Playing with 9mm major

I’ve recently started trying some new 9 major loads for my Glock “race gun”. I came across an article in Handguns magazine with load data using CFE Pistol and Auto Comp.

Making Major with Hodgdon CFE Pistol Powder

The data in the article shows velocity approaching 1500fps and 1400fps using the Hornady HAP bullets in both 115gr and 125gr. This is out of a 5-inch barrel in the pistol the author was using. This level of velocity out of a 9mm is pretty extreme and loading bullets to this extream should be done carefully and in a firearm capable of handling it safely. My Glock 17 has aftermarket barrel with a compensator and is fully capable of shooting major loads but it’s still a little unnerving shooting a nine with loads this hot.

All of this got me thinking, what if I used a real hollow point and not the HAP bullet? The HAP bullet is a hollow point bullet but it wasn’t made for expansion, it was designed for competition. Think of it a less expensive XTP.

A short time ago I was trying some 124gr JHP’s I had bought form Everglades ammunition and I had been very impressed with their performance. This bullet did very well in bare, clothed, and four layers of denim gel and felt it would be the perfect candidate.

9mm 124gr JHP RN Bullets Version 2

The first round in this test had a velocity of 1442fps!! I had expected the bullet to be completely disintegrated but imagine my surprise when I found it completely intact with the jacket still attached. The second round hit the block at 1411fps and performed very much like the first. Both rounds hit the table the block was sitting on at about halfway down the block. The offset from the dot scope was a little more then I thought at 10 feet causing me to hit low on the block. The expansion was .56 and .60 inches.

The last round was fired out of an HK USP with a 4.25-inch barrel. I felt the HK would handle the higher presser safely and I wasn’t concerned. As one would expect velocity was lower at 1350fps and it penetrated to 14.5 inches. This bullet expanded to .66 inches.


A friend of mine had just received some pulled Speer Gold Dot bullets and asked if I would be interested in trying them out and see how they would do in gel. He gave me some 124 and 115gr bullets to try. The first 115gr round hit at 1509fps and penetrated to 12.5 inches and expanded to .68 inches. The second round was fired into heavy clothing covered gel and had a velocity of 1499fps. It expanded to .59 inches and penetrated to 15 inches.
For the 124gr bullets, I back off the load a bit from the Everglades bullets I tried the day before because they seemed a little hot. The first bullet in the bare gel hit at 1342fps and traveled 14.75 inches through the gel and expanded to .61 inches. Round two impacted at 1354fps through the heavy clothing and penetrated to 16 inches and expanded to .53 inches. All rounds were fired out of the Glock 17 with the 5-inch KKM barrel.


Something I should note about the expansion of the recovered bullets. You could say that the bullets at this velocity “over expanded”. In other words, the recovered diameter was smaller than the maximum diameter of the bullet as it traveled through the gel block. Because of the extremely high velocity, the bullets folded back on themselves reducing the size.
I came away even more impressed with the Everglades bullets and plan on testing them further using more sane load data.


  1. This may be “9mm Major” today, but back in the 70s, in the Speer manuals, this was more or less normal performance at the top end–except that there weren’t any jacketed hollowpoint bullets available to handloaders in 9mm yet.

    Speer manuals then recommended compressed loads of Herco to achieve 1400 ft/sec with 115gr bullets, or 1300 with 124/125, and they tested velocity out of 4″ S&W Model 39s. The guns didn’t blow up, but they did notice they sure didn’t get many uses out of a case at those pressures before the primer pocket wouldn’t hold a Small Pistol primer any more.


  2. Herco’s performance in 9x19mm with cast or PC bullets is pretty phenomenal, even at the “more sane” end of the velocity spectrum. I can, with MINIMAL (just barely noticeable) primer flattening, launch a 147 gr. cast FP at an honest 1000 f/s, from a 4″ barrel. ANY extra barrel length only improves the trend.
    I never drove the 125 gr. cast bullets to 1300 f/s, but launched several hundred at slightly over 1200, with, again, SOME primer flattening, and shortened case life. No primers “FELL” out of their pockets, or anything. ALL cases used were good for at least one additional loading at this level, before the “effort” used to seat the primer becomes suspiciously “light”.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.