I have fired somewhere around 50,000 rounds of 9x19mm in my life to date. That may seem like an extraordinarily high number to the casual shooter, but it’s not really that much when you consider how inexpensive reloads are and the amount of competition shooting some people do. I know a great guy in my area that fires that much in a year between 3-Gun, IDPA, and USPSA. Consider this a beginner’s guide to the most popular pistol caliber on earth.
Let’s start with the general background of 9mm. There’s a great deal of history to cover here, and I’ll have to omit most of it. The most important part is that the 9mm was invented over one hundred years ago and has been in service ever since. The round picked up great popularity in the mid to late 1980’s and it’s steadily increased in acceptance since.
There are several reasons that the 9mm has become as popular and widespread as it has in recent years.
- The cartridge offers great power for a relativelysmall size. Guns can hold more ammo for less bulk than larger calibers.
- Comparatively low recoil enables new shooters to learn easily and advanced shooters to perform better.
- Carry guns can be made smaller and lighter without sacrificing power.
- Inexpensive ammunition is available for practice.
- Advanced technology and new guns are more often made in 9mm than other calibers today.
There are many more reasons than these as to why the 9mm has gained so much recently. In fact, it is a combination of many factors that make the 9mm such a desirable commodity these days. Among these is the fact that a person can have one caliber for both their full-size pistols and carry guns. Even AR-type carbines can be had in 9mm today and readily accept commonly available Glock magazines.
A major point above was the mention of advanced technology. The 9mm has benefitted from the new advances in bullet design and as a result as leveled the playing field against other calibers like .40 S&W and .45 ACP. The advancements in 9mm are so important that the former cartridge, .40 S&W, is dying off. The performance of the 9mm is better with less recoil and greater magazine capacity for the same size.
A common thing that you may hear in gun stores is that ‘9mm gets bigger, but a .45 never shrinks’. If you are a novice and feel pressure from the sales man at the gun counter to go with a ‘more powerful’ caliber, know that that man is probably uneducated and stuck in the past. The .45 ACP is a great and historically significant cartridge, but it offers less capacity for the same size as a 9mm but with more recoil. The ammunition cost on a .45 is generally much higher and it will take longer to master a gun made for it.
The ammunition made for 9mm today is so good that it rivals .45 ACP in performance across the board. Great ammo like Hornady’s Critical Duty and Critical Defense, Lehigh Defense Xtreme Penetrator, Black Hills Honey Badger, and SIG SAUER V-CROWN are all state-of-the-art in terms of self-defense ammo and each offers unique benefits.
The argument for a new shooter to go with a 9mm is very compelling. You can read all the gun magazines in the world and hear all the over-the-counter banter at a gun store, but once you fire them side-by-side, you will likely discover that 9mm is superior in most categories.
There are dozens of excellent 9mm pistols to choose from. Some of the best that I’ve tested include the following:
- GLOCK 19X. This is a brand new pistol that was originally designed to compete with the SIG SAUER P320 in the military MHS program. The GLOCK lost the bid, but the 19X is a fantastic gun that offers a full size grip, 19+1 capacity standard, night sights, and three magazines.
- GLOCK 43. This has become a very popular carry gun and is a great place to start when looking at choices. It is very thin, reliable, and accurate at defense distances.
- SIG SAUER P320. This flagship model from SIG SAUER is the winner of the MHS competition and will be the service handgun of several branches of our armed services for the foreseeable future. SIG offers these guns in a myriad of configurations to suit any need.
- SIG SAUER P938. The P938 is a larger version of the P238, which a .380 ACP. The gun features a metal frame and traditional controls like a manual safety and exposed hammer.
- Smith & Wesson M&P9 SHIELD: These guns have been around for a number of years, but a new 2.0 model came out recently and features upgraded grip texture among other improvements.
There are many, many more available options in 9mm. It’s a great do-all cartridge and benefits from the most advanced materials and craftsmanship. You will find that there are many other calibers out there today, but none really do as much and do it as well as the 9mm. The 9mm can be your cartridge for weekend matches with your friends, protection in the woods, and your friend on the nightstand.