Educational Zone #150 – Solving a 9mm FMJ Reloading Mystery

My friend Journeyman1 from AR15.com and I play World of Tanks and platoon together sometimes. He recently told me, “I am having a problem with some bullets I am trying to load. Do you think you could help me figure out what is wrong?”

I said that I would be happy too. He said that he had purchased 2,000, 115 gr 9mm FMJ bullets to use in his handloads for Three Gun Competition. But when he tried to load them on his Hornady Progressive Loader, the bullets were too loose in the loaded cartridge and he could even push them back into the case by finger pressure. He had tried crimping them harder, but that didn’t help at all. He even worried that the bullets might be too small in diameter and that would mean he had a lot of bullets he couldn’t use.

I told him to send me a few bullets and I would see if I could figure it out. So, he did just that.

The bullets are some very nice looking bullets sold by Montana Gold Bullets. They look to be of high quality.

I wanted to compare them with some Remington 115 gr FMJ bullets I shoot, but all of my bullets were loaded.

So, I got out my bullet puller and pulled one.

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The Remington FMJ bullet measured .354 inch.

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I then measured one of the Montana Gold bullets.

It measured .354 also.

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I tried to really push the caliper as tight as I could, but it was still .3535.

Close enough.

These bullets are not undersized.

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I checked the weight and they were right on 115 grains.

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Time to get to work. I set up my old RCBS Rock Chucker press and my RCBS 9mm dies.

I resized a clean 9mm case.

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I then belled it slightly, just enough to start the bullet without shaving the bullet or crushing the case.

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I them purposefully over-belled a case way too much, to see if that might be the problem.

Then I seated a few bullets and taper crimped the cases, just enough to take the bell completely out of them.

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bullet back that case that was way over-belled.

It would not move.

So much for the over-belling theory.

Time to set up Big Blue.

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I set up my Dillon press and loaded primers and powder and was ready to go.

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The first step is to resize the clean case, eject the spent primer, and seat a new primer.

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Then you turn the indexer, load another empty case and pull the handle.

This resizes the new case, and bells the first case, and drops the powder into the case.

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And here’s the case, belled and with powder.

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Then you turn the indexer and place another empty case in slot #1, and place a bullet on the first case.

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The forth step will taper crimp the bullet into the loaded cartridge.

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Maximum OAL (Over All Length) is listed by the Speer manual as 1.169″

I set mine for 1.111”. It looks good to me.

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Notice how the base of the bullet is obvious in the loaded cartridge.

The 9mm case is tight enough that the bottom of the bullet is visible.

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I tried to squeeze the cartridge and set the bullet back, but it was rock solid.

(You can also see the slight bulge where the base of the bullet come too.)

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Then it is just a matter of pulling the handle and cranking out the cartridges.

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Well, it was time to go to the range.

I loaded the bullets into my Glock 34, 9mm pistol, which has made 4 trips to Thunder Ranch with me.

It is as dependable as they come.

Long story short… The bullets ran 100% reliably.

Not a single wobble.

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And at 10 yards, they shot into a fair group.

I called Journeyman1 and told him, “I’ve got good news and bad news.”

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Conclusions:
  1. There is nothing wrong with these bullets. They are just fine.
  2. I do not believe his problem is with over-belling the cases, as that didn’t cause me any problem at all.
  3. I believe that problem is that his sizer die is not fully resizing the empty cases and reducing it to small enough size to hold the bullet firmly. His dies are Hornady dies and they are a great company. I suggested that he contact them and ask them to replace his die. I bet they will do so, no problem.

He said, “I sure appreciate you going to all this trouble for me.” I laughed and told him it was no trouble at all, but was an “Adventure” for me. It was a fun project.

Because it’s fun to solve gun-related mysteries, and as we all know, it’s fun to shoot stuff.