In Service to the Empire
The 9x23mm Steyr or 9mm Steyr was an Austrian pistol cartridge that was developed for use by the Austrian-Hungarian Empire’s military. The round became the standard service round for Austria from its adoption by the Austrian-Hungarian military in 1912. The round would remain the default pistol and submachine gun round for Austria, Romania, and Chile up to the start of the Second World War. The 9mm Steyr remained a viable civilian handgun round in many countries that restricted the ownership of so called “military rounds” for some time after it was dropped from military use. While one of the first rounds to adopt the idea of a light and fast round, improvements in technology and a preference for the 9mm Parabellum would eventually see many of the firearms chambered in 9mm Steyr rebarreled for the now more common 9mm round.
The Steyr M1912, other firearms, and it’s history
The 9mm Steyr was first developed for the Steyr M1912 handgun. Both the round and the pistol were developed by the Steyr Mannlicher firm for the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. The round and handgun combination were developed and finalized in 1911, however it was not formally adopted until the following year.
The round saw regular service in the First World War with the Austrian-Hungarian’s Army as they fought through Europe. When Germany Annexed Austria in the Anschluss many of the stockpiled and left over arms that had not been destroyed were captured by the Nazi forces. It was easier for the Nazi forces to take these captured firearms and rechamber and rebarrel the rounds for the 9mm Luger round that they already had in production.
In addition to the Steyr M1912 the 9mm Steyr was also used in the Steyr MP 30 Submachine gun. The Steyr MP 30 was the go-to submachine gun of the Austrian Military and Police. Again as part of the Nazi’s Anschluss of Austria the Steyr MP 30 was frequently changed to accommodate the 9mm Parabellum.
The 9mm Steyr might have died out much sooner if not for the restrictions on owning firearms chambered in “military” calibers. In many places in South America and Mexico it was common to see 1911 style clones chambered in the 9mm Steyr and other rounds that were not used by military or police forces.
Hand Loaders and Factory Ammo
Hand loaders should take note that while 9×23 Steyr does have the same base dimensions as other 9x23mm rounds, you should stick with brass designed for the 9mm Steyr, or be certain to get the thickness of the case walls correct. The 9×23 Winchester round, for instance, has much thicker case walls to accommodate higher pressures. These thicker case walls could cause issues when reloading.
Fortunately Starline Brass still offers 9mm Steyr brass that eliminates the hassle of attempting to form brass for another round for the 9mm Steyr.
For those that are looking for factory ammo Precision Cartridge Inc. produces new manufacture ammo for the 9mm Steyr.
While the 9mm Steyr might be able to chamber in firearms made for other 9x23mm cartridges, semi-auto firearms are built around specific pressure and recoil expectations. Chambering a round and attempting to fire it in a gun that it was not built for will at best cause malfunctions and at worst catastrophic failures and injuries. For those who have older firearms, such as the Steyr M1912, chambered in 9mm Steyr, do not attempt to shoot, newer, higher pressure rounds. Only a qualified gunsmith will be able to ascertain if an older firearm is safe to shoot.
Left behind but not really forgotten
While the 9mm Steyr was a decent round, more modern designs have rendered it, unfortunately, obsolete. The 9×23 Winchester has very similar case dimensions, however it does much of the same thing, only better. But the 9mm Steyr was one of the first rounds to adopt the idea that a light and fast round can do just as much, if not more damage than a slower moving, heavy round. If not for this shift in design philosophy we might not have seen popular rounds like the 9mm take off.