If you are looking for 9×18 Makarov ammunition for self-defense, you may have had a hard time finding a load that meets your needs. Unlike the .380 ACP or the 9mm Parabellum (aka Luger or 9×19), the Makarov round does not enjoy a wide range of commercially loaded hollow point ammo.
That does not mean there are no good choices for Makarov self-defense ammo – just fewer choices when compared to more popular cartridges.
As an owner of an East German Makarov pistol, I enjoy shooting and studying these pistols. Finding good self-defense ammo for them has been difficult, but there are several good loads worthy of consideration. The following is a list of personal protection loads that are currently available.
There are a few things to keep in mind about the 9×18 Makarov cartridge when talking about ammo for personal protection. Many of the pistols chambered for the 9×18 Makarov cartridge are surplus guns, are of unknown quality and are simple blowback designs. Some guns may be well made and cared for, while others may have been poorly made and never maintained. So, many manufacturers are careful not to load 9mm Makarov ammo too hot.
When dealing with lower velocity rounds, such as the Makarov cartridge, reliable expansion can be a problem. All other things being equal, a hollowpoint will be more likely to expand the faster it is driven. Many Makarov loads are rated at about 1000 fps, which is a marginal velocity for ensuring expansion with a relatively narrow bullet diameter.
Bullet design can go a long way to improving expansion of a bullet at lower velocity, but considering the Makarov cartridge makes up a relatively small portion of the self-defense market, most top end bullet designs never make their way to the 9×18.
Since some consider bullet expansion an iffy proposition in the 9×18 Makarov ammunition, many people will prefer to carry a FMJ, or ball, round. These non-expanding bullets are normally around 95 grains and have velocities of about 1000 – 1050 fps. They will not expand and produce a wide wound cavity, but they are more likely to penetrate deeply.
Except for one, all of the following loads use hollow point bullets. Some attempt to overcome the expansion problem with higher speeds, while at least one load uses a premium bullet design. It is up to you to determine what will work best for your needs.
In the Silver Bear line, Barnaul offers a 94 grain JHP for the 9×18 Makarov. This self-defense ammo is in a steel case that is plated with zinc, which gives it the appearance of being nickel-plated brass. The load is rated at 1014 fps.
My experiences with Barnaul in the past have been mostly positive. The ammunition tends to be cheaper than many of the alternatives in a caliber. The Silver Bear would not be my first choice for 9×18 Makarov self-defense ammo, but it would probably work.
Buffalo Bore loads two different 9×18 Makarov ammo loads: one is a 95 grain JHP that is rated at 1125 fps, and the other is a 115 grain hard cast flat point. The bullet used in the JHP load appears to be the XTP bullet from Hornady. As one of the only hollow point bullet components widely available for the 9×18 Makarov caliber, several manufacturers use (or have used) the bullet to make self-defense ammo.
The second load is not a hollow point, but is marketed as a self-defense load. It is unusual in this caliber for two main reason: the bullet’s weight and the bullet’s construction. The bullet weighs 115 grains, which is heavy for Makarov loads. Most 9×18 bullets are 90 to 95 grains in weight. The bullets are also hard cast flatpoints, perhaps the only ones being loaded for 9×18 Makarov ammunition.
For the reasons mentioned in the introduction, some people might want to choose a deep penetrating, non-expanding bullet for self-defense. For that precise reason, the hard cast load makes sense. The heavier weight will allow for more reliable, deeper penetration – especially when dealing with heavy clothing. It would not be my first choice for personal protection, but it does make a lot of sense for some people.
The Ammo Test channel on YouTube ran several 9×18 Makarov ammo loads across a chronograph, one of which was the Buffalo Bore JHP load. As you can see in the video below, the Buffalo Bore averaged 1234 fps on four shots from a CZ 82 pistol. This is well above the 1125 fps published by Buffalo Bore. The company’s own testing with a CZ 82 showed a velocity of 1192 fps.
The hard cast load is rated by Buffalo Bore at 1000 fps. I could not find any independent testing, but Buffalo Bore states they obtained 1057 with this load in a CZ 82. In a East German Makarov pistol, Buffalo Bore got 1014 fps.
Corbon offers three loads for the 9×18 Makarov that are suitable for self defense: a 70 grain Pow’RBall, a 75 grain Glaser Blue and a 75 grain Glaser Silver. Corbon previously offered a standard JHP load (using the Hornady XTP bullet if I recall correctly,) but it is no longer offered.
The Pow’RBall load uses a polymer ball in a wide hollowpoint cavity to provide for reliable expansion. Combined with a published velocity of 1250 fps, this lightweight load is said to provide impressive expansion. The downside to this load is that it is a special order only item. That means you have to contact Corbon and get a price for them to start up an assembly line.
The two Glaser loads are in current production and offer similar specifications. Both 9×18 Makarov loads use a 75 grain projectile and are rated at 1150 fps. The difference in the two self-defense loads is in the projectile composition. Both rounds use a compressed core of bird shot that is designed to immediately burst forward into a target on impact. Think of a small, point-blank shotgun blast.
Glaser Blue uses #12 shot, while the Silver version uses #6 shot. Silver will penetrate more deeply that blue.
Two different loads are offered by Hornady Manufacturing for the 9mm Makarov. One uses the same 95 grain XTP bullet that several other manufacturers use in their ammunition offerings. The second is a newer addition to the company’s Critical Defense line of ammo.
The XTP load is rated at 1000 fps, which is much milder than some of the other companies using the same bullet in their loads. Keep in mind, however, that many pistols chambered for the 9×18 Makarov ammo are surplus guns that may not hold up to the higher chamber pressures found in other loads. If you have any doubt about the ability of your pistol to handle the hotter loads, go for a mild load like this one.
The 9×18 Makarov Critical Defense load was introduced in late 2010, and has become a popular choice with many people carrying Makarov and CZ 82 handguns. It uses very popular Hornady FTX bullet, which is a polymer tipped hollowpoint. These rounds have shown very consistent expansion in ballistic gel. They are also rated at 1000 fps and should work fine in all pistols chambered for the 9×18.
A Serbian company, Prvi Partizan has been making ammo for more than 80 years. I’ve found the quality of their ammo to be good, while keeping the ammo reasonably priced.
Prvi Partizan offers one entry for 9mm Makarov self defense ammo, a 95 grain JHP rated at 310 meters/second, which works out to be about 1017 fps. The load uses a brass case and is boxer primed.
Even though the ammunition is made in Serbia, it is commonly available in other areas of the world, including the United States.
I’ve not shot Underwood Ammo products before, so I cannot speak to the quality of their loads. However, checking a number of the forums, the customer service has gotten positive reviews and the published velocities are in the range of what customers are seeing on the range. (Keep in mind that velocity can vary wildly depending on gun, barrel length, etc.)
Underwood Ammo’s 9×18 Makarov load uses a 95 grain Hornady XTP bullet, same as the Hornady XTP load above. Underwood pushes the ammo to 1150 fps making it one of the faster rounds available for the 9mm Makarov, in line with the Buffalo Bore listed above.
On the Mrgunsngear YouTube channel, they tested this load in a CZ 82 pistol. With five shots, this 9×18 load averaged 1198 fps at about seven feet. At nearly 1200 FPS, the Underwood Ammo load pushes the 9×18 Makarov into the realm of serious 9×19 loads.
If you watched the video in the Double Tap section above, you also saw the Underwood Ammo Makarov load fired there. In that test, velocities were around 1240 fps with a CZ 82.
Shooters have a decent selection of 9×18 Makarov ammunition for self-defense. The choices are somewhat limited, but there are several loads that I would feel comfortable relying on in my own Mak. Without doing any additional testing, I would likely carry either the Hornady Critical Defense or the Buffalo Bore hollow-point. The two loads take slightly different approaches to the problem of stopping an attacker, but both are credible.
If there is any question about the strength of your pistol, do not go for the higher velocity loads and stick to the more standard loads. For anyone in this category, I would recommend taking a look at the Critical Defense over the others. Ultimately, find a load that works reliably in your pistol and practice.
If you know of other 9×18 Makarov ammunition loads that are good for self-defense, please list them in the comment section below.