9mm NATO damages 9mm Luger pistol


About a month ago I mentioned a post by Caleb warning people not to use 9mm NATO rounds in 9mm Luger / Parabellum pistols.

A reader, who shall remain anonymous, emailed me this account of what happened to him.

Your message about the 9 mm Nato versus 9 mm Luger (9×19 mm, 9 mm Para) is correct and should be a warning to all users of 9 mm pistols. I found out the the higher pressure of the Nato round can be punishing. The same day as I received my first and brand new police service pistol, the Walther P5, I took it to my shooting club to show it to the lads and to shoot it.

Because I ran out of ammo, I borrowed a box from a military friend, who used 9 mm Nato rounds. After two shots my new pistol jammed, because the extractor broke off. I had some explanation to do the next day in order to get my service gun back in working order and got the message: Never use military ammo in non-military firearms. So, any surplus army ammo: use it in the Browning High-Power or the Glock, but not in “civilian” pistols.

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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.


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  • Canthros

    I’m pretty sure that the Browning High-Power is not rated for 9mm NATO (or +P). It may be something you can get away with in the FM (Argentine) models, but ISTR reading that you’ll eventually batter the frame running that stuff through one of the FN/Browning guns.

  • Hugh

    Isn’t the Walther P5 a NATO service pistol? I believe at one time it was used by the SAS

  • http://bonifacestreatise.blogspot.com/ Wynboniface

    Hugh, nope German police contract pistol.

    http://world.guns.ru/handguns/hg86-e.htm

  • SQ

    From Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walther_P5):

    P5C:
    Approx 3,000 examples of this pistol were adopted in the 1980s by the British Army as Pistol L102A1 (NATO Stock Number 1005-99-978-4952) for issue to the Royal Irish Regiment (Home Service) as a Personal Protection Weapon.

  • Brian Parker

    From page 13 of the owner’s manual for my Ruger SR9:
    “No 9mm Parabellum ammunition manufactured in accordance with NATO, U.S., SAAMI, or CIP standards is known to be beyond the design limits or known not to function in these pistols.”

    Kinda makes me glad I bought it instead of other well known 9mm’s.

  • cyle

    NATO is +P. Make sure your gun is rated before firing.

  • B Woodman

    What about the Ruger P85? I’ve heard it’s robust.

    • Ft. Defiance

      I would have no qualms about running the Ruger p85 with NATO ammo. One of the early tests/ media stunts showed a Ruger P85 with the barrel blocked being fired with a test round. (The test round being a round specifically designed to bring chamber pressures to a maximum level. ) After the round was fired a new (un-blocked barrel) was put in and a new magazine installed. The weapon then functioned normally. The Ruger seemed designed to vent over-pressure down through the magazine well.

  • Griffin

    Would a Sig P250 be considered a Service Pistol?

  • Alex

    The Walther P5 is a piece of **** anyway: horrible trigger, may discharge if dropped. Massad Ayoob talks about seeing baskets full of broken HPs as a result of firing 9 mm NATO ammo in one of his books.

  • wicked panda

    What about the Walther P1?? i guess it can handle +P ammo, i know for sure it can t handle hollow poit but FMJ in 115 gr seems OK. i bougth a box of 124Gr. FMJ last month but i haven t tried yet, i t ll be usure??

  • Lance

    Glocks arnt supposed to use 9mm NATO ammo either. The only pistol made to shoot US NATO ammo is the Beretta 92F and M-92FS models.

  • Ty

    Hirtenberger used a Glock 17 to test fire hot 9mm loads. This one was retired after 348,210 rounds. I would feel safe shooting any 9mm out of a Glock.

    http://www.cybershooters.org/IWA2000/Glock17.JPG

  • robert

    CZ-75 SP01 hndles +P+ all day long. If you want American made.

  • http://oldwestcoons.com JT

    Robert while I concur that the CZ will shoot +P all day long, last I looked they are all made in the Czech Republic not the US.

  • magnus

    CZ 75 or CZ 85b. with my CZ85b i have shoot over 1000 rounds, maybe 1500 with swedish army 9mm. Doubt that Nato 9 are nastyer than this ammo.my brothers Glock have shoot maybe 10.000 swe 9mm.

    both of thoose pistol are perfect for +p 9. And for the next generation CZ,they all shoot this ammo well. just put a stronger recoil spring in the cz, the glock have a very strong spring orginal.

  • GG Young

    I have fired a 9mm’s from civilian to army surplus and used p plus and not. I have not had a problem with any ammo. But I will be more careful from now on.

  • Army Surplus

    Very impressive

  • Jack B.

    Alex, I have recently picked up a p5 compact. I found the DA to be long but very smooth. Maybe not the best choice in a target pistol, in a carry piece it’s about perfect. The SA is lovely. From all accounts that I have found the safeties are reliable, and I have been unable to find any documentation to the contrary. From the light range experience I’ve had, the P5 has been an absolutely splendid piece. Everything from the machining, to the fit and finish, to the performance of this weapon has been, in my experience, top shelf. I am not not one of these testosterone ridden “I’m in love with my gun and will defend it blindly” jackasses that are so common to these forums. I would truly appreciate specific links to negative info about my new piece. The comment about broken HP’s, forgive my ignorance, what is an “HP”? In any event, so far this has been a fine pistol but would like to know what others have to say about it. Thanks much, cheers!

    • whoa there

      “HP” = Browning Hi Power

  • Jerry in Detroit

    No doubt that NATO 9mm ammunition is loaded to higher pressures than SAAMI standards. SAAMI found it necessary to load to lower pressures as there were some WW2 pistols that will chamber the 9 X 19mm cartridge but will not stand up to full military pressure. As I recall there was an Italian Glisenti that was problematic as was the aluminum framed P-38.

    Another problem is that bore diameters vary wildly. 9mm bores range between .350 to .370. For instance, while the bore diameter in Browning Hi-Powers run .359/.360, a S & W Model 39 I once owned slugged at .352. High pressure loads I developed for the Hi-Power were totally unsafe in the Model 39. I had case blow out down the loading ramp and crack a grip.

    My recommendation is only use NATO 9mm ammunition in guns designed for military ammunition or older guns that would stand up to sub-machinegun loads. The Hi-Power is ok but watch for barrel cracks and keep fresh recoil springs in the gun. Some, like the Luger, will only function correctly with the high pressure ammunition.

  • Swede

    This is a wellknown problem in Sweden. The army had to much 9 mm +p/nato/ or in swedish m/39b.

    The army gave or sold these rounds very cheap to ranges. And well, nobody wants this ammo so it’s dirt cheap but in Sweden it’s every shooters knowledge that you don’t shoot this ammo out of anything else than glocks.

    Police had problems with m/39b in the Sig p226/p228/p229 so they switched to Fiocchi FMJ for training and gold speer hollow points for the field.

  • wbblythe

    USAF inventory includes the Glock 19. NATO rounds work just fine.

    My personal G19 has consumed thousands without issue. A great practice round when carrying Gold Dot 124 LE for self defense.

    I have other guns, I acknowledge that Glock is not the last word in design, but let us be honest. The damned things work. I am more comfortable when I can carry my G19 (and I cannot always because, yes indeed, it is bulky) than any other gun I own.

    If you shoot a Glock, you can practice with NATO for a lot less money than +P. Air Force aircrews do.

  • Jay Dee

    The problem with 9mm pistols is bore diameter. I’ve seen bore diameters that slugged as small as .352 to over .360 in a Browning Hi-Power. Obviously a hot load developed for the Hi-Power would cause major problems in the smaller bore. (Blew the case out down the feed ramp.)

    Commercial ammunition is loaded with that tightest bore diameter in mind while military loads are for one or two guns where bore diameters is a known quantity.

  • ZAC

    the ending statement doesnt make much sense “use it in a browning hi power or a glock not “civilian” pistols”, both those pistols are civilian pistol yea armies all over the world use hi powers, but any civilian can buy one, and glocks are used more by civilians and police then military…