What Is The Difference Between 9mm and 9mm Luger?

What Is The Difference Between 9mm and 9mm Luger?

The difference between 9mm and 9mm Luger is either nothing or the latter is part of the former. Depending on how you define it.


Most of the time, when a person says “9mm,” they mean is 9x19mm, which is the most common handgun round. This is what you feed your GLOCK 19, S&W M&P or — if you actually have taste in handguns — your 9mm 1911, Browning Hi Power or CZ-75.

However, there is an entire family of handgun cartridges that uses the same size (9mm) projectile.

Why do people get them confused? Mostly it’s because of colloquial usage, as we here in the USA like our brevity, but also because we don’t like that there metric system and it’s witchery.

What Is The Difference Between 9mm and 9mm Luger?

But I digress. To get it out of the way, the 9x19mm round itself is the 9mm Luger round. It’s also 9mm Parabellum AND 9mm NATO. It’s all the same bullet and cartridge.

The round itself was developed by Georg Luger during the design process of his famous pistol, often referred to simply as a “Luger.” The comment section will probably hate me for skipping some details, but I will just have to find a way to live with myself.

Initially, the pistol was chambered for a 7.65x21mm bullet, which Luger developed from the 7.65x25mm Borchardt cartridge…which also was the basis for the 7.63mm Mauser and 7.63mm Tokarev rounds. However, the German military felt that a larger round was probably a good idea, so he trimmed the case and inserted a 9mm (0.355-in) projectile.

What Is The Difference Between 9mm and 9mm Luger?

Since the name of the Luger pistol was the Pistole Parabellum (basically meaning “Pistol For War”) he therefore dubbed the two rounds 7.65mm Parabellum and 9mm Parabellum, respectively. However, the authorities of SAAMI and CIP being what they are, decided to call them .30 Luger and 9mm Luger (respectively) instead.

Further compounding the confusion, NATO decided to make it their standard pistol round. NATO has their own handloading manual and created a standard load for it. The standard 9mm NATO round is a 124-grain FMJ, loaded to 36,500 psi, which is a bit hotter than the CIP standard of about 34,000 psi. (SAAMI standards are 35,000 psi.) Thus, 9mm NATO is an overpressure variant.

A 124-grain 9mm NATO round zips along at about 1200 fps and just shy of 400 ft-lbs of energy. The standard pressure 124-gr loading of 9mm is usually slower by about 100 fps (depending) and carries about 50 fewer ft-lbs of energy out of the muzzle.

So, that’s the difference. 9mm Parabellum, 9x19mm Parabellum and 9mm Luger are all the same cartridge; 9mm NATO is just a specific loading of it that’s approved by NATO for NATO use.

But I keep hearing about 9mm Browning and 9mm Makarov. What are those, you ask?

Let the hair-splitting begin!

Okay, so the 9mm Parabellum is just part of a family of handgun rounds that chamber the same 0.355-in (that’s 9 millimeters) projectile. There are a number of them, though only a few are popular in the United States.

It’s kind of like when people talk about 7mm rifles. Usually, when someone talks about “7mm” they typically mean 7mm Remington Magnum, 7mm-08 Remington or possibly 7x57mm Mauser as those are the most popular rounds with a 7mm-diameter projectile.

However, there are plenty of rounds that use the same size bullet, such as 7mm Remington Ultra, 7mm Weatherby Magnum, 7mm Shooting Times Westerner, Warren Page’s favorite wildcat the 7mm Mashburn Super Magnum, .280 Remington, .284 Winchester and .280 Ackley Improved…and more.

What Is The Difference Between 9mm and 9mm Luger?

The most popular member of the 9mm family outside of 9mm Luger is .380 ACP, also called .380 Auto. Invented by John Browning, it uses the same size bullet as 9mm Parabellum, but in a much shorter case. The Europeans don’t know what a Big Mac or a .380 is, so they refer to it by its metric diameter of 9 millimeters. As a result, it’s called 9mm Short, 9mm Kurz (German for “short”), 9mm Browning and 9x17mm, though not 9mm with cheese.

A similar round developed in Spain around the same time as the 9mm Parabellum was the 9mm Largo. 9mm Largo, or 9x23mm, employs a longer case than the 9mm Parabellum (23mm vs 19mm) and an ever-so-slightly lesser powder charge. Basically, knock 50 fps off a 9mm Luger and you got it.

While not common in the US at all, 9mm Largo (Spanish for “long,” should you ask) is popular in some Latin American countries.

Another variant, which found some adoption among European police agencies, was the 9x18mm Ultra. The 9x18mm Ultra uses a slightly longer case than the .380 ACP — 18mm vs 17mm — and nets about 20 fps and 60+ ft-lbs more. You won’t find it anywhere, though you might find the odd SIG P230 or P232 chambered for it.

What Is The Difference Between 9mm and 9mm Luger?

The 9mm Makarov, or 9x18mm Makarov, however, is different. 9mm Makarov employs a .365-in diameter projectile, so it’s technically 9.27mm Makarov. However, the most important thing you should know about that minor detail is that nobody really cares.

Another variant is 9x21mm, also called 9mm IMI. This round was developed by Israel Military Industries for use in countries where civilians are forbidden to purchase firearms chambered in “military calibers.” 9x21mm IMI is basically the same as 9mm Parabellum. IMI being some clever folks, they seat the bullet deeper in the case so it’s the same overall length as 9mm Para.

The competitive shooting world has also given us 9x25mm Dillon and 9x23mm Winchester. The former round is a 10mm case necked down for a 9mm projectile (sort of like .357 SIG) and the latter is (in the broad strokes) a rimless .38 Super. These cartridges meet the Major power factor of IPSC and other competitive shooting events but haven’t caught on outside of that.

Dr. Brad Miller of Shooting Times and Handguns Magazine even proposed a new variant he called 9mm Auto. The 9mm Auto is a duplicate of the 9mm Parabellum ballistically, but revises the case to straight walls. The 9mm Luger round has a slight taper (it narrows by about 0.01 inches from the base to the case mouth) which causes an exaggerated nosedive gap (the space between cartridges in a magazine) and thus causes the round to hit the feedramp at a rather low angle, which has been known to cause feeding problems in single-stack magazines. The 9mm Auto aims to correct this problem.

So…to sum up: 9mm is actually a family of cartridges, but we most often use it as short-hand to refer to the 9mm Luger, which is the most popular member of that family. Got it?


  1. avatar GS650G says:

    Well we will just call them 9s and be done with it

  2. avatar mountocean says:

    I think you mean Europeans don’t know what a Quarter-Pounder is. Big Mac is Le Big Mac.

    Of all the inane nit-picking you’re sure to endure this is the most important.

    1. avatar neiowa says:

      LE 0.11kilo eurowussie enough for you?

    2. avatar GluteusMaximus says:

      It is the hamburger royal. I know this from my time in europe or you could watch pulp fiction. Ha ha

      1. avatar tmm says:

        9mm Royale?

  3. avatar Rokurota says:

    It’s not the Big Mac Europeans don’t know, it’s the Quarter Pounder.

    1. avatar JR Pollock says:

      As soon as I started reading the article. I knew someone would post that clip.. Thanks!

      1. avatar Geoff "Mess with the bull, get the horns" PR says:

        Marvin has to get shot in the face :

    2. avatar GluteusMaximus says:

      Ha ha

  4. avatar WadeJ says:

    Awesome. But you forgot to cover the preferred caliber of the news media–the .9mm

  5. avatar jwm says:

    What about .38 special and .357 magnum. They’re 9mm also. No love for classics here?

    My S&W is reliable with all 9×19 loads. All that I’ve tried, anyway. But for accuracy it slightly favors the Nato loading.

    1. avatar SAFEupstateFML says:

      I think those are 2 thousandths of an inch wider close enough to do 9 to .38/.357 with marginal accuracy but not the best idea in the other direction. Been a while since I messed with pistol rounds though.

  6. avatar Rusty Chains says:

    Umm, doesn’t the .38 Super use the same .355 diameter bullet?

    1. avatar Tim says:

      Yes and no… The .38 Super *technically* uses a .356″ bullet, but (according to the reloading manuals) can also be loaded with a .355 bullet with no problems. Meanwhile, the .357 and .38 both use a .357″ jacketed bullet.

      Interestingly enough, some reloading manuals also provide loads using the .357 158 grain pistol bullet in the .35 Remington (nominal diameter .358″ jacketed) for plinking.

      But, what’s a .001″ between friends?

      1. avatar john says:

        I have an old manual that has loads for 125 gr .357 in .35 rem. Wicked expansion from my 16″ Contender barrel.

  7. avatar RA-15 says:

    American Gunner 9mm luger +p 124 gr XTP works for me.

  8. avatar Aven says:

    I consider the .380 a 9mm short, the 38 Special as 9mm long, the 9mm Lugar is a 9mm long rifle, and the 357 Magnum as a 9mm Magnum. (I have them all).

  9. avatar john says:

    To make things more confusing the .380 ACP is also known as the 9mm Corto.

    1. avatar Jonathan-Houston says:

      Corto is Spanish for “short”, so that makes sense. I’ve never heard that usage, though. You’ll often find .380 ACP referred to as 9mm Kurz, however, where kurz is German for “short.” The diameter is basically the same, though grain weight is typically just 95 gr. and the case is shorter.

      1. avatar john says:

        My father has a Beretta marked 9mm Corto,

        1. avatar Jonathan-Houston says:

          That’s cool; where’d he get that? Is it vintage?

          When we think of these terms, it’s probably useful to remember that they apply to the ammunition directly and to the chambering of the firearm. (Speaking of terminology, you would refer to a revolver as being chambered in a given cartridge. How would you say that? “Cylindered” sounds silly.)

          I’d bet which terms are used may also be rooted in geography, too. Different terms spring up from different places, after all. They probably linger in certain places, too.

  10. avatar former water walker says:

    I guess I’m OK. I knew all that…well except if +P+ 9mm will blow up my lowly Taurus gats 😄

    1. avatar Specialist38 says:

      -P- might blow up a Taurus.

      They dont’t need a reason.

  11. avatar Hoyden says:

    So is an 80’s “High Capacity 9” related to the “Wonder 9”?


  12. avatar The Rookie says:

    And then there is the 9mm Dillon. Which is actually a 10mm. But with a 9mm bullet. Which I guess makes it a…9mm?

    My head hurts…

    1. avatar Mark N. says:

      Do you want a real riddle me this? Why is a .38 called a .38 when it is a .357 bullet?

      To answer that question, you have to understand that the .38 was one of the first pistol cartridges developed at the end of the Civil War, and that many (all except the S&Ws) were formerly .36 caliber cap and ball pistols with conversion cylinders that accept cartridges. But the .36 caliber pistols were referring to the muzzle diameter at the end of the barrel; they were typically loaded with a.375 soft lead ball that are shaved down by the loading process to fit tightly in the cylinder, and then squeezed further down as they traveled down the barrel.

      The long and the short of it is that a .38 never was a .38 caliber bullet or barrel. So why is it called a .38? (I haven’t a ******* clue.)

      1. avatar Anymouse says:

        .38 is the diameter of the chamber, not the bullet or land or grooves of the barrel. The .357/.358 bullet has a .375 case, that fits in a .38 chamber. Similarly, a .44 Special is a .427 bullet, but when they called the magnum version .44 Magnum, unlike the .357 Magnum.

        1. avatar Bottleneck says:

          Thank you for the knowledge!

      2. avatar Wayne says:

        Because they were a 38 bullet when they were a rimfire cartridge or black powder cartridge and using a ‘heeled’ bullet just like .22 rimfire cartridges still use today. The OD of the bullet is the OD of the brass. With modern centerfire cartridges, the bullet is smaller than the OD of the brass and equals the ID of the case mouth. They changed the bullet diameter and never changed the name. That’s why.

  13. avatar Jonathan-Houston says:

    Word of caution here: there are so many legacy terms and historical quirks in nomenclature, whereby the same ammunition goes by multiple names, that you could almost be forgiven for assuming two different cartridges are probably the same thing, so long as there’s some similarity in their labels. Be careful with that and the “close enough” mindset. What you don’t know, sometimes can hurt you.

  14. avatar Specialist38 says:

    So most correct to 9mm is the generic and 9mm Luger is the actual caliber.

    We use the term 9 colloquially to refer to a 9mm Luger.

    Calling something a “9” is like asking for a 30 caliber cartidge. They are legion.

  15. avatar Warlocc says:

    Doesn’t matter what you call it, it’s still not 6.5 Creedmoor.

    1. avatar New Continental Army says:

      Win. Someone should neck down a .50AE into a 6.5 pistol round and call it the Creedmoor Parabellum.

    2. avatar DesertDave says:

      Have you heard about the new .9mm Creedmoor long range Pistole! Awesome! Nothing like ringing some steel at 1000 with a pistol.

  16. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    Then there is the 9 X 39 for the Russian VAL rifle.
    Subsonic, integrally suppressed…
    I want one very badly.

  17. avatar Acorn says:

    If you have taste in handguns you get your 1911 in .45acp

    1. avatar john says:

      I don’t know, I like my XP100 in .358 win.

    2. avatar Trent says:

      I wasn’t aware that taste had been redefined to mean lack of sense.

  18. avatar Pegasus says:

    Luger comes from the French “luge” (snow sled), as the round slides into the chamber like a sled on the snow.

    1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

      So the fact that Georg Luger invented the round was just coincidence?

    2. avatar Jedi Wombat says:

      Ummm, no.

    3. avatar Illuminoughtu says:

      That attribution arose from the fact that the French can’t admit that a German could do anything greater than they can.

  19. avatar Let me give your wife some tennis lessons says:

    “This is what you feed your GLOCK 19, S&W M&P”

    I had no idea I had to feed my M&P40 with some 9mm rounds. All this money I have been wasting.

  20. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

    I think it’s kind of odd that it was the Americans who insisted on a .45 because they wanted a handgun powerful enough to bring down a horse while the Europeans were upping the ante from 7.65 to 9mm. Then it was the Europeans who slaughtered 10 million of the critters in their world war a few years later.

    1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

      The French and Belgians thought .32acp was a good trench sweeping pistol. We came in and decided the .45acp wasn’t enough and switched to the 12ga pump.


    2. avatar Mark N. says:

      The Americans insisted on a .45 not to bring down cavalry horses, but Indian ponies. In the Civil War, they relied on .44 caliber cap and ball pistols. And they liked Sam Colt who’d just come out with a spanking new cartridge called the .45 Colt as the Indian Wars were gaining steam. There were plenty of the olde reliable .44s around, Remington was still making them and in a cartridge pistol to boot. Winchester made a fancy lever action rifle in a matching caliber. But again the Army took a pass, instead buying up a bunch of .50-70 caliber single shot carbines and muskets, switching to a .45-70 shortly before the advent of smokeless powder and jacketed bullets (which rendered the .45-70 obsolete).

      1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

        Not sure the power requirements from a handgun are all that much different between taking down an 1100 pound pony and a 1200 pound horse.

  21. avatar AlanInFL says:

    Sorry, I don’t have an Astra 400. That would solve most of the question in this article.

  22. avatar A O says:

    TTAG really scraping the bottom of the barrel (no pun) for articles.

    1. No, they’re not scraping the bottom of the barrel. I happen to like these types of articles. I’ve learned a lot here. I’ve learned from the comment section, too. Thank you very much.

      1. avatar Matt(TX) says:

        @A O is a troll.

        1. avatar 1ofthagr8est says:

          @AO no you are not a troll to nice of a term trolls are like closet racists they think no one knows about them but we all can smell their soul burning.Rotting flesh is hard to conceal to sum it all up they are certified IDIOTS !! With nothing else better to do , stay in the closet @AO most humans enjoy intelligent conversation stop trying to spoil it for the majority of people who really can use a little Ammo knowledge.”STAY THIRSTY MY FRIENDS “

  23. avatar possum says:

    The difference is Cops use 9 mm Luger and Nazi’s use 9 mm Luger Parabellum

  24. avatar daveinwyo says:

    As long as I can buy it or “find” it I like it. Not a fan of rare or oddball guns/calibers. Wildcat rounds are cool, but try to find it at Ace hardware. .22LR., .380, 9mmLP 30.06, .223/5.56mm etc. Anywhere, almost world wide. I guess I should put in 7.62x39mm but I don’t have one darn it.

    1. avatar Mark N. says:

      During the Obama ammo drought, the only thing that was always on the shelves at my local WalMart was .40. Things have gotten so bad in California , however, that Walmart stopped selling ammo all together. With a new gubner and an anti-gun US House, there may be another drought aborning.

  25. avatar Southern Cross says:

    How about a write up on .30 cal center fire cartridges?

    I can list 6 service .30 caliber cartridges off the top of my head and add many more commercial cartridges as well.

    .30 M1 carbine
    7.62 NATO
    .30-40 Krag

    And the commercial cartridges in no particular order, 300 Whisper (remember that one?), 300 Blackout, 300 Winchester Magnum, 300 Weatherby Magnum, 308 Norma Magnum, 30-378, and many Wildcats.

    1. avatar Mark N. says:

      What about the .303 British? And the .308?

      1. avatar Southern Cross says:

        I was mentioning specifically those named 7.62 or .30x. Adding in any other approximate 30 cals increases the numbers even more.

        The 7.62 NATO (1954) was derived from the .308 Winchester (1952) but the first list was named military cartridges. I suppose .308 Win could have been added to the commercial cartridges.

    2. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

      Oh, great idea!
      I have a She in 7.62×45. Its an interesting rifle. Got it for a song. It’s a beauty.

      1. avatar Southern Cross says:

        The only rifle I know of in 7.62×45 is the vz52.

    3. avatar Anymouse says:

      .307 Winchester. Not a typo. It’s basically a rimmed .308 intended for tubular lever actions with .300 Savage performance.

  26. avatar Ragnar says:

    Wait, not one word about the ” .9mm ” the news keeps talking about?

    So disappointed.

  27. avatar Johnnyreb says:

    I’ve learned that not all 9mm are the same. Some brands seat the bullet a little bit deeper in the casing. My Walther P38 likes those and jams a lot on the “longer” ones. I’ve wondered if it is the same for a Luger.

    1. avatar GS650G says:

      Winchester white box has a longer nose on the bullet than the UMC rounds and I’ve seen them cause feeding problems in some guns.

  28. avatar Trent says:

    “This is what you feed your GLOCK 19, S&W M&P or — if you actually have taste in handguns — your 9mm 1911, Browning Hi Power or CZ-75.”

    Is it really that important to always be an obnoxious, divisive asshole? Can’t that childish bullshit ever be put aside? Ever?

  29. avatar Vlad Tepes says:

    And the Author forgot to mention the 9mm Largo, 9mm Steyr, and the 9mm Mauser Export, 9mm Corto,9mm Glisenti (not the 9×19 Parabelleum but an real odd ball Italian Cartridge)

    1. avatar A. Daniels says:

      Also the 9mm Winchester Magnum (9x29mm), first seen in the Wildey semiautomatic pistol. Historical note: the 9x25mm Mauser Export was a favorite of W.D.M. Bell.

    2. avatar Scoutino says:

      He did mention the 9mm Corto. Even if not under that name. It’s your old .380 ACP aka 9mm Browning short. As opposed to 9mm Browning long that was not mentioned.

  30. avatar Robert says:

    LOL It’s funny, but kinda not, the euro-snob remark about America’s use of the imperial system and our relative snubbing of the metric. There are a lot of reasons why we’ve stuck with our system and it has mostly to do with “it works”. Sciences here in the U.S. can and do use metric measurements for more precise work, cool, but for everyday people the imperial system is head and shoulders a better system of measuring, by a mile at least, I’d say. See this http://askawiseman.com/metric/

    This is a great read on such a common question. Well done.

  31. avatar Aye8what? says:

    Regardless of what you gun nuts call these assault pistols they should all be banned, except for use by Ashton Kutcher, who promises not to shoot it!

    1. avatar CinciJim says:

      I sincerely hope you are just being sarcastic. If not, please read on…

      FYI – There is no such thing as an assault gun, pistol or otherwise. That’s simply a misnomer the left-thinking socialists decided to coin in their never-ending efforts to scare the bejeebers out of the unknowledgeable general public, as a required component of their agenda to disarm the citizens of this country.

      Everyone who knows anything about firearms fully understands that a gun cannot and will not ever commit an assault. It is an inanimate object, completely incapable of thought or emotion. It cannot love, hate, or feel rage or jealousy. It cannot take any action on its own; it cannot squeeze its own trigger, nor the trigger of any other firearm. It is just a tool that sometimes is chosen for use by a sick mind that is intent on causing harm or death to an innocent human being. Firearms are no different than many other kinds of tools: knives, baseball bats, hammers, screwdrivers, ice picks, tire irons, motor vehicles, explosives, bricks, rocks, poisons, on and on and on. Yet the only tool that seems to be a real problem to the is firearms.

      And for some inexplicable reason, gun-grabbers seem to believe criminals will finally obey the law and handover their firearms if they succeed in a ban. Yep, laws have worked so well to stop rapes, murders, drug dealings and drug use, DUIs, thefts, etc., that surely banning guns will work just as well. (sarc)

      Medical malpractice, the 3rd leading cause of death in the U.S., kills around 250,000 in America each year. Why doesn’t the left jump on that bandwagon? LIkely because despite all the deaths caused by the medical profession, there is more good than bad in the overall results.

      It’s estimated there are approximately 300,000 lives saved each year by firearms in the possession of law-abiding citizens in the U.S. That’s roughly 10 times the number of firearm deaths in this country, including unintentional shootings, justifiable shootings (including by law enforcement) and suicides.

      Another tidbit to chew on: London, UK, has exceeded NYC, US, in homicides. The population of these 2 cities is virtually the same. Check out the gun restrictions in the UK.

      Banning guns will not save lives – in fact it will lead to more crime and murders when the criminal realizes he no longer has to consider whether his target may be armed. A sick mind, intent upon causing the death of an innocent human being, will attempt to do so whether a firearm is available or not.

  32. avatar GS650G says:

    Its very telling that so many rounds are built around a .356 diameter bullet. The powder charges vary widely but there is a definite compromise on that size. you get penetration with enough weight to accomplish the goal.

  33. avatar Last OfTheOldOnes says:

    7.62 is NOT a 30 cal. It actually is a 29.99999 cal if you do the conversion……….That’ll teach you 🙂

    By the way, I have measured many 38 Specials, 357 Magnums and 9mm Lugers with a micrometer, and they all seem to average around 0.356″ +- 0.001″. That’s actually an excellent result for a mass produced product of which millions/billions are made each year.

  34. avatar Jack says:

    Does it mean that both will work on the same 9mm pistol?

  35. avatar Alaina Moor says:

    Nice Information

  36. avatar HammerFireOnly says:

    LOL. I love my CZ75. 1911 style only for me including my carry. Sig 938.

  37. avatar Tom T says:

    THIS is why I come here. You could dig up the same info online yourself if you had hours to kill, but TTAG has a knack for cutting away the fluff and giving you the facts you wanted. Well done.

  38. avatar Jeromebill7718 says:

    Thanks to this article, I am now getting a chamber reamer and a field gague and converting all my pistols to 9X21…and yes, even my 38 special and 357 magnum.

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