On Monday, President Joe Biden – who has routinely shared “personal stories” that border on tall tales to make his case to the American people – recounted a visit to a New York trauma hospital, where Mr. Biden said doctors showed him X-rays of gunshot wounds.
“They said a .22-caliber bullet will lodge in the lung, and we can probably get it out — may be able to get it and save the life. A 9mm bullet blows the lung out of the body,” Biden said in his remarks to reporters. “So, the idea of these high-caliber weapons is, uh, there’s simply no rational basis for it in terms of self-protection, hunting.”
As is often the case after the president speaks, the White House quickly “clarified” what he meant. On Tuesday, Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre explained that “(Biden) does not support a ban on the sale of all handguns.”
The 9mm Explained
The 9mm round, which was developed as the 9x19mm Parabellum round, was introduced in the early 20th century and has become the most popular cartridge for handguns worldwide. It was developed by Georg Luger, who went on to design the now-infamous “Luger” pistol.
While tasked with refining the C-93 handgun for Deutsche Waffen und Munitions Fabriken (DWM), Luger developed the 7.65x21mm Parabellum – Latin for “Prepare for War” – cartridge. His efforts led to the creation of the Luger Parabellum pistol of 1898, but the German military sought to “upsize” the power by increasing the bullet diameter to 9mm. This resulted in the 9x19mm Parabellum or 9mm Luger, which was introduced in 1901.
It was still a compact cartridge that offered less recoil and allowed for easy handling.
It is lightweight and accurate, and because of its smaller size, handguns chambered in 9mm can hold significantly more cartridges than those chambered in higher calibers.
That point needs to be stressed. Because despite what Biden suggested, 9mm is not technically a high-powered round. Yes, it is true that it can penetrate through a soldier’s field gear, but many other handgun rounds can do the same.
A Popular Cartridge
While the use of the 9mm round was largely limited to Germany and its allies during the First World War, it found favor with other nations by the outbreak of World War II. The British even designed the simple-to-manufacture Sten submachine gun to be chambered for 9mm so that captured German ammunition could be used.
In 1955, NATO adopted the 9x19mm Parabellum as its official sidearm and submachine gun cartridge, while with the adoption of the M9 Beretta pistol in the 1980s, the United States military also exchanged the venerable .45 ACP for 9mm as its official sidearm cartridge. In addition, many police forces around the United States – including the New York Police Department (NYPD) and Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) – adopted the 9mm as it has proven to be ballistically superior to the .38 revolver. The FBI even determined it to be among the best all-around pistol cartridge for law enforcement.
The 9mm has also become a popular choice for civilian gun owners.
According to data from Shooting Industry magazine, 9mm pistols account for more than 40 percent of all handguns produced in the United States. In addition, the 14th edition of Cartridges of the World reported that 9mm ammunition led the entire market in 2013, making up 21.4 percent of the world cartridge market, followed by .223 Remington at 10.2 percent. Those numbers have only increased in the past decade.
Along with the Russian-designed 7.62x54mmR – an actual high-powered round – 9mm has become one of the longest-used cartridges in firearms history and shows no signs of going away.
Perhaps it is the popularity of the round that has Biden – not to mention gun control advocates – so upset.
Now a Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military hardware, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes.