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It’s been en vogue lately to poo-poo the .40 S&W caliber. All the tacticool operators and serious pistoleros seem to carry 9mm’s and turn their noses up at those misguided and amateurish enough to tote the mini 10mm. I know this because I used to be one of them. Lots of beginners choose .40 S&W because they don’t know any better and simply mimic what they see on the internet or what some dude at a gun store has spoon-fed them . . .

“Don’t carry a caliber that doesn’t start with a 4.”

“A 9mm don’t have enough stopping power.”

“If I shoot someone, I want to make sure I knock ’em down! That’s why I carry a .40.”

Just typing that nonsense made me roll my eyes. Time and time again I see some noob buy a .40, take it to the range and they can’t hit anything smaller than a Buick five yards in front of them. They figure the larger bullet will make up for their lack of skill. Unfortunately, for most beginners without a solid grasp of pistol fundamentals, the snap of the .40 only exacerbates their inexperience. After all, shot placement is king, right? Who needs a .40 if you can actually hit what you’re aiming for?

In my law enforcement career I’ve been issued a GLOCK 19, a SIG P229 in .40, and finally a M&P40. I’ve always been partial to 9mm GLOCKs as they’re what I cut my teeth on as a shiny new recruit. When I switched agencies and got my hands on the SIG, I eventually grew to love that as well, and the same goes for the M&P. I always shot my .40 caliber duty guns extremely well, and I had no real reason to dislike the caliber.

I’ve also always carried a backup gun on duty, and, until recently, it was a Ruger LCP in my support side hip pocket. Off duty was a G19 in a Crossbreed because, you know, .40 was for amateurs. I thought I was above the .40 caliber nonsense. I knew that shot placement was the real key and thought the .40 is for posers. However, even the tacticoolest operators agree that the mission dictates the gear.

Agency policy mandates the M&P40 for duty and only allows for a mere two additional guns to be qualified with per officer. The additional guns can be any caliber you want and any gun you want, as long as it’s from a reputable manufacturer. Since I carry under the umbrella of LEOSA, I have to play by the department’s rules. I either have to make do with those parameters or get appointed as Chief and rewrite department policy. Since the former is much more realistic I’ve had to choose my personal weapons carefully.

My on-duty backup gun and one of my off duty carry guns, the M&P40c, was selected for its magazine compatibility with its on-duty counterpart. Thoughts of my primary sidearm suffering a catastrophic failure during a gunfight left me feeling uneasy about relying on seven shots of .380. Since I carry a total of five M&P mags on my person — one in the gun and four between my belt and armor — the 40c made sense.

I expected the compact .40 to be an unpleasant, necessary evil. I was wrong. The 40c is the little gun that shoots like a full-size. I couldn’t believe how forgiving it was, and the new S&W triggers have improved 100% over previous generations. The 40c almost perfectly replicates the feel of my primary gun, and that familiarity translated into great accuracy and fast shooting. My 40c also doesn’t have the same tendency to auto-forward when I slam a mag home, a quirk some people like, but I would rather not have to deal with. My 40c mags don’t rattle, whereas my full size mags sound like they’ve got loose pebbles in them once twelve or more rounds are loaded.

The 40c is my new on duty backup and one of my two off duty carry pieces. It takes a little work to hide it in uniform, but it can be done. With the flush mag it disappears in all but the tightest Ed Hardy or Affliction shirts or wife-beater tank tops; which means it’ll completely disappear with anything in my wardrobe. A bonus is that this gun is one that I can actually carry AIWB.

Realizing the gun is supposed to be comforting, not comfortable, I ditched the LCP and stuck with the GLOCK 19 as my second gun. I have to be somewhat more aware about dressing around these guns off duty, and it takes a little extra work to conceal the 40c as a BUG on duty, but the tradeoffs are worth it. I carry both the G19 and 40c IWB in Crossbreed Supertucks or OWB in Kydex pancakes made by Zero9.

The 40c has been getting more time in my carry rotation than my G19 lately. With a spare full-size mag in a pocket I have twenty six rounds on tap, only six fewer than my G19 carry setup. Since the chances of getting into a gunfight off duty are slim, let alone getting into a gunfight that requires more than twenty six rounds, the 40c is suited for my off duty mission parameters: self defense. The 40c does everything I need it to do, and it’s quickly becoming my favorite. Plus, .40 really ain’t that bad after all.

(See the rest of the posts in this series here. Send your What I Carry and Why submissions with a photo to [email protected] with WICAW in the subject line.)

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  1. Not a cop and haven’t been active duty for decades. Already have 9mm and support in the inventory. No need to complicate matters and switch up to the .40.

    If I ever decided to switch up I would bypass .40 and go right to .45. Probably a Glock 21.

  2. Ive had a Hi-Power in 40S&W since 95 or 96.
    I carried it full time while living in NY.
    Id do the same here in Florida if I could comfortably use it IWB but alas, haven’t found a way.
    Yea so it does have a bit more recoil then a comparable 9mm in size……… what??
    Its a good defensive cartridge.

  3. I prefer the .40S&W because I can shoot it well from the right platform, but I acknowledge the 9mm as an excellent round for small women, the elderly and the infirm who may not be able to handle a real caliber.

  4. “All the tacticool operators and serious pistoleros seem to carry 9mm’s and turn their noses up at those misguided and amateurish enough to tote the mini 10mm.”

    Funny, I was told, back in the early 2000’s, by all the high drag, low speed, Inter-web operators that I was outright insane for selling off all my other calibers and switching from .40 to 9mm.

    I only did it to save money. Who knew being frugal would keep me trendy.

    • Enjoy it while it lasts! Once Gaston is done replacing existing .40 inventory across the country with 9, the tide will turn again…… “Perfection!” ain’t limited to the engineering side of the company.

  5. The best data currently available show that there is little difference among handgun calibers popular for self defense. Go ahead and shoot the bigger ones if you want. You can be confident they won’t perform any worse than 9 mm.

    • “The best data currently available show that there is little difference among handgun calibers popular for self defense”

      A corollary to “The best data currently available, isn’t very good at making that differentiation.” Empiricism has it’s uses, but treating it as religion, is truly one of the most egregious failures of progressivism.

  6. I’m partial to the full-size version. The smaller one requires a little more work to get accurate placement with the shorter sight radius, and I like a little more mass to absorb the recoil.


  7. For me it’s an M&P 9L on the nightstand, a 9C for 3 season carry, and a Shield for summer carry. I love that the line gives me tools in all the sizes I need with consistent controls and triggers that are good enough, all at a better price point than Glocks or XDs.

  8. I don’t bother defending my liking 40….if I lose a gunfight I’ll let everyone know. 1st rule-have a gun-whether 380 or 50. I’ll stock up on 9mm if bury soetoro goes nuts tonite…

  9. At first blush I didn’t like the mp40c, but playing around with it in the gun shop, I noticed that it was pointing as well as any gun I had ever held. So I took a chance and bought it. Glad I did, I don’t think that a gun that size could be better. It handles recoil as well as full sized pistols and the trigger is very fast. I think it is a better gun than a g27

  10. The main argument against .40 S&W is that it simply doesn’t seem to be doing anything noticeably better than 9mm, and you pay the price in form of magazine capacity (ignoring the cost argument for a second); so then why bother?

    • It delivers 25% more of everything on target per round, while having 15% fewer rounds. At a rate of fire that primarily falls short in drills that tend towards the “spinal” end of the spectrum.

      The Glock’s not well optimized for the .40, which, given that platform’s popularity, has a good bit to do with the round’s current out of favor status. As does a hefty dose of regulatory capture by the “training” industry. And every new generation of “ballistics researchers” coming into influence, needing to establish themselves with “newly discovered” wisdom.

      But fundamentally, the rounds are the same aside from a 1mm difference in diameter. Now, about the biggest “issue” with modern doublestack autos, is grip width. Circumference is fine with short(9/40/357/gap) cartridges, but the grips on them are barely directional at all, even with quick fix finger grooves. If you’re going to carry around a grip wide enough to fully doublestack a 10mm round, you’re shortchanging yourself a bit (admittedly not a lot, but still) by leaving that last mm on the table as dead space.

      For LEOs carrying a primary arm and an increasingly petite, single stack, bug, there is also something to be said for similarizing the experience, including perceived recoil, between the two guns. Particularly for the 90% of officers who don’t shoot either gun that much at all. A .40 big gun, to go with a 9 bug, is a pretty straight forward way of accomplishing that. (As is, admittedly, a 9/.380 combo for those who prefer that). Ditto for civilians who can conceal a bigger “winter” gun, but only a smaller one for the warmer seasons.

    • Well, if 9mm hollowpoints function properly i see no need to run 40 or 45. But 40/10 seems to be a good compromise on capacity for those who run FMJ for wildlife or added feeding reliability of an enclosed round nose. I run 45 with 230gr FMJRN. Couldnt care less about overpenetration, since most of my shots will miss, most of my hits will be on the limbs, and those on the torso may not go through the proverbial 18″ of meat to be contained. There aren’t really that many humans who can reliably contain or slow down enough even a 9mm 115gr magic hollowpoint, and are dextrous enough to bust through my door at night LOL

  11. My first poly striker fired pistol was the M&P40C, I bought it for my CCW, I found it extremely reliable and quite accurate. It’s now my back up and I use a M&P40 pro 5″ in a bladetech nano. I wanted something easier to be fast and accurate with.

    • If you insists on pulling an Elmer Keith, and shoot bent over ones “up the poop chute”, the 10mm can carry a heavier bullet, with attendant increased probability of making it all the way to the brain……..

  12. For the record I have a M&P 40 FS and 40c.

    Buy what you can find ammo for. After Sandy Hook, at least where I lived, 9mm was impossible to find on the shelf and .45 was sparse. There was plenty of .40 to be found though. As for the snap, I get a little of it if I shoot the 155 or 165 grain, but the 180 grain seems just fine.


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