Loved and hated the 9mm Luger cartridge continues to flourish. 

During it’s long history it has certainly improved in performance.

Lets take a closer look at what the 9mm Luger cartridge is all about.

In the world of handgun cartridges the 9mm Luger (or Parabellum) cartridge has had a rough life in the popularity department. While it is not a big bore cartridge with more smashing (and stopping) power with military full metal jacket ammunition it has had quite a following across the pond before it made it to U.S. soil. Love it or hate it this cartridge deserves a closer look as a historical perspective and how far it has come with the modern loads of today.

In the beginning the 9mm Parabellum cartridge was designed by Georg Luger way back in 1901. Luger’s pistol became the weapon firing the new cartridge and this is where we get “Luger” where Parabellum was more commonly used. The 9x19mm cartridge went through trials by many nations but Germany was the most interested in it. They fielded the cartridge in World War One and post war other countries began using it and developing other weapons for it (most likely due to the increase of captured weapons and ammunition available).


War bring back Luger and P38 Pistols by returning G.I.’s in World War Two brought the strange little 9mm cartridge stateside. Why did Germany pick this undersized cartridge over the hard hitting .45 acp. cartridge that these men used so effectively with plenty of knockdown power? The little full metal jacket bullets certainly zinged through more than the big .45 caliber hard ball loads we used as our military load that offered more punch. Ammunition was lighter though to carry and larger magazine capacities over the 7 shot magazine Model 1911 pistols were standard on 9mm foreign nation service pistols. Still many scratched their heads at this weird little German .35 caliber cartridge that were also loaded also into German submachine guns.

Many of us remember back in the 1980’s when the .38 Special revolvers were being fazed out of police service. Six shots were not getting the job done and the “wonder nines” of the time offered larger capacities and quicker reloads. The MP-5 submachine gun became the choice of the newly formed SWAT teams for many departments. Revolvers then melted away from law enforcement use like forgotten ice cream on a hot summer’s day. It was the beginning of the 9mm era that swept the country by storm and the Glock Model 17 was the big player of the day. Gaston Glock changed history with his creation with a standard magazine capacity of 17 rounds of 9mm cartridges. Law enforcement along with other shooters took note and scrambled to get their own.

Is the 9mm Luger cartridge itself now the same as it was way back in 1901? It has grown to so many different loads that many books could not even be written to cover each and every one currently made. Hollow point ammunition was the first to be expanded on and finally mastered. Early hollow point projectiles sometimes did not expand like they were supposed too. With better designs and manufacturing processes the hollow point ammunition now has a better chance to faithfully expand as promised.

Enter the age of 9mm carbines. Currently the all new classic style Henry Arms Homesteader gives the shooter more accuracy and velocity from a carbine length barrel. Now not only self loading pistols were chambered for the 9mm Luger cartridge. Oh did I mention the cartridge even have made its way into revolvers at times by use of moon and half moon clips?

Now shooters can choose from the cheaper priced 115 grain full metal jacket ammunition for practice. For defense against two legged threats hot +P (extra pressure) loads can push a modern expanding hollow point to incredible performance. Yes there is even +P+ ammunition and high pressure military surplus machine gun ammunition floating around on the market. Be sure of what you are shooting and that your weapon is rated for it.

Phil Shoemaker

Modern loads even offer extreme penetrating projectiles pack a better punch against barriers and even tougher game. Figure in bear country if you are going to carry a 9mm weapon (which I do not recommend) those projectiles may make it through an attacking bear’s skull. Alaskan guide Phil Shoemaker proved that point in the above picture.

Midway USA

What life is left in the 9mm cartridge? Well many cartridges have come along to obsolete it but it remains more popular than ever. Do a quick online search of the many loads available today. With cheaper cost and better loads the 9mm Luger cartridge is here for the long haul. Love it or not it is sticking around and certainly has its uses. It might just make another century of popularity and scourge at the rate it is going.

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