I have been loading the 9mm Luger for some time. I admit, my first efforts were nothing to brag about. I learned a lot about powder selection, hardcast bullets, and sorting cartridge cases. I am glad I began handloading with the .38 Special and progressed to the .45 ACP, as the 9mm was quite challenging. Eventually, I was able to obtain good results. The 9mm pistol can be more accurate with handloads than factory ammunition but not without attention to detail.
Hardly a few months goes by that some pundit in the popular press expresses his opinion that sorting cartridge cases is a waste of time. I wonder how much actual loading he has done. You may get by without case sorting in the revolver or a .45 ACP and produce good to average burner loads, but you will never enjoy good accuracy in the 9mm without cartridge case sorting.
The result is the difference between a 2- and a 5-inch group, simply from sorting cases. You need to study the loading manuals before you begin. The simple mechanics of loading must be understood.
The overall length of the cartridge is important. Seating the bullet too deep can double the pressure of the load. Since the 9mm is a hot number operating at upward of 30,000 psi pressure, this is critical.
The differences in length of the 9mm cartridge cases is less constant than any other handgun caliber, in my experience. It is worthy of note that many military 9mm pistols have generous chambers and a very strong hammer spring. The chamber accepts loads we might call off spec, and the hammer spring supplies enough energy for the hammer to fall and crack any primer.
Case rim dimensions once widely differed among 9mm cases, primarily different military cartridge cases. Today the rim is pretty much standard on commercial loads. The difference in cartridge case length among foreign and domestic loads isn’t that uniform and may vary by an amount that will affect accuracy if you do not sort your 9mm cartridges.
I recently miked a few dozen cartridges recovered at the range. They ran the usual gamut of Federal, Fiocchi, Remington, Speer, Starline, and Winchester. There were cases I do not normally use, including MagTech and PMC. They ranged from .735 to .756 in length.
The shorter cases will headspace by the extractor rather than the cartridge case mouth. Even though we should sort cartridges, the problem is that the short ones are not going to give the best accuracy. They are not useful save for short-range loads for practice at 7 to 10 yards, and I prefer not to use them at all.
A reasonable course for the handloader beginning to load the 9mm is to obtain a good supply of Starline Brass. Black Hills Ammunition, Corbon, HPR, and quite a few other manufacturers, use Starline. Commercial Federal Cartridge Company brass is usually fine.
While foreign brass from the Pacific rim is sometimes blamed for poor accuracy, some foreign brass is actually longer rather than shorter. I recently tried 9mm cartridges from south of the border. While they fired OK when chambered, it was very difficult to eject a loaded round from the chamber, which is part of my testing.
The slide would not budge, and I had to fire the cartridge cases out. The problem was the cartridge case was at the very limit of overall length.
I had a refresher on cartridge cases because I have done quite a bit of 9mm loading with the Ruger SR1911 and in working up loads for ACME plated bullets. My cases and range brass were mixed up. They simply went into the same box and I sorted them later. I knew what to expect from poorly sorted, mixed brass.
I also had a new handgun that I wished to get the most of for accuracy. The Wilson Combat EDC X9 (Every Day Carry, high capacity) is the newest pistol from Wilson Combat. Fit, finish, smoothness, accuracy, you name it—it is superb.
This is a 1911 9mm, to be certain, but it is far removed from the usual 1911 in 9mm Luger. The barrel is ramped, which is good for safety and feed reliability. The sights are excellent, with the Wilson Combat Battle Sight complemented by a fiber optic front sight. The trigger breaks at 4 pounds and very clean. There is no backlash or creep.
The slide lock safety locks tight, and there is no grip safety. The grip frame offers the new X grip that makes for excellent purchase. I am told some versions will have a frame that accepts combat lights. The pistol is a very good example of the maker’s art.
The primary difference between this pistol and the Glock, SIG, and others is that the feed ramp is supported. This is the preferred design to support the cartridge case head and offer a higher degree of safety and feed reliability. Compare this feed ramp with the Glock and others using an unsupported chamber, and you will see a great difference.
There are things I did not do with the Wilson Combat that have been done with other 9mm 1911 handguns and handloads. The single-column-magazine 9mm 1911 sometimes uses a magazine with a filler in it, as the cartridge case is shorter than the .45 ACP or .38 ACP Super, yet the true 9mm 1911 has a magazine well the same size as the .38 Super and .45 and the longer cartridges demand a longer magazine.
Feed reliability is not always the best with the 9mm 1911. The Wilson Combat 15-round magazine and 9mm-specific frame neatly solve that problem and give us an upgrade.
The 9mm has sometimes been long loaded in order to make up for the problem of a long magazine with a short cartridge. The bullet is seated farther out than specifications call for. So you may use more powder for less pressure—up to a point—and where that point is we do not know without experimentation.
These long-loaded cartridges cannot be used in any handgun other than the 9mm 1911, but then handloading is about specialization for some of us. For others it is about working up loads that function and give reasonable accuracy in many firearms. Long-loaded 9mm cartridges will not function in the Wilson Combat 9mm pistol.
The Wilson Combat EDC X9 was test fired with a number of factory loads. I fired some for combat accuracy and others for absolute accuracy. The EDC X9 is an amazing gun to fire and use in many ways.
When I settled to the benchrest, I fired a group with a 115-grain FMJ factory load I keep on hand. Results were terrible! I was firing at 15 yards for sighting in, and the group was 4 inches.
I then loaded the Black Hills Ammunition 124-grain JHP and was rewarded with a 1.25-inch 15-yard group. Load development would be essential for top accuracy. I experimented with a number of proven combinations. While interesting, the real challenge was further development.
My previous project involved only cast bullets. This time I used a number of jacketed bullets. I enjoyed good results with a number of cast and coated bullets, with 2-inch five-shot groups the average at 25 yards. However, there were a couple of combinations that broke the 1.5-inch standard. This takes concentration, the Bullshooters rest, and shooting glasses to achieve.
The 90-grain 9mm bullets are seldom the most accurate. Bullet pull, a full burn, and other factors, including bearing surface, do not favor the 90-grain 9mm.
The loads were rule beaters, as the Hornady 90-grain XTP gave stellar results. These bullets were among the most accurate jacketed bullets I tested. They may be loaded to over 1,400 fps.
The 115-grain bullets gave good results but not the best. They are useful, as they may be loaded to high velocity, well over 1,300 fps.
The 124-grain XTP was the most useful, in my opinion, with a noticeably more accurate average. This has been true for most of my loading with the 9mm. At a velocity over 1,200 fps, the 124-grain XTP would make an excellent defense load.
There wasn’t a lot of point in load development with the 130-grain Montana Gold bullet, as it gave excellent results with the first load tried. This is a great competition bullet. While developed for the .38 Super, this bullet weight is a good, accurate load in the 9mm. It is kind of an oddball for the 9mm but useful.
In my reading, I have picked up that Bill Wilson himself seems to prefer the 147-grain hollowpoint. I have preferred the more dynamic expansion of the 115-grain bullet, but excellent accuracy and good performance have led me to the 124-grain bullet.
I decided to give the 147-grain XTP a solid workup. At typical 9mm velocity of 900 fps or more, the XTP will expand to about .48 inch and drive through 24 inches of water. I had hoped to break 1,000 fps but could not accomplish this with what I consider safe pressure. This means safe pressure in all climates and all handguns I own.
In the end, the Wilson Combat pistol gave excellent results. This is a first-class handgun with everything to recommend. Firing offhand, combat accuracy is excellent. The loads I tested in the Wilson Combat each gave good to excellent results, which wasn’t true of all factory loads.