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9mm Luger vs 9×19 vs Parabellum: What’s the Difference?

What's the difference between 9mm, 9x19, 9mm Luger, and 9mm Parabellum? Learn more about the famous 9mm round and its cousins here!

Even if you know very little about guns, perhaps just what you’ve picked up from watching TV and movies, you’ve probably gathered there’s a round called 9mm.

9mm (115gr vs 124gr vs 147 HP)
9mm (115gr vs 124gr vs 147 HP)

As you learn more, you probably discover it’s a pistol round, but you’ll soon hear other terms like Luger and Parabellum. So you might wonder… what is the difference between 9mm, 9mm Luger, and 9×19 Parabellum?

In short, nothing

9mm Luger and 9x19mm Parabellum refer to the exact same round. When someone refers to 9mm, they almost always mean 9x19mm.

Deconstructed 9mm Round
Deconstructed 9mm Round

However, there are also terms catering to specific variations of 9x19mm and other 9mm caliber rounds altogether.

Let’s clear up these terms, so you know exactly what people are talking about when discussing 9mm.

Sometimes it’s Luger, sometimes it’s Parabelluum, sometimes it’s plain ol’ 9mm, but it’s all the same.

First, we’ll check out why there are so many names, then get into a few common variations of 9x19mm.

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Table of Contents


Where Does 9mm Luger Come From?

Let’s start by finding out where the 9mm Luger name began. To do that, we need to look at the round’s history.

Designed in 1901 by Austrian designer Georg Luger (whoop, there it is!), 9mm Luger was introduced the following year by German manufacturer Deutsche Waffen- und Munitionsfabriken (German Weapons and Munitions).

georg luger
Georg Luger. I don’t know about you, but a man with that many medals? I feel I can trust his ammo.

That 9mm paired with DWM’s Luger semi-automatic pistol, thus earning its name, 9mm Luger, from the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute (SAAMI).

Similarly, the round is designated 9 mm Luger by the Commission Internationale Permanente pour l’Epreuve des Armes à Feu Portatives (CIP)–note the addition of the space between 9 and mm.

DWM 1917 9mm and 1915 9mm
DWM ammo, a 1917 9mm design (left) and 1915 9mm design (right). (LugerForums)

Ok, But What About 9x19mm Parabellum?

While 9mm Luger got its name from external groups, 9x19mm Parabellum is the original official designation from DWM. 

To understand where DWM got that name, you once again have to look at the origins of the round.

German Military 9mm History graphic
A quick peek at how 9x19mm rounds evolved from 1913 until the end of WWII.

9x19mm Parabellum is derived from DWM’s earlier 7.65x21mm Parabellum cartridge and inherited the “Parabellum” tag. Not to mention, that Luger pistol we talked about earlier is known as the Pistole Parabellum or Parabellum-Pistole.

1915 Luger Pistol
1915 Luger Pistol

That still doesn’t answer the question of the word parabellum’s roots. Where did it all begin? The word comes from DWM’s motto, Si vis pacem, para bellum. This is Latin for “if you seek peace, prepare for war.”

(Looking for 9mm? Check out the best 9mm rounds for plinking and defense!)

at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

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Talk to Me About 9x19mm Variants

Now that you understand 9mm Parabellum/9mm Luger a little better let’s look at some other variations on the cartridge.

9mm +P

The +P label indicates the round is a high-pressure load, though still not as high pressure as a magnum round might be. +P is achieved by simply packing more gunpowder into a cartridge. 

9mm +P ammo has 10% more pressure than a standard 9x19mm round. Per SAAMI specifications, the standard pressure for 9x19mm is 35,000 psi, while 9mm +P measures 38,500 psi.

Speer Gold Dot 9mm +P ammo in ballistic gel (Ammunition To Go)

The increased pressure boosts the round’s energy and velocity, creating better stopping power and ballistic performance. This makes +P ammo well-suited for self-defense.

However, not all guns are equipped to handle the pressure of +P ammo, so check that your pistol is compatible before use. 

at Lucky Gunner

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

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Rounds with even higher pressure than the typical +P round are marked +P+. It’s worth noting that SAAMI doesn’t list a standard pressure for +P+.

9mm NATO

9mm NATO is 9x19mm ammo that conforms to NATO standards. Like 9mm +P, 9mm NATO is overpressurized, but not to the same extent. 9mm NATO has a service pressure of 36,500 psi.

Winchester NATO 9mm 124gr, Headstamp
Winchester NATO 9mm 124gr, Headstamp

By NATO standards, 9mm NATO has a bullet weight between 108-grains and 128-grains. NATO standards don’t state what type of bullet 9mm NATO rounds should use.

However, the Hague Convention bans expanding bullets in warfare, so NATO rounds have full metal jacket ball bullets.

Other 9mm Rounds

All of that said, 9mm Parabellum/9mm Luger isn’t the only 9mm caliber round out there.

Desire to Know More

A few other rounds exist with 9mm classifications. Unlike the rounds we just discussed, these are entirely separate cartridges, but happen to have 9mm bullet diameters. 

9mm Caliber Types
9mm Caliber Types. There’s… a lot.

9x18mm Makarov

Let’s start with the 9x18mm Makarov, often called 9x18mm PM and officially designated 9mm Makarov by the CIP.

9x19mm and 9x18 Makarov
7.62×25 mm Tokorev and 9×18 Makarov (M1GarandRifle.com)

The 9x18mm Makarov was the standard pistol cartridge of the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc in the second half of the 20th century. It could reasonably be called the Soviet’s counterpart to 9x19mm.

However, 9x18mm Makarov is no longer widely used. Given its ballistics, it never gained as much traction as the 9x19mm in the West.

Rusian Makarov RT
Rusian Makarov RT

9x18mm Ultra

On the other hand, 9x18mm Ultra did see popularity in the West, but only as a trend.

Developed in Germany in 1936, it didn’t get much attention until the early 1970s when Walther released the PP Super in 9x18mm Ultra for the West German Police. The round was released to the public in 1975.

Geco 9x18mm Ultra
Geco 9x18mm Ultra

Other guns chambered in 9x18mm Ultra followed, such as the Sig Sauer P230. The Walther PP Super was discontinued in 1979, and with that, the round’s popularity faded. You can still find the ammo today without too much trouble, especially if you shop online

9mm Browning

9mm Browning enters the field with better recognition than either of the last two rounds, but you probably don’t realize it. Known as .380 ACP in the United States, the official CIP designation is actually 9 mm Browning Court.

Same bullet, smaller casing. 9mm (left) vs. .380 Auto (right).

Its proportions are 9x17mm, making it the shortest of the 9mm rounds we’ve discussed here.

Arriving on the scene 1908, the round reached its peak during World War II when several European militaries used it. .380 ACP is perhaps most famously associated with the Walther PPK.

Roger Moore Carrying a Walther PPK as James Bond
Roger Moore Carrying a Walther PPK as James Bond


Some countries ban civilians from using military service cartridges, including 9x19mm. 9x21mm, or 9mm IMI, was developed for places like that. 

9x23mm, 9x21mm, and 9x19mm

The 9x21mm was created by Jager, an ammo manufacturer based in Italy. (Italy happens to be one of those countries banning 9x19mm for civilians, FYI.) It was later adopted by Israel Military Industries (IMI) for larger-scale production for multiple countries.

CZ 75 Sp-01 Shadow 9x21mm
CZ 75 Sp-01 Shadow in 9x21mm

The U.S. never really caught the 9x21mm fever, but it saw popularity in other parts of the world, particularly in Italy. Despite lacking a dedicated following in the U.S., the round is commonly spotted in practical shooting competitions. This is due to the rimless casing, which makes it less likely to malfunction.

9x23mm Winchester

9x23mm Winchester is a relative newcomer, introduced in 1996. It was primarily intended to appeal to competition shooters, especially for practical shooting and defensive pistol shooting competitions. A couple of advantages over other rounds at the time pushed it into the competition arena. 

9x23mm Winchester
9x23mm Winchester

First, more rounds could fit into a magazine, so fewer changes were required. Second, it delivered higher pressure. When used with a compensator, the gun had less muzzle flip from recoil.

9x23 Win Headstamp
9×23 Win Headstamp

Due to a combination of production delays, changes in competition standards, and robust competition, 9x23mm Winchester never really took off. 

Even More 9mm

The rounds we’ve discussed are only a few of the many cartridges using 9mm. There are more pistol rounds in this caliber and even a revolver round (9mm Japanese revolver). You can even find a couple of rifle rounds (9×57mm Mauser and 9×39mm). 

Japanese Type 26 9mm revolver Guns and Ammo
Japanese Type 26 9mm revolver (Guns and Ammo)

Unfortunately, many of these are no longer in production, making them rare, especially in the U.S.

Final Thoughts

So, what is the difference between 9mm, 9mm Luger, and 9×19 Parabellum?

As we’ve learned…nothing.

Despite the various naming schemes, 9mm most commonly refers to 9mm Luger or 9×19 Parabellum, which are, in fact, one and the same.

9mm Steel Cased Ammo
9mm Steel Cased Ammo

Still confused about ammunition and calibers? Check out our Bullet Guide for general ammo info and our Handgun Caliber Guide for handgun-specific issues. You can also hit us with questions in the comments below! And if you’re in the market for 9mm ammo, be sure to check out The Best 9mm Ammo.

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12 Leave a Reply

  • Commenter Avatar
    Graham Witt

    Great article - lots of useful comparisons and trivia-esque knowledge to share. Not to be "that guy" but one correction I would suggest - the photo with the Hornady +P rounds, with the powder displayed, are not .380 ACP as the caption describes, they are .38 SPCL. Sounds like nitpicking, but as both an NRA and USCCA instructor these are clarifications I need to make every training session. New shooters are easily confused. I also send my students to your website as one of my "go-to" trusted sources. Thanks and keep the awesome info flowing!

    January 25, 2023 7:53 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Chuck Cochran

    I remember hearing about this on Reloading forum. There was a back and forth about it, but the general consensus is, a few manufacturers, IMI (Israeli Military Industries) being one, used an inner brass belt to reduce capacity, but keep pressure up for Sub Sonic 9 in suppressed pistols and sub machine guns. The belt also serves the purpose of preventing the bullet from creeping back into the case with sub guns on full auto, rather than the tighter crimp per the commenter.
    You didn't mention manufacturer on the headstamp, and I only recall two of the few that were mentioned, IMI and HS. HS, I can't find in my old Headstamp Guide, and I don't recall anyone mentioning that headstamp in any other conversations.
    The commenter did mention it's difficult to reload with standard dies, as most decapping rods are bigger than the inside diameter of the inner belt.
    Don't know if this is fact or not, just recalling a thread I followed on Reloader's Corner, if memory serves a couple of years ago.

    January 22, 2023 7:52 pm
  • Commenter Avatar

    I have noticed that 9mm PARA is usually on military/nato spec rounds... luger is on US or sammi.. PARA is sometimes hotter foreign loads..

    January 21, 2023 1:52 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Robert Koch

    So 9mm Luger and 9x19 are the same. Huh, recently I order some 9nce fired 9mm Luger cases. Mixed in were so.e cases stamped 9x19. Oddly enough the cases stamped 9x19 have an extra band of brass lining the inside. That band decreases the amount of space inside. If I were to load them with the same amount of powder the pressure would be much higher. Not good. So can someone e explain to me the same cases that are different.

    May 26, 2022 6:24 pm
  • Commenter Avatar

    Just to note on my Browning HiPower (circa 1972) the barrel is stamped 9 mm and also with a P. This is not to be confused with +P, as the P stands for Parabellum (not +P rated). For all those HiPower affectionados out there.

    November 16, 2020 9:24 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Len Berron

      Enjoyed the report but disappointed. No reference to 9mm Pinfire.

      May 1, 2021 9:57 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Unlicensed Bozo

    Thank you. After the 45 article, this was needed and appreciated

    November 10, 2020 4:40 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Joe Appleby

    The phrase Si vis pacem, para bellum is much older than DWM (where the English translation should be German Weapons and Ammunition Factories).

    The motto is adapted from a statement found in Latin author Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus's tract De Re Militari (4th or 5th century AD), in which the actual phrasing is Igitur qui desiderat pacem, praeparet bellum ("Therefore let him who desires peace get ready for war.").

    November 9, 2020 9:31 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Davin Valkri

    It's always good to go back to basics about gun things!

    November 9, 2020 7:38 pm
  • Commenter Avatar

    The photo of the 9x19 mm and 9x18 Makarov is inaccurate. That is definitely not a 9x19. It looks more like a 7.62 x 25 Tokarev. Just sayin’.

    November 9, 2020 5:40 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Eric S

      You are correct. The reference photo from m1-garand-rifle.com specifically says:
      "Left: 7.62x25 mm Tokorev
      Right: 9x18 mm Makarov"

      November 10, 2020 11:06 am
    • Commenter Avatar

      Who knew that the 9mm was not a bottleneck round? Certainly not the author.

      November 11, 2020 3:33 am
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