The 9x23 Winchester
is one of my absolutely favourite autopistol rounds. It is also one of
the least popular. Basically the 9x23 Win. is a .38 Super Auto "on
steroids." It uses the same dimension case as the .38 Super but without
the semi-rim and with a slight taper to the case. It is also loaded to
much higher pressures.
There is a lot of contentious history to
this cartridge which does not affect the round's performance in any
way. Dane Burns has a lot of information, including the interesting history, about the 9x23 Win. on his site. Go take a look if you are at all interested in this round.
have been several other 9x23mm cartridges over the years. These older
rounds were not loaded to anywhere near the working pressure of the
9x23 Win. Do not use 9x23 Win. ammunition in any of the older European
9x23 pistols. It will fit; it will also turn a fine pistol into a pile
of scrap metal.
What's the lure of the 9x23 Win? Well the 125
grain Jacketed Hollow Point (JHP) loading of the classic .357 Mangum at
a muzzle velocity of 1450 feet per second (fps) has long been
recognised as a pretty good fight stopper. Studies have shown that that
specific round has more "one-shot stops" on the streets than any other.
Pretty good credentials. Now if we could just get that kind of
performance out of an autopistol cartridge we'd be getting somewhere.
Enter the .38 Super. The .38 Super is usually loaded with a 130 grain
full-metal jacket bullet with a muzzle velocity of around
1250 fps. That was getting pretty close, but the bullet wasn't an
expanding type and the power was still a bit lower than the .357 Mag
load. There were a few problem areas with the old .38 Super too. It had
a small "semi-rim" that could interfere with reliable feeding, and the
case wasn't particularly strong by current standards. The fellows who
shot IPSC matches back in the 1970s and 80s used the .38 Super to get the "major" power factor
that was important in those days. They loaded them hot and a lot of the
cases blew out -- but they did work. New ramped barrel designs for the
1911 platform helped. Enter the 9x23 Winchester. The 9x23 Win uses a
truly rimless case with a slight taper. It is also much
stronger in the case head area compared to the .38 Super. This allows
pressures that would be really dangerous in a .38 Super unless the
pistol had a fully-supported chamber. Most .38 Super pistols were built
on a 1911 platform, and the standard 1911 does not
have a fully-supported chamber. The advantage of the Winchester
cartridge case is that it is strong enough to handle the pressures of
the 9x23 Win round in a standard 1911 barrel without blowing out or
course the same warnings against using .38 Super ammo in old pistols
chambered for the .38 Auto cartridge apply and go double for the 9x23
So what kind of performance do we see out of a
9x23 Win cartridge? I have chronographed 125 grain bullets at 1605 fps
out of a 4.5" barrel. Compared to the .357 Mag that's actually better.
Both use an expanding bullet. The bullets weigh the same, and are only
.002" different in diameter. Yes, my 9x23 Win test was with handloaded
ammo that used copper-plated lead bullets. I have no reason to expect
that loads using the same powder charge and 124 grain JHP bullets would
have a significantly different muzzle velocity.
Factory Winchester White Box Jacketed Soft Point ammo measured at 1450
fps. which is still about the same as the 125 gr. JHP out of a .357
we get nearly the same power out of the 9x23
Winchester as we get out of the highly-respected 125 grain JHP .357
Magnum load, Why not carry a .357 Mag revolver then? The .357 Mag
revolver carries six rounds at the ready. My .38 Super EAA Witness
chambering 9x23 Win rounds has a 17-round magazine. I have 18 rounds of
.357 Mag equivalent ammo on tap without a reload. Triple the ammo. And
I usually have 34 more rounds on my belt in a pair of spare magazines.
I will probably never need all of them, but being oversupplied is never
a problem. You get the power of the .357 Magnum's most effective load
with the magazine capacity of the 9mm Parabellum. What's not to like?
it recoils. But then so does
the .357 Mag. In fact the revolver recoils more. I suggest having your
9x23 pistol ported. I had my Witness Compact Mag-Na-Ported and it
doesn't recoil much harder than a full-power 9mm Parabellum. Factory
is hard to find and expensive when you do find it. For the present
(mid-2015) it is a handloader's cartridge. That will only get better if
and when more folks use it. The Winchester White Box ammo is pretty
good, is a soft-point design, and isn't too expensive at decent stores
(meaning ones that don't raise prices when supplies are low).
the 9x23 Winchester is an excellent self-defense cartridge unless you
are very recoil-sensitive. That is its niche in the shooting world.
It's not really a good handgun hunting round, though it is getting
is a bit much for casual plinking; unfortunately most of the
hold "Action" or "Combat" pistol matches have rules that negate this
round's real benefits in real-world defensive shooting situations.
A final word about this round. Yes, it will fit and function in most pistols chambered for the .38 Super. The specifications are enough different that there could
be a problem, but I have never seen one. If you have a very tight .38
Super chamber and a 9x23 Win round that is at maximum dimensions the
round may not enter the
chamber all the way due to the taper. As I have said, I have never seen
this happen. As a further disclaimer, I do not use the 9x23 Winchester
in a 1911 platform pistol.