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9 x 19 Parabellum (9mm Luger) Handgun & Ammo Round; Performance, Effectiveness & More

The 9mm Parabellum, also referred to as the 9mm Luger was adopted by the German Navy in 1904 for the Luger semi-auto pistol. The term Parabellum is a derivative of the Latin phrase: “Si vis pacem, para bellum” translated ‘if you seek peace, prepare for war” a motto of DWM the makers of the luger.

History of 9mm Luger

The “Nine” as some refer to it, is the most prolific handgun and submachine cartridge in the world. It is the standard handgun round for NATO. Its origins date back to the efforts of Georg Luger’s 7.6x21mm Parabellum, derived from the 7.65x25mm Borchardt used in the Borchardt C-93 of 1895. Luger had worked on the Borchardt and he improved the toggle and incorporated a smaller angular grip. The German Army wanted a larger caliber weapon; thus, George just shortened the case of the 7.65×21 and opened it up to handle a 9mm projectile. After the German Navy adopted the improved firearm we know today as the Luger, the German Army followed in 1908. During World War II the shortages of lead forced the Germans to adopt a steel core, surrounded by lead and jacketed with a copper jacket. Later a sintered powdered iron core wrapped with a copper jacket was introduced.

Smith & Wesson Model 39

The 9mm was never popular in the US until Smith & Wesson offered one of the first American made pistols, the Model 39 in 1954. By the 1970’s many US police departments where transitioning from revolvers to semi-autos, in 9mm. The European designation for the 9mm Luger is 9x19mm. The “9” is the caliber and the “19” is the case length in millimeters. Common rifling twist is 1 in 9.84 inches.

9 x 19 Parabellum Ammunition

Loading for the Nine covers a wide spectrum for light and high velocity to heavy and subsonic. The 147gran loading make an ideal subsonic round for use with suppressors without compromising performance. The NATO loading produces about 36,500 psi where the CIP rates the civilian 9mm Luger at Pmax = 31,100 psi, making the 9mm NATO a +P (+P indicated a higher pressure loading) round. The Russians developed a high pressure (41,000 psi) with the intent of giving the 9mm the ability to penetrate body armor. The projectile has a steel penetrator core surround by polyethylene and a bimetal jacket. With modern high-expansion hollow-points the 9mm makes for a very effective self-defense caliber. The diameter of the 9mm is 0.355 inches, that of the 38 Special/357 Magnum is 0.357 inches. With modern bullets these 9mm will expand between 0.55 inches to 0.72 inches. Penetration is from 8.0 inches to 24.5 inches (FMJ).

Popularity of 9mm; Performance & Effectiveness

There is no denying the reach and popularity of the 9mm, especially when it was adopted by the US military. This is one caveat to be remembered when using jacketed ammo: “I don’t know if my nine will expand or not, but I do know my .45 Auto will not get any smaller.” In fact, many in the US military are clamoring for consideration of a return to the .45 Auto chambering. The 9mm adoption was as much political as anything practical. The US military is considering adoption of the 6.8 SPC (6.8 x 43mm) rifle round to address the deficiencies encountered and exhibited by the 5.56×45 NATO round. The overall length of the 6.8 will function in the magazine size of the current US rifles. The round is derived from the 1906 vintage .30 Remington necked down to take a .270-inch (6.8mm) bullet.

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