9mm Luger vs. 9×19: What is the Difference and Which is Better?

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Introduced in 1902, the 9mm Luger is one of the most widely used and popular with shooters. If someone tells you that they are going to shoot their 9mm, it’s almost always possible that they’re referring to the 9x19mm automatic. 

Does 9mm Luger vs. 9x19mm mean the same thing?  Are there noteworthy differences between these two rounds? 

Places Taken by the 9mm Luger vs. 9x19mm Automatic in a Shooters Armory

To start, I have to establish that there is a difference between the 9mm Luger vs. 9x19mm, 9mm Parabellum, or 9x19mm automatic. The 9x19mm cartridge is also referred to as the NATO round.  

While keeping our gaze on the 9mm Luger vs. 9x19mm unmarked round, there is bullet weight to consider. The 9mm Luger is a 115 grain round as opposed to the 124 grain 9x19mm slug.

Both cartridges are loaded according to each of their designations. Higher NATO pressure specifications are used for the 9x19mm while 9mm Luger is loaded to industry standards. 

9x19mm automatic is what you feed into your Smith & Wesson M&P, Browning HI Power, Glock 19, CZ-75, or SIG P365. Many cartridges use this designation, including the 9mm Luger due to colloquial language indiscretions. 

Most Americans, I included, don’t like the metric system. There’s an infernal headache and elementary school witchery surrounding millimeters and kilometers. 

This makes us prefer yards and ounces. 

However, many shooters digress from this never-ending argument by sticking to the rounds marked on their guns. I mean why bother when they are equally popular and cheaply available?

The 9mm Luger cartridge is the same that was developed by George Luger for his first successful 9mm firing handgun. You may have heard some calling it the 9mm Parabellum, while others say it’s the 9mmP, which is not a misnomer. 

But if there are differences between both 9mm Luger vs. 9x19mm cartridges, they cannot be said to be the same bullet, right?  That was my first thought until I uncovered what is a warren full of 9mm cousins, with the 9mm Luger and 9x19mm automatic the most popular of the crowd.

Let’s delve into the background for each round before making comparisons and conclusions. 

Development and History of the 9mm Luger vs. 9x19mm Rounds

You’ve got to wonder why one of the oldest handgun ammunition is also the most popular today in America.  The 9mm Luger is also abbreviated 9x19mm, 9mm, 9mmP, or simply 9×19.  

It was developed by a German named Georg Luger in 1902 and was manufactured for the Luger semi-auto by DWM or Deutsche Waffen- und Munitionsfabriken. 

The Luger pistol was chambered to shoot a 7.65x21mm round, one that he had modified from the Borchardt bullet. This was the basis of the 7.63 Tokarev and 7.63mm Mauser cartridges

When presented to the German military, they felt that the larger slug was a better idea. Georg Luger trimmed down the casing and gave it a 0.355 inch or 9mm projectile. 

Luger’s pistol was known as Pistole Parabellum, from ‘if you want to make peace, prepare for war’. He created both rounds as the 9mm Parabellum and the 7.65 Parabellum for the ‘pistol of war ‘.

The 7.65 Parabellum was later changed by CIP and SAAMI into 30 Luger, and the 9mm became 9mm Luger. 

What Are SAAMI and CIP Designations for 9mm Luger vs. 9x19mm?

NATO didn’t help the confusion either, as they decided to introduce their standard-issue handgun round, the 9mm NATO. This one features a standard higher pressure loading of 36,500 PSI and a 124-grain FMJ slug.  

This is much hotter than the typical CIP or SAAMI standard load of around 34,000 or 35,000 PSI. An over-pressured variant, the NATO 9mm whizzes past with just less than 400-foot pounds and at 1,200 fps.

This designation is by the non-governmental SAAMI or Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute. The same responsibility is held in Europe by CIP, which is a 14-member official body that provides consistency for cartridge standards.

9mm Luger or 9mm Luger +P, therefore, achieve differentiation to 9mm browning or 9mm Makarov. It’s also the standard NATO cartridge under the STANAG standardization agreement. 

Specific of Cartridge Differences in 9mm Luger vs. 9x19mm Automatic

While the differences are vague, one is that 9mm Luger vs. 9x19mm auto has specific loadings. In cartridge size, 9mm Luger vs. 9x19mm Parabellum, NATO, or automatic are the same. 

But before you can sigh in relief, there are a bit more atoms to split in the 9mm Luger vs. 9x19mm challenge. The family of 9mm Luger, 9mm Parabellum, or 9x19mm NATO rounds has a couple more variants.

When shooters talk about, say, 7mm rifles, they’re typically referring to either 7mm-08 Remington, 7x57mm Mauser, or 7mm Remington magnum. These are the more common and popular 7mm bore projectiles, but there are other bullets for this size.

Other cartridges that use the 7mm designation include 7mm Weatherby magnum, 7mm Mashburn super magnum, and the 7mm Remington ultra. You’ll also find the 7mm shooting times westerner, or, 284 Winchester, .280 Ackley or .280 Remington. 

The list goes on and on. 

The Original 9mm Luger 

Its popularity amongst law enforcement, home defenders, and hunters has skyrocketed. Shooters have in the 9mm Luger a high powered but light round that’s affordable and manageable.

This German cartridge found acceptance in the US after successfully marrying with the browning hi power handgun. This is also a popular armed forces standard sidearm around the world.

The emergency of small but powerful semi-automatics chambered in 9mm Luger has made the cartridge a friendly conceal and carry accessory. New shooters in particular prefer this round since they can master and manage its defensive capabilities for better shot placement.

Wide selections of ballistically solid guns are available for the 9mm Luger, ammo that is affordable and readily available.

In certain scenarios, there may be better cartridges but none has the power, economy, and accuracy of the 9mm Luger round. This winning combination makes shooters establish their choice, voicing their votes with hard-earned greenbacks.

For popularity, the ‘nine’ trumps over her counterparts, even the ubiquitous .45 or .40 Smith and Wesson. Shooters of slight build and female handgun lovers have this highly developed ammo over the snappy recoil of a .40 S&W. 

The 9mm Auto and the Luger’s Taper

The 9mm automatic was proposed by Handgun Magazine and Shooting Times’ Brad Miller. He duplicated the ballistic characteristics of the 9mm Parabellum, revising the tapered case walls to straight. 

This is because the 9mm Luger cartridge features a slight taper that narrows at about 0.01 of an inch from the case mouth to its base. 

The taper in 9mm Luger rounds causes a nosedive gap, an exaggerated space between aligned cartridges sitting in a magazine. 

With the 9mm auto, the feeding problems occasioned by the 9mm’s casing hitting the handguns feed ramp are corrected. Single stack 9mm Luger magazines in particular are prone to feed issues due to the cartridges taper. 

Dramatic Improvement Envisioned in the 9x19mm Automatic

While being backward compatible with guns chambered in 9mm Luger, the specifics for the 9mm auto are almost similar. Only the case wall, extractor groove and rim dimensions of the 9mm Luger need to be modified.

Case mouth SAAMI dimensions for the 9mm Luger, at .380, match those of the automatic round.  A smaller rim than that of the 9mm Luger is featured, though slightly for the 9x19mm automatic.

The 9mm Luger in my possession tested at .387 and .390 inches, and the automatic rim diameter is .380. This is within the .007 and .010 inches that won’t require adjusting your extractor, except in special cases. 

A Lapua with a case rim diameter functions on all my 9x19mm automatic pistols. Waist dimensions for the extra groove however must be reduced to offer equal engagement of the extractor. 

As for feed, the straight-walled 9x19mm automatic provides clear benefits when you’re relying on single stack or column magazines.

I did some tests that complemented these improvements, with restored feed reliability and compelling cartridge feeding angle. The 9x19mm automatic has by far offered a practical solution to the flawed taper design of the 9mm Luger. 

With the abundance of guns chambered in 9mm Luger vs. 9x19mm automatic, reliability has been maximized for the self-defender. 

Variations of the 9mm Luger vs. 9x19mm Automatic Rounds

When looking at the differences between 9mm Luger vs. 9x19mm, it’s worthwhile to mention other rounds commonly associated with the 9mm designation. Though the popular members of this family are 9mm Luger, 9×19 Parabellum, and the NATO variant, several others include;

The 9mm browning or .380 ACP

Outside of the 9mm Luger vs. 9x19mm automatic ordinary cartridge family, you’ll come across the .380 Auto, also called the .380 ACP. This round was invented by John browning to use a shorter casing for the same size of a bullet as the 9mm Luger.

The 9mm Short

Since Europeans as well don’t get to grips with pounds and ounces, they call this round the 9mm. That’s what is referred to when you hear the 9mm Browning, the 9mm short or Kurz which is German for short and a 9×17 variant.

The 9mm Largo

While the Germans were expanding their artillery, Spain also developed the 9mm Largo. This round employs a longer casing and is designated 9x23mm vs. the 19mm of the Luger and Parabellum family.  

The 9mm largo is loaded with less powder, giving its slug less 50 fps when compared to the 9mm Luger cartridge.

I haven’t seen many 9mm Largo in the US, but they are common in South America. Largo is Spanish for long in case you wondered.

The 9x18mm Ultra

 There’s also a European law enforcement agency variant, the 9x18mm Ultra. This uses an 18mm long casing, translating to more powder for a 60+ foot-pound and about 20 fps greater.  

The 9x18mm is hard to come by, except for the odd chambered P232 or SIG P230. 

The 9x18mm Makarov

The 9mm or 9x18mm Makarov is another 9mm Luger variant that employs a projectile with a .365 inch diameter.  In technical terms, the 9x18mm Makarov is the 9.27mm, but that’s a minor and often overlooked detail. 

The 9x21mm IMI

The 9x21mm IMI round is a variant developed by the Israelites, through an arms manufacturer called the Israel Military Industries. Despite all that boot polish and stiff salute sounding maker, this round was designed to offer civilians a respite from military rounds. 

This is the same round as the 9mm Parabellum and is popular in countries where civilians aren’t allowed access to military ammunition calibers.

Though the cartridge is 21mm long, the clever folks at IMI seated the slug deeper into the casing for an overall length as that of the 9×19 Parabellum. 

9x25mm Dillon and 9x23mm Winchester

There are also competitive sports rounds in 9x23mm Winchester and 9x25mm Dillon. While the former is a rimless broad strokes .38 super, the former is a 10mm necked down case with a .357 SIG like 9mm projectile. 

While meeting the IPSC’s major power factor, these 9mm cartridges offer advantages to participating countries. Their popularity however doesn’t go much beyond competitive shooting in competitions and under specific governing body guidelines. 

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