Ammo Basics 101: 9mm

Some of our greatest joy comes from being able to answer questions from our readers!! It gives us the chance to give you guys the history and explanations behind many aspects of firearms and firearm ownership.  It also gives us the chance to pretend that we know what we are talking about!!!  Recently when looking at our emails we came across a question from one of our readers, Chanica R. from Brentwood, CA.  Chanica asked us to explain the history behind the 9mm cartridge and talk about some of the different iterations of that cartridge.  Well Chanica, you came to the right place!!


First and foremost lets talk history…..  The original 9mm cartridge was designed in 1902 by Georg Luger who then worked for the the German weapons manufacturer Deutche Waffen and Munitionsfabrique (DWM).  Georg designed this cartridge for their proprietary Luger pistol.  The most common designation “9mm Luger” is given to this cartridge to celebrate its creator.  SAAMI uses this specific designation while others use 9 mm Luger (notice the subtle differences in the spacing).  This pistol is so celebrated worldwide that NATO forces have adopted it as an official cartridge.  Other names that describe this cartridge that you may see include:

  • 9 x 19mm Parabellum
  • 9mm Commonwealth standard
  • 9 x 19mm +P
  • 9mm major

All of the above designations have very similar case dimensions as well as bullet types. The main difference is the powder charge in the case.  Although these cases are the extremely similar in dimension, it is important to check your firearm, it’s markings, and the firearm’s manual to ensure that you are using the correct cartridge.  This is for the safety of the shooter and the firearm alike.

One of the most interesting facts about the 9mm is that Colt (yes the venerable old Colt!) was the first American company to produce a pistol chambered in 9mm.  As time progressed most companies developed pistols chambered in the 9mm due to it’s instant popularity.  Several members of the PSA family carry this cartridge in their EDC (more often than not, it’s a Sig!).

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For those of you gun nuts that study Etymology,  we have one more fun fact for you!!! Parabellum, part of one of the original designations of the cartridge was derived from the Latin (si vis Pacem, para bellum) and the motto of the DWM:  “If you seek peace, prepare for war.”  We at PSA often wonder if Georg Luger knew at the time of creation, if the cartridge that carried his name would grow to the level of popularity that it currently has!  Our nations Federal Bureau of Investigations has issued several reports with results that indicate that the quality 9mm JHP rounds closely mirror the stopping power of both the 40 S&W as well as .45 ACP rounds.

The 9mm cartridge has become the cartridge of carry for millions of responsible gun owners due to it’s ability to be carried in pistols that facilitate concealed carry.  This cartridge packs the punch to the bad guy, while limiting the concussion to the shooter by way of limited recoil.  Although, for all of you old-school firearms aficionado’s, the all steel pistol is a mainstay, it must be noted that with the advent of polymer framed pistols, the 9mm has now become even more easy to carry!!

***If you are unfamiliar with ammunition, firearms, or firearm accessories and want to learn more, PSA strongly suggests that you find, enroll, and attend a comprehensive and reputable firearms safety course. Firearms safety is all of OUR responsibility.  

We want to thank you for taking out the time to stop by our lane at the shooting range!!  We hope that you enjoyed your stay and hope that you stop back by early and often to catch up on all PSA updates!  We truly hope that we were able to hit the target, and if you ever have any questions please don’t hesitate to shoot them our way!!  We look forward to shooting the breeze with you soon again!!

And as always….remember to watch your six and stay low!!!


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