9mm Luger ballistic test, updated.

9mm Luger ballistic test


The 9mm Luger, also know as the 9 x 19 Parabellum, was introduced in 1902 by Georg Luger and Deutsche Waffen- und Munitionsfabriken (DWM) for the German Luger semi automatic sidearm.  It originated by necking up the  7.65×21mm Parabellum round to .355 . In 1902, Georg Luger demonstrated the 9mm Luger to the British Small Arms Committee and three prototypes to the United States Army for review. The Imperial German Navy adopted the cartridge in 1904 and the German Army in 1906.  Since it’s inception the 9mm Luger has evolved into the most popular military sidearm cartridge. Being made for seventy some countries it has since been designated as the 9mm NATO. The difference being that the 9mm NATO operates at a somewhat higher pressure than the original 9mm Luger.

A bit of free trivia; Parabellum stems from a Latin phrase, “Si vis pacem, para bellum” which translates “If you seek peace, prepare for war”. This also happens to be the motto for DWM.  The 9mm Luger should not be confused with the 9mm Browning Short (also known as .380 Auto) or the 9mm Makarov. These three cartridges are not interchangeable.


It was not long ago I started a review on a brand new CZ 75 B Omega test sample hot off the presses from CZ. This being a somewhat common pistol and similar barrel lengths and manual of operation for many of the 9mm Luger autoloaders I figured it would be an ideal platform for the ballistic test. That also gives me the chance to shoot a lot of different defensive rounds through the Omega and see how it functions.


I started the test with my friend and fellow gun writer Clinton Jamieson. Clinton was kind enough to donate a large portion of the test ammunition and lend a hand with this and the CZ test. In keeping with the same parameters as all of the other ballistic tests setting up the chronograph in front of the ballistic gel about ten feet away. Getting an average velocity of each round, then measuring penetration through bare gel, penetration through three layers of heavy cloth over the gel. Each round was removed from the gel after measuring the depth and checked for weight retention and expansion.




Here are the results, please click on the chart for a larger version.

9mm BT-3

From left to right, the RIP, Gorilla Silverback, and Speer Gold Dot G2

9mm BT-2

You can see the RIP fragmented very early, and left little actual bullet that penetrated,  very deep.

Left is SIG Sauer 115gr V-Crown, right is 147 V-Crown. Top is through 3 layers and bottom is bare gel

There was a significant reduction in perceived recoil using the Ruger ARX, and accuracy was 1 1/2″ at 25 yards.

Ballitic test-4Ballitic test-5

The Ruger ARX bullet is polymer so I was curious how it would penetrate mild steel. You see on the right photo the top hole is 9×19 Ruger ARX and the one centered is the ARX in .45 Auto. You can see the exit holes on the other photo. This is an expansion tank like you would find above your water heater.  As you see, the ARX had no trouble penetrating this mild steel tank. As far as the ballistic gel, it was a spiraled wound channel, think of a drill.

I will be totally honest, I am not a huge fan of the 9mm Luger round. Now before I get a lot of hate mail, shot placement, the dead is dead, and all that, this is my personal opinion and in no way affected the outcome of the ballistic test. After the test was over though I will admit my eyes have been opened a bit on the 9mm Luger. During the ballistic test we also drove the CZ 75B Omega pretty damn hard and recoil was very manageable and reliability was 100%. The data shows modern bullets, such as the one Hornady has designed, coupled with the right propellant charge can be a very viable defensive round.


The surprise of the day was the 115gr Speer Gold Dot. It completely failed to expand when shot through the three layers. You can see the recovered round on the far left, with the cavity still full of cloth. That was a big disappointment for me as I am a fan of the Gold Dots.




From left to right, Winchester 147gr JHP, Winchester 115gr Silvertip, Federal 115gr jhp, Federal 124gr HST, Federal 147gr HST, Remington 115gr JHP, Cor-Bon 115gr DPX.

Consistent with the .40 S&W ballistic test that you can find at this link, the Civil Defense projectile fragmented, leaving the base as the only measurable remnant.

CorBon 80gr DPX base as recovered


Hornady and Winchester were once again at the top of the performers. The Critical Defense especially as it expanded well and penetrated but had very little recoil. It worked as designed. The PDX1 preformed very well expanding and penetrating deep.


Based on the results of this ballistic test I have rethunk my position on the 9mm Luger as a viable defensive cartridge. Based on the expansion and penetration of several of the rounds tested it appears the 9mm bullet delivers it’s payload adequately enough to be a viable defensive round.



SIG Sauer Ammunition 


Winchester Ammunition

Gorilla Ammunition 

Wayhoo 95

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14 Responses to 9mm Luger ballistic test, updated.

  1. The_Shadow June 2, 2014 at 10:35 am #

    Gotta love those Gold Dots!

  2. brad June 3, 2014 at 8:43 am #

    no ranger-t from winchester? 🙁 no federal HST either 🙁 those are worth looking in to

    • Hunter Elliott June 3, 2014 at 10:07 am #

      I agree but I can only test what I can find and afford. These tests are all self funded.

      • CZ75_Owner March 24, 2016 at 10:55 am #

        Thank you for taking the time and spending the money to share these results. Much appreciated.

        • Hunter Elliott March 24, 2016 at 11:31 am #

          You are very welcome. I sure do love those CZs.

        • Randy Horrell June 24, 2018 at 1:22 pm #

          Even though this is 2018, I loved the test. Thankfully there are folks out in this world who give a damn and I am grateful!!!!!

    • Nick November 16, 2018 at 10:16 am #

      fourth picture from end; caption, “From left to right, Winchester 147gr JHP, Winchester 115gr Silvertip, Federal 115gr jhp, Federal 124gr HST, Federal 147gr HST, Remington 115gr JHP, Cor-Bon 115gr DPX”

      Federal HST in 124 and in 147 gr

  3. Caligula September 27, 2014 at 2:07 pm #

    I wish you would have included the Federal HST 124 gr +P. These rounds are outstanding. I have yet to read or view a test where they didn’t expand, and the penetration is within FBI specs. Nice review and report.

    • Hunter Elliott September 27, 2014 at 3:35 pm #

      I would of been glad to test the HST 9mm but there were none around my area when I did the test. I have been collecting 9mm Luger and .40 S&W defensive ammunition to update the ballistic tests.

  4. Barbara Elliott November 28, 2017 at 10:10 am #

    Great review and pictures are excellent. Keep up good work.


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