Often considered exclusive to handguns, the .357 Magnum is a grossly underrated hunting cartridge. While it's earned its keep among wheel gun enthusiasts, there's no denying its effectiveness as a powerful, versatile round. Where it is inferior in terms of muzzle velocity--1,200-1,700 fps--it excels in knockdown power and long-range effectiveness. And, because it falls in the "straight-wall cartridge" column, it's an excellent alternative to slug guns in many states that only allow shotguns during deer season. With the ability to reach out to longer distances, most Midwest hunters who have tried the .357 for a hunting cartridge haven't looked back. Additionally, the opportunity to hunt with a lever-action rifle flirts with the nostalgia that so many deer hunters romanticize. But even if you live in a state that allows rifle hunting, this cartridge is fantastic for quick follow-up shots, difficult shooting lanes in thick brush, or even bear protection.
In today's deep dive, we take a look at some of the best long guns chambered in .357 Magnum, all of which have proven themselves in the field and are more than capable of filling your freezer with venison.
Henry Big Boy Steel
The Henry Big Boy carbine line embodies everything traditionalists love in a good lever gun. This particular rifle is perfect for walking through brush with a generous 10+1 capacity and a compact 37.5-inch length. It captures a genuine cowboy aesthetic with an American walnut stock and blued steel design. A 20-inch barrel and a 1:16 twist rate ensures more than competent accuracy, and a silky-smooth action gives hunters that extra touch they look for in a lever gun. While Henry drills and taps the receiver for optics, they still offer purists the simplicity of a brass bead front and adjustable semi-buckhorn rear sight. The Big Boy exemplifies Henry's reputation for fit and finish, while offering hunters a solid, beautiful rifle.
Marlin 1894 C
Another great brush tool, the Marlin 1894 C has maintained its legacy as well as any rifle out there, regardless of the fact Ruger acquired the brand in 2020. The Marlin name alone has become synonymous with magnum lever guns, as only one silhouette comes to mind when talking about this brand. A staple of the secondary market, there's probably a Marlin lever-action in more gun safes than not. The 1894 C features an 18.5-inch barrel with a 1:16 twist rate, and an overall size of only 38.5 inches and 6.5 pounds. Its dimensions are a key contributor to its popularity, as so many hunters love to take it on long treks in the backcountry or in the back of a hunting truck that lives out on the ranch. With a black walnut stock and a forend, there's no mistaking it, and the satisfying sound of its cocked hammer inexplicably trumps the rest. It's tubular magazine holds nine rounds, and it sports a brass bead front sight, as well as an adjustable buckhorn rear. If you do prefer optics, it comes drilled and tapped for a scope, though most owners can't help but keep it simple.
Despite the correlation between .357 and a sought-after lever action, Ruger took the liberty of chambering a bolt-action rifle to shoot it. This rifle is most attractive in those "shotgun states" that allow straight-wall cartridges, as most lever guns exceed legal capacities. The Ruger 77/357 bridges the gap with a five-round rotary magazine, which offers a legal hunting rifle right out of the box in most states. Buyers can choose between a threaded and a non-threaded barrel, which is 18.5 inches long with a 1:16 twist rate. Then to top it all of, Ruger gave it stainless steel parts and a synthetic stock to serve hunters, making it tough against natural elements and easy to carry at only 5.5 pounds and 38.5 inches long.
Winchester 1873 Sporter
For those looking for a special lever-action rifle with a lot of historical significance, look no further than the Winchester Model 1873, aka: "The Gun that Won the West." It was also a favorite of many a trapper and frontiersman. While .357 was not developed until the 1930s, you wouldn't know it with this rifle. The round works incredibly well with this classic design. This rifle features a beautiful color case and polished blued steel finish. The stock and forend are satin black walnut. It has a 13+1 capacity thanks to the full-length tube magazine. We really like the classic 24-inch octagon barrel like you are used to seeing in old west movies. For sights it has a beaded Marble arms front sight and a semi-buckhorn rear. This is one of the more expensive options on the list, but it's also one of the most authentic cowboy-style guns you will find on the market.
Taylor's and Company 1892 Alaskan Takedown
How do you take a classic design like the Winchester 1892 and make it better? How about making it into a deluxe takedown model? The Taylors and Company is manufactured by Chiappa, who are best known for their unusual handguns. Here, they have produced a rifle that would make for a great brush gun thanks to the compact 34-inch overall length and 16-inch barrel. The receiver and barrel are finished with matte chrome to help stand up to the elements and the stock and forend are synthetic black. That also helps make the rifle light at 5.9 pounds. The large loop makes it easy to cycle rounds. The capacity of this firearm is 7+1 rounds, which should be more than enough for most backcountry hunting. It comes fitted with skinner express-style sights, but it is also drilled and tapped for Weaver 61 bases and "Scout Mount" optics. It is great when companies give you options. This would be a great rifle to store behind a truck seat or in a boat or float plane as a backup.
Henry Big Boy Model X
While most .357 Mag rifles on the market are classic cowboy-style guns, Henry garnered a lot of buzz with the release of the X Series of guns. These are not your granddaddy's lever-actions. The Model X in .357 magnum is super compact with an overall length of just 36.3 inches. The round barrel is just 17.4 inches, threaded for a suppressor and features a 1:16 rate of twist. This rifle has a ton of modern flair that you may be used to seeing on semi-automatic sporting rifles. Features like a synthetic stock and forend, fiber optic front and rear sights, a short picatinny rail and M-Lok accessory slots. It holds 7+1 rounds in the tubular magazine, but also features a classic side gate for easy reloading. The loop lever is oversized, making it easy to cycle rounds quickly. The rifle is completely ambidextrous straight out of the box and features a rubber recoil pad to help keep you on target longer. As if all that was not enough, it also fires 38 Special. You are getting a lot for the $789 price tag. Not only will this gun put venison in the freezer season after season. Don't be surprised if your buddies are reluctant to hand it back to you after they shoot it once at the range.
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