Friday, April 10, 2009

Experimenting with hand loads, heavy bullet 9x19mm


One of the joys hand loaders… well… ‘Enjoy’ is the ability to experiment with various loads. They are not locked into set formulas as the commercial manufacturers are, making their ammunition to SAMMI specifications with a pantheon of firearms to be served. Hand loaders can design a load specifically for one gun… their gun… and no other.

That doesn’t mean it’s acceptable to stray too far from the reservation, as all things mechanical have their limitations. A case full of very fast powder behind a heavy jacketed bullet just might cause a .45 colt to spontaneously disassemble itself in a very unfriendly fashion. Likewise a very light charge of slow powder can cause a rifle to self destruct as well. Loading manuals are excellent guides, and most hand loaders should live within their constraints.

For those willing to accept the risk, and willing to engage in the required study, experimenting with hand loads can be exciting and rewarding. One must know and understand the process, and approach the endeavor with caution. That said, there is room to play… and play I shall.

Recently I was building some moderate 9x19 hand loads as practice ammunition. On the shelf, in my sight as I worked at the loading bench, was a box of Rainier plated bullets. 158 grain hollow points designed for the .38 special, my own snub nosed Taurus announced an immediate dislike for the bullet after trying only a few dozen of them. The rest of the box sits on the shelf, waiting for fortune to provide an answer.

Thinking about those bullets as I worked, I realized that while they measured .358” in diameter, they were only just barely larger than the nominal .356” bullets used in the 9mm case. At 158 grains, they were quite a bit heavier than the weightiest bullet I had ever seen in a 9x19, 147 grains. On the other hand, being made of copper plated soft lead, they could be expected to register fairly low pressures if conservative loads were used.

A plan was coming together…

When I was done with the normal 9mm practice load, I left the ‘Power Pistol’ powder in the measure, but backed it down to a fairly sedate load weight for the caliber. Researching the heaviest bullet load data I could find in 9x19, I dialed back a half grain from the 147 grain jacketed bullet loads. Even though the bullet I planned on trying was heavier and slightly wider in diameter than normal, I counted on the extreme softness of the bullet to work in my favor, as well as the strength of the pistol I would be trying them in. Were these jacketed bullets I would never have tried it, as the pressures would likely have been too high for comfort.

Why try the load? For two main reasons, and a host of smaller ones; chiefly I was curious to see if it would work. In addition, I had the bullets and finding they would shoot decently in one of my 9mm pistols would mean another few boxes of ammo I could make cheaply. These are reasons enough. I loaded several dozen for testing.

At the range one fine morning, I set up in a pistol bay, placing a bench at the fifty foot line. It’s a stable rest from which to judge accuracy, and fifty feet is a good distance to wring out ammunition in a carry pistol. For this testing, the Ruger P-85 took the duty. Built like a tank, it’s more than capable of dealing with a slightly higher than normal pressure should the load have been misjudged.

The targets were nothing more complicated or costly than eight inch paper plates with a hand drawn dot in the center. These serve fine for informal shooting, and sometimes even more formal training and competition.

Up first, a magazine of factory Federal 115 grain ball. Not the pistols favorite load, but a good conservative data point to judge other loads against. Fired at fifty feet, the Federal easily made four inch groups without any straining on my part.

Moving to the pistols favorite carry load (a 124 grain hollow point in front of a hot load of Power Pistol) the Ruger once again made a four inch group, although with much greater authority, both in recoil and blast.

Trying the experimental 158 grain plated bullet load, the pistol managed groups about five inches in size, just north of the aiming point. Perceived recoil and muzzle blast was no greater than the Federal factory load, and examination of the fired cases revealed no pressure signs outside normal expectations.

The Ruger functioned well with the bullet, even though it’s clearly not designed for the 9mm cartridge. The bullet nose is better suited to a revolver, but the P-85 managed to feed and chamber it without a hitch.

Conclusions reached? The load functions well, without problems. More can be loaded for further testing, and the load will be recorded in the log as suitable for use when such components are on hand.

Having found the Ruger P-85 manages to shoot bullets designed for the .38, I am left to wonder if the .38 special will shoot bullets I cast for the 9x19mm. Hmmm…… Another experiment in the offing.


Anonymous said...

9MM bullets will work in the 38 Special; Lee Jurras used that trick years ago with Super-Vel ammunition to get hyper velocities out of 38 ammo.

I played with it a couple of decades ago and it works, but accuracy isn't anything to write home about. I won't say the load, but I was able to approach 2,000 fps with an 88 grain 380 Auto bullet in a long-barrelled 357 magnum revolver. Past about 30 feet it was anyone's guess where it would hit but it sure was fast....

Barry said...

Your "brass ones" must be a little larger than mine. Glad to hear all worked well. I have a box of Sierra .357 158grain I picked them up at a close out sale. The only load data I've found was for .38+p.I was wanting to load for my S&W 36.
They are semi jacketed flat nose(Seirra #8340). Some forums have claimed that if a non-sufficient charge is used, the lead & copper jacket could seperate, leaving the jacket in the pipe. WWCD?(what would Carteacho do).

Carteach0 said...

Carteach0 would follow the load data available in all the major loading manuals. (g)

Anonymous said...

One of my favorite pistols was the Ruger Convertible 357/9mm.
I loaded some 158gr SWC in the 9mm brass using a 38 spec target load recipe for plinkers. One of the "experts" at the range told me I was going to kill myself. Shot them anyway and they didn't feel any worse than the similarly loaded 38 specials. Accuracy was about the same too.
Max Gain in the Heart of Georgia.

James nelson said...

I've done something similar with the .380. I used 124 grain 9mm bullets behind 2.0 grains of bullseye and it functions fine with low recoil and accuracy similar to my regular reloads.

AKA Angrywhiteman said...

I would guess that the .356 cast bullet in a .358 bore would be prone to barrel leading due to blow by. As I said, it is just a guess.

Carteach0 said...

Sounds like an experiment in the offing, huh? Not enough play time, folks... just not enough.

Somerled said...

I tried those very same bullets about 10 years ago in .38 Special and light .357 Mags. They didn't work well. Then I put a mic on them and figured out why. They were all over the pike in diameter, many way undersized and a few over. I've been ordering plated bullets direct from the good folks at Berry's or from Cabela's since then.

Thanks for posting your experiment. With bullets so tough to find right now, one is faced with the need to improvise. I've not worked with an SR9 yet, but the other Ruger 9mms will feed dang near anything that can be put in the magazines.

J.R.Shirley said...

158-grain bullets have been loaded in 9x19mm for use in suppressed subguns. Not sure how effective they typically were.