When Nikolai Federovich Makarov conceived his pistol, he ignored the
specifications for a 7.62 or 9mm caliber, and built it around a new cartridge, the 9x18
Makarov. Some speculate that the 9x18 Makarov was simply an adaptation of the
German pre-WWII 9mm Ultra. However, there are important differences between the
two. The 9mm Ultra is simply a lengthened version of the tapered 9mm Kurz (.380 ACP)
with a standard 9mm (.356") bullet. The 9x18 Makarov uses a nearly cylindrical case
and 9.2 mm (.363"-.365") bullet. See picture of various
9mm case dimensions.
The result is a cartridge that offers performance nearing the 9mm
Parabellum in a simple blow-back pistol.
The 9x18 Makarov is neither a high accuracy cartridge, nor one with tremendous
knock-down power. It is a medium performance cartridge built for simplicity, reliability,
and adequate stopping power in a service pistol. I do not wish to discourage the reloader,
but a realistic view of the cartridge limitations are advisable.
The initial lack of ammunition for the Makarov pistols discouraged some potential
buyers from buying this firearm. In addition, the Chinese and Eastern European
ammunition that dominated the limited selection typically had the drawback of having
corrosive Berdan primers.
CCI made a limited production run of aluminum-cased (non-reloadable) 9x18
Makarov ammunition with non-corrosive primers. Speer and Hornady began producing
brass-cased hollow-point reloadable cartridges. Cor-Bon added a hollow-point load for
the Makarov to their line-up. Thus, the Makarov became a serious contender for
defensive and concealed-carry applications.
Soon after the domestic ammunition became available, the entrepreneurial
reloading businesses began introducing reloading components and dies to the US market.
Nearly every die manufacturer now makes a set for the 9x18 Makarov. The bullet
selections have increased, and bullet molds are even available for casting your own lead
bullets, including the 9x18M semi-wadcutter bullet (once available exclusively at Makarov.com). One no longer has to trim 9mm Parabellum brass, but can buy newly
manufactured top-quality brass. 9x18 Makarov shooters can now make up for the lack of
diversity in factory loaded ammunition by crafting their own.