Calibers for Beginners: 10mm Auto

The 10mm Auto is a cartridge with an unusual history. It’s one of the few that has gained a reputation as both too powerful and not powerful enough for regular use by a variety of end users. In this article we will look at the 10mm Auto both in the past and how it sits today in the mind of the shooting public. We will also look at what it is and what it isn’t for the new shooter.

Mixed Beginnings
The 10mm Auto began life as the brainchild of the late/great Jeff Cooper. If you don’t know who Jeff Cooper is, you’re not an idiot, as many pompous gun people will claim, you’re just not reading the right books. Cooper was a man who embraced the effective and railed against the excessive in his writings. He’s best known for creating many of the modern pistol techniques we use today, and he developed the 10mm Auto round.

The cartridge was designed to offer better terminal performance than .45ACP and 9mm. There is more to it than that, but we don’t need to cover that here. In short, the resulting product was a rimless pistol round that fits into the frame of a standard automatic pistol (like a 1911) and produces power on par with some types of magnum revolver cartridges. In all, it was a very successful design that appeared in pop culture like Miami Vice, where hero Sonny Crockett carried it in a Bren Ten, and in the real-life hands of the FBI.

Unlike Crockett, many FBI and other law enforcement agencies couldn’t handle the excessive recoil produced by the full-house loads, resulting in ‘10mm Lite’ loads. That choice virtually killed the 10mm on the commercial and LE market. ‘10mm Lite’ spawned the red-headed stepchild of the pistol world, the .40 S&W. The .40 (still a 10mm, just a shorter case length) was heavily adopted across the country and world and the original 10mm Auto was largely forgotten, except in some small circles.

As .40 S&W began to die off with the advent of better and more advanced 9mm loads in recent years, the 10mm Auto began a surprising renaissance of its own. That just about brings us to today. The beginner should look at the 10mm Auto as it is now, not as it once was. Things are better than ever for today’s 10mm fans, although some caution must be used for the novice, especially handgun hunters who are new to the caliber.

Benefits of a 10mm Auto include:

Superior terminal performance That’s the big one, my friends. You can say the 10mm is powerful, but it has to be seen to be believed. Compared to the other three most common carry cartridges (9mm, .45ACP, .40 S&W), it offers a tremendous advantage in power and penetration at equal distances.
Relatively large magazine capacity The 10mm can squeeze more ammo into a gun of the same size than a .45 ACP, typically in the range of one to three rounds more depending on the model. A GLOCK 20 holds 15+1 rounds, the same as a 9mm GLOCK 19. Just be aware of capacity limits when hunting.
Powerful commercial ammo The 10mm’s resurgence has created factory options that meet or exceed the original specs Cooper intended.
New and solid guns The market for 10mm guns is currently growing. Solid and mature platforms such as the 1911, GLOCKs, and even revolvers, ensure reliability and accuracy.
Dual purpose use The 10mm is a popular hunting caliber that can be used on many game species including small black bear. (This also appears in the cons section, so don’t be surprised.)

Some cons for a beginner to consider:

Recoil Yes, there will be macho hombres in the audience who routinely do tough-guy stuff like benchpress 500 lbs, drink a liter of vodka while watching Roadhouse every night, and use unwaxed dental floss. For them, the 10mm’s recoil is like a morning breeze. The thing is, they didn’t start doing all those things on day one. Recoil, like Patrick Swayze, takes getting used to and the 10mm’s kick will, for the rookie, be a bit of a surprise.
Poor quality ammo There are lots of types of 10mm out there for sale, but not all are the real deal. Most of it is loaded to .40 S&W power, which isn’t why you bought a 10mm. Companies like Federal, Buffalo Bore, Hornady, HSM, and many other fine ammo manufacturers make full-power 10mm Auto.
Hunting isn’t a guaranteed deal Yes, I know that there will be some detractors in the comments here, as there always are, but pay no attention. I value animal life and try to hunt ethically, as should you. That means I try to take enough gun for the task to ensure I don’t commit the morally bankrupt and sadistic error of injuring an animal by way of personal folly. Injuring an animal by taking risky shots makes you a bad hunter, period. Taking long shots beyond your skill range makes you not only a bad hunter, but a generally immoral person, even if you miss. You owe it to your quarry to be responsible, not a braggart who takes unnecessary risks with something’s life. Are there better hunting rounds for pistols? Sure. Is the 10mm horrible? Not at all. Pick a gun meant for hunting and practice in a realistic hunting scenario, so no mag dumps out of your 10mm carry gun at 75 yards. Realistically, the 10mm is a fine cartridge for deer-sized game at bowhunting distances and you should be okay with it at those ranges, with practice.

Some great guns to consider for the 10mm cartridge include:

GLOCK 20, 29, 40, and 29SF These are good pistols that have excellent reliability. They boast high capacity for their size and caliber, but generally aren’t quite as accurate as the other guns on this list. Don’t let that discourage you, as they are still plenty accurate for general use.
1911 There are many, many options here in the 1911 category. You can find many good 10mm 1911 pistols from Ruger, Springfield Armory, Rock Island Armory, and Remington, among others. The 1911 pistols are legendary for their accuracy and most of the best hunting handguns in 10mm are of this design.
SIG P220 Hunter. This is a relatively new offering from SIG and it’s designed with the handgun hunter in mind. It features a crisp single-action-only trigger and a camo finish.
Ruger GP100. This is a heavy-duty six-gun that offers revolver reliability with 10mm power and can load with full moon clips. (TTAG review coming soon)

The 10mm Auto is an interesting cartridge. It has worn many hats over the years and is currently gaining popularity at the time of this writing. It isn’t for everyone, but it’s a good cartridge for the novice handgun hunter because it’s available in familiar, mature platforms that make training easier.

The 10mm offers good power in a generally light gun and can be carried in CCW pistols as well. For the outdoorsman who spends time in town between hikes, a good 10mm can be a nice balance between the two worlds.

comments

  1. avatar bob says:

    Its like a 6.5 Creedmoor in a pistol.

    1. avatar Strength & Honor says:

      I think we’re all waiting for the day we can get a 10mm Pistol in 6.5 Creedmoor.

    2. avatar Weapon Of War says:

      Ummm, no. 6.5 Creedmoor is like a 10mm, but in a rifle.

    3. avatar Kevin (The other one) says:

      “Its like a 6.5 Creedmoor in a pistol.”

      Damn near fell out of my chair laughing

      1. avatar TommyJay says:

        Ditto. Still laughing!

    4. avatar Sunwolf says:

      Ya! It’s exactly the same, yet totally different!

  2. avatar Marcus says:

    Why no mention of the Tanfoglio 10mm pistols the closest thing to a Bren Ten you can get today in a variety of styles?

    1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      Because most North American gun owners/writers have a blind spot where guns based on the CZ-75 are concerned.

      The CZ-75 is the 1911 of eastern Europe – and it’s a damn reliable/durable design.

      1. avatar jwm says:

        I’m not a great fan of semi autos. But the cz-75 fits my hand like it was made just for me. And the build quality is there.

        1. avatar MarkF says:

          Strongly concur, which is why I own three.

        2. avatar Mr. Creedmore says:

          Have a Baby Desert Eagle in 40 (full metal frame)…and I love it as much as my 1911. Can’t miss. Sounds like I need a 10 mm, but I’m saving up for a 6.5 creedmore, the ultimate AND only caliber anyone should consider

    2. avatar yolo says:

      because tangfolio

      1. avatar 357sig10mm no other says:

        The Tanfogfio is one of the best 10mm it is made off of the C75 concept slide in frame shoots great, although the 180gr rounds are “hard hitters” for range the 150 are great for self defense..I LOVE THE 10MM

    3. avatar Weapon Of War says:

      My Witness Elite Match is one of the best shooting pistols I’ve ever held in my hands. So accurate, I sometimes think it aims itself.

      1. avatar 357sig10mm no other says:

        I fell the same way I have a match also LOVE THAT GUN

    4. avatar Captain O says:

      I have five handguns chambered for the 10mm Auto Pistol Cartridge:

      1: A 1991, 6.5″ barreled S&W Model 610 Revolver,

      2: a Tanfoglio Witness (4.6″ barrel) with its proprietary “Wonder” finish.

      3: an early Dan Wesson Razorback (1911-type) pistol.

      4 a Glock Model 20, and,

      5: 1991 IAI Javalina (with a 7″ slide/barrel.

      I have had no trouble with any of these pistols. The 10mm is a great cartridge within the round’s design parameters.

      It has been cussed and discussed for many years. I, for one, have been a proponent/fanboy of the cartridge for many years. Then again I own two Smith & Wesson chambered for the .41 Remington Magnum cartridge as well.

      1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

        You’re obviously a shooter who doesn’t mine spending what is necessary to buy a nice firearm. Well done.

        That S&W 610 is almost certain to go up in value. They didn’t make many of those.

    5. avatar J says:

      Beat me to it. The Tangfolio Witness in 10mm is surprisingly pleasant to shoot.

    6. avatar B. H. Turner says:

      The EAA (Tanfoglio) Witness Steel Full-Size 10mm costs less than $550, is essentially a CZ 75, and is a great shooter. Why this firearm isn’t immensely popular escapes me.

  3. avatar RA-15 says:

    Great article , very informative. I am hoping Ruger will come out with a 10mm pc carbine. It would look great in my collection : 10/22 takedown , pc9 carbine ,also a takedown.

    1. avatar Swarf says:

      Carbine all the Pistol Calibers!

      1. avatar CO gunner says:

        Does anyone make a decent .22LR PCC?

        1. avatar Swarf says:

          Ruger Charger?

    2. avatar Matt(TX) says:

      My opinion is the Ruger PC Carbine is made to change calibers. Change the barrel and the bolt face, Glock mag and you have a new rifle. I see 9mm, .40 cal, 10mm, and .45 versions. The Aero rifle does something similar.

      https://www.tnwfirearms.com/product-p/asrx-cplt-xxxx-xxxx-xxxx.htm

      1. avatar Swarf says:

        That is my sincere hope. It sure seems like the logical next step, but I’ve thought that before.

    3. avatar Connor H says:

      Good luck. Seems like Ruger is culling their semiauto caliber options rather than expanding them. American pistol, Security 9, PCC all 9mm only. With market demands, I think they’d put out a 40 or 45 long before a 10mm.

      But I’d definitely buy a 10mm PCC. Just been disappointed with many of Ruger’s recent business decisions.

  4. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

    Kudos for getting through this entire article without claiming that the 10 is ‘as powerful as a .41 magnum’.

  5. avatar Cambo says:

    In I’m going to puke if i read 6.5 queermore again

    1. avatar rocketscientist says:

      I agree, but fear we may be stuck with this for a good while. Herpes, luggage, and 6.5 Creedmoor.

    2. avatar Swarf says:

      Best get a bucket…

      1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

        Mr. Creedmoor

        1. avatar jwm says:

          You certainly are doing better with your 15 minutes of fame than david hogg is. 🙂

        2. avatar ORCON says:

          It’s only waifer thin!

        3. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

          15 minutes?!? I’ve been famous since 1874!

  6. avatar No one of consequence says:

    Grand Power 10mm. Comfortable grip, relatively easy to rack slide with rotating barrel.

    And a complete PITA reassembly from field strip. But that’s another story.

  7. avatar Bugman says:

    No mention of the S&W 10xx guns?
    While they are kind of scarce(50 something K produced), they are well built and heavy enough to soak up some of the hotter loads.

    1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      They are. They’re very well built pistols.

      I should caveat your production number: While there were over 50K total 10×6 pistols produced, there were only about 26K of the 1006 produced, and then 13K of the 1076’s, and much less of all the others. People should understand that there are differences between all the members of the 10X6 family – such as DA/SA, DAO, slide/frame decocker/safety, etc. In some configurations, there were only 200 or less instances produced, and so you might find one member of the family that costs substantially more than the other members of the family.

      These are some of the most robust 10mm pistols ever made. Some of them are full-sized (5″ barrel) sidearms, and a tad difficult to conceal for many people. There were members of the family with a 4.25″ barrel that are a tad smaller.

  8. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    Here’s another pistol to consider for launching a 10mm: The EAA Witness Steel Compact.

    Heavy enough to tame much of the recoil, small enough to conceal.

    BTW, the “heavy enough to tame the recoil” is a real issue with the 10’s. Go with a light polymer pistol and you’d better find out whether or not you can handle it with a magazine that has only one or two rounds left. You can get a significant increase in muzzle flip as you burn off the magazine in the lighter polymer 10’s.

    1. avatar RidgeRunner says:

      Wow, this is good advice on the low mag, sir, thanks. And I appreciate the article, all of these caliber articles. Personally, I just purchased a Glock 40, a long-slide 10mm, equipped with the Leupold DeltaPoint red dot, and I bought it, as the article states, assuming “Realistically, the 10mm is a fine cartridge for deer-sized game at bowhunting distances.” I don’t have a problem with recoil, and I love big bore stuff in handguns and long arms, and I shoot plenty good enough for whitetail in my woods. Certainly at bowhunting distances, just like my, uh, bowhunting. I look forward to carrying a pistol into the woods for the first time, climbing up that tree will be different from any hunting I’ve ever done. And I really like the pistol, my second Glock after years of resisting. Both are very natural to me. The 40 is much less bulky to my hands than my Sig .45.

  9. avatar Owen says:

    I stopped reading after “As .40 S&W began to die off with the advent of better and more advanced 9mm loads in recent years”

    This is another “6.5 creedmoor (or less?)” joke article right?

    1. avatar SouthAl says:

      Me too. It’s like people think that if they say it enough, it will come true.

      1. avatar Joe65 says:

        Having read this article I am struck,as usual,by a supposed gun expert extolling the virtues of this new cartridge or that new design. I own several revolvers and use them for hunting but also keep one handy for personal protection. I have in time owned auto pistols, but didn’t keep any of them very long. Never found one I felt came close to my revolvers. And I,if necessary, can put a bullet between anyone’s eyes at 25 yards that will drop them immediately. So I have no need for anything more. As for calibers, I see nothing new on the market that would realistically replace most of the tried and true cartridges that have been around for years. Most writers I read anymore simply feel it their duty to advertise for a favorite company.

  10. avatar billy-bob says:

    Could I shoot .40 in a 10mm like you shoot .38SPL in a .357? Asking for a friend.

    1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

      As long as it’s a 10mm revolver you’re shooting.

    2. avatar TheOtherDavid says:

      I have done that regularly using a Glock 20. I am not actively recommending that others do so, but I have read that many people including a number of pistol competitors specifically using the Glock will run 40 SW with no issues. The Glock hardware is a little over-engineered, pretty darn beefy, with tolerances that allow flawless feeding of 40 SW even though the dimensions are ever so slightly different from 10mm.

      In fact, the people that seem to do this on a regular basis for their competition pistols maintain that running standard pressure 40 SW is actually significantly safer than running full power 10 mm in a 10mm Glock.

      In fact, I just did that yesterday. The 40 ammo runs a little higher point of impact, as it runs a bit slower than the 10 and there is a bit more barrel dwell time.

      Having said all that, I again cannot recommend others do so, that is a decision each person needs to make individually. And all of the information I have read specifies only Glock pistols, I am not aware of anyone running other firearms with 40

      1. avatar jwtaylor says:

        I’ve also run a few boxes of 40 through a G20, just to see if it was true. No issues at all.

    3. avatar Skoon says:

      I shot a box of 10mm shorts out of my g40. It worked but not that well i got one stove pipe in 50 rounds and the gun barely spit out the others. Full house 10mm cases end up 15 feet away. I also do not recommend this.

    4. avatar RockOnHellChild says:

      Tell your friend absolutely! Go balls out!

      Please report back any findings.

    5. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      Yes, but I don’t recommend it.

      The issue is this in a semi-auto: These types of “straight-wall, rimless” cartridges headspace off the case mouth rim against the front of the chamber.

      When you put a .40 into a 10mm chamber, the case mouth rim is obviously not going to contact the front of the chamber. So what’s holding your case head up against the slide where the firing pin comes through is the extractor…

      It works, but it’s one of those things we gunsmiths look at and say “Yea, it works… but…”

  11. avatar BobS says:

    A GLOCK 21 with a 10mm conversion barrel, loaded 15+1 with Buffalo Bore hard cast (700 ft-lb at the muzzle), in a Kenai chest holster, makes a nice trail gun.

    No, it’s not their .41Mag (1000 ft-lb) or .44Mag +P+ (1500 ft-lb), but it will persuasively puncture the moderately large, furry fangy unfriendly fauna we meet in the Lower 48.

    1. avatar BD says:

      Question, have you shot your G21 with 45ACP Super and compared it to your G21 with the conversion shooting hot 10mm ammo?

      1. avatar BobS says:

        No, I have not shot .45 Super, nor have I shot anything hotter than SAAMI (+P or +P+ or …) in this G21.
        I’m susceptible to the myths and legends about chamber support, and I’m not curious enough to try it.
        Mine is a Gen2; later Generations might since have corrected any problem (if there was one).

    2. avatar Anner says:

      I second the G20+Kenai combo. Best hiking rig I’ve ever found.

  12. avatar the ghost of ironicatbest says:

    Ironicatbest would say:” Jeff Cooper, ho hum, used to read that guys crap in Guns &Ammo he thinks it was. In ironicatbest opinion the guy was full of shit, talked out his ass, and reading closely he thinks the only uniform he wore was a KFC chicken flipper’s . Cooper always knew a guy who new of a guy that shot somebody. He was a Colonel? B.S.

    1. avatar No one of consequence says:

      Still finding it amusing to write like that, eh?

    2. avatar michael in ak says:

      Spelling, grammar and using words are things you might want to study.

  13. avatar Swarf says:

    You mean 1cm?

    1. avatar BobS says:

      No, .40 Magnum.

    2. avatar Connor H says:

      I see what you did there. Bravo.

      But you’re going to confuse all these Americans with your metric conversions. How bout .1 dm?

  14. avatar former water walker says:

    A Hipoint 10mm carbine is on my maybe list. Big time ballistics out of a17.5″ barrel…

  15. avatar IN Dave says:

    No mention of the hi-point or Kriss in 10mm? It did say great GUNS to consider in 10mm. Carbine length barrel and then you really are talking superior terminal performance.

  16. avatar W says:

    So, if one is going to list recoil as a problem with 10MM Auto, one ought to make two more statements. First, 10MM Auto is like the 357 of automatics. Many 10MM Autos can fire, or be easily modded to fire, 40 S&W also. Thus, like a 357 revolver, they are capable of firing strong rounds and less strong ones.

    Second, the range of energy of 10MM Auto rounds is quite large. Some rounds are the ballistic equivalent of 40 S&W. Others are quite stiff. Here is an example of the many that exist that illustrates the range. Prvi Partizan lists their 180 grain at 1083 fps. Federal has a Vital Shok 180 at 1275. That’s a 200 fps difference for the same weight bullet. Quite a difference.

  17. avatar Bob Eckard says:

    Are the S&W 1006 still and around and are they still a good gun to own? I still own one and wonder if it is a safe gun to shoot.?

    1. avatar skoon says:

      Nah, they are garbage. I wouldnt shoot it. But ill take it off ur hands and use it as a paper weight sound good? Hows 200 bucks?

    2. avatar Connor H says:

      Yes, the 10×6 series are very solid guns. Demand has increased in recent years, along with price, on most models. DA/SA typically is most sought after. Should be perfectly safe to shoot, as long as there is no damage to the firearm.

  18. avatar Jay in Florida says:

    My favorite of my 14 handguns is my RIA Commander sized 1911 in 10mm.
    Just right and alot of fun to shoot. Also very good gun for EDC.
    Long live the real 10mm cartridge……. not the wimpy 40ish ones…………..blah.

  19. avatar JR says:

    As to the article. The Ruger 10 mm revolver is based on the Super Red Hawk not the GP 100. Plus the cylinder of that revolver is the same size in length as is used in their 44 magnum. This means the cylinder can be re chambered to accept the 10mm magnum cartage.

    https://www.ar15.com/forums/general/10mm-magnum-Ruger-super-redhawk-is-done/5-2077771/

      1. avatar JR says:

        Well, I’ll admit I missed that one, but I would still think the Super Red Hawk would be better if someone was to re chamber to 10 mm magnum.

  20. avatar Djimon says:

    What about the Glock 20sf?

  21. avatar Adub says:

    I bought my G20 because it’s the only gun Special Agent Franks carries. Mind you, he carries two of them, but I’m not that manly…

  22. avatar Squiggy81 says:

    Watch the Paul Harrell video before buying 10mm ammo. The federal stuff is basically just 40 cal in a longer case. Even the personal defense variety provides no advantage. Obviously, there are manufacturers that load to what the cartridge should be like buffalo bore. Just need to be careful what you buy.

  23. avatar aaron says:

    Hey Adub,
    was that really a Monster Hunter reference you did there? If so you get my personal ” today’s winner of the interwebs” award.

  24. avatar Timothy Seese Sr. says:

    I should mention that the Double Tap Co. manufactures various loads of the 10mm cartridge. They are loaded to the high end of the power spectrum, and are of great quality. Check them out!

  25. avatar Hans E. Steine says:

    Think .41 Mag…that is its equal. It is a deer slayer. Kimber has gotten some bad press lately, but my Kimber 10mm is reliable enough I would carry it. I don’t. But if I didn’t have my Glocks, it would be my next choice.

    I had an oversized ambi safety that had brush continually turning the safety off in its Serpa thigh rig for hunting. A skilled smith ground down the non-dominate side and it is now perfect on the outside of my Carhartt hunting bibbs.

  26. avatar Accur81 says:

    I personally like 10mm, but chuckle when people hate .40. My Glock 35s will get pretty good power with Underwood .40.

    I guess I’d be more cool if I get 10mm and 6.5 Creedmoor…

  27. avatar Rudy Verdni says:

    I love my G20 sf I have I’ve added a crimson red laser grip ghost 3.5 trigger bar assembly with 20#recoil spring a 5lb spring kit and maritime firing pin plunger grip,its a little hard for concealed carry but every time I pull the trigger I smile ,when I can afford it I will get a better barrel with a tighter fully supported chamber.
    Great article btw

  28. avatar Rudy Verdin says:

    it’s my favorite auto platform round

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