FTF Question - what am I missing?


November 10, 2009, 10:47 AM
Reloading newbie here with what I'm hoping is a newb question.

I'm trying to load 9mm 124 grain JHP rounds but having trouble and not sure what the problem is. Details are below but the problem is the round is failing to completely chamber and then keeping the slide from closing. This happens with all of my 9mm firearms (no glocks). My Beretta gave a little more information as the slide jammed when I attempted to chamber one of these rounds, and when I finally got it to rack back, the casing was removed but the bullet remained jammed in the back of the barrel. This is leading me to believe the problem is either with OAL or the bullet itself, but I could be wrong, which is why I'm asking here.

Here are the details of the components, hopefully someone can tell me what I'm doing wrong.
Lee Single Stage Breech Lock Press with Lee 9mm Carbide 4 die set
Brass: once-fired Winchester Winclean 9mm brass, .747-.750" length
Bullet: 124 grain, .355-.356" width copper plated 9mm JHP from Berry's mfg
Primer: (none at the moment) eventually Winchester small pistol
Powder: (none at the moment) eventually bullseye

Loaded cartridge:
1.1425-1.1435" OAL
.3785-.3795" width at end of casing

I'm a little concerned about reducing the OAL to less than 1.142" as that is the listed minimum OAL for a 124 grain copper plated 9mm in my reloading manuals. Not sure what other information is needed but I guess the main question is am I missing something obvious? If I need to just reduce the OAL, doesn't that eventually start creating dangerous amounts of pressure inside the casing?

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Jim Watson
November 10, 2009, 11:03 AM
If they won't go in the chamber, they won't shoot.

It looks like you need some taper crimp on the case, at least eliminate the flare or close it down SLIGHTLY.

If you stuck a bullet in the rifling, the OAL is too long. Seat the bullets and crimp to where the round will chamber FREELY and extract in one piece.

Yes, shorter OAL will reduce working volume in the case and increase chamber pressure. That is what the boring fine print about "starting loads" and "working up" is about. My Lyman book gives a starting load for a 125 grain bullet whether cast or jacketed at 3.3 grains of Bull and with an OAL less than 1.14. Don't make up too many at that light a load, it might not function your guns. If not, work up until it does.

November 10, 2009, 11:06 AM
First of all, get a case gage. Any of your barrels will do in the short term but a case gage is a simple way fo diagnosing issues like this. Drop the round in there and you will be able to see where it is hanging up in the gage and quickly diagnose this.

1.142" is not too long for 9mm, the maximum length is 1.169" but the longest I personally use, even with 124s is 1.130". You can find ample load data with a shorter OAL, online or in reloading manuals. If it is indeed that you are sticking the bullet in the barrel, you'll be able to tell by removing the barrel and dropping the round in.

When you say, "width at the end of the casing" are you referring to the crimp diameter at the mouth? If it is, I would turn that down slightly to 0.377", I have noticed that leaving the case mouth at or near the maximum spec of 0.380" will cause some rounds not to chmaber properly. Again, if you had a case gage, you would IMMEDIATELY be able to see that since the round would drop in backwards but not forward, telling you that the size issue is at the case mouth.

So, take out a barrel and drop the round in there to see where your issue is.

November 10, 2009, 11:35 AM
You've already got the only case gauge that matters... your barrel. Remove it from your Beretta, drop a factory round in, and note the position of the case in the barrel. Now try one of your reloads and note the position. Is it the same? If yes then you should be good to go. If not, then check your crimp and/or reduce the COL to get the same position as the factory round. My experience with the 9mm is that you should crimp just enough to remove the flare. I must confess that I've never measured a crimp in my life (never had to). Case tension is what holds the bullet in place, not the taper crimp.

For my own curiosity, which Beretta are you shooting? I ask only because my Cougar and 92FS chamber anything 1.169" COL or less.

November 10, 2009, 11:37 AM
Use a case gauge or a barrel and see what the max length you can load to. I load 9mm for a Sig P6. Max length for this pistol is 1.065 or it will stick in the lands. All ready said but start at the lowest charge and work your way up.
For 124 gr LRN I started at 3.4 gr bullseye and worked up to 3.8. Works good in the P6.

chris in va
November 10, 2009, 11:42 AM
I had the same problem loading 124gr TC bullets. Initial OAL was 1.11 as suggested in my Lyman manual, but they wouldn't chamber in my CZ or HiPoint carbine.

I ended up with 1.04oal with that particular bullet. And I agree about a taper crimp, really helps in my case.

November 10, 2009, 12:31 PM
Will order a case gauge later this week.

Beretta is a 92fs INOX. Beretta allowed round to chamber right around 1.140"

I've gotten rounds to chamber in all my 9mm firearms consistently by reducing OAL of the rounds to 1.075". The pickiest barrels were from the P6 and XD, which both needed the rounds to reduce under 1.080", but consistently allowed rounds to chamber at 1.075".

My main concern with the original post was reducing the OAL under the recommended "Minimum OAL" in my reloading manuals. This being the first time I'm reloading anything, I'm a little hesitant to go against the manuals. My main concern with all things firearms is always safety and I didn't want to experience a KB firing my first reloaded round.

Given I need to reduce the OAL to 1.075" in order to get my rounds to chamber, does the consensus here think it's safe to start at 3.4 gr Bullseye with that OAL?

November 10, 2009, 12:33 PM
Is it possible that he might be using the wrong bullets for 9mm?

November 10, 2009, 12:46 PM

Both the the SIG P6 and probably the XD have very short leades designed for FMJ-RN military bullets.

Truncated cone or JHP will hit the leade sooner then a RN, and need to be seated deeper until they don't.

It is a very common problem with those and other guns with match chambers designed to work with RN bullets.

IMO: The very best case guage made is the barrel out of your pistol.
That is what it has to fit, and a case guage may not account for a short leade.


November 10, 2009, 12:49 PM
In my personal experience, Lee taper crimping dies just don't do what they are supposed to do. In both 9mm and .45ACP I've had feeding problems that were traced back to the inadequate crimp performed by Lee dies. Solved all my problems by buying "real" taper crimping dies by Hornady. I still use my Lee dies for reloading, but always finish the rounds with a Hornady taper crimp now.

I would not get histerical about the OAL. I load Lee's 121 grain lead TC and the OAL that functions well in my guns is 1.070". Yes, deep seating can raise pressures, but that is automaticly compensated for in load development. You are going to begin with a starting load and work the powder charge up, right? You wouldn't just pick a maximum charge out of a book and just load that up, right? Do it by the book, start with a low starting charge, and work your way up. Do proper load development and you don't have to worry at all what your OAL is!

November 10, 2009, 12:57 PM
Have always used the barrel to correctly gauge ammo, and have never had it not work 100% of the time to tell me what I need to know. Lots of different barrels out there with lots of different chambers/leades, so you already have the best gauge IMO and experience.

Beretta 92/M9 barrels tend to run wide on dimensions, and I have used bullets sized .359" in my M9, and customarily use them a .358 with absolutely no problems... Why should I, my barrels groove diameter is .3572" and it chambers with ease. I would be willing to bet your 92's groove diameter is north of .356", and that your chamber is generous. IMO, if your bullets are truly sized .355 or .356", then the issue is either gunk in the chamber, dies not right, crimp not right, or too long of an OAL. The bullet you are using has a very long full diameter shank, and will have to be seated accordingly. I have used very similar shaped/proportioned bullets that I cast, and routinely seated them 1.050"... Bet if you start progressively seating your bullets deeper, and your dies/crimp are good, your woes will disappear.

November 10, 2009, 01:32 PM
First of all, thank you all for the quick responses and the wealth of information.

My purpose for reloading is cost savings, as I shoot a LOT of 9mm, primarily practice plinking and competitive target shooting (IDPA, USPSA, and Bullseye). I realize that 124gr JHP isn't the ideal bullet for these purposes, but I had a friend who was moving and needed to get rid of some inventory, so he offered to sell me 2000 of the Berry's bullets for under $100, knowing I had just bought a press and was slowly acquiring reloading components. He also sold me the rest of his small pistol primers, 500, for $15, nice considering I can't currently find them anywhere else.

When I order more rounds I'll probably get RN and that should fix some of my current problems, though I'll have to start all over with my formulas again, but for the next few months I've got 2000 JHP's to work through. I'll also eventually have a set of dies for each of the competition guns, but for right now I only have one set with which I'd like to be able to produce serviceable rounds for all of the guns.

Thanks again.

November 10, 2009, 01:39 PM
F L said:
Sig P6. Max length for this pistol is 1.065 or it will stick in the lands.I agree.
Using 124 grain Berry bullets, I have to load to 1.060" to prevent leade contact in my P6.


November 10, 2009, 02:10 PM
Ok, if you want rounds for all of your 9mm pistols, then a COL of 1.075" is what you need.

I used QuickLOAD to check this shorter-than-recommended COL. Using a Speer 124gr Gold Dot HP (the closest bullet in the program's data base I could find) loaded to 1.075", 3.4gr of Bullseye computed to only 915 fps out of a 4" barrel. This might not be enough to reliably cycle all of your 9mms. If you assume a 4.2gr MAX load (the Speer #14 shows 4.4gr of Bullseye to be MAX for the 124gr GDHP at 1.120" COL), then a 10% reduction would result in a starting load of 3.8gr. QuickLOAD predicts 3.8gr of Bullseye would produce about 1000 fps out of a 4" barrel, a much better starting point which may prove to be all you need.

I'd still only load a few of these rounds at this level, and check them for function in each of my 9mm pistols before going into serious production. There's nothing worse than having to pull bullets from rounds that "should have" worked...

November 10, 2009, 05:24 PM
O: The very best case guage made is the barrel out of your pistol.

If you want to gage that round for only that gun, then you are right. Many of us shoot multiple guns with our ammunition. The best possible gage for gaging against multiple guns is well cut chamber gage cut to SAAMI specs. If it chambers in there, it will chamber in any gun cut to spec. I never have to take a barrel out of a gun and every round I load fits every gun I own. Case gages are even more useful for rounds that require setting the shoulder since you can easily check the headspace and trim length without resorting to measurement tools during your loading session.

November 10, 2009, 05:36 PM
If it chambers in there, it will chamber in any gun cut to spec.This is not true.
And I have enough guns and case guages to prove it.

As I already mentioned, some guns like the SIG P6 and certain 1911 Match barrels throated for FMJ-RN ball match ammo have to be seated shorter then standard when using TC or other bullets that are full caliber further out on the ogive then a FMJ-RN.


November 10, 2009, 10:02 PM
Your taper crimp case mouth sizes sound like they should chamber.
edit : But with a 'plated' bullet the taper crimp might be too loose at .3795.

To check for max COAL:
Use one of your once fired Win 'unsized' cases (no primer, no powder) and lightly seat a bullet by hand.

Push the case and bullet into the chamber slowly until it's all the way in, the bullet will seat against the leade.

Carefully remove it without moving the bullet. Measure the COAL. This is the COAL that will 'touch' the leade. Subtract .02"-.03", and that is the max COAL for that bullet in that gun-only. Do this a few of times (different case and bullet) to insure consistency.

Shooting a CZ 75B (leade tends to be close): I have Zero 124gr JHPs on order: and from what others are using, I expect the coal to end up around 1.1" or slightly less, looking for a 130ish PF.

November 11, 2009, 12:52 PM
This is not true.
And I have enough guns and case guages to prove it.

I hate to disagree but I have to because you are wrong. A round that fits in a properly cut case gage will fit in any gun with a properly cut chamber. Notice how specific I am being. There is no room to disagree about this because, the math doesn't lie. If you look at most SAAMI specs you will see that maximum sized cartridge will fit in the minimum chamber. That is how you guarantee function in a physical system, there is nothing special about it, it is straight-forward math.

It sounds to me that you have some gages and guns that are not cut to match SAAMI spec for a chamber. That is a completely different and, I'd like to add, a valid discussion but it is not the point I am addressing nor does it apply to the majority of cases such as the OP here. He doesn't, or at least didn't say that he has a match chamber with a leade or bore that doesn't match the industry standard spec.

November 11, 2009, 02:00 PM
I'm not being a smartass here--but what does the leade have to do with the chamber spec? I'm not aware of any caliber spec for that, at least in handguns....

For example: while my 357M case gauge clearly shows me where a round may be out of spec--and, it will at least allow me to see/feel whether or not it exceeds MAX OAL, it clearly does not show me anything about where that longer bullet will engage the rifling.

Jim H.

November 11, 2009, 02:13 PM
That is exactly right.

A case guage does not measure bullet ogive, or where the leade starts in any particular barrel.

You are correct that the OP did not say he had a match barrel.
But, he did say he had a SIG P6, and they have a short leade cut for FMJ-RN bullets.

Berry TC ogive bullets will have to be seated shorter to chamber in them and miss the leade.


November 11, 2009, 05:48 PM
I'm not aware of any caliber spec for that, at least in handguns....

Turn to page 21 of the SAAMI spec for centerfile pistol and you will see that the leade is positively defined. Bottom of the page, chamber drawing, the one with the caption "breech face" at the top left of the illustration. You will also see a reference dimension that corresponds to the transition to the barrel/groove diameter which coincides with the bullet diameter dimension at the top of the page where the cartridge dimensions are defined. You'll note that the angle of the leade ensures a transition to the barrel dimensions which at maximum length will match the bullet to the grove diameter almost exactly. Of course, I could be reading the spec wrong, that is always a possibility. Also, you'll note that if you measure your case gage, the diameter of the hole past the shoulder matches the leade diameter defined in the SAAMI spec which means that your case gage does indeed check the round to endure that it does not exceed the leade diameter defined by SAAMI.

November 11, 2009, 06:30 PM
Thank you, Deavis.

What publication is that; is it online? Have a link? added on edit: I found it; it is pdf page 29 in the online version of this manual (http://www.saami.org/Publications/205.pdf), "ANSI / SAAMI Centerfire Pistol and Revolver" (Performance Standards Handbook).

added on edit #2: I've just printed the page and will study it. It seems to me, however, that what we have for the ongoing discussion in this thread is this issue: What is the nature of the general / anecdotal knowledge in reloading, vis-a-vis the complete 'engineering' data on which the general knowledge is based?

I'll bet there is not one reloader in 1000 who has even seen this page--much less even the more-generally known database of cartridge drawings at (for example) Ammoguide. And, of those who have seen it, how many would know how to interpret that information to derive the conclusion that leade is specified?

Sincerely, I commend you for having done that: clearly, I had not, and for the moment, I will assume your conclusion is accurate.

How that conclusion fits in with the 'real world' issues of a given manufacturer's chamber / barrel characteristics-as-manufactured I've yet to reconcile.

Jim H.

November 11, 2009, 07:58 PM
Last time I checked they didn't have the manual online, it is nice to see that they do. Hopefully more people will start reading it and improve their knowledge of the subject. I'm an engineer, I don't like to talk in vagaries or guesses when technical data is available. The spec is worth reading just to see how pressure testing is done and to understand how a maximum pressure is actually derived. If you want to have fun, go look up the 357Sig specification and try to figure out how it headspaces on the mouth (as defined) when the chamber dimensions make it appear that the case shoulder must cause the round to stop there without headspacing on the mouth. Even technical specs aren't always straight forward. :)

November 12, 2009, 12:25 PM
Still, the SIG P6 in question is a German gun, made for German police & military, using FMJ-RN ammo.

American Sporting Arms & Ammunition Manufactures Institute (SAAMI) specs didn't have anything to do with the chamber or leade dimensions.

I'm here to tell you they have a shorter then normal leade, and TC or HP bullets with a longer full diameter extending past the case mouth have to be seated shorter to chamber in them.


November 12, 2009, 01:20 PM
And never have I disagreed with your assessment of that specific weapon or your point in general. I'm pretty sure my statements regarding gaging have been clear from the beginning, let's not make more of it that necessary but we can always go get the CIP standard and find out if it is different from SAAMI for the 9mm. Even more interesting, we can go ask those Germans what standard they used when chambering and rifiling that pistol. Unless you have inside information, nobody here on this forum knows what specs they chose to use.

What we do apparently know is that the OP needs to seat his bullets deeper and there is ample load data for him to follow that will work.

November 13, 2009, 11:13 PM
Loaded up a few rounds today and took the pickiest of the guns (P6) to the range to try them out. Again, used Winchester once-fired brass, Berry's 124 grain plated HP bullets, and Winchester small pistol primers. OAL of all of the rounds was 1.078" (+/- .2").

I loaded 5 rounds each of the following (Alliant Bullseye) powder loads: 3.0gr; 3.2gr; 3.4gr; 3.6gr. Set the target at 25' and started with the lowest powder loads. The 3.0 and 3.2 grain rounds consistently failed to eject or failed to feed the next round, essentially they were too low to cycle the firearm completely. The 3.4 and 3.6 grain rounds all cycled the slide properly, and I could definitely feel the power difference between those two sets of rounds. Can't complain about accuracy as all shots from all 4 sets were inside the 9 ring.

Next week I'll load up a couple more sets of 3.4 and 3.6 and take them to the range with my XD Tactical and my other 9mm's to see if they can cycle those as well. If not, I'll creep up by .02gr at a time until all guns cycle. I'll probably go with the lowest powder load that can consistently cycle all of the firearms until I'm through all the HP that I have. When I order bullets again I'll probably get 115 grain RN and start searching for the most accurate load. Thanks again for all the help .

November 14, 2009, 12:18 AM
Nice job on your workup, w00dc4ip. Let us know how the second set shoots with your other 9mms.

If you're not completely sold on the Berry's plated bullets, you can try Montana Gold's full metal jacketed (fmj - lead base is exposed) or completely metal jacketed (cmj - base is covered) bullets at very reasonable prices (bought in bulk).


November 14, 2009, 07:53 PM
Woodchip -
It's not your fault. Remember the test loads in the book were not shot in a gun, but a test barrel. What they are missing is real world interface with a barrel. Some of the European handguns have very short "leade". That is, the rifling comes very close to the chamber. If the OAL is too long, the bullet engages the rifling and will keep the gun from going into battery. (So unfortunately, buying a cartridge gauge is NOT going to help you, since a cartridge gauge has no rifling.)

Here's how you find the correct OAL for YOUR barrel using YOUR Berry bullet. Take a case fired in your gun. Slip a brand new bullet into the as-fired case. It should be a slip-to-snug fit. Push that bullet into your dis-assembled chamber. The rifling will then push the bullet backwards into the case turning the "test cartridge" into a micrometer. Carefully remove the test cartridge from the chamber and measure its length.

Do this 3 or 4 times until you start getting the same number. That's the max cartridge length for that particular bullet in that particular barrel. Now subtract .015" from that number and there's your OAL. So say your test cartridge comes out at 1.137". We subtract .015" and get 1.122", so we are going to round down (always shorter) and use 1.120" as our OAL. Now all you have to do is find a published load for 124gr jacketed bullets with an OAL of 1.120" or shorter.

The only exception to this work up is when the resulting answer comes out in excess of 1.169", which is the longest 9mm Luger can be according to SAAMI. Then of course, you have to use the 1.169" as max OAL or they probably won't fit your magazines.

When pistols have a short "leade" or "freebore" like yours, this will become the first step every time you change brands or weights of bullets. Each new bullet has to go through this procedure all over again. BE SURE to keep a log book of all your OAL records for each and every bullet brand and style.

Hope this helps!

December 2, 2009, 03:48 PM
So, after a few nights of manufacturing and a few trips to the range to test out my rounds, I think I've found my "temporary" formula:

Winchester or Federal once-fired Brass: .748-.755" length
Winchester Small Pistol Primers
Berry's Plated HP 124gr 9mm (.355" width)
Alliant Bullseye Powder: 3.8gr
OAL: 1.080" +/- .003"
Crimp Width: .378"

This formula is the minimum powder load and maximum OAL that successfully cycles all of my 9mm handguns. It also groups very nicely at 25 feet with my "combat" pistols and at 25 yards with my "bullseye" pistols. Until I run out of the 124gr Berry's JHP bullets (1850 to go), this is going to be the formula I use for my 9mm reloads unless it becomes less reliable in the future.

Thanks again for all the help.

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