Is This the Beginning of the End for .40 Caliber?

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I don’t get .40 caliber. More recoil than a 9mm, smaller holes than a .45. Less capacity than a nine, more “snap” than a .45. I carry a .45. But if I had to pick a self-defense round for the majority of shooters—men and women who train with amazing irregularity—I’d go with 9mm. Low-ish recoil, plenty ‘o bullets and more-than-merely-adequate “stopping power.” In this I am not alone. The St. Paul police are now switching from .40 back to 9mm (Glock or Smith & Wesson M&P). “The department switched to the .40-caliber because the ammunition at the time was not performing like we needed it to,” St. Paul police spokesman Andy Skoogman told twincities.com, without citing any anecdotal evidence or supporting data. Sgt. Cory Tell now reckons. “The performance of 9mm ammunition has changed dramatically . . . it’s much more powerful than it previously was.” Not so says a nearby egghead . . .

Dennis Jay Kenney, a John Jay College of Criminal Justice professor and expert in policing, said he doesn’t believe there have been many technological advances to any bullets.

A test group of officers carried 9mm guns a couple of years ago and, at the gun range, “most people had an improvement in their shooting skills,” Tell said. That’s because 9mm guns are easier to control since they don’t have as much recoil, he said.

It’s on! Kenney says the St. Paul po-po should stick with .40 caliber. Tell says no. And a firearms instructor says “Why can’t we all shoot friends?”

Kenney said he prefers larger-caliber guns and would stick with the .40-caliber because it has “increased knock-down power.” But each department has to make its own call, Kenney said.

The differences in the ammunition between the .40-caliber and 9mm are negligible, Tell said. They perform similarly with no difference in stopping power, he said.

There are some pluses to 9mm guns for police, Kenney said. Police departments cite the weapon’s ability to hold more ammunition because the bullets are smaller, Kenney said. The .40-caliber Glocks that St. Paul police use hold 16 bullets, while the new guns hold 17.

Police also say the second shot from a bigger-caliber gun “is the hard one because you’ve got a lot of kick and a lot of noise,” so it’s easier to fire multiple rounds from a 9mm, Kenney said.

Andrew Rothman, a certified firearms instructor in the Twin Cities, said .40-caliber and 9mm guns are “both perfectly fine choices.” He prefers the 9mm for personal defense and thinks it’s also a good choice for police.

The ammunition for 9mm guns costs less and the guns are easier to control for some shooters, Rothman said.

“The guns are equally accurate, but if one kicks harder and you’re less comfortable shooting it, you can get less accuracy,” he said.

And . . . nine millimeter wins! And here’s the kicker’s kicker: “The department plans to begin training with the new guns this month, Tell said. Each officer will get a full day of training.”

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About Robert Farago

Robert Farago is the Publisher of The Truth About Guns (TTAG). He started the site to explore the ethics, morality, business, politics, culture, technology, practice, strategy, dangers and fun of guns.

117 Responses to Is This the Beginning of the End for .40 Caliber?

  1. avatarJohn says:

    Wow, a whole day with a new firearm. Now THAT’s “professional law enforcement” at work.

    • avatarJason says:

      If it takes you more than 5 seconds to transition from a .40 Glock to a 9mm Glock, you need to hang up your holster. It’s exactly the same handgun, with two more rounds in the magazine, and some minor internal differences you wouldn’t notice without a micrometer. Assuming these cops are already trained with their carry weapons, a whole day of additional training on account of this transition is a luxury.

  2. avatarVan says:

    I chose 9mm because I am cheap and the ammo is less expensive.

    • avatarSean says:

      Yes. That is the real reason any law enforcement agency would switch.

      • avatarDryw says:

        While it risks accusations of tinfoil hattery, that was exactly my first-blush impression upon reading.

        This smacks of a bean-counter move. Strictly cost cutting. With the “9mm is better for our purposes” justifications an afterthought.

        • avatarSean says:

          I was thinking of another reason the bean counters would like the 9mm. 9mm, in non +P form, is a much lower pressure cartridge. I am not sure anyone could wear out a 9mm Glock or M&P. The guns will probably last a century or more of police work. Those departments will never have to buy another handgun. Ever.

  3. avatarMouldy Squid says:

    Hmmm. I must be one of the few who does prefer the .40 to 9mm. I am not a particularly big guy and I don’t have huge muscles but the .40 isn’t that much more difficult to control. I actually like the greater recoil, although I will admit that .45 is a little too much.

    I’m not dissing 9mm or anything, but I do like the .40 more. My reasons are entirely subjective though.

    • avatarCUJO THE DOG OF WAR says:

      Hey, I like the .40 also. It does have more size, but not much. I do like the 135 grain JHP screaming out of the muzzle. But, in the 9mm to .40 comparison-it’s like the dwarf said to his girl: “Hey, it’s an extra millimeter!”

    • avatarRalph says:

      Mouldy, I’m with you and Cujo. I like the .40, it’s what I carry, and I don’t find the recoil objectionable. And I’m shooting a compact .40 that should be ultra-snappy, but it isn’t. There’s nothing wrong with the 9mm or the .45, or even the .38Spl for that matter, but I’m comfortable with the .40.

      • avatarMouldy Squid says:

        Yay! I am not alone. My CZ 75 SP-01 is chambered for .40 and I love shooting that gun. It has less noticeable recoil that my Star M30 9mm, and far less felt recoil than pappy’s old Browning Hi-Power (not to mention his service issue S&W 9mm from when he was still RCMP).

        • avatarRudy says:

          Not for an arguement sake, but isn’t SP-01 available in 9×19 only?
          Anyway, even if you meant Tactical model, they share same weight. What I don’t get, is “far less felt recoil” in CZ-75 than in BHP… Yes, CZ is about 200 grams heavier and, sometimes wider, but “far less”? Far less in my terms in Mosin vs AK-74. :) No offence meant, just want to make some clarification for myself. My exprience with .40 is somewhat limited.

        • avatarMouldy Squid says:

          Well it has more to do with the design of the firearm and the particular load of the ammunition, which is why I try to say “felt” or “perceived” recoil.

          Yes, the CZ 75 is a little heavier than a BHP, but the barrel sits much lower because of the internal slide rails and other design features of the CZs. I have found that the perceived recoil of CZs (9mm and .45 included) is less than other makers’.

          And again, it is a perception thing. For example, my Star M30 is chambered for 9mm. It also has internal slide rails and a lower bore axis like my CZ. However, the beaver tail is a bit less curved and the grip and magazine well have a larger diameter. This causes the barrel to be higher in my grip than the CZ. Since my hands are smaller than most men, I don’t have as comfortable a grip. All of these factors add up to the Star having a less controllable recoil (and thus more “felt”).

          Is the recoil greater in my Star than my CZ? No, obviously not. But the way it feels in my hand when I shoot it is very different and IMHO has a bigger “kick” (harder to keep sight picture, muzzle flip etc).

          The CZ, on the other hand (and it is a SP-01 Tactical) fits my hand much, much better. I can more easily maintain sight-picture, the muzzle flip is less because the bore axis is lower, the grip is a smaller diameter allowing me to hold it more steadily. All of these little improvements make the recoil feel “less”. Depending on the load I am using it can even be much less.

          That being said, I have fired some .40s (HK USP, the S&W some-thing-or-other, Glock ##) that have slapped and stung as some shooters claim of the .40.

          Felt recoil is more a subjective thing, than a specifications thing. I apologize for any confusion my terminology may have caused.

        • avatarRudy says:

          No problems with terminology, I’m foreigner, so I don’t know your “official terminology” well. :)
          I agree, that “felt” recoil is subjective, and depends on many things, including gun, ammo and hand size (mine’s are probably smaller than yours, since you say that CZ fits your hands Ok). I haven’t shot CZ 97, so I can’t say how it s compared to 1911 or Glock 21 in felt recoil. Neither have I had experience with Star.
          So I stick to CZ/HP in 9×19, which I’ve fired a lot (as well as Glocks), using same type of ammo (so ammo variable could be excluded, at least partially). I live in country which prohibits me from owning handgun, so I don’t have neither them, neither airsoft replicas at hand, of course I could forget something about guns’ dimensions (though I hope I haven’t). I however, suppose that CZ have same (if not higher) bore axis than BHP. I haven’t seen an x-ray side-by-side image of those too, AFAIR both these guns are relatively similar in many respects, while CZ being little bigger (what baffles me, since I like gun a lot). I suppose that gun owners, such as you, can easily take caliper and tape measure to check this dimension and solve the argument.
          Ow, and when I mean “bore axis” I mean approximately same measurement point which Glock uses in their catalogues and names as “barrel height”. I noted that just for reference issue, since my vocabulary (unfortunately) precludes me from describing that better. My sincere apologies. I promise to improve. :)

        • avatarCUJO THE DOG OF WAR says:

          Yep, I have an older Glock 22 with a drop in Storm Lake match bbl, a custom captive double recoil spring set up, a Glock 27 -I use a Desantis pocket holster, and a Walther PPO in .40. Me being me, I have 10 magazines for them and umpteen holsters. Always have Serpa’s for everything, if it’s available.

  4. avatarNate says:

    .40 will maintain a niche with USPSA shooters, where it is the smallest factory ammo that will make major power factor. The decrease in diameter over .45 means more cartridges in a magazine, and more shots before a reload. I imagine someone will mention .38 super once I post this, but I contend that .40 S&W is cheaper and more readily available to shooters for a low-recoil major PF caliber.

    • avatarKW says:

      I agree here. IMO this is the main reason for .40′s popularity. It’s overflow from USPSA combined with marketing. It performs at it’s best in modern, competition style pistols. Shooters who are not willing to put in the time to master this round in a full sized weapon would be better served with something else.

  5. avatarAndy says:

    Heh.

    I carry 9x19mm.

    If I wanted something a little bigger, I wouldn’t go with .40 Short and Weak, I would choose the original .40, the 10mm Cartridge.

    • avatarMatt H says:

      Here’s the problem. While 10mm is a great design, one that I wish had caught on, as it stands right now, it’s much more expensive and difficult to find than .40 S&W. Are you used to being able to walk into any Walmart and have a reasonably good chance of finding 9mm at favorable prices? You could still do that with 40. In fact, 40 seems to be easier to find than 9 lately. With 10mm, forget it. You’re lucky if you can find it at a gun store.

      And even when you can find 10mm, most of the time it will not even be loaded to full 10mm power. So effectively, it just ends up being overpriced, harder to find .40 S&W.

      If you’re convinced .40 “short and weak” just isn’t powerful enough, you should probably go with .45 ACP.

      • avatarMouldy Squid says:

        A buddy of mine has a Glock in 10mm (from the early 1990s). He keeps trying to convince me that I should buy 10mm pistols. I always counter by asking when he last bought ammunition in 10mm.

        I know that Glock still makes 10mm pistols. Does anyone else anymore? I haven’t seen one for sale in years.

  6. avatarDogman says:

    One day’s familiarity with the new guns may be sufficient. If they’re now using .40 Glocks and they’re going to 9mm Glocks…well, they’re essentially the same gun except for caliber. If they decide on the M&P? I’ve never used one. Unless they go with an M&P with manual safety, there doesn’t look to be much difference in operation compared to the Glock. Both are simple firearms. IIRC, the Glock armorer’s course is a short one day affair. And that’s a course on how to take the guns apart to repair them. Presumably, the cops in St. Paul already know how to shoot guns. If not, they have no business being cops to begin with.

  7. avatar2Wheels says:

    I started off with .40S&W due to my father and I do like the caliber, but I learned to dislike it in super subcompact guns like the subcompact XD40 I used to have. IMHO with the sharp recoil .40S&W is known for, it’s not the best choice for tiny guns.

    In the end between wanting to save money by shooting fewer calibers and wanting to move away from .40S&W in my carry guns I ended up with .45ACP and 9mm. I’m pretty happy so far.

  8. avatarCUJO THE DOG OF WAR says:

    I have all three. I use 135grain JHP in my .40′s. Only. I use the middle weight, 124 grain JHP in my 9mm’s-but they are also +P+. The only exception is Corbon Pow’RBall, the only non +P+ I normally use in my 9′s. In the .45 ACP’s I stock more of the 165 grain +P Pow’RBall more than anything else-the velocity edge, but I also mingle with 200 gr JHP’s. Personally, I feel if it’s .45, it’s good as long as it feeds. But I do go for the edge of the hollowpoint, and Pow’RBall feeds in everything. I’ll like it if they ever deliver on the promised 200gr though. I have heard that some SWAT teams have shifted from .40 submachineguns for entry to M4′s ‘because the .40 overpenetrates, and the 5.56 doesn’t’. A former friend on SWAT told me this also. I have yet to test it, but I know his department goes with TAP on everything SWAT. What does baffle me is the word I got that our SCHP switched to .45 GAP from .40. They can’t afford to raise Trooper pay to even match Deputy’s pay, and are severely short on personnel. But they go to a new and really not proven caliber. They more than anybody would be shooting through windshields, why leave the .40? Not to mention the cost. In my memory, they only once changed from 00 buck shot, to #1, and soon changed back. As for the 9 vs. 40? With the rounds I use, it is apples and apples. .40 isn’t the “touch them anywhere and they’ll drop” round they thought. No round is. There was a video at the academy. I believe the guy was on a near fatal dose of meth. He was coming at the officers. They shot him. And shot him. He still kept on. .40′s and 12 ga’s thundered. They shot his heart out. you could see the hole. He still traveled about 15 feet. Then he died.

    • avatarWalrusleather says:

      As I have said before, Meth makes supermen out of skeletons.
      I have seen the training video of a meth-head getting tazed over and over to no effect. Same video, same whacked out fool, 12 GA bean bag rounds to the gut and chest that would bend you over in pain, no effect.

      • avatarCUJO THE DOG OF WAR says:

        That’s why the stormtroopers and the kamikazes were given it. Fear turns to rage and adrenalin turns to fuel.

    • avatarRudy says:

      No round is? I bet some artillery guys could argue that their 155 or 240 mm rounds can.

  9. avatarHunter S. says:

    I like the .40 XDm.

    Plenty of punch, capacity and accuracy.

    Once again it’s about personal preference. It’s probably a good idea to diversify your pistols with the three main calibers anyway.

  10. avatarMartin Albright says:

    I drank the .40 koolaid when I bought my concealed carry gun in 2005 (Gen 2 Glock 23.) And I regretted it the first time I launched a round downrange and the recoil left my hand stinging. No matter how firmly I held the gun I couldn’t get away from that punishing recoil.

    I almost sold the gun until I saw an ad for a Storm Lake conversion barrel. $105 later I had my shiny new G23-converted-to-G19, and with a couple of G19 magazines, I was in business. To this day, 6 years later, I have had exactly one malfunction in hundreds of rounds with the 9mm conversion barrel.

    And +1 to Van. 9mm is cheap and plentiful which = plenty of practice rounds. .40 is too pricey for my cheap ass.

    • avatarmiforest says:

      +2 yep I’m a nine guy, but my 12 yr old son likes the 1911 in for plate and pin shoots.

    • avatarRalph says:

      Good point. I bought a Storm Lake 9mm conversion barrel and a couple of 9mm mags for my M&P 40c so I can shoot cheap 9mm rounds. Works like a charm. Firing 9mm and .40 from the exact same gun is what led me to the conclusion that the difference in recoil between the two round is — for me — miniscule.

      • avatarCUJO THE DOG OF WAR says:

        Those Storm Lake barrels are good aren’t they? I’ve had one for 6 years.

  11. avatarSevesteen says:

    My current primary is .40, but I doubt I will buy more

    A single day’s training would be insufficient to go from zero to the competency that police should have–but it should be more than enough to merely switch calibers in somewhat similar guns.

  12. avatarGabba says:

    what a lot of people don’t get about .40s&w is that it’s a lot of its popularity is due to a cynical and sneaky ploy by the gun manufacturers (primarily glock) in the wake of the assault weapons ban. They played up the inadequacies of the 9mm and offered to switch out free of charge to .40 to law enforcement agencies. so they would end up trading gun for gun (minor loss), and pre-ban 9mm mags for post-ban LE only 40 mags (huge gain).

  13. avatarBob H says:

    When I was looking for my first owned gun I ended up with the .40 PX4 because it was the largest caliber/gun combo which I could fire accurately for 50 consecutive rounds (at the time). (for certain values of accuracy. At the time that was keeping all shots on an 8″ target at 25 yards.)

    Now I am looking for a 9mm for summer carry because the fullsize PX4 is too big to carry concealed easily in VA’s summer. I am leaning toward either the compact PX4 in 9mm or perhaps an SR9. When summer and fall are over and I can wear more than a polo shirt without standing out in a crowd I may go back to the .40. Then again I may decide I like the 9mm better.

  14. avatarSid says:

    I agree with previous commenters that going from a Glock to another Glock in one day of training is plenty. This training is not on new equipment, but a swap of models.

    That said, I also agree that the difference is trivial. I am old enough to have qualified with the 1911 and then retrain and qualify with the M9. The fundamentals of shooting do not change. The .45ACP is not so onerous that it hurts the hands of smaller shooters. The 9mm is not so small that it won’t kill a person. I prefer the .45 but was comfortable with the 9mm on my last deployment. I honestly believe that young soldiers should be allowed to purchase a sidearm in 9mm, .40, or .45ACP as soon as they graduate from AIT. The arguments against carrying multiple calibers within a unit are superficial. It can be done.

    Once a service member transitions to their sidearm, they are either working close or the feces has hit the rotating wind device. In either situation, getting ammo from a fellow soldier is not going to happen. If I am working close, then the only reloads I am going to do are muscle memory from my vest pouches. If the situation is bad, every round counts and when you run out or pistol ammo you need to pick up a weapon from the wounded/dead.

    Not to be too short, but shot placement and the type of bullet fired are far more important than the caliber of bullet fired. In my MP platoon, my soldiers were trained to stop firing when the bullets had the desired effect on the target and never a moment sooner.

  15. avatarRobert Farago says:

    I stand by my statement re: training required to switch guns/calibers.

    You want a cop to be one with his gun. While there are some people who can pick-up any gun and shot the snot out of it (so to speak), cops aren’t generally known for possessing this talent. Considering their hit ratio (clock this from nytimes.com), it’s quite the opposite.

    In Los Angeles, which has 9,699 officers, the police fired 283 rounds in 2006, hitting their target 77 times, for a hit ratio of 27 percent, said Officer Ana Aguirre, a spokeswoman. Last year, they fired 264 rounds, hitting 76 times, for a 29 percent hit ratio, she said.

    So far this year the hit ratio in Los Angeles is 31 percent, with 74 of 237 bullets fired by officers hitting the target.

    In the New York reports, the hit ratio of officers who committed suicide with a firearm — and, therefore, hit their target 100 percent of the time — is included when the overall average is calculated, bringing it up.

    • avatarBlake says:

      As Colonel Jeff Cooper said: “Only accurate guns are interesting.”

      The corollary being: “Generally, guns are only as accurate as the person behind it.”

      The whole 9mm, .40 and .45 “stopping power” argument is irrelevant.

      The only question that matters is: “Is the gun accurate and reliable in the hands of a competent shooter?”

    • avatarCUJO THE DOG OF WAR says:

      I wonder if they count the cops who shoot at their own heads and miss…

  16. avatarDryw says:

    I own .45 (230), 10mm (200), and .40 (180) exclusively. All my nines are now gone. All a matter of taste and training. I shoot well with .40, and at the end of the day that’s the _only_ relevant factor. Practice, practice, and quality ammo are key. And practice.

    Also; practice.

    Handgun calibers all create woefully inefficient permanent wound cavities, and not excellent temporary stretch cavities at that. Weight begets penetration. Any ballistics professional will tell you that penetration is paramount. So shoot the heaviest grain your particular weapon will handle, and practice. Though I may have mentioned practice before.

    Outside of weight, 9/40/45 caliber differences are almost irrelevant.
    A little part of me dies every time I hear a supposed expert regurgitate the phrase “knockdown power”.

    I will say It’s an endless source of amusement when the “40 Short & Weak” crowd lambasts the round in favor of 10mm, all the while happily firing modern day off-the-shelf 10mm tame loads that offer almost no ballistic enhancement over its “weaker” cousin.

    • avatarI_Like_Pie says:

      “Handgun calibers all create woefully inefficient permanent wound cavities”

      That is not true at all…I hunt bear, hog, and deer with handguns and none of the wound channels could be in any way considered inefficient.

      • avatarDryw says:

        Won’t dispute that. I intended to say (and omitted) when compared to rifle calibers.

        I was attempting to illustrate that 9-40-45 channels are almost indistinct enough to be called identical. making the “My Xmm _handgun_ is better/deadlier/nuclear” argument somewhat flawed.

        An example: http://i459.photobucket.com/albums/qq319/DocGKR/Handgun_gel_comparison.jpg

        With the text covered, its challenging to discern which round is which. Yes, its gel and gel isn’t really, real world. Nice illustration regardless.

  17. avatarTim says:

    Always good to bring up the old, tired, caliber wars… I have all three (9, .40, and .45) – I don’t feel the recoil difference, honestly, in any of the calibers. Sig P6, XDsc40, and 1911 Commander .45. They all shoot fine, my accuracy is good with each. I am in CA, so the capacity limitation means little (8+1 in the Sig 9mm vs. XDsc .40 9+1, vs. 1911 8+1 with standard magazine). It comes down to this: shoot the gun you are comfortable both shooting and carrying. When it comes down to it, any gun is better than none… To compare your general requirements to police requirements is futile. They are looking at various threats that we are VERY unlikely to need (walls, cars, barricades, drug-addicts, multiple threats, long term shootouts). Our goal is to stop a threat, or slow them down to make an escape.

  18. avatarSid says:

    Robert,

    While I agree that police in general need more training and practice, I think the day of training provided they are only switching models is adequate. I worked for some fine field officers and they all agreed, the only way to get better is to shoot more. Police departments need to find ways to get their officers to shoot more often. We agree there.

    My comment is only that the department is providing one day because the officers are switching from a Glock .40 to a Glock 9mm. One day is more than adequate for that need.

  19. I have decided to change from the Glock 22 to the Glock 19. Why? One is that the wife is more comfortable with the recoil and the other is the cost of the ammo. We plan on doing a lot of training and the cost savings on ammo will add up.

  20. avatartdiinva says:

    I don’t like in betweens. Choose a 9mm or 45 ACP. The 40 cal doesn’t do much more then a 9mm JHP in terms of stopping power. The 1911 is a little short on capacity but if you hit your target squarely at center mass it’s light out with a standard 230 grain round.

  21. avatarPatrick Carrube says:

    I like and prefer the .45ACP to anything, but my compact/small-framed guns are .40S&W. This topic has been brought up before and I still don’t understand the “recoil issue”. Most TTAG’ers that shoot/carry a 9mm for CCW/PP use +P or +P+ to get the extra “stopping power” (I use that term loosely!). My XDm-40 recoils much less than an XDm-9 shooting +P or +P+ loads. Heck, even my XDm 3.8 Compact in .40S&W recoils less than a 9mm +P! Of course, my XDm-45 recoils less than the .40S&W, but that’s a different story. Cost is another thing that makes me turn my head sideways like a confused puppy – the difference in cartridges range from $0.04 to $0.12 per round, depending on loading, JHP/FMJ, etc. In “large bulk”, you can even get better deals. The only way to get 9mm significantly cheaper is by buying either non-USA or non-brass ammo, or both. For me, and I’ll go out on a limb and assume most of us, cost differences really aren’t the decision-maker. Shoot what you like and shot it often!

  22. avatarAndrew Snyder says:

    The amount of recoil felt has as much to do with the size of the gun as it does the power of the round. If you want to carry a tiny gun, then use a tiny caliber. The smallest gun I have is a .25 and she kicks like a mule even though the round could easily be confused for a .22.

    So what I am saying is there are really two different arguments here that are getting blended into one. The .40 does have more stopping power than the 9X19, this has been proven though it isn’t by much (stats can be produced if unable to find them yourself). The .40 also does have more recoil than the 9X19 when fired from similar guns like say the Glock 17 and Glock 22.

    At this point let me interject some personal findings of an impromptu study. A couple years ago we found ourselves in an interesting situation at the local backyard range. It started when I decided I wanted to try shooting my Glock 22 in my primary hand and my brothers Glock 23 in my off hand, at the same time. A couple rounds from each later and I had to switch hands because though the ammo came from the same box and the 23 is only slightly smaller than the 22, the recoil difference was extremely noticeable. My brother asked why I switched and this of course led to him trying it out because he didn’t believe me. This led to more curiosity and a quick inventory. Between my brother, my cousin, and myself who were the only three at the range we realized we had at our immediate call the following guns.
    - Glock 22 – shoots .40
    - Glock 23 – shoots .40 and is slightly smaller than the 22
    - Glock 27 – shoots .40 and is slightly smaller than the 23
    - Glock 17 – shoots 9X19mm and is the same size as the 22
    - Glock 19 – shoots 9X19mm and is the same size as the 23
    - A crap load of other handguns of various sizes and calibers we also checked out but were less useful because we either didn’t have similar size and weight guns of different calibers or multiple sized guns of the same caliber.
    There are blessings to having a cousin live nearby who is a well off doctor and extremely paranoid at the same time!

    So, glock 22 and glock 17, same gun different calibers, the recoil difference was barely noticeable regardless of which hand was holding which gun. Could tell the .40 had more recoil but it was really small. Same story with 23 and 19.

    Shooting the Glock 22 and Glock 19, the recoil difference was huge, pretty much the same as between the 22 and 23. Even though the 19 fired the smaller round the smaller gun made the felt recoil much higher than the 22.

    The glock 27 of course had by far the most felt recoil when compared to the other guns.

    When messing around double firing the other handguns we found that the size of the gun made much more difference than the size of the round it fired. Small guns like my Makarov firing relatively weak rounds like the 9X18mm had way more kick than the bigger guns firing the larger rounds. As I said earlier, my smalles gun (and incidentally it was the smallest gun there) is a little colt Saturday night special in .25, and though it is a center fire with only slightly more power than a .22, the felt recoil is noticeably high. However, there is a huge power difference between the .25 and the 9X18 and the Makarov is only slightly larger (about same difference as Glock 22 and 23), the two had about the same felt recoil when fired side by side, so caliber does play a part but it is a much smaller part than size and weight.

    Try this experiment yourself if you don’t believe me and have access to a range that allows two handgun shooting, you might be surprised what you learn, I was. Until then, you are going to have to trust me, size of the gun plays a lot more into recoil felt than the caliber of the gun. Caliber does play a part though. If you are buying a really small CC gun, and recoil is a concern, then buy a really small caliber CC gun, like say a .22 or .25. But honestly, saying you are getting a 9mm because the .40 has too much recoil is not what I would consider a valid argument unless your strength falls into the really small difference between the recoil felt in 9mm and .40. Since I see far too many people using it, I have to believe most are either ill informed and parroting what they heard without actually trying the two with similarly sized and weighted guns, or have stuck in their head that the 9 is weaker than the .40 and therefore noticeably less recoil.

    The cost, that I can believe, though it really isn’t all that. If cost between .40 and 9mm rounds is something you are crying about, don’t ever get into long range shooting, those rounds make pistol rounds seem as expensive as .22 rounds by comparison with some rounds like match .338 costing over 30 dollars a round.

  23. avatarNate says:

    I’m with you on this one, I do not understand the .40 S&W. The terminal effects are on par or slightly better (10%) than 9x19mm but the recoil approaches that of the .45 ACP. I don’t know many people that shoot pistols on a regular basis that are a big fan of the .40 S&W. Then again, if you go down to the local big box retailer you’ll see the only Glock in the case is the G22.

    I will never for the life of me understand why .40 S&W caught on while its older, bigger brother the 10mm was pushed aside. Magnum revolver ballistics in a lightweight, semi-automatic pistol? Who wouldn’t want that? Apparently a lot of people.

    • avatarMouldy Squid says:

      It has to do more with the frame size and felt recoil. The original 10mm required a fairly large frame, the .40 can be chambered on a 9mm frame. Wikipeadia sez “During this collaboration with the FBI, S&W realized that downloading the 10mm full power to meet the FBI medium velocity specification meant less powder and more airspace in the case. They found that by removing the airspace they could shorten the 10mm case enough to fit within their medium-frame 9mm handguns and load it with a 180 gr (12 g) JHP bullet to produce ballistic performance identical to the FBI’s reduced velocity 10mm cartridge.”

      Given the requirements that the FBI had, the ability to have a ballistically similar round to the 10mm and the ability to chamber it on a smaller framed pistol was the best compromise. Lower felt recoil and smaller pistol size obviously have their advantages for LEO.

      You can find more here.

      An interesting article, but it is Wikipeadia so your milage may vary.

      • avatarCUJO THE DOG OF WAR says:

        Yes! I had a chance to buy 2 of the test 4506′s. I first noted the modification, a left side decocker only-just like Sig Sauer, and the hugeness of the weapon. No way an average agent would’ve been comfortable with it. I test fired some of the original loads-and thought they had invented a new magnum. I so wish I had shelled out the bucks. I remember being stunned at the cost of development. I really did not see why they didn’t either go to .45 ACP, go to .38 Super or get beefed up 9mm rounds. I know Jeff Cooper was going nuts, what with the Bren Ten and all.

        • avatarMouldy Squid says:

          I think that Miami Vice was one of the reasons for the Bren Ten’s earlier popularity ;)

          Personally, I think the Florida shootout really scared the upper echelons of the FBI and they were set on something bigger than 9mm at all costs. You could have supplied them with a 9mm that met their specifications and they still would have went with the .40. Really, they wanted the 10mm but like you said, those 4506s were just too big and bucking for most of their agents. This way they could show that were “protecting” their agents with a more powerful handgun that all of them could use and so avoid another Florida.

          Heck, my dad has a S&W 10mm from back in the day and there is no way I would want to have to carry and fire that as an LEO. It’s simply too big and kicky for me. But I do like my full sized .40 CZ.

          Too bad you couldn’t have gotten one of those 4506s. That would be quite the collector’s piece now.

        • avatarCUJO THE DOG OF WAR says:

          Yep. I opted for an H&K VP70Z. I knew no matter how clunky, I could shoot any hardcore 9mm rounds through it and it would keep rocking. Oh, yes-Casey Anthony innocent on all but false info to police. Lawyer already hinting at slander lawsuits.

        • avatarCUJO THE DOG OF WAR says:

          Remember when the early 10 mm rounds were wildly hot but wildly erratic? I do remember that FBI shootout too. I think if anything it boosted sales of Ruger Mini 14′s.

  24. avatarGaryinVT says:

    It’s not about the ammo. It’s about selling new guns.

  25. avatarChris Dumm says:

    At first I avoided the .40 for a couple of reasons:

    1) At the time, I wanted a real 10mm instead of a decaffeinated 10mm. After all, what was there not to love (on paper, at least) about an autoloader cartridge with huge bullets and velocities exceeding the .357 Magnum?

    2) It was a ‘new’ caliber back in the day, and I always distrust new calibers. We might remember the .45 GAP, .357 Sig, and .356 TSW, but how many of us own and shoot them? Or the .357 Maximum, .32 H&R Magnum, or .40 AE?

    These days, I don’t have a .40 because it just doesn’t seem like I need it another caliber to buy and handload for. I’ve got a little 9mm and a bigger 9mm and a .45 ACP. I’ve already downsized the .380 ACP from my collection, and the main reason I keep a .45 ACP is that I wouldn’t really consider myself a handgunner if I didn’t own a 1911. The .45 is too expensive for me to shoot regularly, and even my cheapest handloads (filthy roundnose lead) are no cheaper than bargain factory 9mm.

    The .40 is a solid round that delivers effective ballistics without heavy recoil, but it doesn’t do anything for me that I can’t already do.

  26. avatarDon says:

    I used to think the .40 S&W was a pointless caliber. It was to the point where I kind of looked down my nose at people who owned a single handgun in .40 S&W.

    Then I began to realize that the .40 S&W does serve a purpose for people who don’t have multiple 9mm and .45acp to choose from. A mid sized .40S&W is a good choice if you don’t already have other more specialized options.

    -D

  27. avatarDavid B says:

    When the .40 S&W was adopted by police agencies, it was primarily because the FBI adopted it. The 9mm had a noted lack of effectivity at that time. (I first heard the term spray and pray in relation to a police shooting where 3 Glock 17 magazines were emptied and the target was not hit.) Yes, there are more effective 9mm bullets, but if patrol officers do not have confidence in the round, expect more shots fired with fewer hits on target.

    This whole situation is remarkably similar to .38 Special, .357 Magnum revolver wars.

    And for those stating the .40S&W is a compromise round. Remember that the 9mm was created because the .30 Luger was not considered effective.

  28. avatarmiforest says:

    Ok then its settled .

    I will say that inventing new calibers is an easy way to get free publicity from gun mags and generats some buzz and sales. but its a real crime . Just try to get ammo for that 25 WSSM you bought last year , or the 30 TC. How about the 300 short action mag? none of these cartridges will do anything the 25/06, 308 win, or 300 wby won’t do, except cost you $3.50 a round for factory ammo. In 10 years , noboby will even make these cartridges. what a rip.

  29. avatarRalph says:

    Great, It’s settled. Now what do y’all think about the .327 Mag? :-)

  30. avatarChase says:

    I like many here, have the XDM 40 for carry, and the main reason I chose it is the power(its not negligible) and ammo capacity. I’d almost call the whole 9mm or 45 debate and choosing 40 dilemma the same as the 5.56 or 7.62 and choosing 6.8.

    I like cops using 9mm though, they tend to shoot innocent people, now they may be less likely to kill those people too.

  31. avatarThe 4th says:

    I carry a 1911 in .45, but stopping a BG is placement, penetration, expansion in that order. Get the gun that you are most comfortable shooting, practice, practice, practice, and carry that gun. 9mm is certainly cheaper and you can shoot about a third more in practice for the same price as a .40 or half in .45.

    I wouldn’t hesitate to carry a 9mm. Much of the caliber debate is outdated – ammo has substantially improved. One shot stops and knock down power are myths. The only one shot stops are the brain or spinal column and it really doesn’t matter what caliber. (Military ammo is a different question. It is all ball ammo and there is a difference between 9mm and .45 when shot with non expanding ammo.)

    My Mom is 83, has arthritis, and her carry gun is a CZ83 in .32 – carried locked and loaded with a 16 round magazine and heavy enough that there is almost no recoil. And because she likes to shoot it, she does practice. The gun in your pocket when you need it beats the hell out of the one at home in your night stand.

  32. avatarTheodore says:

    There are two ways to look at the .40 S&W:

    -more powerful than 9×19, more capacity than .45 ACP
    -less powerful than .45 ACP, less capacity than 9×19.

    Is your magazine half full or half empty?

  33. avatarracer88 says:

    Ah… a caliber war on TTAG! It was only a matter of time, eh?

    My first pistol was a Glock 19 (9mm). Still have it. Still like it. Since then I’ve acquired two .40-cal Glocks – the 23 and the 27. Honestly, when I read about “snappy” recoil and stinging hands, I really wonder. I EDC my G27. I can shoot it for extended periods at the range with no issues. I guess I might concede that it’s “snappy.” But, I’m not a big guy at all, and I manage it just fine. No stinging or pain. And, the G23 is a pussycat, IMO. I enjoy shooting my .40s. And, I can shoot them as accurately as my 9-mm.

    But, ultimately, it’s a good thing we have so many flavors. Everyone has different tolerances and preferences. My problem… I like’m all! Just got my first .45 ACP…. An FNH FNP-45 Tactical, and it is 15 + 1 rounds of .45 ACP goodness! :)

  34. avatarRobert Farago says:

    Does anyone want to answer the question? Is .40 on its way out?

    • avatarTheodore says:

      Is .40 on the way out? I guess that depends on whether you believe it was ever really in. Anybody have market share figures for .40 S&W handguns?

    • avatarBob H says:

      I hope not. I don’t have anywhere to reload. My wife objected to the dining room table and family room ideas. She didn’t think my idea of using the second vanity was “funny” either.

    • avatarMouldy Squid says:

      I hope not, but I don’t think it will go anywhere anytime soon. A lot of LEO detachments have invested heavily in .40. The popularity the round has in IPSC is important as well. And as A. Lee posted, most manufacturers have models chambered for .40.

    • avatarLC Judas says:

      I doubt .40 is on the way out. Simply because it is the most simple to explain caliber in semi auto that is not 9mm or .45 auto. It is common knowledge to the average annual range visitor that 9mm is lame and lacks power but that .45 is too much power for beginners. This means .40 makes the most sense.

      I kid you not, those same lines or some ilk have been regurgitated so many times that I just avoid talking guns with anyone who hasn’t shot more than 100 rounds in a lifetime. It saves headache.

      The fact that .40 has a place tactically and historically is notwithstanding.

  35. avatarDougieR says:

    TYPO ALERT: “….Kenney says the St. Louis po-po should stick with .40 caliber.”

    I’m a St. Louisan (MO) and SLPD has never, to my knowledge, used any other caliber than 9mm. They nor any of their sub-units have ever used .40 S&W. I won’t weight in on the .40 vs. 9mm debate. I use both and have a Glock 27 (.40S&W with 165gr) as a carry gun. Both calibers are excellent.

    I WILL weigh in on the choice of 9mm ammunition and the bullet weights many PDs choose to use in their 9s. SLPD uses a subsonic 147gr in a Beretta 92 modified for DAO. It is absolutely the WORST gun/ammo combination I’ve ever fired. Underpowered, innaccurate, and excessive recoil to say the least. Many PDs use the 147gr DAO combo to prevent spray-and-pray among their officers, reduce over-penetration, and minimize the chance they will actually kill an offender thus triggering some kind of wrongful death mess.

    But hey…maybe that’s a good thing when they get a whole whopping full day of training right?

  36. avatarA. Lee says:

    This again? It seems we have to rehash this every couple months, to boost up the web stats. Let’s go over the basics.

    1. .40S&W is between 9mm and .45 ACP, in terms of bullet grain, velocity, and typical mag capacity. It’s a compromise between the two, and I don’t think you can make a rational argument as to whether it’s superior or inferior to the 9mm and .45 ACP. They’re just different dots on the same line.

    2. 9mm fans need to stop talking about “modern bullets.” Any improvement that makes a better 9mm bullet can also be done to other calibers.

    3. All else being equal (in terms of bullet design and materials), a bigger or faster bullet is more deadly. Which means a bigger case with more powder. There’s no way around it.

    So will .40 S&W stay around? Yes. Why?

    1. .40 S&W makes at least as much sense as 5.7x28mm and .357 SIG, and is less expensive and more popular. If 5.7x28mm and .357 SIG have managed to live on in law-enforcement, than .40 S&W will as well.

    2. The .40 S&W ballistic performance is right in among the popular LE cartridges, 9mm, .45 ACP, and .38 Special/.357 Mag. Which means, like the other cartridges, it strikes a good balance between knockdown power, ammo capacity, and recoil.

    3. All the main semi-auto gun manufacturers have complete model lineups in .40 S&W, so it’s not going anywhere.

  37. avatarRebecca says:

    I have a question: how much practice does a typical police officer get each month? How many rounds do they expend each month on a range?

    I’m also wondering if they have more accidents (is this correct, or am I mistaken on this?) at the range than Average Citizen because they’re more used to having their weapons on them all the time, and they’re more relaxed, more complacent about gun safety?

    • avatarRudy says:

      Little. Not exactly sure about all yours, since you live in United States and all departments have their own policy on that, but those LEO’s I’ve talked with, though shooting more, than ours, still, shoots far less, than average “gun owner”. Probably it is because lazyness is the worst monster in human culture. :)

      • avatarCUJO THE DOG OF WAR says:

        Yes. I found it maddening. The main source of deadly force you carry daily, and you don’t bother to know it like you know your own hand. I unload my main carry weapons at least every 3 days, look it over, practice sighting and handling, even if I am not shooting. I want that mental picture and muscle memory. My memory is very visual, so it works for me well.

        • avatarRebecca says:

          We tend to do that, too. We don’t just handle the guns on range day, we frequently practice getting them out and taking stances to cover the doors and windows. Always with triply-checked empty guns, of course.

        • avatarCUJO THE DOG OF WAR says:

          That’s the way to do it. Then bit, by bit you end up with way too many like me! But I do love shooting. I stock up ammo since the shortage when Obama was coming in. Ammo was ridiculously priced and short.

      • avatarRebecca says:

        That’s frightening.

        • avatarRudy says:

          Yes. But I think we have modern society to blame. All thosepolitical absu… err correctness, ignorance is bliss and mind too small for doubt is blessed.
          Plus, AFAIR, US tendency to sue everything and everyone for anything.
          But, comes with the territory, I suppose.

  38. avatarCUJO THE DOG OF WAR says:

    The normal standard I always encountered was mandatory annual requalification. It was up to the officer, at his own expense, to practice. Most ranges either offer free membership or reduced rates for L/E. We always had the same ones every year who had to retry and took several times to make it. The admin rarely let us refuse them. I have seen some who would show up wanting help to clean their weapon from the year before. I saw one who never checked his weapon, and it was caked in rust-inside the holster. There are officers who took it seriously and practiced often, but I never saw many. SWAT has to requal more often. Many just carry the weapon day in and day out, never hardly handling their weapons, so they are careless and unpracticed. I use to shoot at least every 2 weeks, and the serious ones also did too.

    • avatarMouldy Squid says:

      I can only talk about the experience with my father in the RCMP. Every posting we had, with the exception of a couple of really, really rural towns, the detachment had a range either in the administration building or co-opted a local public range. I can remember shooting with the other officers when I was a kid, and it seemed that they were on the firing line for several hours at least once a month. They did all the drills, shooting kneeling, standing, prone, off-hand, tactical reloading (and these were the days of revolvers and moon clips). I would have to say that I felt very confident that “my” police officers were well practiced in firearms.

      As for non-scheduled practice, as far as I could tell, the ammunition was “free” and the officers could practice at any time they wished so long as the RO knew they were. I can never remember ever having to take ammo from home when I went with my father to the RCMP range.

      What it is like now, I cannot say. My father retired about 15 years ago. No more “free” ammo for us (but all the lead and brass we can haul out of the range!).

      • avatarCUJO THE DOG OF WAR says:

        That’s the way it should be!

        • avatarMouldy Squid says:

          I agree. The RCMP take firearms seriously, or at least they used to. They even have special badges for their dress uniforms for marksmanship. If you qualify you get to put little crossed pistols and little rifles on the sleeve cuffs of your red serge. If you are exceptional, you get to put a little star under the “arch” of the crossed pistols or rifles. If you are really, really good, you get to put a star under both.

          Whenever I was at a regimental ball or other “to-do” I always looked for the guys with the stars. Dad, of course, had stars on both.

          I don’t know what their firearms practice policies are now. I am seeing my father this weekend. I will ask and see if he knows. He’s been out of the loop for a while, but he is still friendly with the members. If you are interested I will post in this thread with the answer (with the moderator’s permission of course).

        • avatarCUJO THE DOG OF WAR says:

          Cool! Would you believe one of my departments wouldn’t record the numeric score, only pass/fail? Their “theory” was that if a shooting went to court, the officer could be asked why he didn’t wing the guy instead of kill him. Ridiculous! Paper and flesh are two different things. Another department wouldn’t let me wear my academy honor grad ribbon, instructor ribbon and scuba (dive team) device because no one else on the shift had earned anything. Oh, did you know the feds, such as ICE, use the Ranger 135gr JHP 40 S&W ammo? I get it for around $18 a box at AMMO TO GO.com.

  39. avatarSid says:

    No, I do not think the .40 is on its way out.

    Again, personal preference is probably the most salient factor in caliber choice. Variety is the spice of life. I think more agencies and even the military should begin thinking about allowing choices of calibers. If a soldier, officer, police officer is willing to purchase a weapon for use in their assigned role, I am willing to supply the ammo.

  40. avatarforrest225 says:

    As far as .40 vs 9mm goes I would have to say 10mm. I figure if you want an increase in power you might as well go with the real deal ya know?

  41. avatarSGTCHILL says:

    All of them is good, practice more in shooting range, i prefer shooting .45 because of its stopping power.
    More practice is better and shoot like Todd Jarrett.
    thanks

  42. avatarCutter says:

    As a physicians assistant, I have seen three close range head shots in the ER with the .40 — None caused enough injury for the patient to be admitted. They all WALKED out of the building. In one of the shootings, the patient was a woman who was shot by her boyfriend at one foot range, The .40 didn’t penetrate her hair weave.
    The local sheriff department was issued the .40. One deputy told me that they tried to “put down” a car-struck deer. It took three head shot to kill it. He said it was more of a beating than a bullet kill. They all carry .9mm and .45 backups for the real deal.
    It appears the paper stats don’t match the physical realities of the round.

  43. avatarJoe says:

    Now there is underwood .40 +p 155 grain, 582 foot/lbs.!

  44. avatarChris says:

    “I don’t get .40 caliber. More recoil than a 9mm, smaller holes than a .45. Less capacity than a nine, more “snap” than a .45″

    or
    40: Less recoil than 45, bigger holes than 9, more capacity than a .45, less recoil than a 45.

  45. avatarTim says:

    I’ve been a LEO for 23 years and carried a .38 spl model 10, a 9mm 5906 and finally, a Glock 22 in .40 S&W. I have never felt at a disadvantage because of my issue sidearm or its ammo. Regardless of jello ballistics, there are just too many factors that can determine the performance of a round in an actual shooting.
    The Miami shootout was an example of poor FBI tactics and a couple of very well trained and aggressive bad guys. The infamous 9mm round that stopped just shy of Platts heart performed exactly as tested by Winchester in jello but was in inch short in real flesh and bone. Platt and Matix had been hit by .38s, buckshot and 9mm numerous times and it’s unlikely that any reasonable law enforcement caliber would have performed any better given the poor hollowpoint design of that era.
    The .40 S&W is simply an attempt to squeeze a 10mm size projectile into 9mm sized pistol. I’m up in Canada and about 20,000 RCMP members carry a Smith 5946 in 9mm with 147 grain Winchester Ranger ammo. In a significant number of shootings, the 9mm has performed as well or better than expected.
    The majority of other Canadian police forces seem equally divided between .40 and 9mm.
    I did not find the recoil of .40 cal uncomfortable at all and I don’t have huge hands. The only criteria I consider in a handgun caliber are at least 16 inches of penetration in jello, [ no one in Canada has ever been killed by the magical "overpenetrating" handgun round], good hollowpoint design and reliable feeding in a reliable firearm. The rest of the show is entirely the human factor.
    Do you train ? Can you hit what you aim at ? Are you confident in your abilities and are you realistic in your self assessment ?
    I think that the three common calibers, 9, 40 and .45 will be around for a very long time yet.

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