The United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA), the International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA), and the International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC) were dealing with a serious issue in the early 1990s – sport shooters' handguns were failing catastrophically, because shooters were trying to reach major power factor by combining firearms and calibers that were ill suited to such high pressures. Introduced at the NRA convention in 1996, the 9x23mm Winchester was designed to permit safer and faster shooting by sport shooters, while still providing major power factor.
To be considered a major power factor for competition in these disciplines, the ammo must meet certain criteria. If the ammunition meets these requirements, the shooter will not incur scoring penalties for minor power factor ammunition. Power factor is calcualted by multiplying the bullet weight times the velocity, and dividing the result by 1,000. In 1996, the minimum score to be considered major was 175. A .38 Super would need a bullet weighing 130 grains and need to travel at 1,350 feet per second to qualify as major. This was just possible for a .38 Super, but it was also close to safety limits – and there were enough problems to motivate Winchester Ammunition to collaborate with Colt's Manufacturing Company for a solution. They developed a cartridge that combined the increased magazine capacity of bullets with a diameter of 9mm. The result was the 9x23mm, and it was capable of handling the higher pressures generated by pushing a bullet that size to major power factor velocities.
The 9x23mm Winchester bullet diameter was the same as the .38 Super, so competitors already had many of the necessary reloading components for loading their own ammo. The similarities, however, between the .38 Super and the 9x23mm end here. John Ricco designed the strengthened case in 1992, which allowed about 25% higher case pressures for the 9x23 – calling it the 9x23 Super. Ricco used Winchester cases for producing his prototypes, so Winchester used his design to manufacture 9x23mm Winchester cartridges. This led to Ricco filing a lawsuit against Winchester, halting Winchester production for seven years, at which point the case was resolved.
The IPSC reduced the major power factor during this time from 175 to 165, which made the .38 Super a safe choice for shooters. This struck a blow to the popularity of the 9x23, since there were many users of the .38 Super. As a result, the 9x23mm became a novelty cartridge. The ballistics of the 9x23mm are actually a little better than the .357 SIG and with a higher magazine capacity. Unfortunately, perhaps due to the origins of the cartridge, it has never been accepted as a cartridge for personal protection.