Saturday, December 8, 2007

Handloading for the 9x18mm Makarov

Hand loading for the 9x18mm Makarov is almost as easy as hand loading for the 9mm Luger. The 9mm Mak case is a little shorter than the 9mm Luger but the head dimensions are similar enough that one can use shortened 9mm cases for use with the 9mm Mak.

There are several manufacturers of 9mm Makarov ammunition, e.g. Sellier & Bellot and Silver Bear but most imports are Berdan primed and hence their cases are not suitable for reloading. Sellier & Bellot cases are Boxer primed, and those cases can be reused for handloading.

Though the Starline Brass makes 9mm Makarov cases suitable for the handloader they are more expensive than 9mm Luger brass. Hence, the thrifty handloader has two choices:
  1. reuse Sellier & Bellot cases
  2. trim and resize 9mm Luger cases
So, let's focus on the process needed to turn 9mm Luger cases into 9mm Makarov cases. We see that the head dimensions of both are similar.

A 9mm Luger case is approximately 19mm long, whereas a 9mm Makarov case is approximately 18mm long.

To trim the 9mm Luger case down to 18mm, we use a RCBS Trim Pro. The model used is the manually cranked one, though RCBS sells a motorized version too.

To hold a 9mm Luger case in place while trimming we use a RCBS #16 Trim Pro shell holder and a 35 calibre pilot.

Once trimmed to 18mm, the cases must be full-length resized using 9mm Makarov resizing dies. I chose a Lee 3-die set for my 9mm Makarov reloading needs, though other manufacturers make 9mm Makarov dies also. The same shell holder is used as for 9mm Luger. I use RCBS shell holders to fit my RCBS hand-priming tool, a #1 in this case.

From here on, the reloading process is the standard one for straight-walled cartridges.
  1. Depriming and full-length resizing using the FL-resizing die.
  2. Belling the case mouth using the expander die.
  3. Priming the cases.
  4. Charging the cases with powder.
  5. Bullet seating, using the seating die.
  6. Crimping of the case mouth using the seating die.
The advanced reloader can use a progressive press, but the novice or beginner should stick with a single stage press until he is familiar with each step of the reloading process, and the die adjustments needed at each step. I use a RCBS Rock Chucker single stage press.

After resizing and belling the cases, we prime the cases. The 9mm Makarov (like the 9mm Luger) uses a small-pistol primer. I use a RCBS hand-priming tool, and CCI 500 primers, though other manufacturers make equivalent products also.

After priming, we charge the cases. I used Alliant Bullseye powder. The recommended weight for 95gr bullets is in the range 3.5gr and 3.9gr. [Warning: when working up a load, always start with the smallest weight and work upwards, always watching for signs of overpressure]. Bullseye powder has a good volumetric consistency, so a RCBS Uniflow powder dispenser is used. The dispenser was calibrated using a RCBS electronic scale.

Bullet selection is quite good for the Makarov, though one should note that unlike 9mm Luger loads, where the bullet diameter is .355", the Makarov is not a true 9mm and the bullet diameter is .364". I use two bullets; a 93gr lead round-nosed bullet from Meister Cast for practice and target use, and a 95gr jacketed hollow-point bullet from Hornady (XTP/HP) for defense use.

I seated the round-nosed bullets to an over all length of 0.980" and the XTP/HP bullets to an over all length of 0.930". The bullets must be taper crimped. The crimping is necessary to remove the bell in the case and to hold the bullet in the case mouth so it doesn't move. Since the Makarov headspaces on the case mouth, care must be taken to not over crimp the mouth as this can lead to "short chambering" and inaccuracy. Essentially, crimp just enough to remove the bell and no more.

Testing the above loads in a Hungarian PA-63 resulted in remarkable accuracy. Both loads were built using only 3.5gr of Bullseye powder. Unfortunately, I didn't have a chronograph with me so could not measure the bullet speed.

Tests were fired, standing shooting unsupported and one handed, at a 8" circle target hung 15 yds from the muzzle. The lead bullets grouped to about 2", about 2" high off POA.

The hollow-point bullets didn't group as well, but well enough for defensive use. The general center of the group was about about 2" high off POA.

The next steps are to increase the powder weight and measure speed with a chronograph. The goal is to preserve accuracy while achieving/maintaining a speed of 1000ft/s.


Weetabix said...

Very cool!

So you have Lee dies and a RCBS press? Are things generally interchangable from mfr to mfr?

Felix Estrella said...

Yes. Dies are generally interchangeable.

Weetabix said...

Is 1,000 fps magical somehow, or does it just work well for the 9x18?

I'd read a post of Chris Byrne's about getting into reloading ... er ... economically (OK, I'm a cheapskate), and he had mentioned the Lee Anniversary Kit. Do you have any thoughts on that one? I've read that the Rockchucker is much stronger and the Lee sometimes breaks, but I think that was with rifle cartridges.

Felix Estrella said...

1000fps is the velocity quoted by reloading manuals. Normally, one could exceed this but with straight blowback cartridges, like the Mak, one has to be extra careful. I imagine that one can exceed 1000fps, if one increases the power of the recoil spring .... but whatever advice you take from me, I will deny. :-)

I have no experience with Lee reloading equipment, except for their 3 and 4 die pistol sets and their "factory crimp" dies. I love my Rockchucker and would replace it with a like if it wore out.