Nearly 120 years since it was first developed, 9mm has become the world’s most popular pistol cartridges. It is known by many names including 9x19mm, 9mm Parabellum, 9mm Luger, and 9mm NATO – but regardless of how you spell it, 9mm ammo is used by militaries around the world in handguns and submachine guns. More than sixty percent of the world’s law enforcement also utilizes the round.
A Short History
Developed by Georg Luger as a military service cartridge for use with the DWM Luger semi-automatic pistol, the round was designed to be lethal at 50 meters. It was also meant to be an improvement of Luger’s previous 7.65x21mm Parabellum round. Unlike most other pistol cartridges the 9mm round has a slightly tapered casing, which was a design feature to improve the reliability and accuracy of feeding the ammunition from the magazine into the firearm.
The popularity of 9mm increased after the release of the Browning Hi-Power pistol in 1935, and during the Second World War many submachine guns from around the world – including the German MP40, the British Sten Gun and the Italian Beretta M38, all were chambered in the round. NATO adopted the 9×19 Parabellum in 1955 as its official pistol cartridge.
According to the 14th edition of Cartridges of the World, 9mm ammo led the entire market in 2013 and made up 21.4 percent of the whole cartridge market followed by .223 Remington at 10.2 percent.
Why the Demand
Because of its popularity with civilian shooters–and events surrounding Coronavirus and Joe Biden’s election–9mm is now also one of the most in-demand calibers of ammunition in the country. As a result, prices are on the rise, and consumers can expect to pay more – if they can even find it.
According to the financial website TheStreet.com, 9mm is virtually sold out across the country, and stocks are depleted as fast as they can be replenished.
“Retailers report a continued scarcity of 9mm ammo, mainly because so many personal defense handguns in 9mm were sold over the past year,” said Slaton L. White, editor of SHOT Business and deputy editor of Field and Stream.
“In fact, according to NSSF, something like seven million new gun owners entered our ranks in the past year,” White told me. “Not all of them bought 9mm, but obviously a lot did. Many retailers are limiting purchases to one box of ammo at a time.”
A Fortune Business Insights report also found that the “booming demand” for firearms will speed up market expansion, and it noted that the global small caliber ammunition market – which includes 9mm – was projected to reach $8.8 billion by 2027. It cited data from Brookings Institute, which reported 19 million firearms sales in the U.S. in the first half of 2020.
Even before the outbreak of Covid-19 in early 2020, ammunition sales were expected to increase at least for the next several years, but now the surge in sales of firearms has only increased the demand for ammunition, and of course, raising prices. 9mm ammo has continued to hold the highest market share in the U.S. small caliber ammunition market, and as long as that remains true the demand – and with it price – is likely to remain high.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.