9mm NATO vs. 9mm Luger

Caleb wrote an interesting blog post last month about the the different in pressure between the SAAMI spec’ed 9mm loads (9mm Luger / Parabellum) and the NATO load (9x19mm NATO). I had forgotten to mention it here until I was browsing his blog today.

The ammo industry uses something called SAAMI Standards to establish the pressures that ammo should be loaded to. The SAAMI pressure for 9mm Luger ammo is around 35,000 PSI, and C.I.P (think European SAAMI) rates 9mm Luger ammo at 34,080 PSI. According to documentation, the 9mm NATO rounds are pressured at 36,500 PSI (again according to CIP). That means that when compared to standard 9mm ammo, the 9mm NATO ammo is running a higher pressure, analogous to a 9mm +P load, which SAAMI rates around 36,000 PSI.

Read the full post here.

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • Matt Groom

    The real difference, according to the guys at H.P. White Laboratories, who do a lot of ballistic testing for the Gov’t and NATO, is in how the pressure readings are obtained, whether they use a pressure barrel and what type of test it is. Transducer and Crusher types of pressure tests are totally different, and where they are on the barrel also plays a role. NATO uses a kind of advanced CIP standard which is not directly translatable to SAAMI standards, so it’s all completely different, but usually safe. Most guns are built stronger than they have to be.

  • misinformed

    not sure were you got you’re info but 9mm luger is the same as 9×19 9mmparabellum and 9mm nato.
    nato does not make there own ammo they adopt whatever lack luster round is voted.
    the loading of each round is done differently but all rounds should fire in the same guns.
    9mm luger is or should be the euro and is probably loaded to ww2 specs”lower pressure.”
    9mm nato is the one we currently use in the U.S. so of course it will be loaded to max cap.
    if you don’t believe me look at a nato gun it will say 9×19 on it if H.K. usu, and 9×19 or 9mm para for Berreta.
    europe has and still uses lots of 9mm that are shorter or otherwise incompatible with this offering.
    esp 9mm glissenti 9×18 “Makarov” 9×17 380acp and far too many to list.
    in closing treat 9mm nato as +p or +p+ should be fine in any functioning gun.

  • Paul B


    Having been an armorer in the U.S. military I can tell you that there is really only one loading that is authorized to be used in pistols, that is the M-882 124gr loading. This loading is spec’d to around 32k-psi. There is another loading that does not have a designation and is not authorized for use in pistols. It is the second loading that is really hot.

    While the standard pressure spec can reach 35-36K for a max individual round, no one loads to the max. There is always a buffer factored in and the ammunition has to be able to be fired in the weakest pistol in the nato inventory and in the worst possible environment.

    BTW, Nato countries can and do load a 115gr bullet but the pressure is still 32k-psi average.

  • I use the +P+ ammo in my Walther P88. If you read about this weapon, it was designed to usa all types of grades of 9mm to compete for the NATO contract to replace the 45’s.

    This is the only gun in the world to be designed this way, until later on HK, Glock and Berette finally cought on.

  • Greg

    i am not sure of the difference , but i want to know if it’s safe to fire a nato round in a hi point c-9. i have both, the luger and the nato. But i don’t want to do anything harmful to the gun or blow it up in my face…lol

  • Bill Huff

    So, is it safe to try + p ammo to try and improve cycling in a 1917 Luger or not? Bullet wt?

  • jester65

    is there a diffrence between 9mm auto ammo and standard 9mm

  • Spotter1

    I believe that the Walther p38 9 mm Luger will not handle the 9 mm or +p ammunition as I had used +p and the pressure was to great for the slide to handle and damaged my weapon . My gunsmith was able to repair it and he explained to me that the older weapons like mine cannot handle the 9mm or + p ammo Luger is around 34kto35k+pis around 35kto36k and 9mm is 36k standard .this is all dependent on true specs on ammunition suppliers suggest when in doubt research and reload your own to be safe.