If you've shot for long, you know the aliases of 9mm ammo: 9x19, 9mm Luger, 9mm NATO. In this article, we explore the intricacies of each and any differences between the many names of 9mm ammo.
When someone says they are shooting “nine millimeter” ammo or simply shooting their “nine,” they are almost always referring to the 9x19mm cartridge. It’s the most popular handgun round in the United States. Police, sport shooters and self-defense shooters all fire 9mm. But for as many different types of shooters that use it, there seem to be at least as many different names that refer to the same load and cartridge.
In this article, we’ll explore some of the common designations and explain what differences exist, if any, between the following:
- 9mm vs. 9×19
- 9mm vs. 9mm Luger
- 9mm vs. 9mm Parabellum
- 9mm vs. 9mm NATO
A Source of Confusion
To the novice shooter, dealing with all these different aliases can be rough. The trouble is compounded by the fact that there are many other rounds that are designated with “9mm” in their names that are not interchangeable. For instance, the 9mm Luger and 9mm Parabellum are the exact same thing. But, 9mm Marakov and 9mm IMI are two completely different rounds!
This makes choosing ammunition and understanding proper loads a headache. Our customer service team often receives calls from newer shooters. They’re frustrated, trying to decide whether or not a certain cartridge can be safely fired from a new pistol.
With the right information on all the names for 9x19mm ammo, as well as an understanding a few of the other “9mm” cartridges, you can find the right rounds and enjoy your shooting sports for years.
What’s in a Name? The SAAMI and CIP
While gun owners can call different cartridges just about anything they want, most people will settle on two or three different nicknames.
However, to bring some consistency, cartridges in the USA are given official names by the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute (SAAMI.) This is a non-government affiliation of manufacturers that publish industry standards. Those standards include the official names for various cartridges. In Europe, 14 member governments direct the CIP and perform essentially the same task.
Here’s the kicker: SAAMI and CIP designations for the same round are often different.
So What Do The 9mm Designations Mean?
Is 9×19 the same as 9mm?
Yes, 9mm ammo is the same as ammo designated 9x19mm.
9×19 may be the most straight-forward name for the cartridge. The “9” simply notes the diameter of the bullet, which is 9.01 millimeters. The “19” designates the length of the case, which is 19.15mm.
9mm vs 9mm Luger
9mm and 9mm Luger are the same. You can use them interchangeably.
SAAMI officially designated the name “9mm Luger” as the official designation ammo. So, 9mm Luger is the most common name you’ll see listed by manufacturers and ammunition stores. (Unless they simply have it listed as “9mm.”) The name honors Georg Luger, the German firearms engineer who in 1901 designed the cartridge for the German Weapons and Munitions Factory (DWM).
9mm Luger vs. 9mm Parabellum
9mm Luger and 9mm Parabellum are the same ammo. Use them identically to each other.
Perhaps the most interesting of all the different names, “Parabellum” is a Latin-based term that means to prepare for war. DWM, the company that created the cartridge, held the motto, “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum” which means “if you seek peace, prepare for war.”
So, in summary, these all mean the same thing:
- 9mm Ammo
- 9×19 Ammo
- 9mm Luger Ammo
- 9mm Parabellum
Other Cartridges with “9” in the Name
There are a few cartridges that look similar to the traditional 9×19 round discussed above. However, these calibers and cartridges are not the same and in most cases, you need to avoid using them in your standard 9mm Luger pistol or carbine.
Developed in the 1940’s by the Soviet Union, the 9x18mm Marakov (also known as 9mm Marakov and 9mm PM) is essentially the Soviet version of the 9mm Luger.
of slightly different dimensions, the 9mm Marakov is not interchangeable with the 9mm Luger or 9mm NATO. The first difference is the casing length which, at 18.1 mm, is about a millimeter shorter. The most important difference, however, it the bullet diameter, which is roughly .1 mm larger. One tenth of a millimeter might not sound like much, but the larger diameter can cause the bullet to jam in barrels designed for 9mm Luger. Jams can be pretty serious if you don’t catch them and can even lead to a barrel explosion.
Designed by the famous John Browning, most people will know this cartridge as the .380 ACP, but in Europe, and occasionally in the U.S., it is called the 9mm Browning. Other names for the cartridge in include the 9mm Short, Corto, Kurz, or 9x17mm. The CIP designation is the “9mm Browning Court.” The bullet diameter is virtually identical as the 9mm Luger, with slight differences in neck diameter, rim diameter, and more. For this reason, the two are not interchangeable.
The more common name for the “9×23 SR” is the .38 ACP, so remember that the .38 ACP and .380 ACP are not the same cartridges. (It’s almost like they’re trying to confuse people!) This cartridge has a semi-rim (hence the “SR” in the name) and is not a commonly-used product, so you’ll rarely see this round at the gun range or even in stores.
9×23 Winchester ammo is a relatively new product Winchester developed in 1996. It’s intended specifically for shooting sports. At 23 millimeters in length, this cartridge is not interchangeable with the 9mm Luger. So far, it’s struggled to live up to its pre-launch hype.
Slightly longer than the 9x19mm, the 9x21mm was created by Israel Military Industries (IMI). This round has different dimensions all around, including bullet diameter and neck diameter compared to the 9mm Luger. Another name for this cartridge is the “9mm IMI.”
One Third 9mm Bucket to Consider
Many people consider the 9x19mm NATO, which also goes by the name of “9mm NATO,” as simply a sub-category of the 9mm Luger. 9mm NATO ammo has the exact same dimensions as the 9mm Luger. It should load perfectly in any weapon designed for the cartridge.
However, because 9mm NATO is a military round, manufacturers load it to higher pressures. (This delivers greater velocity and energy.) But the increased pressure means it’s almost like a +P round and it is not identical to 9mm Luger. Many 9mm Luger handguns can’t handle the higher internal pressure. You may want to make sure your 9mm handgun is rated for higher pressures before you purchase and use 9mm NATO rounds.
Understanding 9mm Terms Will Make You More Confident and Competent
If you are not an expert, the firearms industry can seem a little intimidating. However, understanding the various definitions for ammo choices will help you communicate with other firearms enthusiasts and will be useful when you are looking to purchase. If you own a handgun that takes 9x19mm ammo, understanding that “9mm Luger” and “9mm Parabellum” are different names for the same thing will allow you to make good decisions when shopping for your rounds.
There are a lot of terms, but knowing which terms apply to which cartridges will make you a more confident and informed gun owner, and will also enhance your enjoyment of all shooting sports!