IMI 115gr 9×19 FMJ and EX-STAR Ammo Review

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You may not be aware of this, but ammo has gotten pretty cheap these days – almost the cheapest I’ve seen it since 2008. You can get quality brass-cased 9mm ammo for 20c a round, and steel-cased 5.56×45 is not far behind. As long as you’re not into .22lr, this is a good time to be shooting.

Wideners has been selling IMI 115gr 9mm FMJ ammo for under 20c a round (edit: sold out now), and IMI 115gr 9mm EX-STAR JHP for 22c a round. While I’m not a purist about shooting Israeli ammo through my Israeli guns, I’m always down for some good ammo. I ordered a couple cases. Here’s what I found…

The first thing you notice is that these boxes are packed tightly compared to what I’m used to. I regard that as a big plus, as I found I was able to fit about 1200 rounds into a standard 50cal ammo can. That’s more than the usual 900 or so. If you don’t have a lot of space, that’s a very nice side benefit.

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The boxes have markings that make me think they were destined for the UN at some point. Despite the frequent allusions to being “military spec”, there’s no NATO cross on the headstamp. Israel isn’t a NATO member, so this doesn’t mean much of anything, but does lend credence to the UN-as-original-destination theory.

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The FMJ cartridges look about the same as any other 115gr FMJ I’ve ever seen, excepting that they have sealed primers (didn’t see any sealing around the bullet, not that it’s needed).

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The EX-STAR cartridges are somewhat more interesting due to the JHP construction. Tests on the interwebs suggest these don’t expand very well, despite what looks like a reasonably constructed bullet. Unfortunately, I don’t have a good place to do gel testing. That said, I can pretty much guarantee FMJ isn’t going to expand at all, so that’s worth thinking about.  You aren’t going to find new JHP ammo at 22c a round besides the EX-STAR.

I have run the 115gr FMJ ammo through any number of firearms discussed on this blog with no problems. I recommend it without reservation. I did have one round this time with a primer that didn’t want to go off in the SD9, but that round did work fine in my M5. These things happen with all brands of ammo, so I don’t read too much into it.

The Wideners product page has dire warnings about the EX-STAR ammo having hard primers leading to fail-to-fire problems with certain pistols, especially subcompacts. In order to test function and feed, I ran it through a couple different guns: my BUL M5 9mm, and my Sardius SD9. Neither gun had any issues with it. I found that it had substantially more kick than the FMJ ammo, but without a chronograph, couldn’t tell you if it was reaching +P velocities or not. The claim that it was made for submachine guns certainly seems plausible. I’ll continue to test it in other handguns, but it seems like it’s good stuff.

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8 thoughts on “IMI 115gr 9×19 FMJ and EX-STAR Ammo Review”

  1. The reason for the lack of the NATO cross on that ammunition is that there is not a NATO specification for the 9mm 115gr round. The only NATO specification 9mm rd is 124gr FMJ that is loaded to beyond US commercial pressures. You will also notice a lack of the NATO cross on the IMI manufactured M193 5.56mm round – same deal. There is no NATO specification for the 55gr 5.56mm round.That being said IMI is one of the finest ammunition manufacturers in the world and are certified to produce a variety of ammunition for the US military. They do correctly place a NATO cross on their M855 62gr 5.56mm round.

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    1. Not sure I agree. STANAG 4090 allows for bullet weights from 108gr to 128gr. It is entirely possible to construct “NATO spec” 9mm ammo using 115gr bullets. I suspect you are confusing this with the US M882 specs, which do indeed require 124gr.

      All of that said, I don’t think the IMI FMJ mentioned in this article is loaded hot enough to qualify as NATO ammo (remember that the key point of the STANAG is actually so that this 9mm ammo will function appropriately in pistols and SMGs, some of which prefer hot ammo). As noted in the article, I believe this is UN ammo, not NATO ammo. I don’t know what specifications the UN uses for 9mm ammo – might be interesting to find out.

      The EX-STAR, on the other hand, felt like it had enough oomph to qualify – but, of course, the JHP bullet rules that out for NATO use. Fun times.

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      1. To the best of my knowledge all current NATO spec 9mm ammunition is 124 grain. I recall there are some variations in service with several NATO countries,(mostly frangible and +P+ but those rounds do not have the NATO cross head stamp

        The current IMI imports of the 115gr JHP are loaded with military primers provided by S&B (if my memory can be trusted). I feel this round is one of the best deals on the market. I am hoping as more of this ammo circulates we can get a feel for it’s reliability in various 9mm handguns..My supply of the EX-Star will have to remain untouched until my knees have regained full operation (horse related incident).

        Is there any possibility that IMI was attempting to duplicate the performance of the 9mm +P+ Border Patrol load? This was a really
        great performer but was sensitive to slide velocity. Just a thought.

        Your thread is bringing back all sorts of fond memories. For instance, I still have slightly more than 3K remaining of the 185gr 45ACP that IMI manufactured for the US Army pistol team. I shoot it sparingly as I know that it cannot be replaced.

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      2. I thought I had read that some of the 115gr Samson imports had the NATO cross… not that it necessarily means that much. I’ve got some M193 with the NATO cross, too, because the manufacturer used surplus M855/SS109 cases. Proper function is really the important thing, I guess.

        The EX-STAR load doesn’t “feel” like +P+, just more like the WCC 124gr NATO. Maybe I’m underestimating it – without a chrony, hard to know.

        Is your 45ACP in Samson boxes or IMI boxes? I’d love to put up a few pictures of the cartridges and boxes, as that’s a bit of a rarity. Maybe I should find some of that +P+ Uzi ammo everyone’s terrified of, too. 🙂

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  2. Send me an email and I’ll arrange to get you some pictures of the IMI .45acp 185gr packaging and the cartridges. I believe I also have a case of IMI 45ACP 230gr ball that was a US military contract overrun. If so I’ll include pics of that too.

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