9mm ammo box
Federal loads provide accurate, target-grade performance. They’re loaded with quality brass and primers and are affordably priced for volume shooters.
Whether you call it the 9mm Luger, 9mm Parabellum, 9mm NATO, 9 millimeter, or just plain 9mm,9x19mm ammunition is the most popular cartridge for handguns in the world – with more than 60% of the world’s law enforcement agencies currently using this ammo. The role of 9mm Luger bullets in World War I and its continued popularity today testifies to its capabilities as an efficient and effective cartridge.
Yet the 9mm’s journey from a bullet designed for submachine guns to, perhaps, one of the most controversial self-defense cartridges in the world, has been one of exponential growth and development. This continues into today’s modern world, over 100 years since its conception.
9mm Ammo Comparison
Originally designed as a handgun caliber, the 9mm has reinvented itself multiple times throughout its brief 115-or-so years. In that time period, it’s been found in the barrel of full-sized handguns, pocket pistols, revolvers, carbines, and even submachine guns. This variety of uses for a single caliber leaves many shooters who buy 9mm ammo confused about 9mm Luger vs. 9mm NATO or 9mm Luger vs. 9mm Parabellum or 9x19mm vs. 9mm. The simple answer is that it’s all the same – other than the NATO ammo being slightly heavier.
The 9x19mm Parabellum is an ammunition cartridge with a bullet measuring 9mm in diameter and a casing that measures 19mm in length. The name “Parabellum” comes from the motto of the first company to manufacture 9x19mm ammo, the German munitions manufacturer Deutsche Waffen und Munitionsfabriken (DWM). The DWM’s Latin motto – “Si vis pacem, para bellum” – translates to “If you want peace, prepare for war,” and therefore Parabellum means “prepare for war.”
The cartridge is often labeled as the 9mm Luger, associated with its developer’s last name (in other words, the 9x19mm Parabellum and 9mm Luger are the same cartridge). Other times, it’s 9mm NATO, which is still the same size ammunition, but with a slightly heavier bullet – 124 grain (gr) compared to 115 gr – and loaded to a higher pressure (think +P) than traditional range or training rounds.
The 9mm cartridge, unlike most other ammunitions, has a slightly tapered casing. When stacking bullets side by side, notice the spacing difference between the bottom of the casing and the top. This increases the reliability and accuracy of feeding ammo from the magazine into the firearm, allowing it to happen quickly and without fail.
9mm ammo box
The Development of the 9mm
In 1902, DWM firearms designer Georg Luger developed the 9mm Parabellum as a service cartridge, designed for the DWM Luger semi-automatic pistol called the Pistole Parabellum, aka the Luger. He designed it to be lethal at 50 meters.
This new caliber improved on the previous handgun ammunition, which was large and heavy. Still today, the compact cartridge has less recoil and allows for easy handling. It’s lightweight, accurate, and because of its small size, handguns chambered in 9mm hold significantly more cartridges than those in higher calibers.
By the time WWI erupted, the first submachine guns were introduced and they were chambered for 9mm ammunition – given its ability to penetrate through field gear. Magazine-fed, fully automatic carbines, some of these submachine guns could shoot 900 rounds a minute.
After the birth of the Browning Hi-Power in 1935, and the gun’s prevalence in WWII, the 9x19mm’s popularity spread. As time passed, its use grew to encompass not only the armed forces, but police agencies and civilian self-defense as well. But the milestones for the 9mm didn’t end here – they continued with:
- NATO adopting the 9×19 Parabellum in 1955 as their official sidearm cartridge
- The U.S. Military exchanging the venerable .45 ACP for the 9mm as their official cartridge
- Some of the country’s largest police forces, like New York City and Los Angeles, adopting the 9mm cartridge, which has been proven ballistically superior to the .38 revolver
- The Federal Bureau of Investigation returning to the 9mm Parabellum in 2014, after they had left it for a brief period of time for the more modern 10mm cartridges
By the 1990s, many civilian gun owners moved away from handguns like the .38 Special and .357 Magnum, favoring 9mm semi-automatic handguns. When it comes to 357 vs. 9mm, the 357 has more stopping power, while the 9mm has less recoil with comparable ballistics – making it popular for self defense. Ammunition availability has followed this trend, with 9mm cartridges more plentiful and easier to find than most cartridges. According to the 14th edition of Cartridges of the World, 9mm ammunition led the entire market in 2013, making up 21.4% of the whole cartridge market, followed by .223 Rem at 10.2%.
Is 9mm Ammo Good for Self Defense?
One of the things that makes 9mm ammunition and the handguns that are chambered for it so popular is that they’re easy to handle, yet still effective as a self-defense weapon. While not the most powerful ammo cartridge, 9mm ammunition allows for better control and quicker follow-up shots. This helps beginner shooters and those with smaller frames handle the recoil, which can be difficult with larger calibers.
As a concealed carry weapon (CCW), 9mm handguns remain easy to shoot, even in subcompacts. They’re easy to conceal on the body, especially for women. And with modern ballistics, self-defense 9mm ammo is as deadly as a .40 Smith & Wesson or .45 ACP cartridge. In 2014, the FBI released a report comparing the three cartridges and determined that the 9mm is, in fact, similar in both effectiveness and stopping power. And with less recoil and its ability to be controlled by everyone, the 9mm is an appropriate, universal weapon for organizations like the FBI, and also for civilians.
To combat marksmanship, it’s not just about the power of the ammo – it’s also about shot placement. And in many cases, even with people who regularly shoot high-caliber pistols, shot placement with a 9mm handgun is more accurate, more often.
9mm ammo box
9mm Ammo in Bulk
While these guns and rounds tend to have great precision, it should also be noted that 9mm ammunition is affordable. Full-metal jacketed (FMJ) cartridges, the kind used for practice on the shooting range, are readily available and much less expensive than its high-caliber counterparts. And when buying bulk 9mm ammo, it’s even cheaper.
For shooters who like to stock up on cheap range ammo, they can always find inexpensive 9mm. The more you price 9mm ammo, the more you will find that bulk rounds are the way to go.
The cheaper the ammunition is to buy, the more often a shooter goes shooting. And the more rounds they put through their firearm, the more practice they get. As with anything, the more practice, the better the skill. Because cheap 9mm ammo prices are common, those who own and shoot 9mm handguns are more likely to shoot the gun more often and become better skilled with that gun over others that they own – making it a great defense ammo.
9mm Ammo Types & Their Uses
For use in the armed forces, law enforcement, and self defense, there have been times the 9mm cartridge has spurred much debate over its lack of stopping power, especially when compared to the .45 ACP. Yet with modern technology, 9mm ammunition comes in a variety of types for a multitude of situations – including combat, on-duty, and defense.
- Unjacketed: Unjacketed ammo features plan lead bullets with no outer casing, making them slow and less powerful
- Full metal jackets (FMJ): 9mm FMJ ammo is, by far, the most common and features a lead bullet encased in copper or another hard metal; they’re used primarily for target and range shooting
- Jacketed hollow point (JHP): 9mm JHP ammo features a lead bullet with a hollow point inside, but is still encased in copper; these bullets expand on impact, increasing stopping power, and are used by the military, law enforcement, and for self defense
- Open tip match (OTM): OTM ammunition is designed for target and competition shooting, similar to hollow points, but not as deadly, these cartridges are accurate and consistent
- Ballistic tips: Hollow point ammo with a plastic tip, 9mm ballistic cartridges are designed for pistol hunting, bringing stopping power and distance
Beyond these differences in bullet design, there’s variances in bullet weight, casing, and pressure. Most FMJ 9mm ammunition weighs between 115 and 147 gr. General range rounds weigh 115 gr, while 9mm NATO is 124 gr, and some 9mm self-defense rounds are even heavier at 135 gr.
Casings on 9mm cartridges, sometimes referred to as the shells, are made from brass, aluminum, or steel. Brass is by far the most common due to the ease of reloading, while steel is used to keep costs down. Aluminum is becoming more popular because it’s affordable and lightweight, although it can’t be reloaded, making many avid shooters stick to traditional brass shells.
There’s a noticeable difference with more powerful ammo when it comes to its loaded pressure. 9mm NATO, self-defense cartridges, and 9mm +P or +P+ rounds – all four types of these cartridges fire hotter and have an increase in power due to higher pressure.
9mm ammo box
Are There Different Types of 9mm Cartridges?
While 9mm Luger ammo (aka the 9mm Parabellum and the 9x19mm) is the world’s most popular cartridge in both military handguns and submachine guns, it’s not the only 9mm cartridge available. A wide range of rounds featuring the 9mm bullet have been developed since its birth in 1902, some better than others.
- 9mm Ultra: Also referred to as 9mm Police, these cartridges were designed for the German police and fall between the 9mm Luger and the .380 Auto. The shell measures one mm shorter than the Luger and one mm longer than the .380, leading to a casing length just .04 inches shorter than the 9x19mm. Although this cartridge is difficult to find in the U.S., there are a handful of nice firearms chambered for it, including the Sig Sauer P230 and Benelli B76 Auto.
- 9mm Bayard Long: This 9mm cartridge was designed for the 1910 Model Bergmann-Bayard pistol, which was the official sidearm of the Danish military during the period. Although the cartridge (and the firearms they were designed for) were never manufactured in the U.S., some Spanish pistols were chambered for the 9mm Bayard Long and the ammo gained popularity after World War II due to military surplus.
- 9mm Browning Long: The 9mm Browning Long was a European cartridge designed for the FN Browning 1903 Model pistol, which became the official sidearm of Sweden in 1907. Many of these pistols were released to the public after WWII as military surplus and most have been altered to fire .380 ACP ammo.
- 9mm Mauser: The 9mm Mauser was used for a brief period from its development in 1908 for the Export Model Mauser until the gun was discontinued in 1914. Nearly a quarter-inch longer than the 9mm Luger, this rimless cartridge did have a comeback during WWI when some submachine guns were chambered for it.
- 9mm Winchester Magnum: Released in 1988, the 9mm Winchester Magnum was designed for the stainless steel Wildey gas-operated pistol used in silhouette competitions.
- 9mm Glisenti: The Italian military used the 9mm Glisenti during WWI and WWII. Although it highly resembles the 9mm Luger, they’re not interchangeable. The Glisenti has a significantly lighter load and the Model 1910 Glisenti automatic pistols the cartridge was designed for can’t handle the power of a 9mm Luger.
- 9mm ABC Mi-Bullet: Made by Advanced Ballistics Concepts, LLC, the 9mm Mi-bullet features a multipart bullet that uses Kevlar tethers that unlock and expand, allowing this 9mm cartridge to act like a shotshell. Designed as a self-defense load, the bullet reaches maximum expansion at 12 feet and holds its pattern until 21 feet, increasing the probability of hitting an attacker.
- 9x21mm: In countries like Italy, Mexico, and France, the government prohibits its citizens from owning firearms chambered in military calibers, which makes the 9mm Luger illegal. To overcome this, the 9x21mm was developed, measuring just two mm longer than the 9x19mm.
- 9mm Steyr: Designed for the Austrian military pistol, the Steyr Model 1912 Auto, the 9mm Steyr is longer than the Parabellum, with a case length of 23mm. Common in Austria, this cartridge is also found in Romania and Chile.
- 9x23mm Winchester: Winchester released its 9x23mm Winchester ammunition in 1996. Designed to meet the specific regulations of the International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC). A high-pressure cartridge, the 9×23 Winchester looks like a stretched out 9mm Luger, but has many internal differences.
- 9mm Federal: The 9mm Federal was designed as a rimmed 9mm Luger for revolvers – specifically the Charter Arms PitBull, a five-shot double-action revolver. This firearm was only briefly manufactured after the cartridge’s creation in 1989, as Charter Arms went out of business (although the company later reopened).
- 9mm Kurz: The 9mm Kurz uses a 9mm bullet in a shorter, 17mm casing. Designed in 1912 by John Browning, this ammunition is sometimes referred to as the 9mm Browning Short, but is most commonly known as the .380 ACP.
9mm ammo has come a long way since its conception over a century ago, dominating the ammunition market as well as law enforcement agencies to this day. With its many types of cartridges, variety of uses, range of ammo types, affordability (especially 9mm in bulk), ease of use, and ability to work in different firearms – the 9mm Luger (or whatever you’d like to call it) will remain one of the most popular calibers for years to come.
What is the difference between 9mm and 9mm Luger ammo?
Both terms, 9mm and 9mm Luger, represent the same ammunition, which is officially classified by the Sporting Arms and Ammunitions Manufacturers’ Institute (SAMMI) as the 9mm Luger. The 9mm refers to the diameter of the bullet and Luger comes from the Luger semi-automatic pistol, the firearm the ammunition was initially created for (designed by the German inventor, Georg Luger).
The ammo is also referred to as the 9mm Parabellum, which originates from the manufacturer’s motto: Si vis pacem, para bellum (“If you seek peace, prepare for war”).
How much does 9mm ammo cost?
The price of 9mm ammo depends on a variety of factors, including the number of rounds in the box, the type of ammunition, the brand, and if the ammo is on sale. Specialty rounds, such as bullets with ballistic tips, can also cost more. For instance, Magtech full metal jacket (FMJ) ammo designed for the shooting range tends to be less expensive than Hornady jacketed hollow point (JHP) rounds meant for self defense. Buying bulk ammo can also decrease costs.
What is the difference between 115 grain and 124 grain 9mm ammo?
Grain (often written as gr) refers to the weight of a bullet. The 115 gr 9mm bullet is the standard weight for the 9mm Luger, while the slightly heavier 124 gr bullet is the military style 9mm NATO. If all other factors are the same, the lighter 115 gr 9mm bullet will have a faster muzzle velocity, while the 124 gr bullet will have more muzzle energy.
What is the best 9mm ammo?
The best 9mm ammo depends on the shooters purpose, needs, and preferences. For target shooting, FMJ ammo may be best as it penetrates the target, is less expensive, and bulk 9mm ammo is readily available. For those carrying concealed for self defense, these rounds aren’t ideal as they can over penetrate and have less stopping power, making a defense or duty JHP round a better choice.
What is the difference between FMJ and JHP 9mm ammo?
FMJ stands for Full Metal Jacket and describes a bullet that has a lead core completely coated with a harder metal, most often copper. This full metal jacket reduces lead residue in the barrel and helps the bullet keep its shape as it travels towards its target. JHP stands for Jacketed Hollow Point and describes a lead bullet, jacketed in a harder metal, that has a hole in its tip. This hollow point causes the projectile to mushroom upon impact, reducing the risk of over penetration and creating more stopping power.
What is the quietest 9mm ammo?
The quietest 9mm ammo is called subsonic and it stays at a velocity below 1,100 fps, which means the bullet moves slower than the speed of sound. This ammunition doesn’t create a sonic boom, or sonic crack, which is heard when firing ammunition with high velocity. Although most 9mm ammo is supersonic, or has a velocity greater than 1,100 fps, some slower rounds can be found. Most often, subsonic ammo features a heavier projectile or comes in a specialty round, such as frangible ammo. Magtech, Hornady, and Sellier & Bellot, amongst others, manufacture subsonic 9mm ammo.
What is the best frangible 9mm ammo?
What 9mm ammo does the FBI use?
When the FBI returned to the 9mm as its bullet of choice, forgoing the .40 S&W, the agency opted for the 147-grain Speer Gold Dot G2. Similar to a JHP, the G2 round has a hollow area in the nose of the bullet, but unlike the JHP with its large cavity, the G2 features a shallow divot filled with a high performing elastomer. With these rounds, a shooter can expect uniform expansion, 12-18 inches of penetration, and consistent results.
What 9mm ammo does the military use?
Since the dawning of the United States in 1776, the US Military first used lead bullets, then full metal jacket (FMJ) ammo. Just as recently as 2015, the Armed Forces took a step forward and embraced more modern bullet technology by adopting jacketed hollow points (JHP). While some options are available for some military units, most use a 147-grain 9mm bullet.
What is the best 9mm ammo for self-defense?
The best 9mm ammo for self defense generally features a Jacketed Hollow Point (JHP) bullet. These bullets expand on impact, creating a larger wound and more stopping power than the traditional Full Metal Jacket (FMJ). JHP are also less likely to overpenetrate the target. Multiple companies manufacture self defense ammunition and popular brands include Hornady, Federal, and Prvi Partizan.
9mm Ballistics: Chart of Average 9mm Luger Ballistics
Note: This information comes from the manufacturer and is for informational purposes only. The actual ballistics obtained with your firearm can vary considerably from the advertised ballistics. Also, ballistics can vary from lot to lot with the same brand and type load.
|9mm Bullet WEIGHT||Muzzle VELOCITY (fps)||Muzzle ENERGY (ft. lbs.)||Mid-Range TRAJECTORY (in.)||Barrel Length (in.)|
|Muzzle||50 yds.||100 yds.||Muzzle||50 yds.||100 yds.||50 yds.||100 yds.|
|105 Grain “Guard Dog”||1230||1070||970||355||265||220||n/a||n/a||4″|
|90 Grain +P||1475||n/a||n/a||437||n/a||n/a||n/a||n/a||4″|
|115 Grain +P||1250||1113||1019||399||316||265||0.8||3.5||4″|
|124 Grain +P||1180||1089||1021||384||327||287||0.8||3.8||4″|