Friday, January 30, 2015

Reloading 9mm Parabellum (aka, 9mm Luger)

The 9mm Parabellum (Latin for "around war") was invented in 1902.  It was one of the very first handgun cartridges designed to exploit the energy density of the newly invented "smokeless powder" of the day.  The FBI recently turned many heads when they re-adopted the 9mm Parabellum as their duty cartridge.

Institutions have the ability to learn and evolve.  It is a simple fact that only hits count.  And even the stoutest farm boy can score more hits, faster, with a 9mm Parabellum than with a more energetic cartridge.  Add the fact that there are many suppliers of 9mm ammo that meet the FBI's stringent terminal ballistics requirements and the decision to adapt the 9mm becomes almost a no-brainer, especially in light of the fact that most agents are not "stoutest farm boy".


One of my brothers is getting old.  He notes the declining civility and the changing nature of his city neighborhood.  The feral human have become brazen.  He asked me what I thought of "concealed carry."

I told him that some people should not carry firearms.  But if the person who is carrying follows "the rules", then it is a good thing.  I also told him that I could not think of a person I would trust more to "carry" than him.

He chose a Glock 19, which is a boringly safe choice.  It is a slightly shortened version of the Glock 17.  It fires the 9mm Parabellum.  This week, it is easy to find full metal jacket (practice) ammo.  It is much harder to find ammo that is appropriate for his purpose.

An additional consideration is that many experts recommend that you run at least 200 rounds of your "carry" ammo though your firearm to ensure it works without a hiccup.  Even if he can find 200 rounds of a good hollowpoint it will put a serious ding in his wallet.

The joys of reloading

This is where I come in.

Over the years I have collected about 15 pounds of 9mm brass.  I also have an embarrassingly large quantity of small pistol primers and Unique powder.

I spent this evening sorting by head stamps.  I told Mrs ERJ, repeatedly, that I could not let her help me...regardless of how much joy, fun and gratification she would have.  Unfortunately, she also read Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain.

My plan is to produce about 1000 loaded with the Berry hollowpoints and a muzzle velocity of about 1100 fps.

Efficient cartridges

The problem with "efficient" cartridges is that they present narrow process windows.  The 9mm Parabellum has a Cartridge Over All Length between 1.100" and 1.169".  To help you visualize, the difference between the minimum and the maximum length is the thickness of fifteen sheets of copy paper squished down in the jaws of a micrometer (yes, I measured it).

Slight decreases in C.O.A.L. result in huge differences in peak pressures compared to "inefficient" cartridges like .38 Special.  Another factor is that your gun can shorten the loaded round as it pushes it up the feed ramp if the mouth of the case is too lightly crimped into the bullet.  One can address that by more firmly crimping the end of the case into the bullet, but the 9mm Parabellum headspaces on the rim of the cartridge.  There are limits to how much the reloader can crimp the case and still have the package function.

A final frustration is the variability of the loading data.  The information from the powder supplier's website is usually the most reliable.  Alliant Powder, the maker of Unique powder, advises that the maximum powder charge for a 124 grain hollowpoint is 5.8 grains.  By way of comparison, other sources list 5.0 grains as a max and a powder with a nearly identical burn rate from a competitor has a max charge weight of 4.4 grains.  5.8 grains is more than 30% higher than the 4.4 grains listed by the competitor.  That is a HUGE difference.

My game plan is to load five round each at 4.0 grains, 4.2 grains, 4.4 grains, 4.6 grains, 4.8 grains and 5.0 grains of Unique with a COAL of 1.125 inches.  I will use Winchester brass because that is the "high runner" out of my stash.  My brother will shoot the gun with just two rounds in the magazine and we will determine the lightest load that makes the gun will cycle.  He has big, beefy hands and massive wrists so it will be a pretty light load.  Then we will shoot over the Chrony and we will stop when we hit the 1070-1100 fps window.

I called Powder Valley to see if they could change the Berry hollowpoints to Hornady XTPs.  I left a message as the office was not open.

Upon closer reading (prompted by writing this post!) I noticed that the Berry bullets are intended for target shooting.  They make no claims of expansion or terminal ballistics.

Picture from HERE.  Expanded bullet penetrated 14" into a javalina.
Good hollowpoints for reloading are hard to come by right now.  Hornady, as a company, has an outstanding reputation of providing very well engineered products that give huge amounts of value for the dollar.  Their XTP line of 9mm pistol bullets just missed the FBI requirements by a whisker.

I cannot speak from first hand experience, but the general consensus on the internet is that XTPs are "hard" and want to be driven fast-to-very fast to achieve the best terminal ballistics.
---End Update---

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