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9mm Ammo Buyer’s Guide
9x19mm, otherwise known as 9mm Luger, 9mm Parabellum, and 9mm NATO is by far the most popular handgun caliber around the world whether it be for military and police use, or civilian use for self-defense or target shooting. The popularity of 9mm ammunition has increased dramatically since its adoption by NATO forces leading to large quantities of surplus making it extremely affordable to shoot and train in bulk. This availability of 9mm ammo is also what drives innovation to meet the demands of the civilian market resulting a variety of different 9mm ammo types from full metal jacket to jacketed hollow point and this guide is going to cover it all.
With so many brands that have developed their ammo for years and years, it can be a little difficult to say exactly who has the best 9mm ammo. It also comes down to your specific use cases whether you are just going to use it for range fun, self-defense, or serious high round count training. If you just bought your first 9mm pistol and need a run down on the different terminology to help you better understand what type of 9mm Luger ammo is used for which applications, then stick around. First, we will look at the most affordable 9mm full metal jacket ammunition.
9mm FMJ (Full Metal Jacket)
9mm full metal jacket, or FMJ for short, is the most widely sold type of 9mm ammo due to its relative ease of manufacture and cost. Full metal jacket refers to the copper coating that is applied around the lead core and features a standard round nose. The 9mm round with copper jacket is softer than steel allowing the bullet to grab onto the rifling in your barrel which imparts a spin on the bullet as it is fired and ensures the lead core retains its shape resulting in greater accuracy.
However, solid copper ammunition does exist but more about that in the best 9mm for self-defense section. Back to 9mm FMJ. Brands like Magtech, Fiocchi, and Winchester regularly come in at around 10 dollars for a box of 50 rounds making them a great option for buying in bulk to save a little money in the long run and get plenty of ammunition for multiple range days. If you want to save even more money, you can pick up some Tula 9mm steel case ammo, but it is important to note that most indoor ranges will not allow you to shoot steel cased ammunition. Steel case 9mm ammo is also a little bit harsher on internal components but the slight increase in wear is negligible.
If you have a little more money to spend, brands like Sellier & Bellot, PMC, and Federal Premium have 9mm FMJ rounds that are designed for utmost accuracy and reliability. Each 9mm round is consistently loaded and goes through rigorous quality control process. Overall 9mm full metal jacket ammunition is great for range use, competition use, and simple target practice.
What is the Best 9mm Ammunition for Training?
In reality, the best 9mm ammo for training is whatever you can afford in large quantities to get in a ton of time at the range while the type of ammo that you use is less important. However, Federal Syntech ammunition fills a specific niche when it comes to handgun training that might be right up your ally. 9mm Syntech bullets are constructed from a synthetic material that is designed to completely fragment and eliminate any splash back when shooting steel targets allowing you to get much closer than is typically allowed with regular 9mm ammunition.
A total synthetic bullet also has multiple other benefits to high round count training such as reduced barrel fouling and reduced damage to steel targets. A concern for some people is the amount of lead they are exposed to after a long day of shooting and Federal Syntech 9mm Ammo contains zero lead in the bullet or primers as well as clean burning propellant. These lead free options are also great for use in states where use of ammo containing lead has been restricted.
One thing that you may have noticed is the 115gr or 147gr listed on the product. This refers to the grain weight or how heavy the bullet is. 115gr is the standard weight for 9mm target ammo as it is cheaper to manufacture and produces less felt recoil than heavier bullets. However, Federal Syntech Ammunition is available in a variety of weights that match their self defense ammo in terms of recoil, velocity, and trajectory, so you can train with using the same variables as premium self defense ammo without the high cost.
9mm Hollow Point Ammo
9mm hollow point refers to the tip of the bullet which features a hollow cavity instead of the typical round nose shape of standard ammo. 9mm hollow point ammunition was designed specifically to expand when impacting soft targets to create a larger wound track and reduce over penetration. A round nose bullet is less likely to deform and will generally pass through cleanly and keep carrying that energy with it. When a hollow point bullet expands, it creates more drag and dumps all of its energy into the target more effectively.
What is the Best 9mm Self Defense Ammo?
Unlike practice ammo, the best 9mm for self-defense is the ammo that you can trust is going to be effective, consistent, and reliable with every shot. When it comes down to it, the brand and type of ammo is extremely important. When it comes to self defense ammo, it is generally accepted that you will want to use heavier grain bullets for optimal performance. This is great for full size or even compact pistols as they are much easier to manage recoil with. However, with sub compact and smaller guns, recoil is generally snappier already and throwing in the added recoil of a heavier bullet, can make it hard for fast follow up shots. Moving down to a 124gr hollow point might be the better option but of course it is heavily dependent on you and your gun.
Federal HST 9mm Jacketed Hollow Point ammo is widely regarded as being the best 9mm self-defense ammo based on years of gel block testing to verify the results. This 147 grain 9mm hollow point ammo is designed to expand up to almost twice the original bullet diameter without breaking apart and maintaining 100% weight and not over penetrating. It is also advertised as being barrier blind meaning that it can penetrate heavier barriers like thick clothing without expanding until it hits soft tissue. The brass casing has also been Nickel plated to reduce friction and allow for more reliable extraction.
Another great 9mm round for self defense is the Hornady Critical Duty FlexLock. This 9mm round features a hollow point design with a plastic insert in the hollow cavity. This plastic insert serves a few purposes one of which is to prevent the hollow cavity from clogging from clothing or other soft material. Once a hollow point gets clogged it can then act like a standard round nose bullet and not expand properly in the target. The other benefit is that when it hits the target, it will get pressed back into the bullet and facilitate faster expansion within the first inch of the target.
Other hollow point rounds that have been heavily tested and are recommended for use are Speer Gold Dot, Federal HydraShok, Winchester Defender, Hornady Critical Defense, and SIG V-Crown.
9mm solid copper ammo has grown increasingly popular with offerings from Lehigh defense that utilize a different philosophy in how a bullet should perform for self defense scenarios. These bullets are fully machined from copper with a unique fluted bullet that is designed to use hydrostatic energy to create a large wound channel instead of physically expanding the bullet. This reduces the chance that barriers such as wallboard, sheet metal, glass, and thick clothing will disrupt the lethality of the round because the bullet is more likely to penetrate while still carrying all that energy. Of course, more penetration can also be detrimental if you miss your target and you live in an apartment complex or have a lot of family in your house. Like everything firearms related, it is dependent on your specific situation and use case and is ultimately up to you to make the final decision on the best round for you.
Just like the Syntech ammunition, solid copper 9mm bullets are lead free of course, meaning they are also a good alternative to use at ranges in states where use of lead ammo has been restricted. Brands like G2 Research and DoubleTap Ammunition have a variety of solid copper hollow points that you can use.
What is 9mm +P Ammo?
Hornady Critical Defense 9mm FlexLock is also loaded to +P specifications which simply means that it has been loaded with a higher powder charge to generate higher velocity. This is great for expansion and performance but also means that it has increased pressure and recoil is only recommended to be used in handguns that are marked for use with +P 9mm ammunition. Generally, most new guns can handle the higher pressures, but it is important to note that high round counts with +P ammunition can cause parts to wear faster. If you plan on using 9mm +P ammo, it is important to choose a gun that has been rated to handle the higher pressures.
Why 9mm Ammunition?
So why choose a gun chambered in 9mm? Simply put, it is extremely accessible, affordable, with a high variety of 9mm ammo types to choose from and the largest variety of guns to choose from whether it be handguns or pistol caliber carbines. At Primary Arms we have a wide variety of 9mm ammo for sale available to you at the best prices.