The 9mm Luger Cartridge: History and Performance | American shooter
Georg Luger was an interesting man. Born on March 6, 1849 into a privileged family, his father was a renowned surgeon, so that Georg was trained in Italy. He later studied business administration at the Vienna Commercial Academy. In 1867 he joined the 78th Austro-Hungarian Infantry Regiment as a reserve officer cadet. Here he showed his outstanding accuracy, which earned him a deployment at the Austro-Hungarian military firearms school in the Bruckneudorf camp.
There he soon became a teacher. Automatic firearms were still in their infancy, but the idea intrigued Luger and he took an active role in the development of automatic loading firearms. After his military service, Luger floated around a little and survived as an accountant in a jockey club. During this time he met the Austrian weapons engineer Ferdinand von Mannlicher, and the two of them worked together on the development of rifle magazines.
Until 1891 Luger found a job at Ludwig Loewe & Company, Berlin, Germany, and eventually worked his way up as a design consultant. After Ludwig Loewe’s death, the company became the Deutsche Waffen- und Munitionsfabriken (DWM) and was the manufacturer of the C-93 pistol designed by Hugo Borchardt. Luger was tagged when he was demonstrating to the US Army.
Though rejected, Luger carefully recorded the Army’s criticism of the pistol and returned to DWM. Denied criticism, which included cumbersome overall handling due to its weight and near-vertical grip, excessive recoil from the 7.65 × 25mm Borchardt cartridge, and overly expensive mass production, Borchardt declined to make design changes. Luger was then given the task of integrating the improvements.
Luger shortened the cartridge to 21 mm and called it the 7.65 × 21 mm Parabellum – Parabellum means “to prepare for war”. This allowed him to downsize and shrink the C-93’s toggle system, shorten the stroke of the toggle, design a narrower angled grip that helped balance the pistol better in the hand and allow for more natural alignment. The result was the Luger Parabellum pistol from 1898.
A Model 1900 Parabellum pistol. These Swiss military pistols were introduced in 1900 and are chambered with a 7.65 × 21 mm Parabellum. The engraving of the Swiss cross “in splendor” (rather than a coat of arms) indicates that this pistol was built before 1909. Photo by Hmaag.
Production began in 1900 and Switzerland immediately adopted the 7.65 × 21mm Parabellum pistol, also known as the 7.65 Parabellum and .30 Luger. The cartridge was popular in Europe and the United States, as well as Brazil. European police authorities used this cartridge until the 1960s, but Germany took the step to improve performance by increasing the bullet diameter to 9 mm, the weight of the standard bullet from 93 to 116 grains at a nominal muzzle velocity of 1,200 fps from a 4.25 “barrel .
The case was shortened from 21.59 mm net to 19.15 mm net by removing the bottle neck while maintaining the taper of the mother case. The result was the 9x19mm Parabellum or 9mm Luger, which was developed in 1901. To say the 9mm Luger was a success would be a gross understatement. The cartridge is without a doubt the most popular pistol and submachine gun cartridge in the world since the end of World War I. It has a lot to offer. First, it is effective, especially in its military role.
Recent developments in propellant and projectile design have increased its effectiveness and provide even more appeal to those in need of a firearm for personal defense. Pistols made for the cartridge have not been unduly burdensome, and recent developments in small arms design allow the full-size service pistol cartridge to be slotted into amazingly micro-weight pistols that are easy to transport. The 9mm Luger is accurate enough for target range and the reel is light enough to be controlled by most. The variety of different firearms that are manufactured in this chamber is almost incomprehensible.
Not only was it built into the beautifully designed and manufactured Luger P-08 and Browning Hi-Power P35 pistols, but it has been a leader in handgun design for more than a century. The first successful semi-automatic double-action pistol with a closed bolt, the Walther P-38, has a 9 mm Luger chamber. Even revolvers, both double and single action, were chambered or chambered together in 9 mm. In short, every gun enthusiast who is worth their money and wants to shoot something widely available and cheap should have something with a 9mm chamber.
One of the many newer miniature pistols that came onto the market with a chamber of 9 mm is the SIG Sauer P365.
In the early days of World War II, the Commonwealth of Nations developed and adopted a higher pressure 9x19mm cartridge. Called the 9 m / m bullet MK 1z (Commonwealth nomenclature), it soon became the standard charger for modern firearms such as the Browning Hi-Power and Sterling submachine guns. This cargo contained a 116 gr. Bullet with an alleged 1,300 fps Canada put together a similar, but somewhat softer load cycle in the mid-1200s in 1955. It was adopted as a standard NATO load in 1962.
Following the FBI’s 1986 shooting in Miami between eight FBI agents and two murderous bank robbers, it was found that despite a 4-to-1-one lead, the FBI lost two agents, largely due to the superior firepower of the criminals’ guns over the FBIs .357 Mag. Revolver. A search began to find a better cartridge for revolvers as a personal defense weapon for agents and other law enforcement agencies.
Eleven years later, another pair of bank robbers stood across the country in North Hollywood from dozens of Los Angeles Police Department officers armed with 9mm pistols and .38 split revolvers with a pair of Kalashnikovs. A dozen officers and members of the public were wounded in the 44-minute exchange. In addition to other shootings, the incentive to build a firearm with a large magazine capacity and better penetration led to the development of the so-called “Wonder-Nines”.
“Wonder Nine” is a term coined by the writer Robert Shimek during this period. It referred to the “miracle” pistols of the day, housed in 9mm Luger with double column magazines with at least 15 rounds. The popularity of the 9mm bullet as a law enforcement and personal defense cartridge in America is largely due to this development in firearm and cartridge design.
Newer projectile developments, along with some fuel improvements, put the 9mm ahead of American stalwarts like the .45 ACP and .357 Mag. Mind you, the American cartridges are by no means outdated and no less effective. Indeed, some of these advances in projectile and propellant technology have impacted these other cartridges. Regardless, the 102-year-old 9mm Luger still stands on the throne as the king of pistol cartridges. I don’t see that changing anytime soon.