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

My friend Journeyman1 from 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.


The Remington FMJ bullet measured .354 inch.


I then measured one of the Montana Gold bullets.

It measured .354 also.


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

Close enough.

These bullets are not undersized.


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


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.


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


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.


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.


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


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


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.


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


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


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


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.


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.


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.)


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


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.


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

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


  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.

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

  1. Ls, my compliments on your professional approach. As it seems you have way more experience on this matter, I seek your advise. I want to start reloading 9mm bullets. Mainly for IPSC and outdoor use with my kids.This is totally new grounds for me. I shoot ipsc with a “tuned ” G17. can you please make a recommendation what would be my best choice for gunpowdwer, bullets and primers and reloader. There is so much to choose from, that it becomes confusing. I have a light striker spring, will that affect the choice of primer?

    Kind regards,


  2. I reload 9mm with Titegroup powder and when initially starting, I reviewed many YouTube videos and many forums. The key is to start slow as it is not a race, inspect your brass for case mouth split, deformations, and case head separation or bulging. Next set your dies up per the manufacturers recommendation. After you are satisfied with the sizing (Full length for pistol), run a test cartridge through without powder or primer to set the bell amount (just enough to barely notice the bell. To set the seating die, I place a factory loaded round at that station that has the overall length that is called out for the bullet type. I back the seating die adjustment all the way out and raise the round completely up into the die then thread it down till it just touches the bullet. I then place my test cartridge minus the primer and powder into the shellholder at the seating station and seat the bullet and measure, adjust the seating die until spot on. Measure the finished test cartridge just short of the top of the case and near the base of where the bullet in the case. It should have a light crimp crimp when these two measurements are taken. Check round in case gauge (this is a must) per instructions. I then take the barrel out of my firearm and set the cartridge in. Over crimping can cause the cartridge to seat too far into the chamber. Load a magazine, point your weapon in a safe direction, chamber and eject all rounds letting the slide slam forward on it’s own, do not ride it. This is to identify and failures to chamber or eject a round. Any bell left in the cartridge indicates not enough crimp and can cause a failure to chamber a round as it will catch on the magazine lip or not completely seat forward in the chamber. Cartridges that are too long may fail to feed and chamber. Going with the manufacturer recommendations for OAL will avoid these issues.

    I use TiteGroup for plinking rounds as it requires less powder per cartridge to achieve the velocity you are loading to. Set a primed cartridge in the powder loading station and drop some powder, pour back into the powder measure and repeat five times before weighing the first load. Adjust until the weight is correct and dump back in the powder measure and repeat at least five times, weighing each until it throws consistently. Start at minimum load and run 5 rounds then add half grain increments up to about half the max recommended load. Place in marked boxes with load data and chronograph them on the range and note the velocities and accuracy of each load and look for any signs of over pressure in the cases and primers. Approach max load recommendations with caution and pull one out of every hundred to weigh the powder. Keep the powder measure above 75% full to ensure consistent powder throws. Keep an eye to ensure you never double charge a cartridge which can easily go unnoticed if using a powder such as Titegroup that can hold a double charge without overflowing the cartridge. I keep an eye on every powder throw as it goes through. You can have no distractions and must focus on what you are doing. Remember it is not a race.

  3. You should have no issues with CCI or Federal Small Pistol Primers. I have used both and been very satisfied. Use either or, but do not mix lots as they will effect your velocities.

  4. ….oops! One more thing: If you use carbide sizing dies, there is no need to lube your straight walled pistol cartridges. One should always use case lube for rifle cartridge sizing, even in carbide dies.

    Inspect all cleaned cartridges as you reload to ensure no cleaning media is plugging the flash hole.

  5. Again for accuracy COL needs to be set based on your guns chamber doubly so with a tuned gun with a match barrel

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