9mm Thumb Busters? You Bet!


When it comes to shooting 9mm ammo, the Ruger Blackhawk surely
doesn’t take a back seat to any semi-auto out there.

For better or worse, due to the popularity of today’s poly-framed, striker-fired semi-auto’s, the 9mm is the most popular centerfire handgun cartridge around the world. Being a NATO round manufactured for or by over 70 countries helps with its popularity. Add to the fact it was once one of the cheapest calibers on the shelf and we understand its following.

Although prices are higher today, due to demand and limited availability, the 9mm is sadly cheaper than .38 Specials now. For non-handloaders desiring to do a lot of shooting, the 9mm is still the cartridge for you. But what if you want something a little more retro than your Tactical Tupperware Semi-Auto Shell Shucker? What if you want to address your inner cowboy? Then the Ruger convertibles are the way to go.

The handy .357 Magnum Ruger Blackhawk not only shoots Magnum loads, along with .38 Specials, but if you have one of the convertible models, you have a 9mm cylinder allowing the use of 9mm ammo too.

Dual cylinder convertibles allow one to shoot 9mm ammo
in a sixgun labeled .357 Magnum.


The reason you can shoot rimless cartridges such as the 9mm in a cylinder is because the cartridge headspaces on the mouth of the cylinder chamber. How slick is that? Simply plunk those bullets in your cylinder chambers and the mouth of the brass bottoms out on the chamber bottom, keeping the cartridge head where it should be for ignition. After firing, shucking the shells out with your ejector rod allows you to load it again.

Tank used some Federal Syntech synthetic coated ammo along with his
own handloads for comparison. In the middle is an MP Molds 130 grain
RFN and on right, a LEE Precision 125 RFN, both powder coated.

Handloader Heaven

For the frugal handloader (is there any other type?), the 9mm cartridge is a dream come true. It only takes a pinch of powder, a primer, and very little lead to make it shoot. Even standard pressure/velocity loads don’t take much powder. Plinker loads even less so, and since we don’t have to worry about cycling the slide, we can really go low with some gallery type loads.

The Federal didn’t shoot quite as well as Tank’s handloads due to bullet size.
Size means everything when shooting cast bullets.

Keep Those Magazines

Carrying spare ammo and doing hot tactical reloads can be accomplished with the very same magazines you use for your favorite semi-auto. Once you empty your cylinder of spent brass, use your magazine to feed your fresh cartridges into your cylinder. Simply thumb them in one at a time.

That’s quite a difference in accuracy when using bullets sized .358”.

Size Matters

I had Federal Syntech 124 grain ammo on hand. While it was very accurate in the various 9mm’s I shot it in, it wasn’t the best choice for the Blackhawk. Most 9mm ammo sizes bullets .355-356” — as they should. Since we’re using a convertible cylinder Blackhawk chambered in .357, best accuracy for cast bullets comes with bullets sized .358”.

As a matter of fact, I size all my 9mm loads using cast bullets to .358” and have found they shoot the most accurately in my 9mm handguns.

Keep your 9mm magazines handy as they’re a convenient way to load your sixgun.


It was a perfect day to shoot! I had the range to myself. It was overcast and about 60 degrees cool. I set my target backer at 50 feet and had nine 2” fluorescent orange squares on a blank sheet of target backing. Shooting was done with casual elbows on bench style while sipping my morning coffee between groups. I told you, it was a perfect day.

I had “The Baby Gun” with me, which I wrote about last year. It’s the gun I bought 23 years ago when my daughter was born. Hard to believe she just finished her first year in veterinarian school … boy, does time fly.

MP Molds 8-cavity 130 grain 9mm mold is capable of making
lot of accurate bullets in a short period of time.


I had two different handloads. The first consisted of an MP Molds 130 grain radiused flat-nose slug with no lube grooves. It’s made specifically for powder coating. It is a very accurate bullet and is sized .358”. It is loaded with over 5.5 grains of Unique powder. Velocity runs over 1,200 FPS from most semi-autos but loses some velocity from the barrel/cylinder gap of the Blackhawk, but not much.

The second load consisted of a favorite utility bullet from LEE Precision. It’s their 125 grain radiused flat-nose bullet designed for .38/.357 loads. Sized .358” they are perfect for those cartridges, as well as 9mm. I used 4.5 grains 231 for this load. Again, velocity runs 1,200 FPS from semi-autos, and a tad less in the Blackhawk.

Accuracy was very consistent, with both loads running 1-1.5” for 5 shots at 50 feet. Recoil is basically non-existent. This is a good load for teaching youngsters how to shoot, as well as penny pinchers watching over their powder and lead supplies with miserly eyes. Plus, the loads pack enough punch to handedly take care of garden pests with one shot.

Have Fun

Maybe it’s time to confuse your buddies next time you’re shooting together and packing your Ruger Blackhawk, with 9mm cylinder and carrying your 9mm magazine in a pouch. They’ll think you went full western punk, or maybe just plum loco … but you know what’s going on, and that’s all that matters — and that makes it even more fun!

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