July 16, 2015
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 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 1,550 feet per second (over 1,600 fps from a 6-inch barrel). They also offer a 124-grain round at 1,475 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-inch barrel are 1,435 fps, 1,246 fps, and 1,050 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-inch long, and when attached, makes the overall length of the barrel and compensator 4.84-inch long. At the time of this writing, they offered a ported barrel with two vertical ports that is about 4.72-inch 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.
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.
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.
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 1,361 fps, and the 147-grain load at 1,031 fps through a Shooting Chrony chronograph at about 10 feet. The 115-grain load was a little shy of its predicted 1,435 fps, but the 147 load was very close to its predicted 1,050 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 inches, and the 147-grain load's average was 4.3 inches.
The barrel did not like the 147-grain load. Ten of the 15 bullets fired tumbled. This barrel's bore measured 0.3570 inches, which is larger than the usual 9mm bullets of 0.355 inches for jacketed and 0.356 inches for lead. These lead bullets measured 0.3560 inches.
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.
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 1,361 fps was the same as a Federal factory 9mm Luger 115-grain bullet traveling at 1,127 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-inch barrel .357 Magnum. For example, the benchmark ballistics for a 125-grain JHP in a 4-inch .357 is 1,450 fps. The reported 1,246 fps of the 124-grain .960 load is considerably slower. Winchester lists their 145-grain Silvertip HP .357 Magnum at 1,290 fps from a 4-inch barrel. The 147-grain .960's 1,050 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.
Some factory .357 Magnum ammunition is less powerful. For example, Winchester and Remington list their .357 ammo with 110-grain bullets at under 1,300 fps from a 4-inch 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-inch barrel .357. The G19 with a Rowland barrel is about 8.3 inches long, and a Smith & Wesson 686 with a 3-inch barrel is 8.25 inches long.
The .357 Magnum velocities fall off dramatically when going from a 4-inch barrel to a 3-inch barrel. For example, the website, Ballistics By The Inch, shows that a 125-grain bullet traveling 1,511 fps from a 4-inch barrel slows down to 1,255 fps from a 3-inch barrel. I've chronographed Remington 125-grain SJHP loads at 1,465 fps from a 4-inch Smith & Wesson 686, and the velocity drops to 1,255 fps from a 2-inch Colt Magnum Carry, suggesting that the same ammunition in a 3-inch barrel would run about 1,350 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.
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 1,400 fps (for example, Buffalo Bore, Double Tap and Underwood), just under the reported 1,435 fps for the .960. My sample of .960 115-grain ammunition reached only 1,361 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 1,246 fps is a little slower than the advertised speed of some 9mm +P and +P+ loads which push that bullet weight to 1,300 fps.
The .960's 14- grain reported velocity of 1,050 fps is just a little faster than 9mm Luger ammunition which runs up to 1,000 fps (for example, Federal American Eagle) at standard operating pressure. My sample produced 1,031 fps. Plus P and +P+ 9mm offerings push that bullet weight to 1,100 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 1,305, 1,257 and 1,117 fps, respectively, from a 4-inch 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.
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.