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Reloading by the book, but…

March 12, 2017

Welcome to daylight savings time for 2017. (Yawn…)

Anyway, to the point. You may have seen my previous posts on 9mm ammunition reloading. I gave lots of specific ways to safely reload your own ammo, and things to watch out for to stay safe while pursuing this hobby / craft. Despite all that effort, things can ball up into a knot right in the middle of your fun.

No, my issue didn’t blow up my favorite gun, no one was harmed or injured in this case, just a severe malfunction, if it had happened in the middle of an encounter with a home invader or other criminal on the street.

It seems that the factory suggested (specified, actually) dimensions for certain firearms don’t jive with reality, sometimes. As in the picture above, where I’m measuring the cartridge overall length, ‘by the book’ to 1.135″, I’ll suppose that particular round will work in 90% of all 9mm pistols out there. I can’t verify that, because I only own 4, a Taurus, a Hungarian army unit, and two Beretta Px4 series, one full size, one compact. I had taken the fresh reloads to the local range, with some buddies, to try out the Hornady brand 147 grain jacketed hollowpoint bullets in my Beretta Px4 Storm full size pistol. I had mixed the various types of bullet loads, as I always do to simulate the ‘reality’ of a hastily loaded ammo magazine in a hostile situation where I just load in whatever I can grab. So, I’m popping along, all is working fine…suddenly we got no fire, after only 3 or 4 shots. Checking the chamber to see if there was a failure to feed (never happens with the Beretta or the other 2 brands I have) I discover I can’t pull back the slide, because we’re all jammed up! Won’t budge for the biggest guy in the group, either. Fortunately, the Beretta is so easy to disassemble, that I can take apart the pistol and find that a cartridge is jammed firmly into the barrel chamber. Prying it out with a screwdriver blade from my always carried Leatherman multi-tool, I find it’s one of my fresh reloads with the Hornady bullet! Can’t figure out why that round jammed. I did the usual redundant, multiple checking on every cartridge I reloaded and brought to the range. What’s going on here? So, I put the pistol back together, a few more rounds work perfectly, then jammed again! Another tear down  reveals another Hornady bullet, jammed in the chamber again! Unloaded all the magazines and culled all those hollow point rounds for later investigation.

Well after returning home and cleaning all my toys (always do that, people, you may forget and leave the crud in your weapon for months!) I can now see what’s going on. I take one of the undamaged hollow point cartridges and drop it again into the ‘go-no-go’ gauge, drops right in. Try the same cartridge in the removed barrel of the Baretta Px4… NOPE, it won’t seat in the barrel! The base of the cartridge may be sticking out about .020″ and will go no further in. Conclusion: The ‘by the book’ overall cartridge length of 1.135″ won’t work with the Berettas! At least not with that Hornady brand 147 grain hollow point bullet profile.

Image from ‘Midway USA LoadMAP’ data book (apparently no longer printed) shows the HP/XTP at 1.135″9mm 147 gr data_01

I suspect the ‘squared off’ shoulder of the bullet profile is contacting the end of the barrel chamber of the Beretta. You can see the distinct conical shape and edge of the bullet in my picture above. The solution to the problem is to have to seat the bullet further down into the case. As I pointed out in another post about hand loading ammo, the seating depth is critical to proper and safe use of the ammo. Too deep makes severe pressure boosts. So, I take the cartridge back to the loading press and ‘tweak’ the over all length until the round fits home properly in the Beretta. Since I never load cartridges to the ‘max’ powder charge, and generally only one step above the minimum starting load, I’m thinking I’ll be OK after pressing in the bullets another .015″ to an over all length of 1.115″. Again, referring to the Midway USA LoadMAP data, I used 3.8gr of Unique powder which is well below the maximum load. Cross referencing the information in the book ‘Modern Reloading‘ by Richard Lee, we get essentially the same data for powder brand load and cartridge overall length ± .005″.

Dear Reader: Any and all advise, methods, information, etc posted here is for information only. The methods I use or describe entail risks that I judge personally acceptable for use as an ammunition reloader. Proceed at your own risk, use your best judgment as I must, before attempting anything published anywhere in my blog pages.

I’ll post again if anything ‘blows up’!

Update: 3-13-17.

This issue appears to be with the Beretta pistols, the Taurus PT 92 and my Hungarian army pistol, AND the Beretta Cx4 Storm 9mm carbine eat this cartridge made to the suggested book specification of 1.135″ length without problems, seating the cartridge perfectly in the chamber.

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