In the comments to my previous article on the .356 TSW, Shawn mentioned that I should revisit his older article on the 9x23mm Winchester.
And oh, what a twisted tale that was. We have to go back to early 1990s when the high capacity, Major Power Factor 9mm pistols were taking over USPSA competition. First, the folks shooting 9x21mm IMI in their Tanfoglio CZ-75 clones had few sources for reloadable cartridge cases. It is not like boxes of Fiocchi and IMI-brand 9x21mm ammunition were overflowing the local gun shops.
John Ricco of CP Bullets was one of the first reloading component suppliers to start offering imported 9x21mm brass in 1990, and by 1991, commissioned manufacture of a strengthened version: the CP 9x21mm. Eventually, he even started offering loaded Major Power Factor ammunition.
For those with widebody M1911 pistols like the Para-Ordnance frame, another issue arose with the semi-rim of the .38 Super case. It works okay in 9-round factory single-stack magazines, and starts to drag a bit in the aftermarket 10-rd single-stack magazines from Chip McCormick and Bill Wilson. However, in 18+ round double-stack magazines, that semi-rim has a lot more opportunities to interfere with neighboring cartridge cases. Some shooters simply refused to trust virgin .38 Super brass during competition, hoping that the slight base bulge caused during resizing fired cases would minimize the rim interlock. Others went to the extreme of chucking their .38 Super cases in a lathe and turning down the semi-rim, leading to what would eventually be marketed as the .38 Super Comp.
In 1992, Ricco attempted to ride to the rescue again. Instead of a rimless .38 Super case, he elongated the CP 9x21mm case to create the CP 9x23mm Super. The following are his two patents:
Unlike the CP 9x21mm case, Ricco had difficulty finding someone to consistently produce the CP 9x23mm Super case. Ricco thought that he found the solution in Olin-Winchester, but he was ultimately mistaken. Why you ask? Because Olin-Winchester followed up by filing their own patent in 1995:
The latter became the basis for the 9x23mm Winchester cartridge, which Olin-Winchester and Colt introduced to the world at the 1996 NRA Convention. Needless to say, Ricco was miffed and lawyers were unleashed. The US Patent and Trademark Office reacted first, adding Ricco’s name to the Olin-Winchester patent in October 1997. The lawsuit would reportedly take seven years to filter out, and the proceeds went to finance Ricco’s indoor range, Classic Pistol, Inc.
The weird part was that Colt’s pistol was totally unsuited for USPSA/IPSC competition. The 0.40″ caliber floor for USPSA Limited/IPSC Standard Divisions meant that despite the impressive ballistics, the stock pistol in 9x23mm Winchester could never be scored as Major Power Factor. Likewise, an uncompensated and single-stack pistol was already wildly uncompetitive against raceguns by the late 1980s, much less the mid-1990s.
Would it have made a good defensive cartridge? Certainly. But most folks who carried a single-stack M1911 wanted a .45 Auto in those days. It would have made for a good trail/hunting cartridge much along the lines of Jeff Cooper’s “Super 9.”
While the 9x23mm had its day in widebody Open Division raceguns during the 1990s and 2000s, it has largely been supplanted by the .38 Super Comp and Major 9x19mm, which is now legal again in Open.