New Concepts In 9mm Ammo | regular guy guns

We’ve been over the merits and demerits of .45 ACP and .40 S&W pistol ammunition, and a slight political detour, of course. But does that mean 9mm is dead in water? Of course not. 9mm is by far the most popular pistol caliber in the world, and for good reason – it’s plentiful, and it works, and has remained consistently popular with both citizens and professional users alike…

To explore where 9mm is going, it’s worth briefly examining the history of 9mm.

Like a lot of things in the firearms world, 9mm is actually a very old design. 9mm Parabellum (Parabellum means “For War” in Latin) was designed and developed in Germany by Georg Luger while under the employ of Deutsche Waffen- und Munitionsfabriken aka DWM. The round was developed initially to be the cartridge of choice for the pistol that bore Georg Luger’s name. The official name as designated by Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers Institute (SAAMI) and it’s European counterpart, the Commission Internationale Permanente pour l’Epreuve des Armes à Feu Portatives aka the CIP, is actually 9mm Luger. The round was introduced in 1902, and became standard issue in 1908 to the German Army as a pistol round.

Subsequently, the cartridge became widely adopted by European forces throughout both World Wars, with manufacturers such as FN adopting it for their pistols, including the long-serving Browning Hi-Power that was introduced in 1935.

In the US, 9mm Luger/Parabellum remained a niche item until after World War 2, since US forces favored the .45 ACP for their 1911s and submachine guns. Postwar analysis of German tactics and equipment showed a certain advantage in the “small and fast” philosophy behind 9mm, with the military recommending the development of a 9mm pistol similar to the Walther P38. The initial result of this recommendation was the Smith & Wesson Model 39 pistol, which was adopted by the Illinois State Police in the late 1960s. However, 9mm was still a poor fight-stopper, owing to the small size of the FMJ round (more hits needed to stop a fight), and the poor designs of early hollow point rounds. Still 9mm soldiered on here in the US, even with it’s reputation as a “mouse gun”.

It took technology and the introduction of the easy-to-use “Wonder Nines” (striker-fired 9mm pistols, i.e. GLOCKs) to put the 9mm into the forefront of citizen and professional use. New hollow-point rounds are designed using state-of-the-art software and real-world prototyping and simulation techniques. That Hornady 135-grain Critical Duty round started life on a hard drive somewhere. 9mm is now “the” standard round for pistol shooters around the world. If you see a pistol, it’s probably a 9mm. Low recoil, high capacity, and effective bullet designs have it as a star performer.

But can the caliber be pushed further? Or is the current generation of loads the apex of 9mm Parabellum? Manufacturers big and small are still pushing the envelope of this storied cartridge.

9mm ammo with fast shipping at Lucky Gunner via Regular Guy Guns

In the ammunition world, there’s numerous offerings beyond the bog-standard 9mm jacketed hollow point round. Some manufacturers go “off the reservation” and have developed rather gimmicky fragmenting projectiles, rounds with supposedly-magical coatings, and other such tactics that seem to be more grounded in marketing than ballistics. They claim improvement, and there is none. However, there are concepts in 9mm ammunition design that look promising in advancing the state-of-the-art. From defensive rounds to training ammo, development marches on. I’ve reached out to several manufacturers, and have received what I consider the most promising, which I will outline below.

G9 Defense 9mm 80-grain +P External Hollow Point Ammunition

G9 Defense 9mm 80-grain +P External Hollow Point Ammunition.

Traditional hollow-point rounds are tricky to make effectively. The idea is to have an expanding round which will cause a lot of disruption on the way into the target, and stay there. Thus, it can be argued that it’s actually designed to be slowed down by a barrier in a way. Traditional hollow points have been known to get hung up by leather and denim, reducing their effectiveness. G9 Defense’s answer to this problem is novel, and by many accounts, devastating. A normal hollow point expands and crushes tissue to cause injury and neutralization. G9’s External Hollow Point projectile takes a different approach. The solid copper projectile uses rotational force and displacement, much like a propeller or a drill bit, to project tissue and material out of it’s way. In order to get this effect, speed is required, with the rounds clocking in at an impressive 1480 feet per second out of a standard duty-sized pistol (say 4 inches or more) barrel. This increases RPMs, and thus disruption. Tissue disruption and shock are key in a defensive round. The speed also guarantees a degree of “barrier-blind” performance, which means that things like auto glass, denim, and clothing will not change the trajectory much. Another thing worth noting is the weight. In addition to the lightweight projectile, the G9 cartridge utilizes the Shellshock Technologies NAS3 two-piece case. I carried a magazine of this around for a day, and it definitely makes your EDC “weight burden” less noticeable.

As for the results, G9 was kind enough to share the third-party lab results with me. The data is linked here. If you’re in a hurry, the basic end results are that it ia an excellent performer.

Find out more here.

Seismic Ammo 9mm NATO 185-grain +M Hollow Point Ammunition

Seismic Ammo 9mm NATO 185 Grain +M Hollow Point Ammo.

The received wisdom of 9mm ammunition design is “light and fast”. Most concepts beyond the norm in terms of 9mm ammo technology usually involve some combination of sizzling speed and projectile design wizardry. So, when Seismic Ammo dropped ther 185-grain QuakeMaker “+M” load back in 2019, a lot of the industry sat up and took notice. 185 grains is massive for a 9mm projectile. Typically you see that mass in .40 S&W and even .45 ACP, but not 9mm, where projectile mass typically tops out at 158 grains for some specialized subsonic loads.

The magic of Seismic’s offering comes in a combination of case, propellant, and projectile. Again, the projectile itself is huge, almost double the length of a standard 9mm hollow point. In a normal brass casing, that wouldn’t leave a lot of room for propellant, but Seismic chose to use the NAS3, from Shellshock Technologies, which consists of an aircraft-grade aluminum base and a nickel-alloy cylinder. Light and thin, it enabled Seismic to cram more propellant into the cartridge, allowing for this massive 9mm projectile to run at around 850 fps out of a standard duty-sized 9mm pistol.

Seismic recommends the round for carbine/submachine gun use, but has no specific warnings about standard pistols. I wouldn’t recommend this for a compact pistol since the heavy round needs all the help it can get in terms of velocity. Worth noting is the ammo is loaded to NATO standards and not commercial/law enforcement standards. It’s roughly “+P” in terms of pressure but that is only in a broad sense.

Also, Seismic specifically doesn’t recommend use in any current H&K 9mm pistol for some reason. So there goes my fun, basically. However, out of any other duty-sized pistol, it runs accurate, the recoil is suprisingly “normal”, and penetration is 16 inches or so in ballistic gelatin. For a first-gen product, it’s great. Plus with that red base, it looks pretty damn cool.

Get your Seismic Ammo 9mm NATO 185-grain +M here.

Blackwater Ammunition Contractor Grade 9mm 124 Grain +P Monolithic Hollow Point

Blackwater Ammunition Contractor Grade 9mm 124 Grain +P Monolithic Hollow Point.

That’s a mouthful, just to describe a 9mm cartridge. And yes, it comes from the same Blackwater that provides private military contracting and security services to the US government and state/local agencies. Blackwater operatives come to mind when we talk about “operators operating operationally and doing operator things”.

Utilizing the same Shellshock Technologies NAS3 casing as Seismic’s offering, Blackwater instead opted to place a more traditional hollow-point projectile (via Maker Bullets) in the cartridge, though it is worth noting that the projectile itself is composed of a more environmentally-friendly solid copper, and the powder and primer are extremely clean-burning and stable. This ammunition is very new-to-market, only have hitting the virtual shelves in February of 2020. During the initial pandemic panic, Blackwater was one of the few outlets where inventory wasn’t a huge issue, actually. Sometimes it pays to dig deep and look at the bespoke manufacturers during a crisis.

Early review reports say the ammunition is a solid performer, with no major recoil issues, and a rather surprising “clean” burn. I feel like I’m describing cigars, but I’m nerdy enough to complain about the smell of dirty-burning ammo. But if that’s all you got, I’ll take it, I guess.

This is definitely a first-generation offering from Blackwater, with more calibers and cartridges slated to hit over the summer. I’m really looking forward to that basic, bad, black .50 BMG I saw on their website.

Get your Blackwater Ammunition here.

Build a Bigger AR .308

Federal Premium Syntech 9mm Total Synthetic Jacket Ammunition

Federal Premium Syntech 9mm Total Synthetic Jacket Ammunition.

Of course, the major players are not staying out of the game, including Federal Premium. The storied ammunition manufacturer has taken a different approach with their new concepts in training and competition ammo, all offered under their Syntech brand. In terms of projectile shape, they felt no need to reinvent the wheel. Where the magic is happening is in the coating, the primer, and the propellant.

Synthetic coatings to projectiles have been tried in the past, often with mixed results, and if the results were satisfactory, there were often issues with costs. Federal even had the “Nyclad” line of ammo for awhile, but it was pulled from the market due to low sales and questions about accuracy. Now, they’ve revived the concept, but with a brand-new polymer coating on the projectile, conveniently color-coded based on use case. Purple for training, red for competition, and blue for duty/defensive use. Via the good people at Lucky Gunner, I snagged some red 150-grain 9mm Luger Syntech Action Pistol (competition) rounds, and some purple 147-grain 9mm Luger Syntech Training Match rounds. The use cases are slightly different, but the technology advancements are the same.

The coating prevents a common problem with training ammunition, and that’s copper and lead deposits in your barrel. The polymer coating decreases friction and wear, extending your barrel life, and increasing accuracy. The Syntech line is also amongst the first to feature Federal’s new Catalyst primers, which use a mixture of bismuth oxide, nitrocellulose, and aluminum to make things go bang. The mixture is far cleaner-burning than traditional lead styphnate primers, which is actually some nasty stuff over time. The fringe benefit here is that it’s reinforcing the trend of the ammo industry trying to get away from lead, due to toxicity and future availability issues. Federal says that within five years, all their ammunition will have transitioned to Catalyst primers. The propellant is a proprietary mixture as well, ensuring a clean burn throughout the firing process. Federal goes green, by the looks of it.

Thus far the reviews reinforce Federal’s reputation and claims, with competition and training users alike reporting an extraordinarily clean and accurate experience. Plus, it looks pretty damn cool – and with the purple variety, I can annoy everyone with Prince references. Sorry, but not sorry.

Get your Federal Syntech Ammo Here.

The new developments in 9mm ammunition are exciting, to say the least. From the pedestrian point of view, the only thing that matters that the ammunition works, of course – but from an aspiring ammo nerd perspective, it’s fascinating to see how ingenious American ammo alchemists are advancing the science of a cartridge developed more than a hundred years ago. There’s a lot of snake oil out there, to be sure (gun bloggers big and small are inundated with the latest “Guess What?” ammo claims almost weekly), but there are some genuine working and functional new concepts out there, including what I’ve gone over above.

Nonetheless, none of this is to absolutely recommend you switch your daily carry load. If Hornady Critical Duty 135-grain 9mm +P (a wonder of science in and of itself) works for you – keep using it. It’s a proven duty round with hundreds of thousands of data points in testing and real-world use. You’re defending your life, after all. If you plan on switching to one of these newer loads – research the heck out of it. Ask around, see what the pros think. It might dent the wallet a little, but run a few hundred rounds to see how it handles in your use cases and firearms. Make the move only when you’re confident that it works, for you.

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