Why Does Everybody Use 9mm?

9mm Luger has taken over the world, but why do we all use it?

The 9mm cartridge, also known as the 9mm Luger or 9x19mm Parabellum, has become the most popular ammunition in the world for a lot of reasons.

The military, law enforcement agencies, and civilians have all jumped on this 9mm bandwagon. But why? There are more reasons than we can ever go into here, but the main ones are:

  • Historical significance and long track record.
  • Versatility
  • Availability
  • Balance of power and recoil.
  • Its sheer popularity means it gets the bulk of the R&D.

Historical Background

The 9mm cartridge was introduced in 1902 by Georg Luger, an Austrian designer, for the Luger semi-automatic pistol.

Since its inception, the 9mm has seen extensive use across multiple conflicts around the globe. The German army adopted the round in 1908 and it went on to a starring role in both World Wars. The round made such an impression during the Second World War that NATO officially adopted it as a standard cartridge in 1955.

Since then it has been adopted by military and law enforcement around the world. The US and European military has moved en masse to 9mm and now even the stragglers are trading in their 1911s for a 9mm Glock 19.

Recent studies suggest it closed the gap on 45 ACP in terms of terminal ballistics, while offering much greater capacity. New hollow points and FTM bullets are taking it to even greater heights and it’s going to take something truly special to knock 9mm off its current perch.


The cartridge is suitable for a wide range of firearms, from compact pistols to submachine guns and pistol caliber carbines. So it is a versatile choice for various shooting disciplines.

Whether for self-defense, competitive shooting, or tactical law enforcement applications.

This versatility also extends to the variety of ammunition types available, including full metal jacket (FMJ) for practice, jacketed hollow point (JHP) for self-defense, and subsonic rounds for use with suppressors.

You will find 9mm in everything from these 9mm rifles through to 9mm micro compact pistols that fit in the palm of your hand. 9mm AR pistols meanwhile are awesome for home defense and recreational shooting.

The only place 9mm never really found a home is with the hunting community, which is a surprise. It’s more effective than 22LR, not much more expensive and could have done the same job. But 9mm is just known as the defensive round and we never got the bolt action rifles you’d want for hunting chambered in 9mm Luger.

Balance Between Power and Recoil

The 9mm offers a balance of stopping power and manageable recoil, making it an excellent choice for shooters of all skill levels.

To be completely fair to it, 380 ACP Auto has come a long way and is pretty close in terms of stopping power, with even more rounds in the mag. But 9mm became the benchmark after exhaustive test by various Law Enforcement Agencies.

9mm was not perfect and its lack of ultimate stopping power came under the spotlight in 1986, during an FBI shoot out in Dade, Florida. After that debacle, the agency switched to 10mm before swiftly turning back to 9mm. In truth the guns were too clunky and the recoil was just too much for agents to handle without significant extra training.

The low recoil of the 9mm pistol meant it was much easier to group shots. Shot placement and grouping is way more important than ultimate power, so a 9mm pistol’s accuracy outweighs the extra stopping power of a more wayward 45 ACP and 10mm.

As the 9mm terminal ballistics got better thanks to modern hollow point design, material science and better propellants, everybody stopped looking for a replacement and embraced 9mm. It has become the default round now and is so popular that it would take something truly special to displace it.

30 Super Carry was the last one to try and so far it has been an abject failure.

Availability and Cost

9mm Luger’s popularity mean you get the benefit of economies of scale. Manufacturers produce these bullets by the metric ton. IN 2017 figures show Americans bought 8.1 billion rounds of ammunition and the vast majority were 9mm rounds.

High demand for 9mm rounds mean the competition is high and prices are low. It also means you can bulk buy 9mm ammo and make serious savings, especially if you’re prepared to compromise on the brand and bullet type.

While more esoteric rounds sell in smaller numbers, the volume sales in the 9mm market has attracted budget brands that offer basic bullets for bargain basement money. The likes of AAC will sell you FMJ for less than .30c a round, although the hollow points do start at around 50c.

Adoption by Military and Law Enforcement

The choice of the 9mm by numerous military and law enforcement agencies around the world was like a ringing endorsement that the public picked up on.

The NATO standardization of the 9x19mm cartridge in the latter half of the 20th century meant that many NATO countries adopted firearms chambered in 9mm.

As military units demanded firearms, the manufacturers poured their effort and development dollars into new pistols for those lucrative military contracts. At a certain point, 9mm LUger’s ascension to the throne was basically predetermined.

US police held on to the 38 Special for good while longer, but as semi auto pistols enterered the fray in the late 80s and 90s, Law Enforcement switched to 9mm, 40S&W and 45 ACP. Over time they have slowly deserted 40 Smith & Wesson, and it tends to be special teams or older cops that still carry 45 ACP 1911s.

The military ditched the 45 ACP Colt 1911 for the 9mm Beretta M9 in 1985, before Glock and the polymer pistol crew built their whole brand around the 9mm. At some point 9mm became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Everybody bought 9mm Luger, so it got the bulk of the Research & Development budget, so it just kept getting better.

Performance and Technological Advancements

The development of new bullet designs and improvements in powder technology have taken 9mm ammunition to new heights.

Today’s 9mm rounds offer superior expansion, penetration, and accuracy. As 9mm is the biggest seller by far, the likes of Hornady optimize new hollow points for 9mm first and have even produced ammo specifically for short barrel concealed carry pistols.

These steady refinements headed off concerns about the terminal ballistics somewhere along the road. In fact an FBI study showed that 9mm is just as effective as 45 ACP in the real world.


The 9mm’s unassailable position as the most popular ammunition is a testament to its versatility, effectiveness, and adaptability. Its historical significance, coupled with its balance of power and control, means it appeals to a broad spectrum of users across different applications.

The widespread adoption by military and law enforcement agencies has further bolstered its reputation and availability, making it the go-to choice. With ongoing advancements in ammunition technology, the 9mm Luger continues to evolve and assert its dominance in the market.

Plenty of manufacturers have tried to produce new ammo for self defense, including 30 Super Carry. None of them have come close and with 9mm Luger’s stranglehold on the market, it’s just hard to see how anything else can even mount a credible challenge.


  • Nick Hall

    Nick is a lifelong gun enthusiast who has a simple mission. He wants to find the best deals for guns online and help you make the best choices with weapons your life may depend on one day.Nick won a minor league shooting competition at the age of 11 and it all went from there. Now he runs one of the biggest firearms websites on the net and his work has featured in Playboy US, Tatler Asia, Forbes and a whole host of national magazines and websites.

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