Just got back from shooting my first box of my own 9mm reloads and I thought I would share some results.
These were all 115gr plated RN HSM bullets. I bought them just for making target ammo. They are sold in boxes of 250 and are pretty cheap so I inspected them and measured some random samples and they were very consistent. +1 to HSM for a quality target round.
The Hodgdon site suggests 4.0 gr. min and 4.5 gr. max for this bullet and the “Universal” powder. I wasn’t ready to manufacture 100+ without some quick testing and I’m glad I waited.
I manufactured 20 of each at 4.0, 4.2, and 4.5 gr of powder. Crimp and seating depth were unchanged through the cycle.
I didn’t measure but I was roughly 25 feet from my targets, I’m pretty comfortable from this range especially when trying out new stuff (more on that in a minute).
I had problems right off the bat with the light loads. The 4 grain loads had feed problems in my XDM. Every 3rd or 4th round was stovepiping which was very unusual, this pistol has been a rock-solid performer with factory ammo. Not good. Here’s my target:
I was extremely comfortable with my mechanics. Those low-fliers? Not me. And yes, I did mislabel all my targets with 40,42 and 45 instead of 4.0, 4.2 and 4.5. Pretty consistent load, but the feed problems kill it and I think they were also responsible for the low shots.
Next up was the 4.2 gr. I had 2 more stovepipes with these so they were just a little light on the powder. Check the target.
A few rounds are a little high and again, I think 2 of those can probably be credited to the stovepiping and the lack of a solid chambering afterwards. Pretty damn consistent! This was my best target of the day.
On to the 4.5 gr.:
I made the mistake of putting down the 9mm, changing out targets and then deciding to have a little fun with the new .44. I did! It was! Shooting a silky smooth piece of history like that Super Blackhawk was awesome. Unfortunately, I think it made me nervous for the rest of the time I was shooting. I was running HSM “Bear Loads” through it and they were vicious. 305 grain bullets and man did they pack a punch. The new Hogue grips took care of the pinching problem, but unfortunately didn’t save my palm from a big ol’ gnarly blister. I also failed to bring a screwdriver with me that would fit the sites, stupid mistake. It is consistently high and a little left.
Anyway, the 4.5 gr. rounds. All of the feed problems were fixed with a few more grains of powder. No problems whatsoever. I could feel a little sharper recoil with these that I didn’t notice going from the 4.0 to 4.2. However, here’s the target.
Now, I know a couple of those fliers were just plain old me. I was a little shaky and “gun shy” after blowing some very large holes in a beetle killed Ponderosa pine. The whole tree was shuddering every time one of those massive .44 mags hit it. Bullwrinkle can attest to how much fun those Ruger’s are, but they are stressful to shoot more than 18-24 rounds through. ( I put a full box of 50 through mine +12 .44 specials)
For the most part, those 4.5 loads were very consistent, but a couple of those rounds are sort of “inbetweeners”. I’m confident that I could dial back just a little on the powder (say 4.4 grains) and get the best of both worlds with good consistency and good feed.
Looking forward to hearing about the pig hunt.
The XDm series have fairly heavy main springs. The light loads may work in some pistols with lighter springs, and not in others with heavier springs.
If you are certain that the loading issues are due to the powder charge (and I’d agree this is the most likely problem), you have two choices, both with drawbacks.
First choice: if you want to shoot the light loads, you can get lighter springs. My boss does this in his competition XD’s (3.4 grains of Universal behind a 180 grain .40 cal). I would only do this if you were going to stay with one load. If you go back to higher power ammo on the same spring, the risk of failure due to the slide slamming on the frame grows.
Second choice: Find the right charge to meet reliability/shootability in the middle as you’ve suggested. This may also require tinkering with different bullets to dial it in. The downside is time/cost, and potentially having scores of “junk” rounds created in the process.
I’d advise you to first take a hard look at the cases after loading — is the brass clean and shiny? Are you getting a good and consistent crimp? Are the bullets seating consistently?
Other things to try: run the same loads in different magazines to see if anything changes. Powder/primer effectiveness can also change dramatically with temperature. What doesn’t cycle well in a Montana February may work in June (lots of information on this out there in the interwebz). Lastly, you could experiment with the same loads using different primers.
No interest in changing the springs so I’m left to tinker with the ammo.
This doesn’t seem like a drawback to me. This is why I bought reloading gear in the first place. I fell pretty good about the ammo quality itself. I took my time cleaning/sizing measuring everything as I went. I’m using the Lee 4 die set with the factory crimper and I made all of the ammo in the same run with changes only to the amount of powder.I would also like to continue using the same locally manufactured bullets for target ammo.
I’m going to build out some ammo with 4.4 grains this week and try it out. If it gets a little hotter in the summer (no pun intended) I’m OK with that.
Thanks for the input!
Have you tried these since the weather has warmed up?
I just loaded up some entry level loads – 3.8 gr of Universal behind a 125 gr LCN cast bullet. Want to see if I can get my Beretta to the point where it will minimize muzzle flip and still rack the slide – something to start doing IPSC-ish speed drills.
I have been shooting my 4.4 loads with good results but I have not tried dialing down at all. I acquired a large amount of Hi-Skor 700x from my neighbor and had the exact same experience with the lightest of those loads. I tried 3.9. 4.0 and 4.1 gr. loads and the 3.9’s produced feed problems. My XDm just prefers a little more powder to cycle consistently. I don’t remember much about the Beretta, if it has lighter springs you mat be able to run some very light stuff through it. Everything I produced showed very good accuracy, feed was the only issue.