Reloading the 9x18 Makarov Cartridge (2022)

Reloading the 9x18 Makarov Cartridge (1)

Reloading the 9x18 Makarov Cartridge (2)

Getting Started

Is it worth it?

The first question that the shooter must ask is "Is it worth it?" For the occasionalshooter who is not really interested in ballistics, or simply wants to evaluate commercialammunition for defensive purposes, the answer may be it isn't.I do not wish to lecture those who are not interested in loading, and such adiscussion is beyond the scope of this writing. However, those who wish to maximize thepotential of the Makarov should seriously consider reloading their own ammunition for it.

Equipment

Assuming that we have decided to take the plunge and reload for the Makarov, theequipment selection is the next consideration. I assume that the reader is alreadysomewhat familiar with reloading metallic cartridges, but I have included much of thebasic practice information. There are a number of good publications on this subject,including reloading manuals written by the manufacturers of reloading components, e.g.Hornady, Speer, Winchester. The beginning reloader should not think of this work as asubstitute for a comprehensive reloading manual.

Reloading Press

Most reloaders already have a favorite press, or at least one they are comfortablewith. At a minimum, the press should be able to accommodate the industry standard 7/8"x 14 thread reloading dies. Notable exceptions are the Dillon Square Deal B and theDillon 450 Jr. These are fine presses, but they only accept non-standard dies forprogressive reloading.

Veteran reloaders often tell rookies to purchase single stage presses until they develop good reloading practices. This has advantages and disadvantages. The biggest advantage is cost. One can purchase an entire Lee reloading kit and everything needed to reload for well under $200. I first reloaded the9x18 Makarov on a Lee Challenger press included with the Anniversary kits that we carry at Makarov.com. The results were quite acceptable, and teaches the steps of reloading very well. A single stage press always comses in handy for future reloading endeavors, so it is almost never a waste of money. For example, if one pursues bullet casting, the single-stage press is essential for the bullet resizing process.

On the other hand, progressive presses have the advantage of speed and convenience. With each pull of the lever, a loaded round is produced. This requires a much larger initial set up expense and recognition of what is happening at every step to avoid dangerous situations like cocked primers, powder overcharges (e.g. double charges) or improperly seated bullets.

These instructions for reloading are written from the standpoint of both single-stage and progressive reloading presses, but favor the progressive presses.

Dillon RL550B reloading press(picture)

Shell Plates and Caliber Conversion Kits

Shell plates hold the brass cases to the bottom of the reloading platform during thereloading process. Reloading press manufacturers usually have their own systems forholding the cases in the press. Lee and Lyman use inserts for single stage and turretpresses; progressive reloading presses use a shell plate. Dillon caliber conversion kits (picture) include a shell plate and a belling die insert. Check with the manufacturer of yourreloading press to see if they have shell plates or a conversion kit for the 9x18 Makarov.Makarov brass comes in two base sizes: 1) 9mm Parabellum brass trimmed to 18mm and Starline brand brass, and 2) Chinese Norinco and "real" European Makarov brass.If you plan to reload only trimmed 9mm Parabellum or Starline brass, and would like toreload 9mm Parabellum as well, a 9mm Parabellum shell plate will work quite well.

Reloading Dies

A number of reloading supply manufacturers have added 9x18 Makarov reloadingdies to their product line. Lee, Lyman, Dillon, Hornady (picture), Speer, Redding all haveacceptable dies. Veteran reloaders typically have a favorite brand already.

As with other pistol calibers, I recommend splurging for carbide dies. They reducethe amount of lubricant you need for resizing, and will probably last much longer.Pistol dies typically come as a 3-die set: 1) decapper/resizer, 2) belling, and 3)bullet seater/crimper. Some have the belling die integrated with the powder charge step.Some have a separate seating and crimping die. Separate crimping dies are also available.I will discuss the implications in detail later, but in general, a separate bullet seating andcrimping die is preferable to a combined seating/crimping die.

Ken Shackelford reports the following about early RCBS 9x18 Makarov dies:
"I had to return my RCBS cabide dies due to the fact that they weresizing the brass down to 9mm para. dimensions. This resulted in a verynoticeable bulge after seating the .363 bullets. They seemed to work OK, butit obviously wasn't right either. Anyway, after almost two months in theircustom die shop, they were returned with a note stating that they hadinstalled a new carbide sizer ring. I was never able to get a good answerabout whether this was an aberration or a basic design flaw in their 9mm Mak.sizer die. From the time it took to fix, one might think they had never seenthis before. But then again, they may have a bit of a backlog of work. Itwould be interesting to see what others with RCBS carbide dies are seeingwith regards to resized brass."

If you have RCBS dies, you may want to double check that they are resizing properly. I have no personal experience with RCBS customer service, but typically the reloading industry is good about returning defective parts.

Other Reloading Tools

The reloader should consider purchasing several other items that will makereloading the 9x18 Makarov safer and more consistent. A micrometer measures caselength, cartridge overall length, bullet diameter, etc. A reloading scale, graduated intenths of a grain, measures powder charges and bullet weights. Single stage reloadingpress users should consider purchasing a hand-held priming system such as the LeeAutoprime.

Reloading Supplies

Brass Cases

Reloaders can obtain brass 9x18 Makarov cases by three different methods: 1)picking up spent shells at the shooting range, 2) buying new cases, or 3) trimming 9mmParabellum cases. Any combination of these methods is fine, but there are some caveats.

Range Pick-Ups

Buying loaded ammunition and reloading the used cases is certainly not the mosteconomical way of obtaining brass. However, if one shoots commercially loadedammunition with reloadable brass cases, the cases should be taken home. If your rangeallows it, pick up all the brass you can for reloading.

When you unpack your brass from the shooting range, you should examine eachcase carefully. Check for Berdan-primed cases and discard them. Berdan primers havetwo flash holes and a central anvil that is part of the case, not the primer. Most militarysurplus ammunition has this type of primer. The decapping pin on your decapper/resizerdie may bend or break if you attempt to force a Berdan primer out of its case in thisfashion. Special Berdan depriming tools are available, but unless you can buy Berdanprimers, it is not worth the trouble.

Make sure it is a reloadable case; not all cases are brass. Aluminum cases, such asCCI Blazers, should not be reloaded. Steel cases are very tough on reloading dies. Unlessyou have a very hard time obtaining brass cases, these should be discarded.

Check the caliber and case length. 9mm Kurz (.380 ACP), 9x18 Makarov, and9mm Parabellum cases appear to be very much the same; check the head stamp. Inaddition, some 9mm Parabellum cases are actually trimmed to a case length of 18 mm(desirable for our purposes, but not for 9mm Parabellum reloaders). Use a micrometer orcase length gauge to check the actual case length.

We sell a case length gauge specifically for Makarov reloaders. It has 17, 18, 19, and 20 mm slots to check brass length. Click on the graphic for a bigger picture:
Custom-made case gauge

Purchasing New Brass

A number of manufacturers now produce top quality 9x18 Makarov brass.Starline brass was first on the market and works quite nicely. As stated in the section onshell plates, be sure that your reloading press is set up for the brass you are purchasing.

Trimming 9mm Parabellum Brass

When the Makarov pistols first became available, those itching to load their ownammunition found it difficult to obtain brass. One solution was to trim 9mm Parabellumbrass to a case length of 18 mm.

Trimming 9mm Parabellum brass is not difficult, but brass crafted in this fashionshould be used carefully. The head stamp will no longer match the actual case, thereforebe very careful when you examine range pick-ups. The case mouth is initially sized muchsmaller than the .363" bullet requires, so case belling is critical. After it is fired for thefirst time, the case will expand to fill the Makarov chamber. The metal near the casemouth is then spread thinner than a true 9mm Makarov case because of the larger 9.2 mmbullet. Check the case mouth for cracks and splits after firing.

9x18 Makarov case trimmers are generally not available from the reloadingmanufacturers. However, one can easily fashion one from 9mm Parabellum trimmers.The Lee case trimmer is a simple, inexpensive tool that uses a conventional powerdrill and an hand-held trimming blade. The case trimming tool consists of a shell holderwith drill insert and a blade/case length gauge. Using a very hard, e.g. carbide grinder, thecase length gauge can be shortened by 1 mm so that it will produce 18 mm cases from9mm Parabellum cases. When grinding the case length gauge, err on the side of cuttingoff too little. Trim a few cases and measure them with a micrometer. You can always cutthe case length gauge a bit shorter if the cases turn out too long.
For safety and sorting ease, mark the trimmed case heads with a permanentmarker. Enough of this ink will be left on the case after it is fired and tumbled clean to seethat it is different from all other cases.

Homemade 9x18M case trimmer (picture)

Bullets

The 9x18 Makarov uses a special 9.2 mm (.363") bullet. Under no circumstancesshould a 9 mm Parabellum or 9 mm Kurz (.380 ACP) .356" diameter bullet be used inreloading the Makarov. Not only will this give terrible accuracy results, it is alsopotentially dangerous.

Quite a few manufacturers make the special 9.2 mm bullet. Look for "9x18 M" or "9mm Makarov" bullets in catalogs. Fortunately, even the smaller reloading companies are getting into it these days. Liberty Shooting Supply was kind enough to send me a sample of their .364" 100-grain round-nose bullets. I haven't had a chance to load them up, but they look like top quality cast bullets. Hornady (picture), Speer, and Sierra (home page) carry jacketed .363"bullets; Midway, Dillon, National Bullet (picture) all have .363" cast lead or copper-washed bullets.
Just for comparison, here's a picture of pulled Norinco bullet and a cutaway of a Russian steel-core bullet.

[Introduction][Getting Started][The Reloading Process][Load Data]
[References]
[Top of Makarov Loading Manual]

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