New Wildcat- .355/19R! This Will Change… uh… nothing.


A few years back Linda told me, “We should both have 9mm.s.” I said that was fine with me; perhaps she could get me one for my birthday? She did, and it was not exactly what I was expecting- a Taurus m905 9mm snub-nosed revolver. It’s a nice little revolver; you’ve seen it in range reports. The problem is that it has a very sharp recoil impulse- even with range ammo. Linda likes the gun, but it’s too unpleasant for her to shoot; it hurts her dodgy wrist.

The obvious thing to do, since I am reloading now, was to make some very light loads so that she can enjoy the gun without hurting herself. I saw no reason not to simply load my .38 S&W load- a 148gr. HBWC- in 9x19mm brass. These loads will not cycle a 9mm semi-auto, but the protruding wadcutter made them visually distinct so we would not accidentally fire them out of autos. Problem solved.

OK, not quite. It turns out that the chambers in the Taurus’s cylinder are really tight- so tight that the .358 diameter wadcutters won’t chamber. I don’t have a good way of swaging them down, so I was going to need to use a .355 diameter bullet. OK, admittedly having one of the autos fail to function from a low-powered load was a tragedy of limited scope, but my paranoia kicked in. What if the bullet lodged in the bore and it chambered another round? This was a recipe for badness. Unlikely though it might be, it provided an excuse to tinker, and I did.

So, I wanted low-power loads with a .355 bullet diameter that would chamber in the revolver but not an automatic. I seemed to recall that someone had invented a 9mm Rimmed specifically for use in revolvers, but that seems to have died a rapid death; there just aren’t enough 9mm revolvers, and metal clips that hold the rounds just aren’t a big enough bother to make 9mm rimmed viable.

Taurus M905 revolver with a ‘star clip’ of 9x19mm rounds

I admit, my worry about accidentally using under-powered rounds in one of our autos bordered on the ridiculous, but it made a fine excuse to let my inner Mad Scientist out to play. So I made a simple jig to uniformly shorten .38 Special cases to 19mm. Having just bought a box of 500 9mm 115gr. TMJ bullets it was easy to choose what to use in them.

Typically a load of 5.1gr. of Unique behind a 115gr. bullet is adequately powerful to cycle most semi-auto pistols, but we’re not worried about doing that. In a short-barreled revolver that load actually feels pretty stiff, about the same as shooting .38 Special +P, which is a lot more recoil than desired for our purpose. Since this load is not for self-defense, hunting or anything like that it need not be nearly so powerful. In fact this is strictly a target load; if it will punch holes in paper at twenty yards that’s good enough.

Accordingly I selected a load of 3.5gr. of Unique. I mounted a .38/.357 shell holder in the press and used 9mm dies to de-prime the shortened cartridge and tried it for fit in the Taurus’s chamber. It headspaced a bit deeper than 9x19mm but the primer ignited just fine. The primer also backed out of the cartridge a bit but didn’t interfere with the function of the gun. I guessed that the pressure of firing a loaded round would force the base of the cartridge against the breech and prevent this, so I proceeded to load a round. After adjusting the dies a bit I got satisfactory overall length and a strong, slightly rolled crimp.

A test shot revealed no issues with the primer backing out and the gun was able to cycle properly with further trigger pulls. The shell ejected easily, so it looked like I was in business. Recoil was very mild, similar to a .38 S&W. Fired from the 1-3/4″ Taurus the round penetrated nearly through two kiln-dried Douglas Fir 2x6s, slightly superior to my standard .38 S&W load using a 148gr. HBWC loaded over 2.5gr. of Unique. I judged that to be a satisfactory level of power for a light target load and loaded up a box for the next range trip. If it functions as well as the test shot we have a new cartridge and Linda can enjoy shooting it. If the head spacing proves to be an issue then I can always shoot them out of a .38 Special.

I’ve come up with a couple of Wildcat cartridges over the years, but they never did more than duplicate the performance and/or characteristics of an existing cartridge so I never pursued them. This one will be a record- I actually loaded fifty cartridges. Mind you, this is not a cartridge that is going to change anything for anyone but me; it is not going to ‘catch on.’ I feel perfectly safe in saying that we should not expect Ruger to chamber their next iteration of the LCR in it, nor is S&W going to be on fire to chamber their new offerings in this cartridge. I would be very surprised if the vast majority of the hand gunning community at large did not remain blissfully unaware of it. It is a singular, special-purpose cartridge that fills a personal need that very few, if any, will share.

It is not impossible that in the future I will develop a load for it that pushes a 115gr. self-defense bullet at .38 Special velocities. This would allow the use of speed loaders, which on the whole seem a great deal more reliable than the provided ‘star clips’ which can shed rounds or even become bent in a pocket.  Load factory 9mm rounds in a star-clip in the cylinder, and reload (if needed) with these rounds from a speed-loader or strip. This mimics my practice with the Chiappa Rhino, where I use the clips only to insure positive ejection of the first cylinder and speed-strips for the reload.

So, the name- .355/19R. It’s a .355 diameter bullet in a 19mm long case with a rim. Hey, I had to call it something, right? At least this is descriptive. I considered 9mm TIAG (Tinker is a Genius) or maybe 9mm AUW (Another Useless Wildcat) but on the whole I think I’ll stick with my first choice. Look for further developments in the next Range Report.

Michael Tinker Pearce   07 June 17

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