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960 Rowland Review

by Brad Miller   |  July 16th, 2015 13

Rowland_8 copyJohnny Rowland has done it again. He’s given you more for the same. That is, more power in the same gun. He first did it with the .460 Rowland, which is a bigger, badder .45 round that brings .44 Magnum power to .45 ACP caliber pistols, like the 1911, Glock and Springfield Armory XD.

Now it’s a bigger, badder 9mm. The new .960 Rowland brings .357 Magnum power to your Glock 19. The .960 Rowland is a 9mm Luger-length cartridge with an elongated case, just as the .460 is a .45 ACP-length cartridge with a longer case. The .960 uses a 23mm long case compared to the 9mm’s 19mm long case, but the cartridge’s overall length is limited to 9mm Luger length because it is designed to fit in a 9mm size frame. The long brass prevents it from being accidentally chambered in a 9mm Luger.

Rowland_1 copyThe .960 uses a tapered, rimless 9X23 brass, which is essentially a longer version of the 9mm Luger. Factory ammunition was loaded in Starline 9X23 Comp cases, Starline’s version of the 9X23 Winchester.

Rowland says cartridge pressures are in the 40,000-45,000 psi range. This compares to the 9mm +P which has a maximum SAAMI pressure limit of 38,500 psi. Therefore, the .960 should be capable of performing at higher than 9mm+P levels.

Rowland claims the .960 will propel a 115 grain bullet at 1550 feet per second (over 1600 fps from a 6” barrel). They also offer a 124 grain round at 1475 fps, and 147 grain bullet, though its velocity is not advertised. However, those velocities are from a longer barrel than is offered with their Glock 19 barrels, which are just over four inches. Factory ballistics from 115, 124 and 147 grain bullets from a 4.25” barrel are 1435 fps, 1246 fps, and 1050 fps,* respectively.

Rowland’s .960 conversion kits fit the ever-popular Glock 19. A kit for the Glock 17 is planned for future release. The kit includes either a barrel with a compensator or a ported barrel. The single port compensator is 0.925” long, and when attached, makes the overall length of the barrel and compensator 4.84” long. At the time of this writing, they offered a ported barrel with two vertical ports that is about 4.72” long. Thus, both barrel systems add about the same length to the gun. However, they are testing different port designs, and the length of a new ported barrel is not yet known.

Rowland_2 copyI purchased the barrel with the compensator. The compensated kit included a 4.16” stainless steel barrel, compensator and thread-locking adhesive to secure the compensator to the barrel. Once the compensator is attached with the adhesive, the barrel remains in the slide but easily moves within the slide when field-stripped for regular cleaning. To remove the compensator, apply heat to melt the thread locker and unscrew it with a wrench. People who want easy barrel removal can buy the ported barrel.

The barrel was a drop-in fit in my Glock 19C. However, due to the unique design of the “C” model Glock with cutouts in the slide for Glock’s ported barrel, I ran into a snag during barrel installation. The sharp edge of the slide port cutouts scraped the top of the barrel and caused malfunctions. This was easily fixed, and people with C model Glocks can watch for this if installing any aftermarket barrel.

Rowland_4 copyThe Rowland barrel has conventional groove and land cut rifling common to aftermarket barrels for the Glock, which allows the use of lead bullets. Glock advises against lead in their polygonal barrels. However, lead bullets and jacket bullets with exposed lead at their base, such as FMJ bullets, will produce lead buildup in the compensator. To avoid having to clean lead from the compensator, use JHP, plated or FMJ bullets that have a copper cup covering the base. Coated lead bullets might reduce or eliminate lead buildup.

Given the .960 Rowland’s high pressures, an important concern is how much case support the conversion barrel offers. The barrel did not provide full case support all the way to the extractor groove, but it was good support and I saw no evidence of excess bulging of the cases of factory ammunition in the unsupported region.

Thomas Scriminger, General Manager at Rowland, advised me that the compensator and ports at the end of the barrel are required to keep the downward force on the front end of the barrel to maintain the barrel locked-up with the slide as long as possible during the recoil cycle. The concern is that if the barrel unlocks too soon and starts to pull the brass out while the chamber pressure is too high, it can cause the brass to rupture the same as it would with an out-of-battery firing. The extra delay that the compensator and ports offer allows the pressure to drop sufficiently to prevent this very dangerous event.

Rowland_5 copy

The arrow indicates the small unsupported region of the brass.

Two factory loads were available when I purchased the kit: the 115 grain “Impact” and 147 grain “Penetrator.” The 115 grain round has a JHP bullet, and the 147 grain round has a flat-nosed cast lead bullet. A few rounds in both weights were loaded a little long for my Glock factory magazines. The bullets had to be seated a little deeper to prevent them from sticking in the magazine.

The 115 grain load chronographed at 1361 fps, and the 147 grain load at 1031 fps through a Shooting Chrony chronograph at about 10 feet. The 115 grain load was a little shy of its predicted 1435 fps, but the 147 load was very close to its predicted 1050 fps. Differences in velocities can be accounted for by differences in barrels. I experienced no feeding malfunctions with the factory ammunition.

Accuracy was tested with the gun mounted in a Ransom Rest. Three 5-shot groups were fired at 25 yards. The 115 grain load produced an average group size of 2.1,” and the 147 grain load’s average was 4.3.”

The barrel did not like the 147 grain load. Ten of the 15 bullets fired tumbled. This barrel’s bore measured 0.3570,” which is larger than the usual 9mm bullets of 0.355” for jacketed and 0.356” for lead. These lead bullets measured 0.3560.”

Rowland_6 copyI tested handloads with polymer-coated Black and Blue lead 147 grain bullets of the same shape that also measured 0.3560” loaded with Hodgdon Longshot. These bullets did not tumble and produced smaller groups than the factory load. So, it’s not that this barrel doesn’t like slightly undersized 147 grain lead bullets, it just didn’t like the factory load, for unknown reasons.

I passed along my experience to the manufacturer about overall length and bullet tumbling, and they advised me that they are addressing the issues.

The single-port compensator was quite effective at reducing muzzle rise. This was tested by shooting the gun in the Ransom Rest with and without the compensator and measuring how far the gun moves.

Handloads with varying charge weights were tested in the barrel without the compensator to determine if this test with full-power factory ammunition was safe, as per the manufacturer’s warning. No excessive case bulge was seen in the fired cases. However, this was a limited test (no more than 20 rounds), and people are strongly advised to follow Rowland’s advice and always have the compensator attached when firing high-powered ammunition.

Rowland_7 copy

The 115 grain JHP bullets produced the very nice 1.5” 5-shot group on the left, but the 147 grain bullets (middle) were spread wider and tumbled. Four of the five bullets in this group tumbled. Even the one good hit has an asymmetrical grease mark, suggesting slight tumbling. A handloaded 147 grain cast bullet (right) showed no tumbling, though a couple of the grease marks were slightly asymmetrical.

The compensator-reduced muzzle rise with the 115 grain load by 32 percent, and by 24 percent with the 147 grain load. In fact, the muzzle rise with the compensator and the 115 grain bullet traveling at 1361 fps was the same as a Federal factory 9mm Luger 115 grain bullet traveling at 1127 fps in a standard Glock 19 barrel. Therefore, the compensated .960 offers a lot of performance for what is essentially 9mm Luger recoil.

Does the .960 Rowland deliver .357 Magnum performance in the G19 as the manufacturer claims? Since .357 Magnum ammunition is all over the map with respect to performance levels, it depend on what ammunition you compare and what barrel length you consider.

The ballistics of the .960 don’t equal those from a 4” barreled .357 Magnum. For example, the benchmark ballistics for a 125 grain JHP in a 4” .357 is 1450 fps. The reported 1246 fps of the 124 grain .960 load is considerably slower. Winchester lists their 145 grain Silvertip HP .357 Magnum at 1290 fps from a 4” barrel. The 147 grain .960’s 1050 fps is far short of that mark. With these bullet weights, the .960 is about 200 fps slower from a barrel of the same length.

Rowland_9 copy

The bar graph shows the amount of Ransom Rest movement (muzzle rise) with factory .960 Rowland 115 grain ammunition with (.960 Comp) and without (.960 No Comp) the compensator and compared to Federal 115 grain 9mm Luger ammunition (9mm).

Some factory .357 Magnum ammunition is less powerful. For example, Winchester and Remington list their .357 ammo with 110 grain bullets at under 1300 fps from a 4” barrel, and the .960 115 grain load easily outperforms that. However, this .357 load is watered down, since it should be faster than the heavier 125 grain bullets, so one could argue that it doesn’t really represent .357 Magnum-like performance, since it is capable of much higher speeds. Still, it is .357 Magnum ammunition, and the .960‘s load is faster.

However, if you compare the G19 with a similar-sized .357 Magnum revolver, that translates into a 3” barreled .357. The G19 with a Rowland barrel is about 8.3” long, and a Smith & Wesson 686 with a 3” barrel is 8.25” long.

The .357 Magnum velocities fall off dramatically when going from a 4” barrel to a 3” barrel. For example, the website, Ballistics By The Inch, shows that a 125 grain bullet traveling 1511 fps from a 4” barrel slows down to 1255 fps from a 3” barrel. I’ve chronographed Remington 125 grain SJHP loads at 1465 fps from a 4” Smith & Wesson 686, and the velocity drops to 1255 fps from a 2” Colt Magnum Carry, suggesting that the same ammunition in a 3” barrel would run about 1350 fps. Now, the ballistic comparison is more equal and suggests that the .960 would perform more closely to a .357 Magnum pistol that is the same length as the Glock.

It’s natural to compare the .960 with the 9mm Luger, since that’s the cartridge that’s being replaced with the conversion barrel, and it’s the same caliber in the same gun. The case lengths are different, but the cartridge overall length is the same, which means case capacity is the same. Since there is already a range of high performance +P and +P+ ammunition available for the 9mm Luger, the .960 should offer something different in order to stand out.

If the .960 has a higher operating pressure, then it should provide better ballistic performance. After all, all else being equal, the highest chamber pressure wins, as long as the brass, chamber support, barrel and gun design are up to the task. However, the pressures of 9mm +P+ loads are unknown, since all that can be said is that they exceed the +P limit of 38,500 psi. They might be in the same range as the .960.

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How does .960 Rowland performance compare with 9mm Luger +P and +P+ loads? Some high pressure 9mm loads claim to push 115 grain bullets to 1400 fps (for example, Buffalo Bore, Double Tap and Underwood), just under the reported 1435 fps for the .960. My sample of .960 115 grain ammunition reached only 1361 fps, and its less-than-expected velocity could simply be due to my particular barrel.

The .960’s 124 grain load was not available at the time. Its reported speed of 1246 fps is a little slower than the advertised speed of some 9mm +P and +P+ loads which push that bullet weight to 1300 fps.

The .960’s 147 grain reported velocity of 1050 fps is just a little faster than 9mm Luger ammunition which runs up to 1000 fps (for example, Federal American Eagle) at standard operating pressure. My sample produced 1031 fps. Plus P and +P+ 9mm offerings push that bullet weight to 1100 fps or higher.

DoubleTap’s +P ammunition was tested to see how it compared with the velocities from the .960. Their advertised velocities are in the same range as +P+ velocities from other manufacturers such as Buffalo Bore and Underwood. DoubleTap’s 115, 124 and 147 grain loads chronographed at 1305, 1257 and 1117 fps, respectively, from a 4” Glock 19 barrel. The .960‘s 115 grain round is 56 fps faster than DoubleTap’s, but the .960’s 147 grain round is 86 fps slower than DoubleTap’s. The 124 grain rounds could be about the same velocity.

Rowland_3 copyThe .960 Rowland will, no doubt, also be compared with the .357 SIG, since they are the same caliber and available in the same size gun. Standard performance of a 125 grain bullet in the .357 SIG is 1350 fps, which exceeds .960 factory ammunition specs. Boutique loaders push this same bullet weight to 1450 fps or more from a 4” barrel. DoubleTap claims their 115 grain and 147 grain .357 SIG loads run at 1550 and 1255 fps from a 4” barrel, respectively, which significantly surpass the .960. However, the larger case of the .357 SIG means less rounds than the .960 in a gun of the same size. For example, the Glock 19 holds 15+1 rounds, and the Glock 32 holds 13+1 rounds, so there is some tradeoff for capacity.

The .960 Rowland is a new cartridge and was fun to shoot from the compensated conversion barrel in the Glock 19. The compensator meant that even the potent 115 grain load had no more muzzle rise than a standard 9mm Luger round. The performance level of the .960 ammunition tested was similar to high performance 9mm Luger +P ammunition.

As a new cartridge, the .960’s product line can evolve like any other, and it will be interesting to see what changes might come in the future. The .960’s high pressure suggests a certain performance level, and exploiting this pressure with the judicious selection of components could produce impressive results. Handloading offers do-it-yourselfers the opportunity to do just that with the potential to best the fastest 9mm +P and +P+ commercial loads.

A special thanks to “Dave” at .460 Rowland for patiently answering many questions.

* Thank you to Dan McKensie for all the information he kindly provided for me.

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