AMT 9mm Magnum
JOHN TAFFIN TESTS By John Taffin The latest Magnum offering, at least as this is written and certainly subject to no less than immediate change, turns out not to be so new after all. In fact it has been around for nearly fifteen years, a cartridge without a home. Sometime in the late 1970's Winchester introduced two new cartridges to rival the two most popular Magnum sixgun cartridges, the .357 Magnum and the .44 Magnum. The challengers were the 9MM Magnum and the .45 Winchester Magnum. As so often is the case, the best laid plans of mice and men went astray again and the ammunition was produced and we had two new semi-automatic cartridges with no semi-automatic handguns to fire them in. The .45 WinMag was a lengthened .45 ACP and the 9MM Magnum, naturally, was a 9MM Parabellum stretched four-tenths of an inch. Actually the 9MM Magnum has roots earlier than the 1970's. In fact it goes all the way back even before the War to End All Wars. The original 9MM Parabellum/Luger saw the light of day in 1902. By 1908 the 9MM had already been "magnumized" for use in the Mauser pistol and the 9MM Mauser offered a 128 grain bullet at 1360 plus feet per second. It must have been too much of a good thing in those pre-.357 Magnum days and by 1914 the 9MM Mauser pistol was gone. Even the .38 Super offered less in terms of muzzle energy than the 9MM Mauser and it was hailed as a great step forwards in 1930, five years before the advent of the .357 Magnum. Winchester 9MM Magnum brass and loaded ammunition have been somewhat available for years but no guns have surfaced until recently. The cartridge without a home has finally found a resting place in the AutoMag III. First chambered for the .30 Carbine, the stainless AutoMag from IAI is a natural for the 9MM Magnum. Weighing in at an easy packin' forty-four ounces, the 9MM Magnum AutoMag is an excellent shooting Magnum semi-automatic. In fact it is an excellent shooting handgun period and needs to take a back seat to none in the accuracy department. I cannot say if this is a result of the gun, the cartridge, or both. Promised factory loads never materialized so I have not had the opportunity to try the Winchester loaded 9MM Magnum which I have heard is a 115 grain bullet at anywhere from 1475 to 1550 feet per second. The latter muzzle velocity may be from the six and three-eighths inch barrel length of the AutoMag. As with the 10MM Magnum, all loads developed for the 9MM Magnum were strictly arrived at by looking at other cartridges, such as the 9MM, the .38 Super, the .38 Special, and the .357 Magnum, and trying to make a scientific guess as to what would work. I assumed that muzzle velocities would be somewhere in between the 9MM Parabellum and the .357 Magnum with comparable weight bullets and that is exactly where the 9MM Magnum falls. Closer to the .357 Magnum, then the Parabellum I might add. My first effort at reloading 9MM Magnum brass was with 9MM Carbide dies, in this case Hornady, but I don't believe the brand name made any difference as I have run into the same type of problem when trying to use .44 Magnum carbide dies with the .445 SuperMag. With the SuperMag, the problem is the raising of a belt above the rim as the carbide die pushed brass ahead of the base of the die. When using 9MM carbide dies with the 9MM Magnum, the necks are sized down excessively resulting in an odd looking round with bullet seated that looks like a size 50 in size 44 pants. Switching to standard 9MM dies, in this case RCBS brand which require lubing of cases, put an end to the problem. One of the strangest occurrences in nearly four decades of shooting took place while shooting the 9MM Magnum. No, not one of, it was definitely the strangest that I have ever experienced. Shooting the 9MM Magnum AutoMag III, the slide failed to go all the way into battery. And like everyone else does, and which I will never do again, I tried to push the slide completely forward by pressing on the back of it with my thumb. The round, loaded with Sierra 130 grain bullets, would not allow the action to close completely. Pulling the slide back, I tried to chamber another round. Same problem. So, the magazine was removed, and five new rounds were inserted in it and the magazine was re-inserted in the AutoMag 9MM. Same problem. The magazine was removed and only then did I decided to look down the barrel. I did not see any daylight, so a wooden dowel was retrieved from the cleaning kit and with very little effort, a `bullet' was tapped from the rifling. It had entered just enough to prevent the next round from chambering. Praise the Lord for that. If it had gone a little further..... I do not recall hearing or feeling a squib load. But that is not the strange part. The bullet was not a bullet at all but a full metal jacket only with no core. Where was the core? It could not blow out the barrel as the bullet was backwards, that is the jacket fully enclosed the nose and the base was lead. Where did it go? Could it have been a coreless bullet to begin with? I hardly think so. Could I have loaded a jacket only and not notice the extreme lightweight? Again, I hardly think so. So where is the core? Why did the jacket alone remain in the barrel? Why did I not experience a squib load? This is just one of the many mysteries that keeps reloading so interesting. My initial loadings of the 9MM Magnum revolved around the fact that the factory load is a 115 grain bullet at around 1500 feet per second. I miked all fired cases and a load of 14.5 grains of #2400 with Sierra 115 grain jacketed hollow cavity gave 1470 feet per second and the fired case measured .3905" in diameter above the web. Going up to 15.5 grains of #2400 increased the velocity to 1571 feet per second and also increased the diameter of the fired brass by .001" to .3915". Unfired, sized brass measures .387" at the base. An excellent bullet for the 9MM Magnum is the new Hornady 147 XTP. With all Hornady pistol bullets XTP stands for Extreme Terminal Performance and reports coming in substantiates that the bullets live up to their name. Eleven loads were tried with the 147 XTP using WW296, H110, Blue Dot, #2400, and AA#9. When I hit over 1400 feet per second with 14.0 grains of #2400, I backed off to 13.0 grains and would suggest that velocities be kept well under 1400 feet per second with this weight bullet. A favorite 147 XTP load is 13.5 grains of AA#9 for 1284 feet per second with the best four-out-of-five at 25 yards going into one and one-half inches which is astounding accuracy for an untuned semi-automatic. For that matter, it is astounding for a high-priced custom tuned semi-automatic let alone a magnum-classed production gun. And it gets even better. The Sierra 130 full metal jacketed bullet puts best four-out-of- five into one inch at 25 yards using 16.0 grains of WW296 for 1229 feet per second or the same amount of H110 at 1241 feet per second. The best four-out-of-five shots scenario was especially appropriate for the test gun used as the trigger was quite sloppy and would move from side-to-side often resulting in a failure to fire. The problem seemed to be that the trigger and other inner workings were held in by the right grip and it was not holding everything together quite right. Sierra's 115 jacketed hollow cavity is also a stellar performer in the 9MM Magnum with groups around one inch being the norm. The most accurate load turned out to be a mild 15.5 grains of H110 for 1216 feet per second, followed very closely by 15.5 and 16.5 grains of WW296 for 1194 and 1337 feet per second respectively; 15.5 grains of #2400 for a warm, but very accurate shooting 1571 feet per second; and last but certainly not least, 15.5 grains of AA#9 for 1481 feet per second. All loads were assembled with Winchester WSPM primers and all loads assembled proved that it is very difficult to find a bad load for the 9MM Magnum and especially with 115 grain bullets. Results with cast bullets and the 9MM Magnum are not quite as spectacular as jacketed bullets but still excellent by any one's standards. Four different cast bullets were utilized, the home brewed Lyman #358156, a gas-checked 155 grain bullet designed by Ray Thompson for use in the .38 Special and .357 Magnum; and three Bull-X commercial cast bullets: the 9MM 147 grain flat point that is a real winner in both 9MM Parabellum and .38 Super loads, the 155 grain .38 Super flat point, and the .38 Special 158 grain round nose. The latter was sized at .358" while the other three were all .356" in diameter. Surprisingly, or perhaps not so surprisingly, the best cast bullet load accuracy wise turned out to be the Bull-X 158 grain .38 Special bullet over 12.0 grains of AA#9 and 1278 feet per second, shooting into just barely over an inch at 25 yards. Bull-X's 155 grain .38 Super Bullet shoots into one and one-half inches at 1300+ feet per second with either 12.0 grains of AA#9 or 9.5 grains of Blue Dot. Thompson's .357 bullet continues its perfect record and once again did not let me down as it carries on the proud tradition of accuracy it maintains in the .38 Special, .38/44, .38 Super, and the .357 Magnum. With the 9MM Magnum it does it with 9.5 grains of Blue Dot at 1335 feet per second. Just what is the 9MM Magnum good for? I certainly would not replace any of my excellent defensive sixguns or semi-automatics with the 9MM Magnum. The IAI 9MM Magnum is not so bulky that it could not be made into a four- or five-inch barreled carry gun, but the since it is neither a double action pistol, nor can it be carried cocked-and-locked, it is unlikely to be pressed into service as a defensive gun. It does however make an excellent field pistol and cartridge for the hiker, camper, fisherman, etc., and is certainly adequately powerful for taking varmints up through coyote size. Accuracy wise and handling wise it would make an excellent silhouette pistol cartridge, but not for the long range course where heavyweight bullets and a long barreled .357 form the minimum standard. It should really shine as a Hunter/Field pistol cartridge on the short course and the IAI AutoMag III certainly has the accuracy for this game. 9MM MAGNUM LOADS FIREARM: IAI/AMT BARREL LENGTH: 6 3/8" CHRONOGRAPH: OEHLER MODEL 35P TEMPERATURE: 59-72 DEGREES BRASS: WW 9MM MAGNUM PRIMER: WSPM GROUPS: BEST FOUR OUT OF FIVE SHOTS AT 25 YARDS JACKETED BULLET LOADS BULLET: HORNADY 147 XTP LOAD MV GROUP 14.0 GR. WW296 1090 2" 15.0 GR. WW296 1268 1 5/8" 14.0 GR. H110 1165 1 3/8" 15.0 GR. H110 1271 2" 9.5 GR. BLUE DOT 1256 2 3/8" 10.5 GR. BLUE DOT 1344 1 3/4" 12.0 GR. #2400 1250 1 1/2" 13.0 GR. #2400 1315 2 1/2" 13.5 GR. AA#9 1284 1 1/8" 14.5 GR. AA#9 1371 1 1/2" BULLET: SIERRA 130 FMJ LOAD MV GROUP 15.0 GR. WW296 1118 1 3/8" 16.0 GR. WW296 1229 1" 15.0 GR. H110 1073 2" 16.0 GR. H110 1241 1" 14.0 GR. #2400 1323 2 5/8" BULLET: SIERRA 115 JHC OAL: 1.412" LOAD MV GROUP 15.5 GR. WW296 1194 1 1/8" 16.5 GR. WW296 1337 1 1/4" 15.5 GR. H110 1216 1" 16.5 GR. H110 1336 1 3/8" 14.5 GR. #2400 1470 2 1/8" 15.5 GR. #2400 1571 1 1/8" 15.5 GR. AA#9 1481 1 1/4" 16.5 GR. AA#9 1575 2 3/8" CAST BULLET LOADS BULLET: LYMAN #358156GC LOAD MV GROUP 12.0 GR. AA#9 1300 2 1/8" 14.0 GR. H110 1320 2 1/2" 14.0 GR. WW296 1319 1 3/4" 9.5 GR. BLUE DOT 1335 1 1/2" BULLET: BULL-X 147 LOAD MV GROUP 12.0 GR. AA#9 1269 2 1/4" 13.0 GR. AA#9 1387 2 7/8" 14.0 GR. H110 1264 1 3/4" 14.0 GR. WW296 1274 3" 9.5 GR. BLUE DOT 1305 1 3/4" BULLET: BULL-X 155 .38 SUPER LOAD MV GROUP 12.0 GR. AA#9 1302 1 1/2" 13.0 GR. AA#9 1381 3" 9.5 GR. BLUE DOT 1322 1 1/2" BULLET: BULL-X 158 RN LOAD MV GROUP 12.0 GR. AA#9 1278 1 1/8" 13.0 GR. AA#9 1341 2" *UNFIRED, SIZED BRASS MEASURES .387" IN DIAMETER ABOVE THE WEB.
Submitted by: Speedy Mercer