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Firearms

The Smith & Wesson Model 350 in .350 Legend: A Hunting Handgun

The .350 Legend rifle cartridge was designed by Winchester and introduced in 2019 as an additional option for “straight-walled-case restricted” states. Certain states in the U.S. that once only permitted hunters to use slug guns for deer hunting now allow these non-tapered cases. Many of us only know of these restrictions from hearing them repeated with the introduction of such cartridges. No matter where you hunt, restrictions or not, this straight-wall case cartridge is worthy of consideration.

Several manufacturers offer the .350 Legend round in a variety of bullet weights. A quick search on the computer pulled up bullet weights of 124 to 255-grain loads with heavier 280-grain bullets available for certain subsonic setups. For deer hunting, I went with Hornady’s good 165-grain FTX load. My best group from 100 yards measures 0.6 of an inch, and my largest is just 1.97 inches. I’ll take accuracy like that to the field any day with a rifle and I’ll especially take that kind of accuracy in a handgun! You’ll see as we go that it performed quite well.

The S&W 350 is as accurate as some rifles, as seen by these 100-yard groups shot with Hornady ammunition.

The handloader must do their homework before buying bullets for the .350 Legend. Many references cite the bullet diameter as .357 caliber, but there is a variance of -0.0030″, meaning they are actually 0.355 caliber, the same as the 9mm Luger. I have not bothered with loading for the legend yet, so I suggest referencing reputable loading manuals before taking on the task.

The 350 is an excellent hunting handgun.
The 350 is an excellent hunting handgun.

Smith & Wesson Model 350

The Smith & Wesson Model 350 features the iconic X-Frame, the largest revolver frame made by the renowned company. It weighs 71.5 ounces (that’s almost 4.5 pounds!), is 1.92 inches in width, is 6.37 inches tall, and sports a 7.5-inch ported barrel. The fit and finish of this stainless steel revolver are excellent, and the rubber finger-groove grips offer a good purchase for both hand and gun. Recoil is null in this big gun, owing to its heft and the muzzle brake. The action and trigger are good on this revolver, with a smooth double-action pull and a crisp single-action trigger breaking at just over four pounds. The big cylinder holds seven rounds, and the cartridges can be loaded in a moon clip or the cylinder separately as they headspace off the case mouth. After experimenting with the clips, I decided to load them in the cylinder without it. Every once in a while, you might have to loosen one with a fingernail or knife blade, but it wasn’t a big issue for me.

Beware the Cylinder Gap!

A word of warning for the uninitiated and the most experienced handgunners: stay away from the cylinder gap of these high-pressure guns. I’m referring to the front portion of the cylinder face nearest the barrel. A lot of gas escapes as the bullet leaves the cylinder and enters the barrel. This force is sufficient to cut cloth and skin. I knew better but failed to pay proper attention in anticipation of taking my first deer with the 350.

I placed a small, rear-stock shooting bag on the windowsill of the deer blind I was hunting from to rest the revolver on, suspecting the escaping gas would definitely mark the bag, but I was steady for the shot, so I wrote it off as possible collateral damage. That was mistake number one. Hold on, number two is better! After cocking the hammer to take an old mule deer buck, I calmly placed my support hand on top of the scope for a little steadying, downward pressure as I have done with my Thompson/Center Contenders and Remington XP-100s. That wouldn’t necessarily have been a bad move had I placed my hand towards the rear of the scope, but I placed it forward of the scope adjustment covers, right over the barrel-cylinder gap. At the shot, the buck dropped, and ground-up corn cob (or whatever is in these bags) went everywhere — luckily not in my eyes — and my hand felt like it was hit HARD with a ping pong paddle. The gas cut a perfect 1.5-inch gash in the skin of my palm.

So, lessons to be learned from yours truly. Keep rests, hands, and fingers away from the gap, and always wear eye and ear protection. I did have my OTTO plugs in, so I did two things right if you count getting my buck as one. I had my shooting glasses with me but had taken them off while glassing and simply forgot to put them on. That was a careless mistake I got lucky with. I should mention here that I experienced a slight stinging sensation on my face when firing from the bench at the range. I can only attribute it to the brake on top of the barrel. One more time, always wear eye protection.

Weigand Machine and Design’s WEIG-A-TINNY Mount

The best gun and optic are useless if not melded together by a solid mounting system. Jack Weigand sent me his stout WEIG-A-TINNY mount and three Weaver Style Magnum rings, as well as his informative links on Rumble on correctly installing the mount. He also has a YouTube video on scope ring installation. I did as Jack instructed, and everything worked out perfectly. This scope mounting system is tough, low-profile, and easy to install, following his sound advice.

The stout Weigand Weig-A-Tinny mount and rings held the Burris scope in place with no issues.
The stout Weigand Weig-A-Tinny mount and rings held the Burris scope in place with no issues.

Burris 2-7 x 32 Handgun Scope

I reviewed two of Burris’s handgun scopes for The MagLife Blog last year. Still having them on hand, I mounted one on the S&W 350, knowing that this cartridge’s capability would surpass my open-sight limitations in terms of handgun shooting distance. The 2-7 power worked perfectly, allowing me to adjust power as needed. These Burris scopes continue to do everything asked of them with perfect results.

Holstering A Big Gun: Gunfighters Inc Kenai Scoped Hunter Chest Rig

With the S&W 350 rigged up for hunting, the next task was to decide how I was going to carry it. A little research revealed the Gunfighters Inc. Kenai Scoped Hunter. I’ll admit, I’m a leather guy, first and foremost. However, I will also admit that synthetics have a valid place in the field. This Kydex holster is designed for the revolver to “click” in, and the gun is totally secured by a flexible synthetic flap that wraps over the scope. A sturdy, expandable cord attached to the flap is slipped into a hook, holding everything tightly in place.

Gunfighters Inc's Kenai Scoped Hunter chest rig is an excellent holster for the field.
Gunfighters Inc.’s Kenai Scoped Hunter chest rig is an excellent holster for the field.

I was really impressed with how well this chest rig comfortably holds this big gun. The chest rig is an excellent option for carrying a handgun, no matter how large or small it is. On the first outing with this setup on an aoudad hunt with my wife and daughter, we experienced some unseasonable damp weather with low-hanging clouds and drizzle. I simply zipped my jacket over the chest rig and never had to worry about the gun or scope becoming drenched.

I even chased quail, jogging around prickly pear and cat claw acacia while wearing the S&W 350 in the Gunfighters Inc. rig. Perhaps I should explain. The scaled quail are renowned for not flushing like their bobwhite cousins, preferring instead to run full-out, zipping in, out, and around spined vegetation, requiring hunters to follow suit in order to try to get the birds to fly for a sporting shotgun shot. The entire ordeal becomes “sporting” very quickly! All of that is to say that the Kenai Scoped Hunter Chest Rig holds the gun securely for any activity you might encounter in the wild outdoors.

Gunfighter’s Inc. has a good and informative website. These holsters are tough, well-designed, and extremely functional.

Testing in the Field

The best way to review and test a hunting revolver is to take it hunting. This particular scoped handgun and cartridge extended my normal self-imposed hunting distance with a revolver. Normally, I hunt with open-sight wheel guns and limit my shots to 50 yards, and preferably less, for deer. After spending some time with the 350 on the range, I felt comfortable to 100 yards and suspected with a solid rest, and I could stretch an accurate first shot a bit further if needed.

The first buck taken with the S&W 350 was a mature cow-horned mule deer buck at a measured 115 yards. The 165-grain Hornady FTX hit him high in the shoulder, dropping him on the spot. The bullet penetrated the width of the deer and lodged under the hide on the offside. My second deer with the 350 Legend was an ancient whitetail buck at 75 yards with a perfect lung shot with bullet pass-through, and the third was an old mule deer buck at 110 yards; this bullet exited as well. My final buck of the season was another very old whitetail at 97 yards. Again, the bullet fully penetrated and left a big blood trail like the other pass-throughs. The 350 Legend and Hornady ammo performed perfectly on each deer, achieving every hunter’s goal of a quick kill. This handgun has filled my freezer for the year, providing delicious, wild meat for my family and friends. The S&W 350 chambered in 350 Legend is a hunting revolver and a really good one at that!

The post The Smith & Wesson Model 350 in .350 Legend: A Hunting Handgun appeared first on The Mag Life.

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