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 ONE:
STAR MODEL SUPER: A RELIABLE AND WELL MADE GUN

Buying surplus firearms seems to be sort of a crap shoot so we ordered 3 pistols at 3 different intervals. Each was ordered from South Ohio Gun International, Inc. and each arrived in 3-4 days after placing the order by phone. The guns were listed as very good condition. Dealer price was $109.95, while the suggested retail is $199.95.

Each gun arrived packaged in a plain cardboard box, with one magazine, a cleaning tool, safety literature, and a sheet explaining firearm operation and a parts list. These guns are currently being imported from Spain by Interarms of Alexandria, VA. Two guns had light coatings of cosmoline and the 3rd was dry. All guns were disassembled, cleaned, and inspected. Each gun was found to be in very good condition as listed by the distributor. No corrosion rust or pitting was observed on any of the pistols. All guns showed some bluing wear (10%-20%) from carrying. The bores of two of the guns each showed a slight amount of etching, evidence of firing with corrosive ammo, but were otherwise fine. Rifling of each was strong. The bore of the third pistol indicated neglect, with some pitting. The guns appeared to have been used but were fairly well taken care of.

Fit and finish of the pistols was very good. Aside from a few handling marks, the metalwork was well done. Checkering on the hammer spur, magazine release, and slide release was functional. Metal checkering on the backstrap was overrun on each pistol.

One of the pistols had a plastic grip panels, while the other guns had grip panels made of wood. Another pistol had the slots "buggered up" on the magazine catch lock as well as the magazine safety lock. The 3rd pistol had a damaged rear sight which looked as though it had been dropped at one time.

After cleaning, inspection, and lubrication, the guns were all found to be in good working order. These guns are obviously patterned after the famous Government 1911 with a few differences. First, there is no grip safety. There is a half-cock notch but no firing pin safety, therefore carrying cocked and locked would be discouraged. There is also a takedown lever located opposite the slide stop on the right side of the frame which makes disassembly very easy. A loaded round indicator is located at the top of the chamber. The barrels are 5.25" long and the guns are blued steel. The gun weighs in at 37 ounces unloaded. Sights are windage, drift adjustable, rear with a post front sight.

On one of the pistols, the safety was hard to apply although it did function. Upon inspection it was found that there was wear on the safety where the hammer cams over on it. This gun was taken to our local gunsmith and the metal was built up on the safety and it was refitted. All these parts were then hardened as were the sear engaging parts on the gun. Although all pistols were found to be in good working order, it was discovered that none of them had these critical parts hardened when they were manufactured. This is ok, although after extensive use they may wear down to the point that new parts will have to be fitted.

At the range the pistol was found to be an exceptionally good pointer and we were delighted at the way the pistol settled into the hand. The grip seems to fit almost any hand well and the guns are quite streamlined.

Magazines were loaded to capacity(8 rounds) with ease. In fact most of the magazines easily accepted (and functioned well) 9 rounds. Magazine insertion was smooth. Empty magazines slide out about a 1/2 inch and must be removed from there.

The single action triggers broke at about 6 to 7 pounds. All the triggers had some slack but clean let-off. Shooting the gun was very pleasant and easy to control due to its ergonomic design. Much like a 9MM Luger in both report and recoil each gun was fired about 100 times. Operation was flawless in each gun with CCI Blazer ammunition. Extracted cases were ejected to the right and rear of the shooter about 3 to 5 feet with an occasional empty coming back up over the shooter, in a couple instances hitting the shooter on the top of the head.

All safeties, magazine releases, and takedown levers functioned as they should.

CCI Blazer ammo averaged 1138 fps at 10 feet from the muzzle when measured with a PACT MODEL 1 chronograph. The CCI loads utilize a 124 grain FMJ bullet. Groups from the pistol were excellent. Groups (5 shot) measured from the smallest of 1.2", to the largest of 1.4" at 25 feet from a rested position.

BOTTOM LINE:
After examination and firing the Star Model Super pistols, it was quickly observed that these are quality guns, fine examples of what Echeverria, Star-Bonifacio SA has become known for. The only problem we feel should be noted is the unhardened surfaces of some of the parts. While the one gun was corrected, all were found to function perfectly and we believe that it would be many rounds before any problems related to the unhardened parts would appear. Even so, if the parts are hardened by a gunsmith we feel that the extra cost is worth it and that the gun is still a bargain.


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 Two: SPANISH DESTROYER: LOWER QUALITY BUT A GOOD SHOOTER
David Berry 12 April 1994.
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