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
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.