Introduced in 1980, the 9x21mm IMI was a creation between the Franco Benvenuti agency of Italy and Israel Military Industries (IMI). Many countries, including Italy and most of the European Union, have banned the use of all military ammunition, such as the 9mm Parabellum. In order to circumvent gun control measures, the collaborative effort to create a substitute ammunition was seen as a good resolution and would allow civilians to own and use a powerful cartridge without fear of repercussions.
IMI managed to devise a cartridge that gave shooters the advantages of 9x19mm ammo without violating existing gun control measures. They made the cartridge two millimeters longer and created a new non-military cartridge. The case is longer, but the bullet seats deeper in the longer case – making the new 9x21mm the same length overall as the 9mm Luger cartridge. The biggest advantage is that firearms already chambered for the 9x19 did not require any major modifications. Instead, a simple swap of the barrel was all that was needed to allow for the different length of the case.
A typical 9x21mm IMI cartridge fires a 115 or 123 grain full metal jacket bullet at a muzzle velocity of 1,100 to 1,200 feet per second, producing similar external ballistics to 9x19mm loads. As it is a rimless round, the 9x21mm is used in USPSA/IPSC competition in Open Class firearms. A rimless case is preferred because, unlike rimmed cartridges, it will not tend to lock together with other rounds in a double-column magazine, resulting in a malfunction. As other .38 Super–based rimless cartridges became available, the 9x21mm decreased in popularity in the United States for competition use, but it is still widely used in the rest of the world.
9x21 ammunition enjoyed another advantage upon its release – the United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA) didn't permit the use of 9mm Luger as a Major Power Factor cartridge, due to the generation of unsafe pressures. The 9x21mm achieved Major Power Factor velocities without the dangerous consequences of the 9mm Luger handguns of the time.
Muzzle energy of 400 foot pounds, muzzle velocity of 1,250 feet per second with a 123 grain FMJ bullet, and a velocity of 1,300 feet per second with a 115 grain bullet is what you can expect from the 9x21mm. But the cartridge lost many U.S. shooters when the .38 Super arrived on the scene, and the USPSA allowed 9x19mm to reach Major Power Factor in open division pistol competitions.
The 9x21 is popular still in Europe – especially among those who shoot competitively. Glock, as well as many other manufacturers, continue to produce handguns in this caliber with no signs of demand dropping in the near future.
- 9x21mm IMI
- 9mm IMI
- Winchester 9x21mm Win (124-gr. Bullet)
According to the official Commission Internationale Permanente pour l'épreuve des armes à feu portatives (C.I.P.) guidelines, the 9x21mm case can handle up to 34,100 pounds per square inch (psi). In C.I.P.-regulated countries, a pistol cartridge combo must be proofed at 130 percent of the maximum C.I.P. pressure to be certified for sale to consumers.
9×21mm IMI Semi-Automatic Pistols
- Beretta 90two
- Beretta 92
- Browning Hi-Power BDA
- Caracal pistol
- CZ 110
- Glock 17
- Glock 19
- Glock 43
- Heckler & Koch VP70
- Tanfoglio Force
- Tanfoglio T95
- Vektor CP1
- Walther P5
- Walther P99
- Walther PPQ
9x21mm IMI Submachine Guns
The 9x21mm Russian cartridge is a modern pistol round, developed in the 1980s under the Soviet Union’s Grach program. The Russian government wanted to design a new military pistol to be put into service in place of the Makarov, which had been in service for over half a century. What resulted was the Yarygin (PYa) pistol, also known as the Grach.
When considering which ammunition should be used in the new pistol, designers decided to try three options. The calibers considered were the 9x18mm Makarov, 9mm Para and 7.62x25mm Tokarev. In the end, the 9mm Para won out. However, in addition to the very hot loaded 7N21 and 7N31 9mm rounds, they created a pistol chambered for a 9x21mm round, also known as the SP-10.
In the mid-1990s, the Russian military adopted the 9x19mm version, but several government agencies adopted the 9x21mm round. Still in production, the Grach SP-10 is becoming a more common round in Russia. Despite the name, the Russian 9x21mm cartridge should not be confused with the less powerful 9x21mm IMI cartridge. The two cannot be interchanged.
The Russian 9x21mm cartridge is best described as a version of a 9x19mm round with much hotter loading. The case is longer than the 9x19mm round to accommodate more propellant, it has a straight rimless case with an extractor groove, and the hotter load results in a longer range, better armor piercing performance, and higher kinetic energy.
Compared to the standard 9x19mm round, the 9x21mm has a longer range, superior lethality and better armor piercing capabilities. The SP-10 armor piercing round can penetrate 30 layers of Kevlar and two 1.6mm titanium plates at a range of 50 meters. The maximum effective range is about 200 meters.
Four versions of the 9x21mm round:
- SP-10: One of the two most common rounds; original armor piercing cartridge with a military designation of 7N29
- SP-11: Second of the two most common rounds; lower cost FMJ cartridge with low ricochet bullet; military designation is 7N28
- SP-12: JHP cartridge with increased effectiveness against unarmored targets
- SP-13: AP cartridge similar to the SP-10 but with a tracer; military designation is 7BTZ
The Gyurza, named after a venomous pit viper, is a Russian semi-automatic pistol. It was introduced in the mid-1990s by Petr Sedyukov as the first firearm developed for the 9x21mm cartridge. Other names for the Gyurza are the SR-1 Vektor, P-9, and SPS. The SR-2 Veresk submachine gun was later developed as a complement to the Gyurza.
Originally the Gyurza was intended to replace the Makarov pistol as the standard issue sidearm for the Russian Army. Not long after it was introduced, the Army opted for guns chambered with standard ammunition. Eventually, the Yarygin pistol was adopted as the standard issue sidearm, but the Gyurza was the option chosen by Russian law enforcement. In 1996, the Gyurza was adopted by The Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB), the successor to the previous the USSR's Committee of State Security (KGB).
The Gyurza is a short recoil operated pistol. Its internal mechanism is based in part on the Beretta M92, with a metal slide and polymer frame. The pistol is rather bulky due to its large-capacity, staggered row magazine. A trigger safety and grip safety are fitted, and the hammer must be in the half-cock position before the weapon will fire. The design has been updated several times over since its inception.
The 18-round, staggered-row magazine is a vast improvement over the limited capacity of the Makarov PM. The effective range is approximately 50 meters, but can hit targets out to 100 meters. The discrepancy is attributed to limited quality sights.
- Good lethality
- Good armor piercing capability
- Good effective range
- Limited availability
- More expensive than 9x19mm ammunition
- High pressure
- Strong recoil
Designed in the 1990s, the GSh-18 is a modern pistol of Russian origin. The gun was designed to replace the Makarov PM, which was the standard issue pistol for the Russian military and law enforcement.
The GSh-18 is a recoil operated pistol with a locked breech. It features a trigger safety and is striker fired. The slide, barrel and internal mechanism are made of steel, with a frame made of polymer. It uses an 18-round, staggered-row magazine.
The GSh-18 fires a 7N31 armor piercing, high-pressure version of the 9x19mm NATO round – common 9x19mm ammunition can also be used. The GSh-18 is a self-loading semi-automatic pistol, and military trials have proven that it is highly reliable.
Although the GSh-18 lost to the PYa as the standard issue sidearm for the Russian military, it is in limited use with various Russian law enforcement or military units.
- Large magazine capacity
- Rugged and reliable
- Very low weight
- Armor piercing ammunition
- Limited quality sights
The SR-2 Verserk
Another Russian firearm chambered for the powerful 9x21mm is the SR-2 Verserk submachine gun. The SR-2 was developed in the early 1990s by The Central Research Institute for Precision Machine Building (TsNIITochMash), a weapons design bureau. It was designed specifically to meet the requirements of the FSB security service. An improved version, the SR-2M, has been in use since the early 2000s.
The SP-10 is an armor piercing cartridge with a steel-core bullet. Designed to penetrate body armor and soft-skin vehicles, the Verserk can penetrate 30 layers of Kevlar and up to a 2.8mm titanium plate at a range of about 140 meters. It can also penetrate a 4mm steel plate at a range of about 70 meters. Other versions of the cartridge are the SP-11 standard ball round, the SP-12 round with an expanding bullet, and the SP-13 armor piercing tracer round.
A design partly based on the SR-3 Vikhr compact assault rifle, the Verserk uses an unusual operation for this class of weaponry. It is a gas-operated firearm with a rotating bolt action typically used in assault rifles. Typical submachine guns use a blowback-operated principle, but this traditional design was abandoned since the powerful round would require a heavy slide – making the weapon much too heavy to carry, particularly by military forces.
This gun has two levers, each placed on different sides of the receiver. One lever is a safety switch, and the second is a fire mode selector. When the safety mechanism is on, the safety lever blocks the trigger and charging handle. Some say that it takes a while to get used to the unusual layout, as it cannot be loaded when the safety is engaged.
Fed from 20- and 30-round capacity magazines, the Verserk is capable of semi-auto and full-auto fire. This is a similar feature previously used on the Uzi submachine gun.
For ease of use, this submachine gun has a collapsible stock. It is equipped with simple iron sights for 100 and 200 meters. It also has a mount for the optical sights.
The SR-2M is an improved version of the SR-2 Verserk. It features a vertical grip that can fold into the foregrip when not in use. Like the HK MP5K, the SR-2M has a protrusion on the foregrip to protect the shooter's hand. Iron sights have only one range setting.
Modern Russian Military Weapons
Serdyukov (SR-1) “Gyurka”
Weapons chambered for the 9x21mm cartridge are relatively new. While many military forces and law enforcement agencies continue to gravitate toward more popular calibers, this round is becoming increasingly popular in many regions, including Russia. In 2016, TsNIITochMash conducted preliminary trials of a new pistol designed for the Russian Defense Ministry. Plans to mass produce the new weapon began to take shape in 2017. The new weapon is the Serdyukov (SR-1) pistol.
For decades, the Makarov has remained the most popular sidearm in the Russian Armed Forces. Special security and military units, as well as select law enforcement agencies, use the 9x18mm caliber Stechkin automatic pistol. TsNIITochMash intends to make the Serdyukov (SR-1) pistol a permanent replacement for the outdated Makarov. Part of the new design includes technical improvements, ergonomic features, and a new arrangement of the safety lock, trigger, and striking mechanism.
The newest development to come from TsNIITochMash is the Udav (Russian for “boa”) pistol. Currently in the pre-release stage, the Udav is based on the Serdyukov SR-1 “Gyurka,” but incorporates several design changes. The trigger guard, frame, and slide have been slightly changed, and the slide serrations are vertical.
The Udav pistol is a hammer-fired DAO semi-automatic pistol. It is chambered for existing loads of 9x21mm Russian ammunition, but can also fire several other calibers – including hotter loads currently in development.
9x21mm IMI Ballistics: Chart of Average 9x21mm IMI Ballistics
Note: This information comes from the manufacturer and is for informational purposes only. The actual ballistics obtained with your firearm can vary considerably from the advertised ballistics. Also, ballistics can vary from lot to lot with the same brand and type load.
|9x21mm IMI Bullet WEIGHT
||Muzzle VELOCITY (fps)
||Muzzle ENERGY (ft. lbs.)
||Mid-Range TRAJECTORY (in.)
||Barrel Length (in.)