Best Rated 9mm Handgun Loads

9mm Handgun Loads
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Best Rated 9mm Handgun Loads

These different types of ammunition will handling all your shooting needs with your 9mm handgun

The 9mm Luger cartridge is the most popular handgun cartridge in the world.

It is used in a variety of applications, which means a single load may not be sufficient. Regarding self-defense, the things you may need to defend yourself from can vary from a slithering snake to psychotic murderer.

And then there’s the need for practice and competition ammunition, as well as the potential for something that could possibly stop a large predator, not of the human persuasion.

With all that in mind, here are five great 9mm Luger loads that should cover almost any situation.

Self Defense

There are a lot of fantastic 9mm Luger loads for self-defense and most have several things in common.

They have proven to be reliable in a wide range of handguns, and they fare well in the FBI testing by penetrating to between 12 and 18 inches, with a recovered bullet diameter of about 1.5 times the unfired diameter.

It’s hard to go wrong with the best loads from Federal, Speer, CCI, or Winchester, but it’s also hard to find any 9mm load that will outperform Remington’s 124-grain +P Bonded Golden Saber, especially if the bad guy is behind auto glass, an interior wall, or a car door.

Predator/Bear Defense

Is a 9mm suitable for defense against bears?

Well, that partly depends on the bear. A 9mm will do reasonably well stopping or deterring a 200-pound black bear, but maybe not so much against an 800-pound brown bear.

However, bear guide Phil Shoemaker is quite famous for stopping a grizzly with several shots from a 9mm.

If you know you’re going into bear country, it would be advisable to get a bigger gun. But if you’re going to carry a 9mm, use the same load that Shoemaker did, and that’s the 147-grain hardcast Outdoorsman load from Buffalo Bore.

This is a non-deforming, bone-crushing round, that will push through more than four feet of ordnance gelatin in a straight line.

Snakes and Vermin

Some will advocate not shooting venomous snakes, arguing avoidance is the best solution.

That may be true, but if you have a rattlesnake living in your barn or under your front porch, you’re asking for trouble.

A shovel works great on a rattlesnake, until you lose your balance and fall on top of him. Standard 9mm ammunition works well too, but you must hit the head. CCI Shotshells are the answer.

They may not cycle the action of your pistol, but they make hitting the head easier.

They’re good on snakes out to about 8 or 9 feet and even work on small vermin like rats and such as well.


During practice your targets are paper, and steel and you want a practice load that is reliable, accurate, and fouls your pistol as little as possible.

Federal’s 124- or 147-grain Syntech loads duplicate the point of impact and external ballistics of Federal’s self-defense 9mm loads. And the red Syntech coating on the bullets – purple on Match loads – makes them readily identifiable.

The primers are lead free, and the Syntech coating also reduces fouling, barrel heat, friction, and minimizes splash-back on steel targets.

They’ve proven very reliable in most pistols and will deliver brag-worthy precision.


Yes, some people do shoot 9mm handguns with a suppressor attached. And while a suppressor will make any 9mm load deliver fewer decibels to your ear, to get the full advantage of a suppressor you need suppressed ammunition.

Unfortunately, some suppressed loads utilize bullets that will not deform during penetration. If you’re just shooting targets that does not matter.

But if you’re hunting or shooting to save your life, it can help.

Hornady’s Subsonic 147-grain XTP load will deform during penetration, and it even does well in the FBI’s duty ammunition terminal performance testing, where it is exposed to a variety of intermediate barriers.

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