The 9mm Luger is a great handgun cartridge. It is the single most popular handgun cartridge in the world, and it is chambered in some of the finest handguns ever manufactured.
The 9mm Luger is a relatively high-pressure number. The small cartridge case is very efficient. Most loads have a full powder burn even in the usual four-inch barrel found on defensive handguns.
The 9mm Luger may be very accurate in a high-quality pistol. Velocity is high enough that the cartridge is useful in getting hits beyond what many think of as typical handgun range.
Some prefer a fast bullet, others a heavy bullet at a lower velocity. The 9mm offers enough velocity that expansion of the projectile is assured.
The 9mm also is a relatively modest-sized cartridge and quite a few may be carried on the belt in spare magazines. Let’s look at some of the better choices in 9mm loadings.
During testing, I used the inexpensive but reliable SAR 9 polymer-frame pistol and the Springfield Ronin 1911 9mm.
1. Winchester 147-Grain Silvertip
The Winchester Silvertip has been used by many agencies in the United States and Europe. Expansion is good with the 115-grain 1,200 fps loading.
The 147-grain 980 fps load also expands well, but features greater penetration. While either is accurate, the 147-grain bullet edges out the lighter bullet at longer ranges.
The Silvertip proved accurate and reliable in each loading.
2. Winchester Active Duty 115-Grain 9mm
Most 115-grain loads are loaded fairly light for practice use. The Winchester Active Duty clocks 1,243 fps in the SAR 9 and 1,260 fps in the Ronin.
Accuracy is excellent. If you need a full-power practice load or a strong FMJ for carbine use, the Winchester Active Duty is a fine choice.
Accuracy is above average. For competition use against steel plates or in carbine matches, this is a great option.
3. Federal 124-Grain Punch
I like the Punch! This loading breaks over 1,100 fps in the SAR 9. In the five-inch barrel Springfield Ronin 1911 handgun, velocity was just over 1,160 fps.
This is a hard-hitting but affordable loading with good function and excellent accuracy. The 9mm pistols on hand exhibited excellent accuracy with the Federal Punch loading.
The design is intended to give civilian shooters a reliably expanding bullet and it does just that.
4. Buffalo Bore 124-Grain +P
This +P load jolts a Hornady Extreme Terminal Performance hollow point to 1,270 fps in the SAR 9. Surprisingly, velocity was a strong 1,340 fps in the Ronin.
Function is excellent and accuracy is good. Despite the higher velocity, recoil isn’t a difficulty. Just the same, I would not use this is a sub-compact pistol.
This Buffalo Bore loading offers a good balance of expansion and penetration. If you are looking for a 9mm +P loading, this is among the most formidable.
5. Underwood 90-Grain Extreme Defender
The solid copper bullet features flutes cut into the nose to increase cutting action, create fluid dynamic and cause a more complex wound. Ballistic testing bears this out.
Total copper bullets go by different rules. Accuracy and penetration are often compromised by lighter weight, but not in this case. A 90-grain all-copper bullet isn’t giving up much in the way of penetration.
Accuracy is excellent, as the bearing surface is still relatively long for the caliber due to the all-copper construction.
Two versions are offered, a standard pressure number at 1,400 fps and a +P at 1,475 fps. I find these accurate and powerful loads that offer good performance.
Conclusion: 9mm Loads
As the most popular cartridge, there are a ton of different 9mm loads.
However, not all 9mm loads are created equal, but if you choose any of the options from this list, you will have selected a capable and reliable round.
What are your favorite 9mm loads? Why? Let us know in the comments section below!