9mm Parabellum Ammo, History, Features & Load Data

By David Tong

9mm Parabellum Ammo Ammunition
9mm Parabellum Ammo Ammunition
AmmoLand Gun News
AmmoLand Gun News

USA -(AmmoLand.com)- The story of the 9mm Parabellum or 9X19mm cartridge or 9mm Luger is a relatively straightforward tale.

At the turn of the (20th) century, all the major militaries of the world had ditched their single-shot, .45” bore black-powder cartridge service rifles in favor of .30” caliber “small bore” ones, and the early ballisticians of the day who were so enamored with the idea of great velocity also toyed with the idea of .30 caliber service pistols.

9mm Parabellum

9mm Ammo
9mm Ammo

Thus, the Model 1892 Borchardt, the 1896 Broomhandle Mauser, and the Model 1900 Luger pistols all used a .30 caliber bore and approximately 85gr bullets moving between 1,200 and 1,300fps. The cartridges proved lacking in stopping power early on, with all due respect to Churchill’s report from the Soudan in 1898.

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. Little did they know that their progeny was to become the most widely used service pistol cartridge in the world, a century later.

In researching the round, I found quoted that the Latin phrase, “Si vis pacem, para bellum,” (If you want peace, prepare for war) was also DWM’s company motto.

The round was originally chambered in the famous Luger Pistol reviewed elsewhere on AmmoLand News, and became German issue in 1908.

The 9mm Parabellum has several features to recommend it.

First, the 9mm Parabellum has a slightly tapered cartridge case. This is said to better ensure reliable feeding compared to the straight-cased orthodoxy of then and now. The original bullets were a full-metal-jacked truncated conical shape of 124gr weight, loaded quite hot at over 1,200fps.

Later on, the round served in both world wars, and became something of a European standard as well. The other major arms-makers in Western Europe were the Belgians, and they were also quick to acknowledge the light-recoiling round and small size, and a number of staggered column magazine pistols were built, including the famous FN Hi-Power of 1935.

Smith & Wesson Model 39 Semi Auto Pistol in 9mm Parabellum.
Smith & Wesson Model 39 Semi Auto Pistol in 9mm Parabellum.  img: Aaron45

In the U.S., the cartridge stayed moribund until after WWII. Early postwar examinations of German small arms led the Army Ordnance department to recommend the development of a double / single action pistol similar philosophically to the Walther P38. What resulted was Smith & Wesson’s prototypes of the early 1960s that became their Model 39 pistol that Illinois State Police adopted in 1967.

Police agencies had used the .38 S&W Special cartridge in double-action revolvers for over 60 years at this point in time, and they hoped that the 9mm would offer them easier to control firepower to improve hit probability.

This, it accomplished, however the use of the diminutive hardball round, or the early generation jacketed hollow points proved to be poor stoppers. The round soldiered on, literally, becoming the most widely used pistol round in history, hamstrung by its poor results in combat.

To this day, most signatories to the Hague Convention 1899, Declaration IV, that forbids the use of expanding bullets by uniformed military forces of countries that are signatories to that treaty, are still enjoined from using what has finally transformed the round into an adequate stopper, namely computer designed and manufactured jacketed hollow point bullets. As the basic exterior ballistics of the current 9X19 NATO round have not significantly changed from the 1902 original, indeed, its round nosed shape is arguably WORSE than the original truncated-cone, bullet technology had to catch up with 1890s smokeless propellant and the increased progressive pressure curve promised.

9mm Round
9mm Round

Today, the round is probably second in US police service only to the .40 Smith & Wesson round, and the FBI, who was largely responsible for that round’s adoption by most of the LE community in the 1990s, has now gone back to the Parabellum.

The reasons are pretty simple. It kicks less. There does not appear to be much difference in the temporary stretch cavity wound it causes in a human torso. It is cheaper for anyone, from individual shooter, to agency, to military formations, to acquire and train with. Finally, more rounds can be held in a magazine that the same sized pistol can carry.

Modern top-quality American 9X19 rounds include the Barnes 115gr SCHP, Cor-Bon 115gr +P, Federal 124gr HST, PNW Arms 115gr SCHP, and the Speer Gold Dot 115gr or 124gr. All of these rounds will penetrate the FBI four-layer heavy clothing test in ballistic gel, expand to at least .55” and penetrate no less than thirteen inches.

In some ways, its evolution mirrors society, in that people “of the modern Age” do not have the same outdoors, shooting background of previous generations of American teens and young adults. These newer shooters are interested in adequate, inexpensive, and easily acquired. One cannot blame them, much. The concurrent interest in AR-15 style rifles is a striking parallel, to me.

Probably the movie industry has led people to drink from this well, too. How many times have we been exposed to the 9, in “pray and spray” style shootouts on film, from “Die Hard” on up?

9mm Parabellum Load Data

While the 9mm Parabellum is not my favorite self-defense round, it has many good attributes that make it a decent choice as it is chambered in many compact and discrete carry pistols that most of the later generations of shooters also seem to prefer.

More good 9X19 caliber pistols are available now than any other caliber, and it spelled the death knell of the revolver for all but hunting and recreation.

9mm Parabellum Resources:

  • 9mm Parabellum Videos : http://tiny.cc/6ec1cy
  • 9mm Parabellum Ammo :  http://goo.gl/aG2d4t
  • Books about 9mm Ammo : http://tiny.cc/3jc1cy
Assorted 9mm Parabellum Pistols
Assorted 9mm Parabellum Pistols
  • 21 thoughts on “9mm Parabellum Ammo, History, Features & Load Data

    1. My HK VP9 is a very good shooter, surpassed only by my Canick TP9SF Elite. It is, IMHO, the best striker-fired firearm on the planet.

    2. After World War I , acceptance of the 9?m Parabellum chambering increased, and 9?m Parabellum pistols and submachine guns were adopted by military and police users in many countries.

    3. I’m with Tex. I have shot revolvers for 40 years, primarily S&W’s. I started out in 1972 with a Smith Model 19. I can’t remember ever having a malfunction with any I have owned. Keeping them cleaned and lubed and good ammunition and they will fire every time.

    4. My S&W .357 mag.mod.19-7 is one of my favorite handguns. In my lifetime I have fired thousands of rounds through various revolvers and never had one jam,never. What the hell Chuck is talking about is anyone’s guess.

    5. They are AGAIN making 9mm Parabellum REVOLVERS, my father had a Ruger with two cylinders one of which was 9mm Parabellum. I am trying to get rich enough to by one of the smaller revolvers in that same caliber. They of course use ‘moon’ or half moon’ clips, but there will never be a jam or miss fire. Any load that can be made or designed will work in this type of pistol. should be especially suited to light weight carry arms. Just my opinion.

    6. When it comes to caliber anything bigger is better; but 16 rounds and one in the pipe makes my 9mm very appealing.

      1. My XDM is 19+1. I carried a fullsize 45 XDM for years and 9 fits my IWD holser pretty well. 13+1 vs 19+1… yeah it is appealing 😉

    7. “The death of the revolver”? I don’t think so. I like my Browning BDM 9mm. But I carry a .357 mag snubby. It doesn’t play around or possibly jam. There are quite a few carry revolvers out there.

      1. Revolvers “jam” quite a bit, and are demonstrably no more reliable than semi-auto pistols. Revolvers are certainly far less reliable than modern semi-auto military grade pistols when subjected to abuse or adverse environments.

        1. Chuck, in one respect the auto pistol is superior to a revolver – revolvers do not withstand abuse as well. Were one to accidentally drop a revolver onto its cylinder onto a hard surface (concrete?), there’s a decent chance that the crane/yoke, ejector rod, or center pin (on an S&W pattern revolver) could become bent or otherwise damaged. This could affect the parallelism between the barrel and cylinder in that gap, affect timing, and then those parts would somehow have to be sourced or sent back to a manufacturer for repair.

          In contrast, an auto pistol of modern design can practically be used as a Frisbee, and will still be shootable. You might ding up the sights, or produce some pretty obvious cosmetic damage, but the fact remains that the auto has supplanted the revolver not only for reliability, but also durability in extreme conditions. They typically also don’t require a trained armorer to replace most components, and those components are usually quite inexpensive as well.


    8. When I saw the world going to hell in a hand basket a few years ago I decided it was time to purchase a handgun and get my CCW permit. The first gun I bought was a .380 Hi-Point for 119.00 on sale. A week later Bucheits had a 9mm Hi-Point for sale for 129.99. I bought a couple extra mags plenty of ammo for both and went to the range. Both guns had some FTF and FTE. In the guns defense they were new so I polished the feed ramps, the mag lips needed tweaked and I had carpal tunnel surgery on both wrists a few months prior to taking these guns to the range (maybe I had a limp wrist). I went back to the range after I made these changes and used different ammo but I still had a couple FTF’s which is two to many. Both of these pistols also had quite a bit of muzzle flip. I decided to do some researching for a different carry handgun and found what I carry now. I bought a Canik S120 that came with sixteen round Mec-Gar mags for 349.00. I have read where some people don’t like Turkish made weapons but it makes me wonder if they have ever shot any. So I took this Canik to the range with a few hundred rounds of training ammo and did not have one FTF or FTE. Not only no FTF or FTE the muzzle flip was practically gone and the recoil was less due to the steel frame. I left the range feeling pretty good. I went back to the range with some RN, RNFP, and some JHP. I loaded my mags with a mix of this ammo to see if I could get the gun to jam and it would not jam. Since that range trip I have been back with a few hundred more rounds of ammo and it still has not jammed one time. I finally found a carry handgun that I can trust my families and my life with. The Canik is damn near a perfect clone of the CZ75. As a matter of fact I put a set of rubberized tactical grips on it that were made for the CZ75. It is a little big and heavy for a CC pistol but I don’t care. Shortly after purchasing the Canik Remington had an awesome sale on their 1911 so I bought one of them in stainless and bought a couple extra Wilson combat mags to go with it (I also gussied it up with some fake mother of pearl grips to make it my “Patton” gun). The Remington runs flawless like the Canik. What it came down to when choosing which one to carry is that if I do shoot someone and while the investigation is going on they will have my firearm until they are done with their investigation. The thought of the Remington not being in my possession is something I can’t take. Further, if I can’t stop a bad guy with a 9mm using 147 grain JHP’s then maybe I should stay home.
      In the Hi-Points defense I have taken them back to the range and have had no more problems with them. I am pretty sure I was limp wristing them from my surgeries but I won’t carry them due the hiccups in the past and the muzzle flip plus I like the bigger capacity mags. Happy shootin and stay safe!

      1. Whiskey, I agree with your assessment of Turkish pistols. The Canik (pronounced roughly “sha-neek”) manufacturing plant is fully ISO 9002 certified, and the material/workmanship quality is very high.

        I own a compact Canik 9mm, and it is impressive in every way. It is affordable, dependable, and very accurate. It eats any(!!) 9mm ammo without a single problem, and its sights were dead-on perfect, right out of the box. All steel, it is admittedly very heavy (43 ounces with a full 14-round mag and one in the chamber), but a good IWB holster [mine is from Alien Gear] makes it quite comfortable to carry. The single-action trigger pull is 5.5 pounds and smooth. I carry it concealed only, “cocked-and-locked,” and I do indeed trust my life to it.

    9. You did not mention that the 9mm para was designed as a rimless replacement for the old 38 S&W, check the case similarity

          1. Tex: Another ignorant, clueless post from your juvenile mind. KEEP AWAY from your mom’s computer! Go play with your Lego’s! THIS IS AN ADULT FORUM; you don’t belong here!

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