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.358 Norma Magnum


In 1899 British gun maker John Rigby introduced the first commercially successful .35 caliber magnum cartridge for English double rifles, the 450/350 Nitro Express. In 1908, Rigby introduced a rimless version of his cartridge for bolt action rifles named the .350 Rimless Magnum. Rifles for this cartridge remain in use today. The .350 Rigby as it was more commonly known fired a 225 grain bullet at 2600fps and a 250 grain bullet at 2490fps. This cartridge was used on all manner of African and Asiatic game but due to both bullet weights and designs, this cartridge achieved its greatest reputation for its performance on medium to large bodied plains game rather than heavy dangerous game.
With the English propensity to retain proprietary rights to cartridge designs, U.S gun makers experimented with their own .35 caliber designs. During the 1920’s, Charles Newton introduced the .35 Newton which featured an extremely brilliant case design. Slightly shorter than the full length .375 H&H magnum type designs, the .35 Newton was almost identical to the modern day 2.5” magnums but with no belt at the case head. The .35 Newton loaded with the powders of the day fired a 250 grain bullet at 2660fps. In 1930, Griffin & Howe released the .350 Griffin & Howe Magnum based on the full length .375H&H case. Case capacity of the .350 G&H Magnum was only slightly greater than the .350 Rigby, but with more suitable powders the .350 G&H fired a 250 grain bullet at 2700fps. Both U.S cartridges were loaded by the Western ammunition company however these cartridges gradually lost popularity and factory loads faded away.
In 1958 the U.S giant Winchester released the .338 Winchester magnum cartridge. As a parent case design the .338Win mag held great potential. Immediately after the .338 Win was released, target shooters necked the case down to .30 caliber producing the .30-338 Wildcat. A year later Winchester was still refraining from using the parent case to create other magnum cartridges. In 1959, the Norma Ammunition Company capitalized on the popularity of the .338Win mag and introduced two cartridges based closely on the .338Win mag case design, the .308 and .358 Norma Magnums. 
Initially only available as unprimed brass, both cartridges were later chambered in Shultz & Larson rifles (1:12 twist). Factory ammunition appeared later and although the case did not have the capacity of the full length G&H magnum, modern powders launched a 250 grain bullet at 2800fps. Norma brochures advertised the cartridge as being ideal for a variety of game, photos included autopsies of Roe deer shot with the .358 to promote it as being highly effective on light game but not overkill. The .358 gained a mild following during the 1960’s, used on all manner of game species from the smallest deer through to European and Alaskan Moose. Although both of the Norma cartridges were designed primarily as an attempt by Norma to gain a foot hold in the U.S market, the fact that neither rifles or ammunition in this caliber were adopted by U.S manufacturers Winchester or Remington caused a gradual decline in their popularity.
The .358 Norma is not all that common today, yet it continues to remain in use. This cartridge retains a staunch following in Alaska, has some popularity in Canada, and a small following in continental Europe. In New Zealand and Australia, the .358 Norma was a source of campfire discussions during the 1960’s and 70’s but gradually and for the most part faded into history. I would like to personally thank Dave Manson of Manson Reamers and Grant Lovelock of True-Flite barrels for their commitment to helping reintroduce the .358 bore to the next generation of New Zealand hunters with their efforts during 2015. It is a pleasure to see the .358 Norma among these offerings.
In plain terms, those who use the .358 Norma, cannot help but love it. This is a cartridge with an X factor that never fails to please. Brass is still made in limited runs by Norma while cases can also be formed from .300 Winchester Magnum brass.



The .358 Norma offers big power and excellent reach. Here we find all of the virtues of a woods / bush cartridge capable of handling raking shots or anchoring game with snap shots that did not go as expected, yet with the power to reach across valleys and deliver an equally hard hitting blow.
From a 26” barrel, the .358 Norma launches a 225 grain bullet at 2900fps, boasting very mild pressures. Using the 225 grain Gameking loaded to 2900fps as an example, the Gameking stays above 2200fps out to a range of 300 yards, producing a high level of  wound trauma. Game hit with ‘relatively good’ shot placement are unable to move far and this one load can handle a wide range of game body weights. The Gameking continues to expand at ranges beyond 300 yards, but is now more reliant on shot placement. The Gameking finally reaches its limit at 500 yards (1800fps). The Hornady FTX performs in a similar manner, proving most effective if hunting lean game at extended ranges. It is however important to understand that shooting to such ranges requires a good deal of effort and the right equipment, including dial capable scopes. Both wind drift and drop must be compensated for with great accuracy, beyond the realms of ‘instant gratification drop compensation or fast dial up scopes.
The .358 Norma can tackle an immensely wide range of game with care towards bullet selection. Bullets weights and potential velocities are similar to the .338 Winchester Magnum in a very general manner of speaking, however the case capacity is slightly larger while the bore diameter also allows a slight increase in muzzle velocities. The .338 shoots flatter due to its high BC bullets however the wider .358 tends to display greater energy transfer and is more forgiving of bullet selection and shot placement. This is something that cannot be related via mere words or tables and must be seen firsthand to be fully understood.
This cartridge does its best work from a 26” barrel but can can be docked to 24” if need be. A twist rate of 1:12 works well with all bullet weights up to 275 grains but with the caveat that light bullets (180-200 grains) do not shoot well at velocities over 2950fps. It is therefore common to find that the one load (e.g book max H4350) works well with 180, 200, 220 and 225 grain bullets, all hovering around 2900-2950fps. Those who wish to shoot light bullets at the over 3000fps, may wish to utilize a 1:14 twist. A muzzle diameter of .700 is to be considered ‘light’ for this caliber while a diameter of .800” is about right for balance and recoil. The .358 is a generally hefty ‘kicker’. It is not well suited to European style stocks, regardless of these traditional configurations. The Norma is much more at home in a straight stocked rifle with relatively wide forend.
Like other .358’s, the .358 Norma has generous freebore. If building a custom reamer, freebore can be set at around .150” to .200". This case does differ slightly from the .338 Winchester, being longer in the body. If using .338 brass, the case must be necked up to 375 caliber, then necked back down to .358, sizing only a part of the neck, resulting in a false shoulder. This makes the case neck shorter, but helps to prevent case head separation as a result of excessive head space during fire-forming.
For some, a straight .358-338 Winchester magnum may be a simpler proposition. Some may prefer the .35-300 WSM, a true short action magnum that does not require any magazine extensions, boasting similar velocities to the Norma in barrels of equal length. Others may prefer even more power with the likes of the .358 STA (.358-8mm Remington Magnum) or even the .358-300 RUM wildcat. Whether one adopts the classic Norma or one of the more recent chamberings, there is certainly a great deal of room for magnum .358 experimentation. One point that must however be considered is the issue of smooth feeding. The Norma and other magnums are very fat, from head to toe. This can pose feeding issues when building rifles. These factors should if at all possible, be checked over (dummy ammunition) prior to committing to any builds.

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Factory ammunition

Since the introduction of the .358, the Norma ammunition company have adopted the habit of promoting various factory loads, discontinuing all factory loads then re-introducing new loads in a seemingly unpredictable manner. The ‘fun’ (fast expanding) loads are now gone. All that remains today is a full metal jacket 232 grain practice load at 2600fps and the stout 250 grain Norma core bonded Oryx at around 2750fps. It is now very rare to find .358 Norma factory loads outside of Europe.
The 250 grain Oryx is a very tough bullet, best suited to large game including large bodied African plains game, Elk, Moose and Brown bear, out to moderate ranges. At one time, Norma advertised their use of Woodleigh bullets. These are now called the Oryx, though in the examples I have tested, they appear to be one and the same. This particular bullet (the Protected Point) has both the speed and construction to produce very fast kills on large game at ranges inside 50 yards and clean but delayed kills (depending on shot placement) thereafter out to ordinary hunting ranges. Hunters are urged to keep shots well forwards when using the Oryx whether hunting light or heavy framed game. This helps to ensure rapid killing across the impact velocity spectrum.
As an aside, the Oryx load would be more versatile (game weight flexibility) had it featured a round nose, rather than a tapered protected point. The loss in BC would easily be made up for via increased energy transfer on all game weights. The pointed bullet does on the other hand offer more frontal area than the smaller bores. In the .30-06 for example, I have received several complaints recently regarding the 180 grain Oryx passing through mature Red stag at close ranges with little effect. In each instance, follow up shots were required and inspection of wounds showed poor energy transfer. The .358 may be just as stout however in this instance, an increase in both frontal area and velocity aid performance a great deal. This also leads us to the subject of over kill. Given that the .358 can get the job done where another has failed as a result of the bullet design, it would be a moot point to call the .358 over kill. Better this than ‘can’t find my kill’.  


Hand loading

Reloading dies and components for the .358 Norma are still available and generally easily obtained. Norma still produce good quantities of .358 brass although cases can be formed from .300 Win Mag or .338 Win Mag (see comments in performance section). Redding make a two die (full length) set for the Norma which produces fairly concentric ammunition while custom neck dies can be obtained from Lee.
The Norma must be housed in a long action, but does not need an extremely long magazine to perform well. The CIP OAL for this cartridge is listed at 85mm (3.34") but many hand loads run shorter than this when seated for optimum concentricity.  Short cartridge over all lengths are a hallmark of the .358 bore. The long free bore dictates that many bullets cannot be seated close to the lands. If bullets are seated close to the lands, the bullet ends up sitting out of the case neck and may easily be bumped out of alignment (concentricity). In other words, there is simply no point trying to seat long. Note that the .308 Winchester is identical in this regard. New generations of shooters try to seat close to the lands, lacking the most basic understanding of this common cartridge design. In any case, the .358 Norma (and kin) is no different to the .308 Winchester in concept and practice. For those who wish to understand more about this, please refer to my book – The Practical Guide To Reloading.
The .358 Norma produces best results with H4350 (ADI 2209) burn rate powder, much like the .338 Winchester Magnum. This cartridge could also make good use of Hornady Superformance powder. This burn rate and case capacity are sensitive to barrel length (35fps per inch removed) and as previously suggested, the Norma works best in a 26” barrel but can be docked to 24” if need be. Those who are unsure (if building a rifle) are advised to start at 26” and dock later if need be.
Velocities for a 26” include 3100fps with 180 grain bullets, 3000fps with 200 grain bullets, 2900fps with 225 grain bullets, 2800fps with 250 grain bullets, 2600 to 2700fps with 275 – 280 grain bullets and 2500 to 2600fps with the 310 Woodleigh.
The velocities quoted here do not however take twist rate and accuracy into account. It is easy to forget that the .358 bore comes in an extremely varied range of twist rates from 1:16 to 1:12.  From a 12 twist bore, accuracy sweet spots for light bullets include 2950fps with 180 grain bullets, 2925fps with 200 grain bullets, before normalizing with 225 grain bullets at 2900fps.
Those wanting to drive the Woodleigh over 2600fps as a means to initiate hydrostatic shock on large game should consider experimenting with Superformance powder, start load 66 grains.  
Having already discussed the various merits of individual bullet designs in the .35 Whelen section, the ahead text will focus on select bullet designs for use in the .358 Norma.
The .358 Norma can easily be put to use as a light game bush / woods hunting cartridge, whether hunting Roe, Sika, Black Tail or lighter sub species of White Tail. Incredibly, although designed for the .35 Remington, the 180 grain Speer Flat point manages to hold together at these impact velocities, generating both wide wounds and deep penetration. This bullet is in some ways like the Norma Vulkan, though the Speer has light core bonding. Nevertheless, the two are similar in ogive and meplat design, dumping massive amounts of energy very quickly.
The 200 grain Hornady Interlock and FTX bullets are to be considered very soft when used in the .358 Norma. Penetration is not great, especially with the fast expanding FTX. On raking shots at close ranges, both are prone to full disintegration. Penetration is compromised on larger animals but it must also be noted that wounding is so severe as to generally ensure fast killing regardless. The FTX is particularly useful when putting the Norma to use on lean game out to extended ranges. In lieu of the Hornady single shot pistol bullet (discontinued), this is the widest expanding .358 bullet at impact velocities of 1800fps. The FTX can be used out further, however results vary depending on body weight resistance. At 1600fps (approximately 480 to 500 yards), the 200 grain soft point Interlock pencils through game, regardless of angles. The FTX on the other hand can display some expansion. This bullet may also slip its core at these impact velocities, the jacket opening, but not folding back (traditional mushroom shape). As the jacket arrests, the core slips forwards, leaving the jacket behind. Following this, the jacket may tumble. The net result is that it is possible for the FTX to provide some level of disproportionate to caliber wounding between 1800 and 1600fps. That said, the .358 bore and bullet is at its most reliable at impact velocities of 1800fps (400 yards) and above. Note that the velocity of the .358 Norma loaded with 200 grain bullets is similar to Hornady’s .35 Whelen 200 grain Superformance load.
The .358 Norma works extremely well with the 220 grain Speer Flat point. This bullet can be used on a wide range of game, ideal for close range work but flat shooting and hard hitting out to ranges well in excess of 250 yards. Again, this is very impressive performance from a bullet that should in theory suffer when used in a high velocity magnum. The Speer bullet is ideal for large bodied deer, especially if raking shots are to be expected.
The 225 Gameking also works extremely well in the .358 Norma. This bullet delivers excellent energy transfer on medium game, yet is stout enough to deliver relatively deep penetration regardless of its fragmentary design. This bullet makes for a good general purpose load and can be used out to ranges well beyond 300 yards. Sighted 3” high at 100 yards, the Gameking is dead on at around 250 to 255 yards and 3” low at 290 to 300 yards. Impact velocity at 300 yards is around 2200fps with 2400 ft-lb retained energy.
Although the Gameking can tackle a wide range of body weights but is not ideally suited to large game such as Moose if attempting to drive bullets through heavy bone at close ranges. Those who wish to use this bullet in the Norma on large game, should aim either forwards of the shoulder (neck junction) or tight behind the shoulder, allowing the bullet to fragment and create a wide internal wound at an optimum depth.
The 225 grain Partition is a great bullet however it should be treated in the same manner as the Gameking when used at magnum velocities. This also applies to the .35-300 WSM and .358 STA. If hunting very large game in close, heavy round bone and ball joints should be avoided. The 225 grain Partition simply lacks the sectional density to overcome such obstacles. Aside from this, the 225 grain Partition is a wonderful bullet. Its front core is very soft, expanding and shedding weight as means to ensure maximum trauma. The Partition can be used on lean through to large bodied medium game without issues to ranges of 300 yards and beyond. The 225 grain Nosler Accubond is another story altogether. This bullet is core bonded for deep penetration but generally fails to deliver, especially when used at high velocities and on very large bodied game. This bullet does its best work on game weighing no more than 320kg (700lb), performing well when used in this manner, out to ranges of around 300 yards. Readers will find plenty of anecdotes from others who will swear to the abilities of this bullet on large heavy animals, however I prefer to believe what I have seen with my own eyes. I would never put my life on the line with this bullet design. 
Woodleigh’s 225 grain round nose bullet is an absolute gem. This bullet has extremely tough core bonding, yet its wide meplat helps ensure excellent energy transfer. This bullet weight may not be ideal for the largest of game but is the sort of bullet that is never a bad choice. The Woodleigh is at its best when used at bush / woods ranges where velocity is high and results are spectacular. That said, the 225 grain Woodleigh can be used out to ranges exceeding 250 yards (trajectory and killing power) with relative ease. This bullet really shines in the Norma when hunting wild boar.
I must at this point relay my disappointment in Hornady’s retirement of the 250 grain round nose Interlock. This was a decidedly deadly bullet and while it did not boast high BC’s. the magnum .358’s were able to drive the RN Interlock with a relatively flat trajectory. The RN Interlock was not an exceptionally deep penetrating bullet and could never be called a premium in any way, yet it hit hard. Entry wounds were as large as exit wounds, not due to bullet blow up but due to rapid energy transfer. One could not have asked for a more forgiving, fast and clean killing bullet design. It is a shame that folk are now so hung up on ballistic coefficents that we are now losing these types of bullet design.
The current 250 grain Interlock spire point is neither fish nor fowl when used in the Norma. This bullet does make for an acceptable general purpose bullet and can tackle Elk with relative ease. The performance of this bullet is not however versatile, too tough for lean game at extended ranges yet too soft for large and heavy bodied animals. These comments aside, the spire point is adequate for use on lean to large bodied medium game, creating wide blood trails.
One cannot write about the .358’s without making mention of the Speer 250 grain Hotcor and the Nosler 250 grain Partition. The velocities of the Norma can be hard on both of these bullets, however both can be put to use on large bodied game. The extra velocity of the Norma also helps increase game weight flexibility with regards to lean game. The high velocity of the Norma increases target resistance, causing greater energy transfer on lean game at bush / woods ranges. Both the Speer and Partition are common used to tackle Moose. The main advantage of these bullet designs is that they shed some weight on impact which helps maximize energy transfer and therefore wide wounding. This also takes away the need for immensely high impact velocities. A stouter bonded bullet or solid copper bullet design may produce deeper penetration and may at times be necessary, however if shots are to be taken at somewhat extended ranges, the Speer and Partition bullet designs are the more emphatic killers.
In contrast to the Partition and Speer, the .358 Norma can also make good use of stout premium bullet designs. These are the bullets you learn to count on when the going gets tough and theoretical ballistics charts become little more than stiff toilet paper. The Woodleigh Weldcore for example is designed to expand down to impact velocities of 1800fps yet in reality gives spectacular performance on heavy game at impact velocities above 2600fps. This is something that simply cannot be achieved in the smaller .358’s. The 250 grain Woodleigh can be driven at 2800fps while the 275 grain Woodleigh can be driven at up to 2700fps. By keeping ranges very short, stalking inside 100 yards, it is possible to anchor game on the spot, with one carefully placed shoulder shot. The same can be achieved with the Excellent Swift 250 and 280 grain bullet designs while the Barnes 225 grain bullet can be driven at even higher velocities. The 310 grain Woodleigh sits right on the limit. At ranges of around 100 yards and with mild loads, wounding is excellent, yet heavy game may take some time to expire. But with careful load development, it is possible to work towards the fully emphatic impact velocity of 2600fps.


Closing comments

The .358 Norma is now very much a classic cartridge. It has many great virtues and can tackle a very wide range of game. This cartridge may especially appeal to those who are used to very flat shooting cartridges like the .270 Winchester, and who want to adopt a medium bore but do not want a rainbow like trajectory. Sighted to print 3" high at 100 yards, this cartridge can generally be used to 300 yards with a dead on hold. That said, the .358 Norma needs to be housed in a properly epoxy bedded rifle fitted with a light and crisp trigger along with long eye relief optics. Rifles chambered for the Norma do not necessarily need to be braked but they do demand optimum technique. The Norma does not suffer fools who hold their rifles in a limp and lazy manner. These comments aside, I highly encourage readers to support this bore diameter and doubly encourage anyone with an interest in medium bores to give the .358 Norma a try.

Norma Sierra

The .358 Norma and 225 grain Sierra, an exceptionally hard hitting combination.


End of the line for the .358's. At right is the Hornady 200gr FTX, impact velocity 1650fps, frontal shot. The projectile appears to have 'blown up'. But closer inspection reveals that the core has slipped from its jacket due to low impact velocities, the jacket tumbling thereafter. The FTX was created by Hornady as an attempt to maximize the performance (range and wounding) of the .35 Remington. This bullet works best down to impact velocities of 1800fps, then tapers off in performance as it falls below this point. The Interlock spire point at the right was also used front on, impact velocity 1680fps. In this case we see zero expansion. The Gameking can also perform in this manner. I generally advise hunters to be wary of the 1800fps cut off point with all .358 bullets.

Suggested loads: .358 Norma Magnum Barrel length: 26”
No ID   Sectional Density Ballistic Coefficient Observed  MV Fps ME
1 FL Norma 250gr Oryx .279 .400 2700 4046
2 HL  200gr  Hornady SP/ FTX .223 .300 2925 3799
3 HL 225gr Sierra BTSP .251 .370 2900 4201
4 HL Speer 220gr FP / 225gr Woodleigh RN .241 .286 2900 4108
5 HL 250gr Speer / Partition .279 .446 2800 4351
6 HL 280gr Swift (use also for 275gr Woodleigh RN) .312 .388 2700 4532
Note: Individual custom throat lengths may effect factory ammo velocities. This also affects potential velocities of hand loads.
Suggested sight settings and bullet paths       
1 Yards 100 235 272 300    
  Bt. path +3 0 -3 -6    
2 Yards 100 250 287 300 325 350
  Bt. path +3 0 -3 -4.4 -7.3 -10.8
3 Yards 100 255 293 325 350 375
  Bt. path +3 0 -3 -6.3 -9.4 -13
4 Yards 100 245 281 300    
  Bt. path +3 0 -3 -5    
5 Yards 100 249 287 300 325 350
  Bt. path +3 0 -3 -4.2 -6.9 -10.1
6 Yards 100 325 272 300    
  Bt. path +3 0 -3 -6    
Sight height 1.6” (Scope).
No At yards 10mphXwind Velocity Ft-lb’s
1 300 8.4 2067 2372
2 300 10.4 2061 1885
3 300 8.2 2201 2419
4 300 11.2 2003 1959
5 300 7 2216 2725
6 300 8.7 2049 2610
358 Norma Magnum final
.358 Norma Imperial Metric 
A .532 13.51
B .513 13.03
C 25 Deg  
D .490 12.45
E .388 9.86
F 2.085 52.92
G .328 8.33
H 2.520 64
Max Case 2.520 64
Trim length 2.510 63.8
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