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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Well, today I went and chronographed my standard handloads in .357 magnum in my newly acquired .357 Ruger SP101. Now, I have fired loads in four barrel lengths. I have the Ruger's 2.3" barrel, my 3" M66, my 4" M66 (and a M19 smith and Security Six from the past) and a 6.5" Ruger Blackhawk. I do not fire my white hot 180 grain load in my medium frame M66s, don't want to stress 'em that much. I do fire it in my blackhawk, worked it up for hunting with the blackhawk and decided to fire it in the SP101. I fired the following loads with velocities and energies listed.

125 grain JHP/18.0 grains 2400......1102 fps/337 ft lbs
140 grain JHP/17.0 grains 2400......1332 fps/551 ft lbs
165 grain SWC/14.5 grains 2400.....1162 fps/495 ft lbs
180 grain JHP/13.8 grains AA#9....1306 fps/682 ft lbs

Now, the 125 was all flash/bang, singe your eyebrows, and lots of unburned powder. It is not efficient in the short barrel, shoots decent in 3 and 4" barrel lengths producing 600 ft lbs in a 4" barrel, so it seems this load just don't cut it in the little Ruger. Accuracy was awful, too, and extreme spread was over 100 fps. No consistency.

The 140 grain load is easy to shoot, lots of flash/bang, but not terrible recoil and produces awesome numbers, 551 ft lbs! It shoots to point of aim and produced 3" groups at 25 yards off a rest. AWEsome! This will be my carry load. The 158 SWC is a general purpose field and practice load, shoots to point of aim, about 3.5" accurate. I cast the bullet so the loads are cheap. I mostly shoot this load at the range.

Now, the 180 grain load. This one HURT! :eek: I put 3 shots into 2" with it and flinched the other two. ROFL! Man, it's like a light bullet load in a 12 ounce Smith airlite. I do NOT wanna shoot this one much, but it is VERY accurate, shoots to point of aim, and would be awesome to carry in bear country for self defense. The load makes almost 800 ft lbs from the 6.5" barrel in my Blackhawk and is STILL kickin' 662 ft lbs out of the little SP101! WOW!

I also fired my .38 wadcutter light load for accuracy and go a little over 2" with it shooting to point of aim, also. Man, I got real lucky with this gun shooting 3 magnum loads and my wadcutter all to point of aim. That's very unusual. You usually need to adjust and my blackhawk and two M66s have their sights marked for light .38 and heavy magnum elevations. The SP101 is fixed sight, but turns out I don't need to adjust it. COOL!

Anyway, it seems the bullet must be 140 grains with 2400 to perform in anything shorter than a 3" barrel. The common load that I've chronographed in 4 barrel lengths is my 165 grain standard SWC load. Results are as follows....

2.3" SP101...........1162 fps/495 ft lbs
3" Taurus M66......1198 fps/526 ft lbs
4" Taurus M66.......1324 fps/642 ft lbs
6.5" Blackhawk......1470 fps/791 ft lbs

If I were to work up a 125 grain load for the SP101's short barrel, I'd have to go to a faster powder, perhaps something like blue dot though I've never really had great luck with blue dot in magnum revolver loads. But, the 140 grain load is so good in the little gun, that's the one I'll be stokin' for carry. The accuracy it produces (Speer bullet) is enough to convince me, let alone the impressive numbers.

One thing I think I've learned from this shooting, too, is that very heavy bullet loads are less effected by shorter barrel lengths in .357 caliber than are the lighter bullets. If I could stand the recoil, I might be tempted to carry it because the fireball is much tamer with that heavy bullet, but the recoil is a little much and I'm afraid the bullet would be a little too much penetration for a self defense load. It's a great hunting round and self defense against big toothy stuff load, though.

After I got through shooting all those hand pounding rounds in the Ruger, I picked up my 3" M66 for some shooting with the 165 grain SWC load. Wow, it's so much easier on the hand in that gun, LOL!
 

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Discussion Starter #2 (Edited)
Thought I'd add, the bullets I fired are the following....

125 grain Winchester JHP
140 grain Speer JHP
165 grain gas checked SWC from a Lee mold, hand cast from range scrap lead. It's listed as a 158 grain, but weighs 165 grains with gas check installed.
180 grain JHP XTP Hornady

Do not duplicate any of these .357 loads without starting from 10 percent lighter charge and working up to it in your gun. The 180 grain, in particular, is VERY hot and I wouldn't fire it in medium frame guns like the M66 or the Smith K frames too much. I would drop a half grain on the powder at least for guns of K frame strength.
 

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Good report. Do you get any leading from the 158gr. gas check? Never tried any lead bullets with a gas check above 1,000fps. Afraid of the leading posibility.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Nope. I push those bullets to nearly 1900 fps out of my little Rossi 92 Carbine and no leading. The gas checks do a good job. I think it'd take something over 2000 fps to start to lead. I used to toss in a little tin via 50 percent solder when casting 'em, but don't bother with that anymore. I've killed 3 deer with that bullet, one from the carbine and 2 from my Blackhawk.
 

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Have you considered a faster burning powder for the shorter SP101 revolver?

When I was testing powders for the .357 Magnum, I found that Alliant Blue Dot produced the same basic Chronograph results in a 4 inch Revolver (Colt King Cobra) as it did in a 6 inch Revolver (S&W 686). Also I could use standard Pistol Primers with Blue Dot whereas the other powders (Alliant 2400, W296, HS7/W571) required Magnum Primers.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I've experimented with blue dot in other guns with less than spectacular results. I've also experimented with Unique and other faster powders, but reached pressure limits before I got decent velocities. I've not tried blue dot, yet, in the SP101, though.

The 140 grain load shoots real well, so I'm pretty settled on it for carry. It's accurate, too. I like the AA#9 for heavy loads with heavy bullets. It's a slow powder, too. I've not tried AA#5, which is faster. The AA#9 is a ball powder, burns clean and measures consistently. I've thought of getting some #5 and playing with it. I've limited my powders to Alliant bullseye, unique, and 2400. I have some green dot and blue dot left over from shotgun reloading which I don't do anymore. I pretty much get everything I need done with bullseye, unique, and 2400, but I read a magazine article about loading the 180 grain load with AA#9 and that article was pretty correct, good powder for heavy loads in strong guns.

Yeah, it's entered my mind that the shorter barrels might perform better with faster powders. That's particularly true of the 125 grain bullet, it seems. The 2400 is just too slow for that bullet and it's my hypothesis that it's not all burning before the bullet exits the bore, therefore, less thrust and all the unburned powder I was seeing. Funny, but a grain less charge behind a 140 grain bullet and it was consistent and fast. Not only that, but in the 3" Taurus, the 125 grainer produces about 520 ft lbs. Seems all it needs is that extra almost an inch of barrel to work. I wasn't expecting the 125 grain load to fall so flat on its face in a short barrel, though. You're right, I believe, that if I wanna shoot that bullet weight, I'm going to have to try a faster powder.
 
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