Snake Loads for the .327 Federal Magnum
Date: Apr 01 2011
If you’re the kind of person who won’t let a gun writer change your mind, you’ve probably got no business reading this. On the other hand, if you have an open mind and are interested in exploring new concepts, this might be right up your alley.
Federal’s new .327 Magnum revolver cartridge has received mixed reception. Negatives mostly come from die-hard .357 Magnum guys who cannot see the benefit of a smaller-caliber revolver cartridge at the same velocity. Those excited about the cartridge, like me, probably already had a soft spot for the .32 H&R Magnum and/or realize what a well-constructed 100- to 115-grain bullet at high velocity can do.
Regardless which peg you hang your hat on, the .327 Federal Magnum is a fine, multipurpose revolver cartridge suitable for self-defense and hunting. Its versatility is unmatched because revolvers so chambered can fire four different cartridges: .32 Short, .32 Long, .32 H&R and, of course, .327 Federal. I have three .327 Federal revolvers, and when I’m in the field either the SP 101, GP 100 or Blackhawk is on my hip.
Two years ago, on a hike up to a Civil War fort behind our hunting camp, my son and I came across a five-foot timber rattler. I despise these critters and sent this one to the big snake den in the sky with a single bullet from an SP 101 .327 Federal. Thinking it might have been a lucky shot, when I returned home I called my buddy Tim Brandt at CCI and suggested they offer a shotshell load for the .327 Federal.
To me this is a no-brainer; it expands the versatility of the cartridge and would easily be assembled on a .32 H&R magnum case by taking advantage of the longer overall cartridge length of the .327 Federal chamber. Brandt said he would pass along my suggestion to the smart guys that make CCI ammunition. In the meantime, I decided to make my own.
I’ve done this before with the .32 H&R cartridge by sandwiching No. 12 shot between cardboard disks and applying a heavy crimp and melted wax over the end of the loaded case. The concept worked perfectly; the problem was that the short .32 H&R case would just not contain enough shot to be seriously effective. For the .327 Federal Magnum cartridge, I had a different idea.
Like with the .32 H&R shotshells I loaded, I sharpened a case with a chamfering tool and used it to cookie-cut pieces of cardboard. Actually, instead of cardboard I used the thick backing off a writing tablet that measured .0027 inch thick. I primed each case with Remington Small Pistol primers and shoved the cardboard disk down on top of 5.0 grains of Ramshot True Blue powder. On top of the disk, I poured in 60 grains of No. 12 shot. (Nope, I didn’t bother to count how many shot make up 60 grains.) This left just enough room to seat a bullet in the case as a cap. For that I selected a Hornady 60-grain XTP bullet and seated it to an overall length of 1.442 inches with a good crimp. (The overall length for the factory .327 Federal cartridge is about 1.47 inches.)
What I created was sort of a duplex load that gives me 60 grains of shot and one 60-grain projectile at an average muzzle velocity of 1,065 fps. This might actually be a better option than the shotshell load CCI would offer, because not only would it work for snakes, but the little 60- grain bullet will also penetrate and expand in small game. It would even work for self-defense against humans or small, rabid or angry varmints because at that velocity, the 60-grain XTP will penetrate about 8 inches in 10 percent ordnance gelatin and expand to around .42 inch.
I placed an 8-inch Shoot-N-C circular target at 6 feet to test the load from my 4-inch Ruger GP 100. The Hornady 60-grain bullet impacted at point of aim, dead-center in the target. Inside the center, 2.5- inch circle, there were 47 hits from the No. 12 shot pellets. In the remaining portion of the target, there were an additional 182 holes. Had a wicked reptile been in the center of the target, there’s no way it could have survived. Actually, the effective kill zone probably spread a full 6 inches. Five more shots at the same type of targets produced near identical results. I also shot several fist-sized potatoes at the same distance and was rewarded with, if not mashed potatoes, a good start on hash browns.
The CCI 9mm shotshell loads have a 58-grain payload of No. 12s and the .40 S&W, 88 grains of No. 9s. The .357 load pushes 100 grains of No. 9s, and the larger calibers, 100 grains plus. Most of CCI’s shotshell loads use No. 9 shot, but I like the denser pattern the smaller shot throws. Either has enough power to penetrate a snake’s head. My duplex .327 Federal Magnum load has a total payload of 120 grains and offers the benefit of a true bullet in the midst of a cloud of reptile shredding shot. Even if CCI offers a standard shotshell load in its customary plastic capsules, I’m not sure it would be any deadlier to snakes than, or as versatile as, my concoction. Maybe CCI’s best bet would be to duplicate my load using the 60-grain, .312-caliber Speer Gold Dot bullet since both CCI and Speer are owned by ATK. Regardless, you can bet that until something better comes along I’ll be carrying two or three of these duplex handloads in one of my .327 Federal revolvers, probably backed up with four, five or six – depending on the revolver – single bullet loads anytime I’m in the field. Why? Mostly because I loathe poisonous snakes and don’t go about unarmed in the wild.