Saturday, October 01, 2011

Where are they now?

Over the last several decades, some new handgun cartridges have been released and been sales successes: .40 S&W and .357SIG spring most immediately to mind.

Others, like 10mm Auto and .45GAP, didn't live up to their initially-predicted sales success, but continue on as niche cartridges, with fans that cling like grim death.

And then there are the ones that sank without a ripple: .357 Maximum, .41 Action Express, 9mm Federal... Other than the occasional dusty box of ammunition at a gun show, or fanatical handloading crank in the dank corners of some internet forum, these cartridges are hardly even remembered except for a "I wonder why the ______ never caught on?"

Well, if it's the 9mm Federal you were wondering about, Grant Cunningham brings the answer.

For those unfamiliar with the chambering, 9mm Federal was basically a rimmed 9mm Parabellum round to be used in snubnosed revolvers that would be produced by Charter Arms. To say that it "never really caught on" would be a kindly exaggeration; it was a flop, and is mostly useful as a Trivial Pursuit (Category: Firearms History) answer these days.

But why did it flop? Not being much of a Charter Arms aficionado, this was a question I hadn't exactly spent a lot of time pondering until I read Grant's post, quoting a friend of his who had been an engineer at Ruger:
Had some India Ordnance Factory revolvers in .380/200, copies of No. 2 Enfield which were provided as government furnished material on India contract. When 9mm Federal ammo arrived Roy Melcher was curious as to whether rounds would enter .38 S&W chamber and we didn't have any US made guns, so tried in the ROF No.2...
Click through to read the whole 'splodey story.

My mind suddenly pictured a wobbling, elderly hand dropping a cylinder full of 35,000psi Federal rounds into an antique .38 S&W Iver Johnson "Owl Head" top-break pulled from the sock drawer before heading off to investigate a bump in the night, armed with what was, in effect, a handheld pipe-bomb.

I'm pretty sure that lawyers had been invented by 1989, but all the ones at Federal and Charter Arms must have been on vacation the week that proposal got through the front office.

34 comments:

perlhaqr said...

Oh, shit! I am a bitter clinger!

"You can have my 10mm when I can't find reloading components any more!"

nativeasset said...

So somebody with a rudimentary knowledge of Latin grammar tried to one-up the nomenclature of the .357 Magnum, eh?

The only way that could be more delightful is if they'd actually been trying to one-up the even littler-known .357 Maius.

Bob said...

The .45 Winchester Magnum and the 9mm Winchester Magnum were the Next Big Thing cartridges from my teen years. The .45 might have taken off if Colt could have been persuaded to upsize the 1911, maybe, but basically it was a one-gun pair of cartridges made for the Wildey pistol.

Tango Juliet said...

I'll go on record now and admit I predicted the .17 HMR to go the way of the 5mm Rem Mag.

But I'll still belittle the plethora of "short magnum" rifle cartridges we're plagued with.

Only the .300 WSM seems to be clinging to life at present.

Never go in against the '06 when work is to be done.

Anonymous said...

The .357 Maximum got some play as a long range handgun metallic silhouette cartridge.
I think brass is still available from some of the mail order places.

I bought a barrel for my Contender n the Maximum a year or two after the cartridge was announced. It was fun to shoot and with a 2z Burris scope onboard I liked the combo better for deer hunting the the original .44 Magnum barrel on the Contender when I bought it.

Tam said...

Anon 9:30,

Yup. Of course, it's a lot harder to have issues with flame-cutting of the topstrap in a T/C... ;)

TrueBlueSam said...

One of the handloading sites has an article promoting the use of .460 Rowland loads in .45 Convertible Blackhawks to turn it into a magnum. I hope that potential users of that info stop and consider what happens if a friend or family member with a .45 Auto mistakenly puts one of those up the spout. I like to keep my magnums in a gun made for them.

Bubblehead Les. said...

That's okay. We all know the .327 Federal Magnum is the UBER ULTIMATE cartridge of All TIME! Why else can't you find Guns and Ammo on the shelf? Because they sell out as soon as they show up!

Or so some at Federal believe.

Now about the .204 Ruger....

Robb Allen said...

Others, like 10mm Auto and .45GAP, didn't live up to their initially-predicted sales success, but continue on as niche cartridges, with fans that cling like grim death

I resemble that remark.

*heads off to clean his Glock 20*

Tam said...

Robb,

I've fired an MP-5/10. Don't hate. :D

the pawnbroker said...

Clingers like perl and Robb were what I liked to call "scores" during The Great Ban (aka "the great boom" as to demand and profit)...

I thought getting $80 for $20 G17 and G19 mags was amazing, but toss a couple regular capacity G20 ones on flea-bay and you'd have a bidding war within minutes...a guy in Texas paid almost $400 for two of 'em. It was a profitable niche until those kali nazis banned the prebans. Not the way you want to pad the bottom line of course, but in the terribly thin-margin gun biz you take what's handed to you.

All of that was before the 10 was dead of course, but it was already circling the drain; dealers knew it, and the fans did too, which I guess explains their willingess to plunk down two hun for two bucks worth of plastic.

Ah yes, they were the worst of times, and the best of times...

Tam said...

pawnbroker,

I carried a Glock 29 back around '00-'01. I well remember shelling out the better part of a C-note for a 15rd G20 mag to carry as a spare.

Robb Allen said...

Eh, I'm far from a score. I reload the 10mm because I'm too cheap to buy ammo. I'd wait 4 months for a mag to be available online before I'd spend a dime more than they cost elsewhere.

I personally love the round. Wouldn't suggest it to friend or foe though ;)

the pawnbroker said...

Robb, free enterprise, supply/demand, what the traffic will bear, and all that jazz...it's a great concept even if it is fast going the way of the 10mm. :)

Funniest thing was the dealers who would hoard them, refusing to sell for any price until it was too late...those guys probably didn't do too well during the real estate boom/bust and the current silver market either.

Tam said...

The '94 ban really took the wind out of the 10mm sales... er, sails. The G20 was the Great White Hope for the cartridge, but that big ol' horse pistol just didn't make a lot of sense as a 10-round gun.

For those who are unaware, Glock serial numbers are "Letter, Letter, Letter Number, Number, Number" and run consecutively, so that AAA111 was followed by AAA112 and so on. I remember sometime in '02 or '03 ordering some new Glocks from a wholesaler to stock the shelves. All the nines and .40s in the shipment had "Exx###" serial numbers, while the 20 that arrived had a "Cxx###" number, indicating that it had sat on the shelf at the wholesaler for three years or so...

Will said...

Got a buddy with a 10mm Colt. Neat gun to shoot. I Want. He seems to have settled on the habit of shooting it once a decade, just to keep his hand in.

the pawnbroker said...

Tam,

"...that big ol' horse pistol just didn't make a lot of sense as a 10-round gun."

True that for civvies, but much earlier when the cop shops went overwhelmingly .40 even though LEO mags were exempt, it was all over for Los Diez but the fat lady's part.

Drang said...

@Tango Juliet: Short Mags make some sense when short enough to feed through an AR-platform rifle. Otherwise (and sometimes even then), meh...

Although I do not necessarily buy the Jeff Cooper(pbuh)-esque "Solution in search of a problem" for every new caliber/cartridge that is touted, oftentimes they are a triumph of marketing over sense. Anyone remember the 5.7 Baz, or whatever it was called, that was no-shit marketed as "the ultimate counter-terrorism tool"?

Tam said...

Drang,

.224 Boz, coincidentally made from a necked-down 10mm Auto.

In the "10 Ring" forum at GlockTalk back in the day, us 10mm nerds were kicking around the idea of duplicating it with a saboted .223 in a 10mm case which we would market as the ".223 XR". :)

Gewehr98 said...

If you have a Winchester rifle in the vintage .351 WSL (Winchester Self-Loading) pig-sticker cartridge, you'd best become very intimate with whatever source of .357 Maximum brass you can get your hands on...

45er said...

Much the same for rifle cartridges in the 90s. As a hunting guide at the time, going through the belted-mag to SAUM, WSM, WSSM, RUM craze was almost maddening. I had a .300 Win Mag previous to the craze and bought a 7 mm STW around that time. The 7 STW is a lot like what you described above. All but non-existent to find ammo and ferociously defended by those that shoot them.

Joe said...

I picked up a Dan Wesson in .357 Maximum last year. I thought I'd have a hard time finding brass but in all honesty two or three major vendors had it in stock and continue to do so.

Tasso said...

I buy another 10mm pistol about every 6 months. It's a caliber that fits a performance niche that no other caliber is an adequate substitute for. For example, my pet load is 200XTP@1325fps out of a G20 -- not many options out there for that kind of performance from an autopistol. And there's always a more expensive model that I don't have yet. Like a 6-inch long slide 1911... *wistful pause*

45GAP on the other hand -- bah.

DirtCrashr said...

I was reading in Handloader about the 9mm Feral, which posed the same question: "For the love of Christ WHY?" But your description off the hand-held pipe-bomb is much more eloquent.

DaveFla said...

Coincidentally, I took my S&W 610/6.5" and a bunch of 180-gr Georgia Arms reloads to the range this very morning. Still a hoot, leaving me to wonder if a G20 would fit in the safe too. OTOH, I guess I *could* come to my senses and swap whatever it takes to get into a 629. Or a nice used 27 with an 8 3/8"... It's an addiction.

Kevin said...

I want a Ruger No. 1 International in .204 Ruger.

Just because.

Anonymous said...

Lets see if I live up as the fanatical handloading crank int eh dark corner:

10mm Yep, at least 3000 rnds loaded, favorite round to shoot

357 Max Yep, 2000 rnds loaded, 2000 pieces of brass stashed away and 3 guns chambered.

9mm federal yep, 2000 pieces of brass stored. Neat round just need a gun to shoot it in.

Yikes, I am a handloading crank!

Tam said...

Anon,

10mm doesn't count; you can buy that stuff at Gander Mountain. ;)

Robin said...

The piece in Handloader pointed out that the probable failure to think at Federal occurred because Federal never loaded any .38 S&W and so had no institutional knowledge of the cartridge.

Mikael said...

One of my "grail guns" is a Guncrafter Industrier Model 1, in .50GI... that one tickled my fancy. Let's take a .45ACP, shorten it a bit and put a wider, heavier bullet on it, and put it in a 1911 platform.

staghounds said...

I have always wanted a 10mm "top half" to try out on my S&W 4506/4516 frames.

McThag said...

Not one mention of 6.5 Grendel?

Tam said...

Not really a handgun round. :)

McThag said...

I got confused, since ATF has ruled that 6.8 and 6.5 are, indeed, pistol rounds now.

I thought we'd changed topic to rounds that are likely doomed commercially but still have dedicated, furry-like, supporters.