Designed by B.V. Semin in 1948, the 9x18 Makarov cartridge was adopted by the Soviet Union in 1951 for the Makarov PM pistol – a replacement for the TT-33 pistol – and was designed to meet certain requirements. First, it needed to function well in a blowback pistol. Second, it needed to be distinct from NATO ammunition, so that Warsaw Pact ammo could not be used by NATO forces against them.
The 9x18 was eventually chambered for many different firearms. More popular models include the CZ vz. 82, the Skorpion vz. 82, and the Stechkin APS. Still used by many countries of the former Warsaw Pact, this cartridge has only recently been replaced after more than 60 years of Russian military service. The 9x18 Makarov ammunition made for the military is designed as anti-personnel, though some cartridges have been made to penetrate light body armor or unarmored vehicles. Other cartridges are meant to be used in a firearm with a silencer.
Using bullets weighing from 93 to 115 grains in full metal jacket and hollow point configurations, the 9x18 Makarov muzzle velocity ranges between 820 and 1,300 feet per second. Resulting muzzle energies vary between 115 and 300 foot pounds. As for accuracy, 9x18 Makarov ammo is able to maintain one-inch groups at 25 yards. And though lacking the power of the 9mm Luger, the cartridge is respectable.
While there are a few dedicated fans, the 9x18 Makarov never really caught on. Collectors of military firearms, especially those with firearms from Warsaw Pact countries, feel their collection is incomplete if it doesn't have at least one firearm chambered in this caliber.
The 9x18 Makarov is an interesting cartridge, one that will probably endure until powder and bullets give way to laser guns. It's not a powerful round that can be used to hunt big game, nor is it an ultra-reliable round that expands well without over-penetration, which is ideal in personal protection situations. It is, however, a fun-to-shoot cartridge with mild recoil and enough accuracy to meet the needs of your average pistol owner.