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FBI Going Back to 9mm Ammunition

November 02, 2015  | 

The FBI has selected 147-grain Speer Gold Dot G2 in 9mm as its next duty ammo. (Photo: Speer) 
The FBI has selected 147-grain Speer Gold Dot G2 in 9mm as its next duty ammo. (Photo: Speer) 

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is returning to the ammunition caliber it labeled ineffective and blamed for the deaths of two of its agents during a 1986 shootout in Miami — the 9mm jacketed hollow-point luger.

In addition to the new bullet, the FBI has decided to purchase a new pistol to fire it, something that could be in the hands of the FBI’s approximately 13,000 agents by 2016, according to bureau officials. The FBI has not identified the pistol. The decision could also have far-ranging implications for local law enforcement agencies because they often model their procurement decisions on those made by the FBI, the Washington Post reports.

The bureau dumped the 9mm bullet after the Miami incident because it failed to penetrate far enough into the gunman’s torso.

In response, the FBI fielded a new pistol round, one they hoped would have better penetration: the 10mm. In the following years, the 10mm was ditched in favor of the .40 S&W, a stubbier round that could fit into pistols designed for small calibers.

According to FBI Special Agent Ray Cook, the current unit chief of the FBI’s Defensive Systems Unit, the bureau, which continuously tests various types of ammunition, began considering a return to the 9mm round in 2007 in part because of advances in ballistic technology.

The new 9mm round —the 147-grain Speer Gold Dot G2 — is significantly more effective than what FBI agents carried into the field in 1986. According to Cook, the bullet has been rigorously tested and has received high marks in the FBI’s most important category for bullet selection: penetration.

Cook says that the lighter the bullet, the faster the gun can “drive” the round into the target. For the FBI, that translates into 12 to 18 inches of penetration into the human body. The 9mm’s weight, Cook added, also increases an agent’s accuracy in a gunfight, according to the findings of a 2014 FBI report that was leaked online last year.

Comments (45)

Displaying 1 - 45 of 45

Chuck @ 11/2/2015 4:51 PM

I think this is a bad move by the fbi.
While the 9mm has come a long way it's still interior to the .40 and especially the 10mm.
The 9mm will likely save the fbi a bunch of money on the ammo budget which I suspect is the main agenda here.....

[email protected] @ 11/2/2015 4:53 PM

Wonderful. Love the explanation, lighter bullet, faster the gun can "drive" the bullet into the target. And it will increase the agents accuracy in a gun fight. How about teaching them to shoot first? I'll stick with my .45ACP thank you. Blues, Stay Safe.

Doug Wolfe @ 11/2/2015 5:21 PM

It is a little misleading to say the FBI is returning to ammo it once considered ineffective without reporting that most of the agents at the Miami shootout were armed with .38/.357 caliber revolvers, not 9mm. I was an agent when this event occurred. The Bureau was very slowly transitioning to semi-automatics, starting with SWAT teams. Jerry Dove, a SWAT team member had a 9mm in that infamous shootout. Unfortunately he lost his life. One agent had a shotgun which he ultimately used to good effect. Ammunition was not the sole factor in the deaths of Dove and Ben Grogan. The 9mm ammo of today is superior to 1986 ammo. The bad guys in that shootout were determined to die a violent death.

Gerald @ 11/3/2015 1:17 AM

When will we know what brand of weapon they will choose? SIG, SMITH&WESSON, GLOCK ETC

Danny @ 11/3/2015 3:40 AM

What happened to the Hornaday Critical Duty being the only Bullet to pass the 6 criteria by the FBI ????

Dan Rullo @ 11/3/2015 5:28 AM

Doug, thank you for providing historical accuracy to this discussion. There has been much misinformation about this incident and instructors all over the country continue to spread it. I'm an instructor in PA and our entire team (consisting of active federal/local law enforcement, marines, and close protection operators) all carry 9mm exclusively because it is a highly effective round today. The secondary wound cavity characteristics due to a good weight/velocity balance make it an intelligent choice for most handgun applications.

Gerald, the FBI has effectively already "selected" the Sig P320. They have released an RFP with specifications written directly to that gun. It's an unfair and some would argue illegal use of the RFP pre-contract system, but it's extremely common in all areas of government. I see it every day in the gov. computer technology world as well. They pick a product (often based on garbage data), then pretend to conduct a fair market bidding process.

UncleMike @ 11/3/2015 5:53 AM

The FBI, like all Federal agencies, has the overriding mandate to spend as much of our Taxpayer dollars as possible on the most worthless causes they can find.
The .40 S&W is a quantum leap ahead of the puny underpowered 9 MM.
All of the BS in the world will not make the 9 mm an effective self defense round.
If the FBI agents can't control the recoil of a .40 S&W weapon they need to start hiring men and women who are weapon savvy and not just desk drivers with a Federal ID.

S.S. @ 11/3/2015 5:54 AM

Thanx but no thanx. I wll stick to my GLOCK 21, 45 cal.

carter @ 11/3/2015 8:13 AM

There's something to be said about the round when a backup can be carried on a vest with only a couple spare mags, which give a person almost a hundred rounds on tap. The Military saw the importance of lighter ammo and high round count in Vietnam. All things considered, even the girls will shoot this well.

Doug Wolfe @ 11/3/2015 12:11 PM

Another recent article on the FBI return to 9mm reported the Glock .40 pistols basically wore out faster than the Glock 9mm, resulting in more money spent on replacement guns. It may be true but if that article was correct then, in my opinion, that is not a great reason to change calibers. Unfortunately in 30 years of federal service I saw plenty of expensive decisions based on the decision maker's personal preference than on objective data.
As an aside, in one my agencies we carried a mix of Glocks, Sigs, and a handful of other makes until a pinhead in HQ said we all had to carry the same weapon so if someone ran out of ammo another agent could share. I responded that if he ran out of bullets and had not killed anything he wasn't getting any of mine. Can't understand why I did not get promoted any more.

tpd223 @ 11/3/2015 1:54 PM

Who's idea was it to post an "article" so full of half assed information, partial truths, and BS?

The science behind the move towards the 9mm as a service cartridge is solid, and has been well established over the past three plus decades.

S.W. @ 11/3/2015 7:20 PM

I have carried a 9mm as my duty weapon for 2 years. I switched because our department only supplied Glock 22. I was issued a Glock 23 before and did well with it. I have always done better with my Sig 229 Elite. Less recoil and faster time back on target for a second shot were my reasoning. I believe that technology for ammo has changed and made the 9mm a better round.

George @ 11/4/2015 12:11 AM

The FBI is not the final say on forearms. Someone is pushing this to make a huge profit or under the table money. I will stay with the Glock 21 .45 cal. I handle it accurately. If FBI agents can't handle the .40 cal, they need to get out of the business.

Gerald @ 11/4/2015 4:32 AM

Our Range Director has always said placement of your rounds is the most important thing that you could do. Whatever the round, if you can place all of your shots center mass you have gotton a 100% effective rate. 9mm, 40 caliber, would do what is needed to stop the threat.

tpd223 @ 11/4/2015 7:01 AM

This is a very poorly written story by the reporter, I have no idea why Police magazine would want to reprint such an article.

The Concerned Citizen @ 11/4/2015 8:08 AM

Its the FBI. Too many politics dictate their "recommendation" to use them as a barometer for ANYTHING.

I'm a big proponent of the 9mm. More rounds. Less recoil. Better chance and more chances of good shot placement. Enough "knockdown" if you do it right. However, calibers are like lawnmowers: the size and terrain of the target dictate what you need and not the FBI. Definitely not the FBI!

The problem is most never become expert enough in the use of a weapon to make decent choices. Instead they listen to politically motivated banter as to what to use. Thats a really bad idea especially when it involves something that when you need it you will need it to keep you alive.

Take the responsibility for your own life. Don't leave it to the FBI.

Tschako @ 11/4/2015 3:25 PM

Why is it not mentioned that, while the 9mm round has improved, so have other calibers. Therefore, the .40 S and W round has improved also. If it is a better round than it was before, why not stay with it? There must be hidden reasons here. And nothing but lots of practice and a proper mindset will make anyone more accurate in a shootout.

UncleMike @ 11/5/2015 8:46 AM

As I stated earlier, if there are Tax Dollars to spend, the bureaucrats will find a useless program, that will assuredly line some Politicians pockets.
Switching back to the 9 mm will also give the Feds an excuse to buy up millions of 9 mm rounds to make them as scarce as the other calibers that the Feds have already bought by the millions and made twice as expensive for Citizens to purchase.
The following post is spot on.
Tschako @ 11/4/2015 3:25 PM

Why is it not mentioned that, while the 9mm round has improved, so have other calibers. Therefore, the .40 S and W round has improved also. If it is a better round than it was before, why not stay with it? There must be hidden reasons here. And nothing but lots of practice and a proper mindset will make anyone more accurate in a shootout.

tom @ 11/6/2015 1:27 PM

When the "Dixie Highway" incident took place, I was a working cop and MI certified Firearms Instructor. I had the opportunity to view the law enforcement video that the Michigan State Police did on the incident. It was an excellent training video and well done. Actually the TV movie done a few years later was more accurate than I would have thought. When this happened the problem was not the gun, the ammo, or the caliber. The problem was, from the start of the stop, tactics. The way that Grogan and Dove rear ended the car was a poor decision. Grogan lost his glasses, that took him out of the fight right away. Then the lack of a rifle for the agents, was what caused so much more harm. 2 agents dead, 5 more wounded, and only one not hurt. Thank God for Agent Mirales and his use of a 12 gauge, his .38, and his tactics. When the fight ended he was at point blank range and ready to pass out from blood loss. Good tactics will save more police lives than anything else.

bsmith @ 11/7/2015 9:15 PM

That statement "lighter and faster bullet driving deeper into the target" is not accurate. Heavier, slower bullets seem to penetrate further than faster and lighter. However, faster and lighter usually equate to more expansion. But it's all moot if you have a pistol and can't hit your target and the bad guys have semiauto rifles firing at you.

Ken @ 11/8/2015 3:27 PM

Same thing happened at a PD where I worked. Dumped the 40 because the 9mm was "easier" to handle, less recoil, (also helpe the PD's team win a local L.E. gun shoot). Let's not do the common sense thing and send those officers to the range for additional training that can't handle a 40 or 45. Of course I prefer the 45, (my choice Sig P220). As I have read numerous times in gun magazines "the bigger the hole, the more hot blood comes out and the more cold air goes in".

kjatexas @ 11/9/2015 9:09 AM

9mm ammo is much better now, than back in the days of that infamous Miami gun fight. That said, so is .40 S&W and .45 ACP.

Hendrik @ 11/25/2015 7:58 PM

I am not in enforcement, but have shot around a hundred deer, and witnessed 1300 caribou shot during collection programs in the NWT Canada.
Cartridge choice should match the game. Bullet needs to penetrate and expand adequately to produce a good wound channel.
However for dropping an animal immediately or killing it fast, it is shot placement, placement and more placement. A whitetail shot in the guts with a .338, .375 will still run a long way and can be hard to recover. A lung or heart shot with a .270 will make it run for 10-75 yards before dropping. A spinal or headshot will drop it like right now, as will a shot breaking both shoulders.
Bottom line, a good performing bullet from an adequate caliber in the right place.
Within reason differences in caliber are not that important.
Meaning whether you shoot a deer with a .243,270, 308, 3006, 300 Winmag, 280, 6.5 mm etc is a moot point.
Might be the same with handgun cartridges used on people.

Manny Oliva @ 1/3/2016 9:45 AM

First off, the reason went back to the 9mm, is became a large number of their agents can't handle recoiling guns. Most of the guns in high cap mags pistols, the grip is too large for most of the men and women to grip properly. The FBI dropped the ball when they dropped the 10mm round as their duty round, settled for the SW 40. I worked in Law Enforcement for 30 yrs, US Army for seven yrs, don't get me wrong the nine mill is a great round, the forty too and the great 45acp, which to me that should have been the caliber the FBI should have stayed with. Their special units still carry Custom made 45 pistols??? And about the the lower cost for the 9mm in their budget, that's BS. Remember the FBI gets what ever they want. Remember when they switched over from the MP5 in 9mm to the new MP5 in 10mm. They spend thousands for that change and what happened, it failed, why? Becauseinstead of using the full powered 10mm rounds, the bought a reduce loaded 40 load in a 10mm casin, total failure.

DW @ 1/8/2016 8:11 AM

I just looked at a box of the Speer G2 Gold Dot. You can not tell from the picture above, but there is a layer of tacky clear gel that fills the hallow point and bubbles over the top of the bullet. I took the round and scraped it across the black box it came in . The gel came off in sand size chunks. I can only assume this will gum up the magazine, ramp and gun itself.

Alan @ 1/14/2016 11:29 AM

I went through the 9mm vs. 45ACP argument 35 years ago. The former agent is correct that the majority of handguns used were revolvers. Jerry Dove was carrying Winchester Silvertips at the time if I am not mistaken. The science the 10mm failed miserably as the handgun was too large and the ammo had to be loaded down causing some reliability issues. The 40 SW was not a new round. A group of S&W engineers designed it ten years earlier as a flat shooting competition round for team S&W. A friend of mine that was one of the designers said it was designed on a napkin. Anyway, the 40 filled a gap as it allowed for a smaller gun with basically the same ballistics of the 10mm FBI load. 40 and 10mm are the same size projectile. 40 caliber is pretty hard on guns, especially the lighter 155 and 165 LE loads. I have no issues carrying a 9mm with the modern hollow points. I do carry a Sig P220 .45 at work. But, in recent shootings like SanBernadino and Paris, capacity can be just as important.

David McConnaughey @ 2/5/2016 4:25 AM

Despite everything that has been said, the fact remains is that the FBI (and other departments that want to be sheep and follow instead of lead) are "fixing" something that isn't broken and wasting taxpayers money to do it!

Matt Avens @ 2/14/2016 10:03 AM

Anything the federal government involves themselves in should be scrutinized closely, especially with the current administration and firearm matters. As stated earlier in another comment, we are responsible to research and know the capabilities and limitations of what we choose to carry for defensive purposes. Victory is the combination and coordination of several factors. Those being mindset, equipment and skill. This further can be translated into proper training, an educated selection of your defensive tools and proper shot placement. My advise is stay informed on what works, what's new and what's garbage. 200 years ago we may have been arguing over sword length. 200 years from now who knows what will be available but I'm pretty sure the Glock 19 will be moot, but then again-maybe it won't!

Bill Durham @ 4/16/2016 7:59 PM

The 147 grain bullet has no velocity, and has no energy. It is a subsonic bullet. Virginia State Police I believe did not have any success with the 147 grain bullet either.

The FBI will use this round, then blame the 9mm AGAIN for being ineffective when they should use the 124 grain ; or 124 grain +P round. Secret Service and Federal Air Marshals had success with 115 +P+.

Dan LaRoca @ 5/8/2016 7:11 PM

Bill Durham,
You are not correct in your comment. The Secret Service and Air Marshals, use the 357 Sig 125 Grain JHP. It is what I carry on and off duty.

Dan LaRoca @ 5/8/2016 7:13 PM

Bill Durham, sir you are not correct in your comment. The Secret Service and Air Marshals use the 357 Sig cartridge in 125 grain JHP. It is what I carry on and off duty.

Tom Hebb @ 5/9/2016 10:29 PM

While I believe the FBI cares their agents are well armed its probably true other factors are involved. COST, the 9mm is cheaper. The 9mm is easier on the pistols too, less wear and tear. Capacity is a factor. I noticed many plain clothes types carry few reloads if any even though the smart ones carried 2 reloads all the time. Another huge factor is more people can qualify with a 9mm where they may not with a 357sig, 40 or 45. We saw it at our agency of some 300 deputies total. Shooting a 9mm took less practice to qualify. Agencies have little $ to use for ammo and qualify with low expectations twice per year. I was lucky to be on SWAT we shot a lot even then most of us spent even more time and our own $$ to shoot. Those not on special teams shot twice per year about 100 rounds total. Range time is not priority other mandated training is. Most cops are not shooters and spend no extra effort doing it. Fifty % barely qualify. FBI is no different. Budget says 9mm more bang for the buck.

Brendon Herr @ 5/10/2016 1:08 PM

Agents qualify what once a year. My Gen. 3 Glock 23 has a couple thousand rounds on it. Sent it to Glock with that number asking them to go over it. Said it was fine and sent it back. Here was a chance to "nickel and dime" me but they didn't......F.B.I. is not doing something right.

Brian Eidell @ 5/24/2016 8:35 AM

While I am not an expert on ballistics and don't claim to have all of the answers, what I do know is that a number of well respected firearms instructors, all former Delta/CAG members or Seals, have been pushing the 9mm for the past few years. The general idea is simple, all handguns suck at stopping people unless they are trying to commit suicide by cup. With the modern 9mm rounds coming close to matching the terminal ballistics of the .40 and .45 caliber rounds the advantage these rounds used to have is gone. If you look at the other factors, accuracy, recoil management/shot to shot recovery time, wear on the weapon, cost of ammunition, magazine capacity, the 9mm has all of the advantages. It still all comes down to hitting the target, something most police officers are not very good at due to lack of training. If this allows officer to train more often that in itself may help win the day.

Jacque Mandell @ 6/9/2016 2:42 PM

I have no idea why someone would attempt to take a situation where there's finally a good round developed out of the vacuum that had been in automatics for so many years - the .40 cal - and then revert back to a round that was the impetus for the continued development for a replacement for the inadequate 9 mm. I remember agencies using 9 mm +p+ ammo in an attempt to make the 9 mm effective when few other sizable automatics out there would accommodate smaller hands. Law enforcement fell in love with the .40 for a reason no matter what the office dwelling fbi folks may say. The .40 is a weapon that has grips small enough for a woman's hand and is potent enough service weapon to meet the challenges of what our officers meet on the street short of the shotgun/rifle response. Going back to 9mm would be a step toward effectively disarming our officers of the method of defending themselves that took so long to develop.

Another great move by the fibbies.

Joe D @ 9/23/2016 1:08 PM

It is a smart move going back to 9mm in my opinion. With modern bullet technology, all popular service calibers are effectively offering equal "stopping power". Yes obviously a larger bullet is going to expand larger and make a slightly larger "hole". That is all well and good, but years of ballistics have shown us that in actual threat stopping all common pistol calibers are nearly equal, and are all subpar at stopping a man sized target without precisely placed shots to disrupt the central nervous system. The way you do this is with accuracy, training, and volume. The 9mm offers less felt recoil meaning faster, more accurate follow up shots for the average shooter, more round capacity in a given pistol so volume of fire is increased, and it is also less expensive giving the ability for agencies and civilians alike to train and shoot more for the same dollar amount, this effectively providing more accuracy and confidence to the shooter/officer behind the pistol. For all these reasons, the 9mm is the smart choice. Now if you want to carry a .40, .45, .41 magnum whatever that's fine, as long as you can put the shots where they need to be with that weapon it should do the job if the need arises. I will ask however that next time you have a chance, go to the range with a 9mm service pistol and a large bore/caliber service pistol, hang two 10" paper plates at 15-20 yards, then do a full mag dump as fast as you can accurately shoot, with one plate for each caliber. Without even figuring time into this equation, look at your groups between the two. Odds are no matter what type of shooter you are, novice or Bill Hickok, the 9mm plate will have a better/tighter group. Also if you were to time this event, I would bet your 9mm time is About equal to your larger caliber time despite sending more rounds down range in that time frame with the 9mm pistol.

Navalwarrior @ 12/1/2016 11:22 AM

Technology did NOT save Grogan and Dove, as both carried S&W 59s (659s?) autos in 1986. No agency or military has ever issued ONE sidearm (WWI: Colt/S&W 45 Mod 1917 revolvers, plus 1911 auto; TX DPS SIG 45 or 9mm, now Sig 226 357 SIG or 229 9mm, Current military: Bretta M9 9mm, SIG M11 9mm; and, SEALS still have stainless S&W revolvers in inventory, I could go on). All ammo has improved, so there are other rounds beside the 9x19 that have improved. In 2001 while shooting the agency's PPC course, a female FBI agent out of Houston, held 1st place out of 44 shooters until the 5 th relay at 1300. I tied her awith 3rd pl. She was using a Sig 226 9mm, I an S&W 4in 38. I would be happy to have her as my partner! For some reason, new agents/off want small and lighter sidearms. Two factors that make hits more likely; a longer sight radius AND weight of pistol (36-42oz). I gave up the 15 yard part of training, because it gives a false sense of skill. Good holsters are avail for these guns.

Navalwarrior @ 12/1/2016 12:23 PM

PART 2: There is no way the 9x19 could EVER surpass the 357 SIG, using like projectiles! TX DPS has some impressive examples, no they did not require 4+ hits to stop a fight. In 1932, a Border Patrol officer entered a wooden shack with a Colt 1917 45 ACP revolver and dispatched 5 assailants (after being wounded with a shogun blast to left shoulder). There was no time for multiple shots/ reloading. Joe D, and others like him assume there will always be time for follow up shots; not so. In taking down Bin Laden, only on one occasion did the team members use automatic weapons fire. You must master your sidearm! LARP members in Vietnam may have preferred BHP 9mm, but it was because they were far fr resupply, and could carry more per weight allowed. PO ride around in
Cars, so weight is less a factor. If the req to qualify is 75 % with issue sidarm, then req those who want to purchase and use the sidearm of their choice, qualify at 80 percent, requiring more range time/muscle memory.

Old Sgt @ 12/16/2016 10:44 AM

In WWII soldiers went to the 45 to stop the drug induced bad guys.
When the soldiers got to Korea the 45 had a hard time penetrating the
thick clothing, heard some looked for 9 mm or 38s. Sometimes it sounds
like rounds are as variable as the environment


John @ 6/24/2017 8:49 PM

Actually Sgt. the .45 was needed after the Phillipine insurrection, where the .38 didn't stop opium hopped-up Morons rebels. The .45 was adopted as the 1911 and also s revolver and was used in WW1. The .45 performed fine in Korea, it was the .30 call M-1 rifle did not. The .9 was adopted by the military in the 80's as a political thank you to Italy for supporting NATO and it's as a bone thrown to Italian company Beretta. The US military found along the way, that a lot of wimpy projectiles are not better than fewer hard hitting ones, which is why the military is looking for a replacement for the .9. I hated the .9 in Iraq. I'm a retired cop, firearms and academy instr, retired Guard MP 1SG and former Marine. .9 is useless. I carried a .40 or .357 my whole civilian career.

Charlie @ 12/18/2017 3:25 PM

You must look at the New FBI recruits who would rather solve/prevent crime with their educations than draw their issued side arm. Gone are the days when men carried wheel guns and new how to shoot them.
IMHO the Miami fiasco was a non winnable situation from the start, but you know what they say about hind sight.
The 45 ACP is the only round any LEO should carry in their defense of life, if it recoils too much.. well there always are jobs for go getters.

John Schmidt @ 12/27/2017 12:34 AM

I would have never picked the STANDARD 147 grain bullet. As before by many L/E departments , it has been proven inadequate.

The FBI should have went with a 147 grain +P for energy - velocity and stopping power.

Another gunfight will probably occur with a FBI agent ; and stopping power will be an issue. The issue will not be the caliber.....or the Glock weapon -- but the exact load used. The load proven inadequate many times...over many years - by L/E units the load picked by the FBI.

I hope that the weapons folks at Quantico open their eyes , and see the light of the man stopping power as well as barrier penetration of the 147 grain +P load.

Stay safe out there folks...........


John @ 2/11/2018 7:31 PM

I read the story and FBI said the agents could have faster recover, and place more shots in the target with the 9mm than 40 S&W. I guess just like everything else, they don't make them like they used to. I am 68 and can still control my 40 cal SIG. I can handle even my Detonics MC1 in 45 ACP.

J Herrington @ 4/10/2018 9:42 AM

Exactly, the 38 SPL. In WW2 would not stop the nip warriors so the 45acp was brought to bare. With good terminal performance. Coming from a former peace officer and retired Marine warrior. All officers carry what ammo they need for the intended mission. Not nessesarily what's issued. Trust me, while downrange, most experienced grunts aren't loaded with FMJ ammo. Semper Fi

Michael 357 @ 6/4/2018 4:28 PM

Yes the 9mm round has improved as well as the 40. I own several guns in both calibers. I am not recoil sensitive and regularly shoot full house 357 loads out of my SP101. That being said and in all honesty, I shoot more accurately and faster with 9mm. I don't believe I flinch with 40. It does not seem too snappy to me at all so I cant place the reason. I like many shooters shoot the 9mm better. It has advantages. Accuracy, quicker follow up shots, slight increase in capacity and cheaper to shoot. As non law-enforcement, it being cheaper allows me to shoot more often and improve my accuracy. The ballistic performance between the two rounds have shrunk in the last few years. That just makes the advantage in accuracy and shot placement of the 9mm even more relevant when arguing between the two.

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