The .357 Magnum, the first, and to many appreciative shooters, the best of the Magnums, has been a steady seller for the past sixty plus years. Of all the Magnums, it delivers the most muzzle energy in exchange for the least felt recoil. While it was looked upon as some kind of magical round in the 1930's, one that would penetrate any automobile or down any game animal, it has been put into proper perspective over the years, and has become a favorite of shooters who also realize its limitations. It is at its best as a defensive round; a varmint and small game round for hunters and outdoorsman; and is only pressed into service for big game occasionally, and is generally regarded by many as a round that should only be used by expert shots for hunting anything above the size of coyotes. Others swear by it as perfect for hunting deer-sized game. In recent years, it has proven to be an excellent round for both long- and short-range silhouetting when used with the proper guns and loads.

The .357 Magnum was looked upon as a handful of awesome power in the 1930's. Surely this was a sixgun that was the epitome of power. And then came the .44 Magnum. And the .454 Casull. And the .500 Linebaugh. Sixguns became more and more powerful. But the .357 Magnum remained the favorite of all Magnums. Every manufacturer has chambered one or more of their models for the original Magnum. Except one. Freedom Arms started with the .454 Casull in the early 1980's, then added the .44 Magnum a few years later as well as the .45 Colt, at least by offering auxiliary cylinders for the old Long Colt for use in .454 revolvers.

The decision was made to chamber the Freedom Arms revolver to .357 Magnum and the experiments started. It is no simple matter to add a new chambering as the technicians at Freedom Arms did not just want a .357 Magnum, they wanted the finest .357 Magnum possible. Groove diameter was finally settled at .357" and the twist of the Freedom Arms .357 Magnum, dubbed the 353 Casull, is one-in-fourteen to better stabilize heavier bullets of the 180 and 200 grain weights. The name "353" comes from a play on numbers following the ".454" and "252" Freedom Arms revolvers, "252" being the designation for the .22 Long Rifle Freedom Arms Single Action.

The 353 Casull is capable of handling loads that are impossible, spelled E-X-T-R-E-M-E-L-Y D-A-N-G-E-R-O-U-S in other 357 Magnums. With the 353 Casull, the only limitation is the strength of the .357 Magnum brass. Loads for the 353 Casull are assembled in standard .357 Magnum brass and I have used both Federal and Winchester .357 Magnum brass with the same results. Only rifle primers should be used with the pressures involved in loading for the 353 Casull and I strongly recommend Remington #7 1/2 small rifle primers. Pistol primers will probably flow and tie up the gun as the cylinder will not rotate.

The first area to go will be the primer pocket and brass should be kept separated as the heaviest loads will enlarge the primer pockets and they should then only be used for squib loads or better yet discarded. Heavy 353 loads should only be assembled in brand new brass. Even more moderate 353 loads will result in brass life that is very short with these "ULTRA PLUS P .357 MAGNUM PLUS P" loads.

Loading the 353 Casull is accomplished with standard .357 Magnum brass, and I used RCBS .357 Magnum Carbide dies. Since 353 Casull loads are assembled in standard .357 Magnum brass, they must be properly marked. I suggest the use of plastic cartridge boxes such as manufactured by MTM and the boxes labeled clearly : "FOR USE IN THE 353 CASULL ONLY". I would also suggest that one brand of brass be chosen for use in the 353 Casull only so a glance at the headstamp will warn the shooter:"FOR USE IN THE 353 CASULL ONLY". A third reminder would be to put a dab of model airplane dope or fingernail polish on each primer as a red flag that says: "FOR USE IN THE 353 CASULL ONLY". Less one thinks I am overstating the situation realize that we are talking loads that are way above standard Magnum loadings of 35,000 to 40,000 psi, and in all probability at 60,000 psi or more.

With the 353 Casull chambering, amazing things happen besides tremendous chamber pressures. We are talking 160 grain bullets at 1750 feet per second, 180 grain bullets at 1650 feet per second, and 200 grain bullets at 1500 feet per second. To put that into perspective, one needs only to look at some standard .357 Magnum loadings. These same jacketed bullets custom loaded for my pet eight and three-eighths inch .357 Magnum, the original .357 from Smith & Wesson, will safely do 1350 , 1250, and 1050 feet per second respectively. That is a dramatic difference to say the least.

It becomes even more dramatic when one compares the performance of the .357 Maximum/SuperMag with the 353 Casull. Remember, Maximum brass is 300" longer in length than standard .357 Magnum brass. The same bullets outlined above for the 353 Casull and .357 Magnum, max out at 1500, 1350, and 1250 feet per second respectively in my eight-inch Dan Wesson .357 SuperMag. A look at the following chart with muzzle velocities and muzzle energies puts all of this into proper perspective.


160 GRAIN 1350 646 1500 800 1750 1088
180 GRAIN 1250 625 1350 727 1650 1087
200 GRAIN 1050 490 1250 694 1500 1000


Does the 353 Casull raise the .357 Magnum to the status of being a true big game handgun chambering? I have shot two animals with the 353 Casull using Cor-Bon's 353 loading of a 180 grain bullet at 1600 feet per second. On my recent hunt in Texas the last day of the hunt was dedicated to finding out what the 353 Casull would do loaded with 180 grain Cor-Bons. We found three Corsicans, one with a better than full curl, and I took my first shot at game with the 353 Casull. I hit him one-third of the way up from the chest in line with the front leg and he went ten feet and dropped dead. The 180 Cor-Bon penetrated completely at about 50 yards. We cleaned him out and went looking for one final ram. Another nice one was found in a group of about ten and I waited about half an hour to get a clear shot. He took one step forward of the rest of them and I slipped another 180 Cor-Bon in, this time about one-third of the way down from his back in line with the front leg. He dropped immediately, and died instantly.

Does this make the 353/.357 Magnum a big game cartridge? Results were dramatic to say the least and as good as the rams I have shot with the 7-08, .375 JDJ, and the .454 Casull. It looks great to begin with but I want to see more before I recommend the .357 diameter revolver cartridge, be it .357 Magnum, .357 Maximum, or 353 Casull, for anything larger than small deer. Good bullets are now available from Hornady in the 158 grain XTP flat-point and hopefully by the time you read this they will also have their 180 grain XTP available. Cor-Bon's 180 grain bullet is available as well as loaded 353 ammunition. Bob Baker of Freedom Arms has taken a BlackBuck with the 353, and Peter Pi sent me three bullets perfectly expanded taken from a large wild hog shot with the 353 Casull using his ammunition.

Bullets must be carefully selected in reloading for the 353 Casull. Reloaders ran into trouble early with the .357 Maximum by using .357 Magnum bullets at velocities higher than they were intended to be used in a revolver and lighter weight bullets were coming apart. For the 353 Casull I would recommend staying with bullets beginning at 158 grains with the Hornady 158 XTP line, through the 160, 180, and 200 grain silhouette bullets from Hornady, Sierra, and Speer.

The two most accurate jacketed bullet loads I have found for the 353 Casull are both assembled with heavy Speer bullets. Using the Speer 180 grain silhouette bullet over 18.0 grains of AA#9 or 17.0 grains of #2400. The first load does 1650 feet per second and will put five shots into one-inch at 25 yards and one and one-fourth inches at 50 yards. The #2400 load is a more "sedate" 1560 feet per second and does seven-eighths of an inch at 25 yards and one and three-eighths of an inch at 50 yards.

The second Speer bullet that has given excellent accuracy is the Speer 180 grain .35 Remington Soft Point bullet. This rifle bullet gives 1570 feet per second with 17.0 grains of AA#9 and does seven-eighths of an inch at both twenty-five and fifty yards. I re-cannelure these bullets for an overall loaded length of 1.745".

Cast bullet shooting in the 353 Casull, as opposed to their use in the .357 Magnum or .357 Maximum/SuperMag, becomes a whole new field of experimentation. Cast bullets that perform well at 1400 feet per second may or may not perform well when driven at the velocities possible with the 353 Casull five-gun. I have run into the same situation when using some .45 Colt bullets in the .454 Casull. When the muzzle velocities exceed a certain level, accuracy disappears. My theory is that the bearing surface has to be just right or the bullets skid or strip on the rifling when driven at high speeds.

My best 353 Casull cast bullet loads have been experienced with 180 grain gas-checked bullets , using both home cast RCBS #38-180 FN and the BRP 180 grain gas check. The latter is available from BRP Bullets (1210 Alexander Rd., Dept AH, Colorado Springs Colorado 80909. Phone 719-633-0658). The longer nosed RCBS bullet shoots slightly better and will get right down close to one-half inch at 25 yards at 1400 feet per second.

American shooters have made the .38/.357 chambering the most popular revolver bore. From the .38 Special, for law enforcement and super accurate target shooting, to the .357 Magnum, now regarded as the best defensive round when properly loaded, to the top silhouette cartridge, the .357 Maximum/SuperMag. Now we have the 353 Casull. As I have said in print before, I expect the 353 Casull to re-write the book on the .357 Magnum . It looks like a .357 Magnum. It smells like a .357 Magnum. It feels like a .357 Magnum. But the expected conclusion cannot be drawn. It is definitely not just another .357 Magnum.







 LOAD          MV

17.0 GR. AA#9 1624

* 18.0 GR. AA#9 1674

19.0 GR. AA#9 1778

18.0 GR. H110 1574

19.0 GR. H110 1628

20.0 GR. H110 1671

* 21.0 GR. H110 1739

16.0 GR. #2400 1517

17.0 GR. #2400 1620

18.0 GR. #2400 1678



LOAD          MV

17.0 GR. AA#9 1625

18.0 GR. AA#9 1691

* 19.0 GR. AA#9 1748

20.0 GR. AA#9 1864

19.0 GR. WW296 1625

* 20.0 GR. WW296 1721

21.0 GR. WW296 1818

17.0 GR. #2400 1658

18.0 GR. #2400 1703

19.0 GR. #2400 1771


LOAD          MV

17.0 GR. AA#9 1540

* 18.0 GR. AA#9 1649

19.0 GR. AA#9 1688

19.0 GR. WW296 1636

* 20.0 GR. WW296 1655

21.0 GR. WW296 1702

16.0 GR. #2400 1477

* 17.0 GR. #2400 1559


LOAD          MV

15.0 GR. AA#9 1322

* 16.0 GR. AA#9 1457

16.0 GR. WW296 1329

17.0 GR. WW296 1437

* 18.0 GR. WW296 1500


LOAD          MV

16.0 GR. AA#9 1486

* 17.0 GR. AA#9 1570

17.0 GR. WW296 1421

18.0 GR. WW296 1492

19.0 GR. WW296 1568



LOAD          MV

16.0 GR. AA#9 1434

* 17.0 GR. AA#9 1522

18.0 GR. AA#9 1544

18.0 GR. WW296 1431

19.0 GR. WW296 1519

20.0 GR. WW296 1596


Since the above was written , Hornady has brought forth their 180 grain XTP. I use these or the Freedom Arms 180 with 19.2 grains of AA#9 for around 1700 fps.