What Is +P Ammo and +P+ Ammo: What’s The Difference

Video what is p+ ammo

+P is an extra charge, meaning more pressure. And with more pressure, you get more speed. Also, an advantage of quality +P is that the extra speed means it keeps its trajectory for a longer distance. That means your bullet won’t drop as quickly, and you’re more likely to hit whatever you were aiming at, not below the target—you also have to be a good shot. Please don’t leave this article thinking ammo fixes the human error. It does play a part, but if you suck at shooting, well, you suck. Fix that before spending a bunch of money on +P or +P+ ammo, hoping that it will somehow compensate for your poor shot placement due to your mediocre skills.

SAAMI’s Pressure Ceiling for Modern +P Ammo

Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers Institute (SAAMI) lists three performance standards for +P loads.

  1. 38 special +P
  2. 9mm Luger +P
  3. 45 Auto +P

The 38 special +P is specified at a Maximum Average Pressure (MAP) of 20,000 psi as opposed to the standard 38 special load of 17,000 psi. Most 38 special +P loads are roughly 100 fps faster than the standard load.

The 9mm Luger +P is specified at a Maximum Average Pressure (MAP) of 38,500 psi as opposed to the standard load of 35,000 psi. The 9mm Luger +P load is again roughly 100 fps higher than standard loads.

The 45 Auto +P is specified at a Maximum Average Pressure (MAP) of 23,000 psi as opposed to the standard load of 21,000 psi. The 45 Auto +P loads are a little over 100 fps higher in velocity than the standard loads.

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The primary reason manufacturers developed and offered these loads was to improve the performance of these old but popular calibers. Firearms and ammunition design, materials, and manufacturing processes have improved substantially since the introduction of these rounds, and manufacturers wanted to get better performance out of all three.

Modern +P Loads that are 2,000 to 3,500 psi higher than standard loads do not present the risks of unsafe firearm/ammunition combinations.

All +P ammo will be marked with a +P on the headstamp of the cartridge case to differentiate it from standard pressure loads.

45 Auto +P Ammo

What is +P+ Ammunition?

If +P means overpressure, then what does +P+ mean?

Yes, +P+ ammunition is rare, but that doesn’t mean it’s nonexistent. What it does mean is that it exceeds the +P standard. It also isn’t given a pressure ceiling under SAAMI. So, anything over 38,500 PSI is considered +P+ ammo.

And just like +P ammo, it’s got more charge and should have more energy, more stopping power, and it’s also going to cost you more money.

Just like +P, considering this has even more pressure, it’s not compatible with all firearms. Check your user/owner manual or call the manufacturer to determine if you can fire +P+ ammo through your firearm.

Is Overpressure Ammo Bad for my Gun?

The answer is, it depends. I know you probably don’t like that answer. But, it depends on your gun. Some firearms just aren’t built to take the higher pressure rounds. If you try to fire higher internal pressure rounds through a gun that can’t withstand that extra pressure, then you could end up with damage to your firearm, and you could even injure yourself.

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If you aren’t sure about your particular gun, the best thing you can do is talk with your firearm manufacturer and ask if it can shoot +P ammo. Or check the user manual, assuming you didn’t throw it away—the information is likely to be in there, depending on how old the firearm is.

A good rule of thumb, and maybe you’ve seen it but don’t know what it means, but you probably shouldn’t fire +P or +P+ ammo through a LC (lightweight, compact) pistols.


As you can see +p ammo is a fast-track way for ammunition manufacturers to meet the constant quest for improved terminal performance.

The advent of smokeless powder in the 1800s opened the door to ammunition manufacturers to try and quickly capitalize on the increased performance offered by smokeless powder. The first attempts at using smokeless powder to improve the performance of existing cartridges increased the performance but went too far in increasing pressure which led to some catastrophic issues with firearms.

Modern +P ammo specifications use tested pressure limits that, for the most part, avoid the safety issues with firearms. Just remember that poorly constructed firearms or ones in questionable condition should not be used with +P ammunition. When used in +P rated firearms, +P ammo will provide improved terminal ballistics over a standard load in your self-defense handgun.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>