The 360 was born at the 1999 Internationals at Ft. Stockton,
and I think I might have been there when it happened. I remember I was talking
to Bob Serva, owner and president of Wesson Arms, along with some of the other
industry types when Bob asked "What's the most popular revolver and cartridge
being used for silhouette these days?" I replied that the Freedom Arms chambered
in 357 Mag was very likely the current #1 choice, with the Freedom Arms 44 in
Being in a loquacious mood, I went on to say that the 357 Mag was a very
flexible cartridge to load for, was very accurate in the FA, and had the type of
mild recoil which allowed a lot of people to shoot it more accurately than they
would a more intimidating and harder recoiling gun. The disadvantage is that the
357 Mag is right on the ragged edge of reliability in taking down the rams. It
works, but if the rams aren't set properly, there's not much of a power reserve
I went I to say that the 357 Super Mag didn't suffer from this reliability
problem and was a very good, accurate cartridge but did have one limitation in
that it seemed to be a very twichy cartridge to load. There's only about two
loads around that provide gilt edged performance and that was it. It also had to
be loaded hot for the best accuracy and it also seemed to be more temperature
sensitive than other cartridges. The current Sierra reloading manual even makes
note of these characteristics. The Super Mag just doesn't have the reloading
flexibility that it's little brother has.
I went on to wonder whether a cartridge in-between the Mag and the Max in length
could provide a combination of the good qualities of both. Now I know.
Well, the conversation broke up and that was that. Some time early in the
following year, I was talking to someone at the Wesson Arms factory and they
mentioned something called the 360. 360? What's that? The 360 was a new revolver
and cartridge that was in-between the 357 Mag and Max. Daja Vu?
The standard 357 Mag is 1.29" in length and the 357 Super Mag/Maximum measures
1.6 " in length. The 360 Dan Wesson as you might guess comes in at 1.41 inches.
Before I started this project, I was curious as to what kind of velocities one
might reasonably expect from the new cartridge. A quick review of the various
reloading manuals showed that the standard 357 Mag when loaded with a 180 gr
bullet and shot out of a conventional revolver (not a Freedom Arms) would
produce velocities just over 1200 fps. On the other hand, the 357 Max when shot
out of a revolver would produce velocities just over 1500 fps at the top end
with the same 180 gr bullet - a difference of 300 fps more or less.
Theoretically then, the 360 should give us velocities around 1350 fps. An extra
150 fps with the same bullet is nothing to be sneezed at.
Another consideration was the fact that the new cartridge would be producing
less recoil and operating at lower operating pressures than the 357 Max. The
whole thing was very intriguing. I then made arrangements to check out a test
gun which arrived some weeks later.
Dan Wesson has coupled the new cartridge to their heavy frame and their medium
length cylinder - the same cylinder that would be used for the 44 Mag or the 45
Colt. Unlike the un-fluted cylinder on my 414 Super Mag SRS model Dan Wesson,
this cylinder was of a standard fluted configuration. The gun also was equipped
with the standard Millet rear sight versus the optional Bomar found on the more
expensive Super Ram Silhouette (SRS). It also had the standard undercut Dan
Wesson partridge removable front sight instead of the hooded front sight found
on the SRS. It should be also noted that the standard configuration 360 also
runs around 30% less in price than the Super Ram model.
The gun was originally equipped with a 1:18.75 twist barrel, which is the
standard for 357 caliber pistols. Later on in the evaluation, the factory
provided me with a 1:14 twist barrel which is the same rate of twist as used on
Freedom Arms 357 pistols.
All Dan Wesson pistols are delivered with a 6 thousandths barrel/cylinder gap as
that's what's specified by SAAMI standards. However, the first thing I do when I
get a new Dan Wesson revolver, no matter what the chambering, is to disassemble
the barrel/shroud assembly and set the barrel/cylinder gap as small as possible.
By doing so, you'll be losing far less of the propellant gases out of the gap,
and velocities will show a commensurate increase.
To do so, just remove the barrel lock nut and remove the shroud. Then, screw
down the barrel until it's just touching the face of the cylinder, and then back
it off slightly. When holding the gun up to a strong light, I'll be looking for
the finest of a sliver of light between the barrel and the cylinder. I'll then
cycle the cylinder through all six chambers while still holding the gun up to
the light to make sure the face of the cylinder isn't dragging on the barrel. If
not, I'll put the shroud back on the gun and tighten the lock nut on the muzzle
end of the barrel. When tightening the lock nut, I press my thumb or a patch of
leather against the breech end to prevent it from slipping while I'm turning the
nut at the other end.
I don't know what the current barrel/cylinder gap is on my 360 is as I don't
have a feeler gage that goes down that far. I would guess it's only around a
thousandths or maybe a thousandths and a half. I have to take my hat off to the
folks at Dan Wesson, because I don't know of any other double action revolver
that has a cylinder so true and square in relation to the barrel that you can
have a barrel/cylinder gap so small. This is a major leap in quality for a
One of the assumptions behind the
original concept of the 360 was that standard 357 Max brass could be
simply trimmed back to 1.41 inches and be used. As I got into my
evaluation, I rapidly discovered that this wasn't a practical idea. The
problem was that the cutback Maxi brass was too thick. When a 180 grain
bullet was seated, the walls of the case were often bulged out to the
point that the loaded cartridge either wouldn't fit into the Wesson's
tight chambers, or would only fit with effort, which was unacceptable.
Pressures could go out of sight in those kinds of situations. There was no
alternative. New cases made specifically for the 360 would have to be
designed and manufactured.
After months of negotiations with Starline Brass and waiting for a
production window to open up, a test run of prototype 360 cases was
produced and I was provided a hundred of them for the evaluation. These
prototype cases are kind of interesting in that they were stamped 357
Magnum on the head, but measured 1.41" in length. Who knows, those cases
may become collector items one day. These are the cases which I used
during my little evaluation. Anyway, I gave the prototypes a good wringing
out and they worked perfectly. Consequently, a regular production run was
made and 360 cases in any quantity are available from Dan Wesson as we
As usual, the quality of the new Wesson was first rate. Cylinder lock up
was very tight when the hammer was pulled back. There was only the very
slightest of side to side movement - hardly perceptible. I would venture
to say that the Wesson's lockup is probably the tightest that you'll ever
find on any double action revolver.
The barrel shroud was also drilled and tapped for Burris's very rugged,
all steel, dovetail scope mount system with windage adjustment ( a factory
option). I also used Burris's very innovative posi-align scope rings. If
you haven't tried these rings, you're missing a treat. No more having your
scope gouged and marred by the rings. Aligning the scope to the centerline
of the bore was also simple when using the plastic inserts furnished with
system. My Simmons Presidential 2X7 pistol scope was also utilized
during the evaluation and as usual, did yeoman service.
Hornady titanium nitrite dies were used to reload the 360 cases. The dies
are labeled as being suitable for reloading 38 Special, 357 Mag, and 357
Maximum. If they'll load the 357 Max, they're certainly suitable to reload
the 360. No problems were encountered with the dies after they were set up
and everything proceeded normally.
For primers, I was in a bit of a dilemma. When loading for the Max, small
rifle primers are mandatory for the best ignition and accuracy. However, I
wasn't sure whether they would be necessary for the shorter 360. I ended
up using both small rifle primers and two brands of small pistol mag
primers. I got good groups will all three primers used, but the rifle
primers probably had an edge in producing better velocities.
Cast bullets worked well in the 360 including both 180's and 200 grain
bullets. If you like heavy bullets, the longer case length provided by the
360 is a definite advantage as you can seat them far enough down into the
case so they don't protrude too far out of the cylinder mouth and still
have sufficient room down below for a reasonable amount of powder.
For cast bullets, I used both Leadheads 200 grain, RCBS's 200 grainer,
and SAECO'S 180. As I reported in a previous column SAECO'S 250 grain
bullet also worked very well with the 360.
The 360 worked best with our old familiar favorite magnum pistol powders
such as H110, WWW296, H108, and Hodgdon's new LilGun, which is just a tad
slower than H110. Accurate Arms #9 should also work well but was not
available. I also tried slower powders such as H4227 (which works very
well in the Max) and AA1680 with Hornady's 180 STP bullet. Accuracy was
very good but velocity was down in the 357 Mag range. Consequently I
didn't include those numbers in my results chart.
Speaking of the XTP, I found it to be an excellent silhouette bullet. With
its two crimping grooves, it's also a very flexible bullet. By crimping
the case in its lower cannelure, additional room is made available in the
case for 1-2 more grains of powder. Yet the bullet didn't protrude so far
out that it hung up on the breech end of the barrel when the cylinder was
rotated. Unfortunately I wasn't able to find the right powder/primer
combination to take advantage of this feature in time for this story, but
I eventually will. Never the less, the Hornady bullet produced the best
group. When I get a chance, I'll try the same load with a small rifle
primer and will see if there's an improvement in velocity.
While we're on bullets of note. The Speer 200 grain Silhouette bullet is a
natural for the 360. Lots of weight and excellent accuracy. This bullet
also works very well in the Mag and the Max. It deserves more attention
than it gets.
In conclusion I can safely say that yes, the 360
is more flexible to load for than the 357 Max and with the right
loads, it isn't that far off from approaching Maxi velocities. I'd
say that the Wesson people achieved what they set out to do when
they built this gun. It's a great piece of workmanship at a
reasonable price, and in combination with the 360 cartridge, it