This is an excerpt from Walt Rauch's column "Gunfighting, Guns, Gear" that appeared in the March 1999 issue of Combat Handguns.
The ongoing quest for the high-velocity medium-bore autopistol cartridge is driven by the oft-quoted statement that a 125-grain JHP .357 Magnum cartridge historically results in a "one-shot-stop" against an adversary. Right now, the two hottest autopistol rounds are the .357SIG and the 9x23mm cartridge. The .357SIG fits in medium-frame guns, while the 9x23mm, designed and patented by John Ricco of CP Bullets, needs a large-frame autopistol, since the cartridge is too long to fit in the smaller pistol magazines. Custom pistolsmith R. Dane Burns (700 N.W. Gilman Blvd. #116, Dept. CH, Issaquah, WA, 98027; 425-391-3202; fax 425-391-3139; web site at www.burnscustom.com and E-mail at email@example.com) is a big promoter of the 9x23mm round, having built many 1911's in this caliber.
Dane started gunsmithing in 1983. As a matter of fact, he got Mark Morris started in the business. He then tried his hand at some law enforcement work for a few years, but in 1987 decided to go back to full-time custom gun work, along with teaching defensive firearms shooting at Marty Hayes' Firearms Academy of Seattle. Dane's not much into fancy guns. He admits he's hard on his own guns and likes to build customers guns to take the same amount of abuse. The sample gun he sent me was built around a Bar-Sto barrel, with a McCormick frame, hammer, sear and trigger mated to a Wilson Match slide, firing pin and slide stop. He nicely installed the newest Heinie sight, the Slant Pro, with tritium inserts in the dovetailed front and rear sight slots. Dane elected to use the excellent Brown beavertail grip and ambidextrous safeties. The magazine well is beveled to go along with the complete reliability package. Dane also recessed the muzzle to protect the rifling. He added an extended ejector and magazine release for competitive purposes only. A hard-chrome finish and black Micarta grip panels affixed with hex-head screws finished up his very attractive treatment of a 1911.
Dane supplied two Integrated Systems Management, Inc. recoil springs (16.5 and 18 pounds) with the gun. He likes to run 1911 and the 9x23mm round with the lighter spring, but I found by using the heavier spring the sights came back on target more quickly
Dane said he built this T&E sample to be used as a self-defense gun (after changing out the extended mag release), so he made sure the gun was easy to disassemble and with enough tolerances that it will function under adverse conditions. In other words, he didn't tighten everything up to get that last bit of accuracy out of the gun. After two trips to the range, I don't think it would be worth the bother!
On Day One, I was "off" and only got 2.75- to 3-inch groups using Winchester 125-grain Silvertip and the CP 135-grain JRN practice ammo shooting at 25 yards from a seated bench and gun bag rest. Dane thought the gun should do better.
On Day Two, I still wasn't getting any improvement, so I asked Joe Venezia to do his best, and he did! Joe repeatedly shot very nice groups. A few examples were five rounds of Winchester Silvertips into 1.75 and 2.25 inches and then five rounds each of CP practice ammo into 2.50 and 2.75 inches under the same conditions. This is a good-shooting gun!
I chronographed both 9x23mm loads with a Competition Electronics Pro Chrono. The Silvertips ran at 1470 feet per second (fps) and the CP practice ammo went 1243 fps. For comparison, I also shot .357 Magnum ammo from my S&W Model 19 4-inch-barrel revolver. The results were: Remington Golden Saber 125-grain JHP, 1246 fps, and Winchester Silvertip 145-grain JHP, 1184 fps. To round things out, I then used a SIGARMS P229, with 3.8-inch barrel, chambered for the .357SIG. The results: Federal Classic 125-grain JHP, 1328 fps; Remington 125-grain JHP, 1305 fps; and Speer Gold Dot 125-grain GDJHP, 1303 fps.
Given the difference in semi-auto barrel lengths and the revolver's barrel and cylinder gap, it's impossible to say which of the rounds is running at the highest velocity, but the 9x23mm looks to be the front runner. The 9x23mm round is definitely the cartridge for the 1911, but no one is chambering a production gun for it now. Colt did make one run of 5000 Government Models in 9x23mm and then discontinued it for lack of interest. This means that if you want to try the 9x23mm in a 1911, you'd best contact R. Dane Burns. He's probably built more 1911's in 9x23mm than any other pistolsmith in the US.