Quick Guide: Why is 9mm Luger (9X19) one of the most popular cartridges?

First let’s take a short look into the history of the 9mm cartridge.  The German firm of Deutsches Waffen und Munitionsfabriken, Berlin (German arms and ammunition factory) developed and introduced the 9X19 cartridge or 9mm Parabellum in 1902.  By 1908 it was standard issue for the German military and used in both WW1 and WW2 for the famous Luger pistols.  In WW2 the Germans had most of their sub-machine guns chambered in 9X19.  The 9mm “Luger” cartridge was offered in 124 gr. and had a muzzle velocity of about 1200 fps (equivalent of today’s more potent varieties).  The small size of the ammo, light recoil, and effectiveness soon made it a European standard for many small arms.  After WW2 the Americans began to adopt the 9X19 cartridge although the good old .45 caliber would remain an American icon.

Today the 9X19 cartridge has found a place among many Americans as being their favorite.  In fact, it is safe to say that 9mm is the most popular cartridge in the world.  The variety of pistols offered in 9mm is outstanding.  Everything from pocket size six-round sneakers to full size 17 round beauties.  There are also some pretty sweet carbines chambered in 9mm.  One of the big advantages to 9mm vs .45 or .40 cal is that with 9mm you get higher magazine capacity.  For instance my favorite full size .45 holds 13+1 rounds, while the comparable 9mm equivalent holds 17+1.  In addition the 9mm cartridge tends towards being light recoil meaning faster follow up shots with more control.  9mm ammo is relatively inexpensive, about 50% less than .45 or .40 cal.

In the following paragraph you will need to understand; gr. = grain (bullet weight), fps = feet per second (bullet velocity), fpe = foot pounds of energy (energy transfer upon impact), +P (plus pressure, hotter powder load), and +P+ (plus pressure plus, really hot powder load).

Another benefit to 9X19 is the wide variety and availability of ammo.  115 gr. full metal jacket ammo tends to be standard for target shooting (~1150 fps with ~350 fpe).  For self defense most people like to employe +P 124 gr. hollow point ammo (~1200 fps with ~375-450 fpe).  Noteworthy:  +P 9mm ammo has a comparable/favorable energy transfer to standard .45 caliber ammo which tends to range from 350-400 fpe.  The +P 124 gr. version of the modern 9X19 is similar to the original round from over 100 years ago.  For those looking to turn their 9mm into a beast some companies offer +P+ ammo with rounds delivering up to 500 fpe!  The formidable 9X19 cartridge also comes in 50, 52, 68, 70, 80, 85, 95, 100, 147, and 158 gr. varieties.

With all things considered it is clear why 9X19 Luger is still one of the most popular cartridges in the world.  High capacity, low recoil, power within the .45 cal range, lots of ammo, affordability, and proven effectiveness make the 9mm a champion.  I personally have always loved the feel of slinging big .45 cal slugs but recently I have been loving 9mm and the extra range time due to lower cost of ammo.  When I learned more about the 9mm round I came to really appreciate it and hopefully now you can too.

Until next time, keep shooting out those bullseyes!