Battle of the Nines: 9mm Luger vs 9×19 vs Parabellum

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.

PPTG19eight
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.

Table of Contents

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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!)

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 gun powder into a cartridge. 

380 Hornady P and Standard Ammo
.380 Hornady +P and Standard Ammo. You can see the +P on the left has a smidge more powder. (Ammunition To Go)

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.

gold-dot-p-ammo-close-up-shot
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. 

13.25
at Lucky Gunner

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

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.

SIG-SAUER-M17-9mm-P
SIG’s M17 9mm NATO (Firearm News)

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

9x21mm

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

9X23_and_9X21_and_9X19
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 competition. 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.

Conclusion

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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7 Leave a Reply

  • DaveyC

    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.

    1 second ago
  • Unlicensed Bozo

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

    6 days ago
  • 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.").

    6 days ago
  • Davin Valkri

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

    6 days ago
  • LazrBeam

    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’.

    6 days ago
    • Marc

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

      5 days ago
    • Eric S

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

      5 days ago
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