9mm Loading Tips

Bill Boggs

Bob sends me his 9mm load requests since I load so many of them. The bulk of my loaded 9’s are for steel target shooting so quick target acquisition with reasonable accuracy is my goal. Therefore they’re light loads of a fast burning powder. I do load for accuracy as well so I’ll tell you what I know.

First a brief lesson on 9mm loads. The 9mm and 40 S&W caliber cartridges are higher speed bullets than most handguns and the way they get their speed is much like how a magnum load works; a slow burning powder that creates an ever increasing pressure on a bullet as it travels down the barrel. An ideal powder for this is Alliant Power Pistol but Alliant Unique does a super job as well with a little less powder. I load on a progressive and the Power Pistol loads filled the case so high that the indexing of the shell plate would jostle some powder out of the case; Unique fits better.

I’m shooting a CZ 85 Combat with a 4.7” barrel.  For the 115 grain SWCBB my best load was 5 grains of Unique with a CCI 500 primer seated to an OACL of 1.062” (test target picture is attached.) The attached target is five shots and had I been able to see the first few completely surrounded by black the last two might have been in there too.  I was wondering if I was missing the paper so I shot it off a bit and thought I could see the hit then hit one way off.

For my steel target loads I break all the rules and load Alliant Bullseye which is way too fast a burning powder for a good 9mm load but it gives me a quick blast with a light load, adequate accuracy and being light and quick, speedy target acquisition. That load is 4.2 grains of Bullseye behind the 115 grain SWCBB bullet. However most of my steel shooting is now done with the 120 grain TCBB bullet simply because the shape of the bullet is a bit more assurance of a sure feed, not that the 115 grains were ever a problem. Since a SWC bullet is best suited for bullseye accuracy I only load the 120 grain bullets for steel. This load is 4 grains of Bullseye with an OACL of 1.062” which is the same OACL as the SWC.

If you’re new to Penn Bullets let me tell you that you can load Bob’s bullets to any jacketed load recommendations from your load book. His alloy quality control is superb which gives you a bullet to bullet weight that I have found to be no greater than a 1.5 grain difference. This is where I get my shot to shot accuracy.  I weighed three hundred of his 9mm bullets and ten or fifteen out of the three hundred were 1.5 grains off either way. Less than five were more than 1.5 grains off and the rest were basically within a grain. Being a guy who shoots with a custom barrel you’ll appreciate that.  Most of my pistols are Kimber .45’s. I attached a couple of pictures of what Bob’s bullets do for me with the Kimber’s. The target is five shots, off hand at fifty feet. The cut cards are off hand at thirty feet (I need to be able to see the edge of the card) one shot each. The Ruger Cowboy 45 on Bob’s site’s home page slide show is mine also.

Consistent bullet weight and virtually lead free barrels make accuracy easy!

If you have any more questions don’t hesitate to send me an email; I’m glad to help you.



9 MM Reloaders - What should cartridge your overall length be?

It can be a mystery.

9MM is the only caliber I know of that has varying chamber designs which means what works for one gun may very well not work in another.

If you load to the spec of some reloading book it just might be a problem for your gun, especially with a considerably different shape bullet like a SWC.

Pictured below are three different chamber styles I know of:


Now I took a simple way out to figuring overall length for SWCs.

I took a factory loaded cartridge and slowly deepened the bullet seating (shortened OAL) untill I could set the reloaded cartridge directly behind a factory ball bullet loaded cartridge and not see any of the SWC bullet anymore.

The other way is to have your barrel out of your gun and seat the bullet till it fully chambers. (Compare the reload with what a factory cartridge looks like chambered).

You can do this with any style bullet you’re loading.

Hope this helps …


Recently some new information has come to light about 9mm loadings and some associated problems. One customer who has done extensive research in this area has uncovered a solution to a problem that has been reported several times not only to me but on various forums as well. 

Some customers have reported problems with some of their 9mm loads in that the bullets have been tumbling when hitting the target.

I had always attributed this to two things, either that was bullet diameter being too small for the barrel or that the velocity of the load was too light.

It was discovered by this customer that the issue is centered around the OAL of the cartridge.
While the the rounds would feed he had tumbling issues. By experimenting with the OAL and changing the specs he was able to not only stop the tumbling but actually got the 9mm rounds to shoot far more accurately by “tuning the OAL” to his gun.
There has always been a great tendency to load bullets for auto pistols longer than normal due to fear that deeper seating of the bullet would result in excessive pressure in the rounds.

While this is a concern one has to start at minimum loads and work up to insure reliable feeding and accuracy. Using the barrel as a case gauge to test the finished dummy rounds is always a good idea to insure proper chambering. The finished dummy round should be slightly below flush of the hood of the barrel and should not hang up at all.

Once the dummy rounds are set and crimped they should be loaded into the mags to be sure they fit and function thru the mags and then the dummy rounds should be hand cycled thru the gun. Once all that is done then load some live rounds using those OAL and crimp specs with minimum start charges. Test fire these loads and work your loads up from there.

The 9mm is bit more problematic to load than the .45 but with careful tuning one can get the most out of the 9mm cartridge.

Thank you for letting me be of service to you,
Bob Palermo / President. president@pennbullets.com

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