What Are All These 9mm Cartridges, And Why?

Why do we have so many different 9mm cartridges, and what are they all? Why are 9mm Steyr and 9mm Largo virtually identical and yet different, while 9×18 Ultra and 9×18 Makarov are completely different? Well, today we will explore the wide word of 9mm cartridges. Starting with the origins of 9mm Parabellum as the necked-up coin of Georg Luger’s 7.65mm Parabellum through the other 9mm rounds developed in the halcyon days of automatic pistol development and then a few of the more modern additions.

In particular, we will cover:

9mm Parabellum, aka 9mm Para, 9mm Luger, 9x19mm, 9mm NATO. The first of these 9mm cartridges, it was developed as a necked-up version of 7.65x21mm for the Luger pistol. It has an excellent balance of size, pressure, and ballistics and has become the most common pistol cartridge in use to the day. Available now in a huge variety of bullet weight, shape, and velocities.

9mm Bergmann, aka 9mm Bergmann-Bayard, 9mm Largo, 9x23mm. Originally developed for the Bergmann Mars pistol in 1903, it was used by Denmark and Spain among others.

9mm Browning Long, aka 9x20mmSR. A mostly unsuccessful cartridge, this is the larger sibling of John Browning’s 6.35mm and 7.65mm cartridges (25 ACP and 32 ACP). It used a semi-rimmed case for headspacing, and was adopted primarily by Sweden in the Model 1907 Browning pistol and the Model 1937 Suomi SMG.

9mm Browning Short, aka .380 ACP, 9mm Kurz, 9mm Corto, 9x17mm. Designed by Browning in 1908, this was a way to offer a larger bullet in a variety of pistol originally chambered for the .32 ACP cartridge. It is the shortest of the rounds we will look at today and also the weakest, specifically intended for small civilian pistols.

9mm Steyr, aka 9×23 (again). Ditinct from the 9mm Largo/9mm Bergmann cartridge, but virtually identically to it dimensionally. The 9mm Steyr was created for the Model 1912 Steyr-Hahn pistol. It differs from the Bergmann around primarily in using a slightly lighter bullet.

9mm Ultra, aka 9mm Police, 9x18mm. Originally designed as an attempt to shoehorn a more powerful cartridge into the Walther PP/PPK platform, it proved too powerful for the purpose. Walther designed a rotating-barrel pistol to use it in 1936, but the project never got beyond prototypes. It was resurrected in the early 1970s for essentially the same type of pistols, but again failed to get enough commercial traction to survive.

9mm Makarov, aka 9x18mm. While also 9x18mm dimensionally, the Soviet Makarov cartridge actually uses a 9.2mm (0.364 inch) bullet. It was deliberately chosen to prevent any potential use in western 9mm firearms. Ballistically, it is similar to the .380 ACP and 9×18 Ultra, intended for use in a simple blowback action.


  1. The Browning long was also the round for the “Le Français” type ARMEE of the Manufacture d’armes et cycles de saint Etienne

  2. The 9x25mm Mauser (9mm Mauser Export) is always a mystery for me.
    There are only a handfull C96 made, maybe 100. No other handguns to my knowledge…?
    But a lot of ammo manufacturer listed the cartridge in their 1920s/30s catalogs. I have copy of DWM, RWS, Geco and Fiocchi catalogs that list them. Plus wikipedia say also manufactured in UK, France, Austria and Greece.
    The limited number SMGs in that caliber MP28, MP34 and MP35 plus the 1200 made SIG locked breech MKMO did not have enough impact that 8 manufacturers produced that cartidge in the 1930s.
    Who Where What uses this cartridge? Did I miss something?

  3. Actually the 9 mm Mauser Export was used by either Austrian and Hungarian militaries for their SMGs: Austrian M.30 Steyr-Solothurn for the Austrian Army was chambered in it. BTW, the Austrian Police (as well as Gendarmerie, the rural paramilitary police force, alongside the Italian Carabinieri or French Gendarmerie Nationale) were using at the same time, Steyr-Solothurn M.34 chambered in 9×23 Steyr, and then, as we all know, the MP34(o) was made in 9×19 for the Germans (BTW2: many parts of the latter, Waffenstamped e/189, were manufactured in Steyr-managed captured Polish Rifle Factory in Warsaw). By far the largest user were the Hungarians, though, who were the only non-Austrian manufacturer of the stuff, as late as 1945. Their Pal Kiraly-designed delayed-blowback SMGs, both the fixed stock Geppistoly 39M and the 43M underfolder, were chambered in 9×25 (more trivia: even though the cartridge was exchangeable between the two, the magazines were NOT, one was straight stick, and the other was curved).
    As to the “almost the same” longevity of the 9 mm x 23s – the 9×23 Steyr was out of production essentially right after the Anschluss, while the Spanish 9×23 Largo was only phased out at the end of the Franco era, in late 1970s, with the last military SMG chambered in it being the Star Z-70, replaced since mid-1970s by the Z-70B, with its simplified FCG and firing the 9×19.
    The 9mm Ultra (Geco) or 9 mm Police (Hirtenberger) was actually revived in 1970s not for the PP/PPK, but for the Walther PP-Super, a PP-based, slightly bigger and more modern pistol, which was swept off the field by the trio of the locked 9×19 pistols, the Walther P5, SIG P6 (P225) and the HK P7. Before it was swept off, it really looked like the next big think, to the tune of HK chambering a prototype MP5 in it, as well as SIG offering a 9 Ultra variant of the P230

    • First, I’d point out the difference between reducing the diameter to maintain the same taper, vs. stretching the taper to maintain the same diameter, is so slight as to make no practical difference — the allowance between minimum chamber and maximum cartridge is larger, as are the tolerances on both cartridge and chamber.
      Second, the drawings you linked (and the TDCCs they’re derived from, which you can find at https://www.cip-bobp.org/en/tdcc ) do not show the same case mouth diameter (H2), but indicate a 0.02mm reduction, from 9.65 to 9.63. By my figuring, the “correct” diameter extending 9mm Luger’s taper by 2mm would be 9.62, so it’s closer to the same taper than same diameter.

      • “…difference between reducing the diameter to maintain the same taper, vs. stretching the taper to maintain the same diameter, is so slight as to make no practical difference…”(C)

        In fact, this is critical decisive factor for double stack magazines.

        Modern Italian 9×21 fully corresponds to the German 9×19 except for the length of brass. The brass has been lengthened to comply with Italian laws that prevent the use of military ammunition in civilian weapons.

        • I mean that whole the inside diameter (G1) is the same at 9.03mm the outside diameter is slightly different (H2) at 9×21=9.63mm and 9×19=9.65mm

          Keeping the inside diameter makes sense to fit the same bullets with the same fit.

          Thanks Ben for catching that.

  4. >9mm Makarov, aka 9x18mm. While also 9x18mm dimensionally, the Soviet Makarov cartridge actually uses a 9.2mm (0.364 inch) bullet. It was deliberately chosen to prevent any potential use in western 9mm firearms/

    In the Soviet documents on the creation of the 9×18 cartridge, there are no requirements for incompatibility with Western weapons.

    • “In the Soviet documents on the creation of the 9×18 cartridge, there are no requirements for incompatibility with Western weapons.”(С)
      But, at the same time, the 9×19 cartridge can be shoved into the Makarov pistol and fired.

      • We recently fired a 9×18 cartridge with a CZ-75 pistol (9х19). There was no ejection of the cartridge case, but the shot was normal.
        The USSR designed the cartridge and weapon based on its own ideas after the war. Nobody was interested in the question of the use of cartridges in foreign weapons.

    • Yeah but this way overage adolescents can swagger and play “in the know” by swapping misinformation. “Ohhh I just gave a strep on ordinance incompatability!”

    • I suspect 9 mm bottle-neck cartridges might be enough material for separate treatise. Examples includes 9 mm for Gabbett-Fairfax Mars, .38/.45 Hard Head, .38 Casull, .38/.45 Clerke Auto.

    • .38 Super is just a high pressure loading of .38 ACP. Developed in response to Colt chambering 1911s in .38 ACP around 1930.

      • Oddly enough, the original .38 ACP had to be dialed down after early Colt M1900 pistols exploded from over-pressured barrels. I could be wrong.

  5. Couple recent omissions; 356 TSW, same purpose as the 9×23 Winchester, and 357 Sig, to give 357 Magnum ballistics in an auto pistol.
    And an old on, 9mm Mars. Don’t think there are too many of those out there.

  6. The 9mm Winchester and the 9mm Mauser export have very similar ballistics and very different real-world applications. Both effectively duplicate .357 S&W Magnum ballistics and could be used in similar applications albeit with much more awkward guns to handle. The only applications for the 9mm Winchester have been the Automag, a few experimental Wildey pistols and in the Thompson Center Contender as a Silhouette and hunting cartridge. It was not really very well designed for the stated purposes.

  7. I didn’t watch the video. Adding to Fred and Tom’s comments does he discuss 9×23 Win, 356 TSW, 357 SIG, 38 ACP? The 38/357 revolver cartridges are worth bringing up too….the variety of 9mm’s could probably fill a book, even 350 Legend fits the criteria.

      • And apparently was not 1st to do that. naboje show specimen of 9×19 Holek rimless cartridge with straight wall, see 1st photo from top
        dated 1947, made by Zbrojovka Brno Československo Experiment
        I was unable to unveil any other details.
        Did creator of 9mm Automatic cartridge elected to copycat this cartridge? If yes then why he hoped it will catch in dawn of 21th century, whilst in 1940s it apparently did not? If yes where they source blueprints for it?

    • .357 SiG is basically a .40 S&W necked down to .355in (it uses actual 9mm bullets, not .38/.357 ones), so it falls more into the category of 7.65 x 21mm or 7.63 x 25mm in design terms.

      It was preceded by the 9mm Action Express, which was .41 AE given the same treatment. The difference of course is that the AE rounds have rebated (9 x 19mm sized) rims.

      All of the above were preceded by wildcats like the .38/.45 Clerke on the .45 ACP case, and the proprietary .357 AutoMag, a .44 AMP necked down to take a .357in bullet, rather along the lines of the .357 Herrett for the Thompson Contender single shot. (And yes, I know the Herretts in both .30 and .357 were rimmed rounds based on the .30-30 WCF case.)

      Interestingly, in some loadings (125-grain bullets, for instance), in an 8″ or 10″ barreled Model AMP-180, the .357 AMP develops ballistics close to the 7.62 x 39mm Kalashnikov in its standard military loading. I’ve often thought that a .30 AutoMag would have been even more impressive- probably at both ends.

      The 9mm Winchester Magnum as I recall was developed along with the .45 Winchester Magnum for the Wildey gas-operated automatic, and then showed up briefly in the IAI AutoMag V Colt-Browning type pistol, not to be confused with the original TDE-type AutoMag rotating-bolt Schwarzlose-type handgun. There were also Contender barrels made for it, which are now collectors’ items.

      My major complaint with all of this is the 9 x 23mm Winchester. It can chamber and fire in a 9 x 23mm Bergmann/Largo pistol, and probably a 9 x 21mm Steyr M1912 as well. Which due to its much higher working pressure would be extremely dangerous to the shooter,rather like trying to use 9 x 19mm SMG-specific ammunition in a 9mm Brixia or Glisenti pistol.

      It would have been better if Winchester had made it a 9 x 24mm. Better to be safe than sorry.



      • The 357SIG cartridge was developed to replace the 357SW for use in self-loading pistols in the air marshal service.

  8. At the beginning of his video, Ian clearly explains that time is not sufficient to look at all the [my words:] boutique cartridges that exist in the 9 mm domain. He says that possibly a later video will deal with them. The critics of the “.357 SIG is missing” type obviously never took the time to view at least the initial part ofthe video.
    Some of the boutique cartridges like 9 mm Nickl or 9 mm vz 22 re-appear in literature again and again as being different from .380 Browning (9 mm kurz), without the slightest proof by contemporary or modern velocity measurements. The fact that the Frommer Stop represents a long recoil design is considered as evidence that it must have fired a hotter load. Again, no measurements at all to support this.

    Ian has done a great service to beginners by explaining the basic facts of frequently encountered 9 mm cartridges. Leszek+Erenfeicht added some important facts. I wish, this kind of factual, non urban legend, information had been available when I started studying small arms and their ammunition.

    • “(…)9 mm vz 22 re-appear in literature again and again as being different from(…)9 mm kurz(…)”
      9mm vz.22 do differed from 1930s 9×17 mm kurz in muzzle velocity https://naboje.org/node/3680#
      Ve 30-tých letech byla u 9mm Br.K Vo- 265-270 m/s, u 9mm vz.22 300 m/s. V poválečném období však byla rychlost střely u 9mm Br.K zvýšena na Vo-275 až 292 m/s. Tedy byl výkon náboje Browning prakticky srovnán na vz.22
      So 9×17 kurz reach potency of vz.22 after (2nd World) war

  9. I still didn’t watch the video but you have a potentially great title for the book courtesy of JPeelen. “Boutique 9mm cartridges (includes 357 SIG)”. If anyone can make it informative and interesting Ian can. Thank you Ian for doing what you do. Everything I have watched of yours has always been excellent!

      • If you are talking about the Czech 9×19, then this is an experienced cartridge from the times of the cold confrontation and almost nothing is known about him.
        In addition to the data that is in the link and a number of unverified rumors that it was supposed to be produced on the same equipment as the Czech 9×18.
        And, perhaps, the Russian 9×21 was inspired by this development.

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