close up of 9mm in box

Can A 9mm Bullet Kill You?

Bullets are designed with one purpose in mind. They are manufactured with the sole intent of protection of force. Put brutally, to kill if necessary.

With a wide variety of calibers, from a small air rifle to 50 caliber machine guns each bullet comes with a different capacity to do damage. So what about the 9mm? 

Can a 9mm bullet kill you?

Yes, a 9mm round is more than capable of killing you. A typical muzzle velocity of a 9mm is 375 m/s (1,230 ft/s) and is a caliber used by the police and military around the world for that very purpose. While specialists recommend a ‘double tap’ for effective shot placement, it’s quite possible that a single 9mm round will produce a fatal wound.

Right off the bat, it’s important to disclose that every bullet can kill you. 

a full box of 9mm ammunition

The problem is under what circumstances is that likely to happen. It doesn’t even need to be a real bullet. A metal air rifle pellet could kill someone from close range. No, really. If you shot someone from close range in the throat it would absolutely break their skin and potentially even cause them to bleed out. 

The problem with discussing whether or not a bullet can kill you is that death on impact is rare and you are at risk of dying after the initial gunshot wound for anything from a couple of hours to a couple of days. 

Being shot in the stomach might not cause you to immediately bleed out but internal bleeding and hemorrhaging could be the end of you by the next morning.

A 9mm is a pretty powerful round despite its size. 

This article is going to discuss the limitations of the 9mm as well as cover its ballistics and lethality at certain distances. 

Can a 9mm penetrate the human skull? Will you end up with a through and through wound or are you going to be fishing around for bullet shrapnel? 

This article answers it all!

How Powerful Is A 9mm Round? – 9mm Ballistics

In terms of power and ballistics, it’s borderline impossible to discuss the precise limitations of the 9mm round. Why? Because there are more variations than you could possibly ever count. 

All of those variations affect the bullet ballistics tremendously. For example, the grain of the bullet and thus its velocity can tremendously affect its range. 

Higher bullet velocity means how fast it leaves the barrel and therefore how fast it travels through the air towards its target. The higher the velocity the further the bullet tends to travel. 

a 9mm hollow point round held in the hand

Velocity is often affected most by two factors.

First, the propellant that’s used (gunpowder). The faster and hotter the gunpowder burns the faster the bullet will exit the barrel. 

The weight of the bullet affects its ballistics most predominantly regarding bullet drop range. The heavier a bullet is, the faster it will lose momentum and when it begins to lose altitude it can be over a shorter range if the propellant power isn’t there.

The 9mm is traditionally a reasonably lightweight round, meaning the bullet drop isn’t massive. 

But, there also isn’t a LOT of velocity in the standard rounds. 

So, you have decent power and okay range – you also have pretty good accuracy because bullet drop is only mild. 

The 9mm has decent power and is ideal for self-defense. Which is why most people choose to use 9mm handguns for their day to day weapon.

How Far Is 9mm Lethal?

Moving on slightly from the power we can take a close look at lethality. 

The corresponding graph here demonstrates just how powerful the 9mm is at close range, as well as how quickly you are going to lose accuracy due to bullet drop and low velocity. 

a 9mm ballistics chart

Now, how far is the 9mm lethal? Going by this graph we can estimate that the 9mm is lethal up to about 100 yards. 

But, you lose any semblance of accuracy after 60 yards. So, you can kill someone with a 9mm up to 100+ yards if you are lucky. 

You can reliably kill someone up to 60 yards if you are a very, very good shot. 

As with any gun, if you’re a good shot your usable range and lethality will increase. A bullet is lethal pretty much until the point it hits the ground. 

a few 9mm hollow points on a table

If for argument’s sake you were 250 yards away and I somehow managed to shoot you from that distance there is a real possibility that you might die from your wounds. But there is basically zero chance I can hit you. 

Take that as you will.

Can A 9mm Penetrate A Human Skull?

Yes, definitely. A 9mm round fired at close range to the skull with the correct ammunition will be fatal nearly all the time.

So it’s definitely capable.

Your skull is very thick in places (base of the skull) and some bullets aren’t designed for that kind of penetration. However, from close enough range you could manage. 

If you were using hollow points you’d have a much better chance but you likely wouldn’t see an exit wound. 

Some 9mm bulleys next to a pistol

The loss of velocity on impact is tremendous even when you are hitting flesh, let alone bone. That’s actually the reason many people die from a headshot injury. 

The bullet enters the person’s skull and then essentially breaks apart and ricochets around the skull ripping your brain to shreds. Interestingly, when you do see a through and through bullet wound to the skull sometimes the person will survive. 

They may even survive with very minor cognitive issues. 

It’s rare, but it can happen.

Will A 9mm Go Through A Person At Close Range?

Just as the answer to whether the bullet will penetrate the skull whether or not it will go through a person at close range is – maybe. It depends on so many factors. 

The type of round, the distance, the gun you are using, and where you shoot them in particular. 

If you shoot someone in the arm point blank it would probably go through. Unless you hit bone. The leg? Maybe their thigh would stop the bullet but their calves perhaps won’t. 

Furthermore, it depends on the size of the person. 

A small woman would be “easier” to shoot through than a very well built man. Muscle is thicker and tougher than fat and would slow the bullet far better. Shooting through a person would be far easier with correct ammunition for the job, so long as you don’t hit bone.

However, a 9mm bullet that doesn’t fragment because it only encounters soft tissue, is quite capable of traveling straight through a human being at very close range.

A close up of a 9mm round in a box black and white photo


Hopefully, this article has made it very clear to you that all bullets can kill a person. 

9mm’s are no different. If you point a gun at someone and pull the trigger you should be prepared for them to die. It doesn’t matter the gun, it doesn’t matter the bullet. 

So long as you always keep that in mind you should be just fine.


  1. A 9mm bullet cannot kill you. A person armed with a loaded 9mm weapon can kill you. IT’S THE PERSON, NOT THE AMMUNITION.

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