A .30 Luger Barrel-Swap

By John Taffin

Late last year I was trying to organize my reloading room a little better and as I was checking out my cabinet full of reloading dies I stumbled on both .30 Luger and .30 Mauser dies. A thought came to mind as to whether I could fit a 9mm-chambered 1911 with a barrel chambered in .30 Luger and be able to use the same magazine. It turns out you can!

The next step was to contact Bar-Sto to see if they could make a barrel for my 9mm 1911 Springfield Armory chambered in .30 Luger, also known as the 7.65 Parabellum. They just needed to know which 1911 it would be used in and whether I wanted a standard or a match barrel, with the latter requiring fitting. I went for the former and when it arrived I took everything over to my gunsmith at Buckhorn Gun where they proceeded to fit it tightly with a new bushing. We were able to use the same recoil spring.

This was the easy part! The headaches began when I started reloading. I gathered up proper Hornady and Sierra .30 bullets, ordered 500 brand-new Starline brass cases and did my load homework. I already had two sets of dies so I figured everything would work fine. It didn’t. I had many problems getting cartridges to feed no matter what I tried. I even had 0.005″ taken off the bottom of my sizing die so I could adjust it to push the shoulder back.

I tried different settings, took 0.002″ and 0.005″ off the shell holder, with the only result being fired cases showing excessive headspace. Success did not come until I put the old dies away and ordered a new set of Redding .30 Luger dies and a Lee Factory Crimp die. Success! All worked once I got the settings right.

Reloading success for the .30 Luger was achieved with Redding dies and the Lee Factory Crimp die —
after plenty of experimenting!

The .30 Luger compared to the 9mm. Who’d a-thought this would work?But it did!

Always Something Though

Now I only had trouble with the first cartridge out of the magazine seating into the chamber. I was taught at least 60 years ago to pull back the slide on a semi-auto pistol and let it go to chamber the first round. Success with this operation came when I began letting the slide go forward on its own when releasing the slide stop. For some reason, this worked.

For powders I chose Accurate #2, Accurate #5 Accurate #7 and the old standby, Unique. I also tried several factory loads and found some of the modern loads — at around 1,050 fps — wouldn’t operate the slide. An old box of Remington Kleanbore .30 Lugers clocked out at over 1,250 fps and worked perfectly. With this info, I came up with different powder charges to begin my experimenting. When I began hitting muzzle velocities in the high 1,100’s and mid-1,200’s, everything came together. Some of my best loads for both function and accuracy were the Sierra 85-gr. bullet over 4.5 grains of Accurate #2 for 1,250 fps and a 5-shot 20 yard group of 11/4″ and the same bullet over 5.0 grains of Unique for 1,300+ fps and a solid 1″ group.

Bullets are easy to find for the .30 Luger. John had good luck with all of these.

Dialing In

Switching to the 86-gr. Hornady with 6.0 grains of Accurate #5 resulted in a 1″ group with a muzzle velocity of 1,235 fps. Five grains of Unique with the same bullet clocked out at 1,333 fps delivering a 11/2″ group. I’ve finally settled on the 90-gr. Hornady as my favorite bullet. With 4.5 grains of Accurate #2, velocity is over 1,250 fps with a resulting 11/4″ group. I hit the really sweet spot with this bullet using 5.0 grains of Unique for right at 1,300 fps and it’s my most accurate load at 7/8″ for five shots at 20 yards.

The .30 Luger is such an easy shooting cartridge it really puts fun into shooting. The .30 Luger is especially appreciated since my “shoot-big-bores-all-day” era is long gone! It’s certainly not a first choice for self-defense, but for varmints and small game — and especially the great sport of plinking — it’s right at home. Bar-Sto can supply high quality barrels for converting 9mm Luger 1911’s to .30 Luger, and brass is also easily obtainable from Starline. How fun is that!

For more info: www.americanhandgunner.com/index

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