recommendations for light 9mm load.


February 6, 2011, 11:52 AM
My wife is interested in shooting, but she's eyeing the LCP she got me for christmas. I've shot that one a few times, enough to realize, one doesn't own that gun for how well it shoots, but for it's small size. I don't think she'll have a good time trying to shoot the LCP, but she thinks the 9mm will be "too much".

I need her first outing to go well. If I can't hit anything with the LCP, she won't either, and will likely get frustrated/lose interest. I want her to hit the target first time out, so as not to be discouraged, and 9mm has a much better chance of that.

I'm looking to make a few boxes of really light 9mm for her to start out with. Ideally, using what I have on hand (115gr. FMJ, and win231, HP38, Power Pistol, or Blue Dot powder). On that note, what's a better way to make a softer shooting load, going to a lighter bullet weight, lightening the powder charge, or both?

How low should I be able to go before I'll start having malfunctions? We will be shooting these in a sigma, 9mm.

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February 6, 2011, 12:16 PM
I just worked up some loads for my 9mm Sigma using 115gr. FMJ and Win231 with the finished cartridges about 1.155 in long. Here's my results for 3 different powder loads. Used load data from Lee's modern reloading which state a starting load of 4.1gr and a max of 4.8 with a min OAL of 1.095

4.3gr - a couple rounds failed to eject, and slide would not stay open on last shot. Accuracy poor
4.5gr - gun operated flawlessly - accuracy very good
4.7gr - gun operated flawlessly - accuracy very good

I couldn't tell much difference between 4.5gr and 4.7gr . I plan go with the 4.5gr

Your Sigma may perform differently so suggest starting with minimum loads and work your way up from there.

February 6, 2011, 12:43 PM
115 Gr plated or jacketed bullet.


4.5 Grs N320, 700X, W-231

Really light

4.0 Grs N320, 700X, W-231,

May not function some guns.

Of your "what you have" powders, W-231 is by far the best choice for downloading the 9MM.

Your gun will tell you what it likes. When trying light loads make dang sure each bullet leaves the barrel before firing again.

February 6, 2011, 12:43 PM
I have come upon two loads that are light and real accurate:

115gr Winchester FMJ (hollow Base) or 124gr Hornady FMJ (not Remington, Speer, or whatever)

4.1grs N320

Old FC or current Winchester brass


1.160" OAL

They are subsonic and shoot teeny groups.

February 6, 2011, 01:04 PM
The problem with extra light loads in semi-auto pistols is that they may not properly function the gun. This is one of the reasons I really like to start new shooters with .22LR pistols, and then progress to lightly-loaded .38 Special revolvers using lead bullets. If you have to start with the 9mm, I'd recommend any starting load from a reputable loading manual using a 115gr bullet. Make sure you check it with your gun for 100% functioning.

Speer #14 recommends 4.4gr of W231 with their 115gr TMJ bullet. What I like about Speer is that they're kinda obsessive about ensuring that the bullet exits the barrel.

Speer #13 had some soft loads for their 125gr swaged lead bullet (since discontinued). For example, 3.8gr of W231 giving 911 fps (230 ft-lbs, or just a little more than a .380 Auto). Might try this with a Missouri Bullet Smallball bullet...

February 6, 2011, 01:22 PM
Your suspicions are correct. The larger gun is going to have more area on the grip, which will disperse the force applied to her palms over a much larger area. When you spread the same force over a larger area, the felt recoil (what she'll call the "sting to my hands") is going to be much lower. Bigger grip is the way to go.

A larger gun is also going to have a longer sight radius, which will make slight movements of the gun more apparent to her. In other words, she'll find sighting with the larger gun easier and will achieve much better results.

Ridgeway has a point. For 9mm competition rounds, we install a 12 lb recoil spring in the slide. You can get these spring kits from Wolff Spring directly from their web site. If you know how to clean your gun, then you know how to install the recoil spring. That's the only spring you need to swap out. These spring kits are sub-$25 and are very affordable.

The softer springs will allow you to use Walkalong's loads (or maybe even lighter) and retain full operability of the slide, ejection and magazine functions.

If you follow those steps, then you'll have a great outing. She'll be happy with the "felt recoil" and the achieved accuracy. You'll be a hero.

If you get 2 kisses, then all we ask is that you bring us 1. :D

February 6, 2011, 01:30 PM
I know on my Beretta 92FS that it won't recoil reliably with anything under 4.5 grains of Hodgdon Universal.

February 6, 2011, 02:25 PM
The problem with extra light loads in semi-auto pistols is that they may not properly function the gun.

A 115 or 124 at 1050 FPS will function in any pistol.

February 6, 2011, 02:49 PM
3.7 Grs of W-231 and a Ranier 115 Gr RN gave me an Avg 851 FPS from a 3" barreled EMP and cycled it most of the time.

This was my attempt at a ".380 equivalent" load for a buddies wife to try.

It is very low and should be used with caution. It should not stick a bullet, but you may not get the same results I did using my load technique, etc.

Start with 4.0 Grs and adjust from there using caution and paying close attention to everything, especially whether the bullet exits the barrel.

Again, make sure each and every bullet exits the barrel.

February 6, 2011, 02:50 PM
You want to go even lighter, use cast lead bullets. Lead is more "slippery" than jacketed so you can use even lighter charges.

I sometimes use a Missouri Bullet 125gr LRN with 3.3gr Win 231. It's so soft shooting that the empties just barely flip out of the chamber - but it does. In an isocoles or weaver stance, many will bounce off my right arm (I shoot left-handed) with some falling inside the triangle formed by my arms.

With your jacketed bullet, though, uUse the minimum charge of Win231. Fire a test batch one at a time and check the target (and/or barrel) after each shot to confirm it's exited the barrel. If it's satisfactory, go for it!


February 6, 2011, 03:10 PM
The 115gr bullets will have a bit more snap compared to the 124gr.

I've found that 4.0gr of Win231 behind a 124gr FMJ or copper-plated (Berry's) works just great in both my M&P9c and Glock 19, both with stock springs. I know it will not cycle my buddy's G19 with stiffer spring, but the 4.3gr will cycle it.

If it were me, I'd go with the 124gr bullets for a bit lower velocity and a bit less 'snappy feel'.

Whatever you end up with, I applaud your efforts! :)

February 6, 2011, 03:42 PM
I went with 4.2-4.3gr 231. I just bought a house, and unfortunately, my caliper is packed away in "boxes unknown" at present, so I'm not sure where my OAL is. My notes from my last loading had it set to 1.120", and I haven't changed the setting since then. I don't like to do that, but since I'm pushing the low end, not the high end, I'm going to let that one slide this time.
I loaded 37 rounds (finished that box of primers), and I think I may get a chance to try them out this afternoon. I think I'm going to shoot the first few one in the mag at a time. Then I can check for clearing the barrel with each shot, and see how consistently the slide locks open. It's my understanding, that if a load cycles the gun, but doesn't lock the slide, you're right at the bare minimum for that gun.

I may get a chance to buy components before I take her to shoot, which opens up options in bullet weights. I am wondering if a heavier or lighter bullet will be better. I would have thought lighter, but comments seem to indicate 124 can be softer than 115. I'm within driving distance of midway and grafs (I like to pickup to save shipping, especially if hazmat applies to that order), and midway has the 12# wolff recoil spring, which just might let me really dial it down if I want to.
Thanks for all the input!

February 6, 2011, 06:02 PM
First dozen or so fired single shot. Never locked back the slide. Remaining rounds stovepiped 1/3 of the time, feed jammed 1/3 of the time, and cycled 1/3 of the time.

Other than cycling malfunctions, a nice, easy shooting round. I think I will find a lighter recoil spring, and see how low I can take this thing. I have a .40 I can carry for SD, so I can set this one up for real light rounds. This one gets carried in the tractor, for dispatching small varmints/pests around the farm. The kind of one or two shots, here or there, one doesn't bother with the earplugs for. A near .22 like report would be easier on the ears for that.

February 6, 2011, 06:12 PM
My hornady manual has loadings for several bullet weights less than the common 115 gr., but 9mm bullets that light are hard to find from the component sources I've looked at. Since they're both listed as .355" diameter, could one load a 9mm casing with a 380 bullet to make a light round, or is that asking for trouble?

Marlin 45 carbine
February 6, 2011, 06:35 PM
as said too light of a loading will give problems, you should have the slide recoil completely.
a too hot of a load will also give problems.
I use Power Pistol with jacketed/plated slugs and Red Dot under cast.

February 6, 2011, 11:30 PM
On that note, what's a better way to make a softer shooting load, going to a lighter bullet weight, lightening the powder charge, or both?

The "heavier" bullet with light loads will give the mildest recoil.

Using a 124gr FMJ 4.3 grs of Win 231 will reliably cycle and shoot with light recoil in my Sig 239 (3.6" bbl) with stock springs using a 1.11" oal. Win 231 loaded light will shoot very "sooty", but reliably. In a 4.72" barrel it gives about 1050 ft/sec under a chrono.

4.0 grs of n320 will shoot about the same speed (but cleaner than 231) @ 1.14" with a Zero 124 FMJ bullet.

A recoil spring is easy to change for light loads, but remember to put the heavier spring back in before you change ammo to a stout load.

February 7, 2011, 12:53 AM
BTW BeerSleeper, just a note on your powders. Both W231 and HP-38 are the same exact powders so you can use either with the same recipe.

My favorite "light" 9mm load is made with a 124gr LRN bullet and a charge of 4.0gr W231/HP-38. If I'm loading a 124gr FMJ round the charge goes up to 4.4gr. Sorry I don't have much information on 115gr loads. I do agree with your powder choice though.

Good luck on finding what you need in a light 9mm load.

February 7, 2011, 04:30 PM
I know on my Beretta 92FS that it won't recoil reliably with anything under 4.5 grains of Hodgdon Universal.
For what projectile weight?

For 115gr rounds, 4.0 was too low for my G19. So I bumped it to mid-range power (4.4 gr) and it's just fine.

February 9, 2011, 10:20 PM
I'm down to 4.0gn of 231, with 1.050 OAL (not shortening any further than that). My first trip out OAL was too long. Bringing it in produced a load that would cycle, and lock back the slide. This most recent attempt produced one misfeed out of a magazine of 16 rounds. This is still with the stock recoil spring. I think I'm going to get the lighter one, and see how low I can take this thing.

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