This is one of those cartridge screw-ups you just have to laugh at because it’s so obvious in hindsight. Back in the late 1980s, Federal decided shooters needed a revolver cartridge that duplicated the ballistics of the 9mm Luger pistol cartridge. I don’t blame them—the 9mm was a hot commodity back then.
Ballistically, there really wasn’t much one could gain over .38 Special +P loads with a rimmed 9mm. One argument for the new cartridge though was that if there was a rimmed version of the 9mm Luger, like there is for the .45 ACP (.45 Auto Rim), guns could be made with a shorter length cylinder, making them overall smaller and lighter.
Enter the 9mm Federal—a rimmed 9mm revolver cartridge that sent a 115-grain JHP at 1,280 fps. Charter Arms made a Pit Bull revolver for it, but left the cylinder full-length, so nothing was gained over a .38 Special as far as the gun size was concerned.
Unfortunately for Federal, it was AFTER the cartridge was introduced and put in production when someone’s light bulb came on. The 9mm Federal has almost the same cartridge dimensions as the old .38 S&W. There are a whole lot of old top-break revolvers chambered for the .38 S&W, and that cartridge operates at a much lower pressure. The 9mm Federal cartridge fits in .38 S&W chambers and, because of the very real possibility that someone could fire 9mm Federal in an old top-break revolver resulting in a KaBoom!, the cartridge was dropped in the early 1990s.
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