.

TimSr, I still shoot the older 17 gr. data also, does just what it did back then, which is to say it performs just fine.

SMOA
 

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I too shoot a 6" GP100. I'll echo the sentiments for an XTP over some 110/296. I've been shooting a 17gr load with a 158gr XTP for years, though I guess they've dropped that max by a few tenths in more recent years.
Good to hear,

I've been working up using more current data, and even at max, I've yet to see a flat primer, or have difficulty with extraction. Most of my .357/.44M loads would get me banned.

Still sneaking up on my older manual loads for use in my BH 357's. Unless the steel is far more advanced, much as I like my GP's, they seem "fragile" by comparison.
 

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Good to hear,

I've been working up using more current data, and even at max, I've yet to see a flat primer, or have difficulty with extraction. Most of my .357/.44M loads would get me banned.

Still sneaking up on my older manual loads for use in my BH 357's. Unless the steel is far more advanced, much as I like my GP's, they seem "fragile" by comparison.
LOL, I hear ya Bro, if I posted my 357, 44 mag loads, I'm sure I'd be joining ya in the banned club.

I shot at some rabbits yesterday while on the way back to camp, I used some old stale H110 loads, maybe 15 -20 yrs. old. They all went bang, no problems or pressure issues, primers were pretty flat, but they fell right out of the cylinder with nothing more than a light tap with a small hammer, Na, just kidding, they fell right out.

SMOA
 

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I have been hauling around a wheel gun through the woods in some for or fashion for the past 30+ years. I can tell you that you need a good bullet and the ones recommended to you here have an exceptional track record on game.

When you work up your loads do so for accuracy and not for all out velocity, and you will be ahead in the game. While velocity is important, if you cannot guarantee that your shots are grouping within a certain range, then all bets are off when you squeeze the trigger.

Also work up your loads from a rested position with your arms sitting atop something soft, to be SURE which is the most accurate, then once you know the revolver and load work together then start on yourself. The problem with resting the barrel on a rest is that you will not have that advantage in the field 98% of the time.

Shoot the same loads for practice as you would while hunting, and practice from field hunting positions. Use several methods to practice with as in sitting with your arms rested across your knees, kneeling with your arms rested across one knee, using a back pack with your arms rested across the top. Shoot standing with a two hand hold, as in most cases this will probably be what you have in a moments notice. Shoot at targets starting at 15yds and move out as you progress until your shooting decent groups out to 50 or 75yds consistently. Practice at the longer ranges as it will improve your confidence at the close ones. As mentioned this ia a lot like archery where you want to be as close as possible, and use what velocity and energy you can get from your loads to work fast on the intended game.

My first deer with my GP-100 was at 73 steps using the now discontinued Speer 146gr Semi Jacketed SWC. This was a VERY accurate bullet loaded over a nice dose of AA-9. I had no issues reaching out to that range with it. Nowadays however I prefer the Gold Dot to others simply due to how well they preform over a broad range of velocities. That said though I work up my loads for accuracy and then work within a given range depending on the caliber I am using at the time. With the .357's I ty to keep things within about 35yds max and move out a bit from there as I go up in caliber. Even so for deer I limit my ranges to about 50yds max as I want as precise a shot as I can muster up. Not that the 454 will not reach out a LOT further, but settling the big wide sights on a specific area at longer ranges becomes more of just getting the sight picture proper and I prefer not to judge things like that.

Good Luck to you and hope this helps. Practice hard and make a good shot and you will be hooked from then on out.
 

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The very best practice for hand gun hunting - for me - was IHMSA silhouette competition. Both standing and creedmore positions. You get a lot of practice with your hunting pistol, at varying ranges, and under pressure to perform. Much better that plinking at the range, and a lot of fun. If you are serious about improving your handgun hunting skills, find an NRA or IHMSA club nearby and join.

I hunted Kodiak Island blacktail for over 20 years, mostly with handguns. I never used a .357, but lots of Contenders and .45 Colts. In the .45 I didn't have very good luck with cast bullets, same for a half-dozen handgun hunters in my IHMSA club. I had poor luck with the Speer 200 HP too, too soft. The Hornady 250 XTP on the other hand performed very well. Today I would expect a a WFN cast bullet to work much better, but no flys on the XTPs.


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