357 SIG versus 9 mm
In today’s article, we will be discussing the history and comparisons of the 357 SIG versus 9 mm parabellum. In the past 100 years, there has been an influx of innovative, multi-purpose pistol ammunition. The three most common calibers being 9 mm, .40 S&W, and the legendary .45 ACP. Aside from these three calibers, many pistol rounds generally fail to catch on.
This trend isn’t applicable to all types of weapons, for example, the market for new and improved rifle rounds is an ever-growing market; handguns are an entirely different story. There’s a method to the madness, adoption of a certain caliber by law enforcement is almost a guarantee of measurable success. Be that as it may, many exotic pistol rounds have lineage to one of the big three calibers. For example, The .357 Sig stems from the .40 S&W, a direct competitor to the world renowned 9mm.
The 9mm Parabellum
The 9mm Parabellum, also known as the 9x19mm NATO, was designed by German weapon manufacture Georg Luger in 1902. The 9mm Parabellum was first adopted for use in the Luger semi-automatic handgun by the Deutsche Waffen und Munitionsfabriken. The 9mm design is based off Lugers earlier 7.62x21mm Parabellum round, used in the Borchardt C-93 handgun.
By 1898, the German Imperial Army demanded a more power round for the standard Luger sidearm, so by 1902, the new 9x19mm parabellum was introduced for field testing. In 1903, Luger submitted the revolutionary round to various western powers, including the U.S. Army and various British small arms companies. The stronger, heavier hitting .45 ACP was selected over the smaller 9mm in the west, but by 1904, Luger had contracts supplying the Imperial German Navy with the new round, as well as the Imperial German Army in 1908.
By the time World War I reached the global scale, the general acceptance of the 9mm in both handguns and submachine guns by both military and law enforcement has spread. This popularity hasn’t died down over the past century, due to the reliability and the option of high capacity magazines.
Now, the 9mm is the most popular and widely used handgun calibers, which can be purchased wherever handgun ammo can be bought.
In the early 1980’s, the U.S. military adopted the Beretta M9 as the standard issue side arm across the armed forces, apart from the U.S. Navy, which adopted the Sig Sauer P226, which just so happened to be chambered in 9mm as well. Historically, whenever the military adopts new equipment, law enforcement is never too far behind.
Most law enforcement agencies issued .38 special side arms to officers, but the 9mm proved to have the superior ballistic coefficient. By 1985, .38 Special revolvers were phased out in favor of 9mm semi-automatic handguns. In 2017, statistics show the 9mm makes up for 22% of the global ammunition production.
The .357 SIG
In 1994, Swiss weapon manufacturer Sig Sauer, in collaboration with U.S. based ammunition manufacturer Federal Ammunition, caught the attention of handgun aficionados when they introduced one of the first bottlenecked magnum cartridges fired a 9mm round, the .357 SIG (9x22mm).
To illustrate the overall purpose and highlight the intention of this round, SIG named this new round after the .357 magnum, which the .357 SIG was designed to perform at similar muzzle velocities due to identical 125 grain loads. The edge for the .357 SIG over the standard .357 magnum is the former is designed to be fired from a semi-automatic handgun, which have higher magazine capacities than the wheel of a revolver in the former.
Although the .357 SIG borrowed its name from a revolver round, believe it or not, its origins stem from an entirely different cartridge all together, the American designed 10mm Auto pistol cartridge. The 10mm laid its claim to fame in 1983, christened and designed by legendary firearms expert Lt. Colonel Jeff Cooper, who endorsed it as the .40 Super round. The 10mm external ballistics exceeded both the 9x19mm Parabellum in stopping power and a much flatter ballistic trajectory than the .45 ACP.
After the 1986 Miami shootout, which resulted in the deaths of FBI Agents Benjamin Grogan and Jerry Dove, the FBI realized their agents, who were equipped with 9mm handguns, were almost always outgunned in armed encounters. To heed this call, the FBI began testing the more powerful 10mm auto in 1989. Although the 10mm auto has a superior ballistic coefficient, the recoil proved to be too much for federal law enforcement officers, so the 10mm was out.
When SIG began development of the .357 SIG, the 10mm auto was selected and chopped down and bottle necked to fit a 9mm round, resulting in an incredibly powerful, high velocity round with a magnum load coupled with a small bullet.
Ballistic Comparisons of the 357 SIG versus 9 mm
Before we compare these two popular pistol rounds, keep in mind, we are comparing a larger, magnum round against a smaller round with an extremely high muzzle velocity. Both have established reputations amongst hundreds of law enforcement agencies and militaries worldwide.
The 9mm has a century of research to back it up, especially since the 1970’s when 9mm +P rounds, which took a 125-grain load and swapped it for a 147-grain load, were introduced to the market. Since then, various ammunition manufacturers have been producing faster, heavier hitting 9mm rounds that have muzzle velocities on par with several assault rifle rounds.
Every single big box weapon company, like Glock, SIG, FN, Beretta, and Smith & Wesson all have dozens of weapons designed to chamber the 9mm, most of which are trusted by millions of police officers and soldiers worldwide. You can’t argue the 9mm has withstood the test of time and has proven to be one of the most influential rounds in modern history.
The .357 SIG is a much younger pistol round with an unorthodox design. Modifying the 10mm auto to accommodate the same bullet weight as the 9x19mm but substantially increasing the stopping power is ingenuous in its own right. Another plus for the .357 SIG is the physical design of the cartridge. The diameter of the bullet is much smaller than the cartridge so weapon malfunctions due to feeding issues are substantially less than standard handgun rounds.
Both the 9mm Parabellum and the .357 SIG have similar attributes, and significant differences. Various field tests have resulted in a wealth of ballistic data for both rounds. The average muzzle velocity of the 125-grain 9x19mm is around 1,100 fps, the 125-grain .357 SIG averages around 1,350 fps.
At same bullet weight, the .357 triumphs with a greater muzzle velocity of 250 fps. On the flipside, field tests of weapons chambered in .357 SIG have shown greater wear and tear, significantly decreasing the lifespan and reliability of the weapons. Similar tests conducted on the 9mm have shown unwavering reliability with much longer lifespans of 250,000 rounds, compared to 100,000 with the .357 SIG, so reliability and shelf life goes to the 9mm.
Taking these factors into consideration, .357 SIG has proven to be a much more powerful cartridge, sacrificing the structural integrity of the weapon, while the 9mm has continued to be modified, tested, and chosen by warriors all over the world. This is an extremely subjective matter to discuss, it’s apples to oranges. Both rounds will stop whatever you’re shooting at.
Before choosing a pistol round, make sure to handle and test various weapons chambered in both calibers. The 9mm has a greater magazine capacity, less recoil, and are much cheaper. The .357 SIG has a lot of recoil in a small package, tends to be much harder on weapons than its counterpart, and will require hours upon hours of acclamation and practice to master.
In my years of police work, I carried a Glock 17 chambered in 9mm parabellum. My duty round of choice was the 124-grain Speer Gold Dot 9mm +P hollow point, which screamed out of the barrel with a blistering muzzle velocity of 1220 fps, only 130 fps slower than Speers .357 SIG Gold Dot, so take what kind of round you’ll be firing out of your weapon into consideration as well.
In a world with thousands of similar products available, especially weapons and ammunition manufacturers, marketing has a huge impact on the success of ammunition more so than the actual performance of the rounds in question as well, but this doesn’t diminish the overall performance of the cartridge.
With a simple YouTube search, you’ll be able to find ballistics tests of various calibers and weapons. Review the data, test some guns, once you’ve chosen a weapon, choose your ammunition. You can’t go wrong.
Now that we have all the conclusive factors taken into consideration, let’s talk about some guns, both in 9mm and .357 SIG.
In the last section, I mentioned I carried the Glock 17. When I was in the police academy, The fourth generation of Glock handguns were the newest, latest, and greatest. The majority of cadets I served with opted for the more powerful Gen 4 Glock 22 chambered in .40 S&W. At the range, those same cadets had dozens of failure to feed malfunctions.
With angry firearms instructors chalking these malfunctions to operator error, it was later discovered Gen 4 Glocks had a dual recoil spring that only cycled +P rounds and standard loads would fire but fail to eject, my personal Gen 3 Glock 17 ate 2000 rounds without a single malfunction. To this day, third generation Glocks are still in production and outsell the modern Gen 4 Glocks.
The Glock 17 has a magazine capacity of 17 plus one, which can be expanded to 19 plus one with factory/aftermarket magazine extensions. Speaking of which, there are about a million different accessories for Glock handguns. I had a Streamlight TLR II weapon light, a custom molded rubber Houge grip that slid right over the frame, and Truglo Tritium fiber optic night sights. Quite the package to say the least considering the weapon was still extremely light.
- Safe action trigger internal safety
- High magazine capacity
- One of the most popular handguns in history
- Unwavering reliability
- Countless aftermarket parts and tactical accessories
- Some shooters say the lack of an external safety makes the weapon prone to accidental discharges
- Stock models require gunsmithing to change components
Sig Sauer P229 .357 SIG
Sig Sauer pistols have laid their claim to fame when the U.S. Navy SEALs selected the legendary P226 as their standard issue sidearm. The reliability and performance of Sig handguns has been tested countless times in numerous capacities.
Sig Sauer weapons have just as much notoriety as Glock handguns amongst local, state, and government agencies. For example, the U.S. Marshals and The U.S. Secret Service trust the .357 SIG P229 to protect airlines and politicians since 1994.
The Sig P229, often designated the M11 in military units, has proven to be an extremely reliable weapon in the hands of trained professionals. Sig handguns are unique because in a world of striker fired handguns, the P229 features no safety and relies on a heavy double action trigger pull for the first round, and a much lighter single action trigger pull of follow up rounds.
To safety the weapon, the shooter must decock the hammer with a lever next to the magazine release. Sig are extremely high-quality weapons made in Germany, extremely accurate, and easy weapons to handle.
In my experience shooting the Sig Sauer P229 .357 SIG, the heavier weight of the weapon substantially reduces the recoil, as soon as the trigger breaks and the gun fires, I noticed minimal muzzle flip and my sights were immediately back on target; this is unheard of in weapons chambered in .357 SIG.
The P229 has another awesome feature which I was shocked many shooters weren’t aware of. P229s chambered in .40 S&W and .357 SIG barrels and magazines can be swapped interchangeably to chamber these two rounds.
The relationship between .40 S&W and .357 SIG is extremely similar to the relationship between the 10mm Auto and .357 SIG, the .40 is a byproduct of the 10mm as well. The .357 is a much smaller projectile than the .40 S&W, so the muzzle velocity of the .357 is much faster.
From a combative standpoint, the bore axis is much higher than handguns of this size so it will take some getting use to.
The ergonomics of the weapon are also very different compared to newer weapons, as embarrassing as it is to admit, my thumb positioning on the Sig caused me to release the slide when the weapon was empty, this is a fatal error on my part, so learn from my mistakes and be aware of your hand placement when shooting the P229.
- The weapon of choice for various Special Forces units and government agencies
- The heavy steel frame compensates for the heavy recoil of the .357 SIG
- Extremely accurate and reliable
- P229s chambered in .40 S&W can be modified to chamber .357 SIG, and vice versa. Both are proven, powerful pistol rounds
- Very flat muzzle trajectory compared to different handguns chambered in .357
- The ergonomics of the P229 require modifying the shooters grip to avoid engaging the slide release. Practice, practice, practice
- The P229 has a very thick, heavy frame, making concealed carry without a shoulder holster a chore. Excellent duty weapon though
- Both the handgun and ammunition is very expensive
Thank you for stopping by and reading my review of the 9mm parabellum and the .357 SIG. When comparing similar, yet very different calibers, your two cents will be the best determining factor when choosing what works best for you. I’m a 9mm guy by nature, every time I leave the house, I have a 9mm on my hip.
If you’re an experienced pistol shooter with a big budget, I’d absolutely recommend the .357 SIG for both duty carry, and concealed carry; as long as you practice with the weapon regularly, and have a sturdy, stiff holster to carry it.
The 9mm is a smaller round with more control, the 357 is a whopper of a round with a blast. As always, do your research and have fun. Happy Shooting!