Quote of the day: 9mm NATO

From someone who would know:

“I’m not convinced the ball ammo in use by our troops is necessarily “crappy”. Graveyards have been built over the last 12+ years due to the fatal wounds inflicted by 9mm NATO Ball.”

This is the corollary to Rule 1 of a Gunfight, which is of course “have a gun.” Rule 1A is “have ammo in your gun.” We talk a lot about making good choices for your defensive pistol and defensive ammo, but at the end of the day you’re better off with a pocket .380 loaded with ball ammo than you are with a sharp stick.

Please don’t mistake that statement to mean that I, or Gun Nuts thinks you should be carrying a pocket .380 with ball ammo as your primary. Everyone should carry full sized handguns in serious service calibers all the time; those guns should always be loaded with the latest and best in defensive ammo.

But at the end of the day, a .38 loaded with 158 grain LRN is better than your fists; and a 9mm loaded with ball ammo is better than a sharp stick. I’d much rather see someone carry an SD9 with ball ammo because they blew all their money on training and practice than someone with a $1,000 HK full of Ranger T-series who never trains.


  1. I’ve seen more than a few people stopped cold by 9mm NATO overseas. One was a guy on the run, blew through both femurs. One got zippered and was DRT, another took a whole mag running a snap VCP in a semi truck.

    It’s not so much about ammo type but how many hits you can get as fast as you can get them.

  2. So I think my comment yesterday mentioning the weak reputation of 9mm ball may have spawned this discussion. I think that on some level “reputation” is a lot of what this comes down to.

    9mm ball is far from useless and so are the old .38 loads but RELATIVE to alternate options of the respective times (i.e. 9mm HP vs ball or .357/.45 vs .38) they offer objectively inferior performance. Couple this with a few true accounts of their failures to stop and the reputation as a ineffective cartridge makes more sense as a result of relative perception than objective reality.

    1. I think the discussion is one that continues to come around and around, much like a fruitcake. It may be gone from the front and center, but the discussion is always there. Maybe it was your comment that spawned the continued discussion, but I am guessing that CG was simply driving a point home with the quote.

      And I think most people knew what you meant, that 9mm NATO ball is less than optimal when shooting for all the marbles, but is adequate should the shooter do their part.

      Reality is that for man portable weapons, there will always be exceptions to “expected” performance. The fatal .22LR, and the 4 center punches from 175 grain 7.62mm that kicked and flopped for several minutes before finally expiring. And while they don’t make front page news (even in the shooting community) these “exceptions” are much more common than people would like to believe. We tend to get caught between scientific tests against Jell-O, and war story second, third, or 27th hand accounts that are less than 100% factual or accurate. Somewhere in the middle of those two exceedingly far extremes lies reality.

      Most ball ammunition is not my first choice for loading up to go hunting. And I like a good HP round as much as the next guy. I didn’t mean to cause such a stir, or even fuel the fire for the continued (and tired) debate on the topic. But in my line of work I am constantly having to un-learn information from a younger generation who learn from the internet. So, I simply wanted to rebut the “crappy” adjective, as it is (as you mentioned) a relative comparison. Compared to whichever brand X that came out the front runner in the latest FBI Jell-O tests, it certainly is objectively inferior. Compared to no ammunition at all, it is objectively outstanding.

      To the bad guy who catches 9mm NATO ball instead of brand X super bullet in his aorta or medula oblongata, it is objectively irrelevant.

    2. Wish I had a nickel for every-time I heard or read about which round is best and I still don’t know but way back in 1974 as I started my Paramedic training the first fatality was a 22lr through the aorta, one shot. There was the guy on pcp that took 17 hits from a combo of 9mm & 357 and still hit a few cops before it was over. There are way too many variables, the best one is the one you can shoot and hit the target in a vital location.

  3. .45 is my choice. However have a lc9 because it conceals oh so easy with wallet type holster. I still consider the 9mm a half caliber 115v230gr. BUT with proper shot placement,I do feel comfortable carry for self defense.

  4. Which every the caliber you carry training and shoot placement is what counts. If you do not get good lethal hits someone with a sharp stick could do more damage! 22L up to and including 45 ACP will not stop anyone hell bent on doing damage unless you can put holes in the vitals. Need to train with everything you plan to carry and not just at a static range need to find a place where you can practice COMING FROM CONCEALMENT and placing good hits!

  5. Due to severe arthritis in my hands I am not able to work the slide on anything over a 9mm with reliability so I carry a 9mm or 38 so J frame. I do not feel out gunned with either of these as I practice regularly. A medium size hole in a vital organ beats a large hole in a non vital area.

    1. I’m having this type of discussion with a woman I know. She’s a big gun nut (*woot!*) but she’s making questionable gun choices. She’s almost 70, has some age related physical infirmities (like arthritis) but insists on getting things like full size Kimber 1911’s. Nothing wrong with the gun* but she can’t reliably rack the slide fully to chamber a round, causing some interesting jambs.

      If RULE 1 is “Have A GUN”…
      and RULE 1A is “Have AMMO in the gun”…
      RULE 1B should be “Have a Gun you can MANAGE”

      otherwise isn’t it just a really expensive club?

      * (I make no commentary on gun itself.)

  6. Bullet placement is king, even with 22lr:

    Aspiring Olympian Acts / Target-shooter protects family, kills assailants

    Published: April 28, 2000 8:00 PM

    Bogota, Colombia – Confronted by three attackers blocking the road and pointing guns, an aspiring target-shooting champion killed two of them with his target pistol, authorities said Friday.

    Bernardo Tobar, 22, son of an Olympic sharpshooter of the same name, was found to have acted in self-defense in the apparent kidnapping or robbery attempt and faces no charges, prosecutors said.

    He was returning from the target range Thursday night along with his father, mother and 12-year-old sister when three men in a taxi blocked the road, he told police.

    When two of the men pointed their revolvers at the group, the younger Tobar grabbed his .22-caliber target pistol and shot them.

    The slain men, both of whom had criminal records, had fired their weapons, police said.

    It was not immediately clear what happened to the third assailant. Tobar, a top Colombian national shooter, is following in the footsteps of his 49-year-old father – a top 10 finisher in Olympic rapid-fire pistol shooting since 1984 who is training for the Sydney Olympics.

    Apparently, the baddies fired first (http://www.omg-facts.com/Interesting/Two-Colombian-Gunmen-Died-When-They-Trie/56841).

  7. Find a gun you like, you think is cool, fits well in your hand and feels good to carry. Load it with the best lead and copper you can get and shoot it until you’re confident. Carry it till you find a cooler one. If you like it, you’ll have it with you.

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