.38 S&W- A Little Experiment

.38 S&W normally takes a bullet in the .359-.362 diameter range. My S&W slugged at .361″, and lately I’ve been using swaged 125gr./.361 wadcutters with great success… but not everyone can swage their own bullets, so yesterday I tried an experiment.

My ‘high-tech’ set-up for swaging 125gr. lead .357 bullets into .361 LSWCs.

I loaded 50rds. of Aardvark’s 125gr. TCL ‘cowboy’ bullets. In my experience ‘cowboy’ bullets tend to be rather soft so they’ll splatter nicely on steel instead of ricocheting. I wanted to see if they would ‘bump up’ to bore diameter and stabilize properly over a modest load.

I used 2.7gr of Unique, a CCI 500 small pistol primer and a fairly serious crimp. At the range the results were just right; the load shot to point of aim and the targets showed no sign of yawing or key-holing, even all the way out at 25 yards. Recoil was mildly snappy but not unpleasant.

.38 S&W loaded with Aardvark’s 125gr./.357 TCL bullet.

Guns vary; what works in one may not in another. But given the lack of bullets in .361, and that when you find them they are almost always 145-148gr LRNs, it might be worth trying a 125gr./.357 ‘cowboy’ or soft-cast bullet in your gun. Could make life just a little easier, and the lower recoil of the light bullet might help prolong the life of your antique revolver.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 27 December 2019

5 thoughts on “.38 S&W- A Little Experiment

    1. tinker1066

      Well, at 7 yards they put in nice groups- at 25 yards groups were close to 6″, but that’s me; I was shooting a 1-5/8″ barreled double-action-only revolver. Velocity? Not sure, but hopefully I’ll be chronographing it this week.

  1. Cory Cepelak

    I’m coming up short on a source for Aardvark bullets, do you have contact info for them? Found an email address from 2006 but not much else.
    Also, have you looked into molds, like those from Accurate? I’m new to loading 38 S&W and reloading in general, but was thinking it might be worth a look.

    1. tinker1066

      Hi Cory. Aardvark can be contacted via email, or their bullets can be purchased from Pinto’s Guns in Renton, WA. As far as I know Aardvark has no web presence other than that email, and I am not sure who their other retailers are; probably best to email and ask them.


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