Lesser Known 9mm Rounds

Above: German 9x19mm Patronen from the Author’s personal collection, not unusual but hard to find in the States.

The 9mm Ultra, the 9mm Glisenti, the 9mm Action Express, and the 9mm Federal are just a few of the names of a number of forgotten and obscure “9mm” calibers that have been developed over the years, yet most gun owners will raise an eyebrow if one of these loadings are ever mentioned.

“Don’t you mean 9mm Luger?”

Nope, there are other 9mm rounds out there.

While the 9mm Luger is the most well-known “9mm round” going under a number of names such as 9mm NATO, 9mm Parabellum, and 9x19mm there are a number of other lesser known “9mm” rounds out there.

The “9mm” bullet diameter, or bullets of roughly the same diameter, have been used for quite some time, dating back to at least the early 1900’s in semi-auto pistols and earlier in other designs. While the 9mm Luger that we use today has been around since 1902, there have been a number of various other 9mm loadings produced over the years that have been in direct competition with the ever popular “wonder nine”.

In today’s article I will go over a number of these lesser known 9mm rounds that have fallen into obscurity for various reasons, either being unable to compete with the more popular 9mm Luger that we use today or simply unable to find their place in the shooting world at large. In general this list is limited to those rounds that include “9mm” in the name and does not include all loadings that use bullets that are the similar in diameter to the 9mm Luger that we all know and love, so loadings not using the “9mm” name are off the table. For example, while the .380 ACP does use a “9mm” bullet, and can be found under the metric name, 9x17mm Browning, the common name for it in the US is, .380 ACP, so it, and others will be left off this list.

Before I begin I should note that none of these rounds should be confused for the popular 9mm Luger. The almost default handgun round has gone by many names over the years while it has been on store shelves and on the off-chance that one should run into one of these rounds, none of them are an alternative name for 9mm Luger. If you are ever in doubt as to the ability of your firearm to safely fire a round contact the manufacturer or consult a qualified source. Never assume that simply because it will chamber that it is safe to shoot and as much as I hate to say it, gun and sporting goods store employees are often ignorant of the finer details of these cartridges, always double-check their claims. For simplicity, in this article when referring to the ubiquitous round I will use “9mm Luger” to avoid confusion.

9mm Ultra (9×18 Ultra, 9mm Police)

The 9mm Ultra, or the 9x18mm Ultra, despite its name, was not an attempt to outdo the 9mm Luger in terms of “stopping power” but is more a medium between the .380 ACP and the 9mm Luger. It was first developed in 1936 as a chambering for German Air Force Pilots and Air Crews however, it was never adopted by the German military. Despite this failure to catch on the 9mm Ultra’s story would not end there. Sometime between 1972 and 1973 Walther attempted to revive the round for use in their Walther PP Super semi-auto pistol. The PP Super semi-auto was a seven shot handgun that attempted to provide more power to West German Police officers when compared to the .32 Auto and .380 ACP pistols that they were used to carrying. Because of the once common use of the round by German Police the round may sometimes be referred to as the 9mm Police, adding yet another “9mm” name to keep track of.

The 9mm Ultra can often be found labeled as "9mm Police". - Image via Wikipedia.
The 9mm Ultra can often be found labeled as “9mm Police”. Image via Wikipedia

Here in the US the round is hard to find since American ammunition companies do not produce the round. This is because there are few handguns in the US that chamber the round and tooling up for full-scale production of the 9mm Ultra would make little sense for an American manufacturer. Beyond this, the American shooting world has little reason to adopt a round that is only mildly more effective than the .380 and has less power than the already popular 9mm Luger, leaving the 9mm Ultra stuck between a rock and a hard place on the American market.

In later years, after being offered in the Walther PP Super, the round would be chambered in the SIG Sauer P230 as well as the Benelli B76 pistol. However the German Police began moving away from the round as they found themselves outgunned by criminals and terrorists using more powerful rounds. Today the German Police have moved to the “military” 9mm Luger loading that we commonly use in the US. However this change was made with some reluctance. The switch to the larger 9mm Luger handguns was protested by some, citing the size of the new pistols as the main reason to keep the smaller .380 and 9mm Ultra pistols.

The dimensions of the round was one millimeter longer than the .380 and one millimeter shorter than the 9mm Luger with a slightly rebated rim. The rim of the case where the extractor engages the casing is .02 inches smaller than the base of the case, giving it an odd appearance to those who are not used to seeing rebated rim cartridges.

The 9mm Ultra used a number of loadings over the years, the first was a 100 grain jacketed bullet traveling at 1,060 feet per second, developed by Hirtenberger in Austria. The second major loading of the 9mm Ultra was developed by GECO (Dynamit-Nobel) using a 94 grain bullet traveling at 1,054 feet per second. Both bullets used a truncated cone shape, similar to the Hornady Critical Duty and Critical Defense line of bullets in shape.

9mm Browning Long

9mm Browning Long Swedish M/07 - Image via libertytreecollectors.com
9mm Browning Long Swedish M/07 Image via LibertyTreeCollectors.com

The 9mm Browning Long may have been a popular round in Europe but it too never managed to catch on in the US. While the round was adopted by the Swedish military in 1907 as the caliber of choice for their side arms. After World War II the round began to fade into obscurity as the firearms that chambered the 9mm Browning Long were sold off on the surplus military market. Most of the pistols that were sold on the surplus market were converted to use .380 ACP instead, further pushing the 9mm Browning Long into the history books and off of the shooting ranges. The pistols that use the round included the FN Browning 1903 as well as the Le Francais and Webley & Scott pistols. The FN Browning 1903 was the standard issue sidearm for Sweden, when they were using the round, however, by today’s standards, the round has become obsolete, even in its home content.

The 9mm Browning Long was dimensionally a shortened .38 Automatic case, however the power of the round fell between the .380 ACP and the .38 Colt Automatic. Over the years a number of loadings were developed, using between 75 and 110 grain bullets. For velocity the loadings ranged between 1,078 and 1,100 feet per second with impact energy ranging from 192 to 300 foot pounds of force. With the round being a shorter .38 Auto case, today reloaders can take .38 Super cases and shorten them to recreate the brass for this cartridge.

While finding older factory manufactured ammo for the 9mm Browning Long may be next to impossible and something of a collector’s item even if you did, reloaders will find reloading components easy to find since it uses the same bullet diameter as the 9mm Luger. Yet for those willing to do some digging, one company is still making 9mm Browning Long, Prvi Partizan. At the time of this writing SGAmmo.com was still offering 9mm Browning Long ammo for sale.

9mm Glisenti

9mm Glisenti Drawing from 1926 - Image via cartridgecollectors.org user uscartco
9mm Glisenti Drawing from 1926 – Image via CartridgeCollectors.org user uscartco

The 9mm Glisenti was the round of choice for the Italian military for both World Wars and was first adopted for the Model 1910 Glisenti auto pistol. Later years would see it chambered in an array of other pistols and submachine guns for the Italian military.

Dimensionally it is nearly the same as the 9mm Luger and will chamber in 9mm Luger pistols, however this is where the danger begins to come into play. A pistol chambered for the 9mm Glisenti round will be able to chamber the 9mm Luger cartridge, but the 9mm Luger is a much hotter round, especially with modern powders, and will probably induce a catastrophic malfunction in a pistol designed for the weaker round. Care should be taken to never mix up the two loadings, while a 9mm Luger pistol will probably just malfunction and fail to eject the weaker round, the reverse is without a doubt more dangerous. Further adding to the danger, the 9mm Glisenti was used in a number of blowback pistol designs. Loading the hotter, 9mm Luger round into a blowback, 9mm Glisenti pistol will cause even greater danger than if the pistol used a locked breach design. Put simply, a blowback pistol design, simply cannot handle the higher pressures of more modern, hotter, loads.

The 9mm Glisenti has also had a number of loadings produced for it, ranging from 116 to 124 grain full metal jacket bullets. These loadings ranged in velocity between 1,070 to 1,050 feet per second with an impact force ranging from 294 to 306 foot pounds of force. This puts the 9mm Glisenti at about the same weight class as the .38 Automatic despite being so similar to the 9mm Luger dimensionally.

Yet for those that are looking to shoot this aging round there is some good news. The 9mm Glisenti, the round can be produced with standard 9mm Luger components and simply downloading the cases to the proper pressure and velocity levels. Some source claim that Fiocchi has been producing the round recently, however I have had difficulty finding it listed for sale from the usual suspects.

However for most shooters there’s little reason to consider the 9mm Glisenti when the more powerful 9mm Luger is easier to find, harder hitting, and vastly more popular. Yet I still encourage those who want to shoot obscure and unusual rounds to take a look at the 9mm Glisenti since handloading for the round is a simple proposition with the right reloading data.


The 9x21mm and 9mm Luger rounds side by side. - Image via Wikipedia
The 9x21mm and 9mm Luger rounds side by side – Image via Wikipedia

When politicians make stupid laws the firearms community worldwide proves that it is able to respond with innovation and improvements that prove just how stupid those laws are. Hence the creation of the 9x21mm round by Israel Military Industries.

The impetus for the creation of this round was the prohibition of civilian sales of so-called “military” calibers such as the 9mm Luger. Countries such as Italy, France, and Mexico all have similar laws on the books and the 9x21mm was created so that civilian shooters would have something that was not a “military” round but still able to deliver the same kind of performance as the 9mm Luger.

Dimensionally the case of the 9x21mm is two millimeters longer than the 9mm Luger, which measures 19mm in case length, hence the metric name of “9x19mm” for the 9mm Luger. However with the 9x21mm the bullet is seated deeply into the case giving it the same overall length as the 9mm Luger. This was done so that as few parts changes needed to be made for the manufactures. Magazines, breech faces, feed ramps, and more require little, if any modification, to change a firearm chambered for the 9mm Luger into one chambered for the 9x21mm.

To add further insult to injury to the laws that created the 9x21mm round, it is the ballistic equivalent to the 9mm Luger. Using bullet weights from 90 to 124 grains the various standard loadings flew between 1,482 and 1,110 feet per second hitting with between 437 and 340 foot pounds of force depending on the loading.

In the US the 9x21mm did have a short-lived life in shooting competitions in the Open class, but once the .38 Super, and other cartridges based off of the .38 Super started to crop up in competition the round began to fade quickly.

Despite having a market niche in the more restrictive countries the purpose of this round is rapidly fading. As recently as 2012, Frank C. Barnes, reported that the restrictive laws that made the creation of this round necessary have been slowly repealed as the Western European Union began to have more uniform firearms laws across international borders, ending the prohibition of civilians owning so-called “military” calibers.

With these absurd laws on the chopping block the need for this round has been greatly reduced and while it filled a need the likely hood of the 9x21mm round continuing long after the need has ended is low at best. Both Fiocchi and Prvi Partizan, still seem to be producing the round, and it can be found, but it’s far more difficult to track down than the more common 9mm Luger.

9mm Bayard Long (9mm Bergmann-Bayard Long, 9mm Largo)

9x23mm Largo
9x23mm Largo – Image Via Wikipedia

The 9mm Bayard Long is an interesting example of doing much the same thing, just in a different package. First developed in 1910 for the 1910 Model Bergmann-Bayard automatic pistol. During this era in firearms design history it was far more common to see firearms, especially the newer automatic designs utilize specialized cartridges that were unique to the firearm that it was paired with. While for the consumer this may seem like an attempt to lock down a customer into one type of ammo and firearm (and make no mistake this was part of the plan for some), it does have the added benefit of standardizing the loadings of the ammunition that the semi-auto handguns were firing.

So the 9mm Bayard Long was one such pistol cartridge design, proprietary, and meant for use in one particular pistol. While in the long run, the 9mm Bayard Long failed to catch on like the 9mm Luger that had already been on the market for close to a decade previously. Some national militaries, such as the Danish and the Spanish, took interest in the cartridge and its pistol. The Danish made it their official issue cartridge and the Spanish used it in great numbers. So much so that many other Spanish pistols, particularly the Astra and a selection of Spanish made Colt-Browning copies used the 9mm Bayard Long.

Since American shooters never took up the round, even when it was new, the 9mm Bayard Long was never really manufactured in the US. Examples of pistols that used this round were sold on the surplus military market after World War II and it is rather difficult to find in the US. However if you do happen to come across one particular pistol chambered for the 9mm Bayard Long, the Astra Model 400, you have a few more options.

In, Cartridges of the World: 13th Edition, author Frank C. Barnes reports that a Model 400, in good condition, will be able to not only handle the round it was designed for but the .38 Automatic without any modifications to the pistol. While this may be the case, I urge anyone looking to do so to make sure that their particular handgun is in good condition and inspected by a qualified gunsmith before attempting to fire a round that the pistol was not originally designed for.

While dimensionally the round was essentially a longer version of the .38 Automatic, the round sat roughly equal in power to that of the 9mm Luger and today reloaders are able to not only use standard 9mm Luger bullets but load data for the 9mm Luger round as well. Yet more modern loadings of the 9mm Luger start to edge out the 9mm Bayard in terms of power. However, .38 Colt Automatic load data may also be used as well. The fact that the round was almost a ballistic twin to the 9mm Luger, yet in a larger package, was what probably did the round in the end.

The standard loadings for the round were very similar to what we would see today for the 9mm Luger. Using bullet weights of either 116 or 125 grains, the loadings that I was able to find clocked in at 1,280 and 1,120 feet per second, and 420 and 352 foot pounds of force respectively.

While there is little reason to use the round today, especially when the 9mm Luger is as good, if not better, it can still be pressed into much the same uses, such as use as a field round, if the right bullet type is used. However I have to ask myself why trust an aging round and pistol when 9mm Luger pistols are cheap and easier to find quality ammo for? If you want to read more about the cartridge you can find my indepth article on it here. 

9mm Steyr

9x23mm Steyr
9x23mm Steyr – Image via Wikipedia

The 9mm Steyr was the Austrian military’s standard issue round for their side arms and was paired with Steyr Model 1912 auto pistol. Despite being adopted by the Austrian military few others saw the same kind of potential in the round that the Austrian military saw. So despite the best efforts of the pistol’s creator, the round was only picked up by two other militaries, Romania and Chile. With this limited adoption the round did not reach the American market until the Model 1912 pistol appeared on the American surplus market.

Despite technically being a different round the 9mm Steyr has a number of similarities to the 9mm Bayard Long that we have already touched on. Looking at the rounds separately the two are easy to confuse given their similar case lengths and that they both have the same bullet diameter as the 9mm Luger. To further confuse the two rounds they are very similar in ballistics, with the 9mm Steyr using anywhere from a 116 to a 119 grain bullet. These loadings all traveled at 1,200 feet per second and would hit with between 370 and 379 foot pounds of force. Comparable to the 9mm Bayard Long and the 9mm Luger.

These similarities run so deep that much like the 9mm Bayard Long the 9mm Steyr can use the same bullets and load data as the 9mm Luger or the .38 Automatic. Yet unlike the 9mm Bayard Long the round is still loaded by Fiocchi and can be found in the US if one is willing to spend some time searching around for it. While in most pistols the 9mm Steyr and the 9mm Bayard Long are not interchangeable Frank C. Barnes states in Cartridges of the World: 13th Edition that the Astra Model 400 will be able to handle both rounds, however again, my previous caution still stands.

To differentiate these two rounds the first thing to look at is the case length, the 9mm Steyr is slightly shorter than the 9mm Bayard Long. Furthermore, when looking at original factory ammunition the 9mm Steyr used nickel jacketed bullets instead of copper or lead. If you’d like to learn more about the 9mm Steyr, I have an even more in-depth piece that you can read here.

9mm Federal

9mm Federal - Image via AR15.com
9mm Federal – Image via AR15.com

The 9mm Federal is maybe the oddest and shortest lived round on this list. The 9mm Federal was an attempt by Federal Cartridge Company to create a rimmed version of the 9mm Luger, much like the .45 Auto Rimmed. First released in 1989 the 9mm Federal round was an answer in search of a question.

A quick rundown for those that are not familiar with the unique requirements of revolvers that fire cartridges that were originally intended for semi-automatic handguns:

Revolvers that are chambered for semi-auto cartridges need moon clips to help with extraction, otherwise the spent cases would be incredibly difficult to extract. This is because the rim of the cartridge on most semi-auto cartridges is the same diameter or smaller than the diameter of the case walls, unlike cartridges made for revolvers. The larger rim diameter on revolver cartridges helps with the extraction. Yet, because of the smaller rim diameter moon clips are needed to help extract the case in “semi-auto” cartridges.

While moon clips have been the preferred means of trying to put a “semi-auto” cartridge in a revolver, the 9mm Federal attempted to remove the need for moon clips, holding the rounds and aiding in extraction, by adding a rim to the rear of a standard 9mm Luger case.

Despite being a good idea on paper, just about everyone who looked at this idea from Federal brushed it aside and only one company ever bothered to attempt to create a revolver that would chamber the 9mm Federal. Also in 1989, Charter Arms released its Pit Bull model of revolver, chambered in the 9mm Federal round. Much like today’s 9mm Luger revolvers the Pit Bull was a small, two and a-half inch barreled revolver, intended for concealed carry.

Charter Arms 9mm Federal Pit Bull Revolver - Image via GunAuction.com
Charter Arms 9mm Federal Pit Bull Revolver – Image via GunAuction.com

The design of this cartridge would have given a number of advantages. First and foremost the 9mm Federal round was dimensionally identical to the 9mm Luger save the addition of the rim yet the loading of the round used a 115 grain, jacketed bullet, that traveled at 1,280 feet per second, hitting with 420 foot pounds of force. This put it on par with a .38 Special +P loading and even exceeding some of the .38 Special loadings and approaching .357 Magnum power, yet it used a far smaller case size. With this smaller case size the revolver that used the round could have had a dramatically reduced cylinder size. This would have not only cut down on the bulk but the weight of the revolver as well. However Charter Arms did not attempt to modify their revolver design to take advantage of this potential. Instead, the Pit Bull had the same size cylinder as a standard five shot .38 special revolver.

While the round may use a different case then the 9mm Luger, the 9mm Federal round can be loaded using the same bullets and load data as the 9mm Luger.

Despite the round being next to impossible to find after it was discontinued in 1992, there are some things to take note of since the 9mm Federal is something that you might run into. First it will chamber into a .38 S&W revolver. If the hot 9mm Federal round were to be paired with an aging, break top, .38 S&W revolver the results would be disastrous to say the least. Furthermore a .38 S&W might be able to chamber in a 9mm Federal chamber, yet due to the differences in bullet diameter, attempting to fire the round may, again, cause a catastrophic malfunction. Finally one could chamber a 9mm Luger round in a 9mm Federal chamber, however because the 9mm Luger round lacks the rim of the 9mm Federal, extracting the spent cases may prove to be difficult.

Bullets for the 9mm Federal may be easy to find, however, cases are not. Some reloaders have gone to pretty extreme lengths to recreate this cartridge. In 2013, Gunloads.com user, GRUMPA went over the process he used to make 9mm Federal cases from .38 Special brass. He noted that the rim on the 9mm Federal is .005″ smaller than the .38 Special rim, however he did not run into any issues with the cartridges he produced, apparently in excess of 4,000 rounds. With all of the work involved in making those cartridges I have to give him props for helping to keep the round around. For those that don’t want to go through the trouble of handloading the 9mm Federal Ammo One.com has them listed at the low price of $2.95 per cartridge.

With all of this said I have to return to my mantra of, just because it will chamber does not mean it is safe to shoot. Match up your firearm with the ammunition type that it was designed to use. 99 out of 100 times it is a straightforward process but every now and again you find yourself with some odd situations like the 9mm Federal.

9mm Mauser (9x25mm Mauser)

9mm Mauser with two boxes, from the 1930's - Image via CartridgeCollectors.org
9mm Mauser with two boxes, from the 1930’s – Image via CartridgeCollectors.org

The 9mm Mauser, not to be confused with the 9×57mm Mauser (that’s a rifle cartridge) is an interesting case study given not only its performance, but history as well. The cartridge was first introduced in 1908 and was paired with the Export Model Mauser pistol. However the initial production of the pistol was halted by World War I in 1914 and would not resume until after the war between 1933 and 1934.

DWM intended both the pistol and the round for export and sales in both Africa and South America however it failed to catch on in any market that they attempted to push it to. However the round did better than the pistol and the 9mm Mauser was used in the Neuhausen submachine gun and the Steyr-Solothurn, produced in Switzerland and Austria respectively. Because of this the round was produced in parts of Europe to supply these firearms. Today the 9mm Mauser, or DWM No. 487, has become something of a collector’s item.

In an interesting turn of events the 9mm Mauser would be eclipsed in popularity by the 9mm Luger, however, of the two the 9mm Mauser is the more powerful round. The standard loading of the 9mm Mauser used a 128 grain, full metal jacketed, bullet that traveled at 1,362 feet per second and hit with 534 foot pounds of force. With these numbers not only does it beat the standard 9mm Luger loading but also edges out the .38 Colt Super cartridge as well. These gains were achieved by using a case that was .23 inches longer than the 9mm Luger case. Fortunately, despite the longer case length, the 9mm Mauser uses the same diameter bullet as the 9mm Luger making bullets for reloading easy to find. With this bullet weights anywhere from 100 to 130 grains could be used in working up a personal loading. One final note on the loading data of the 9mm Mauser is that it used Berdan primers.

Between the larger case volume and the increased velocity the 9mm Mauser round can still be used to great effectiveness as not only a hunting round but possibly a defensive round as well. However finding a firearm that could be trusted for use in such a role might be the biggest hurdle to overcome in attempting to revive this nearly dead cartridge.

9x23mm Winchester

9x23 Winchester Softpoint vs Hollow Point
9×23 Winchester Softpoint vs. Hollow Point – Image via Wikipedia

The 9x23mm Winchester round was not created as a defensive or military round, instead it was created for the International Practical Shooting Confederation’s (IPSC) competition. The 9x23mm Winchester was created to have a better, faster, and harder hitting round with less recoil. To achieve this Winchester found that instead of trying to push an existing case into the role of the next IPSC wonder round like many shooters were trying to do, they instead worked up a new case.

To accommodate the needs of the IPSC shooters Winchester stuck with the 9mm bullet size to keep recoil low but elected for a case 23mm long. This allowed them to pack more powder behind the bullet but other changes needed to be made as well. The base of the case where the powder charge was held, or the webbing of the case, was thickened greatly to hold in this greatly increased powder charge.

With these modifications the 9x23mm Winchester was released to the world in 1996. With a standard factory load of 124 grain bullets, traveling at 1,450 feet per second, and hitting with 577 foot pounds of force the round not only did exactly what IPSC shooters wanted but still gave them some room to tinker. However pushing lighter and lighter bullets into a 9x23mm Winchester case will eventually create an issue.

The 9x23mm Winchester rapidly became an IPSC shooter’s favorite round and it remains popular in those circles, however the American firearms community at large is not familiar with the round and its massive potential as a defensive round remains untapped. Despite its longer case size the 9x23mm Winchester could be packaged into a slightly larger double stack pistol that has the capacity of a 9mm Luger and the power of a much larger round. Essentially the 9x23mm Winchester gives similar performance as the 10mm but with a higher capacity.

If you would like to read more about the history of the 9x23mm Winchester I have written about the round previously in more detail here. I would love to see this round become more popular since IPSC shooters have already put the round through its paces, it could be another great option as a quality defensive round.

9mm Winchester Magnum

The 9mm Winchester Magnum is somewhat of a shadowy cartridge. Not only given that it was designed for silhouette target competition but also it was first heard of in 1977 but it would take another eleven years before it was listed in the Winchester-Western Sporting Arms and Ammunition Catalog in 1988.

The 9mm Winchester Magnum was used primarily in two pistols, the Thompson/Center pistol and the pistol that it was designed for, the Wildey, gas operated, semi-automatic pistol. The Wildey was a rather bulky pistol with barrel lengths ranging from five to ten inches and a ventilated rib and target style rear sight. With these features the Wildey found itself as not only a great silhouette target pistol but also a worthwhile hunting pistol as well.

The 9mm Winchester Magnum, for its part, is a fairly hard-hitting round, better than the 9mm Luger and just under the .357 Magnum. The 9mm Winchester Magnum was also comparable to the 9mm Mauser, using a 115 grain bullet, traveling at 1,475 feet per second, hitting with 556 foot pounds of force. With this the 9mm Winchester Magnum could be pressed into a handgun hunting role for small to medium game, even large game with a very well placed shot.

From left to right: 9mm Luger - 38 Super - 9mm Winchester Magnum - 38 Special - Image via TheFiringLine.com user HeroHog
From left to right: 9mm Luger – 38 Super – 9mm Winchester Magnum – 38 Special – Image via TheFiringLine.com user HeroHog

9mm Russian Makarov (9x18mm Makarov)

9mm Makarov cartridge - Image via Wikipedia
9mm Makarov cartridge – Image via Wikipedia

The 9mm Makarov is possibly the most relevant round on this list, as it is still in use by the Russian military as their standard side arm caliber. As such it has been chambered in a number pistols and submachine guns over the years after it was first adopted shortly after the second World War. Of note the 9mm Makarov has been chambered in the Stechkin APS and the Makarov pistol, with the latter being the most common here in the US.

Designed by B.V. Semin in 1946, using inspiration from the German 9mm Ultra that I discussed above, the round was first used in the Makarov PM pistol, which was designed two years later in 1948 around the round. Common talk about small arms would have your believe that the 9mm Makarov and other Soviet Bloc small arms were designed with the intention to be incompatible with NATO forces firearms. While this does make some sense, the 9mm Makarov was not designed with this intention. The bullet diameter of the 9mm Makarov is, in fact, larger than most “9mm” bullets, not to stymie NATO forces, but because the diameter of the bullet is measured between the lands in the rifling and not the groves.

The 9mm Makarov has managed to gain a foothold in the US market due to a large number of Makarov pistols working their way onto the surplus market. With this has come commercial demand for the round and it can be found in a number of locations. Due to this, and the larger bullet diameter, consumers should take care to not confuse the 9mm Makarov for the 9mm Luger.

From a ballistic standpoint the 9mm Makarov is actually a weaker round than the more common 9mm Luger. Much like the 9mm Ultra that it was based on, the round falls between the .380 and the 9mm Luger in terms of power. Bullet weights for most standard loadings range from 90 to 100 grains, traveling between 887 and 1,060 feet per second and hitting with anywhere from 173 to 215 foot pounds of force. For those looking to reload the round, 9mm Luger cases can be expanded and trimmed to length to accept the slightly larger bullet.

9mm Action Express

9mm Action Express - Image via Municion.org
9mm Action Express – Image via Municion.org

For those who are fans of big bore handguns, the “Action Express” in the 9mm Action Express may sound familiar and it should. The 9mm Action Express was developed by the same designer, Evan Whildin, who created the .50 Action Express, that is used by iconic Desert Eagle pistol.

Much like it’s larger cousin the 9mm AE is a stout round with plenty of power to back it up. Whildin took his .41 Action Express case and necked it down to accept a 9mm bullet while keeping the same rim diameter as a standard 9mm Luger round. The reason for this was to allow 9mm Luger pistols to be easily swapped to the 9mm AE with a barrel and recoil spring change. Looking at the round you may notice that the design is very similar to the more common, .357 SIG, which also uses a larger case necked down to a 9mm bullet.

Much like it’s larger brother, the 9mm AE failed to find a place in the market and the only real pistol of note that it was ever chambered in was the Action Arms TZ-75S88 pistol. However this is not to say that the 9mm AE is a weak round, lacking in potential for various applications. When it was being tested in a ten inch barrel the 9mm AE, using a 95 grain bullet, flew down range at 1,880 feet per second. However in testing the loading created 31,760 copper units of pressure. Since this is a bit high for most pistol designs and barrels of ten inches are uncommon on handguns, a more reasonable load using 115 to 124 grain bullets in standard barrel lengths have been created. These loadings travel anywhere from 1,225 to 1,825 feet per second and can hit with anywhere from 415 to 850 foot pounds of force. The higher loadings, using 124 grain bullets, beat out even the .38 Colt Super Auto with a 130 grain bullet.

Despite these impressive numbers that the 9mm AE puts out the cartridge failed to catch on and was dropped from production despite its promise. Instead the similar, .357 SIG, using much the same concept as the 9mm AE managed to gain a much stronger foothold in the market and it, instead of the 9mm AE, managed to become one of the “alternative” defensive handgun calibers. I personally would love to see the round make a comeback, having a 9mm pistol that I could swap between a range set up and a defensive carry set up would be nice. However, the abundance of quality defensive 9mm Luger loadings has made the point rather moot.

9x25mm Dillon

9x25mm Dillon - Image via Wikipedia
9x25mm Dillon – Image via Wikipedia

The 9x5mm Dillon is yet another attempt to create a pistol cartridge for the IPSC. Created by Randy Shelly and a team of designers working at Dillon Precision the round failed to gain much traction until Rob Leatham started working with the round in 1991. With his tinkering the round took off in competition shooting and began to gain a following.

The design of the round took the 10mm Auto case and necked it down to accept a 9mm bullet, much like the .357 SIG. Like the 9x23mm Winchester, the 9x25mm Dillon looks to create enough power down range to qualify for the Major Power Factor in IPSC competitions.

In short, it worked.

Leatham’s work inspired others to look at the round and VihtaVuori even created a powder, called Vit N105, to work with the 9x25mm Dillon. However the biggest commercial producer of 9x25mm Dillon ammunition is Double Tap with them offering a number of loadings for the cartridge. Even Springfield Armory has gotten in on the cartridge, offering pistols in the caliber.

As far as loadings the 9x25mm Dillon, in an eight inch barrel, can produce velocities ranging from 1,479 to 1,751 feet per second. These loads, using 100 to 130 grain bullets can hit with 625 to 680 foot pounds of force. With these numbers the round not only is a great round for race guns but more practical applications as well such as self-defense and handgun hunting. This is one round that I would love to see make inroads as another alternative defensive round, having a place on the market much like the 10mm does now. If you’d like to read more about this round you can take a look at my in depth article here.

9×21mm Gyurza (9x21mm Russian)

Variants of the 9x21mm Gyurza from left to right: SP-11 and SP-10 - Image via WeaponSystems.net
Variants of the 9x21mm Gyurza from left to right: SP-11 and SP-10 – Image via WeaponSystems.net

The 9x21mm Gyurza is another Russian pistol cartridge that is rather obscure here in the US. Readers of various online firearms blogs may remember this round from a small announcement in 2013 that the Russian Federal Protective Service had adopted the cartridge for use as their standard sidearm caliber. Beyond that the round is virtually unheard of here in the US.

For starters the name “Gyurza” translates to “blunt nosed viper” in Russian, a rather appropriate name given the rather unique projectile design that the cartridge uses. The cartridge was developed in an effort by TsNIITochMash to create a pistol that had high capacity and an effective range of no less than 50 meters. Starting in the late 1980’s TsNIITochMash, working under the Grach program would develop the RG054 variant of the cartridge that would give birth to the SP-10 cartridge.

Today’s variants were first conceived in the mid to late 1990’s, like most, modern, bullet designs the 9x21mm Gyurza uses a two-part construction, a lead core with a copper jacket, yet there is one particular variant, known as the SP-10 (7N29) that really gives the viper its “bite”. The SP-10 also uses a two-part construction, yet the core is exposed and replaced with steel. The core and the jacket are separated by a polyethylene jacket that allows for the round to behave in two different ways depending on what kind of target is hit by the round.

If the target is unarmored the core and the jacket will hold together and create a larger wound channel, however if the target is armored, the jacket, with the polyethylene sleeve, will separate from the core allowing the core to continue further into the target. The SP-10 variant of the 9x21mm Gyurza is reported to be able to penetrate 2.4mm of titanium plating as well as 30 layers of kevlar at a range of 50 meters. To achieve these results the round has to be traveling at high speeds. In particular the SP-10 variant is loaded to a velocity of 1,300 feet per second with a 103 grain bullet. This translates to 415 foot pounds of force when it strikes the target. The downside of this is, because of the high velocities needed to achieve these results, the range of the 9x21mm Gyurza is limited to 200 meters.

Other variants have also been created, such as the SP-11 (7N28) which uses a standard FMJ bullet, the SP-12 which was designed for low ricochet and expansion when hitting a target, and the SP-13 (7BT3) which is a tracer round similar to the SP-10 in construction.

Now you may wonder why the 9x21mm Gyurza, a pistol caliber cartridge, has a tracer loading. While the cartridge has been used in the SR-1 Gyurza (also called the SR-1 Vektor) pistol and the MP-443, the round is also used in the SR-2 Versek submachine gun. With the 9x21mm Gyurza intended for use in a submachine gun having a tracer variant makes more sense.

In its home country the cartridge is a bit of an oddball. While some police agencies, such as the FPS use the cartridge, the Russian government decided to focus on other calibers and the 9x21mm Gyurza was never adopted on a wide scale. In the States the cartridge is next to impossible to find let alone a pistol to fire it.

9x25mm Super Auto G

9x25mm Super Auto G or 9x25mm SAG was developed by Horst Grillmeyr - Image via Cartridge Corner
9x25mm Super Auto G or 9x25mm SAG was developed by Horst Grillmeyr – Image via Cartridge Corner

The 9x25mm Super Auto G is yet another stab at making a better race gun round. Developed by Horst Grillmayer for the IPSC, it was essentially a 10mm case necked down to accept a 9mm bullet. Stop me if you have heard this before.

The round was essentially a copy of the 9x25mm Dillon and was certified in 1991 by C.I.P. while the 9x25mm Dillon was certified in 1988 by SAAMI. However there were some key diffirences that were made that prevented the round from being a complete copy. First the case volume was increased and the pressures were increased by 700 PSI, yet despite these slight improvements the round failed to catch on.

With the round being essentially a copy of a round that was only three years older, and its creator chasing trends in the shooting world and moving on to other projects the 9x25mm Super Auto G rapidly faded into obscurity. While some production runs were made of the 9x25mm Super Auto G, today the round only exsists as a specfication sheet in the C.I.P. archives. The 9x25mm Dillion has had difficulty finding a larger market and the 9x25mm Super Auto G has faired even worse.

If you’d like to hear more of the story behind this round you can take a look at my article on it here.

While these are just a few of the “9mm” cartridges, there are still more out there. Between other “9mm” cartridges such as the 9x22mm Major and even more cartridges that are similar in diameter yet do not use the “9mm” name, there are plenty of cartridges out there for us to discuss.

With all of these various “9mm” loadings they have one thing in common, they all failed in one way or another to overcome the popularity of the 9mm Luger, despite some offering advantages over the more popular round. If anything I hope that this inspires you to take a look at some of these rounds and try some of them out for yourself. None of these rounds deserve to be forgotten and there are a number here that I would love to see grow in popularity and find a larger niche in today’s market.

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  • Regarding the rise and fall of the 9x21mm IMI case in USPSA, you have to remember that the Major Power Factor loadings of .38 Supers started taking over the sport in the early/mid-1980. As the .38 Super became more common, shooters looking for every edge started searching for ways to increase their magazine capacity. At the time, you were limited to magazine tubes that protruded no further than the bottom of the frame. IPSC shooters outside the US had already started to play with Major PF loads in 9x19mm cases, and even a few US pistolsmiths like Bruce Gray and Jim Boland were attempting the same.

    However, given that more conservative members of the USPSA Board of Directors were trying to in vain to restrict the use of Major PF .38 Super, the potential for Major PF 9x19mm was a step too far. . The USPSA Board of Directors ultimately outlawed Major PF scoring for 9x19mm pistols based upon these loads exceeding SAAMI pressure specifications. It no longer mattered if you could achieve the 175pf threshold with your 9x19mm load, you would still be scored as Minor. The 9x21mm IMI case was quickly adopted to dodge the new rule, as there were no SAAMI specifications for 9x21mm IMI. The initial 9x21mm adopters jokingly called it the 9mm JLE – Just Long Enough. This also led to the development of the ill-fated .356 TSW.

    The use of 9x21mm in USPSA tapered off after the high-capacity M1911-type frames and pistols became available, allowing for the reemergence of the ..38 Super. In more recent years, USPSA’s Board of Directors relented and lowered the threshold for Open Division Major Power Factor, and reallowed 9x19mm to be scored as Major.

    • Speaking of “9mm JLE,” the .356 TSW should have killed the .357 SIG in childbirth. Since it could use 9x19mm magazines, the .356 TSW would have offered a much higher ammunition capacity in many models over the fatter .357 SIG, which required .40 S&W type magazines. Alas, it was not to be.

      Just as the .356 TSW cartridge was about to become eligible for scoring at Major Power Factor in Limited Division, the USPSA Board of Directors pulled the rug out from underneath S&W. The previous Limited Division rules demanded that Major PF ammunition be available from a minimum of three manufacturers for a cartridge to be eligible for Major PF scoring, otherwise it would be scored at Minor PF. As written, this had prevented the .38 Super and 9x19mm from becoming eligible Limited Major PF cartridges because no company would load these hotter than SAAMI maximum pressure. However, the .356 TSW was already spec’ed for the higher pressure levels necessary. The revised rules added a minimum caliber clause (0.400″) for Limited Major PF.

      Here is what USPSA President Andy Hollar wrote in the May/June 1994 issue of “Front Sight” magazine:

      “The .356 TS&W pistol produced by the Smith & Wesson Performance Center has been on the market for more than a year and many more than the 1000 units have been sold. Ammunition manufacturers producing the ammunition or planning to produce it include Federal, Cor-Bon, and CP Bullets. Only Federal ammunition is “generally available” at this writing. The pistol may be used in Limited, but only at minor power. The good news is that the sample Federal ammunition easily made major (178.5 power factor at 4200 ft elevation) and as soon as two more commercial manufacturers come on line, the pistol will be completely legal at major power factor.”

      At the USPSA BOD meeting of July 9, 1994, Jeff Nelson moved that .356 TSW ammunition be approved and be considered legal in Major and Minor PF for Limited Division. Following discussion, the motion failed with three in favor and five opposed. The .40 caliber threshold for Limited Major PF was formalized no later than the February 20, 1995 BOD meeting.

      The timing of the rule change was terrible as S&W and its distributors had just begun promoting the Model 3566 semi-auto pistol and the .356 TSW cartridge as an eligible Limited Major PF combination.

      Besides the “Pocket Rocket” Model 940 and the Model 3566 Limited, there was a really nice Open Division Model 3566 variant built in conjunction with Briley. (Briley’s head pistolsmith Claudio Salassa and the S&W Performance Center’s head pistolsmith Paul Liebenberg had worked together back when they lived in South Africa.) However, no one in the US really wanted to compete using anything other than a M1911 variant once the widebody frames became available. S&W also briefly offered a couple of Model 6906-sized pistols in .356 TSW known as the Model 3566 Compact.

      The “Super 9″ commercial export model was basically an economy model of the Model 3566 Limited, eliminating the fancy stepped slide contours, two-tone finish, and magwell funnel. The Super 9’s 5” barrel had a standard 3rd Gen. muzzle profile instead of being machined straight for the spherical bushing of the Model 3566. In addition, the Super 9’s long slide had a standard Novak rear sight dovetail with an aftermarket LPA adjustable sight instead of the Model 3566’s BoMar sight. The version I encountered had three barrels: 9x19mm, 9x21mm IMI, and .356 TSW. One interesting thing I found was that the sear for the single-action Super 9 was originally meant for the double-action only models. I want to say that it used a standard hammer as well. The Model 3566 Limited, as with the other S&W single-action autos of its day, used what looked like a cropped version of the Model 52-2 hammer.

      • Again thank you for the information! I’ll be updating the article again to include the info.

        What’s incredibly funny is before I saw your comments today I was just diving into writing my next peice on the .356 TSW, and of course I found your comments on TFB. As always your writing is very illuminating, tracking down solid info on the .356 TSW has been a bit of a pain and finding your writing was incredibly helpful. Thank you.

        • FYI: The back issues of “Front Sight” magazine can be read online here.


          Mentions of “Major 9” go back as early as the July/August 1986 issue. The Sept/Oct 1987 issue even has multiple articles discussing its use.

          Discussion of the “Major 9″ controversy was hot and heavy in USPSA President Dave Stanford’s columns back in mid-1990. It culminated in the ban of Major PF 9x19mm loads shorter than 1.25” at the July 1990 USPSA BOD meeting. This was announced in the Sept/Oct 1990 issue. The use of Major PF .38 Super in unsupported barrels was also restricted to projectile weights no less than 143gr bare lead or 150gr jacketed. By the time of USPSA Nationals in September 1990, some members of Team S&W and Team Springfield had already changed over to high capacity pistols chambered for 9x21mm IMI. While the 1990 Nationals was won by Team Colt’s Jerry Barnhart with a single-stack .38 Super, Team Springfield’s Doug Koenig won the 1990 World Shoot a month later with a Springfield P9 chambered in 9x21mm. Both Barnhart and Koenig were also using red dot optics, adding another wrinkle to the rapidly expanding equipment race.

  • FWIW: In the factory ballistic charts of the era, the 9mm Federal easily outstripped 110gr .38 Special +P, and even the LE-only .38 Special +P+ loads. In fact, it was nipping on the heels of the 110gr .357 Magnum loads of that era.

    I seem to remember that the 9mm Federal was originally developed for a major Canadian LE agency that liked the ballistics of 9x19mm +P and +P+ loads, but was afraid of issuing semi-auto pistols to their rank and file officers. Ruger was supposed to offer a revolver for the cartridge, but it was never commercially released. Between the ability to chamber the round in old .38 S&W top-breaks and Charter Arms’ poor reputation in the marketplace, the round never stood a chance.

    • I was running off of Frank C. Barne’s Cartridges of The World: 13th Edition for some of the numbers I put down here, so maybe newer powders have changed things? Looking back at the book I see that the listed +P load is at 1250 fps with a 158 grain bullet from Buffalo Bore, while the 9mm Federal is listed at 1280 fps with a 115 grain bullet as the “factory load”. I’m not sure how old the data is in the Cartridges of the World:13th Ed. but it’s one of my go to resources when starting to gather info.

      I’ll have to update the article to include that little bit of info about the Canadian LE agency and Ruger. Thank you for your work. I’ve probably read everything you’ve ever posted on The Gun Zone and I’m still following your work on Loose Rounds.

      Maybe one of these days I’ll be able to come as close to your and Ian McCollum’s knowledge base. You guys are the reason I started this site and I really appreciate your comments.

      • My data was coming from the charts in the 1991 Gun Digest. Published in 1990, this was the first edition to include the 9mm Federal in its ballistics chart. From a 4″ vented test barrel, factory 110gr .38 Special +P was credited with 995fps, 110gr .357 Magnum was credited with 1,295fps, and the 115gr 9mm Federal was credited with 1,280fps. The latter was basically splitting the difference between 9x19mm +P and 9x19mm +P+ loads.

        Buffalo Bore is not a SAAMI member, so their claims as to safe pressures at that velocity is highly suspect. The high velocity 158gr “.38-44″ loads of the 1930s only claimed ~1,100fps from a 6″ barrel. Note that in the 1991 Gun Digest, factory 158gr .357 Magnum was only credited with 1,235fps from a 4” vented test barrel.

        Here is a link to a 1990 Remington catalog, which has ballistic data toward the end. The stats for .38 Special +P and .357 Magnum match those given in the 1991 Gun Digest.


  • Rob Leatham on the 9x25mm Dillon:

    “Ok, so here is the story. Wanted to make a comp work really well so I threw out the whole concept of being efficient and instead went for the most slow powder I could get in the case. Lowest flipping loads used N110, H110 and H108. They were very loud! Severe concussion and sharp recoiling. Was able to minimize muzzle flip to a degree that today’s “flat shooting” guns could only dream about. Wore comp baffles out in the first port very quickly. Broke several STI style frames. Separated the plastic part from the metal part and split the plastic where it is molded over the metal insert.

    The result was a setup that indeed had very little muzzle flip at the cost of recoil, muzzle blast and expense to shoot. So the last time I used 9×25 was in 1995 when I won Open Nationals. had gotten so tired of the downsides that I was loading 135 grain bullets with N350. Exactly what I shot for years after in 9×23, 9×21 and 9×19 Major… I still have several of these things laying around somewhere. As to the light bullets, I did work up a 90 grain load but it separated cases and was really no better than the 115 grain loads.

    I also used several different case specs, but were just different length necks.

    On close targets it would pepper the cardboard with hundreds of little holes from unburned powder grains… And blew out several overhead lights on a couple indoor ranges.”