On the 21st of December 2021, the Italian Parliament has finally penned the word “end” on a decades-long national oddity: the ban of the 9×19 mm Luger. This comes as part of a package of amendments aimed to align Italian laws to the European Union’s. A step in the right direction, for once.
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Italian Parliament Approves 9 Luger for Pistols – Is This the End of 9x21mm IMI?
Many readers may be surprised to learn that Italian civilians have been denied the possibility of owning 9mm Luger firearms. This was because of laws limiting civilian ownership of firearms chambered in “military” calibers. While restrictions on 7.62×51 NATO and 5.56×45 NATO had minimal impact due to the availability of civilian versions (.308 Winchester and .223 Remington), 9×19 and, believe it or not, .45 ACP required some workarounds.
Several 9 Luger handguns for some time were offered converted to 7.65 Parabellum (.30 Luger) until the need for 9 Luger-like performance, coupled with ease of manufacturing, sparked the birth of the 9×21 mm IMI. Since its inception in the 1980s, this caliber, ballistically equivalent to the Luger, has been “the nine” in Italy, “il calibro nove”, with most common pistols either manufactured by the OEM or easily converted for the Italian market.
Oddly enough, 9×19 Luger rounds were somewhat available on the civilian market as allowed for revolvers, but only with lead bullets, and PCCs.
With the approval of 9×19 for civilian use, due to come in effect in a few weeks, the 9×21 IMI may follow the fate of the almost forgotten .45 Hirtenberger Patrone which, for a little more than a decade, allowed Italians to own .45 ACP-like pistols. While the forty-five had a limited market, the “Italian nine” is arguably the most common caliber in Italy, and it may still be preferred in practical shooting competitions, in open class, where the longer casing can be an advantage.
Curiously, already in the year 2000, if not earlier, Frank C. Barnes in his “Cartridges of the World – 9th Edition” was listing the 9×21 mm as an obsolete handgun cartridge, due to the consolidation of Western European Union firearm laws. It took a bit longer than Mr. Barnes thought.