.357 Mag Handgun
Wanted to get some thoughts out there... anyone hunt deer ( whitetail ) with a .357? If so, I'm curious to hear what loads and range to expect.
Not whitetails, but years ago I did a fair bit of Sitka blacktail hunting with a number of models. I shot deer with everything from jacketed 110 HPs to 180's and both hard and soft cast ranging from 140 to 200 grains (the 200's were FP rifle bullets seated out and used in a 10" Contender).
Longest shot with any open sighted revolver was 68 yards. Longest with the scoped Contender was 110 yards.
The only bullets that I felt failed to perform were the 110 HPs. They came apart at close range, yet failed to penetrate well at longest ranges. They were the only bullets I recovered.
At open sighted revolver ranges the most decisive kills came with 125 HPs, either Remington or Federal. Winchester 140 Silvertip HPs were right behind. I never recovered any of them because in spite of substantial wound channels, the bullets penetrated completely (all broadside lung shots). These were highly touted law enforcement bullets in their day, and I could see why. Bang-whap-dead with no messing around with tracking or follow-up shots.
My choice in the Contender for quick kills was the Sierra 150 HC. I had expected 180's to do better, but they didn't seem to expand at all beyond about 40 yards, while I got visible expansion with the Sierras on that 110 yard shot. Still didn't manage to recover it though. Taking all shot angles with jacketed bullets I'd go for the 180s, but with lots of deer around I can afford to pass up all but the broadside shots. If whitetails are bigger, I'd surely use the 180 if you wanted a jacketed bullet.
Cast bullets are cast bullets. I didn't get detectable expansion with the soft ones, and they seemed to perform as well as hard cast. Didn't have an HP mold, so couldn't go that way to improve expansion.
I did compare RN and FN cast bullets. RN bullets were slow killers, but penetrated well. FN of all weights killed much more quickly while still penetrating completely.
Contrary to what you read in the press, I came away feeling like a bit of expansion or at least a large flat nose on bullets was best for quick kills along with ample penetration. I had deer drop in their tracks with the 125 HPs, but nothing else. The 150 Sierra from the Contender came close and would probably do so at closer ranges, but my closest shot with it was at just over 75 yards.
I don't think I would use any 357 loads on larger deer except for broadside lung shots, especially at ranges much beyond 50 yards. If you aren't able to wait for the ideal shot or get close, it is probably better to pass on the round. The single exception might be that cast 200 FP rifle bullet from a Contender, but you darn well better hit them right.
Thanks for the input. With the area I hunt in MI, my shots generally range between 30 and 50 yards, sometimes much, much closer. The size of our whitetails are typically in the #145 to #175 range. I focus mostly on bowhunting in MI, but I get caught up in the nostalgia of opening day firearm, and would like to try handgun hunting for a little different challenge. I've an old Blackhawk revolver that I am accurate with out to 50 yards or so... and I've been wanting to purchase an Encore Handgun, but haven't yet due to the $$$. Thought maybe that I would try out the 357 this year.
With deer that size and the ranges you are talking, I'd take lung shots with confidence of a clean kill- providing you land bullets where planned.
One of my revolvers used with these loads is an ancient 4 5/8" flat top. It really likes both 155 grain gaschecked semiwadcutters (wheelweights) and the 150 grain Sierra HCs. I still pack it in the hills sometimes because it's an old friend and we have covered a lot of miles together.