Handloading the 9MM

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  • Trapper Jim

    Site Supporter
    Rating - 100%
    22   0   0
    Dec 18, 2012
    Firearms training and Handloading Instruction keeps me busy most of the time. It seems like the first question I get from a perspective Handloader is, how much money can I save. This is sad but I understand where the question comes from especially today. In a world of auto correct, AI shortcuts, self checkout registers, and smart keys for your car, there seems to be less time to be a well rounded sportsman to enjoy the Handloading art. While it is true, that once the initial costs of startup is invested one can save money over factory fodder depending on his volume of shooting, one would be missing out on a fantastic hobby and understanding of the shooting world if he let money be the reason for not Handloading ammunition.

    This review is about Handloading the 9MM. Of all the calibers that I shoot, the 9MM is my least favorite. However, in recent years, because of the competitive games centering around the 9MM, it is the majority of rounds per year that I fire. When I am too old to shoot anymore (my scores have been hinting this) the 9MM will be the first to go from my battery. Most of my followers know that I wished the all American cartridge 38 Super would have been the one chosen for the market to get behind but here we are.

    There is a lot of different equipment out there for Handloading and one does not need to waste money in buying, trying and trading equipment that adds to the cost per round. Ask me how I know. The equipment that I use is the residual of many years of experience but by no means is definitive on what may be best for you. I don't believe that our best engineers and manufacturing firms have perfected the progressive press to the quality that cars, guns and everything else has evolved. Having said that, I use the RCBS Rebel press https://www.rcbs.com/presses/single-stage/rebel-press/16-9353.html for single stage Handloading and the 2 Dillon 550C's (one Large and one small primer feed) https://www.dillonprecision.com/s000224 for my metallic handloading. I am always asked why not the faster progressive presses to crank out more rounds in less time? Been there done that. Back during the peak of my shooting career I was shooting 25,000 rounds a year. with working a full time retail job, raising a family and shooting all over the country, I outfitted my bench with 2 Dillon 650's, 1 Dillon 450, and 3 Dillon 550's because time per round loaded was tight. Now, that I have retired I was able to downsize to a total of 3 presses, a single stage, 2 550C's for my metallic Handloading. I do not do auto indexing presses as I like more individual control over my Handloads and I have the time now to craft some of the best ammunition that I ever have. Often times, back in the day, a stoppage on a auto indexing press meant that the shell plate advanced before I could figure out the stoppage. I would end up with an uncrimped round or other mistake in my samples. Not good.

    So after the you have the equipment that you like set up, now you need components. I keep once fired factory brass, reuse most of my own brass and buy once fired from trusted proven sources. Beware, there is some funky cheap weird third world ammunition that the brass has gotten mixed in with my good stuff and causes headaches. In one picture you can see the difference in primer flash holes. This Geco junk uses a flash hole that is too small for my de capping pins and causes me practice with bad words. This inconvenience is right up there with a .40 S&W case that fits neatly inside my .45 cases or small primer pockets in large primer brass loads, or ruptured cases found on the ground and somehow got in my stash.

    After cleaning and inspecting my handloading brass supply, I store them in 5 gallon kitty litter containers. When I am ready to Handload I lay the brass out sideways on a towel and spray with a mixture of 10 percent lanolin and 90 percent alcohol https://www.dillonprecision.com/s000256. After a few minutes, I pick up the towel like a hammock and dump the lubed cases in my brass box on the bench. For the majority of my 9MM competition loads I load a CCI or Winchester primer under 3.2GR of Alliant (Hercules) Sport Pistol powder. https://www.alliantpowder.com/products/powder/sport-pistol.aspx. and top it off with a 147 Gr Acme bullet. https://www.acmebullet.com/Bullets/9mm/9mm-147. I like the heavy bullet and Truncated design coated and sized to .356. Very accurate indeed.

    I keep my overall length running about 1.104 inches. The length will vary a tiny bit because of variances in brass, shell plate design , dirt and such but O.A.L. ranging from 1.104 to 1.108 is no problem in the real world. One will get this time to time with factory fodder. After I run 100 or so, I recharge the primer tube. I like to use the old fashion pickup tubes when handling primers. I have used vibrators and such but I like to see and handle each one from my pick up tray. Even then, occasionally I will get one upside down. That is why I gauge each round and put in a tray primer up to check for faulty primers. In the picture below, one can see an empty primer pocket or an inverted primer. They go in the recycle can. I keep two types of bullet pullers on hand for this purpose. I will pull those faulty rounds and make them right at a later date. When one will not gauge properly, it can be several different things. One is improper crimp. The picture will show the rim of a case that is not crimped. The case could also be split or have a damaged rim from an extractor or such. Then I bag them up.

    With the high cost of component circus that we have today, my cost per 9MM round would be around 20 cents a round. As the market catches up for factory ammunition, one can find deals on cheap 115 Grain 9MM's sometimes for less than this. I used to be a customer of the many old timey gun shops that are shown in the picture but they are not answering their phone anymore. So wherever you can get your supplies, good luck. So financially, it may not make sense (cents) to go through the work required to Handload your own ammunition. That is of course, if you refer to it as work. I refer to it as an accomplishment in education, relaxation and an ample amount of variety and control over my sport.

    See you on the bench,

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    Rating - 100%
    3   0   0
    Dec 24, 2020
    North Central
    I load and shoot enough 9mm to make it financially worthwhile, but it's a "practical caliber", not a "fun caliber", so it's more of a chore than a hobby. I have one progressive press, a Hornady LNL, and it's set up exclusively to run 9mm. It has a few quirks but it and I have a 10 year relationship and I know how to deal with them. The good thing is it lets me crank out 4-500 rounds an hour of quality, consistent ammo so I can keep shooting with minimal time and effort invested.

    9mm is basically a bulk product for me...it has to be accurate and reliable, but now that I have established a load and components that work, I don't really tinker with it at all, I just churn it out. I have other calibers that I load on the single stage or the turret that get far more individual attention and a variety of loads developed for different applications.


    Rating - 100%
    6   0   0
    Apr 19, 2023
    I still do love reloading 9mm, especially if it's like 147gr where off the shelf prices still make it worth while to reload. Though I'm hovering around 17-20 cents per round for 115gr plinking ammo, I still think it's worthwhile opposed to buying those 15-16 cents per round bulk deals you see on AmmoSeek.

    Some of them are just not good, a lot are steel cased overseas surplus which are surprisingly the better ones :facepalm:...but most of the budget munitions companies like Ammo Inc or Stryker can't load without almost reaching double-digit percentage error rates. You'd think it's a bunch of highschoolers loading ammo in someone's garage as a summer job. Backwards primers, low charge, NO CHARGE, backwards bullets too! This is the current landscape for bulk factory 9mm deals, usually remans with inferior components or steel imports if we're lucky.


    Site Supporter
    Rating - 100%
    8   0   0
    Jan 18, 2009
    SE Indy
    I reload everything I shoot. To me thats half of the hobby. Even in 9mm. I like the challenge of finding the perfect load for the given projectiles. Its amazing how a few tenths of powder or a slight change in OAL will dramatically change FPS and POI
    I have had some good luck finding Gold Dots and Silvertip and other premium projectiles at Brian's up in Kokomo. Thats the real fun Making handloaded premium rounds better and cheaper than I can buy. Even the bulk 9mm plinking stuff is better and more consistent than off shelf.


    Rating - 100%
    29   0   0
    Oct 3, 2012
    I reload everything *but* 9mm. Not worth my time or components vs loading higher pay off cartridges. Every primer I stick in a 9mm is one less I can stick in a *insert spp revolver cartridge here*...


    Rating - 0%
    0   0   0
    Jul 22, 2011
    Wabash County
    Thank you for the article… it validates what i so.. like you when I was shooting regularly. 12,-15,000 rounds per year.. 9 mm was my most used round… I bought a Dillion square deal b. I figured a dedicated press to 9mm was a quality control idea . And it was cheaper at the time. I use 5.0 grains of wsf powder once fired brass and 115.gr x-treme bullets with cci primers. Thousands of reloads with very few failures… thanks for the read. It was excellent..

    Ben Nelson

    Rating - 0%
    0   0   0
    Oct 26, 2011
    Corner of Walk & Dont Walk
    Nice write-up, Trapper.

    Been reloading 9mm for about 12 years and loved the fact that I could reload for less than have the cost of factory range ammo. Not so much of a savings now days but I still get to shoot more, or so they say.

    I really learned more about reloading after I bought a couple of CZ 75 compacts and suddenly loads that worked in my FN's and Glocks would not pass the plunk test in the CZ's. And the leades for the CZ are different from each other. For the bullet profile that I load, the PCR can handle a COAL of 1.070" but the P01 requires a maximum COAL of 1.055".


    From a place you cannot see…
    Site Supporter
    Rating - 100%
    150   0   0
    Jan 13, 2009
    New Pal
    Nice write up. I agree that loading 9mm is a chore, so I stopped. The volume of fire for pistol is not worth it in my life. I hand load all competition ammo, but stopped 9mm and 5.56 and buy bulk.


    Rating - 100%
    23   0   0
    Jan 4, 2009
    Just knocked out 2000 rounds of 9mm on my 550c this weekend. With the replacement cost of primers and powder now days it would make more sense just to buy factory ammo. But the components are bought and paid for so might as well assemble them.

    This will be 1911 food. Coated 135 gr. LRN over 3.7 grains HP-38. 1.125-1.130 COAL
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