Ammunition for submachine guns and handguns: semi-automatic and automatic pistols
The caliber of any firearm is the measurement of the bore of its barrel. It could be measured directly as the diameter of the bore, or some intermediate system could be used as in the case of shotguns, where the caliber or gauge equals the number of lead ball bullets of that diameter which could be molded from one pound of lead. In the case of rifled firearms, the caliber is the measured diameter between lands or grooves of the rifling (see the picture). However, for many reasons actual (measured) caliber may differ from the caliber designation. Most often this misnomer is based on historical or marketing issues. Another source of complications is that there are two measuring systems used worldwide – the metric system and the imperial or inch system. Metric calibers are measured in millimeters, i.e. “7.65 mm” or “9 mm”; Inch calibers are measured in hundredths or thousandths of an inch, with the omission of the leading zero, i.e. “.30” or “.300” (0.30 inch or 7.62mm) or “.45” (0.45 inch or 11.43mm). The direct relationship between metric and inch calibers is represented as 1 inch = 25.4 millimeter, or 1 millimeter = 0.039 inch. In some cases, the nominal inch caliber is the same as the bore diameter (between the lands), as in the case of many .30 caliber weapons that have bore diameters of 0.30 inch or 7.62mm. In other cases, the nominal caliber may match the bullet diameter (slightly wider than the bore) e.g. the .40 S&W. However, in a few cases, the nominal inch calibers have no direct relationship with actual bore or bullet diameter, as with .38 caliber rounds which have bullet diameters ranging from 0.357 to 0.401 inches; these cartridges retain their misleading designations from the age of black powder revolvers. Metric caliber designations tend to be more accurate, but may still vary between whether bore (e.g. 7.62mm) or bullet (e.g. 9mm) diameters are used.
Also, even if two firearms have exactly the same actual caliber, they may use cartridges of very different size and power, i.e. Soviet TT pistol and US M1 Garand rifle both have bores of 7.62mm diameter, but their cartridges are very different in size and power. Therefore, in most cases it is insufficient to know just the caliber of a firearm to procure suitable ammunition, and some additional information needs to be provided. The simplest way is to give any cartridge its own name, i.e. 9mm Steyr and 9mm Luger, or .357 Magnum and .357 SIG. In either case, the calibers (bullet diameters) are the same, but the cartridge shapes, dimensions and power are different, and they are NOT interchangeable. However, there are far too many cartridges to give them all names, so the most convenient (and most common) way with metric designations is to use the case length in conjunction with the caliber. The typical designation that follows this pattern is 9x19, where “9” means the caliber and “19” is the cartridge case length, both measured in millimeters. If several cartridges of different properties have same caliber and case length, some additional information must be provided, usually in the form of a name or suffix, which distinguishes the shape of case head. The sample of the “name” use is 9x23 Largo / Bergmann and 9x23 Steyr cartridges, which were independent developments but are virtually indistinguishable in size and power. Another example is 9x23 Winchester, which, while having the same external dimensions as previous two 9x23 cartridges, has thicker case walls and thus can withstand heavier pressures; this cartridge can be easily loaded into firearm designed for either of former cartridges, but to do so would be extremely dangerous! Yet another example is a fourth cartridge with the same caliber and case length, the 9x23SR, more generally known as .38 Super Automatic or simply .38 Super. This cartridge has semi-rimmed case, that is, it has both the extraction groove and a diminutive rim, as it was designed in around 1898 to be used both in semi-automatic pistols and revolvers. Another example of similar designations but different actual dimensions are 9x18 PM and 9x18 Police cartridges. While these are identical in designations, actual calibers are different, as the 9mm PM bullet has an actual diameter of 9.2mm, and the 9mm Ultra has an actual bullet diameter of 9.02mm. Therefore, mismatching one such cartridge for another may be very dangerous for both gun and shooter. The source of this mismatch is that most western calibers are measured between the grooves of the rifling, and therefore are same as actual bullet diameter; in Russia and USSR, some calibers were measured between the lands of the rifling, therefore actual bullet diameter is bigger than measured caliber.
Many and various bullet types have been developed for fighting, training and other applications; only the most common are mentioned below.
Lead bullets are the oldest type and today used mostly in revolver and small-bore rimfire ammunition. These are formed from lead, or more often, an alloy of lead and antimony. Such bullets are inexpensive but usually can’t withstand higher velocities, and produce significant lead fouling in a rifled bore during prolonged use. Lead bullets are most often used for target shooting and practice, and (sometimes) for hunting.
Jacketed bullets are the most common and are the only available for military weapons due to international treaties. Such bullets are designed using a lead core that is enclosed by a gilding-metal jacket. These bullets are known for good penetration, but stopping power is often less significant than that of expanding bullets. Jacketed bullets are sometimes referred as “ball” bullets on historical grounds.
Hollow-point bullets are currently the most popular choice for police and self-defense ammunition. Such bullets are designed with the hollow cavity in the nose (therefore the common name “hollowpoint”). This cavity causes the bullet to expand once it hits the soft tissue of human or animal body; thus results in reduced penetration but a wider wound channel and faster target incapacitation.
Armor-piercing pistol ammunition is nowadays mainly intended for use against adversaries with body armor. The simplest AP bullets for handgun ammunition are usually made from solid brass or bronze; sometimes these bullets are made with pointed tips to further improve penetration. Since such bullets, because of their hardness, may cause excessive wear to the barrel, they may be covered with some a softer materiel, such as Teflon. In some cases, AP bullets are made with the traditional soft brass or other gilding-metal jacket and with a composite core, made of a hardened steel penetrator together with some other filler. One example of such ammunition is the Belgian FN 5.7mm SS190 bullet, which has core made partly of steel (front) and partly of aluminum (rear). Another example is the Russian 9mm 7N21 bullet, which has a hardened steel core that passes throughout entire bullet and is exposed at the tip; the space between the jacket and core is filled with polyethylene.
This unique ammunition was developed in USSR in the late sixties for combat divers. Development took place at the State Technical Institute of Precision Machine Building (TSNII TochMash), and this cartridge is used in only one weapon, unique to this cartridge, the SPP-1 underwater pistol. The SPS cartridge has a bottlenecked, rimmed brass case. The long projectile is made from mild steel, with a pointed tip. To protect the cartridge from salt water, the primer pocket and case mouth are protected with special sealing; the bullet is covered by protective lacquer coating of dark green color. When fired in water, the bullet is stabilized by drag forces. When fired in air, bullet is not stabilized at all, and tumbles in its trajectory.
This tiny cartridge is a joint product of the German arms-making company Heckler & Koch and British ammunition maker Radway Green. It was developed especially for a compact, submachine-gun type Personal Defense Weapon, known as HK MP7A1. the cartridge represents a scaled-ip rifle round and is loaded with long, pointed bullets to provide adequate effective range (up to 150-200 meters) and good penetration against the body armor. There also are other types of loadings in this caliber, such as expanding bullets (for police use) and ball and frangible bullets (for training). So far, only one weapon is produced in numbers to fire this cartridge, the aforementioned HK MP7A1 PDW, which is adopted by German army and British Military Police. Ammunition in this caliber is loaded in Switzerland, Italy and UK.
Note: velocities are shown from HK MP7A1 PDW
The 5.45x18 MPTs (Malokalibernyj Pistolentyj Tsentralnogo boya – small-bore pistol centerfire) cartridge was developed in 1971-72 in the State Technical Institute of Precision Machine Building (TSNII TochMash), for use in easily concealable pistols then in development at the request of the KGB. The case is rimless and bottlenecked (i.e. the diameter of the body of the case is greater than the caliber), and unlike most other Soviet military cartridges, is made of brass rather than steel. Bullets are pointed and jacketed. Initially, only one bullet was produced, with a combination mild steel / lead core; during the nineties, when the PSM pistols were exported to Europe for sale in commercial markets, another type of bullet was produced, with a soft lead core. This cartridge is known for serious penetration (considering its tiny size), but the stopping power is marginal to say the least.
5.7x28 FN SS190
The famous FN Herstal Company of Belgium started the development of this new ammunition in 1986. Originally intended for a sub-machine gun - type personal defense weapon developed under codename “Project 9.0”, the new cartridge represented a typical scaled-down rifle cartridge, with a relatively long, bottlenecked rimless case and a long, pointed bullet. Early bullets, known as the 5.7mm SS90, had metal jackets and lightweight plastic cores; however, with the intention of improving penetration against body armor, in around 1994 FN developed a heavier SS190 AP bullet with a composite core, consisting of hardened steel at the front and aluminum at the rear. Later on, several other types of bullets were introduced, including the heavier SB193 for subsonic loads, the tracer L191 and the “practice” SS192 with a soft core instead of a steel penetrator. So far the only handgun that fires this ammunition is Belgian-made FN Five-seveN pistol; it is also used in FN’s P90 sub-machine gun and considered for several more weapons in several countries such as Sweden and Singapore.
Chinese designers began development of a new small-bore, pistol and sub-machine gun cartridge in around 1994. They copied the concept of the Belgian 5.7x28 cartridge / weapons system, and so far this ammunition has been used in one military-type pistol and several prototype sub-machine guns; neither these weapons nor the ammunition has so far been offered for export from China. The main goal of this cartridge is to provide users with significant penetration against military helmets and body armor at ranges up to and beyond 50 meters. According to available information, the current versions of the DAP92-5.8 cartridge use composite core bullets, with steel front and lead rear parts of the core.
The DAP92-5.8 cartridge uses a lacquered steel case of rimless, bottlenecked design. The standard bullet type is FMJ with a composite core. Penetration is given as “guaranteed penetration of PLA-issue steel helmet (1.3mm steel) at 100 meters plus 5 cm (2 inches) of pine wood behind”. Apparently, a subsonic load is also available, with a muzzle velocity of about 290 m/s; bullet weight for this round is unknown so far.
*) Muzzle velocity is given for QSZ-92 pistol
6.5x25 CBJ / MS
This cartridge is a recent development, which is intended to compete with smalll-caliber Personal Defense Weapons (PDW) ammunition such as 4.6x30 HK or 5.7x28 FN. Designed in Sweden, this cartridge is based on elongated 9mm case, necked down to 6.5mm, which can be loaded with variety of bullets. The prime "military" loading is a subcaliber armor piercing (AP), which consists of a 4mm tungsten projectile loaded into 6.5mm discarding sabot, made of plastic. Use of discarding sabot allows this cartridge to reach significant muzzle velocities without raising barrel pressure to dangerous levels. The price of this system is increased cost of the saboted ammunition and certain loss in accuracy (compared to conventional bullets) which, hovever, can be obliterated by firing in full automatic mode. Other types of loadings for this caliber include "full caliber" 6.5mm expanding bullets for police use, frangible training bullets, subsonic AP bullets and others. This cartridge is still in developmental form but it certainly looks promising.
Note: muzzle velocity shown from 200mm PDW / SMG barrel
7.62x25 TT (7.63x25 Mauser, .30 Mauser)
This cartridge, initially known as the 7.63x25 Mauser, was developed in 1896 for the famous Mauser C96 pistol; it was developed from the 7.65mm Borchard cartridge of 1893. During the early 1920s, Soviet Russia bought significant numbers of C96 Mauser pistols from Germany and, after close examination, in the late twenties selected a slightly modified version of this cartridge as a future pistol and sub-machine gun round for the Red Army. At the same time, guns chambered for the original 7.63mm Mauser cartridge and made by Mauser and several Spanish companies (most notably Astra), were sold in significant numbers to China and various South American countries. The key differences between original 7.63mm Mauser and 7.62mm Soviet loadings were the size of the extraction groove and diameter of the primer pocket (The Soviet cartridge used primers of larger diameter). Both cartridges were originally loaded to the same characteristics. It must be noted that several “sub-machine gun” loadings, produced during and after WW2, produce pressures well beyond the levels of the original Mauser loading, and are thus unsafe in older Mauser and Astra pistols. Also, certain loads produced since 1951 may have bullets with composite steel / lead cores, for both increased penetration and decreased cost.
These cartridges were used in pistols from Mauser, Astra and Star made during interwar period, as well as in many sub-machine guns and Tokarev TT pistols and its clones, produced since 1933 in USSR and several other countries.
This cartridge uses a rimless, bottlenecked case, usually made of brass. The standard loading is an FMJ bullet with lead or composite lead/steel core. Special loads, such as tracers and AP were also developed during WW2 and afterwards for use in sub-machine guns. In recent times, some commercial loadings have become available with lightweight expanding bullets; these loads obviously are intended for civilian use in older, military surplus pistols.
* muzzle velocity as fired from Tokarev TT-33 pistol.
The SP-4 is a very specialized round, developed for the needs of the KGB and Spetsnaz elements of the Soviet armed forces. The key niche of this ammunition is noiseless and flash-less firing during various special operations. The only weapons that use this cartridge are the PSS self-loading pistol and the NRS-2 scout knife with a single-shot weapon built into the handle. Both weapons are of Soviet origin. This cartridge uses a bottlenecked rimless case with a very short neck. The cylindrical bullet is made from mild steel, with a brass driving band at the front. The bullet is seated in the cartridge flush with the mouth, and its base rests on the piston, which separates the bullet from the small load of special propellant. When the cartridge is fired, the propellant gas pushes the piston forward violently, driving the bullet forward and out of the case; the piston is then jammed tightly at the neck of the case, locking the powder gases inside. Immediately after shooting, the fired cases are under strong pressure from inside, and thus are unsafe; in time, the gases inside the case cool down and thus pressure decreases. However, Soviet manuals require special handling of fired cases of SP-4 ammunition. Another interesting fact about this ammunition is that these cartridges are void of any headstamps, for obvious reasons.
7.65x17SR (7.65mm Browning, .32 ACP)
This cartridge, known in Europe as 7.65mm Browning and in USA as .32 ACP, was developed by John Browning in around 1896-97, together with one of his pistol designs – a simple blowback pistol, which he sold to the Belgian FN company in 1899. In a very short time, the FN / Browning pistol of 1899/1900 pattern became very popular with European police and security forces; and just three years later this cartridge was introduced in USA along with the Colt Model 1903 pistol, another creation of John Browning. It must be noted that this cartridge never caught on in the USA, and the only military use it saw there was in Colt’s Model 1903 pistols, issued to general officers of US Armed forces until the mid-seventies. On the other hand, it found wide military acceptance in Europe, being issued to military personnel such as naval officers and aviators, and even to infantry officers in countries such as France, Germany, Hungary, and some others. In the police ranks, this cartridge served well into the seventies, being issued along with smaller pocket-type pistols, of which the most notable were the famous Walthers – PP and PPK.
This cartridge uses a brass cylindrical case with an extractor groove and a small rim (the so called semi-rimmed design, hence the SR suffix in the metric designation). The presence of a rim means that this cartridge was intended for use in both semi-automatic pistols and revolvers (a great many such weapons being made in Europe before World War One, mostly in Belgium). The standard loading is a jacketed bullet; however, today several good factory loadings with expanding bullets are available in this caliber.
7.62x17 Type 64
The 7.62mm Type 64 load was developed in China during the early sixties for two pistols – the pocket-sized Type 64 pistol, intended for police use, and the specialized Type 64 silenced pistol. Basically, this round represents the 7.65mm Browning case with the rim removed, and loaded to a lower velocity and muzzle energy. Later on, Chinese factories made more weapons in this caliber, such as the Type 67 silenced and Type 77 pocket-size pistols. During the early eighties, China also produced a specialized version of the same cartridge for use by on-board security on aircraft. This loading, known as 7.62mm Type 84, is loaded with a frangible semi-jacketed bullet, which is said not to penetrate a typical aircraft hull at ranges of 2 meters, but is effective against human targets at ranges up to 15 meters.
The Type 64 cartridge has a straight, rimless brass case. The standard loading is a jacketed bullet with a lead core in Type 64 loading or frangible bullet in Type 84 loading.
7.65x21 (7.65mm Luger / Parabellum, .30 Luger)
This cartridge was developed in around 1898-99 by Georg Luger from the earlier 7.65mm Borchard cartridge. Adopted in 1900 as a standard military cartridge by Switzerland, along with the famous Luger “Parabellum” pistol, this cartridge was also used as a military load in Brazil, Finland and Lithuania. However, since World War Two this cartridge has been replaced by the more potent 9x19 Luger cartridge, and by now is obsolete as a military load.
The 7.65mm Luger / Parabellum cartridge has a bottlenecked rimless brass case; the typical loading is a jacketed bullet.
9x17 Browning Short (9mm Short / Kurz / Corto, .380 ACP)
This cartridge, generally known in Europe as the 9mm Browning Short (to distinguish it from earlier and now obsolete 9mm Browning Long, which had a case 20mm long), was developed by John Browning in the USA, to improve the effectiveness of the Colt M1903 pistol. Names like Kurz and Corto also mean “short” in the German and Italian languages, respectively. In the USA this cartridge was introduced in 1908 along with the Colt M1908 pistol, as the .380 ACP. In Europe this cartridge was introduced in around 1912, in another Browning creation, the FN Model 1910 pistol. It must be noted that in the USA this cartridge was never popular as a service round; it was usually referred to as a “pocket gun” round, and the minimum adequate chambering for self-defense. On the other hand, in Europe this round quickly found favor among many military and police organizations, and between the wars it was adopted as a standard military pistol loading in countries like Czechoslovakia, Italy and Yugoslavia. The military role of this cartridge mostly ended during the fifties with the establishing of NATO and the adoption of the more powerful 9x19 round as NATO standard. However, it served as a police round in many countries (such as Germany, Italy and Switzerland) up until the seventies, and is still used to a limited extent by law enforcement services like the Italian Guardia di Finanza.
This cartridge is available in a wide spectrum of loadings, either with military-type jacketed bullets or more popular self-defense and police loads with hollowpoint bullets. The case is straight, usually made of brass, but this ammunition also may be found with aluminum (made in USA) or steel (made in Russia) cases.
9x18 Police / Ultra
This cartridge started its life under the name of “9mm Ultra” during mid-thirties as an experimental joint development of the GECO and Carl Walther companies, both from Germany. This development represented an attempt to create a cartridge powerful enough for military and police purposes, yet suitable for a relatively compact and simple blowback-operated pistol. GECO produced experimental ammunition, and Walther made several prototype pistols, but at that time development never went any further. However, during the early seventies this cartridge was revived as the “9mm Police” in an attempt to provide German police with weapons more effective than the then-available pistols chambered for 7.65mm Browning and 9mm Kurz. Several police-type pistols were made for this cartridge in Germany and Italy, and ammunition was produced by Hirtenberger in Austria. However, German police authorities finally decided to use the more potent 9x19 Luger ammunition, and the 9x18 Police soon went into oblivion.
The 9x18 Police and Ultra rounds are similar except for headstamps; both have straight, rimmed cases made of brass, and usually are loaded with a jacketed bullet of truncated cone shape.
NOTE: This cartridge must not be confused with 9x18 PM described below.
9x18 Makarov PM
The development of a new cartridge, suitable for smaller, blowback-operated pistols, apparently began in the USSR just prior to start of Great Patriotic War; a few pistols were tested, but the outbreak of the war stopped the development. Soon after the war ended, the Soviet army seriously re-considered the role of the military pistol, and selected the improved 9x18 round as a future military cartridge. While this round was only marginally powerful by Western standards, it proved to be adequate for personal defence weapons, and Soviet tactical doctrine of the time had no use for sub-machine guns, which usually require more powerful pistol-type cartridges to be of any military use. Officially adopted in 1951, this cartridge was also imposed upon Warsaw Pact countries during the sixties and seventies in an attempt at standardization; so far the 9x18 PM remains in active military and police service in most ex-USSR republics, including Russia. Pistols for this cartridge were manufactured in USSR and Russia, as well as in Bulgaria, China, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Poland. Ammunition is still manufactured in Russia, as well as in the USA (for commercial use).
Just prior to the Moscow Olympic Games of 1980, Soviet ammunition factories developed several specialized loads at the request of the KGB; these included expanding and frangible bullets, as well as improved penetration loads; the Army and police continued to use standard issue jacketed ammunition. During the early nineties, the Russian army tried to extend the effectiveness of this round with the introduction of the “Improved” or “high impulse” PMM loading, with more powerful propellant charge and lighter bullet, but this was never adopted for safety reasons.
The 9x18 cartridge, generally known as “9mm Makarov” or “9mm PM” after the most popular pistol that used it, was actually developed by designer Syomin. It has a straight, rimless case usually made of lacquered steel (military issue) or brass (some commercial loads). The standard Soviet military / police load used a round-nosed jacketed bullet with a composite core, made partly of lead and partly of mild steel (as a less expensive alternative to lead). The steel insert is of mushroom shape and does not help penetration much when compared with similar bullets with pure lead cores. Other loads include some specialized rounds, such as frangible SP-8 (developed in 1980 to be used on board aircraft; it must be noted that many Soviet commercial aircraft crews of the time were armed with pistols, usually stored in the pilot’s cabin in a special safe, to resist plane hijack attempts). Other specialized rounds include expanding and armor-piercing ammunition for law enforcement. Commercial ammunition, made in Russia for export as well as in other countries, is available with either jacketed bullets with lead cores, or with more or less traditional expanding JHP bullets.
9x19 Luger / Parabellum, 9mm NATO
This cartridge, generally known as “THE 9mm”, is usually also referred to as “9mm Luger” (after the name of the Georg Luger, who designed the pistol originally associated with this round) or “9mm Parabellum” (after the trade mark of the German DWM company that originally made this round). It was developed at the request of the German Navy in 1902, which liked the 7.65mm “Parabellum” pistol developed by Luger and made by DWM, but wanted more stopping power. Following this requirement, DWM shortened the case of the original 7.65x21 Luger/Parabellum round to 19mm and loaded it with 9mm jacketed bullet of truncated cone shape. The “Parabellum” pistol chambered for this cartridge, was adopted by the German Navy in 1904 and (with a modified pistol) by the German Army in 1908. This round saw extensive use by German armed forces during World War One, in various pistols and in the first sub-machine guns. In around 1917 the original flat point bullet was replaced by ogive shaped jacketed bullet that has remained standard for military loadings until now. Between the wars, this cartridge continued its service with the German armed forces in a variety of pistols and sub-machine guns; it was also accepted as a military load by several other countries, starting with Belgium, which brought out one of the most successful and historically important 9mm pistols of all time, the FN Browning High Power. After the World War Two the 9mm Parabellum was quickly adopted as a standard pistol and sub-machine gun chambering throughout NATO, with the notable exception of the USA, which stuck to its .45 ACP cartridge for some forty more years. It was adopted as a military load by many other countries worldwide, and since the seventies it also found its way into the police weapons of many nations. A hundred years old, today this cartridge remains the most popular and long-lasting chambering for pistols and sub-machine guns in the world. It combines adequate combat effectiveness with relatively compact size that allows for a large magazine capacity. All in all, this is probably the best and most popular compromise combat pistol cartridge in the world.
The 9x19 cartridge uses a straight rimless case with slight taper. The cases usually made of brass, but aluminum and lacquered steel cases may also be encountered. The standard military loading is an ogive-shaped jacketed bullet with a lead core, while police and commercial loadings may exhibit a wide variety of bullet types – expanding, frangible etc. In recent years, several types of military armor-piercing loadings were manufactured in countries like Austria, China and Russia.
One warning note must be made about military ammunition in this caliber. In many countries the 9x19 cartridge was considered primary as a sub-machine gun loading, and thus was loaded to higher velocities and pressure levels to provide the necessary effective range for infantry and other military personnel armed with SMGs. In many cases, the same ammunition was also issued to troops with pistols, which often resulted in degraded lifespan or even damage to the guns and injuries to the shooters. Therefore, great care must be taken when shooting military issue or surplus ammunition in commercial or older military pistols, which may not stand up to the stronger recoil and higher barrel pressures of certain military “sub-machine gun” loadings.
Comment: for sub-machine gun loadings muzzle velocities are given as fired from FN Browning High Power (*) or Mle.1950 (**) pistols
9x20 Browning Long
Developed in around 1903 in Belgium, this cartridge was intended for FN Browning model 1903 military type pistol. It was used as a military service cartridge in Belgium and Sweden, also chambered in several British Webley & Scott semi-automatic pistols. Today it is mostly obsolete.
Developed during 1980s, this cartridge is a virtual copy of the famous 9x19 Luger / Parabellum, except for the longer case. It has similar ballistics and overall length, and it's sole purpose is to be used in civilian pistols in countries where use of 'military caliber' cartridges is restricted for government purposes only (i.e. Italy, France).
9x21 SP-10 / SP-11 / SP-12
The development of this relatively high-powered pistol ammunition, intended for both sub-machine guns and semi-automatic pistols, commenced in Russia during the early nineties. The key goal was to provide military and law enforcement personnel with pistol ammunition, which would be, more effective against body armor than available rounds. Designers from TSNII TochMash (city of Klimovsk, Russia) first developed an armour piercing bullet with hardened steel core, exposed at the tip of the projectile, and then developed a new experimental round, initially known as RG052. Since 1993 this development was funded by the FSB (Federal Security Service of Russia), and the first production rounds were issued under the codename SP-10 (SP stand for Spetsialnyj Patron – special cartridge). Adopted in 1996, SP-10 ammunition is almost entirely used in one line of pistols (known under the codenames SR.1, Vector or SPS) and in one sub-machine gun, the SR.2 Veresk, both used by FSB and special elements of other law enforcement agencies in Russia. The original armor piercing SP-10 cartridges were soon complemented by other types of ammunition, including the SP-11 with a low-ricochet ball bullet (suitable for use against unprotected targets and for training), the SP-12 with expanding bullet and the SP-13 with armor-piercing tracer bullet. In about 2003 this nomenclature was changed to the Russian standard 7Nxx designations, marking the official approval of this ammunition for all services.
The SP-10 cartridge, currently known as the 9x21 7N29, has a straight rimless case, usually made of steel and with dark green lacquer coating. The armor-piercing bullet is of proprietary design; it has a hardened steel penetrator core that is exposed at the bullet tip, to ease the separation of the jacket upon the penetration of body-armor plates. The space between the penetrator and jacket is filled with polyethylene. The bullet is designed to stay intact upon impact with soft body tissue to conform to international treaties, and in this case it acts as a typical “ball” bullet of similar weight and energy. It must be noted that this cartridge is ballistically similar to some of the “hotter” 9x19 loadings; the longer case is necessary because of the longer bullet, which has relatively low volume density because of its composite core that consists of polyethylene filler and relatively long steel penetrator of 6mm diameter. Other types of bullets are fairly conventional.
These cartridges must never be used in pistols chambered for commercial 9x21 IMI ammunition because they generate pressures far beyond industry standards for the 9x21 IMI.
.357 SIG (9x22)
The .357 SIG cartridge is one of the most recent creations, developed as a joint effort between the US branch of the international SIGARMS Company (trade marks SIG, SIG-Sauer) and the US-based Federal Cartridge Company. This cartridge was obviously intended primarily for the US market; its main goal was to provide American law enforcement officers with a cartridge similar in ballistics and especially penetration to the famous .357 Magnum revolver round, yet suitable for use in conventional semi-automatic pistols. This cartridge has been very successful so far, being officially adopted by several major US law enforcement agencies including the Texas DPS and the US Secret Service; several companies make pistols for this cartridge, including SIGARMS, Beretta and Glock. It is worth nothing that the latter company marks its pistols chambered for this cartridge as “.357”, without any mention of the trademark of its major rival.
The .357 SIG cartridge case is based on the earlier .40 S&W cartridge, having similar case head and body diameter, as well as similar overall length, for obvious reasons of ease of conversion of available pistols from .40 S&W to .357 SIG by changing the barrel and return spring. The case design, however, is different, as the .357 SIG uses a rimless bottlenecked case with reinforced webbing (the base part of the cartridge), necessary because of the higher working pressures. The standard loading is a jacketed hollowpoint bullet.
.38 Super Automatic (9x23SR)
Developed in around 1929 by Colt, this was more powerful version of the original .38 Colt Automatic round, developed by John Browning before the turn of 20th century. Originally .38 Super was chambered in a Colt's "Government model" (M1911A1) pistols for police use, but today it is motly used for sport purposes in shooting disciplines like IPSC or IDPA. It is also a good self-defence load.
9x23 Largo (9mm Bergmann-Bayard)
This cartridge was developed in Germany in around 1903 for military type semi-automatic pistols, by the Theodor Bergmann Company. These pistols were later produced in Belgium by Pieper under Bergmann’s license, and adopted by Spain and Denmark, hence the original Bergmann-Bayard name (“Bayard” was the trademark of the Pieper Company). This cartridge saw extensive use in Spain, being the standard pistol and sub-machine gun ammunition of the Spanish military and police between the start of the century and late eighties, hence the other common name, the 9mm Largo (or “9mm Big” when translated from Spanish, to distinguish it from other 9mm cartridges). Some of the Spanish ammunition may also be found labeled '9mm Camp Giro' after another pistol design, but it is the same cartridge.
The 9x23 Largo has a straight, rimless case usually made of brass. The standard loading has a full metal jacket (ball) bullet.
9x25 Mauser Export
Developed in around 1906 by Mauser and DWM, this round was originally chambered in a series of experimental Mauser self-loading pistols, most notably the C-06/08. Between the World wars this round was also used in a number of submachine guns, such as Swiss SIG MKMO, Austrian Steyr MP-34 and Hungarian 39M and 43M. Today it is obsolete.
.40 S&W (.40 Smith & Wesson, 10x22)
The .40 Smith & Wesson cartridge was developed by the famous US arms-making company Smith & Wesson and another famous ammunition maker, the Winchester-Olin company, in around 1989-90. This cartridge was developed by shortening the 10mm Automatic (10x25) cartridge case by 3 millimeters (about 1/8 of an inch), to match the overall length of the popular 9x19 cartridge, while providing users with more energy and impulse from a larger and heavier bullet. Compared with its parent 10mm Automatic cartridge, the .40 S&W allows the pistols to be made smaller and lighter, especially in the grip area; it is also somewhat less powerful, but still has enough potential to meet most police and self-defense requirements. Today, the .40 S&W offers a good compromise between the two most popular service loads of the last century, the 9x19 Luger/Parabellum and the .45 ACP. It provides better terminal effectiveness than the 9x19, while permitting a bigger magazine capacity in the same space when compared with the .45 ACP. The one “danger” of the .40 S&W is that its dimensions allow manufacturers to make shortcuts in design by simply rebarrelling existing 9mm pistols to the larger cartridge; due to the increased recoil impulse, this may cause excessive wear to frames and other parts of pistols initially designed for 9x19 ammunition. Not surprisingly, today many manufacturers prefer to design their new pistols for .40 S&W and then “downgrade” them to 9x19 if necessary, and not vice versa. A great many companies make pistols for this round, and several sub-machine guns chambered for .40 S&W also are known to exist, such as the MP5/40 and UMP-40, both made in Germany by Heckler & Koch, or the Taurus-FAMAE, made in Brazil.
The .40 S&W has a rimless, straight case, usually made of brass (steel-cased .40 S&W ammunition is made in Russia for export). The most common service loading uses an expanding jacketed or semi-jacketed bullet, but many other types of loading are also available.
10mm Automatic (10x25 Auto)
This cartridge was created in a search for the “ultimate” combat round which, while duplicating the terminal effectiveness of such proven “man-stoppers” as the .45 ACP or .357 Magnum, should provide a bigger magazine capacity when compared with the .45 and be better suited for semi-automatics when compared with the .357. This cartridge retained the overall length of .45 ACP, so it could be used in rebarreled pistols originally designed for the .45; the case was entirely new. Originally loaded only by Norma of Sweden from 1983, this load was first used in the US-made Bren Ten pistol, and latter on in Colt’s Delta Elite. In around 1988 this cartridge was picked up by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) as a replacement for the 9x19 Luger/Parabellum, which proved itself inadequate on several rather bloody occasions, such as the infamous Miami massacre of 1986. Smith & Wesson quickly produced several pistols in this chambering, and Heckler & Koch of Germany made a limited number of its MP5 sub-machine guns in 10mm for FBI agents. However, the FBI and several other US law enforcement agencies soon discovered that this cartridge in its original loading was poorly suited for many officers because of its severe recoil, and the FBI quickly adopted a reduced-charge loading, which then lead to the shorter .40 S&W cartridge described above. Today, this round is most popular in the USA among civilian shooters, where it is used for self-defense and hunting. Several companies still make guns in this caliber, such as Tanfoglio of Italy and Glock of Austria.
The 10mm Automatic has a straight, rimless case, usually made of brass. Most common loads include various types of expanding or jacketed bullets.
.45 ACP (.45 Automatic Colt Pistol, 11.43x25)
This cartridge was developed as a result of extensive tests of the terminal effectiveness of various rounds that were conducted in 1904 by Col. Thompson and Maj. La Garde on behalf of the US Army. As a result of these trials, the commission recommended the replacement of the existing .38 caliber revolver cartridge with a cartridge that fires bullet of 0.45 inch caliber (11.43mm). The original recommendations were for a bullet of 200 grains (12.96 gram), but this was later changed to a 230 grain jacketed “ball” bullet. The case was designed by cutting down the .30-03 rifle cartridge case to length just below one inch. In 1911, this cartridge was officially adopted by the US military as the “Cartridge, .45 caliber Ball, M1911”, along with the famous Colt M1911 pistol. Since its introduction this cartridge has been used in many semi-automatic pistols, as well as in a few revolvers (using half-moon or full-moon clips) and in several sub-machine guns, starting with famous Thompson. This cartridge was never popular in Europe, and was adopted only by Norway, in their M/1912 and M/1914 pistols, which were licensed Colt designs. On the other hand, this cartridge was and still is extremely popular in USA, as well as in South and Central Americas; for many years this round was a standard military issue in countries like Argentine and Brazil.
Despite the fact that the US Army replaced the .45 ACP as its standard issue pistol ammunition in 1985, this cartridge still fares quite well, thanks to its large bullet, which offers significant terminal effects even in military “ball” configuration. What is even more interesting is that at the moment of this writing (late 2005), the US Army is again looking for a military pistol firing the same old .45 caliber round.
The .45 ACP, also known as the .45 Automatic, has a rimless, straight case, usually made of brass, although it also may be encountered with aluminum (US-made) or lacquered steel (Russia-made) cases. The standard military bullet is of jacketed type, weighting 230 grain (14.9 gram). Self-defense and police ammunition can be loaded with great variety of bullets, including frangible, expanding and other types of bullets. Most common police or defensive loadings used jacketed hollowpoint bullets of various makes, weighting from 185 to 230 grains (11.99 to 14.9 gram).
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