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Friends, one of the very useful developments of the firearms industry of late is the new breed of “micro” pistols. For example, in the 9MM Luger chambering, Sig makes the tiny P938, S&W makes the Shield, Ruger makes the LCP, Kel Tek makes the PF-9 & P-11, Kahr makes the PM series and Berretta makes the Pico….there are others as well…..some of them chambered in 40 S&W and 45 acp too. Many of these little pistols weigh less than 16 OZ. They can be carried in a pant pocket.

Tiny semi auto pistols chambered in 9MM or 40 S&W are more powerful than typical 38 SPL+P loads fired from two inch barrels. These little pistols hold more than the five shot J frame revolvers and they reload quicker with nice flat magazines that carry in a pocket easily and discretely. Never mind that these micro pistols are flatter than revolvers and carry accordingly.


Troubles/problems arise when folks do not understand the dynamics of how very tiny pistols operate with bigger cartridges, especially when those cartridges were originally designed for larger pistols and now pistols are being scaled down in size (for ease of concealment) but fire these cartridges that work great in big guns as originally designed.


Shorter slides/barrels result in less slide travel and less slide travel time. In a bigger pistol, the slide can travel rearward quite far, giving the magazine spring enough time to push the next cartridge into place for the returning slide to pick up and slam into battery. If you fire +P+ ammo in these tiny guns with limited slide travel, you can speed up the slide velocity so much that the magazine spring cannot push a cartridge up into place fast enough for the returning slide to pick up and bring into battery. Generally, +P 9MM ammo will operate just fine in these micro 9’s, but +P+ ammo will speed the slide up too much and cause a lack of reliable cycling/feeding. Sometimes you can replace the magazine spring with a stronger spring and remedy this problem. (See Wolff Gun Spring Company 610-359-9600)


Another potential malady of shortened slide travel in these tiny pistols is that reliable feeding, even with standard pressure ammo has to take place in a much reduced window of slide travel and slide travel time……to increase the shortened distance of slide travel in tiny pistols to facilitate feeding, gun makers often “throat” the feed ramp. This means they machine out some of the barrel chamber and use it as part of the feed ramp. This increases the limited amount of room for feeding in a micro pistol using big cartridges that were designed for bigger pistols, but (there has to be a “but”) this reduces case web support and leaves a portion of the casing unsupported in that throated/relieved chamber. Unsupported casings can rupture in the area they are not surrounded by barrel steel—this is an ugly and dangerous occurrence and if you have never experienced it, be grateful. 9MM casings have a very strong web and they are not nearly as prone to do this as the weaker 40 S&W and 45 ACP casings. However, the increased pressures of +P or +P+ ammo are more likely to rupture the unsupported area of the case web than standard pressure ammo. As an example, (just an example, not a criticism) generations 1 and 2 of Glock 40 S&W pistols became known for ruptured case webs…..this is a historical fact which can be very ugly in Glock pistols as you’ll be digging chunks of black plastic out of your hand—I’ve done this……pistols with steel lining in the grip panels tend to hold together and sting your hand, but that is all. Glock started making their barrels with more case web support after several years of troubles with ruptured case webs in their 40 S&W chambered models. This was not ever a problem with their 9MM pistols of any generation, because 9MM brass has a much stronger web than 40 S&W casings.

In short, stick with standard pressure ammo in 40 S&W and 45 ACP when using micro pistols. If your micro pistol is chambered in 9MM, you can normally use +P ammo, but I would avoid the use of +P+ ammo. Suzie and I both carry Sig P938’s and exclusively fire Buffalo Bore item 24E (124gr. JHP +P) in them, with complete reliability.


There is a great deal of ignorance about firearms usage in America, in part because all you have to do is turn 18 and you can buy a gun and ammo and start blasting away. In order to drive a motor vehicle in all 50 states, you’ve got to take classes, take a driving test and a written test, but to buy and shoot a gun; you simply need to be 18. I am not in favor of more governmental regulation of anything, but am simply explaining why there is so much ignorance in the firearms market.  

We at Buffalo Bore, choose to address these issues for our customers and for the industry in general, by publishing these short “Technical” Articles. These articles are not all inclusive of anything but are written to give general information of certain dynamics and issues that exist in the industry that nobody else is addressing. We want our customers to make informed decisions and avoid as many mistakes as possible. God bless and good shooting.