Day at the Range

Day at the Range: Reloading Report – 9mm

Now that I have begun to reload 9mm ammo in significant quantities its time to shoot some off and see how my reloads function in a variety of pistols. After all, there’s not much reason to load more until I determine whether my particular guns like the ammo I’m loading. The initial rounds I have loaded on my Lee Load Master are made from a mix of once-fired brass from Fiocci and Blazer. I am using Winchester WSP small pistol primers and Hornady 124g FMJ-RN bullets. 9mm ReloadsThe powder is 4.4 grains of Winchester AutoComp. The OAL ranges between 1.11″ and 1.155″, with most measuring about 1.145″. Quick Disclaimer: Please do not use my load data as source material for your reloads! Refer to the bullet or powder manufacturer published recommendations. Let me tell you why. I had been browsing the internet looking for feedback on how Winchester AutoComp does with 124g bullets and trying to get a sense of the charges people were having the most success with. I found a fair amount of information and what I found concerned me. Many of the posts I happened upon either flat our said that 4.4 grains of AutoComp was too light of a load to make a semi-auto pistol function correctly or they were simply recommending a much hotter load, often higher than the max load recommended in my reloading manual. The primary issue was the inability of this low charge to reliably eject the case after firing or put another way: work the slide. I was worried enough that I immediately started loading a new batch of rounds using 4.8 grains. Still though well within the range recommended by my reloading manual. I fully expected when I hit the range today that I was going to experience mechanical failures with at least one of my guns. So what happened? Nothing, except firing off a total of 90 rounds of reloaded 9mm ammunition without a single issue. Lessons:

  1.  Don’t believe everything you read on the internet!
  2. Start with the minimum recommended (by the manufacturer) powder load and test.
  3. Using anecdotal information instead of tested manufacturers data can be dangerous.

I used three handguns to test this particular batch of reloaded 9mm ammunition:9mm Pistols

  • Smith & Wesson SD9VE

  • Rock Island Armory M1911-A1 FS Tactical II

  • Glock G17 Gen 4

Using an isosceles stance and shooting from 7 yards I shot 30 rounds from each pistol at the center bullseye measuring 4 inches from outermost red ring.  Shot cadence can be characterized as repeat fire but not rapid. Below are the targets for each handgun. The accuracy of the rounds was not the point of the test but was fair nonetheless with the overall best accuracy from the RIA 1911. 124g Hornady FMJ-RN & 4.4g AutoComp Pistol TestThe poorest accuracy was from the Glock.  Fatigue was likely a contributing factor. The fact that rounds were migrating low and left is indicative of a trigger control issue brought on by a lack of concentration. I will be sure to begin my test with the Glock next time to see if I can eliminate fatigue or decreased concentration as a factor. As I mentioned earlier, there were no malfunctions in any of the pistols using this ammunition. The only exception was a failure of the RIA to lock back after the second magazine. I don’t however believe this was the fault of the ammo but rather of the gun itself. Looking back on my range notes I have experienced this failure in the RIA 1911 periodically since I’ve had it. Overall all the loaded rounds performed well, seem somewhat soft shooting, and demonstrated reasonable accuracy. I had not fired any of these handguns for nearly two months so its difficult to make any real judgement on accuracy. I’m likely a bit rusty and as I have mentioned before, not a particularly good pistol shooter in general.

In the course of writing this article I had the fortunate opportunity to get out to the range again and test a second batch of reloaded rounds using these same three pistols. The ammo was nearly identical, except that it was loaded with 4.8g of Winchester AutoComp. The maximum load of AutoComp that my Hornady manual recommends in this particular configuration is 4.9 grains and is recommended to be used cautiously. From what I gather and read it appears the Hornady is generally more conservative in their load recommendations. Unfortunately I do not have at this time any way to cross reference this data. Nevertheless I can’t think of a compelling reason to load these rounds hotter. Just like the first batch they all went bang and they all found the target with reasonable accuracy.124g Hornady FMJ-RN & 4.8g AutoComp Pistol TestThe groups do seem tighter with less flyers but I am hesitant to conclude that this is a result of the ammunition. More likely its a result of having shot just a week earlier and having been able to shake some of the rust off. I did take the opportunity to shoot the Glock first and did see some improvement in the overall group size with less of a tendency to drift low. Still found myself consistently left though. The Glock however is the newest of these pistols with the fewest rounds through it, the sights may need some tweaking or I may just need to shoot it more to find its proper balance. I will say that while the trigger on the Glock is generally excellent, it does require much more finger on it to pull. This may be a contributing factor in rounds going left.

In conclusion, the combination of the 124g Hornady FMJ-RN and the Winchester AutoComp powder makes for a reliable and reasonably accurate round for plinking and range practice. I don’t see any compelling reason to load 4.8 grains of powder when 4.4 grains seems adequate. Having some chronograph information of course would be great and would give a better understanding of each rounds performance but it simply isn’t necessary for my purposes.





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