Pat's Notes from the Field: Major 9 with X-treme 124's

The last time I shot an Open Division pistol was sometime back in the 1990’s. A buddy of mine had a top tier (again this was the 90’s) 38 super with the dot mounted on the slide. I thought it was cool and damn fast to shoot, but that was the last time I danced on the unlimited side of the handgun aisle.

As I and my eyes age I keep thinking about how it might be fun to run flat out with an Open blaster once again, but what gun and what caliber?

I had just finished up one of my “Out of Box to Match” YouTube reviews (click here) on the Metro Arms S.P.S. Pantera 2011 when the supplier of that gun, Eagle Imports, let me know that they were sending their “Vista Short” Open Division pistol. WaHoo! Thanks to Eagle Imports and Metro Arms the decision on what gun and caliber was quickly made for me!

Vista 8s

Metro Arms SPS "Vista" short in 9x19

I quickly contacted Freedom Munitions Marketing Manager B.J. Norris about getting some brass and bullets suitable for Major 9 loadings. Would’t you know it, the brass and bullets showed up WAY before I had selected a powder and primer for the loads.

After a little searching around comparing published load data from powder makers with data found within the threads of the Brian Enos shooting forums, HS-6 and CCI small pistol primers were ordered.

As with any reloading task: read, and research before you begin even if you “know-it-all” as we often forget that when the primer pops…upwards of 50,000psi maybe unleashed only a fraction of an inch away from valuable body parts.

Mr. Norris sent me a goodly supply of new-to-the-market X-treme 9x19mm brass and equal amount of X-treme 124grain heavy plated hollow point bullets. Let’s get to loading!


“Ladder Loading” is a good practice that has the reloader assembling loads working up a “ladder” starting low and moving up in power weight and hopefully velocity. This is done as a group with the same Case Overall Length (COL) for the entire ladder. NOTE: Vary any single item (bullet, powder, primer, COL etc) and it behooves you to start at the bottom of your ladder.

Major 9 Guru s9

Case Overall Length COL for my load 1.124"

Without this becoming a treatise on reloading I would like to concentrate on some important info on how to get the best performance out of the X-treme 124 grain hp bullets. Bullets with a drawn jacket can take more abuse from over crimping and upper end velocities that any plated bullet can. The X-treme 124hp’s are “heavy plated,” as are all the Hollow Points from X-treme, and it is that extra plating that makes them tougher. Thus, they hold up very well to the extremes placed on a bullet at Major 9 velocities and pressures.

Major 9 Guru s12

These groups at 28 yards Averaged 1.16" Great gun and Load Combo!

What is crimping vs. over crimping? Crimping is the “act” of rolling and or squeezing the end of the case against and into the bullet. Done correctly it keeps bullets from migrating forward under heavy recoil in revolvers; and in our pistols, it prevents keep the bullet from being pushed back into the case as it smacks into the feed ramp. Over crimping can cut the bullet enough to cause the bullet to separate at that cut line, possibly leaving part of the jacket or plating in the barrel or chamber. Either of these may cause a tremendous rise in pressure with disastrous results. Check the photos for what a proper crimp looks like.

Major 9 Guru s1

Just enough crimp to do the more, no less.

To know "how much" crimp measure your case wall thickness and double that (one wall on each side of the bullet) and add the number to the bullet diameter. Make up a "dummy round" and adjust your crimp die to give you a smaller diameter by maybe 0.003" to 0.005" of an inch. You will be measuring right at the very end of the case.

Major 9 Guru s10

X-treme brass wall thickness 0.011"

Major 9 Guru s6

X-treme 124hp's come in at 0.355"

Major 9 Guru s3

0.005" total crimp was plenty.

Then to check your crimp, load that "dummy round" into a magazine and let it take the trip up the feed ramp of your pistol. Be sure to measure it BEFORE and then AFTER to note any changes.  If it passes that test, pull the bullet and check it for excessive "scoring" or cut marks.

Major 9 Guru s4

Just a little bite...not a Chomp!

Looks like I found a good load! It gave me the velocity I needed to make USPSA Major Power Factor with accuracy at 28 yards that was fantastic!

Major 9 Guru s11

Average velocity 1359.

If your gun and you are capable you may obtain a result similar to mine, provided of course that you follow expert loading practices.  That means owning and reading more than one loading manual!  I can not stress that enough!!! Reloading is not a passive pastime. You need to know what you are doing and be fully involved the process from load and component selection to understanding the final products performance.  Have you heard guys say "no pressure signs?" BS! If the gun went BANG and the bullet left the barrel, signs of pressure are sure to be found! Yea, I know "that guy" may have meant to say "no signs of Excessive pressure," but damn it man...say what you mean and mean what you say.

Major 9 Guru s8

Nice round edges. Sharp eye readers may notice a light firing pin wipe.

How do you "read" pressure signs?  Well I can't provide you all the details and that is why you should read, cover to cover(!), a loading manual. All that info is inside. I will show you what the primers look like from my loads.  Notice the primers still have round edges. That's is little more than a indication that we have not exceeded that primer's ability to hold pressure.  The higher the pressure the more the primer flows outward. If your fired primers have lost the round edge you could be dancing with a disaster! It may not be over pressure as excessive headspace could be the culprit, but I am not going down that rabbit hole here. Suffice to say "reading" primers is inexact at best, but if your primers look like mine you are probably ok. If not, back off your load!

Major 9 Guru s15

Love me some accuracy and a good day on the range!

You may have noticed I have NOT proffered any load data. More often than not loading to Major 9 power levels has the reloader going beyond what any loading manual would suggest. Please do your due diligence in researching load data, and as I have said please read and reread several loading manuals.  Reloading can be an enjoyable pastime, it can provide you with great volumes of reliable, accurate ammo for all your toys. Follow the rules and listen to your gun and brass. Until next time shoot accurate and fast!

Oh and if you are interested in my video review of the "Vista" pistol used in the away!



    • Patrick E Kelley 8 July, 2016 at 21:49 Reply

      I can, have and do! However,this a gun for a game that thousands of people play. And within that game is a handgun division known as OPEN division, where just about any modification is welcomed. Only real limits are the pistol must be 9×19 or larger with a maximum magazine length of 171mm. With some courses of fire requiring 30+ rounds to complete in one string, capacity is important. So…that gun is a 9×19 and it holds 29 rounds (a 10mm might only hold 21) it is also loaded “hot enough” to make “Major Power Factor” (that is what the article is all about) which improves scoring opportunities. If you would like to know more about the game please look for Take care.

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