9mm Vs. .38 Super: Which One Is The Superior Round

By all accounts, 9mm Luger is the world’s most popular and widely used cartridge for pistols and submachine guns. Featuring reasonable accuracy as well as moderate recoil, the 9 x19mm round proves to be a solid choice for a wide range of shooting purposes. That being said, various shooters believe that .38 Super outperform 9mm Luger in several regards like power, velocity and so on. As a result, it’s common for different people to arrive at different conclusions while talking about 9mm vs. .38 Super.

So you have a hard time making up your mind on which round to use? If that happens to be the case then you have come to the right place. Down below, you would be introduced to practically everything that firearm enthusiasts must keep in mind regarding 9mm and .38 Super. Compare the following information with your personal preferences in order to make a wise choice.

Overviews Of The Rounds: Summary

Before we actually get to determine the winner in 9mm vs. .38 Super, it’s a good idea to go over the origin of the rounds.

9mm Luger (9 x19mm)


  • Parent Case: 7.65×21mm Parabellum
  • Case Type: Rimless, Tapered
  • Bullet Diameter: 9.01 Millimeters (0.355 Inches)
  • Neck Diameter: 9.65 Millimeters (0.380 Inches)
  • Base Diameter: 9.93 Millimeters (0.391 Inches)

Developed by Georg Luger in the early 20th century, 9mm Luger is used in lots of civilian and military firearms. Being extremely accurate at short distances, the 9 x19mm round performs admirably in defensive shootings as well as police works. After recognizing the superiorly of 9mm Luger over .38 Special, many police departments exchanged their revolvers for some forms of 9mm semiautomatic handguns in the 1980s, Nowadays, ammunition manufacturers offer plenty of load option for the cartridge which enhances its performance.

.38 Super (9 x21mm) 


  • Parent Case: .38 ACP
  • Case Type: Semi-rimmed/rimless, Straight
  • Bullet Diameter: 9.04 Millimeters (0.356 Inches)
  • Neck Diameter: 9.75 Millimeters (0.385 Inches)
  • Base Diameter: 9.75 Millimeters (0.385 Inches)

Devised for sale to law enforcement forces in the 1920s, .38 Super was capable of penetrating body armor and automobiles of the time without much difficulty. Unfortunately, the use of the Colt 9 x21mm cartridge declined after Remington introduced .357 Remington Magnum. On the bright side, a couple of things keep .38 Super from dying out completely: Civilian shooters in countries with “no military calibers” provision, shooting competitions, hardcore enthusiasts and so on.

In-Depth Comparison Of Characteristics


  • Performance

Generally speaking, .38 Super (tend to be labeled as .38 Super +P nowadays after the changes in pressure ratings) flies faster, flatter and hits harder than 9mm. Even if it’s put against 9mm +P, 38 Super +P still comes out on top thanks to its longer case which could accommodate more powder. Therefore, regarding performance, most firearm experts conclude that .38 Super is the one come out on top in 9mm vs. .38 Super. If your top priorities consist of range, trajectory and stopping power then go for .38 Super.

  • Reliability 

Both 9mm and .38 Super have a few minor feeding troubles. In the case of 9mm Luger, as it’s tapered, it tends to hit low on the feeding ramp which might lead to feeding ammunition. On the other hand, the semi-rimmed nature of .38 Super could cause several feeding issues in certain types of magazines. All in all, the feeding reliability of modern-day 9mm and .38 Super remain fairly reasonable for most of the time. Some ammunition manufacturers release special variants of the rounds that skillfully address all feeding concerns.

  • Controllability 

Every shooter agrees that the kickback of the 9mm Ruger round is quite manageable so you don’t have to worry too much about recoil. About .38 Super, as it contains more powder than the 9x19mm round, its kick a bit harder in most cases. Nonetheless, the recoil of the Colt cartridge is still more controllable than .45 ACP so with some training, you could master .38 Super without having much difficulty. Needless to say, the shooting platform also influences controllability so you better pick a gun that suits your shooting style.

  • Price 

Considering the fact that militaries as well as law enforcement forces order 9 x 19mm in large numbers annually, the Luger round comes at affordable prices. You should be able to stock up on 9mm without having to spend a fortune in most of the cases. It’s a different story with .38 Super as while many shooters still shoot it, the round itself see limited uses. As a result, .38 Super often feature pretty experience price tags. Actually, on the market, a box of .38 Super costs more than a box of .45 ACP.

  • Application 

As mentioned above, the 9mm Luger round is one of the most widely used rounds so it’s obvious that people have access to various guns chambered in 9 x 19mm. Major brands including  Glock, Smith & Wesson, Ruger, Beretta, SIG,…. all introduce a couple of 9mm-chambered firearms to the market. In the case of .38 Super, the average shooters don’t exactly have plenty of choices. Nowadays, the Colt round is mostly used by variants of the 1911 platform and tends to be an option in custom shops.

Verdict: Your Gun, Your Call


All things considered, it’s quite difficult to say for certain which round is better in 9mm vs. .38 Super without taking into account individual tastes. In the end, it’s up to you to decide.

If you happen to be a shooter that only desires solid, no-nonsense performance then you should choose the Luger round. The robust characteristics and highly adorable price of the 9 x19mm cartridge shall ensure consistent, worry-free shooting experience. On the other want, if you want something powerful that packs a punch, 38 Super is going to be your best bet.  While the Colt round is slightly expensive, its top-notch ballistics and stopping power would let you take down your targets times and again.

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