Western Powder Loads For The .357 Henry Big Boy Rifle

By:  Mary and Dr. Jim Clary

The Henry Big Boy has been around for many years, chambered in .357 Mag./.38 Special, .44 Mag./.44 Special and .45 Colt. It is available in both brass frame and steel frame versions and has become popular with cowboy action shooters, as well as hunters. When we had the opportunity to test the new Color Case Hardened Big Boy in .357 Magnum caliber, we jumped at the chance.  Our  in depth review of the newest Big Boy, the Color Case Hardened version, can be read at: http://www.universalhuntermagazine.com/thebigboycolorcasehardenehenryrifle

There is one problem with modern-day .357 magnum loads:   Many of the ammunition manufacturers have watered down their .357 Magnum factory loads. You read that right. They have reduced the powder to make the round more acceptable in small frame revolvers. Because of these reduced power loads, many commercial .357 Magnum offerings are not suitable for feral hog or whitetail hunting. You must carefully choose your ammunition for your intended purpose.  As such, if you are serious about hunting with a .357 caliber, it is better to reload your own ammunition to ensure that you are capable of humanely harvesting your game.

There are a wide range of acceptable bullets available and multiple powders are listed in most reloading manuals. In our original article, our reloads were powered by Hodgdon's H110 (Winchester 296 is the same with a different name). 

However, several of our readers asked us to test the performance of three Western powders (11FS, Enforcer, and 1680). With that in mind, we loaded fifty rounds of each powder using new Starline brass, CCI magnum primers and 158 grain Hornady XTP bullets.  Prior to firing for accuracy, all three loads were chronographed for their average velocity and the results were entered into the Exbal ballistic program to obtain values at 25 yard increments from 0 yards (M.V.) to 100 yards.  Our Zia Rifle and Pistol Range sits at 5,232 elevation here in New Mexico.

We fired multiple three and four shot groups using the new Caldwell Turret Rest at 75 yards. A .357 Magnum rifle/carbine shooting full power hunting ammunition should be effective up to 100 yards on deer and wild hogs, with proper bullet placement.  

Velocity and Accuracy of .357 Magnum Loads with Western Powders:

11FS Powder results (15.7 grains)

    158 grain Hornady XTP: Smallest group 1/2"; largest group 1-1/4"; average group size 7/8"

  • Muzzle:    1,544 f.p.s. / 836 ft. lbs.

  • 25 yards:  1,470 f.p.s. / 758 ft. lbs.

  • 50 yards:  1,400 f.p.s. / 687 ft. lbs.

  • 75 yards:  1,334 f.p.s. / 624 ft. lbs.

  • 100 yards: 1,274 f.p.s. / 569 ft. lbs.


11FS Target


1680 Powder results (17.0 grains)

     158 grain Hornady XTP: Smallest group 1/2"; largest group 1-0"; average group size 7/8"

  •   Muzzle:   1,700 f.p.s. / 1,014 ft. lbs.

  • 25 yards:  1,618 f.p.s. /    919 ft. lbs.

  • 50 yards:  1,541 f.p.s. /    833 ft. lbs.

  • 75 yards:  1,467 f.p.s. /    755 ft. lbs.

  • 100 yards: 1,397 f.p.s. /    684 ft. lbs.


1680 Target


Enforcer Powder results (13.0 grains)

     158 grain XTP: Smallest group 7/8"; largest group 1-1/2"; average group size 1-1/4"

  • Muzzle:    1,300 f.p.s. / 593 ft. lbs.

  • 25 yards:  1,243 f.p.s. / 552 ft. lbs.

  • 50 yards:  1,191 f.p.s. / 497 ft. lbs.

  • 75 yards:  1,145 f.p.s. / 460 ft. lbs.

  • 100 yards: 1,105 f.p.s. / 428 ft. lbs.


Enforcer Target


It should be of no surprise to anyone that with proper loads, the Henry Big Boy is a real “tack-driver”.  However, with two of the Western powder loads, it was so accurate that one has to see the targets to believe it possible from a lever gun shooting pistol ammunition.


Both the 11FS and 1680 loads are acceptable for close range deer and feral hog hunts. 

Whereas, the Enforcer load, while enjoyable to shoot with its very light recoil is more of a plinking and fun round, rather than a hunting load.


If you don't reload with Western powders, it is worth giving them a try, as they shoot clean, shoot accurately and meter well.... good stuff.  And, in case you are wondering, we used Rob Behr's new book, “Western Powders Handloading Guide”, for our load data.  If you do not have Rob's book, buy it, you will not regret the decision.  It is loaded with factual information of value to beginners as well as advanced reloaders. 

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