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kneelingatlas

So you want to load 9 Major? Here's what to do!

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As our process becomes routine, there are many pieces of knowledge we take for granted; recently I've seen some questions from new 9 Major shooters who are missing some of the basics so here are some pointers off the top of my head, please feel free to add to them, but please stick to advice for beginners so the thread doesn't get too long :cheers:

1. Use a chronograph. Barrel length, barrel age, powder lot, number of holes, manufacturer, bore size, and bullet diameter will produce variations in velocity so always chrono new loads and new guns.

2. Don't be lazy. For all the reasons above others can give you an idea what to expect, but it's important for you to test your own loads in your own guns. Not only is this a safe practice, it helps you develop your instinct for the effects the countless variables will have.

3. Choose an overall length (OAL not AOL, LOL :roflol: ) using your bullet in your barrel BEFORE you begin load development. The same chamber may accept round nosed bullets as long as 1.180", but jacketed hollow points may hit the rifling at 1.10". The idea is to find a length which fits in your mags, feeds reliably, and won't touch the lans of the rifling (your seating die pushes down on the shoulder of the bullet, not the tip, so the OAL will vary with slight variations in the shape of the bullet). If you want to load longer than your barrel will allow, you can try a different bullet profile or ream your chamber; Google search Manson Reamers or talk to your gunsmith. "Loading long" can be a tool to widen the useful range of a powder although it also increased the charge weight required to make the same PF.

4. Use an appropriate powder. Here's a link to the most recent Hodgdon burn rate chart, it will give you an idea. https://www.hodgdon.com/PDF/Burn%20Rates%20-%202015-2016.pdf

I have always operated under the assumption "burn rate" correlates the charge weight required to achieve a given velocity, i.e.: a larger charge of a slower powder results in the same velocity as a smaller charge of a faster powder. I don't know how Hodgdon calculates "burn rate" nor how closely my concept of burn rate correlates with theirs, but previous editions of their chart agreed with my real world data perfectly. Unfortunately their latest revision places HS6 on the faster side of the other popular 9 major powders which doesn't jive with my concept of burn rate nor my data.

In my mind I group 9 major powders as fast, medium and slow:

Fast (7ish grains for major with a 115):
CFE Pistol
Autocomp
Silhouette

Medium (8ish grains for major with a 115):
HS6
Longshot

Slow (9ish grains for major with a 115):
SP2
3N38

These are just powders I've tested, but don't include: 3N37, N350, N105, AA#5, AA#7, True Blue, etc.

Generally speaking slower powders produce less pressure at the same PF and more gas to help the comp keep the muzzle down. Another advantage to slower powders is that they tend to behave better at their upper limits; for example: when loading Longshot the limits are fairly low above which more powder results in lower velocities, for me (using 115gr bullets) this was right around 165pf dropping 8.4gr. Conversely SP2 (very similar to 3N38), is stable all the way up to 9.5gr (~181pf), but then starts to decline.

5. "Work up" to your loads. For example, if you've searched the forums and see most people with a similar gun/load are loading 7.2gr of X load a test batch of 5-10 rounds each of 6.4gr, 6.6gr, 6.8gr, 7.0gr, 7.2gr, 7.4gr, 7.6gr, 7.8gr. Start by firing your smallest charge over the chronograph, record the results and work your way up all the while checking your brass/primers for signs of pressure. If you get past where you want to be, stop and pull the rest of the test loads when you get home. Even know most 9 Major loads are beyond the max book loads, it's a good idea to look up the powder/bullet you want to use and see just how far off the charts you expect to be. Within the usable range of the powder you can reasonably extrapolate in a linear fashion with regards to charge weight, OAL, and velocity; for example, Hodgdon lists a max load under 115gr JHPs @ 1.125" of 5.6gr for a velocity of 1,161" (133.5pf) so if you increase the OAL to 1.165" (3.6% increase), you can expect to need 3.6% more powder to make the same PF (5.8gr). Then if you want to increase the velocity by 27% and increase the charge by 27% you get a charge of 7.36gr. The max book charge for HS6 under 115s make a pf of 142, but Vihtavuori lists a max load for 3N38 under a 115gr JHP which makes 170.5pf: 9.4gr under a 115gr JHP @1.161" (listed under 9x21, but can be loaded in 9x19).

That's it for now, I'm sure other members will have good points to add.

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Great stuff, Kneeling.

You might want to add a small section on bullet setback ...

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Great stuff, Kneeling.

You might want to add a small section on bullet setback ...

Do I have to do everything around here?!? :sight:

I don't have to worry about setback because the case is packed solid with powder :devil:

Edited by kneelingatlas

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Thank you for posting this, my neck was getting sore after reading the past few dozen "I'm thinking about getting into loading 9 Major" threads and just sitting here shaking my head. I have nothing to add :cheers:

Edit: other than to add, if you're head isn't into it, don't do it. I've just gone through cancer treatment and surgery (surgery last week). I won't even think about shooting until everything turns clear again. When I start feeling better I'll start by helping out at matches.

Edited by Bkreutz

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Excellent summary, I'm about to start down the 9 major road. I'm gonna bookmark this for future reference.

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And remember, the search function works pretty well if you just use it. It's all in here somewhere.

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good post kneeling atlas,

it answered some of the questions I had about the relatinships of reloading.

and It is a little odd to read about reloading and have so little useful info.

a couple of things I have read. powder speeds has a pressure variable.

so the speed of a powder is also at a certain presssure

(and like so many bits of reloading data.... the skip what speed they got and at what expected pressure....)

and they don't seem to mention speed/ramp-up pressure which can be helpful when one is outside the published load data.

the other item is an engineering consideration.

anyone who wants to shoot major pf should consider using a larger caliber.

I can't prove that 9mm and major pf is harder on the pistol.

it is hard to imagine the pistol will not take a beating from the added forces.

As one may chose.

There is no problem knowing where the real limits for your shootin' iron stand..

miranda

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Great post. Can you actually get to 170ish with Long Shot in 9? In SC it was right at the upper limit.

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Solid info! Thanks!

I am getting my reloading station set up (gather necessary tools etc.) I will be loading 9mm minor for Production class to start (this was a suggestion i read on here too) as I build my 9mm Open gun to shoot 9mm Major.

Questions -

  • I plan on keeping components the same for both loads (minor and major) and attempting to make PF by powder charge change only. Does this make sense? It keep organization and cost down too - just buy a huge lot of either 115 or 125 bullets, same powder, etc. Just keeps things simpler in my opinion.
  • I see a mix of people using 115 and 125 as the most common load in 9mm for both minor and major. After doing some math it makes sense to use a 125 grn bullet as it takes a little less velocity (and thus less powder, pressure, etc.) to make both Minor and major PF. Am I correct in assuming it would be a good idea to test both 115 and 125 and see what works best? It seems like that is always the end of a discussion "You'll have to try it out and see what works!" nothing wrong with that, just want to make sure my thought process is inline.

Lastly, how does my 'formula' look for both minor and major (not asking opinion on bullet brand choice, etc, just the hard data, thanks in advance! All my components and numbers are based off the reading I've been doing here and in loading manuals and what sems to come up the most)

  • 9mm Minor for production division
    • once or 2+ fired brass
    • Federal Small Pistol Primers
    • The Blue Bullets 125 grn
    • 4.4 - 4.6 grn Hodgdon CFE (exact load would be tested, but this is what their website data shows would easily make PF of 130)
    • 125 at 4.4 = 130 PF (+5 than necessary for a variance buffer)
  • 9mm MAJOR for Open division
    • Once Fired Brass
    • Federal Small Pistol Primers
    • The Blue Bullets 125 grn
    • 5.5 - 7 grn Hodgdon CFE (VERY rough estimate)
    • Need a velocity of ~1360 to make 170 PF (+5 for a variance buffer)

Thank you so much for all the information!!

-James

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Jim, I use different bullets for 9mm Minor and Major - easier to tell them apart

and prevent an accident in my Minor gun.

Plus, I prefer a lighter bullet in OPEN Major, and a heavier bullet in Limited Minor.

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Jim, I use different bullets for 9mm Minor and Major - easier to tell them apart

and prevent an accident in my Minor gun.

Plus, I prefer a lighter bullet in OPEN Major, and a heavier bullet in Limited Minor.

Jack,

I totally understand the logic on different bullets do differentiate! makes a lot of sense.

Why do you prefer lighter in Open? Just trying to learn as much as I can! reloading is the unknown frontier to me, I've always just shot what was bought off the shelf. Getting into USPSA and wanting to compete in open has necessitated learning re-loading :-)

Thanks in advance!

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Yeah, that seems to be the ceiling regardless of caliber/bullet weight.

edited to add quote function not working. This is to the Kneeling's comment that the limit for Long Shot is about 165,

Edited by Neomet

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Lastly, how does my 'formula' look for both minor and major (not asking opinion on bullet brand choice, etc, just the hard data, thanks in advance! All my components and numbers are based off the reading I've been doing here and in loading manuals and what sems to come up the most)

  • 9mm Minor for production division
    • once or 2+ fired brass
    • Federal Small Pistol Primers
    • The Blue Bullets 125 grn
    • 4.4 - 4.6 grn Hodgdon CFE (exact load would be tested, but this is what their website data shows would easily make PF of 130)
    • 125 at 4.4 = 130 PF (+5 than necessary for a variance buffer)
  • 9mm MAJOR for Open division
    • Once Fired Brass
    • Federal Small Pistol Primers
    • The Blue Bullets 125 grn
    • 5.5 - 7 grn Hodgdon CFE (VERY rough estimate)
    • Need a velocity of ~1360 to make 170 PF (+5 for a variance buffer)

Thank you so much for all the information!!

-James

I understand your desire to consolidate. I've owned guns in dozens of calibers, but for simplicity's sake I sold off all my pistols except those in .22 or 9mm. I load 9 minor and 9 major with two different die heads on my Dillon 650. Unfortunately for your plan, the optimal approach to minor and major are opposites: light bullets and slow powder for major; heavy bullets and fast powder for minor. A minor load using slow powder and a light(ish) bullet will have a stout recoil impulse in a Production gun.

Personally I prefer 115s in Open and 147s or 135s in Production, but the I feel like the burn rate of the powder used has an even bigger impact than the bullet weight: Titegroup, Clays, Bullseye, Solo1000, WST, N320, etc. are good, fast powders for minor while 3N38, HS6, WAC, CFE Pistol, Silhouette, etc. are more appropriate for major.

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JamesDickinson

my reading and looking is that major is easier to do with heavier bullets.

and there are published loads for 147grain 9mm bullets that make power factor.

look at VV sn38

I also recall AA#7 has a similar loading.

so you can start close to major....

miranda

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miranda,

The reason to use light bullets over large charges of slow powder is to produce large amounts of gas volume, which is what the comp needs to keep the muzzle down and to mitigate the straight back recoil. The VV book charge for 3N38 under a 147gr is 6.9gr to make 177pf, but they also list 9.4gr of 3N38 under a 115 to make 171pf which produces a lot more gas.

For an extreme example of the light bullet/large charge approach I always recommend people try 95 or 100 grain .380 bullets over a big charge of slow powder. Although the minimum bullet weight for Open Major in USPSA is 112 (120 for IPSC), 100gr bullets doing 1,650fps shoot amazingly flat and soft!

Look a the difference in muzzle flip between a 115 over 10gr of SP2 vs a 100gr bullet over 11gr of SP2:



3 squares vs 2! Edited by kneelingatlas

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I prefer a lighter bullet in OPEN Major, .

Why do you prefer lighter in Open?

The lighter the bullet, the more powder you have to pour in to make Major,

​and the more powder, the more gas is produced - so your comp works better.

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IIRC, 124 gn bullets were the most common at Open Nats by a pretty large margin.

Top Bullet Weight 2015 Open Nats.

124... 66%
115... 12%
125... 12%

121... 10%

You can basically group 124 and 125 as the same. So 78% to 12%
I flirted with 115's for a brief period and thought they were horrible and the timer verified my thoughts.

What is going on with fonts changing sizes on their own? Must be spooks in the matrix.

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Kneelingatlas,

That is all very sound advice and should be followed. I would like to add that depending on how tight (or not tight) your chamber is you may need to sort your brass. I cannot safely load PMC, some WCC and a few others that are too soft. Win, RP and FC all work good for me.

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KeelingAtlas,

Thanks for the informative post. I've just started to test some reloads and so far I'm liking W572 w/ 124 MG JHPs. I haven't built an HS-6 or WAC load to test it against yet, but it's in the making.

-Jim

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I haven't built an HS-6 or WAC load to test it against yet, but it's in the making

​I've never tried W572, but the HS6 and WAC are what I've been using for the past ten years.

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On 6/28/2016 at 3:48 PM, Shadyscott999 said:


I flirted with 115's for a brief period and thought they were horrible and the timer verified my thoughts.

 

I have been shooting open 9major in a 2011 platform for just over 2 years now, and have always used 124/125 grain bullets. I have been contemplating going to 115 grain bullets to see if the extra gas can get me flatter.

What did you dislike about the 115’s that made you think they were horrible? Do you have holes?

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One thing I learned is to take all reviews, opinions, suggestions etc on here with a grain of salt. 

 If 100 people say to use 124's and zero say to use 115's then that probably means 115's suck and you can try them but they will most likely suck. 

If several people are shooting both then chances are you will be able to test them and hopefully pick one. But both would be fine.

 I switched to 115's for a year or more. They grouped better for me on the clock so the timing must have been better suited with the hotter loads. Now I'm drifting back towards heavier bullets because the 115 loads are pretty harsh and the benefit turned out to be a little less important than I first thought.

Try them both

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