Understanding the 9mm Makarov

One of the most fun things about being a gun nut is the number of different 9mm cartridges that are out there, and how confusing keeping them all straight can be. There’s .380 ACP, which is called 9mm Short, 9mm Corto, and 9mm Kurz in some places, obviously 9mm Luger/Parabellum/NATO, 9mm Largo, .38 Super, 9×23, and probably a few more. Today we’re going to talk about another 9mm cartridge: 9mm Makarov, or 9×18 as it is properly known.

The 9×18 has an interesting history; it was developed post WW2 in Russia to be their standard service cartridge, but unlike the West which standardized on the more powerful 9mm NATO round, the Russians specifically wanted a cartridge that could be used in blowback operated guns, because those would be cheaper to manufacture than recoil operated guns. In fact, the 9×18 was based on a cartridge that was designed for the Luftwaffe but never fielded, which itself in turn was based on the 9×17, aka the .380 ACP.

In fact, the .380 ACP and the 9×18 operate at almost identical chamber pressures, the CIP spec for 9×18 is around 20,000 PSI, and the spec for the .380 is 21,500. In an interesting case of parallel development, for quite some time post WW2, the .380 ACP was the standard service pistol cartridge for quite a few European police forces. At the same time, the 9×18 was the standard service cartridge for the entirety of the Soviet state, from their front line military units to their police forces, both secret and public. In fact, the 9×18 round established an impressive one-shot stop ratio when applied directly to the base of a dissident’s skull.

In modern times, the 9×18 is a popular commercial cartridge in the states, due in no small part to a huge influx of cheap Commbloc Makarov pistols following the fall of the Soviet Union. For a while, a decent quality Makarov or pistol that chambered 9×18 could be had for the same price as a Hi-Point, and honestly made a decent little carry gun if you couldn’t afford something better. However, with imported Bulgarian Makarovs pushing $400 these days, it’s not really the cheap and cheerful fun shooter it used to be. That’s too bad, because recently there have been some really interesting developments in 9×18 ammo.

Hornady has started offering their very popular Critical Defense round in 9×18, which immediately makes the 9×18 a viable choice for personal defense. Underwood Ammo, a boutique ammo manufacturer also has a couple different defensive loads for the 9×18, including their Extreme Penetrator and a 95 grain JHP. Additionally, some of the former Russian countries are producing affordable JHP for the 9×18 these days. It’s a shame that most 9×18 guns were designed in the Stone Age and made by communists. If only there was a modern firearm that could handle 9×18

Yes, this is a Glock 42


  1. One point you didn’t mention is bullet diameter 380acp/9mm Luger are both .355 diam. The 9X18MAK is .365. So. 380 will fire in a 9X18MAK chamber, not going to seal well either around the bullet or the case (gas may leak) but it will work. The 9X18MAK should not chamber in either the 380 or 9 Luger. If it does chamber then the chamber is seriously out of spec.

  2. I want a 9×18 barrel for my Glock 17 . i know several people that would be interested in a Makarov barrel for their full size Glock .

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