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Super Vel Returns!

By Tom Murphy

The Backstory

The Super Vel (velocity) story is really the story of Lee Jurris and J.D. Jones of SSK Industries. Both men were born in the 1930s and both became interested in firearms cartridge design. Lee started handloading cartridges at the tender age of twelve. Through the 1950s he experimented with jacketed rifle bullets in an attempt to make jacketed handgun bullets. Up to that time, handgun bullets were mostly lead with a round nose or flat nose design. Lee developed a hollow point bullet that had much better expansion than the plain lead version.

Inspired by Jim Harvey, another handloader who was also working on the hollow point jacketed bullet idea, Lee founded Super Vel ammunition company in 1963. His factory was in Shelbyville, Indiana. He designed lightweight jacketed hollow point bullets that could be pushed at high enough velocities to cause bullet expansion. Prior to this, the police standard handgun was a .38 Special that pushed a round nose 158 grain lead bullet at a sedate 850 fps. Lee loaded a 110 grain hollow point bullet in the same cartridge. Velocity climbed to 1,400 fps, and the bullet expanded without over-penetration.

In the fall of 1967, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department switched from the lead roundnose bullet to Lee’s Super Vel cartridge – demand grew exponentially after that. By 1969, Super Vel was hard pressed to keep up with orders.

The big ammunition companies were none too happy with Super Vel’s popularity. Lee had been buying components from Winchester, F3ederal and Remington. The three companies decided not to sell any more components to Super Vel, forcing Lee to turn to Norma in Oslo, Norway for product. This increased manufacturing costs, slowing production.

However, other problems began cropping up. Super Vel produced a 90 grain 9mm Luger round that cooked along at over 1400 fps. Right at that time, Smith & Wesson introduced their first double-stack pistol, the Model 59. The feed ramp on the barrel was formed in such a way that part of the rear of the cartridge was unsupported. Sometimes this caused case failures, and Super Vel...

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V21N3 (April 2017)
and was posted online on February 17, 2017

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