The Best 9mm Ammo 2024

Picking the best 9mm ammo depends on how you intend to use it
A man shoots a 9mm at the range.

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The 9 x 19mm Parabellum cartridge was invented over 120 years ago, and it’s still the most popular handgun cartridge in the world today. It has a long and varied history, but it’s safe to say that even while enduring the current ammo shortage, shooters have a wide variety of 9mm ammo for self-defense and 9mm ammo for practice to choose from. Even better, modern 9mm bullets have elevated these loads to the best 9mm ammo in history. The 9mm now has comparable terminal performance to some more powerful cartridges.

There are many metrics by which ammo can be compared, and picking the very best is always going to be a matter of how you intend to use it. For example, you’ll find that 9mm ammo for self-defense is much different (and more expensive) than 9mm ammo for practice. The following list includes my own preferred ammo for a wide variety of applications.

More 9mm Ammo for Self-Defense

9mm Ammo for Practice

Things to Consider Before Buying 9mm Ammo

Application and Use

The most important thing to consider when you’re buying 9mm ammo is what you’ll be using it for. If you’re buying 9mm ammo for self-defense, you want quality bullets designed for optimal penetration and effective terminal performance. Cheap FMJ or other 9mm target ammo is inferior. If you’re wanting ammo to practice with, more affordable target or plinking ammo will be your best choice. Still, it’s wise to match the grain weight of your carry or defensive 9mm ammo. If you’re wanting to shoot primarily through a suppressor and have the quietest report possible, heavier 9mm subsonic ammo will usually be your best choice.

Cost

Just like any other load, 9mm ammo varies in price. The most affordable 9mm rounds are usually 115-grain FMJ target and plinking loads. You can find them for around $20 per box of 50 rounds, and cheaper per-round if you buy in bulk. The best 9mm ammo for self-defense is usually much more expensive, but when your life may be at stake, it’s worth spending the extra money. The best 9mm ammo for self-defense will usually cost about $1.75 per round.

Best 9mm Ammo for Backcountry Defense: Federal Premium Solid Core +P 147-grain Syntech Flat-Nose

Best 9mm Ammo for Backcountry Defense

Federal Premium Solid Core +P 147-grain Syntech Flat-Nose

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Why It Made the Cut

Federal Premium’s +P Solid Core load has a deep-penetrating cast 147-grain bullet with a synthetic jacket to reduce fouling. Penetration is what counts in a defensive situation with big animals.

Key Features

  • 147-grain solid lead bullet
  • Syntech synthetic jacket
  • Nickel-plated brass and sealed primer
  • Velocity: 1120 fps
  • $39.49 per 20 rounds

Pros

  • Deep Penetration
  • No lead fouling
  • Nickel cases and sealed primers are weather-resistant

Cons

  • Not highly versatile

Product Description

Although the 10mm Auto is generally a better option for carry in grizzly country, the 9mm can be a viable option for backcountry carry if that’s all you’ve got. The key to making the 9mm an effective animal defense cartridge is a bullet that will penetrate. Most 9mm ammo for self defense expands rapidly and is designed for limited penetration. Federal Premium’s Solid Core line is designed to deliver a 147-grain synthetic-jacketed lead bullet at 1,120 feet per second—which is slightly faster than Buffalo Bore’s +P Outdoorsman load.

The total synthetic jacket on this bullet prevents any lead fouling, which can be an annoying issue with some pistols when shooting plain hard-cast loads. The nickel-plated case and sealed primer make for smooth cycling, and they resist the elements. This 9mm ammo is intended for a simple task: deep penetration. It fully accomplishes that mission.

Best 9mm Ammo for Self Defense: Federal Premium 124-grain HST

Best 9mm Ammo for Self Defense

Federal Premium 124-grain HST

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Why It Made the Cut

Federal Premium’s HST bullet is a stalwart performer in 9mm ammo for self defense. It expands rapidly and uniformly, maintains weight, and gives optimal penetration and terminal performance.

Key Features

  • 124-grain jacketed hollow point
  • Segmented jacket for uniform expansion
  • Nickel-plated brass and sealed primer
  • Velocity: 1150 fps
  • Price: $32.99 per 20 rounds

Pros

  • Rapid, uniform expansion
  • Optimal penetration for self defense
  • Reliable feeding

Cons

  • Leading edges of hollow point can be damaged if cartridges are dropped

Product Description

There is lots of competition in the game of 9mm ammo for self-defense, and lots of excellent choices. However, my favorite defensive load is Federal Premium’s 124-grain HST hollow point. The HST bullet is one of the best 9mm bullets with the most consistent expansion for self-defense on the market. It strikes a nice balance between mass, velocity, and terminal performance.

The HST features a gaping hollow point and scored jacket to direct expansion into six equal-sized petals. It’s designed to maximize performance in the FBI’s testing protocol. It expands reliably through a variety of barriers and is built to retain weight without over-penetration. It’s accurate, reliable, and an excellent choice for any carry gun.

Best 9mm Ammo for Micro Compacts

Hornady American Gunner 115-grain XTP

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Why It Made the Cut

This 9mm ammo features Hornady’s reliable and deep-penetrating XTP hollow point, and at 115-grains, is softer shooting than heavier 9mm rounds for self-defense—especially in micro-compact 9mm pistols.

Key Features

  • 115-grain XTP jacketed hollow point
  • Small hollow point opening with notched jacket
  • Brass case
  • Velocity: 1155 fps
  • Price: $19.99 per 25 rounds

Pros

  • Deep Penetration
  • Good expansion
  • Lower recoil
  • Affordable for self-defense ammo

Cons

  • XTP doesn’t expand as dramatically as some other 9mm bullets for self-defense

Product Description

Hornady’s American Gunner 115-grain XTP is a quality 9mm round for self-defense at an affordable price. The XTP bullet is a dependable hollow point that has a smaller opening and more limited expansion than some other defensive 9mm ammo. The benefit is that it retains lots of weight and penetrates well. In a 115-grain offering, it has good velocity for both expansion and penetration—and has less recoil than many 124- and 147-grain 9mm rounds.

In micro-compact 9mm pistols, this 115-grain load is very soft-recoiling, but still performs and functions well. Some loads with heavier bullets and +P pressures make these tiny handguns beasts to tame, but lower recoil loads like this allow a shooter to be more accurate and effective.

Best 9mm Ammo for Suppressors

Nosler ASP 147-grain JHP

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Why It Made the Cut

Nosler’s Assured Stopping Power 147-grain 9mm ammo is made with quality components and bullets that are designed to expand reliably at subsonic velocities. Fired through a suppressor, it’s pussycat-quiet, and feeds smoothly in every pistol and PCC I could run it through.

Key Features

  • 147-grain jacketed hollow point
  • Rounded, notched jacket
  • Nosler brass
  • Velocity: 950 fps
  • $36.49 per 50 rounds

Pros

  • Good expansion and weight retention
  • Subsonic in any pistol and most PCC’s
  • Clean and precise components
  • Great price

Cons

  • Not as ideal for all-around defense as some of the faster 124-grain JHP’s.

Product Description

Nosler’s ASP 147-grain load is premium 9mm ammo at a great price. It’s jacketed hollow point is clean and precise, with a notched jacket to direct expansion, even at its slow, subsonic velocities. The bullet has a more rounded profile than some other hollow points which seems to make them feed with great reliability.

The 950-fps muzzle velocity is slow enough to stay subsonic, even when fired through most longer PCC barrels, and is ultra-quiet when fired through a suppressor. That’s where this ammo really shines. It’s a great choice in 9mm ammo for self-defense or home defense in a handgun, but I really like it in my Kalashnikov USA KP-9 with a suppressor.

More 9mm Ammo for Self-Defense

Underwood Extreme Defender +P+ 90-grain

Underwood Extreme Defender +P+ 90-grain

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Why It Made the Cut

Underwood’s 90-grain Extreme Defender load features a Lehigh Defense Extreme Defense bullet at blistering speed. It’s designed for excellent barrier penetration and dramatic wound cavities.

Key Features

  • 90-grain Lehigh Defense Extreme Defense Bullet
  • Monolithic Copper bullet with fluting at the nose
  • +P+ pressure rating
  • Velocity: 1550 fps
  • $34.99 per 20 rounds

Pros

  • Excellent barrier penetration
  • Fluting causes dramatic wound cavities
  • Lead-free
  • Lower recoil than heavier bullets

Cons

  • +P+ is not safe for some 9mm pistols

Product Description

Underwood Ammo is one of the most popular producers of factory ammo using Lehigh Defense’s mono-metal Extreme Defense and Extreme Penetrator bullets. This load, which features the 90-grain Extreme Defense bullet, is all about speed. It’s loaded to high +P+ pressures and pushes the bullet out at a screaming 1550 fps. Check your pistol’s manual to see if this ammunition is safe to use before buying.

The Extreme Defense bullet is all-copper and has a point that’s fluted and looks like a Phillips screwdriver. The minimal front surface area and solid construction give the bullet great hard-barrier penetration abilities, and the flutes act to direct hydraulic pressure in such a way that it causes a wound cavity like that produced by a hollow point. At such high velocities, it’s certain to be effective.

Winchester USA Ready Defense 124-grain +P

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Why It Made the Cut

Winchester’s USA Ready Defense is a great option for 9mm ammo for self-defense. It feeds and cycles reliably, and has a Hex-Vent insert to prevent clogging of the hollow point and aid expansion.

Key Features

  • 124-grain hollow point with notched jacket
  • Hex-Vent insert prevents clogging and drives uniform expansion
  • +P pressure rating
  • Velocity: 1200 fps
  • $22.49 per 20 rounds

Pros

  • Nickel-plated cases cycle well
  • Insert helps drive uniform expansion
  • Rounded hollow point edges don’t deform as easily as other bullets
  • Great velocity for 124-grain loads

Cons

  • +P is not safe for some 9mm pistols

Product Description

Winchester’s USA Ready Defense rounds feature a nickel-plated case and a wide-opening hollow point bullet. The jacket is folded over the edge of the hollow point and notched at the very top. These bullets are more resistant to deformation than others if dropped by accident. The most characterizing feature is the Hex-Vent insert in the hollow point cavity itself.

The cavity of the hollow point is deep and filled with the polymer insert that features six radial slots. The purpose of this insert is to prevent clogging of the cavity itself when penetrating barriers, but also to drive dramatic expansion. This 9mm ammo’s +P pressure rating means it might not be safe to fire in all pistols, but it delivers best-in-class velocities for 124-grain bullets. If it’s safe for your pistol, this is a great option for 9mm ammo for self defense.

Speer Personal Protection +P 124-grain Gold Dot JHP

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Why It Made the Cut

Speer’s Gold Dot hollow point is one of the standard-setters when it comes to optimal defensive performance. In the 124-grain +P 9mm ammo, it’s a stellar option for your carry gun.

Key Features

  • 124-grain Gold Dot hollow point
  • Uni-Cor bonding for weight retention
  • Nickel-plated cases
  • Velocity: 1220 fps
  • $31.99 per 20 rounds

Pros

  • Nickel-plated cases
  • Excellent expansion and weight retention
  • Optimal penetration for defensive bullets
  • excellent velocity for 124-grain loads

Cons

  • +P is not safe for some 9mm pistols

Product Description

Speer’s Gold Dot hollow point bullet is one of the best defensive 9mm bullets on the market, and their 124-grain +P 9mm ammo is an excellent choice for self-defense. It features the Gold Dot bullet that has a pressure-formed core, Uni-Cor bonding, and a notched jacket. The bullets expand dramatically and uniformly, optimizing penetration and wound cavity.

Speer’s on-the-box slogan is that Gold Dot is the number one choice of law enforcement, and while we can’t verify that, we can verify that the bullets are accurate and effective, and the ammunition runs beautifully in every gun I’ve put it through. The +P pressures give it a step up in velocity from standard 9mm ammo for self-defense, and it’s an excellent choice for your carry gun.

Remington 147-grain Golden Saber Bonded JHP

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Why It Made the Cut

Remington’s Golden Saber jacketed hollow points have been on the market forever, and under new ownership, Remington is still rolling them out. They expand dramatically and give optimal penetration for 9mm self-defense ammo.

Key Features

  • 147-grain brass-jacketed hollow point
  • Jacket “hot-bonded” to core
  • Smaller nose diameter than original Golden Saber
  • Velocity: 990 fps
  • $28.99 per 20 rounds

Pros

  • Dramatic expansion
  • Good weight retention
  • Great for suppressors
  • Smaller-diameter nose feeds well

Cons

  • Heavier recoil than loads with lighter bullets

Product Description

Among long-standing choices of 9mm ammo for self-defense, the Remington Golden Saber has held its own. After their bankruptcy debacle, Remington Ammunition is back in business under the ownership of Vista Outdoors and is cranking out quality ammo. The Golden Saber is an excellent 9mm round for self-defense. It is characterized by its brass-jacketed hollow point bullet with spiral-angled notches in the jacket at the point. When expanded, the brass jacket petals peel back, and the core flattens, maintaining most of its weight.

The 147-grain Golden Saber 9mm ammo is subsonic, and excellent for using with a suppressor. The bullet is designed to expand rapidly at low velocities and has a bonded jacket and core to maintain weight and penetrate between 12 and 18 inches.

Sig-Sauer Elite 124-grain V-Crown JHP

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Why It Made the Cut

Sig-Sauer’s V-Crown jacketed hollow point load is made with quality components and an ultra-uniformly expanding bullet that’s optimized for self defense

Key Features

  • 124-grain V-Crown jacketed hollow point
  • Deep star-shaped hollow point cavity
  • Low-flash propellant
  • Velocity: 1165 fps
  • $15.99 per 20 rounds

Pros

  • Dramatic uniform expansion
  • Good velocity
  • Optimal penetration for self defense
  • Nickel-plated cases

Cons

  • Edges of hollow point can be deformed if dropped

Product Description

Neck and neck with the Federal Premium HST, the Sig-Sauer V-Crown hollow point is one of the most uniformly expanding 9mm rounds for self-defense on the market. The open jacketed hollow point has a deep cavity with a six-pointed star-shaped cavity that goes even deeper into the core. The points align with notches on the jacket, and combined, they drive consistent, flower-shaped expansion.

This 9mm ammo uses low-flash powder, and quality components, including nickel-plated cases. It’s right up there with all the best 9mm rounds for self-defense in velocity, terminal performance, and functionality.

9mm Ammo for Practice

Federal Premium 124-grain Training Match Syntech

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Why It Made the Cut

This practice ammo from Federal Premium matches the ballistics and feel of the 124-grain HST 9mm ammo for self-defense. The total synthetic jacket reduces bore fouling and gives minimal splash back on hard targets.

Key Features

  • 124-grain flat point total synthetic jacket bullet
  • Matches 124-grain HST ballistics and point of impact
  • Brass case
  • Velocity: 1150 fps
  • $32.49 per 50 rounds

Pros

  • Can be used as a direct practice substitute for carry ammo
  • Minimal fouling
  • Minimal splash on steel targets
  • Recognizable by color

Cons

  • Only ideal for practice and competition

Product Description

Since 9mm ammo for self-defense is typically expensive, shooters generally use cheaper, non-expanding practice ammo. This 124-grain 9mm ammo from Federal is designed to mimic the ballistics and feel of the 124-grain HST self-defense load. It has a flat-pointed lead bullet with a total synthetic jacket. This reduces cost and gilded metal fouling in your bore—and prevents the lead fouling that you’d see with simple cast bullets.

The synthetic coating of this 9mm ammo is purple and instantly recognizable. It’s an accurate option for competitive shooters and functions well in both pistols and PCC’s. Frankly, it’s a great practice substitute for any 124-grain 9mm self-defense ammo that you might carry.

CCI Blazer Brass 124-grain FMJ

CCI Blazer Brass 124-grain FMJ

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Why It Made the Cut

Blazer Brass is one of the most available and affordable options for 9mm practice ammo. It’s got reloadable brass, and in 124-grains, is a great practice substitute for defensive loads.

Key Features

  • 124-grain full metal jacket bullet
  • Boxer-primed
  • Brass case
  • Velocity: 1090 fps
  • $24.49 per 50 rounds

Pros

  • Great plinking ammo
  • Good practice substitute for 124-grain defensive ammo
  • Good for vintage military 9mm pistols
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Only ideal for practice

Product Description

CCI’s Blazer Brass is an affordable practice ammo that features reloadable brass cases (as opposed to the aluminum cases of the standard Blazer ammo). It’s a simple 124-grain full metal jacket bullet that’s about 60-70 fps slower than your average 124-grain 9mm ammo for self-defense, which average around 1150-1160 fps.

Despite being a bit slower, this 9mm ammo is a great practice substitute for your 124-grain carry ammo, or enjoyable purely as plinking and fun fodder. I’ve found it to function well in vintage 9mm military pistols like the Radom VIS 35 that were designed for 124-grain ball ammo.

Winchester 147-grain FMJ

Winchester 147-grain FMJ

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Why It Made the Cut

Winchester’s 147-grain FMJ target load is subsonic and excellent for mimicking 147-grain self defense 9mm ammo or shooting through a suppressor for fun.

Key Features

  • 147-grain full metal jacket bullet
  • Brass case
  • Velocity: 990 fps
  • $39.99 per 50 rounds

Pros

  • Great plinking ammo
  • Good practice substitute for 147-grain defensive ammo
  • Great for suppressors

Cons

  • Only ideal for practice

Product Description

Winchester’s white-box 147-grain full metal jacket load is good 9mm ammo for practice and plinking. It’s simple and affordable, and the 990 fps velocity closely mimics loads like the Remington Golden Saber and Nosler ASP 147-grain. If those loads are what you like to use for 9mm self-defense ammo, this load is a good option for practice. The simple FMJ bullet is seated in a brass Winchester case with standard Winchester WSP primer.

This 147-grain 9mm ammo is also subsonic and is very quiet in suppressors on both pistols and PCC’s.

Remington UMC 115-grain FMJ

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Why It Made the Cut

Winchester’s 147-grain FMJ target load is subsonic and excellent for mimicking 147-grain self-defense 9mm ammo or shooting through a suppressor for fun.

Key Features

  • 115-grain full metal jacket bullet
  • Brass case
  • Velocity: 1145 fps
  • $20.49 per 50 rounds

Pros

  • Good for plinking
  • Low recoil
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Not ideal for self-defense

Product Description

Remington’s UMC handgun ammo is back in production along with their premium self-defense ammo. The UMC 115-grain full metal jacket is some of the best 9mm practice ammo you can get. It’s affordable, reloadable, and light recoiling.

Read Next: Springfield Armory Echelon: Tested and Reviewed

The 115-grain bullet has a velocity of 1145 fps and would likely be close enough to mimic many 124-grain 9mm rounds for self-defense—close enough for practice anyway. Whether you’re doing some serious training or just going to the range to have fun, this is some of the best 9mm ammo for practice and plinking.

FAQs

Q: How much is 9mm ammo?

The cost of 9mm ammo varies depending on what the ammunition is for. Simple practice ammo is usually around 50 cents per round these days, and premium 9mm ammo for self-defense can cost up to 2 dollars per round.

Q: What is the best 9mm ammo?

That all depends on what your application is. If it’s 9mm ammo for self-defense, you usually want expanding bullets that are designed to get 12- to 18-inches of penetration. If you’re just practicing, the best 9mm ammo is simple full metal jacket. If you’re looking for ammo for the backcountry, pick a hard cast or solid 147-grain bullet that’d designed for penetration.

Q: Who makes the best 9mm ammo?

Many companies make great-quality 9mm ammo, what’s best will be determined by your personal needs.

Q: What is the best self-defense 9mm ammo?

The best 9mm ammo for self defense is a tough (or impossible) pick. Any good jacketed hollow point that expands well, retains weight, and penetrates between 12 and 18 inches is a good choice.

Final Thoughts on the Best 9mm Ammo

If there’s anything for 9mm shooters to rejoice about, it’s that we have lots of great ammo options. Even in the doldrums of an ammo shortage, companies have been pumping out 9mm like crazy. We have more choices (and more effective choices) for 9mm ammo for self-defense than ever before.

Although I have my own preferences, you really can’t go wrong with any option on this list, and there are many more decent loads that didn’t make the cut. The 9mm may be ancient in terms of modern cartridges, but it’s still more popular than ever.

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Tyler Freel

Staff Writer

Tyler Freel is a Staff Writer for Outdoor Life. He lives in Fairbanks, Alaska and has been covering a variety of topics for OL for more than a decade. From backpack sheep hunting adventure stories to DIY tips to gear and gun reviews, he covers it all with a perspective that’s based in experience. Freel is never one to shy away from controversial topics. He’s responsive to readers on OL’s social channels and happy to answer questions, debate opinions, and squash trolls.  

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