IMI 9mm Carbine & Israeli Color Codes

Here’s a box of the black tipped 9mm carbine made by Israel Military Industries (IMI) and imported by Magnum Research. The box does not mention the bullet weight; are all of these with the black tip 115 grains?



Why is it “carbine only”?

Yes, I believe all of these are 115 grain. There is a brown tip version they did once. The explanation sounded like BS to me, especially since before AND after, they had black tips, so won’t bother with it here.

They are “Carbine Only” because lawyers exist. They are hotter than normal pistol, but not as hot as NATO ball and some other loads people shoot in pistols. I have fired them in my Browning, although I did not find them particularly accurate, (they were in my UZI Carbine when I had one - might have something to do with barrel length and rate of twist), and there were no signs of them being too hot for the gun, either in the way the felt and sounded firing them, nor in the condition of the primer cup and the case base (no excessive case base expansion or flat primer cups). That is not a recommendation to fire them. The Browning is a supurbly designed, all-steel pistol, something I can’t say for all the handguns on the market today.

John Moss

  1. The IMI UZI carbine product I have (stamped CARB on the case, 50rd tan box marked to look like a wooden ammo crate) reads a lot ‘hotter’ than 9mm NATO from Federal or Winchester, at least in velocity readings. The IMI 158gr blue-tip carbine load is a high-pressure load but is obviously a slow-poke (as tested by DiFabio at AmmoLab). When I get home I’ll post some of my chrony results (stock G19). The ‘carb’ load’s penetration on certain barriers is also enhanced by the add’l speed vs. standard 115gr FMJ loads including the Samson 115gr +p black-tip). I have cracked the slide on a Browning Hi-Power MkIII using ‘carb’ loads, but admittedly some MkIII’s had metallurgical problems (slide cracks in the safety recess, etc.).

  2. IMI also had a 115 gr black-tip FMJ under the Samson brand…it is stamped ‘+p’ but is positively sedate when compared to the UZI carbine, Hirtenberger L7A1 and other ‘hot’ FMJ loads.

  3. A former IMI employee once told me that the color codes were for bullet weight, so ostensibly any IMI black-tip bullet is a 115gr FMJ.

I always found it funny that Colt and other manufacturers don’t want +p+ pistol ammo fired in their pistol-cal rifles (for good reason, closed-bolt carbines don’t do well with several popular +p+ 9mm loads), but it never fails that someone will want ‘carbine’ ammo to run in them…too bad higher pressure doesn’t always mean better performance. I’ve seen a number of loads listed and/or marked as ‘carbine only’ or even ‘Mp5 only’, when the proper load/platform combo was the exact opposite.

Interesting stuff, but the color tip information is not, to my knowledge, completely accurate. The older use of color tips seems to have been for specific loads and not bullet weights. For example, the silver tip was reduced velocity for pistols, while the black tip was UZI Carbine loads. The light-blue tip was for subsonic loads (green was used for this loading even before that). The current meaning is more to bullet weights, but also includes intended agency and use, according to Mr. Daniel Golinsky, Marketing Director for IMI Ltd, is as follows:

Yellow tip - 9mm 124 grain - Israeli Police
Blue Tip - 9mm 148 grains sub sonic (known examples have a dark blue tip)
Violet tip - Old Police 115 grain
Black Tip - Armor Piercing
Red Tip - Tracer
Gray Tip - new 9mm Israeli Police 115 grain

Other tip colors or lack thereof are supplied to customers on demand.

Regarding how “hot” the ammo is, it seems very hard to find complete ballistics information for Israeli ammunition, especially 9mm. The amount of different loads they have made, all using different ID codes, is staggering. The form 1650 “Ammunition Data Card” for IMI 9 mm Ball M1 (TZZ 82) supplied to the U.S. on DAAA Contract 09-81-C-0189 which has a 115 grain bullet indicates a muzzle velocity of 395 ms (1296 FPS) and is within NATO Spec, I am told. An article by Ed Sanow in “Combat Handguns” (regretably magazine and issue date is unrecorded), “Combat Test: Three Loads from IMI: “Hot Hardball” 9mm,” shows the UZI Carbine load with brown tip as a +P and shows a velocity of 1211 fps with 115 grain bullet, quite a bit below the TZZ 82 military loading. The same article shows a muzzle velocity of WCC NATO ammunition, with 124 grain bullet, to be 1225 grains, again, higher velocity than the UZI carbine load even with a heavier bullet. These tests were conducted using a Model 39-2 Smith and Wesson 9mm Pistol with 4" barrel.

A test by the National Rifle Association reported in "The American Rifleman, page 64, April 1983 issue of the TZZ 82 ammunition supplied to the US indicates it is considered the equivilent of NATO ball and, indeed, the boxes for this ammo show the “A360” NATO interchangeability code.
Their tests show velocity at 15 yards, fired from the weapons indicated, as follows:

Ruger Speed Six Revolver 2-3/4" barrel 1282 fps Avg
Ruger Speed Six Revolver 4" barrel 1301 fps Avg
FN Browning M1935 4.72" Barrel 1319 fps avg
Steyr GB-80 5.31" barrel 1306 fps avg.

All of these are higher than for any test of the UZI commercial carbine loads or +P designated loads of like bullet weight that I could find in my files, including various loads cataloged by IMI in their literature, and showing a 115 grain bullet weight.

I, personally, never chronographed any of this ammunition. I don’t own a chronograph and would have little or no place to properly mount one if I did, so I am a slave to published data which is, admittedly, scant. My shooting impressions from muzzle blast, recoil, etc., from my own browning, and a check of pressure signs on the cases of the black-tip UZI ammunition, never offered me any indication that it was more potent, or for that matter as “hot”, as standard NATO ball of the 115/134 grain bullet weights.

The NRA Tests by the way, showed for the TZZ 82 military ammunition nominal ballistics of 1296 fps from a 7.87" test barrel, at a pressure of 33,400 p.s.i.a.

Wish I had more data direct from IMI to offer, but I could not find any for the index numbers from most of the boxes I have for “carbine ammunition” in any of there literature and, in fact, most of their literature in my files regretably doesn’t have any ballistic information.

John Moss

John, I believe you will find that the old IMI subsonic load used a 158gr FMJ, not 148gr. It predated the 147gr Olin Super Match. There was a school of thought that if you were limited to subsonic velocities, you should at least throw the heaviest bullet you can. There were references in the early 1980s that one outfit was loading 9x19mm subsonic with the Sierra 170gr FMJ. The latter projectile was designed for use in IHMSA in the .357 Magnum. The quoted 9x19mm powder charge exceeds the current maximum for 147gr bullets.

Dan - all of the subsonic Israeli loads I have are 158 grain, to my knowledge. I was only reporting precisely what was written to Pepper by one of the executives of IMI in Israel, referring to the very latest information on the meaning of colored tips on Israeli 9mm ammo. IMI makes or has made such a huge number of different loadings in 9 mm Parabellum over the years - going by their product numbers - that I could not simply and automtically consider the “148” grain figure to be a typographical error. I will, though, later today, look at the total cartridge weight of some of the IMI rounds I have. I don’t have dupes of most, so won’t pull bullets, but the total cartridge weights will tell something.

John Moss

By the way, the outfit reportedly loading the 9x19mm 170gr subsonic was Knight’s Armament Company or Knight’s Manufacturing Company.

these are my measurements…

green (old sub sonic) 113.967 grain bullet
purple 114.970
black 115.048
yellow 124.075
blue (dark) 158.490
blue (baby blue) 158.490


The meaning of the colors is as follows:

Yellow tip- 9mm 124 grains- Israeli police
Blue tip- 9mm 148 grains sub sonic
Violet tip- old police 115 grains
Black tip- 9mm Armour piercing
Gray tip- new 9mm Israeli police 115 grains.

Daniel Golinsky

Marketing Director
Israel Military Industries (IMI) Ltd.
Small Caliber Ammunition Division

So John is saying that the list of color codes as shown by Pepper is from an IMI executive and defines what the “current” colors mean? Does this mean that current Israeli 9mm black tips are in fact “armour piercing” as shown in Pepper’s post, and not just +P loads like what that color used to mean on those loads?

DK - I guess it means what the Marketing Director of IMI says it means. I cannot interpret it any farther or different than his words. The correspondence in question was quite current in the overall scheme of information on Israeli 9 mm.

John Moss

I just went to the IMI website which was sort of difficult to navigate, with some links and things appearing labeled either incorrectly or incompletely. I had to type in “9mm” in the search bar which provided a result that when clicked on, went to a flashplayer sort of link that shows a rotation of current IMI 9mm offerings. One of them was labeled “penetrator” in the slideshow here: and I later found a group of 9mm photos at this link: and the penetrator looks like this:


I have no idea what the construction of this bullet is like. It’s a green tip and not a black tip though, and the website doesn’t show a black tip.

I’m amazed that they don’t have any kind of pdf document or anything for any ammo, and some of the links don’t do anything when clicked on. During the rotating slideshow for 9mm cartridges, the typed information below the picture window doesn’t change and it just continually says “Subsonic - 9mm frangible”. Why would IMI do such a website?

Most of IMIs commercial catalogs that I have - very few at that as they never answer a request for a catalog it seems - don’t even show ballistics. Every one has some 9mm new and some 9mm gone (looking at IMI Index numbers for the rounds). I doubt that any “rule” about anything IMI does with the 9 cartridge has a life expectancy of more than a year or so. I could be wrong, but it has not been proved to me yet - quite the contrary with their constant changes. I still have never had a sensible explanation of why the 9 mm Carbine ball round had a bronw tip on, as far as I can tell, one single importation and then went back to black again.

That is why all I could do it quote the Market Director. I cannot interprete anything that company says it does do or doesn’t do.

Regarding Green and Black tips, though, at one time green was subsonic and black simply the “hot” carbine load. Now, I must point out that the green tip penetrator round may not be what IMI considers “AP,” but rather only designed for enhanced penetration of soft targets or perhaps Kevlar but not other types of “armor.” I don’t know that - just conjecture, but that;s about all anyone can do with this IMI stuff.

John Moss

photos added

The drawing for the green tip Israeli AP is on my website at:
Specimens are dated “99”. This round with the large steel core looks like a version of the Conway-Brown AP load. I know that design was offered to Isreal at one time. If it is a C-B style bullet it is hardened penetrator. Also on the website are photos of the cartridge and the box they were supplied in for the French tests of the cartridge.

None of my black tip loads, including the one I got recently from Pepper, have magnetic bullets so if they are “AP” they must be monolithic bullets in brass or copper, or at least a non-magnitic core.

My experience with Director’s of Marketing, Generals and CEOs is that they are seldom 100% correct when speaking on technical matters and their technical pronouncements should be taken with a grain of salt. See Dilbert for the specifics.

Below is a box for some black tip bullet IMI loads. No identification as Carbine loads. The box end says +P 115gr. The headstamp is interesting “IMI L18A1 (+) 98” which is the headstamp used on the British contract loads. I suspect this is a rejected lot being sold commercially and the black tip was added to indicate the +P status of the load. The bullet of course is non-magnetic as indicated above. I suspect that the black tip loads are as they have always been, increased velocity (perhaps +P) loads for the Uzi Carbine. I’ll need to see a sectioned bullet that is clearly AP or some equally compelling evidence to accept that the black tip means AP.



One common way of making 9mm “AP” (which of course, is not truly armor piercing other than within the parameters of some kevlar body armor - certainly not true armor-steel), which are really just enhanced penetration rounds in this case, is tho simply thicken the nose of the bullet jacket. This is what Norma did for their AP, so the bullet need not be monolithic or with steel cores to have enhanced penetration.

I agree with Lew’s assessment of information from the factories in general, regardless of who you talk to. The most knowledgeable guys are the production engineers, I think. They are directly involved with the design and production of the actual ammunition, and generally know what has been made and what hasn’t, at least within their on duties, and don’t tend to just look it up in the Company SOP.

Again, to keep up with IMIs “9mm load of the hour” would be a daunting task for anyone.

John Moss

John, I agree that APs can be made with thickened bullet jackets, but the production items I know that use this approach (M/39B, Danish discussed in another thread, FN black tip, etc) all do this with steel jackets. I don’t know of this approach being used with a non-magnetic jacket.

Since all the black-tip IMI bullets I have are non-magnetic, I could only come up with a brass or some similar monolithic bullet as a possible AP.



I Can’t think of one either. I don’t know why it wouldn’t work as well though. My understanding is that the mild steel that bullet jackets are made out (remember, they must not create excessive bore wear) are not much tougher than a GM jacket. Also, in the case of M39/B, a GMCS bullet is pretty much the norm isn’t it? Even the Norma commercial ball ammunition, as well as the commercial AP they made, was GMCS. So, its hard to know when they made so much of their ordinary ammunition with steel jackets.

Every single one of my Israeli black tips is non-magnetic also, but all of them appear to be a normal jacketed bullet and all weigh about the same, except for the little truncated bullet version with black tip, which is also non-magnetic. The one freak brown tip round is non-magnetic as well.

Some, but not all, FN ball rounds with CN bullets are CNCS (magnetic). I think I only have one year that isn’t, but then, I only have a few, since I don’t really collect dates.

Interesting stuff. Still plenty to be learned about it, I think. Wish I had more Israeli black tip stuff - I would cut into the bullets of some, but I am not sure I even have one dupe. I had an UZI carbine for years, and shot up all the duplicates when I bought a full box.

I honestly don’t think I have any black tip Israeli round that is AP-rated by IMI. That must be something new.

John Moss

FYI pulled bullets from both the ‘black-tip’ IMI products I have (commercially imported 115gr Samson +p FMJ and UZI Carbine 115gr FMJ) show to be standard FMJs with exposed lead at the base…nothing magnetic of monolithic.
The only common thread is black tips, weight around 115gr each. Velocity, primer annulus, case stamp, packaging and brand are different.

I’ll post pics if I ever get home again.

I just got around to weighing some of my 9mm with color tips. The situation isn’t as clean as I thought it was.

S B headstamps with light blue bullets dated 84, 90 and 92 all weighed around 230gr which match the 158gr bullet.

S A 84 with a light blue tip also weighs in at about 230gr—so far so good!!!

S A 73, 79 and 81 with light blue tips weigh in about 187gr so they have 115gr bullets!!!

TZ 85 with a light blue tip and a knurl on the bullet weighs in at 195gr which would be about 124gr for the bullet.

A 9MM TZZ 87 headstamped load with a black tip pointed bullet weighs 201gr?

The 9MM TZZ yellow tips dated 98, 99, 00, 01 and 02 all weigh 194-196gr so they are 124gr bullets as listed above, except for one 98 date that is 187gr which would be a 115gr bullet!!!

I’m pretty sure that the light blue tips are all subsonic, even the ones with the ~115gr bullets. I have a box label for one of the light bullet loads which was a contract for the British military and it says subsonic.

The gray tip, violet tip, dark blue (almost black) tip, black tip and the purple tip all seem to match the information above.

All these bullets are nonmagnetic.

I have never seen a black tip AP load. The weight should be pretty low and the bullet probably magnetic.

Any more insights would be a help.