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


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, 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.”