It was shutdown time after a warm July day when, just opening the shop door ...... BZZZZZ!


Snake Loads For Handguns

by James Calhoon


GULP! After lurching back and cramming my heart back down my throat, I knew the solution for this big fat rattler!

I headed directly to the gun cabinet and grabbed my trusty 357 Smith revolver and a handful of my "Snake Loads". Twenty seconds later, I cracked the door open again and there was that Mr. Rattler, all coiled up and not more than four paces away! Placing the sights in the middle of the coiled varmint, BLAM! Bounced ‘im back a foot! Instant cat food!

I have blasted snakes before with rifles and have practically cut them in half, and yet the parts keep wriggling. However, when I hit this one with a shot blast, it was anchored. The more and finer the shot, the better.

Shotguns are normally used to deliver shot, but handguns are much handier. Snakes aren’t the only critters you can get with a "snake load". Pesky sparrows and pigeons are great targets when you have them inside a barn. The snake load doesn’t end up ventilating the roof like the 22.

Snake loads are available from CCI. Shot capsules are also available from CCI for the reloader. What we’ll do here is put together a snake load with available "home grown" material for a 357 case.

A picture is worth at least a thousand words. Examine the cartridge drawing. Starting from the bottom, we have:

(1) a 357 cartridge with magnum primer

(2) 7.0 grains of 700X, Bullseye, or a similar fast pistol powder

(3) Two wads of paper board (.030" to .040" thick) To wads, I used the carrboard found on the back of notepads, picture backups, etc. To cut wads, use a 357 case mounted in a drill. Add a few notches with a file to make the case onto a cutter. Use a piece of hardwood as a back-up when cutting the wads. The wads will stack in the case as you cut them. Push them out using a punch inserted through the primer lash hole.

(4) 90 grains of lead shot, 7 1/2 or finer. To reduce barrel fouling, spray the shot with Hornady "One Shot" or Midway case lube before you put it in the case.

(5) One wad of paper board (same as the two wads below) to seal in the shot

(6) A drop of melted wax for sealing (optional)

Assembly goes as follows:

- Start with a primed case, but don’t bell the mouth. The leftover roll crimp aids loading by holding the top wad in place.

- Add 7 grains of 700X, Bullseye or similar fast powder. This makes a snappy load at approximately 1400 ft /sec.

- Pack 2 wads down over the powder, using a brass dowel. A drill press works real handily.

- Add 90 grains of 7 1/2 or finer lead shot. Pre-lube with Hornady "One-Shot" or Midway case lube to reduce barrel fouling.

- Pack a top wad down in the case using a brass dowel ( a small drill press or any similar press makes packing the wad easy and fast.

- Add a roll crimp to hold it all together.

- Optionally, a drop of melted wax can be poured on the top wad to moisture proof the cartridge.

Other cases, such as 41 Mag, 45 Colt, etc. are also great candidates for snake loads. It’s best to stick with long cases in revolvers or contenders so you don’t have to mess with the cycling problems of a self-loader. From your loading manual, simply match powder charge to projectile weight, in this case substituting lead shot equal to the bullet weight.

Bud Cans (left to right): Unshot can, an empty can shot with a "Snake Load", a full can blasted with a "Snake Load" (no the Bud contents weren’t wasted. The can was filled with water!) We used Budweiser as they are pro-gun and therefore we are pro-Bud! Included is my favorite Model 66 Smith and Wesson 357 Mag.

How effective is our handgun snake load? Expect a 24" pattern at five paces. Nasty, yes?

Knowing that rattlers can strike a distance of half their total body length, (a five foot snake can strike two and a half feet) I’d rather be back several yards and I’d rather have a "Snake Load" in my trusty revolver! Meeting snakes can be fun!