Without a doubt, the 9mm Luger cartridge is the most widely used handgun cartridge around the world. Officially known as the 9x19mm Parabellum, it is an easy to manufacture low-cost round that has become a standard caliber worldwide. The round has a relatively low recoil and flat trajectory making it an ideal choice for a range of shooters.
The 9mm Luger was introduced to the market by Deutsche Waffen- und Munitionsfabriken in 1902 for use in their Luger semi-auto pistol, hence the name 9mm Luger. The round was designed and developed by the German firearm designer, Georg Luger, who wanted a compact round that was lethal at 50m. It evolved from his previous work on the 7.65x21mm and 7.65x25mm cartridges. Luger presented the ammo to the British Small Arms Committee in 1902 and three prototypes to the US Army in 1903 for testing. By 1904 the German Navy officially adopted the cartridge followed by the German Army in 1906.
The 9mm Luger is a rimless tapered round with a total length of 29.69mm. The case length is 19.15mm and have a capacity of 0.862 CM³. The Parabellum case uses a standard small pistol primer and can withstand a maximum pressure of 235 MPa. Standard rounds have velocities ranging from 300 m/s to 410 m/s with an energy of 430 J to 640 J.
Several 9mm Luger variants have been developed for specific uses. One of the most popular variants, and one that is often used by law enforcement and military personnel, is the 9mm Luger +P. The +P variant is an overpressure cartridge loaded approximately 10% higher than a standard cartridge. The increased muzzle velocity and stopping power of this round makes it an ideal choice for self defense purposes. Another popular overpressure variant is the 9mm NATO that is manufactured and available in over 70 countries. While the 9mm NATO is an overpressure cartridge, it is only about 5% more than a standard load. In the 1980s the Russian military developed an armor piercing overpressure variant with a steel penetrator core that can penetrate body armor at 40 m. This design was refined in the 90s using a lighter bullet and is capable of penetrating an 8 mm steel plate at 10 m.
The US military uses Red and Blue Simunition rounds for training exercises. These cartridges are used in real field weapons but only with a drop in barrel modification to ensure that live rounds aren’t used during a training simulation. These rounds are similar to paintballs in that they “paint” their target.
Additional variants exist but are less common.
The 9mm Luger rapidly spread around the world and has been adopted by countless military and law enforcement groups. The advent of “wonder nines” in the 80s resulted in the US Army and countless US police departments to officially adopt the 9mm Luger. Today it is used by over 60% of police in the US and is the most popular handgun cartridge in the world.
Economical to produce, with a flat trajectory, low recoil and an effective stopping power, Georg Luger’s 9x19mm Parabellum cartridge has forever altered the firearm landscape. It’s massive popularity and widespread availability ensures that it will continue to have an impact for years to come.
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