There’s a good reason why action shooters in Minor caliber divisions love the 9 mm round. The 125 Minor Power Factor allows light recoiling loads. Handloaders can launch a 124-grain bullet at 1,050 f.p.s. to provide a comfortable 130 PF. A 147-grain bullet at 880 f.p.s. makes 129 PF with softer, less snappy recoil than the 124-grain slugs. Unfortunately, those shooting factory loads miss out. Factory 9 mm loads have higher velocities and PFs will be in the 135 to 145 range. That’s more recoil than needed, and doesn’t aid match performance.
Barnaul’s recently-introduced subsonic 9 mm load can level the playing field for factory ammunition shooters. The Russian-made load features a 151-grain, bi-metal jacketed RN bullet in a steel case. Both are coated with zinc to lubricate and promote feeding. It claims 850 f.p.s. from a 4.7-inch barrel for a 128.5 PF. It was worth a look.
Banaul’s zinc-coated, round-nosed bullet and cartridge case fed perfectly through all three guns. There were no malfunctions. It can be found for about $25 per box.
Since I was provided 100 rounds, a match was not doable—but function, accuracy and chronograph tests were. I selected three 9 mm guns I have shot in competition for years and accuracy tested and chronographed with many loads. I know what they will and won’t do. They consisted of a S&W M&P Standard with a 4.25-inch long, 1:10-inch twist barrel with adjustable iron sights, a 5-inch M&P C.O.R.E with a KKM 1:16-inch twist barrel and Trijicon SRO reflex sight and a Ruger PC9 Carbine sporting Tandemkross Eagle Eye fiber-optic sights.
I fired a few rounds with each gun on a 10-yard target to check point of impact, and prevent blowing up my chronograph. The recoil felt the same as my 147-grain 125 PF handloads. Checking ejection, the two pistols spit them out about 30 inches and 45-degrees rearward, while the PC9 tossed them 40 inches and 90 degrees—no different than my handload.
From my 25-yard sandbagged bench rest, I started the accuracy tests with the 4.25-inch M&P. This is a three-inch gun with its best loads, and the Barnaul was right there. The PC9 Carbine was a surprise. Even with iron sights the groups were a bit tighter than my best handloads with a reflex sight. The biggest surprise was the C.O.R.E.
The Barnaul load was accurate in all three guns, but surprisingly accurate in the C.O.R.E. barrel. It exceeded any previous heavy bullet load and was right there with the best 124-grain handloads.
My previous experience with this 1:16-inch twist barrel has been that 147-grain loads grouped into three to four inches. I felt the twist rate was too slow for heavier bullets, so I used 124/125-grain slugs for matches. But the groups I was getting with the Barnaul were quite close to my best lighter bullet handloads. For whatever reason, this barrel liked the 151-grain loads.
Chronographing was the last step. Barnaul claims 850 f.p.s. from a 4.7-inch barrel for a 128.3 PF.
The accompanying chart shows the 4.25-inch M&P didn’t make a 125 PF. The five-inch C.O.R.E. made it easily for both USPSA and IDPA. I had expected a larger velocity increase from the 16.2-inch barrel on the PC9 carbine, but it easily made PF for both organizations.
There were no malfunctions of any type from the guns, although upon cleaning them I noticed that the powder was pretty dirty (similar to most Russian-made rounds). It took a little more cleaning time, but not that much. Even with that, given the soft recoil and excellent accuracy, this is a viable option for factory ammunition shooters with 4.7-inch or longer barrels.
Accuracy and Chronograph Chart
Accuracy testing was from a 25-yard bench rest. Group size reported is the average of two five-round groups in inches. Chronographing performed with first screen set 10 feet from the muzzle and three rounds fired per gun with the minimum PF reported.