Pistol cartridges come in dozens of forms.
The earliest handguns consisted of a black powder charge lit by a flint to fire a projectile consisting of nothing more sophisticated than a ball of lead. Technology has advanced since the days of black powder, but the premise remains the same. Modern pistol cartridges consist of a charge of explosive powder and a projectile encased in a cartridge. When the hammer of the pistol strikes a point on the cartridge, the powder explodes, and an aerodynamic bullet fires. There are dozens of types of pistol cartridges on the market today. The three most popular pistol cartridges are the .357 Magnum, the .44 Magnum, and the 9×19 Luger.
.357 Magnum Cartridge
Developed in the 1930s, the .357 Magnum cartridge delivers power that its predecessor, the .38 Special, never achieved. The cartridge is one of the most popular handgun cartridges on the market today. The .357 Magnum is noteworthy for the number of manifestations it took before it was standardized into its current form. The .357 Magnum cartridge currently projects the bullet at approximately 1250 feet per second with a muzzle energy of about 550 feet-pounds.
.44 Magnum Cartridges
The .44 Magnum cartridge was developed in the 1950s. The current standard for the .44 Magnum is 1250 feet per second with a muzzle energy of about 800 feet-pounds. At its inception, the .44 Magnum cartridge was touted to have the power necessary to crack an engine block.
9mm Luger (9×19) Cartridges
In 1908, the German Army adopted the 9mm Luger as its official pistol cartridge. The German Army was only the first of many. Today, every army belonging to a NATO country and most others use the 9×19 Luger cartridge as the standard for all handguns. Civilians also favor the 9×19 Luger as the cartridge of choice for personal defense. It is the most popular pistol cartridge in the world.