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  The 357 Max Rifle

ShootingThe 357 Maximum Rifle
Ed Harmon

My experience with the 357 Super Mag or the 357 Maximum, as Remington renamed the cartridge, started prior to the existence of the cartridge itself. Many members of the International Handgun Metallic Silhouette Association (IHMSA) were and are great believers in the accuracy and overall performance of the heavy 357 caliber bullet. A number of silhouette shooters were trying to lengthen or "soup up" the 357 magnum about the same time that Elgin Gates actually developed the 357 Super Mag. Elgin silver soldered a length of 357 brass to the end of a 357 case to make the first cartridges.

I still recall, very vividly, the first announcement in the Silhouette (the IHMSA monthly paper) about the new cartridge and the guns for the new cartridge, then under development. The 357 afecianados loved the heavy bullet concept of the 357 Super Mag. The cartridge was conceived as a platform for shooting heavy bullets propelled by cylindrical powder. Of course, it took the gun writers, Remington, and the gun builders, all who knew nothing about shooting steel and who would not listen and could not understand the concept, about 90 days to pretty much, trash the whole project by trying to push a 125 grain bullet at the speed of light, in a revolver, with ball powder. We will not go into the myrid of mistakes made by well intended folks with limited knowledge of the intent and reasons for the development of the cartridge.

Now that we have the who shot John, re-hashed, one more time, let us get to the real meat of this story. The 357 Maximum shines, like a very bright star, when loaded for and shot in a single shot, short barrel rifle. The cartridge concept and its design are for a pistol. However, the use of the cartridge in a short barreled carbine is an absolute natural application.

If you look around, you will not find many rifles offered that are chambered for the 357 Maximum. So if you want to have a copy, it is pretty much a build it to suit yourself, sort of thing. Why a 357 Maximum and not the 357 Magnum? How about a little short rifle that puts a 180 grain spire point bullet out at 2,200 fps VS a 180 grain bullet at 1,700 fps? Sound interesting? Do you need a short range, under 100 yards, gun? Do you need a deer rifle or medium sized game rifle for a youngster or lady to hunt with?

Right now, the gun pretty much needs to be a breech-loader and most probably a single shot. The 357 Maximum is too long to feed through the lever guns designed for the 44 mag or the 357 magnum. In addition, the 357 Maximum cruises at 50,000 pressure so the lever guns with the old style or standard lockup, will not meet the pressure requirements of the Max cartridge for extended use. The barrel should be limited to 16 to 18 inches and should be fairly large in diameter to lend a little bit of recoil absorbing weight. Using a heavy, short, barrel, makes the little rifle very comfortable to shoot. Meet the criteria and you have a very handy, deer or hog gun with a real punch. The bonus is that you can, if need be, shoot everything from 38 Special to the Super Mag in the gun.

Our subject gun is based on a .310 Martini Cadet action. Supposedly, you can not build a 357 Maximum Martini Cadet. However, the "ya can't do that" is based on the use of pistol bullets in the Martini. When you load the Max with a rifle bullet, the ogive of the bullet, when the bullet is seated properly, allows the loaded cartridge to be chambered with ease. The empty case will extract and eject from the little Martini action without a problem or modification. The 357 Max is also available in the Encore or Contender carbine barrel and makes a very handy carbine.

Back to the Martini; most folks do not realize that the Martini action (designed for black powder) is a 55,000 PSI action. The Martini actions were designed and built prior to 1898. The significance of that fact, besides the pressure qualification, is that the majority of the guns do not require a yellow sheet as they are black powder guns, even when rebarreled! That is a nice feature for the individual buyer. The thread pitch for the Cadet is 1-14 and the threaded portion of the barrel or shank is .500 in length. The major diameter is .745 and the minor diameter is .697. The Martini Cadet is a fairly easy conversion from a crusty old military trainer, to a sleek little Bambi buster.

Very important, make sure that your proposed barrel has at least 6 inches of straight steel in front of the action, before the taper starts. The straight area will be drilled and tapped for the forend and is also where you will drill and tap for the scope mounts.

The barrel cut for the extractor looks complicated but in fact is easy. In this order: 1) Remove the old barrel and the extractor. 2) Then re-install the internal parts group, in the action, without the extractor. 3) Measure from the bolt face to the exterior front of the action shoulder. 4) Thread the new barrel shank and cut the shank to the length you have measured from action shoulder to bolt face. 5) Tighten the new barrel into the action, making sure that the bolt will close properly, it should just barely wipe the butt of the barrel. 6) Mark the exterior bottom of the barrel with a center punch to correspond with marks on the action's front shoulder. 7) Remove and chamber the barrel so that the factory rim of a cartridge is flush. Cool Screw the chambered barrel back into the action, open the bolt, look inside and you will see two notches, one on each side of the barrel a little over half way up from the bottom, mark the top of the notch on each side of the new barrel, with a scribe. The notches are the frame recesses for the extractor. 9) Remove the barrel. 10) Cut from mark to mark, the width and depth of the extractor arms. 11)With a 45 ACP slide file, duplicate the side cuts of the old removed barrel. The 45ACP file cuts on the side and not the edge or on the edge and not the side, depending on how it is turned. 12)Dress the chamber with the reamer, by hand, when finished, to remove any burs.

The new forearm is attached to the barrel by drilling and tapping two holes in the barrel, then drilling two corresponding holes in the wood. In this order: 1) With the forearm still flat, sides and bottom, cut the barrel channel. 2) Cut the rear off square. 3) Wrap sand paper over the action’s bottom front and sand the back of the forearm by rotating it back and forth, to fit the action. 4) Drill the forearm to match the barrel holes. 5) Glass bed the forearm to the barrel using the screws to clamp the barrel solid. 6) Shape the forend to fit the action and barrel channel. Metal escutcheons for the forend screws can made from cartridge cases, cut down, drilled and counter sunk. Hint, do not shape the sides, of the action area, of the forend until bedded and the wood is attached with the screws, mark the back of the wood along the action sides with a pencil and cut the wood down to the pencil marks. You can not free float the barrel so a firm solid mount is the next best solution. When you drill and tap the barrel for the forearm, drill and tap the barrel for the scope mounts at the same time. Hint, the Remington model 541 scope bases will fit perfectly on the Martini barrel contour.

The lever is perhaps the most difficult part of the custom Cadet rifle to build. You must heat the leaver to cherry red, reverse the "military" bend and shape the new curve to fit the new stock. The stock should be in the stage where the rough sanding has been done but not the final sanding or finish. The secret here is to get the curve of the lever close, put the lever into the gun, with the stock in place, heat and bend the lever to the stock. Draw file the four lever surfaces so that the edge looks nice and straight, with a graceful curve. Cut the milled locking portion of the tip off so that approximately .25 inch sticks down below the pistol grip.

Polish and blue the pieces and parts and you are done. Note here, using 300 to 500 grit paper for metal, on a belt sander makes short work of the frame sides and keeps the edges and lettering sharp.

Several companies make semi-inleted stocks for the Cadet action, including Wenig Custom Gunstocks. Either English walnut or a highly figured Maple will make a nice stock for the little carbine. Make sure to put a good recoil pad on the butt. A 200 grain bullet at over 2,000 fps will, talk to you, in this little package.

When mounting a scope, pay particular attention to the length behind the adjustment knobs and the objective diameter. I would suggest a 40mm or no more than a 50mm objective and a target style scope, with a long body.

As the scope is barrel mounted, the rings will have to be high or super high rings.

Is there any problem with the Martini as a hunting gun, well yes. The rifle does not have a safety so must be carried unloaded or with the lever down. I hunted with the gun for one year without a problem, but safety must be stressed with anyone that would carry the little package afield.

Some Loads

Martini / Rem / 205m / 18" 1-12 barrel
200 Remington Round Nose
H110 / 23.5 / 2,003fps / .50 group
24.5 / 2,087fps / 1.5 Max load

180 Hornady Spire Point Rifle
H110 / 20 / 1,947fps / 1.5 group
24.5 / 2,140fps / .70 group Max Load *

*Excellent deer load

2nd Rifle I built for my hunting buddy

The 357 Max cartridges made up for a Martini Cadet rifle with the 357 Mag for comparison

My personal 357 Super Mag gun.

Posted by SwampFox on Tuesday, May 01, 2007 (19:33:23) (33474 reads) [ Administration ]
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