9mm Velocity Testing Shows Barrel Length is King

By Josh Wayner
Gun writer, Josh Wayner, reveals the results of his 9mm velocity trial.

9mm Velocity Test
9mm Velocity Test
Josh Wayner
Josh Wayner

U.S.A.-(Ammoland.com)- Ever since I first mentioned doing a .45 ACP muzzle velocity article, people have been asking me if I would do a follow-up with the 9x19mm. It didn’t take much to convince me. What seemed like moments after making my calls to get .45, I was again on the line with several of the same fine companies to acquire some 9mm.

I’d learned that doing 33 separate factory loadings in four pistols in the same conditions was a tall order to fill. Believe it or not, hours of chronograph work and loading magazines can get exhausting. I decided to further streamline my test by using three pistols from the same manufacturer. In my .45 version of this test, I ended up with three Sig pistols and a Smith and Wesson. For my 9mm velocity test I would use only Glock pistols.

My test pistols came in the uniform shape of a Glock 43 (3.39”), Glock 19 (4”), and Glock 34 (5.3”). These three pistols offered me a large variance of length along with the consistency of rifling type and 1:9.84” twist rate. The 25 loads tested characterize a spectrum of what is available today at retail and have representative samples from the least expensive range ammo to the most advanced self-defense loads made for the 9mm round.

Testing conditions were 50 degrees Fahrenheit with full sunlight. Rounds were fired over an Oehler 35P chronograph at a distance of five feet from the muzzle. The velocities displayed are an average taken from six readings. Due to the large amount of information gathered in this test, standard deviation and high/low velocities are not shown. This is meant to give a clear and uncluttered picture to the consumer or end user in regard to what is currently available off the shelf. All loads and pistols are available commercially at the time of this writing.

GLOCK G19 G3 Handgun in 9mm
GLOCK G19 G3 Handgun in 9mm

So what did I learn from the 9mm Velocity Test?

As you can see from the data, the 9mm is heavily impacted by barrel length. This stands in contrast to the results from my .45 ACP test, which was relatively unaffected. Across the spectrum, the .45 had no discernible or predictable muzzle velocity reading between barrel lengths with the shortest length often outpacing the longer ones. The 9mm had a very distinct and predictable ‘step’ in every load tested. The Glock 43 offered the slowest MV with any given load, the Glock 19 always brought up the middle, and the G34 achieved the highest numbers.

Lehigh Defense 9mm Luger 70gr High Energy Retaining Ordnance (HERO) Ammunition
Lehigh Defense 9mm Luger 70gr High Energy Retaining Ordnance (HERO) Ammunition

I found this interesting as I was expecting certain loads to perform better in certain barrel lengths. I have found in my many years and many hundreds of thousands of rounds spent that longer barrels aren’t always more accurate or faster given a set of loads or controls. What miffed me most about this test was that the gains across barrel lengths were essentially predictable. The velocity gains experienced were so unsurprising that I found that I was able to guess before looking at the chronograph by the time I was shooting the Glock 34.

The consistent data is wonderful, but it made for a rather boring graph when it was all said and done.

The stand-out loads among those that I tested are again from Lehigh Defense. Not only are the Lehigh loads the most visually appealing due to their artful machining, but they ranked the highest in uniformity and had some of the lowest SD (standard deviation) of anything tested. The Lehigh Defense 70gr HERO loading exited the muzzle at a staggering average of 1784fps from the G34 and only lost 234pfs going down to the minute G43, which works out to only 15% loss. The Federal 147gr Hydra-Shok JHP had a total velocity average difference of only 54fps across barrel lengths and a total loss of 5.5%

Something I noticed was that the percentage of loss among all nine millimeter loads between extremes in length was approximately 10%. Using this reasoning, you really don’t lose much between a pocket gun like the Glock 43 and a full-size Glock 34. This is a valuable consideration to those who want one load across the board for their carry gun and duty rig. It is also something to consider when deciding on a load to purchase that you know will be used in a variety of pistols for a variety of purposes such as IDPA or 3-Gun.

9×19 Ammo Data Spreadsheet

9×19 Ammo Data Graph

Thank you to the following 9 mm Ammunition Manufactures for their support in this exhaustive 9mm velocity test.

  • American Eagle :  https://www.federalpremium.com/ammunition/handgun/caliber/45-auto
  • Black Hills Ammunition : http://www.black-hills.com/shop/new-pistol-ammo/45-acp/
  • Blazer Ammo : http://www.blazer-ammo.com/
  • Buffalo Bore Ammunition : https://www.buffalobore.com/
  • Federal Premium Ammunition : https://www.federalpremium.com/
  • Hornady Manufacturing : http://www.hornady.com/store/45-Auto/
  • Lehigh Defense : https://www.lehighdefense.com/
  • SIG SAUER Ammunition : https://www.sigsauer.com/products/ammunition/
  • Speer Ammo : http://www.speer-ammo.com/products/golddot.aspx

About Josh Wayner:

Josh Wayner has been writing in the gun industry for five years. He is an active competition shooter with 14 medals from Camp Perry. In addition to firearms-related work, Josh enjoys working with animals and researching conservation projects in his home state of Michigan.

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Bob Shell
Bob Shell
2 years ago

I can tell you from my experiences the hotter the ammo the more difference between barrel lenghts especially the 5 & 10″

Rodney Pellum
Rodney Pellum
2 years ago

I am looking at building a 9mm in AR platform and would be interesting to see the difference between a 5″, 7.5, 8.5″, and 10.5″ barrel length to see if there in much increase in the velocity.

Dstone12
Dstone12
2 years ago

This a very important question for me,

What exactly will 50 feet per second actually do for self defense reasons?

Does it create better expansion or significant penetration?

Because if fifty extra FPS is negligible, then having a g34 over a 19 really is for sight radius only and the need for more velocity really doesn’t mean much for self defense.

Right?

AZD
AZD
2 years ago
Reply to  Dstone12

As far as the exact affects for self defense reasons?
I don’t know, however, this translates to a roughly 10% increase in energy being put into your target. Unless there is a study detailing the effectiveness of a round based on kinetic energy, whether or not this is negligible for your purposes is up to you.

Joshua A Abrams
Joshua A Abrams
2 years ago
Reply to  Dstone12

At “Self-Defense” ranges for a pistol, 50 fps will provide no positives or negatives. Shot placement and Round choice will be the determining factors for desired outcome.

hu4mx
hu4mx
3 years ago

Wish you had more ammo brands like in the 45 acp test you did. Wonder what would be the longest barrel before a 9mm starts dropping speed.

Lawrence Mudgett
Lawrence Mudgett
3 years ago

This testing is very valuable to many 9 mm shooters. I know it would have been a lot more work but I was slightly disappointed that you did not include the Glock17 with the 4.6 inch barrel. The G 17 is probably the most carried pistol in American LE. Few people carry the G 34 however which is usually used for competition shooting. I am certain that many readers would be interested in seeing the difference between the G 19 and G 17 velocities. Everyone I know who carries a 9 mm including most LE officers use +P ammo. I… Read more »

Lawrence Mudgett
Lawrence Mudgett
3 years ago

A 124 grain plus P will not start dropping velocity until somewhere over 16 inches of barrel.
A 147 grain non plus P might start dropping or least stop acceleration at less than 16 inches.

Jackwoods2
Jackwoods2
2 years ago

Any 9mm up to 147 will increase all the way up to 17″ none increase beyond that.

D. Raley
D. Raley
3 years ago

I’m a little bit late to the party, but thanks for this. I’m in the middle of chosing a duty weapon, and settled on the PPQ. I was wondering if I’d be losing much by staying with the 4 inch barrel as opposed to the 5 inch. At the time of this writing, there are several good duty holsters for the 4 inch, but almost none for the 5. If, as this data suggests, the external ballistics are practically negligible, then I can feel confident that I’d be better served by getting the model with the best retention holster options… Read more »

Grits McCall
Grits McCall
4 years ago

Josh – thank you for this. I am not a Glock guy by any means, but ammo is ammo and I always find tested results like these to be useful. It is waaay better than me using my own time, ammo and chrono buddy to get it done.

subguy
subguy
4 years ago

Just for amusement value (not scientific) … I once fired a glock 17 with a fmj 115 gr bullet into a ten inch square creosoted fence post. I pushed a wire into the hole to see how far it penetrated. About 7 inches. I then fired the same round into the post at an angle from an HK-94 (16″ barrel). The angle was about 45 degrees because I feared complete penetration if fired 90 degrees. When I stuck the wire in the hole I was very surprised to see that the bullet had completely penetrated the post, at least 12… Read more »

Andy
Andy
4 years ago

Was this test set up as a DOE (Design of Experiments) or an OFAT (One Factor at a Time) test? If a DOE, were there any significant interactions? Would it be possible to get the raw test data?

Andy
Andy
4 years ago
Reply to  Andy

Very interesting test. It would be great if the test was run as a Designed Experiment (DOE), rather than just testing for on factor (muzzle velocity). A DOE would show interactions between variables that are more significant than a single variable alone.

Matt in Oklahoma
Matt in Oklahoma
4 years ago

Good article

Jim
Jim
4 years ago

It’s blurry. What about Glock 17?

Ronn
Ronn
4 years ago

Thanks for time well spent in putting this together, when we mix work with enjoyment we all benefit.
The prospective of gun use (effective distance) and barrel length is to myself most important you don’t want to bring
a G43 to an AR15 fight. Loads and bullet design are next factored into specific use, it is the icing on the cake to select a velocity to maximize that use.

James Brigham (Bigg) Bunyon
James Brigham (Bigg) Bunyon
4 years ago

If you load your own and clock your loads, this is not news. Even if you use only factory and clock the loads, this is not news. But it makes for a fairly good read for those new to external ballistics.

Enrique Diaz
Enrique Diaz
4 years ago

unable to see the data graphs from the article

Michael
Michael
4 years ago
Reply to  Enrique Diaz

click on the “expand picture” button on lower right hand corner.

Bob Shell
Bob Shell
4 years ago
Reply to  Michael

Interesting. I have done a lot of chronograph work with different barrel lengths . Some has been published here and I am working on other barrel length projects. Also I am comparing velocities from a handgun & rifle with the same round & results are eye opening. as are some of my other tests. If interested perhaps we can exchange some info or thoughts

Kenduro
Kenduro
3 years ago
Reply to  Michael

was really looking forward to reading this when I had time. Sadly was much shorter than expected. I had hoped for more than just a speed comparison. Josh surely has the skills to know that the results of this test on recoil and accuracy are more important than VELO only. Especially without comparing the loads terminal performance at different ranges (especially in the case of the 70grain hollow body Lehigh). Also the title of the article seems to contradict his conclusion that the extremes are seperated by a mere 10%. Thank you, however for the work on showcasing the loads… Read more »