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Reading a 9mm Ammo Box: What Some of the Markings Mean (for Beginners)

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Since 2020, the only thing more impressive than the sheer number of gun sales has been how many first-time gun owners have joined the market.

Doubtless, many of these purchases were on handguns intended for defensive purposes. Following, many of them were probably chambered in 9mm, one of the most common calibers ever developed.

With that said, a whole bunch of new gun owners likely means a whole bunch of people that aren’t that familiar with how to read some of the nuances on a 9mm ammo box.

If that’s the case for you, take some of these into account. All of them are commonly disclosed on manufacturer containers.


Caliber technically refers to the ID (inside diameter) of a gun barrel’s bore, but in this case, it refers to the diameter of a projectile – a bullet.

Diameter is conventionally measured in inches – .22 caliber, then, is.22 inches wide. In the case of 9mm it is given metrically, rather than in inches.


All things considered, cartridge is more important to know than caliber. There are multiple .22 cartridges, and all of them are not interchangeable with all .22 caliber firearms.

In this instance, you’ll want to look for 9mm Luger. The “9mm” qualifier is just the caliber, the Luger designation ensures you’re getting ammunition that’s compatible with the gun.

Never attempt to fire any ammunition from a firearm unless it is the proper cartridge as is usually indicated on the barrel or receiver stamp.


Bonding is the process of chemically or molecularly “attaching” the bullet’s jacket to the bullet’s core.

If a bullet is not properly bonded you run the risk of the jacket shearing away from the core on impact which adversely affects ballistic performance.

FMJ: Full Metal Jacket

FMJ means full metal jacket, which means that a bullet’s core is entirely encased in a metal alloy jacket of a harder material, usually copper.

FMJ bullets are ideal for target practice, for stability over greater ranges, and at any time that maximal penetration is desired.


Wadcutter bullets (which can also have a full jacket), also known as flat nose bullets, have a flat nose, as the name signifies. These punch a nice, clean, round hole in paper targets which makes scoring easier. They’re good for competition.

HP: Hollow Point

Hollow point bullets have a depression in the nose of the bullet that causes the bullet to disrupt (expand) on impact with a soft target. This quality, which maximizes energy transfer and minimizes overpenetration, makes HP bullets a prime choice for defensive applications.

Muzzle Velocity

Muzzle velocity, usually given in FPS (Feet Per Second), refers to how fast the bullet is moving at the muzzle. It can be an indicator both of stopping power and recoil.

Muzzle Energy

Muzzle energy, given in foot-pounds and less frequently in joules (J) refers to how much energy the bullet is carrying at the muzzle. Higher muzzle energy correlates to recoil, and can correlate to stopping power.

Bullet Weight

Indicated in grains, bullet weight is straightforward enough. In its turn, weight impacts recoil, stopping power, muzzle velocity, and trajectory.

Primer: Boxer vs. Berdan

For 9mm ammo, you probably don’t need to know this, but from a high level, you should be aware that boxer-primed casings are easier to reload than Berdan-primed casings.

Buying a 9mm Ammo Box Online

Looking to get some 9mm ammunition online for your new handgun? Most of the markings indicated on the box will also be in the product listing description so you can parse the details.

As far as where to get it, consider a seller like Bucking Horse Outpost. They offer competitive pricing, plus a variety of weekly deals and police trade-in specials.

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