Dave Berry 9mm Largo article Part One

9MM LARGO: A LOOK AT TWO SURPLUS GUNS.

By: David Berry 12 April 1994

Recently, 3 surplus firearms chambered for the 9MM Largo (Bergmann/Bayard) have entered the market. They are reasonably priced and we decided to take a look at two of them. We purchased three each of the Star Model Super, a semi auto pistol; and two each of the Spanish Destroyer , a carbine rifle.

The 9 mm Largo is a cartridge of Danish origin from about 1910. It is a very good round capable of exceeding 9mm Luger performance. The ammunition available comes in two flavors. First is a lot of original surplus made in the early sixties. This ammo is corrosive and berdan primed. Also available is CCI Blazer which is non-corrosive, berdan primed and non-reloadable. Many buyers tend to shy away from cartridges they are not familiar with, or are not readily available as ammunition or reloadable components. We therefore took a close look at the cartridge and the options available to the handloader.


PART TWO:
SPANISH DESTROYER: LOWER QUALITY BUT A GOOD SHOOTER.

Two Spanish Destroyer Carbines were ordered, once again separately. Both were ordered from Century International Arms, Co.. Each gun was received in about 14 days after placing the order. The first gun was ordered as a "Special Select", which cost an extra $15.00. Dealer cost of the guns are $89.00. There is no suggested retail price listed.

Each gun arrived in a plain shipping box with 2 spare magazines. There was no literature of any kind included. The guns are currently being imported by Century International Arms Co.. The special select was definitely the nicer of the two guns received, what we would consider "very good" for a surplus rifle. The other gun was considered to be in "good condition". The only difference other than condition was that the special select gun had a pistol grip on the stock whereas the other rifle was of the straight stock design.

The guns were disassembled, cleaned and inspected. Again the bores were etched indicating they had been fired with corrosive ammo. Rifling remained sharp. The workmanship on these carbines was of lesser quality than the Star pistols which we had received. The wood to metal fit would have to be considered poor. Butt plates overhung the stock by an unsightly 1/16 to 1/8", and the trigger guards were simply screwed on with no attention to fit. The guns are blued with about 75% of the finish remaining.

The less expensive carbine had several problems. First, the firing pin was bent, enough so it would not protrude from the firing pin hole. This was straightened, and the filed for proper protrusion. Next the rear sight was mounted on the barrel, canted left. This sight is soldered on and was heated and re-aligned. The front sight was badly bent and a new sight blade was fitted. Finally the stock was slightly cracked in the tang area. This was repaired with acraglass and a brass pin.

The "Special Select" gun was in much better shape. Although it too exhibited signs of lower quality craftsmanship, it was in better condition, and after cleaning and reassembly was ready to fire.

The guns are quite handy in appearance. Length of pull measured 13.6". The barrel is 21.5" long and the gun weighs in at 6.3 pounds unloaded.

The sights on these carbines are of military style with a fixed, flip-up rear sight and a post front.

The bolts on these guns are a cock on closing design and are pattern somewhat after a M93 Mauser. The claw extractor sits at the top of the bolt. To remove the bolt, the safety is set in the top position (This too is of Mauser design.) and the bolt is withdrawn to it's farthest position. Next, the bolt is turned down allowing the lugs to clear the action through a milled slot and the bolt is then withdrawn out of the gun. Wear was noticed on all contact points of the lugs. These areas are not hardened and after much use, one may experience enough set back to develop a headspace problem.

The magazines supplied in the guns worked well, but when we tried to insert the spare magazines none of them would be accepted. All these magazines were squeezed in a vise slightly and then filed to fit. There seemed to be no special area of the magazines that required work, they were simply hand fitted by trial and error. This appears to be a quality problem when the magazines were manufactured.

Magazines were loaded to capacity with ease, and once adjusted were smoothly inserted into the gun. The triggers are of the two stage type. There is quite a bit of travel to take up in the first stage. Each of the guns had a notch on the sear which would engage just before release, almost a type of set trigger. This took a little getting used to when firing. The triggers broke at 34 to 40 ounces.

The guns did have some problems with feeding. Every so often, a round would fail to feed into the chamber. A little jiggling of the bolt usually got things going again. It appears that this problem is related to the fitting of the trigger guard to the action and stock. Inspection revealed that the trigger guard which houses the magazine is not mated to the action, creating a gap at this point. As the cartridge clears the magazine, it hits the edge of the receiver instead of the feed ramp and fails to feed. We averaged about one failure to feed in every two to three clips fired. This condition should be fairly easy to correct by proper inletting of the trigger guard.

With CCI Blazer ammunition, the rifles printed delightful groups at 60 feet. The smallest group was 0.55 " and the largest was 1.25" from a rested position. The loads registered an average of 1453 fps at 10 feet from the muzzle.

Recoil was very light, and report although sharp was not too loud. These guns appear accurate and we found them very pleasant to shoot.

BOTTOM LINE:
The "special select" was definitely a better gun and worth the $15.00 compared to the amount of time and effort that went into the second gun to make it functional. We feel that the second gun was shipped in a less than "good" condition since it was not in working order when received. The workmanship in these rifle is also of a lesser quality than the Star pistols evaluated above.

Since some shooters actually enjoy tinkering with guns, these may not be a bad deal for the hobby gunsmith. From the rifles we received for evaluation, you should be prepared for some adjustment to these guns before firing.

If you don't mind a little fixing up, we think the accuracy and the enjoyment of shooting them is worth the effort.


WHAT ABOUT AMMO?

As mentioned earlier current factory ammunition for the 9mm Largo (Bergmann/ Bayard) is limited to CCI blazer ammunition which is not reloadable. We therefore investigated the feasibility of handloading for this cartridge of a bygone era. Below is our results.

The following information will provide reloading data and case conversion data so that conventional reloading of the cartridge will be possible.

WARNING: The following data is presented as a guide to reloading 9 mm Largo ammunition. The author has no control over components or how reloading is conducted by other individuals. Therefore, the individual assumes all risk for the safety of reloaded ammunition. It is also acknowledged that the procedures outlined are to be conducted by persons knowledgeable about the techniques and tools required for reloading ammunition, and that these persons are safe, proficient and experienced handloaders.

The loads developed, were each fired in a Spanish Destroyer, and two separate Star Model Super pistols. Velocities were obtained with a PACT Model 1 chronograph at 10 feet from the muzzle. All firearms functioned flawlessly including cartridge feeding, extraction, and ejection, with all loads listed.


PART 1: CASE CONVERSION

TOOLS REQUIRED:
  1. Trimmer.
  2. Vernier calipers.
  3. Reloading press.
  4. 9 mm Luger 3 die set & shellholder.(RCBS #16)

The 9 mm Largo case was made from 9mm Winchester Magnum brass. This brass is currently available from most reloading supply houses. It is in good supply now but since the future of the 9mm Winchester Magnum is questionable, I would suggest buying a good supply. This will provide a good, brass, boxer primed case suitable for many reloadings.

Trim the 9mm Winchester Magnum brass to 0.910 inches. A fair amount of brass will need to be removed, and access to a drill press, small lathe, or power trimmer will speed up the process. I started by cutting of the initial portion with a hacksaw and finishing the trimming on a RCBS rotary case trimmer. This process was boring to say the least, until a friend Bob Wagner stopped by. He offered his services on a Unimat lathe which was greatly appreciated. This allowed me to acquire a good supply of usable brass in a minimum amount of time.

Once trimming is complete the inside and outside of the case mouth should be chamfered. You now have a case very close to 9mm Largo dimensions. The 9mm Winchester Magnum case will easily hold up; just be certain your cases are properly measured.


PART 2: LOADING THE CASE.

  1. Flare the case mouth as you would any pistol round.
  2. Prime with SMALL PISTOL primer.
  3. Measure powder into case.
  4. Seat bullet. Use a standard 9mm bullet. Overall loaded round length should be about 1.30 inches. I lightly taper crimp the round although no crimp should work well. Do not roll crimp the round.

PART 3: RELOADING THE CASE.

1. Full length resize in a 9 mm Luger sizing die (Just as you would size a 9mm Luger case). 9 mm Largo dies are not available at this time. I use RCBS carbide 9mm Luger dies with great success.
2. After checking case length, and trimming if required, proceed with step 1, Part 2 above.

PART 4: RELOADING DATA:

The loads shown here were found to function extremely well in both gun designs. All loads exhibited good accuracy when compared with the CCI Blazer ammunition.

CASES: 9mm Winchester Magnum cases trimmed to 0.910 inches. (Winchester).
PRIMERS: Winchester SMALL PISTOL

VELOCITY
VELOCITY
GROUP
GROUP
BULLET
POWDER
*CHARGE
RIFLE
PISTOL
RIFLE
PISTOL
Winchester
Bluedot
8.0 grains
1536
1214
.55
1.30
115g FMJ
Unique
5.3 grains
1264
1028
.77
1.32
HS-6
7.2 grains
1243
1048
.92
1.42
Bullseye
4.4 grains
1207
1072
1.15
1.5
BULL-X
Unique
5.0 grains
1281
1036
N/A
N/A
124g hardcast LRN
HS-6
6.5 grains
1357
1040
N/A
N/A
Bullseye
4.1 grains
1277
1079
N/A
N/A
CCI BLAZER
1453
1138
1.10
1.20
124g TMJ**
Rifle groups measured in inches and fired from a rested position at 60 feet.
Pistol groups measured in inches and fired from a rested position at 25 feet.
* The powder charges listed above were exceeded in my guns by 5 % with no indication of high pressure. You may wish to decrease loads about 5 % and re-establish in your firearm.
** The CCI BLAZER load was included for additional information.

Donnelley(1) suggests that after the case is trimmed to length, the forward 1/4" of the case is sized in a 38 Special die to reduce the diameter to 0.375". The 9mm Luger dimension at this point is 0.380". I found this step is unnecessary since the case is flared with a 9mm flaring die, thereby defeating the purpose of this step. The case will then form to the bullet diameter when it is seated, and a taper crimp should provide a close match to original cartridge dimensions.

Barnes (2) states that standard 9mm or 38 Colt ACP loads will work fine in these guns, and this was the basis for my load development. Also listed is an average velocity of 1120 F.P.S. for factory loaded ammunition. This correlates well with the data I obtained. It would stand to reason that some of the loads listed could be increased somewhat. Indeed, a 5% increase in my loadings exhibited no sign of high pressure, but I believe these loads met my objectives of an accurate, comfortable, and reliably functioning handload. Also the design of the rifle and the materials used would suggest that maximum loads should be avoided in this particular gun.

Shooting the 9mm Bergman-Bayard cartridge is fun. It is a pleasant round to shoot and was very accurate in all the test guns. The firearms available are very pleasant to shoot, and I believe the Star Model Super pistols are very well made guns. Each of the firearms are also reasonably priced.

REFERENCES:

  1. The Handloader's Manual Of Cartridge Conversions., John J. Donnelly. Stoeger Publishing Company, 1987, p899.
  2. Cartridges Of The World., 6th Edition., Frank C. Barnes., DBI Books, Inc., 1989, p235.
ACKNOWLEDGMENT:
I would like to thank Robert Wagner for his help in testing and evaluating the guns and working up loading data. Without his help this testing would not have been possible.
Read Part One: STAR MODEL SUPER: A RELIABLE AND WELL MADE GUN
David Berry 12 April 1994.
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