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. Finding the best 9×18 self-defense ammo is still possible. I hope this article makes it easier.
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 at times, 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 cautious about loading 9mm Makarov ammo too hot.
When dealing with lower velocity rounds, such as 9×18 ammo, reliable expansion can be a problem. All other things being equal, a hollowpoint will be more likely to expand the faster it is driven.
Over the years, I have seen that many 9×18 Makarov hollow point ammo loads were rated around 1000 fps, which is a marginal velocity for ensuring expansion with conventional jacketed hollow point bullets.
Bullet design can go a long way to improving the 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 hollow point ammo lines.
Since bullet expansion is an iffy proposition with 9×18 Makarov ammunition, some people prefer to carry an 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 or produce a wide wound cavity, but they are more likely to penetrate deeply and exit the target.
Except for one, all of the following loads use conventional hollow point bullets. Some attempt to overcome the expansion problem with increased velocity, while at least one load uses a premium bullet design. It is up to you to determine what will work best for your needs.
Current Production – 2021
The following loads are being made in 2020 for the 9×18 Makarov load. As new loads become available, I will update this section. Also, if you find any that I have missed, please let us know in the comments section below.
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.
Current production ammunition is rated at 1,099 fps. Previously, the load was rated at 1,014 fps. This is roughly 252 ft-lbs of energy.
The company also offers a 94-grain FMJ load with the same 1,099 fps specification. This could make for a good practice round if it hits at the same point of aim.
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 one 9×18 Makarov hollow point load: a 95-grain JHP that is rated at 1125 fps. The bullet used in the JHP load appears to be the XTP bullet from Hornady. The Hornady XTP bullet is available as a component – not just loaded ammunition – and many manufacturers use, or have used, it to make self-defense ammo.
This Buffalo Bore load is one of two in this list that is rated as +P. Manufacturers typically use +P to identify loads that have increased pressures that exceed the industry standards for a cartridge as published by SAAMI.
SAAMI, or Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturer’s Institute, is an industry organization that adopts standards such as the dimensions of a cartridge. For the 9×18 Makarov, SAAMI identifies 24,100 PSI as the maximum average pressure.
SAAMI does specify pressure limits for some +P loads like the .38 Special and 9mm Luger. However, no +P specification exists for Makarov 9×18 ammunition. This means that the pressure could be slightly higher than published standards or significantly higher.
I urge caution when shooting this ammunition from a surplus gun. Some surplus guns may have weaknesses in them that could cause problems when shot with high-pressure ammo. You have to use your own judgment on running a high-pressure load in your Makarov pistol.
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.
Assuming your pistol can handle the increased pressure, this should be a very effective load.
The company also loads a 115-grain flat nose bullet for the 9×18 Mak round. Using a hardcast lead projectile, the round is also rated as +P. Buffalo Bore provides a velocity of 1,000 fps.
Hornady introduced the 9×18 Makarov Critical Defense load in late 2010, and it has become a popular choice with many people carrying Makarov and CZ 82 handguns. Part of the company’s very popular Critical Defense line, it uses the popular Hornady FTX bullet.
FTX bullets are polymer tipped hollowpoints that are designed to improve expansion as compared to conventional hollow point designs. In other calibers, these rounds have shown very consistent expansion in ballistic gel. FTX stands for “Flex Tip eXpanding.”
According to Hornady, these loads make 1,000 fps at the muzzle and adhere to the SAAMI specifications for pressure. This is the load I have chosen as my 9×18 Makarov self-defense ammunition as I believe it offers the best combination of penetration and expansion from a standard pressure load.
Serbian ammunition company Prvi Partizan has manufactured ammo for more than 80 years. Over the years, I’ve found the quality of their ammo to be good, especially for the reasonable prices they charge.
Prvi Partizan offers one entry for 9mm Makarov self-defense ammo, a conventional 95-grain JHP rated at 310 meters/second, which works out to be about 1,017 fps. You handloaders out there might be interested in knowing that this 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. Pricing is pretty good on this, so it might be the best 9×18 self-defense ammo for the money if pricing is a major concern for you.
Underwood Ammo is a smaller manufacturer that offers a solid copper projectile that is designed to cause wounding similar to a hollow point.
The Underwood load uses the Lehigh Defense Xtreme Penetrator bullet. This is an all copper bullet with a flat nose. Instead of having a hollow point that expands in flesh, the bullet has four flutes on its sides to increase the wounding effect. In gelatin, the flutes seem to work well. I am unaware, however, of any study on the design’s performance in “the real world.”
Since expansion is not needed, the Xtreme Penetrator is able to perform at lower velocities. This round is a standard pressure load with a stated velocity of 1,050 fps.
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 the gun, barrel length, etc.)
Sadly, some good ammunition choices for the Mak are no longer available. These are recorded here in case you find some old stock or would like to approach the manufacturers about restarting production.
Editor’s note: As of December 2015, Corbon no longer lists any loads for the 9×18 cartridge. It appears all of the company’s loads for this caliber have been discontinued. I am not sure when these were dropped, or if Corbon has any intention of introducing new loads now that the company is under new ownership. I will leave the information up for historical purposes and update the page if I obtain new information.
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 birdshot 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. Â Silver will penetrate more deeply that blue.
Editor’s Note: As of 2018, Hornady only offers a single load for the Makarov: the Critical Defense Load listed above. It no longer offers a 9×18 load with its XTP bullet.
At one time, Hornady offered two different loads for the 9mm Makarov. Now it only offers the Critical Defense load discussed in the section above.
The discontinued load used a 95-grain XTP bullet designed in-house during the 1990s. This is the same bullet that several other manufacturers use in their ammunition offerings.
The XTP load was rated at 1000 fps, which was much milder than some of the other loadings manufactured by other company’s using the same bullet. 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, a mild load like this one is probably your safest bet.
The Hornady Custom load with the XTP bullet was the first defensive ammo I purchased for my own Makarov.
Shooters have a decent selection of 9×18 Makarov ammunition for self-defense. The choices are limited when compared to the 9mm Luger, but there is one load that I would feel comfortable relying on in my own Mak: the Hornady Critical Defense. If the Critical Defense was not available to me, I would also consider the Buffalo Bore JHP load even though it has increased pressures.
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 again recommend taking a look at the Critical Defense over the others.
If you know of other 9×18 Makarov ammunition loads that are designed for self-defense, please list them in the comment section below.
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Last update: June 7, 2021