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Thread: Need Help Fine Tuning 9mm Hand Loads

  1. #1

    Need Help Fine Tuning 9mm Hand Loads

    Hello all, once again I need your help. I recently decided to start hand loading for 9mm, have purchased and set up my dies (Leeís 4 die set including taper crimp die) and took my first 10 rounds to the range yesterday to try. I had mixed results, so thatís why Iím here with my hat in my hand.

    First, the specs:

    Iím loading a 124 gr. RN tech coated Missouri bullet (.356 diameter, 9mm) over 3.7 gr. of bullseye. Cases are of mixed head stamps, and Iím using Winchester SP primers. My gun is a Jimenez Arms JA-9. I know. If youíre not familiar with this weapon, you need to know that they are picky eaters. They have a particularly steep feed ramp and donít like HPís at all, ergo my choice of the above bullet. Also, I have had very good luck with Missouri bullet products in the past, and they are affordable.

    I chose 124 gr. weight because I had successfully shot 2 boxes of Federals and one box of CCI Blazers; all 115 gr. RN and all FMJ. No failure to feeds or failure to fires - ran like water through a sieve. I then bought a box of Tulammo steel cased ammo just because I was curious, and because they were ridiculously cheap at the big ďWĒ. I was actually pleasantly surprised at how well these shot overall in a finicky gun, but I did have one failure to feed in a box of fifty, the round jammed in an almost upright position on the feed ramp. After ejecting and reloading it, it fed and fired fine.

    I wanted to have another box for measurement and comparison before I went to the range with my first hand loaded rounds, so I went back to Wally World to score another box and of course, they were out of anything I wanted. They did have a box of Winchester 115 gr. RN with steel cases, so I bought those. I will fess up here and tell you that personally, I just havenít had much luck with Winchester ammo; it just hasnít proven to be reliable in my junk. Of course, your mileage may vary. These had some sort of coating on the cases (anti-corrosion?) that felt dirty and gritty and rubbed off on my fingers. Canít imagine it would be a good thing on the inside of a gun, but since I had bought them, I took them to the range.

    This ammo might be just fine in another gun, but ran badly through mine. I had multiple (actually lost count) failure to feeds, exhibiting the same problem shown in the one FTF in my box of Tulammo. The rounds would jam in the upright position against the feed ramp. Once ejected and reloaded, all Winchesters fired just fine. All the above stated just to bring you to the present with my hand loads.

    I wished I had saved a couple of the Federal or CCI rounds that ran so well, but I was just having too much fun at the range at the time and didnít. Now the only thing I had for comparison were the Winchesters. I looked in my Lymanís 49th. and they showed a 1.06Ē OAL for a 120 gr. RN. I pressed a few dummies (no primers or powder) at this length, but they seemed sloppy in the magazine and didnít seem to want to feed well. I then pressed some to a 1.15 OAL (the length of the Winchesters) and they both seemed to fit the mag better and cycled in and out of the chamber without incident. I then turned my attention to the taper crimp.

    When I set the taper crimp (measured at the case mouth) on my .32 ACPís, I set them at .003Ē smaller than the case diameter. Though I couldnít find the article, I seem to remember that to be a suggested setting for the .32ís. I also pulled out a .32 ACP S&B round I had and measured the same dimension. But I didnít know if it would be the same on 9mm. The only thing I had to compare with was the Winchesters and they measured between .004Ē-.005Ē crimp, so I set mine at .005Ē.

    The results with the hand loads were similar to the Winchesters. Three out of the ten rounds I made jammed in the upright position against the feed ramp. Once ejected and reloaded, they fed and shot fine.

    So...Iím at a point where I believe Iím close to getting it right, but need to tweak something. Question is, what? I know I could adjust either the OAL, or the taper crimp, or both. But being recently retired and on a rather scaled back income, I only seem to make it to the range about once a month now. Trial and error could go on for six months or more. I was hoping someone could weigh in with some helpful suggestions that might take some of the guesswork out of it. Anybody?

  2. #2
    Boolit Master
    mdi's Avatar
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    You could try varying OAL with dummies and hand cycle your gun...
    My Anchor is holding fast!

  3. #3
    Boolit Master
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    As always, there is the starting place. Usually slug the barrel to make SURE that the bullet you want to use will be larger than the groove diameter. Next of that two part step will be to determine that it is not TOO large to chamber.

    Second step would be to use the dowel rod or cleaning rod to determine the Max Cartridge OAL so you can at least try to get the nose of the cartridge supported by the beginning of the lands when chambered (but not too long to fully chamber and extract without firing) That is checked with the plunk test. I use a similar weight cast bullet with conventional lube and also know that the load and powder you have selected will cycle the action in most 9MM Semi-auto guns. Might as well sort your brass by headstamp to prevent that red herring of random junk brass screwing up the results. Get that done and you are ready to start again. Dusty

  4. #4
    Boolit Master
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    okay so you have good cycling, and then you turn down the crimp and you don't.
    the first thing I would do is revisit the barely crimped rounds.
    you don't want or need to be cranking down on the taper crimp die with cast.
    if you do that your next question will be about how to get the lead out of your barrel.
    you just want the case mouth ironed flat against the side of the bullet.

    it still might be your next question with the 356 bullets.
    I know what the book says about barrel diameters specified as this or that.
    they didn't measure your gun they went by what it should be.

    to re-cap make some more dummy rounds.
    make them a little long [say 1.2] with the barely flat taper crimp and try them.
    first just plunk them in the barrel [check for length and adjust] then try them in the magazine.
    work down slowly until you can feed 3 of them through the gun from the magazine with no hitches or tight feeling in the chamber.
    there is your oal and taper necessary from there [.001 more is enough]
    now you can do a load work up to take to the range.
    it's all an educated guess,,,, till the trigger is pulled.

    this opinion brought to you by mister low-tech solution..

  5. #5
    Boolit Master
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    I'd try a shorter OAL. Like 1.13 or 1.14. Sometimes It can make a difference.

    I use the Lee taper crimp die but only the body portion to help remove any flare from expanding the case. Cast bullets should have a larger diameter than jacketed bullets and this helps prevent any setback from occurring. A taper crimp isnt really going to do much anyways. You'll squish the lead and it doesn't have as much spring back as the brass. In effect all you are doing is resizing the bullet smaller than it should be. I've loaded the same round 10 times without any setback.

  6. #6
    Just for clarification, this is a "Hi-Tek" coated lead bullet that says "Hardness optimized. Brinell 18." Any effect on taper crimp? Also just to recap, once chambered all rounds fired normally and "felt" in terms of recoil, pretty much identical to the factory loads.

  7. #7
    Boolit Master OS OK's Avatar
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    You know, what is curious to me is those rounds getting caught vertically instead of going into battery...
    I think I'd be trying a . . . 'TL-356-124TC'


    ...especially since you are coating them.
    a m e r i c a n p r a v d a

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  8. #8
    Boolit Master
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    Since you are purchasing your bullets from Missouri Bullet CO, you might consider these. I prefer the Lee 356-120-TC with Lithi-Bee lube, but to each their own. Sometimes lube or coating variations can cause a problem. Much like problems from mixed head stamp cases. It sounds like the nose of the bullet is catching on the feed ramp, which might be a short cartridge OAL. Is that the issue or is the nose jammed up against the barrel hood? Is the ramp clean and polished? Do you know how to determine the cartridge OAL with a dowel or cleaning rod? If not PM me. It might also be that if this is a new gun, it just needs more jacketed rounds to polish things up. I hope you have correctly lubricated the firearm. Pictures might be a help if you have that ability.

    9 Cone - Hi-Tek
    View Larger Image
    9 Cone - Hi-Tek

    #HT-356125CN
    .356 Diameter
    9mm Parabellum
    125 Grain 9MM Cone
    Brinell 18
    For Smooth Feed
    Hi-Tek 2-Extreme Coating from J&M Specialized Products P/L
    Color may vary
    Price per box of 500

    Price does not include shipping.
    Price: $35.00

  9. #9
    Boolit Master
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    3.7 grains of Bullseye behind a 124 grain bullet should feel like a realatively light load. It's close to a starting load and probably around 26,000 to 27,000 PSI. It should be enough to cycle the gun but I can feel a big difference from my loads at 3.9 grains of Bullseye and the average factory 124 grain load.

  10. #10
    OS OK - I actually first pressed some dummies using a .356" diameter, 125 gr. copper plated, "modified" HP Berry's bullet I already had for .38 Special which looks a lot like the picture of your bullet without the canular. It's virtually the same length as my 9mm's. Wouldn't chamber worth a **** in this gun.

    Just curious...would anyone happen to any 9mm, 115 gr. Federal or CCI jacketed RN with brass cases they would be willing to measure OAL and case mouth diameter? Might just be helpful since these ran so well through the gun.

  11. #11
    Dusty Bannister - This gun only has 200 - 250 rounds through it so no, not exactly broken in yet. Yes, it is properly slathered in lube as I clean and lube after every trip to the range. If my trials continue, I'll try to get some pics...though I'll probably have to provide a link to Drop Box as I've never had any success posting photos here.

  12. #12
    Boolit Master OS OK's Avatar
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    I thought the small meplat and truncated cone might want to go into battery without jamming.
    The boolit has to do a double bankshot, richochet into the chamber as it's boosted out of the magazine...

    You might look at the feed ramp with a magnifying glass to see if it has any machine tool marks that would inhibit the cast.
    I polished mine in the 1911 with 600 grit glued to a ball point pen with the rubber finger thingie around the front of the pen barrel, comfort grip...dunnoh what to call it but it mirror/polished the feed ramp without removing any metal or reshaping it.
    a m e r i c a n p r a v d a

    Be a Patriot . . . expose their lies!

    ďIn a time of deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.Ē G. Orwell

    2018 is going to be a 'Jaw-Dropping Year' . . . 'The Year', the World was born to live . . .
    just, "watch your 6" .

  13. #13
    Boolit Master




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    Seems to me RFR had it nailed to what you need to do. You had issues when you started turning down the taper crimp. 9mm is just like the old 45acp, 40, ect ect. They seat on the case mouth. If you're seating OAL within specs, and still getting out of battery issues, look at your crimp. If you're getting dummies to seat using the old stand by, plunk testing, why would you consider tightening the crimp? Only time to consider a firmer crimp is you load a mag, fire a few rounds and then measure however many you have in the mag and see that your OAL has changed, or you've nailed it down on it functioning flawlessly, and you decide to tighten or loosen the crimp for grouping tests.

  14. #14
    OK folks, thanks to all who responded, I considered everything you all suggested. Here’s where I am for now:

    I spent almost all day playing with this. As several suggested, I looked at the feed ramp for any issues. Didn’t need a magnifying glass; it looked like it had been machined with a coarse file! I opened up the gun and massaged the feed ramp gently with a Dremel tool. I resisted the urge to polish it to a mirror finish as I was concerned about removing too much metal. I mostly concentrated on providing a smooth transition and lowering the high spots – there were several. Before I started, I noticed there were significant scuffs being put on the bullet and one spot on the side of the case mouth. Afterward, bullet scuffing was much reduced (this is a very soft tek coating on these bullets), and no more marks on the case.

    I then decided what I was going to change with the bullets. It was suggested that I try both longer and shorter lengths. Since the bullets I had pressed to 1.15” seemed to come fairly close to filling the magazine wall to wall, and my Lyman’s manual called for a much shorter OAL (1.06”), I decided to go conservatively shorter at 1.13”. I also adjusted my crimp lighter at .003”. I then pressed up 5 dummies and tried to cycle the gun repeatedly.

    As earlier alluded to, this gun is still fairly new and far from smooth. A good way to describe it is “stiff and crunchy”. So I did have it fail to eject a couple of times by hand, I believe due to just not enough violence that would be caused by the round firing. The good news is (if any) is that none of the rounds hung in the upright position as happened previously, and as long as the previous round didn’t fail to eject, each round chambered properly. So, yay.

    Not really much more I can tell till I get back to the range which will be a week or more. I’ll keep monitoring this thread for any new advice and report back with my results. Thanks to everyone!
    Last edited by Javelin Dan; 11-13-2017 at 09:43 PM.

  15. #15
    Boolit Master
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    A load of 3.7 grains of bullseye and a 124 grain bullet will get you a lot of stovepipes on a new crispy gun. I found that both my rugeers it took 4.2 grains to cycle properly. You had the OAL at 1.150 so 4.2 grains will be just fine. I never tried that load with a shorter oal. It might get into pressure problems.
    An easy cure is to use WSF. It can be loaded from 5.4 grains up to 6 grains with no ill effects. WSF is a very forgiving powder.
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  16. #16
    As promised, I am checking back to report my progress. I finally made it to the range yesterday to test my 9mm hand loads. I only took 20 rounds for this gun (donít worry Ė I shot plenty of others!) as I didnít want to have to pull a bunch of bullets if I felt something was not right. Out of the first 10, I probably had 6 that failed to go into battery. This time, there was a new problem. The round would launch out of the magazine and land against the left side of the chamber (as viewed from the back of the gun) out of the rail but parallel to the barrel. I would have to hold open the slide, tip the gun to the side, and let the round fall out. Then the next round may or may not chamber. As I reloaded the removed rounds, I fared a little better. In fact, in the last ten I fired, all but 2 chambered properly. Once chambered properly, all rounds fired and ejected without incident. By the way, I took lwknight's advice and loaded at 4.2 grains of bullseye. A little more felt recoil, but very snappy ejection.

    The real story was revealed after I picked up and examined my spent brass, though I wasnít quite ready to process the info just yet. Each casing had a pretty uniform pattern of vertical (lengthwise) scratches for about 180 degrees of its circumference. This came into focus for me after I got home under a bright light and took a good hard look at the inside of my gun.

    My previous effort to polish the feed ramp had been insufficient to say the least. My earlier priority had been to remove as little material as possible. But in doing that I had left a smoother-than-before but still rough finish to the ramp which amounted to a scared surface with deep scratches in it. No doubt these scratches were scuffing up the cases and probably exerting undue friction on the round as it tried to chamber. But more than that, I noticed a rather large lump of metal left over from the casting process on the far right side of the feed ramp. In my mindís eye, I could see the round flying out of the magazine, hitting that metal ďhillĒ and ricocheting off to the left and landing exactly where it did, left of center before going into battery. I got out my Dremel tool, took the gun down, and went to work.

    I used 3 progressively finer media to first grind down the lump, blend the entire ramp into a uniform surface, and polish it smooth. I then pressed up 5 new dummy rounds ( no primers or powder), and cycled them through the gun manually. What a difference! Each round snapped sharply into battery and ejected smartly. I repeated the cycle 3 times then inspected the dummy rounds. No scuffs or marks of any kind! Even the waxy-soft tech coating on the bullets was unmarked. Now, of course I wonít know anything before I get back to the range and live-fire the weapon, but Iím very encouraged by this. If Iím not where I need to be, I believe Iím very close. Iíll report back when I know more.

  17. #17
    Boolit Master Black Prince's Avatar
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    Javelin Dan quote
    Just curious...would anyone happen to any 9mm, 115 gr. Federal or CCI jacketed RN with brass cases they would be willing to measure OAL and case mouth diameter? Might just be helpful since these ran so well through the gun.









    Best I could do per your request. In case no one told you, the 9 mm is a PIA to load cast bullets.
    Last edited by Black Prince; 12-07-2017 at 09:38 PM.
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  18. #18
    Boolit Master Black Prince's Avatar
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    I have tried the Lee 124 grain round nose in my Hi Powers. One is a new Mark III and the other is an FEG in excellent condition. The bore of the FEG measures .3550. The bore of the MKIII measures .3565. The lee bullets come out of the mold at 356 and leads the bore all the way down. I tried the Lee 120 Trunicated Cone. It comes out of the mold at 356 but then I powder coated it. After PC, it measured 358. I sized and LUBED it to 357. It will not chamber in either of my Hi Powers no matter what the OAL is. In fact, locking the slide back and inserting the magazine and tripping the slide release will not load it into the chamber. I tried the Lee LH 358-150 RN bullet. It does not lead when sized to 357, but it will not function reliably NO MATTER WHAT the OAL is. Lots of failure to feeds. I am about to just load jacketed bullets and say SCREW IT.
    Last edited by Black Prince; 12-07-2017 at 06:43 PM.
    The America I love was when the engine was a V-8, the exhausts were dual, the shift was four on the floor, the white walls were wide, the chrome was thick, the women were straight, and there was no such thing as the as the EPA.

  19. #19
    Thanks Black Prince, I appreciate your input. When I started trying to handload for .32 ACP, I went through the same trials. In that chambering, I cried "Uncle" too and just stayed with a Berry's 71 gr. copper plated RN bullet. Those go through all my .32 ACP's like you-know-what through a goose. Don't really know what my thought process was here, but the bullets are inexpensive and that dark red coated bullet sitting on top of that shiny case looks like a high school girl's lipstick. Brings out the teenager in me...50 years on!

  20. #20
    Ok...I know this thread is long dead, but I just thought I'd come back one more time and wrap it up in case anyone stumbles across it later and wonders if I finally solved the problem. It appears I did. I just made it back to the range again today and I took 30 rounds with me to try, and every single one cycled perfectly! Just to recap; these are 126 gr. RN .356" diameter high-tek coated Missouri Bullets over 4 gr. Red Dot (ran out of Bullseye). These rounds were pressed to an OAL of 1.13" with a .002" taper crimp. I originally thought I had set the crimp die up for a .003" crimp, but subsequent measuring of finished rounds measured closer to .002". As stated earlier, I also had to clean up and polish the feed ramp on my Jimenez Arms JA-9.

    I actually knew better as I had previously owned a JA-32, and it had greatly benefited from a procedure documented on the interweb known as the "JA Fluff-N-Buff". A simple set of instructions detailing breaking down the gun and suggesting areas likely to need detailing. I always expected I might need to do this to my 9mm, but wanted to see how far I could get without it. New, it flawlessly ate a couple of different Federals and even the lowly Tulammo's I threw at it, but got indigestion on my handloads until I polished everything up nicely. Now it's running like Niagra Falls in the springtime! I think I can call this problem "Solved". Life is good!

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Abbreviations used in Reloading

BP Bronze Point IMR Improved Military Rifle PTD Pointed
BR Bench Rest M Magnum RN Round Nose
BT Boat Tail PL Power-Lokt SP Soft Point
C Compressed Charge PR Primer SPCL Soft Point "Core-Lokt"
HP Hollow Point PSPCL Pointed Soft Point "Core Lokt" C.O.L. Cartridge Overall Length
PSP Pointed Soft Point Spz Spitzer Point SBT Spitzer Boat Tail
LRN Lead Round Nose LWC Lead Wad Cutter LSWC Lead Semi Wad Cutter
GC Gas Check