I like the traditional .357 magnum. It’s one of my favorite straight-walled cartridges and a nice deer gun in a rifle. But, I recently bought a 350 legend and I am impressed.
The 350 Legend is 80 percent more powerful than a .357 Magnum and is effective on deer twice as far away. Most 350 Legend bullets have a higher sectional density which means more penetration than the .357 Magnum. The 350 Legend is faster, more powerful, and can be used in more guns than the .357 Magnum.
Both cartridges can be practical for hunting midsized, and some large game. It really boils down to max distance, drop, and how much the bullets are affected by a slight breeze. Here’s what I mean.
How Much better is the 350 Legend than the .357 Magnum in a Rifle?
Both cartridges can look similar to the eye, but they are most certainly not. The difference really is astounding when you compare the ballistic and energies in these two hunting rounds. Although, you will find the recoil to be similar.
The 350 Legend is arguably over twice as effective on deer-sized game than a rifle chambered in .357 Magnum. comparing similar 180-grain bullets, it has more initial energy and more expected velocity in 16-inch barrels. The 350 Legend will shoot deer much farther and has better bullets available.
Here is a chart comparing 180 grain, deer loads in both calibers using data from a 16-inch barrel.
|180-grain bullet||Starting Energy||Starting velocity||Expansion Threshold||Energy Threshold|
|350 Legend||1,763 ft/lbs.||2,100 fps||1,400 fps-250 yards||1,000 @ 160 yards|
750 @ 240 yards
|.357 Mag||960ft/lbs.||1,550 fps||1,100 fps-175 yards||1,000 @ never|
750 @ 75 yards
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There are two main metrics for measuring the effectiveness of a hunting cartridge. The first is impact velocity and the second is the minimum energy threshold. That is, how fast the bullet is going at a given distance, and how much bullet energy “should” be reliable enough.
With the 350 Legend, the minimum threshold of expansion comes at around 1,400 fps. Based on in-field experience, that’s the minimum impact velocity that will still create full expansion with hunting ammo 350 legend ammo.
The minimum impact velocity for the .357 Magnum is somewhere between 1,200 and 1,000 fps, depending on the particular bullet. I’ll go with 1,100 fps as a middle ground. That should give you decent expansion out of all bullets. If you are wanting to use an expanding bullet for the .357, make note of that.
The expansion threshold shows that both cartridges are a short-range choice. That shouldn’t be much of a surprise. Now, what may be surprising is the energy threshold. Let’s talk about that for a second.
Most professional hunters can cite 1,000 ft/lbs. as the minimum energy for a bullet 30 to 35 caliber to reliably penetrate deep enough for deer hunting. According to that, the .357 Mag should never be used. Only, it is used quite successfully every year.
I give a lower figure as a more practical minimum energy. Based on all my study and field experience, I give 750 ft/lbs as the reliable minimum bullet energy. That puts the .357 back on the board. Now, let’s take a look at these numbers.
75 Yards vs 240 Yards, a Big Difference.
The .357 Mag has enough energy to reliably take a deer at 75 yards with heavy ammo. Using the same weight bullet, the 350 Legend will work out to 240 yards. At those distances, both are at the minimum energy threshold for deer of 750 ft/lbs.
Does that surprise you? Some hunters say that the .357 Mag is good to 150 yards. At that point, it is equal to a 40 S&W in a short pistol. Not too good for hunting. Remember, the point is not to keep things at the lowest minimum, but to keep things reliable. It’s unethical to shoot an animal if you know it’s not a sure shot.
The 350 Legend has over twice the effective range of the .357. it was designed as a 250-yard rifle capable of taking Mule Deer, Cougars, and Mountain Sheep. The .357 Mag falls quite short of that.
Both are 36 caliber bullets (listed as 0.357, with variance), but one has much higher powder volume, chamber pressure, and initial energy. Both can handle good, 180-grain hunting bullets, but the 350 can handle them much better.
If you were thinking tactical applications, the 357 mag will not penetrate basic level 3A armor; not even penetrator rounds. The 350 Legend will punch through it with every ammo available. You’d need a level 3+ armor for that, the same rating as for .308.
How Far Will a 350 Legend Really Kill a Deer?
The 350 Legend will reliably kill deer between 200 and 350 yards, depending on the ammo used. 150-grain ammo is good to about 200 yards before slowing down too much. The 180-grain bullet will have more energy and penetration.
For the most part, I don’t recommend taking a shot beyond 200 yards with any 350 Legend ammo. That’s where it begins to hit a ballistic wall. In other words, it slows down and drops a lot. If you are looking for a point-and-shoot gun, keep it to 150 yards. If sighted in at 100 yards, the bullet will be about 3 inches low at 150 yards.
Here’s what my 350 Legend shoots like up to 250 yards.
|distance (*zeroed at 100)||drop|
|wind drift -inches|
|150 yards *||3.2*||1609||3.5*|
The red text and asterisk are to show the max point and shoot factor. When you get above three inches of needed elevation or windage adjustment, you can no longer just hold center and shoot. Here’s why.
The vitals zone on a deer is about 8 inches wide. If you are aiming at the center and your bullet drops 4 inches below the point of aim, you just barely nicked the vitals. if you add to that the fact that you may have accidentally aimed 2 inches low (happens all the time), that means a gut-shot deer.
Sure, you can just adjust for bullet drop. But you have to know exactly what distance the deer is at. At max range, being 25 yards off in your distance estimation means either a miss or a bad shot. If you think the deer is at 225 yards and it’s really at 250, you just made a gutshot.
The 350 can absolutely put the whammy on a big deer at 250 yards, you just need to be a good shot, know your distance, and know your gun’s ballistics. that means don’t just read the ballistic charts, but get out there and shoot.
You should never shoot a deer at a distance you haven’t practiced at because you don’t know just how the bullet will perform out of Your Specific Rifle.
I have an article detailing the ballistics of 350 Legend with various barrel lengths. Here’s a link to it.
The Best Option for 100-Yard Shooting
So, to get back to the initial question here, the .357 Mag can certainly work fine for you under the right scenarios. Basically, keep it under 100-yards. if you are willing to pass up any shot that’s 100 yards or over, go ahead and use the .357. It’s a classic old deer hunting cartridge. But, you better not go beyond the practical limits or you will be an unhappy hunter.
There’s nothing wrong with shooting within 100 yards. There’s nothing wrong with hunting deer with a .357 Mag, just realize that although it’s a pretty potent pistol round, in a rifle, it’s still less potent and honestly, less effective on deer than a .223.
Ammo Selection is an Important Factor
I’ve talked about the 180-grain bullets, but there are other bullets. With the .357, the most popular hunting bullet is a 157-grain bullet. It’s a middle ground between flatter shooting and penetration. the 180-grain bullet will give the best penetration from both the .357 and 350.
The 158-grain bullets have less drop at 100 yards because they are going about 200 fps more at the muzzle, but it has less penetration at 100 yards because the bullet has a lower sectional density and ballistic coefficient. In other words, it’s not as aerodynamic and it sheds energy faster. That’s why I recommend the 180 grain for both cartridges.
The 350 legend has Higher B.C. Bullets
About ballistic coefficient (measurement of aerodynamics), the 350 legend actually scores higher than the .357 Mag. It’s all due to the bullet shape. if you look at a 180-grain bullet for both the 350 and .357, you will see that the .350 has a flat blunt nose, while the 350 is longer and pointed.
The chamber in the 350 Legend allows for a longer, more drawn-out bullet profile. It can handle bullets that are more aerodynamic. that means that even if you could get the same velocities using 180-grain bullets, the 350 “Legend would still noticeably outperform the .357 Mag after 100 yards.
What is 350 Legend Comparable to?
The 350 Legend is very much like the 30/30 in energy, velocity, and down-range ballistics. At 250 yards, the 30/30 has 6 percent more energy, three inches less drop, and is 150 fps faster. The 30/30 has a slightly higher ballistic coefficient, so it should penetrate about 5 percent more. Both rounds can reliably take deer out to 250 yards.
The 30/30 usually shoots either 150 or 170-grain bullets. the 170-grain bullets penetrate more and perform very closely to the 180 grain 350 legend ammo. If I swap out 170 grains a bullet weight of 180 grain in my ballistics calculator and adjust the velocity accordingly, the only difference at 250 yards is about an inch of drop.
I consider both cartridges to be very similar ballisticaly. the biggest difference for me is that there is cheap fmj ammo available for the 350. I’m talking the 147 grain, Winchester ammo. That stuff is great for plinking and small game, and at velocities of 2400 fps or more, it’s a much more economical option for varminting or punching paper.
Plus, the 30/30 is pretty much limited to a tube-fed lever gun, I can shoot 350 Legend in my AR-15. In fact, I only got one because of that. I bought a barreled upper in 350 Legend for my AR.
Browning makes a 124-grain load going 2500 fps. now, that in a 35 caliber bullet, even without expansion it will do some damage. I bought my 350 Legend specifically as a do-all cartridge here in Michigan. I will use the cheap fmj for small game and coyotes, and a good 180-grain load for deer hunting.