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By LC Judas

While my previous posts on the virtues of the .40 S&W round seemed to stirred the sleeping dragon known as the “pistol caliber wars”, that wasn’t really the intent. And today it’s time to talk about what the .40 Smith & Wesson brought about by the nature of round’s existence. There is a lot to thank the .40 for and it usually gets no credit. The round’s virtues go far beyond the fact that it reliably penetrates the 12-18 inches of ballistic gelatin, as it was originally designed . . .

First, the fact that the .40 is easily one of the best upgrades to 9mm handguns there ever was is an easily overlooked and fun fact. I use the Browning Hi Power case for my example. While Smith & Wesson and GLOCK made most of the original sales of handguns chambered in .40 to law enforcement, they weren’t the only game in town. Browning rushed to market with a .40 Hi Power on the 9mm frame they’d been using and it essentially failed. The gun experienced accelerated wear which warped the frames, ruined tolerances and accuracy over a time period that was well below acceptable service life for the effective round count.

That example, as well as some other models from other manufacturers that never made it to market or ended up with teething problems made it clear that it would require beefing up the 9mm platform if they wanted to offer a .40 in the same form factor. This lesson was well-learned by Heckler & Koch as they offered their USP models in .40 first before moving to 9mm and .45ACP. The tougher platform increased the service life of 9mm pistols across the board, as the trend caught on, and being the most popular caliber in the country it served a good purpose in extending the life of the secondary market of 9mm handguns.

The .40 was also the first caliber of handgun to regularly share holsters with another caliber. While that seems minor now, back then semi-auto handguns were a lot harder to fit as specs could differ slightly between models even if they shared fundamentally similar designs. Anyone who has tried getting fitted holsters for a Sig 229 knows how many variants of rail they have and that the 228, which is very similar isn’t the same and won’t let you share the same holster.

Holsters weren’t the only thing being shared between .40s and 9mm handguns. After companies had for the most part started producing .40 and 9mm in the same frames, conversion kits for converting a .40 gun down to 9mm began to hit the market.  Converting a gun to .22 can be fun for plinking and training, but having the ability to go to 9mm — when ammunition for .40 was a lot more scarce and expensive — was a godsend.

Caliber conversions from .40 to 9mm are usually accomplished with just a simple barrel swap. That makes the .40 one of the most aftermarket-friendly handguns out there because it was born as the bastard child of both 9mm and 10mm designs. Prior to that, modularity in the pistol realm really had, for the most part, only been achieved by making .22LR kits for .45ACP pistols. There was also the necked-down 9mm in a 10mm case known as the 9x25mm (9mm Dillon) which had a special purpose in competition, but it never caught on as a mainstream law enforcement or defensive round. With the advent of the .40 you got a gun with an easy slide assembly or barrel swap to the much-loved 9mm.

That advent of the .40 created a huge aftermarket for customization, too. If you regularly run a .40 pistol in 9mm, you’re probably going to consider lighter springs, alternative mags and the springs to fuel them. Wolff makes their bread and butter off of exactly that. There are other recoil systems that minimize wear and tear if you run hot loads – like those from Sprinco – that minimize bolt flash. That’s something that’s a marked issue with .357SIG.

Owning a gun in multiple calibers without needing to make multiple outlays for more firearms is also going to make reloading a lot more tempting (especially in calibers where there simply is no wide availability of ammunition like .50GI). That fuels the market for gear like chronographs, reloading dies and presses as well as associated materials. Buying fewer firearms means you have more money for ammo and that gets more shooters in the sport and exposed to two calibers with one pistol (four if you add a 357SIG barrel and .22 kit with it).

That also helps if you’re trying to do apples-to-apples comparisons with firearms from the same make with the same manual of arms and appearance to cultivate the same reflexes for use, keeping the same parts for repairs and enhancements. I still have GLOCK parts (of various brands) floating around the armory from my mad customization days.

The .40 inspired more than just more gear. The 357SIG, another caliber with a whole unique set of ballistics in the defense and duty caliber debate, was spawned directly from the .40 Smith & Wesson. It was necked down in much the same way the .40 was born in the shell casings of 10mm pistols.

Following on that precedent, Magnum Research came up with the .440 Cor-bon (necked from .50AE) for Desert Eagles, .400 Cor-bon (necked from .45ACP), and the invention of the .50GI from Guncrafter Industries in the 1911 platform saw GLOCK .45 platforms get a slide assembly and mag for the purpose.

A lot of people think that .40S&W is a solution in search of a problem and more fuel for a fire that needs to burn out, but it fills a vital role in the defense and duty caliber hierarchy. Its existence is a testament to ingenuity and persistence, as the 10mm round could have just as easily fallen out of favor and been replaced by .45 or 9mm by the FBI. But the .40 bridges that gap between 9mm and .45, highlighting the weaknesses of both rounds at the time. The concept of a consistent set of criteria used to test them raised the bar for what was considered acceptable ammunition. The tests used to evaluate all calibers became standardized after the .40 came into being, more respected than reading books with outdated opinion or outright speculation many accepted as fact.

No, .40 isn’t the best caliber out there, but nothing is. That’s reality. But what the round does in ballistic gel isn’t conjecture. Manufacturers now are able to see how the end users test their products and they develop them accordingly. The HST from Federal is a direct result of looking at what was desired ballistically and building a bullet accordingly instead of simply theorizing on what might be effective.

Expansion and penetration in any caliber is now the universal standard for what works; the old “stopping power”, “power factor” or “one-shot stop” measures weren’t realistic or objective standards. Today, the Black Talon is a pice of ballistic engineering history because of the political fallout, but if the gelatin tests had been the standard used at the time, I doubt they would have fallen from favor the way they did.

Even if you’re not a fan of the .40, you can’t deny that the firearms market now is far more comprehensive because of it. Now we have tougher 9mm firearms and when a company comes out with a new nine we we’re eager for the follow-on .40S&W, 357SIG and .22 models to fit the same holsters and mag pouches. For the folks who say .40 was good for its time and that bullet technology now is better, that’s because the high bar resulted from the inception of the .40. Without the drive to compare it to the 9mm and .45, the improvements in those more popular caliber’s would likely have been much slower in coming.

Better guns, better ammo and more selection safeguards the Second Amendment better than any closed-minded .45 or 9mm cultist claiming the old guns and ammo work just fine and there’s no reason for change. Why alienate when you can assimilate?  More choice and innovation is better. MAC made the statement last year that he feels .40 is fading, but looking at what it has done and how much it has caught on…I doubt the manufacturers and consumers have gotten that memo or will anytime soon.

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  1. I stick to 9×19, preferably subsonic. Common, cheap, works and is pretty comfy to shoot (same applies to .45). I find .40 snappy, don’t mind shooting it but I find it sub-optimal.

    • Yeah I’m the same way I just don’t see much advantage over a softer shooting 9mm or a less snappy .45 unless I’m thinking I need to shoot through obstacles… in which case I’ll take a rifle, please.

      • I don’t know how much .45ACP you’ve shot, but I find the 9mm recoil a bit to rapid for comfort, while the .45 recoil doesn’t bother me at all.

        I’m not sure what the mechanism or principle is. I’m not a big guy, about 5-7, 160 pounds. And the .45 recoil is harder, but much slower, and I guess maybe my frame can handle it better than nines.

        • Agreed. .45 is a heavy push, 9mm is a slap-ish perceived recoil. I’m sitting at 126 lbs and 5’10. I feel like .45 is far more comfortable.

        • 9x19mm peak pressure: 35,000 psi. 45 ACP peak pressure: 21,000 psi. That’s your mechanism…

        • .45 launches a larger bullet slower. It does its damage through mass (E = M v^2. ) Because of the lower speed, the impulse transmitted to the shooter (snappiness) is less.
          Impulse: J = Force{average} /(length of time) -> time is larger

          9 mm is the other way. Smaller bullet going faster. It does its damage through speed (E = M v^2. ) Because of the higher speed, the impulse transmitted to the shooter (snappiness) is greater.

          Oh, and count me in as a .40 fan.

        • @NYB, technically it’s E = 1/2 m v^2. But it’s not really obvious because in English units you have to multiply by an ugly constant anyway, to get from grains and feet per second, to foot pounds of energy, anyway. So the 1/2 disappears into that constant. If you just want to compare two different loads to determine which one is more energetic, your formula with no constant in it at all will suffice. (Just don’t call the number you get “foot pounds”.)

          (In metric, meters per second and kilograms gets you directly to joules with that formula. Bullet weights are usually in grams in those countries but dividing by a thousand is easy.)

          I’ll go on to add that because v is squared in the energy formula but not in the momentum formula, a light fast projectile emphasizes energy over momentum (momentum is simply m times v). A (hypothetical) 120 grain bullet moving at 2000 feet per second will have the same momentum as a 240 grainer moving at 1000 feet per second even though the momentum works out to 240,000 grain-feet-per-second in both cases. Since a powder charge imparts energy, not momentum, it’s not possible to make the trade I just mentioned without adding a lot more powder to the round–which is why 9mm doesn’t come out of the tube at such speeds. Cor-bon emphasizes low weight, high velocity bullets in an attempt to maximize energy (or at least, they used to; it’s been years since I paid much attention), and indeed their loadings have very high foot-lb numbers.

          I tend to be more into momentum these days as a figure of merit, getting away from light, fast bullets, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still prefer the nine over the forty-five. (I have a couple of forties, but 9mm is preferred, at least until I get rid of my tendency to start pulling the forty after three or four rounds.) If I really want a stomper semi auto that doesn’t weigh more than some people, I’ll grab a ten.

        • I am right there with you. makes complete sense.I know many people who say the same.Smart aces who rip on your opinion are the kind of guys us gun guys avoid at the range.

      • I’m thrilled and surprised to realize I’m not the only one with those opinions.

        If I want snappy and screaming muzzle blast in a compact firearm, I take the 10mm along. Normally I much prefer the two items mentioned, .45ACP usually EDC, 147 grain 9mm occasionally.

    • I’m a sub-niner too, I always get what few boxes of Prvi 158 grain 9mm that’s at my local store they get every few weeks. I prefer and can manage the “shoving” felt recoil better for follow-ups rather than the flippier, lower grains.

    • I still shoot the forty. That said the recoil is harsh, to say the least. I think all high pressure cartridges behave that way. The forty more so because of bullet weight. I find the .357 Sig, in the the same gun ( Glock 27) to have a less harsher recoil. It is the combination of high pressure, bullet weight and light 9mm frames that creates the nasty.

      That said, shooting the forty in a Glock 35 is no issue at all. Bigger, heavier gun. When manufacturers put the forty in the 9mm frames, that’s when the whole thing went south. The forty needs a full size handgun frame for ease of shooting. Guess it was easier to drop bullet weight and they did. A popular forty with LE now is the 135 grain variant.

    • I wonder if John Wayne eve whines about his gun being snappy?? Kidding aside the bullet tech that’s has made the 9 almost as good as the 40 argument forgets the same tech has improved the 40 also. 40 simple out preforms the 9. But you can carry 1 more bullet in your magazine

    • He feels the .40 is fading?? I would stop reading the B.S. Most who keep up on current events, in this case ammo has to realize that there have been just as many enhancements on the .40 as the 9mm and .45. Anyone who tells you that your choice to use the .40, 9 or 45 is stupid you need to understand this persons advice will probably get you killed. I am a .40 guy and have been since given the choice to switch to a .40 cal pistol. I have seen a 9mm bounce off too many turban covered heads and have never seen a .40 bounce. Does not mean you should stop using what you are effective at using. Train, train and train more on the round you can shoot effectively and that will increase your chances to win a gun fight against someone who does not train.

  2. I like to think of .40 S&W as the El Camino of handgun ammunition. The El Camino combined all the weaknesses of a coupe with all the weaknesses of a pick up truck into one handy package. The .40 does the same thing for 9mm and .45.

    • You win the interwebz today. 😉

      Most kids here are scrunching up their faces and asking “WTF is an ‘El Camino’?”

      • Ehh, more of a Ranchero fan myself. Remember the ’72 Ranchero, with the 351 Cleveland tuned 4-V Cobra Jet? Poetry in motion. Well, poetry in mostly a straight line. Turning at speed was a different matter….

        • Ah, a lovely machine and the 351 Cleveland was a rocket. They were very hard to find up in Canada.

          I guess if you look at V 8 engines, they’re kinda like calibers.
          The 302 would be like the 9 mm, a small block that needed lots of rpms to achieve close to the same horses as the bigger blocks.

          The 350s were by far the most versatile small/large blocks They had a great power to weight ratio and would fit in the same chassis as the small blocks.
          Very much like the .40 S&W which was designed to fit in a 9mm package.

          The big blocks in 400 cubes and above, developed massive torque without high rpms, due to the displacement. Much like the beloved .45 ACP, they needed a large chassis to accommodate their size and power.

          I was lucky to have grown up with all that beautiful “Detroit Iron”.


        • …except if you really knew what you are talking about , the el Camino launched better and had better torque and 0-60 runs than the ranchero! Ditto the .40 cal; technology moves on and a lot of the gripes about the .40 cal were simply 9mm or .45 acp fan boy-ism.

          40 cal works and works well in real world applications

        • I think the Aztec falls closer to 9×18 on the caliber spectrum. And I do say that as someone who both occasionally shoots 9×18, and wouldn’t be caught dead riding in an Aztec.

          There are some pretty dedicated Aztec fan clubs out there. The whole idea was to try and make a minivan that wouldn’t be hated as a minivan. PT Cruisers are still on the road, so it’s not like it was the worst idea a car company ever had. It’s not even the worst looking car anymore. The Nissan Juke is hideous in ways Lovecraft couldn’t have even hinted at. In fact, I’m not sure if I’m even typing this, or everything has just been a dying fantasy since I first layed eyes upon those neon eyebrows approaching me through the fog.

        • Anytime I see or hear “Aztek” I immediately think, “Stop the Aztek!”–because there was an internet site by that name dedicated to exposing all the awfulness of the Aztek. Was pretty funny, but sadly, it was a Geocities site and as such is long gone (now the REALLY young-uns are out there asking “What is Geocities??). Now that I am functionally limited to the ankle express, I guess I can see the relationship to the 9×18. If I could have an Aztek right now, I would certainly use it, and it doubtless would serve my limited needs just fine. I DO have a 9×18 right now, and it does in fact serve my needs in excellent, no-frills fashion. And I am confident it would be more than adequate if, say, the “knockout game” were to become fashionable where I live.

    • I like to think of .40 S&W like a shapeshifter, or a changeling, like that guy–You ever hear of that TV show Manimal?

        • I like to think of 12 gauge as an Ice Dancer, dressed in an all-white jumpsuit, and doing an interpretive dance of my life’s journey.

        • No I dont recall the show, maybe I’m to, to old. Your not going to find to much Ammo for that sig 357 when the SHTF. Lots of the other stuff though. Like I said a empty sig 357 is like throwing a rock. Take care, and watch out for the paperweights.

        • By my estimates you are between 80-130 years old.

          In all seriousness I will have to watch that show. Angel Eyes as a Kung-Fu master, I say yes even though IMDB says no.

        • Yea… I also remember Donnie and Marie, The Man from Atlantis (w/Patrick Duffy), and the Incredible Hulk, Buck Rogers, Battlestar Galactica, A Team, Dukes of Hazzard.

          That was great TV.

          Where’s my Geritol?

        • Holy crap Gene, you just solved a mystery for me I have been struggling to find for years. I could never recall the name or find the show “The man from Atlantis”. I saw it once when I was a kid and really like it. Sadly I could find it again. You’ve just solved the mystery!!! Thanks!

        • Oh hell, Gene, you’re a wet-eared younker. I remember when Linda Evans was Audra Barkley, not Krystle Carrington. I even remember when Jack Lord was Stoney Burke, not Steve McGarrett ( and Leonard Nimoy was a guest star on his show, not a pointy-eared hobgoblin).

    • Dead nuts analogy on the El Camino. I personally do not like the 40 S&W round but to each his own.

      I wish S&W would make a 10 mm M&P.

    • Not a good analogy at all. All 3 are fine cartridges. The 40 takes the best of each. Only slightly less capacity than the 9 and only slightly less energy than the best 45 loads. Best of both or “Perfect Middle Ground”.

  3. I know the 40 was sort of the mix of a 9 and 45. However, I have both a 9 and a 45, so why go with something that is neither, and not as good? Also the 40 is a lot harder on the firearm then either the 9 or 45.

    • Sounds to me like the .40 is rather like the 16-gauge. Between high-performance 20-gauge and low-recoil 12-gauge loads, there’s not much purpose for the 16 anymore. But unlike the 16, the .40 seems to be wildly popular.

  4. What I got from reading this:

    -People care about .357 sig?
    -The author is trying to justify his purchase of a .40 when modern 9mm or .45 is equally effective
    -.40 was cool in the 90s/early 2000s

      • Right now I would take one (even tho I ain’t a meth cook)–but despite their abysmal popularity level, no one seems to be giving them away–either literally or figuratively. 🙁

    • HAHA, yes! I was looking through my ammo just yesterday trying to decide what guns to bring to the range today. I had none to spare in .30-06, .308, .22LR, 9mm or 12GA (buck or slug) and am a little low in 5.56. I’m pretty isolated and all the common calibers that should always be on hand are failing me. But low and behold I had a couple hundred “excess” .40 rounds, and therefore had a good day at the range.

    • Same here (far northern California)-which kind of surprised me in a semi-rural area where all the cops carry .40 Glocks. Nothing is on the shelf in the stores I frequent except .40 and an occasional box of overpriced 9 mm SD ammo.

      • You can now find normal priced 9mm online for around 0.22/round, and 0.36/round for .40.

        funny .22LR is still 0.12/round when you can find it, sad…

    • yup. figure when themakers tool up for those 1.6 billion DHS contracts (according to Alex Jones) and the Govt doesnt buy as expected theres gonna be some excess floating out to the retail channels in bulk at discount. Seems to be the last to go at Wallys during the droughts.

  5. Think of a 40 as a 10mm short, downloaded to the lower end of the 10mm range. The shorter cartridge enables it to fit smaller hands with the 10mm light ballistics and a higher round count then the typical .45.

    The .40 was a practical way to get the benefits of the 10mm in a practical package.

    Improvements in bullet design have helped all calibers and kept the 9mm still in the game.

  6. The . 40 S&W is like the BATF of handgun rounds.

    Pointless, huge , prone to random explosive outbursts, and does a job already accomplished satisfactorily by others.

  7. I remember the infamous FBI shootout, and when I joined the Sheriff’s Reserve Deputy Program in the early ’90s, I went with a new offering by Sig Sauer -the P229. I wasn’t about to go 9mm. The P229 has served me well and I never failed to qualify on the first attempt. I’ve never have had to shoot anyone (knock on wood), but I feel the .40S&W will do it job efficiently. As Apple IPhone has its fanboys, so does the 9mm. Of course they are going to bad mouth the .40S&W.

  8. If the .40 is so good because it can be easily concealed, why not a 9mm? Might as well take the higher capacity of the 9mm. and if you want stopping power take a .45, you aren’t going to get a high capacity concealable hand gun with the fo-tay

      • Well, how about a .45 ACP with 10+1, and an extra mag. That’s 19 rounds of raw power.

        Of course, concealment is a bit trickier. However, OPEN CARRY!!!!

        • I am happy with 5rd capacity… S&W 500!

          I have the 8 3/8 inch barrel, open carry solves all problems.

          I do not have to compromise power, or I do not have to compromise capacity.

          I am looking into a pistol AR with the “forearm brace” and a 100rd drum or a 60rd surfire mag for carry in car.

    • For those of us in states with mag limits, capacity is a nonissue. Where all mags are created equal, .45 rules.

  9. I don’t quit agree, my Browing 40 is around 25 years old and I shoot It on a regular basis. Its a gem and 4″-5″ patterns never fails. I also own 45 and 9mm. The 40 out shoots these cals. It’s one of the best and most reliable guns in my armament. Take care and be careful out there.

    • It’s the platform, not the round. Like all JMB pistols the Hi Power has superb ergonomics and balance that make it more accurate. I bought a 9mm Hi Power last fall and I shot a simulated DoD/IC qualification with no practice. I hit the target 46/50 at ranges from 5 to 25 yards. It has become my primary carry gun every since and I am a 45 ACP guy.

  10. I love my .40. It does have the ft lbs at impact of a .45 and the muzzle velocity of a .357. Range, accuracy and knockdown power. I’ll keep it thank you.

    • Not one of those things are true. Comparing it to 45, it is closer to 9mm in ft lbs. Whereas 45 can hit about 500, .40 tends to stay under 400

      It is considerably slower than even my midrange loads for .357 magnum, and is usually slightly slower than 9mm +P, being about the same as standard 9mm.

      Compare, e.g., Hornady Critical Duty loads.

      Now I love my .40. And a heavier bullet is better for some applications, even given equal ft. lbs. But let’s not exaggerate here.

  11. “…the .40 bridges that gap between 9mm and .45,… ”

    Correction: the .40 JUMPS the gap between 9mm and .45, and somehow manages to emerge with a pistol that can often be harder to control in rapid fire than the .45acp.

    There’s little question that the .40 has strong terminal ballistics. But the cost of that is the least controllable duty caliber in America. That’s why increasingly more LE orgs are returning to the 9mm, helped along by better developments in 9mm bullets in the last ten years.

    • Correction: the .40 jumped the shark between the 9mm and .45. Though I do like my Glock 20 and 27 in 10mm. .40, .357sig, and 9mm. Six guns for the price of two! Lone Wolf barrels not included…

  12. Berretta up calibared the 92 into a .40 cal and its a piece of crapolla. The Maryland State Police bought them and have been in litigation for years because the gun is unreliable and generally worthless. That up conversion of the pistol was reminiscent of how back in the 70’s GM converted gasoline engines to diesel and managed to kill the diesel car market in the US for 40 years,

  13. The reality is that all pistol calibers have pretty much no real stopping power. You really need a long gun for that. I say pick what you shoot best and let that be the determinant of what caliber you like. Past my 9mm I do have a 1911 I shoot for fun, but if I want measurably more power in a defensive round I will step up to a magnum revolver in .357 or .44. The negligible increase in power from a 9mm to a .40 or .45 does not justify the cost. .357 sig would interest me somewhat, although more as a novelty than anything else, but ammo is not common. The majority of 10mm factory ammo seems to be really anemic. So back to my main point, most defensive pistol calibers suck in terms of stopping power so pick what you shoot best and practice more instead of trying to find the one magic bullet.

    • I agree that caliber isn’t the big issue in handguns. I do feel compelled to defend the really old calibers. Perhaps having crossed the 60 year line I’m feeling sympathetic?

      I never shoot factory loads in the G20. The hunting loads from Buffalo Bore and Double Tap seem to be what the gun was made for once a heavier spring is installed.

  14. I would have titled this something more like “.40 S&W: A Middling Round.” It’s far from perfect and manages to take some of the most significant disadvantages of other rounds while gaining only modest performance increases. And ballistic gel, while it may be the best simulated substance cheaply available, is fairly limited in what it can tell about a real wound.Whatever happened to shooting pigs?

      • Higher pressure. Louder than a .45 ACP.

        Lower mass bullets available vs. a .45 ACP. Fewer rounds stacked in a mag vs. the 9×19.

        I’ve always viewed the .40 as neither fish nor fowl. They’re better than throwing stones, certainly, but in the whole “which handgun is best?” argument, there are two sides: “More rounds is more better” (9’s, .38 Supers) and “More mass is more better” (.45 ACP’s).

        The .40 tries to split the difference, and comes away with fewer rounds and less mass. It is the very definition of “compromise:” Everyone on all sides of the argument feels equally short changed.

        • Let me make sure I have this straight:

          The .40 S&W is worse than a 9mm because .40 S&W shoots a heavier, larger diameter bullet at the same velocities … and .40 S&W bullets do NOT deflect when hitting windshields at oblique angles unlike light 9mm bullets.

          And the .40 S&W is worse than a .45 ACP because it has 50% more ammunition capacity than the .45 ACP.

          Got it.

          The only down side that I see which is unique to .40 S&W is snappy recoil that may be difficult for some people to control. Neither 9mm nor .45 ACP have snappy recoil. But, .45 ACP has substantially more recoil than 9mm.

        • 50% more? The difference between the P-14 in .45ACP and the P-16 in .40 S+W is two rounds. Same size handgun in this case. Glock 27 and Glock 20, 13 rounds and 15 rounds, respectively.

        • 50% more than .45 ACP? The standard load for a Glock 20 is 15 rounds. For the Glock 21? 13 rounds.

          and as for the comment in the article that….“the 10mm round could have just as easily fallen out of favor and been replaced by .45 or 9mm by the FBI”

          SA Urey Patrick answered a variety of questions about how he and the team at Quantico made their evaluations and what the final opinions were. The agents running the tests said they would have accepted either 10mm or .45ACP, whichever the Director chose. The .45ACP made larger wound channels. The 10mm was somewhat more accurate in the guns they used. 9mm, he said, was never in the running because it wasn’t the best in any of the categories. (They’re all sufficient, but…the fun.)

        • @DG,

          I disagree. The .40 Smith has more power and power potential than the 9m +P+. You’d have to turn the 9mm into a miniature grenade to match a .40 Smith +P. Even though there aren’t SAAMI specs for .40 +P as far as I know, the .40 can achieve 600+ FPE from a decent 5″ barrel. So also can the .45 ACP +P. All +P loads are higher pressure, and will accelerate wear. That’s great news for a gunsmith – job security.

          The .40 will reach a major power factor in shooting competitions, where the 9mm struggles. It will do so with greater magazine capacity than the .45. The .40 can toss 135-200 grain JHPs, with as much or more speed than the 9mm or .45.

          To say that the .40 is worse than the 9mm and .45 is just asinine. It has attributes of both. One could say the .30-06 has the “worst” attributes of the .308 and the .300 Win Mag using the same reasoning. The .40 simply fills the gap between the 9mm and .45. It is neither the best caliber nor the worst. Want more capacity than a .45 and more momentum than a 9? The .40 might be for you. The 9mm is a great round – arguably the best combat round, unless you want a major power factor, knocking bowling pins down, or a bunch of energy. The .40 is the best round if you want a combination of power and capacity, but wears out parts (as they all do) and has snappy recoil. Another plus of the .40 is that Glocks, XDs, and M&Ps can shoot 9mm with just a barrel and mag change. The .45 is the best classic round if you want major momentum and bore size, but ammo costs are high and capacity sucks. The .45 rules with FMJs. Of course the .380 sucks unless you use the perfect round in your mini pistol, and ammo availability and power are terrible. The .357 Sig is very snappy, high pressure, and has lots of energy. Prepare to be deafened.

          If you know of the perfect combat handgun round I welcome you to invent it.

          Just my $.02. Why not buy all of ’em?

        • And the standard capacity for a Smith and Wesson M&P40 is 15 rounds whereas the standard capacity of a Smith and Wesson M&P45 is 10 rounds — hence my statement of 50% greater capacity.

        • You people seem to have reading comprehension issues.

          The .40 is trying to split the difference between the 9, .45 and 10mm. It was an all-round compromise. It didn’t give you as many rounds in the mag as the 9, didn’t give you the bullet weight of the .45 ACP, or the raw power of the 10mm. It was a round developed by a bureaucracy to fit a requirement developed in reaction to a one-off event. It won’t give you the magazine capacity of the 9’s, so if you’re obsessed with maximum capacity, the .40 is a step down. It won’t give you the cross section or mass of the .45, so if you want maximal bullet mass/diameter, you’re not happy either. It was a much-lightened load from the full power 10mm, so if you wanted a gun that could go head to head with a .41 Mag, you felt shortchanged again.

          It’s a compromise in all aspects. For some people, it was their preferred compromise.

          The FBI could have stayed with .357’s with 158 grain pills and been money and performance ahead in terminal ballistics and penetration. But, once again, it was the taxpayer’s money, and money was no object because law enforcement simply has to have the very newest and most shiny toys in the toy box, and the taxpayer can go screw himself. That’s what offends me most about the .40: Cops didn’t know how to shoot either the 9 or .45 competently, but we taxpayers have forked over truckloads of money to outfit cops across the land with .40’s because it was the latest new-new thing. I’m of the opinion that cops should have to go back to S&W Model 10’s. When they prove to us taxpayers that they can a) show sound judgement as to when to shoot, and b) prove they can put six out of six on target, then we can talk about something newer and “better.”

          As for making major PF: If you really want to shoot IPSC with high round count and make major, shoot 9×21, 9×23 or .38 Super. Best of all worlds for IPSC shooters. My IPSC (EAA Gold Team Witness) gun is 9×21 and holds 21 rounds in the magazine and makes major easily with 135gr pills.

        • @DG,

          That “bureaucracy” to which your referring involved the FBI standardized tests: 12-18″ through 10% ballistic gel through a bare gel block, denim-covered gel, “windshield” covered gel, plywood “wall”, and a simulated car door. The ability to penetrate 12-18″ of ballistic gel with 1.5x caliber expansion is not exactly a useless bureaucratic boondoggle. If anything, the development of the FBI test protocol was one of the driving forces in the improvement of JHP SD and duty ammo from 9mm through .45 ACP. That same protocol reveals weaknesses in .380 defensive loads while also demonstrating the similarities between 9mm, .40, and .45 in ballistic gel. Those tests are consistent and repeatable, and reveal that many exotic loads (particularly those with high velocities and very low bullet weights) across all calibers are a dangerous waste of money.

          One shooter says the .40 is the worst of both worlds, another say it is the best. The numbers and ballistic science put it in a very similar class as the 9mm and .45. It’s always available, and many striker-fired SD handguns don’t mind switching to 9mm with only a barrel change. You’re welcome to hate it if you don’t like the recoil profile or pressure curve. That’s just more .40 for me. If you choose 9×21 for the majors I have every confidence that you can shoot it well. I just don’t consider that to be a “normal” SD caliber. The .40 is ideal for hitting a major power profile in a cheap and common caliber with more capacity than the .45. The reality is that every caliber is a compromise, and tends to give you more of something at the cost of something else.

        • The FBI bureaucrats did come up with a bunch of “standards” for testing pistol bullet efficacy. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before from Uncle Sugar. The used to use pigs and goats, wet phone books, pine boards, blah, blah, blah. There have been all sorts of ballistic tests done in the past, standards set, test protocols created. The FBI just didn’t like any of them because their guys got smoked in Miami and up until that point, they had been believing too much of their own PR.

          My point still stands: Regardless of whether you’re using the new standards, ballistics gel, whatever, the .357 with a 158gr pill outdoes the .40, 9, .45 ACP, you name it. The only thing the FBI achieved in terminal ballistic performance in the .40 was an increase in the diameter of the bullet.

          Whooopie. Lots of money to run in place, IMO.

          I don’t hate the .40. I just can’t get excited about it. It isn’t a solution to any problem that wasn’t already adequately “solved” before. Want more magazine capacity? The 9×19 or .38 Super solved that. Fatter bullets and a bigger wound channel? The .44 or .45 solved that. More penetration? The .357 solved that in spades. More power? The .357 and .41 Mag solved that in revolvers, and the .38 Super, 10mm and .45 WinMag solved that in semi-autos.

          For LEO uses, I still don’t see a round that exceeds the performance of the .357 – even to this day. The velocities available in the .357 make for penetration through windshields, car doors, building doors, etc. The penetration through ballistics gel is often superior to most other handgun rounds that one would plausibly carry and shoot regularly. If it weren’t so doggone loud, it would be what I’d carry.

          As for 9×21/9×23/.38 Super not being defensive rounds: Any of them could easily be. All they’re trying to do is ape the .357.

        • @ropingdown:

          If the team was only considering .45 or 10mm doesn’t that still say if 10mm hadn’t gotten the press it did by being picked it would have ultimately never been in favor and died a wildcat death? While 9mm may not have been the likely mechanic for such, it would have been the same deal if the director had chosen .45 or am I not reading what you said correctly?

          And, I’m only suspecting. I have reason to believe 10mm was unlikely to survive if not picked. I certainly cannot go back in time and see if that one choice would doom the entire caliber to obscurity.

          Though thank you for the additional insight. I hadn’t known that.

        • So, your argument is that it’s loud, holds less rounds than a 9mm and isn’t as powerful as a .45? Is it more powerful than a 9mm and does it hold more rounds than a .45? If it does it’s a good compromise between the two and certainly a viable option. I find it truly hilarious that you object because it’s loud. All center fire pistol cartridges are loud enough to cause immediate, permanent hearing loss. That you actually included being too loud in your argument against the .40 is just too much evidence that you’re not willing to give it a fair shake no matter what, and enough to cast dispersion on everything else you said about it. It’s truly absurd and ridiculous.

    • Maybe this is the place to ask; I have read that the FBI’s whole “find a better caliber” thing that resulted in the 10mm and the .40 came about basically because they didn’t want to blame their agents’ conduct for the tragic results of the Miami shootout, so they blamed the handgun calibers (9mm, .38+P) instead. And that the .40 came about because the female agents couldn’t handle the 10mm, or so the FBI decided. Yes? No? Maybe?

      • The conduct of the agents in the Miami Shootout isn’t what the doubt of the round originated from, though one of the agents did lose his primary and battle with his secondary. That was simply bad form on his part.

        The doubt originated from a lethal shot to the lung that hit a suspect and collapsed the lung but did not go deep enough to stop him fast enough to stop the firefight. Then, it wasn’t just female agents. The Glock 20 is known to be like holding a bible over a pistol for those with smaller hands and shorter fingers. Combine that with a LOT of noise and blast and the lighter loads you could get made 10mm more controllable. The 10mm Lite of yesterday pioneered the .40S&W of today. I covered that in a prior article.

        • Thanks for the info. Actually, I had seen some discussion over the agents’ decision to do a “dynamics stop” in that environment in the first place, causing one (or more, I don’t recall) of the agents to lose his primary duty pistol; one of the agents also lost his glasses and apparently was pretty blind without them, altho he may have managed to hit one of the bad guys anyway. One of the agents was shot when the bad guy walked up on him while he was trying to get his pistol reloaded or unjammed, I don’t recall which. One of the bad guys was incapacitated right off the bat, IIRC; all the damage was done by one bad guy. Just seems like a lot of things went wrong besides the fact that one shot didn’t penetrate deeply enough for a one-shot stop. Seems like at least one agent was carrying a .357 Mag but had it loaded with .38 +P; wonder why that would be? Thanks again for the reply.

  15. Everyone knows…….

    The best pistol is the one you are willing to carry with you.
    The best caliber is the one you are comfortable shooting and can depend on reliably hitting your intended target.
    Shot placement is more important than caliber (generally).
    A North American .22 Magnum in the eye beats a .44 Magnum miss every time.

    Practice, practice, practice. Carry what you are comfortable shooting and make sure you can hit your target.

    Meanwhile, 9mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP are all acceptable and arguing that anyone else should carry one or the other just because YOU like it is…

    • You win the “Best Advice of the Day Award.” The caliber discussions/arguments are fun, but the first rule of a gunfight is, “have a gun.”

    • When you need a gun, the .32 ACP pocket pistol you can conceal is more useful than the Model 629 that you left back home in your safe because you couldn’t conceal it.

      • I second that. I’ve left home with just a .380 in my pocket more than once. Fact is the biggest caliber difference is from zero rounds of a .0000 caliber bullet to any diameter and any amount.

        I never intended to start a caliber war, if that’s believable. And this last post I only talked about what happened after the caliber caught on not that the bullet itself is the best thing since sliced bread.

        But, folks take what they want from it.

  16. The 9mm is much easier to hit with in compact and subcompact lightweight polymer guns. In a full size gun I’ll take a 40 or a 45. Even Rob Pincus has gone back to recommending and personally using the 9mm over the 40.. He feels the data suggests the more holes you put in a bad guy is more important than how powerful the round itself is to a point, and that most people hit better with a 9.

  17. My hands fill the 40 quit well, much better than a berretta, in fact changed the grips to rubber finger type and now all three cals. are the same (9, 40 and 45). Ammo is all about availability, when it gets down to throwing rocks. Keep shooting all?

  18. I’m pretty happy with my new HK P30, 9mm v3, it’s my first HK and I have to say I wish I had bought it earlier.

    I’ll still hang on to my Kimber Compact Aluminum
    .45acp, but I think I’ll be packing the P30 these days.

  19. The .40 S&W is clearly a superior performer to any 9MM loading, with all else being equal of course, and with a similar round-count (15+1 vs. 17+1 in the S&W M&P line for example) and minimal weight penalty. You can find (high-dollar and very hot) loads that will match or even exceed the venerable .45 ACP +P for energy and penetration (and with a higher round count).

    The only downside I’ve found is the recoil impulse, which is worse than just about anything short of a full-house 10MM (and don’t get me started on magnums).

      • It is crazy, isn’t it? The .40 S&W has its place, as do all other pistol cartridges. If you’re really going to argue “stopping power” (the very phrase turns my mouth sour because it’s a grave misnomer), then start talking rifles and shotguns.

        All pistol calibers have “one-shot-stops” in their respective histories (even the lowly .22 Short), and all of them have completely failed to stop a threat (up to and even beyond .357 magnum) at one time or another. Hell, rifle and shotgun calibers carry with them both sides of that particular coin.

        I myself just find that the .40 S&W can and does in fact do whatever you want the 9MM, .45 ACP, .357 SiG, etc. to do but sometimes less or more efficiently than others.

  20. We are missing the important question, “What does the caliber I carry say about me as an individual”?

    When I carry one of my .40 S&W guns I feel like a free spirit, like I don’t have anything to prove. If somebody wants to go on waxing poetic about calibers I’m the guy that will just smile and nod.

    Don’t want anyone to think I only carry .40 or drive a minivan.

  21. While I certainly do not agree with LC’s contention for the .40SW, I do admire the care and attention to presenting his case well, with well thought-through articles. So, good job there.

    I have done a lot of my own personal research and reading about the .40SW and after a lot of time researching and then shooting the .40SW, I have definitively and definitely concluded for myself that modern 9mm JHPs offer everthing I want and need in a SD round.

    I like the higher capacity I have with it and the better handling firearm that it provides.

    The SIG P320 is certainly an intriguing platform that may well “solve” the caliber wars for a person who can easily swap out calibers.

    But good job, LC on making your case.

    Caliber wars always make for a “fun” discussion and I think we can all rejoice that (most) of us have the freedom to use whatever the heck we want.

    I would underscore the point that everyone should choose wisely and only after a lot of PERSONAL research and experience.

    I have watched now hundreds of people using various calibers in defensive handgun classes, from basic to advanced, and in every case the .40SW is a much “snappier” handgun that offers more of a challenge for the shooter with follow up shots. FWIW YMMV.

    Happy shooting.

    • Thanks Paul. I only contend that .40 had brought more to the table than uncomfortable recoil in this article. Extensive research that you’ve done is partly thanks to the .40 since the caliber debunked the original idea that only the books of old knew the “Stopping Power” answer. Standardized testing in gelatin came in vogue with the .40S&W so…I find it a good concept even if only for that.

      Everyone doesn’t have to carry it and I occasionally regret it as my first firearm. But it’s a good idea, even if not for everyone. I’m not a .40 snob; I’m trying to objectively defend it for what it’s worth.

  22. The AI is sure hating some .40!

    I’m going to leave the .45acp out of this because it’s not really comparable to either the 9mm or .40S&W.

    Looking at the ballistics 9mm struggles to make 350ftlbs of energy in anything not +p while .40S&W must be downloaded to get below 400 and routinely turns in 450ftlb + results in common standard pressure loads. Standard pressure .40S&W can easily reach 550ftlbs. The 9mm is essentially incapable of this level of performance even with +P+ loads, which result in all the ‘down sides’ that the .40S&W supposedly has; increased wear and greater felt recoil while still failing to match the .40s performance. On top of that the .40 has a greater diameter and deposits more bullet mass than any 9mm. It typically carries only 1 or 2 fewer rounds for the same size platform.

    You can say anything you want about ‘modern’ 9mm performance but ballistics don’t lie, the .40S&W deposits much more energy behind a larger and heavier projectile for mildly increased felt recoil in a same size platform with similar capacity.

    The 9mm is in fact a subpar cartridge when compared to the .40 in every way except felt recoil and a slight gain in capacity which could easily be rectified with a purpose built .40 that was not intended to be produced as a 9mm as well. A couple of extra oz and a minor increase in grip length would yield a .40 that was as soft shooting as standard pressure 9mm with the same capacity in a platform that was for all intents and purposes the same size/weight.

    None of this is even truly debatable, it’s simple the facts of physics and they can’t be overcome or argued out of existence.

    I own and carry all three of the ‘caliber war’ cartridges and in a variety of platforms. I don’t have anything against 9mm at all and in fact my current favorite EDC is in 9mm. It’s not that the 9mm is in any way inadequate, rather that it is no match for a .40S&W. . . hate it or love it the numbers won’t go away, the .40 is more effective.

    The beauty is that we can all carry whatever we want and don’t have to justify it to each other, only to ourselves. I know when I carry my 9mm XDS that it isn’t as powerful as my .40 USP. I wouldn’t want an XDS in .40 because for me, subjectively the recoil would be uncomfortable. That said, I can’t imagine a beast like the USP in 9mm. The gun is too robust and heavy to bother with a weaker round than the .40, and from the USP very hot .40s feel about like average 9mms do from my XDS. I’ve had the same experience with CZ 75’s and feel (again it’s subjective) that their mass make them an excellent platform for .40S&W while they are over weight and over built to house 9mm. It’s not that 9mm CZ-75 is wrong, it’s just that I can comfortably shoot .40 from it and if I wanted a 9mm that size I’d want it to be a lot lighter. Trading power and capacity for size and weight, or capacity for power, or any configuration of these is what everyone has to do in an EDC pistol. That’s why there are so many options.

    So let’s not fool ourselves or attempt to fool each other. The .40S&W is significantly more powerful and effective than the 9mm for a marginal trade off in recoil and capacity. The 9mm is wholly adequate for defensive purposes but is not the equal of the .40, never has been, and never will be.

    • Your complaint that 9mm +P+ has all of the downsides of .40 S&W is valid, except that nobody that I know of uses 9mm +P+ for anything but reliability testing and carry ammo and the occasional practice. The average lifespan of a 9mm is still greater.

      You write off the capacity difference and recoil as marginal.The capacity difference is approximately 15% assuming 13 rd capacity compared to 15 in a 9mm, hardly marginal. As for recoil, that is fairly subjective, but many shooters would disagree that the recoil difference in insignificant.

      You also claim that .40 S&W is significantly more powerful than 9mm, which you have failed to demonstrate. I have yet to read any studies that show that .40 S&W is appreciably more powerful, and from what I have read, most internal ballistics experts do not consider muzzle energy to be a proxy for terminal effectiveness or see much of a difference between the 3 primary service pistol calibers. If you have any studies or information from experts to share, I’m all ears, but I doubt you will find anything to support your claim.

      • If ftlbs of energy present do not translate to terminal ballistics the bullet design is way off. Using HP ammo that reliably expands at it’s given velocity the energy deposited must be greater with the .40S&W than with the 9mm. The only other possible explanation would be that the .40 consistently over penetrated, which it is not known to do with appropriate projectiles. I’m not sure what you’re asserting, but if a given loading produces more ftlbs of energy that can reliably be deposited in the intended target, that round is considered to be more powerful by definition. Since the .40 consistently provides more energy than 9mm across a variety of loadings (only very light, slow target loads for .40S&W drop into the energy range of anything not a +P in 9mm) and does so with a heavier and larger diameter projectile, any argument that the .40 is not more powerful would require proof of your argument, not of mine, since mine is founded entirely on basic physics which are both precise, repeatable, easily accessible and undeniable. (Try

        As for recoil, if this is an issue it is subjective to the shooter and good cause for the shooter to choose 9mm over .40S&W. However, this does not make 9mm more powerful, only more manageable for less experienced, smaller, weaker or physically impaired shooters. Any reasonable amount of range time should enable the vast majority of shooters to control the recoil of any compact or larger .40S&W.

        The capacity difference between 15 and 13 is about 15%, however that belies the fact that there are still 13 rounds available, which is a major improvement over any revolver in use and over most .45ACPs. If pure capacity is the only consideration this becomes very important. However, with the average shooting resolved in less than 3 rounds the difference is negligible, especially if the marginally lower capacity is of a significantly more effective round, which in this case it is.

        As for use of +P+ 9mm ammo: anyone not regularly using it would have to admit that the .40S&W average loading is between 1/3 and 1/2 more powerful than their loading. It would negate any equality of power between the .40S&W and the 9mm. If one stipulates that the .40 isn’t significantly more powerful than 9mm one could only be referring to +P+ 9mm as otherwise the statement would be obviously and absurdly false. The comparison would be such as between the a car offered with both 8 and 6 cylinder motors, buying the 6 and claiming that it had the same power as some other 8 cylinder car but with better fuel economy. The comparison would be apples to oranges, irrelevant, meaningless or simply untrue.

        “most internal ballistics experts do not consider muzzle energy to be a proxy for terminal effectiveness ”

        I do not know who these experts are but I would refute them as even being experts altogether and with good cause: Lacking some wounding mechanism uncommon to handgun ammunition, the larger diameter round with the greater energy (energy equals mass times velocity squared) is the more terminally effective ammunition provided it does not greatly over penetrate the target and fail to deposit said energy. Given the .40s greater mass and higher energy at lower velocity, plus its greater diameter it should not (and does not) tend to over penetrate any worse than similar 9mm projectiles. Thus and again physics rule out any way in which 9mm can out perform .40S&W baring the development of some very special projectile that can only be utilized in a 9mm or something available only in 9mm that somehow transcends Newtonian physics.

        Until one of the above two unlikely events occurs, the projectile with the greater diameter and greater energy will always be more powerful than a projectile with less diameter and less energy when all else is equal (ie expansion).

        I’ll leave the ‘proof’ that ‘experts’ don’t find the .40 to be more powerful than the 9mm to you, since my argument rests solely on rather self-evident physics and your argument seems to be the less likely accurate, extraordinary claims require extraordinary proofs.

        • I believe the projectile you are looking for is the G2 RIP. Turns any 9mm into a death ray, and being the majestic honey-badger of the ballistics world that it is, it has no need for things like your so called “physics”.

          Carry on.

        • Just curious…are the guys analyzing this stuff to death as committed to training with their firearms? Have they ever been involved in a defensive gun use? Every drilled with their handguns with professional training?

        • Paul. Not analyzing just sticking with what works and KISS: one gun to rule them all = G23. And,
          1. yes 2. no (thats what 3s’ rule is for… 3. yes

        • Paul, you’re not supposed to take any comments in a caliber-war thread seriously. It’s just something people do between house chores or other productive activities.

        • On the contrary, I have made no claims about the effectiveness of 9mm or of .40 S&W. It was you that said .40 is significantly more powerful. I admitted .40 has more muzzle energy, but you have not proven this translates to a significant increase in terminal effectiveness. Without a doubt, muzzle energy does have an impact, but is the relation linear? Logarithmic? You don’t know, you just somehow know that it is significant apparently.

          As for capacity, more is better. You say 13 is plenty, maybe it is, but 15% more is still better. And as for +P+, you have started to ramble. You are addressing points that you have imagined I have made, when I have not, and I do not hold the opinions you have attributed to me. I was speaking about +P+ in relation to the lifespan of a gun. You claimed that +P+ is as harsh as .40 on a gun. It probably is, but you are not understanding that people don’t use only +P+. 9mm allows the use of standard pressure rounds that are softer on the gun.

        • In CA max mag is 10. So 9mm advantage is moot. Compact size of g23 just right to use all with double stack. Nice trigger and same every time makes hd muscle memory building easy. if you dont trust yourself to train trigger discipline then israeli carry…

          If big and strong enough to handle snappy recoil and practice enough to get bullet placement all in target zone you are good. one instructor points out that cloerleaf or 1 moa not critical for HD and multiple wound channels do more damage than multiple bullets thru same one…

    • Shield 9 is EDC, State Parks I carry the XD40 when conceal is not necessary.
      Wis allows open/concealed in parks w/ ccw. (if the cover shirt blows open)
      Shield 40 might be a bit snappy but I love it in the XD

  23. Bought the M&P Shield .40 blind. No range or even firing use w/firearm or calibur. Just discussion with a pro who is one of my closest lifetime friends.
    I find it fulfilling in every single regard.
    Replaced .45 ACP as my carry weapon.

  24. Well said, now give me my weapon back “the 40”. The one with the big grips. Be safe out there guys and gals.

  25. My second handgun was an XD 40 when zip returned from Iraq. I shoot that pistol really well. I also own an M&P in 9th and love that gun. I really don’t feel a major recoil difference or see an accuracy difference between the two. My 15m shots hit withing the “make a bad guy dead” zone. I practice with both but 40 ammo is much easier to acquire than 9mm. Now my Baby Eagle (Jericho 941) in .45 does feel a lot different. It pushes more than snaps. It’s a great gun to shoot. I own all three calibers and enjoy each one for different reasons.

  26. I bought a Glock 35 and have put probably 20k rounds thru it… of 9mm. I have never once fired .40 thru it, in fact I still have the 2 100 rd boxes of white box that my FFL threw in at purchase. .40 is the only caliber I own that I have no reloading (or even cleaning) gear for. I figured it would be nice to have the 9/40/357 capability, but I’ve found no real world use for it att all.

  27. I’m not really a fan of the .40. It recoils more than the 9mm, but it doesn’t do a whole lot more than a good 9mm defense load. The extra downside isn’t worth the upside. After owning both a Glock 22 and a 23, I’d choose either a 9mm or a .45 over a .40, but that’s just me.

  28. I love shooting the 40! 165 grain 40 mimics my favorite 357 magnum load (158 grains moving at 1200 fps).

  29. Hmmm…during the ammo shortage .40 was easily the most common caliber I encountered. I still see spotty 9mm. .380MIA most of the time. There’s .45 but it’s more expensive. And not much has changed around here ( Illinois & Indiana ). I’m happy with .40 & shoot it well. If I want stopping power I’ll shoot my 12 gauge.

  30. I safe my 45, I ccw my 40 and my backup is my ankle 9, so I guess I’m good to go, but remember if you can run, run! Be alert.

  31. As a police officer I have had two glock 22’s, three glock 23’s and one glock 27 all in .40 S& W. In 15 years I have never and I mean never have had a failure to fire, feed, etc. I have fired 9MMs and .45 ACPs and carried both in the Coast Guard and calling the .40 “snappy”. Come on now and man up! The .40 gives more sectional density in hitting a perp than a 9MM and carries more rounds than a .45. No hand gun round is perfect. There are many a perp pushing up daisys from a double tap of .40 and none of those civilian or LE shooters were complaining about “snappy”

    • its easy to say man up to a male shooter, but female shooting enthusiasts are on the rise.

      “There are many a perp pushing up daises from a double tap of .40 and none of those civilian or LE shooters were complaining about “snappy”’
      do le not consider themselves citizens anymore?

      • I know several petite (5’0″ 100lbs) women who can handle recoil better than most men. It’s technique.

  32. Being a new 300 BLK enthusiast, I can relate to the 40s&w bashing and debates. Much as the 40 fills the gap/weaknesses between 9 and 45, the 300 does a similar thing between 556 and 762.

    40s&w came out in 1990, but the caliber wars still persist 24 year later. 300 BLK just came out in 2011, so now we have a good idea how long the bashing will continue. But if nothing else, at least I’ve learned what it’s like to be caught “in the middle.” Personally I don’t like 40s&w, but now I approach caliber war debates with a little more maturity and understanding.

  33. I love my Berretta 96 Inox, great pistol.

    .40 is a good caliber in a full size gun because its a bit snappy, but the best part is you can always get it!

    Every caliber has its good and bad points, so I really don’t get the argument in regards to caliber. Whatever you shoot the best and can hit with is a good bullet. A miss is 100% worthless.

    Besides if you want to talk about stopping power in a semi automatic pistol, the .45 ACP is gutless compared to the .50AE in my Desert Eagle! Makes a full size 1911 look like a toy!

  34. I like to keep a couple pistols in all the common calibers. I have a SW40VE (bring the hate… good as Glock with better grips for $250 new), SD40VE (see above with better trigger), and a Hi Point .40 carbine ($150, old ugly stock). I have a handful of 9mm pieces including 3 CZ75 variants (am I redeemed?) that I rarely score ammo for, but there I am at Wallyworld World staring at stacks of .40 while my .22lr and 9mm sit quietly waiting to eat. My only .45 isn’t a 1911, either. Scored a S&W 457 that looks new, and I can feed it, too.

  35. my household
    SR 22
    Shield 9
    PX4 Storm 9
    M&P Full 9
    XD40, Love it, I shoot it the best of all??????
    Oh oh
    I better get crackn’ on a 1911, big hole (pun yes) in my arsenal.
    Desert Eagle, Casull? Not a chance

  36. I think I’ve change my mind on the sub2K. Was looking for a 9 for cheaper shoot but for HD, the forty looks better. Does the .40 Sub2K hold up under the more punishment that the .40 cartridge dishes out?

    • I own a Sub 2000 in 9mm. It should easily and well, no real felt recoil even for the averse. The .40 version I have heard mixed reviews on. One poster here claimed his snapped in half with factory ammo. That doesn’t inspire faith that it stands up well and my gunsmith even said he advised the gun was better suited for plinking than for hard use when I had him check out my 9mm.

      I plink with mine. If you were thinking of plinking and home defense I would advise against getting too high a round count. Best advice I have.

  37. Like Columbo used to say, “One more thing”,
    I do put a couple of FMJ’s in the first 6 of my XD mag that sits on the nightstand. I like the flat nose of the .40 to create a bit of a shock wave and I figure it is not going much further after 18-20 inches of bad guy. The rest is Critical Duty.
    I don’t do that in my nine, too pointy.

  38. The .40 may be a compromise, but I thought that was why it was created. They (FBI) wanted a round more powerful than a 9mm, but most agents couldn’t handle the hot 10mm rounds. Everyone says they would choose between 9mm for capacity or .45 for power, but what if you can’t? I guess everyone drags their gun safe all over town? I know this is just a debate and will never be over, but do you choose capacity over power? Or vise versa? Or do choose a round with decent power and decent capacity? I might. I say might because I don’t have a .40. Yet.

    P.S. I love El Caminos too!

  39. I believe people are fooling themselves thinking capacity is a critical factor in a real “civilian” self defense situation on the street. I know about the Hollywood bank robbery and the FBI shoot out and lot’s of other extraordinary shootings we seem to focus on, but we aren’t Police or Military. The popular thread is to pick the smallest round 9mm and hamstring it with a short barrel but hey I’ve got all these rounds. You need to be able to lay down covering fire while getting to cover or some such nonsense, you better be a World Class Shooter if you think that has a chance of working. If you don’t get the job done in the first 1-3 rounds your chances of survival are slim unless you are shooting unarmed people and not armed people shooting you. Lot’s of money has been spent trying to make the 9mm into a good choice but over time it’s been proven that all things equal the bigger bore will make a bigger hole and do more damage. Why do the 9mm rounds try to equal the performance of a 45 and in fact make those claims? You don’t see the comparison the other way.

    • I think the hidden capacity whore in us comes out when we read about encounters where people shoot till the slide stops. A couple extra seconds sounds better than not. And some of us come from bad neighborhoods. That being said, when you hear shots outside past 10 in number you just don’t feel as reassured with a small number when you know stupid things happen and even close to where you live.

      I know a guy who ended up in a shootout in his backyard, got his gun taken by the cops for 5 months because he defended himself from two men. His 12 rounds (from an XD40) were gone like a wisp of smoke and they got away with only one guy hit in the hand once. I hate to advocate tactical advice but don’t think better less is more works as one size fits all advice.

      You don’t know how you’ll react when the unthinkable happens but no one enters the situation with too much ammo.

    • I don’t think 9mm try to be .40 or .45, rather that those who are invested in 9mm try to claim they are the equal of or superior to .40 and .45.

      Never mind that this is patently and scientifically untrue, and never mind that this has been borne out in test after test. Those who are convinced are convinced and they won’t change.

      I wonder how many of them are unwilling to train enough to appropriately handle .40 or .45 loads?

      I would say that unless you’re handgun skill is very poor, more than 9 rounds is excessive. I would also point out the FBI statistics: 7 feet, 3 rounds, 3 seconds. That’s deliberate fire at a target so close it should be hard to miss not hard to hit. If it’s the opposite for an individual they should stop posting and go practice.

      You’ve pretty much nailed it though, more rounds will only help if you’re not making good hits, and good hits are more likely to be obtained by larger diameter bullets.

      I’m nearly ready to drop out of this argument due to the inability of too many others to understand either basic physics or the dynamics of a gunfight. It was refreshing to see your post.

  40. see “shooting the bull ” 147 gr federal hst test in a short-barreled 9mm. truthfully, I doubt that the terminal performance from any of these calibers makes much difference. They will all work as well as a handgun can work.

    a good round from any of the 9mm,40, 357,45, or 38+p is light years ahead of what was available for a couple of centuries that ended in the 1990’s . any of them .

    • Miforest- I think when all is said and done, you are correct.
      Far more important is bullet placement, fast enough under stress, to hit the target.

      And that boils down to good training and practice.

    • This is very true, however the improvements in loadings and projectiles largely follow a linear curve across all defensive pistol cartridges, so that as 9mm improve so did .40 and .45 by the same ratio. Thus .40 and .45 still consistently out perform 9mm.

      The improvements mean that 9mm is now very capable, but still not as capable as the other two, and nothing will change that.

      • “The 9mm just can’t win and never will. It doesn’t make it a bad round, but it will always be inferior to the .40 because of the fundamentals of physics and terminal ballistics.”

        If energy was the deciding factor, how come you’re not carrying a 44 mag? Surely you’d concede that by YOUR standards, “a 40S&W just can’t win and never will” compared to a 44mag?

        –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

        • I didn’t say that power was the only consideration, only that the .40 is more powerful than 9mm. A.44 mag is more powerful than a .40S&W, but suffers from weight to capacity issues and an increase in recoil that I don’t think is worth the extra power. However, just because I don’t want to carry or don’t ‘like’ .44mag, I’m not going to falsely claim it to be less powerful as many have done here Re: 9 Vs 40.

        • Ardent writes: “A.44 mag is more powerful than a .40S&W, but suffers from weight to capacity issues and an increase in recoil that I don’t think is worth the extra power. ”

          Now simply replace your reference to “40S&W” with “9mm” and your reference to “44 mag” with “40S&W” and your precise argument supports choosing the 9mm over the 40S&W. 🙂

          –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

  41. The best round is the one you can use to hit your target with multiple precise hits, quickly. The round does not make the shooter. The training does. Find a round/gun that you like and train the hell out of it.

    • A .22LR is awesome SD round, if you train to hit ping-pong balls with it, under pressure, quickly.

      It’s the shooter, not the bullet, not the gun.

      40S&W my butt. Also, 9mm, my butt, 45ACP, my butt, 357Sig, .380ACP, 10m, .38 super, blah, de-blah, blah, blah, all my butt.

      None of those rounds is meaningfully more effective than the other once shot placement is taken into account. Any common 9mm will happily penetrate sufficient body mass to wreck the heart, pulmonary arteries, maybe even take out the spine. Most .380 ACP will do much the same.

      There’s no magic “STOP!” handgun bullet (the massive hunting rounds nobody carries for SD anyway besides).

      Shot placement. Shot placement. Shot placement. It’s what’s for lunch–if you plan on having lunch.

      –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

  42. I’m sticking with my .40. I won’t carry a 9mm because I want the attacker down in one hit, not 5. And .45 ammo is hard to get where I live. So, .40 it is. It’s accurate, cheap, and hard hitting. Everyone has their favorites.

    • If you’re only firing one round at an attacker you probably need to rethink your strategy. One round from any caliber is not a guarantee that it will stop somebody who’s determined to attack you. Fire until the threat stops, be it one round or five.

    • “I want the attacker down in one hit”


      You’re the awesome.

      Guy walks into a bar, bartender shoots him with a 40S&W (or any other pistol caliber you care to mention). Guy says, “Why’d you shoot me?”

      “down in one hit” *wipes brow* wow. funny.

      –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

  43. Always love how everyone states the .40 is dead because of the “advances in bullets for the 9 and .45.” Okay… but did you also forget that as those 9 and .45 bullets have advanced, so have the .40 bullets? To me the idea that ammo companies would advance 9 and .45 bullets without the same advances in .40 is arsine, and that statement is probably just a bunch of 9 and .45 nuts trying to prove why theirs is bigger, when it might not be. The truth of the matter is, all 3 (5 if you count .357 Sig and 10mm) are very effective and it should be up to each person what they want to carry / use. Heck a .22LR that you WILL carry and can shoot well is better than a 9, .40, or .45 in the safe.

  44. “But the .40 bridges that gap between 9mm and .45, highlighting the weaknesses of both rounds at the time. ”

    What’s the “bridge”? What are the “weaknesses”?

    Unless you like more flash and recoil, what exactly is is the compelling narrative for the 40S&W, given the remarkable improvements in 9mm self-defense ammo over the last 20 years to today’s exemplary performance (and I write that as a guy who carrie a 45ACP every day)?

    .40S&W was THOUGHT to be a POTENTIAL bridge, and was THOUGHT to overcome PAST weaknesses.

    The world has turned. What’s the place for the 40 today? Nowhere.

    –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

    • While 9mm ammo has reached a point where perhaps the .40 is unnecessary, for the same recoil as the potent +P+ 9mm loadings and similar size and capacity the .40 offers more power. How this makes the .40 obsolete is impossible to fathom. If improvements were unnecessary we’d have stopped at the black powder .45LC.

      One has to understand that the power available from the average .40 is near the absolute limit of the 9mm, and 200ftlbs more energy are available from serious .40’s and with a heavier cross section and larger diameter.

      The 9mm just can’t win and never will. It doesn’t make it a bad round, but it will always be inferior to the .40 because of the fundamentals of physics and terminal ballistics.

  45. Believing that some digit after the decimal in a typical CCW handgun round is going to make any difference whatever in a prospective self-defense shooting is mysticism of the most childish sort.

    .45ACP = not magical instant one or two shot stop.
    10mm = not magical instant one or two shot stop.
    .40 S&W = not magical instant one or two shot stop.
    .357 SIG = not magical instant one or two shot stop.
    .38 Super = not magical instant one or two shot stop.
    9mm +P+P+P+P+P = not magical instant one or two shot stop
    .38 Super = not magical instant one or two shot stop
    .380 ACP = not magical instant one or two shot stop

    Put your rounds where they need to go, you’ll maximize your prospects for neutralizing your threat.

    Regardless of “fanboy” caliber.

    Pick the caliber with which you can do THAT–shot placement, shot placement, shot placement–most effectively.

    All the rest–caliber, capacity, MRD, blah, blah, blah–good God, there’s a lot of ways to separate gun owners from their common sense and money.

    –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

  46. My EDC is a S&W M&P .40 FS TS. It is an easy firearm to shoot. Since it was purchased at the height of the firearm and ammunition shortage, this is what I could get. Also, most of the only readily avaible ammunition in my local gun stores was .40S&W.

  47. I carried a High Power in .40. I couldn’t get 1000 rounds out of the spring. I briefly replaced it with a new production 1911; it was problematic. My current EDC is a S&W M&P .40 FS TS.

  48. Dan,

    Keep it up and keep posting pieces like this! I own and shoot pretty much every standard caliber aside from .357 Sig, or .38 Super. They all have their roles, uses and I enjoy them all recreational and there isn’t one that I cannot find a suitable defensive load for.

    But for me, .40 was, is and remains my favorite of them all. It just sits at that wonderful middle ground between 9mm, .45 ACP and even 10mm. I just wish more manufacturers such as perhaps Colt and Kimberly would get in the .40 game! Then again I also wish they’d branch out a little bit and offer something other than amazing 1911 frame handguns… Can’t win ’em all I guess.

  49. Different strokes for different folks.
    Newest purchase for me: M&P .40 Shield. After very satisfactory practice, it replaced Colt Commander 1991 as my go to carry piece.
    I’m happy. Your results may vary.

  50. I don’t agree that the 40 Smith and Wesson is the perfect middle ground. With modern, bonded, hollow-point defensive ammunition the performance of one round of any caliber (9mm, 40, 45, 357) are very similar. The fact that 9mm is easier to shoot means it can be shot faster. Since the medical damage is about the same for every defensive handgun caliber, the one that you can hit with the fastest is the best.

  51. I have shot 9mm and .45 for years, got bored with 9mm as I can shoot it accurately as fast as I can pull the trigger (no challenge) out to 20 yards. The .45 is more of a challenge to get on target quickly after the first shot. Then for the first time I shot a .40, recoil? what recoil?, I shot 9mm and .40 back to back in a Sig P226 and was just as fast and just as accurate with the .40. But then again I am 6′ 1″ and 205lbs…so I guess I need to go shoot a 10mm to see what the recoil “fuss” is all about. I like shooting .45 in +P at 185, 200, and 230. I get the big bore and velocity…a nice combination. I live in Kalifornistan, so am limited to 10 rounds, may as well be the big ones…

  52. One reason people, especially as of late, seem to bash the .40 is because they’re gullible, by that I mean listen to how many gun writers or tactically dressed bearded “hipsters” say the 9mm is the best because in their mindset a pistol is next to worthless to begin with and since they’re so bad let’s carry the one that gives the best capacity and the least recoil. Lets’s face it, most cannot shoot a handgun very proficiently so in that sense I can see why they would praise the 9mm.

    I like the 9mm, .40 and .45 but to me where the .40 shines is that it gives you the biggest bullet in a 9mm sized platform, nearly 9mm capacity and ballistics that, in cases, can exceed the .45. There’s so many comments on here that make no sense at all, and I get that many just don’t like or just don’t have a good reason to buy a .40 and that’s fine, but concerning the big three, they’re all lethal but they’re not equal either.

    I’ll even say the .40 isn’t far behind a 10mm, and we all know if there’s ever a kool-aid drinking bunch it’s the 10mm crowd. No I like the 10mm too but come on, some of the more gullible types will actually start to think the 10mm is like a .41 Mag or something, when that’s an apples to bananas comparison, the .40 vs 10mm is closer to a red delicious vs gala apple comparison.

    So ballistically the .40 is no slouch, my G23 with handloads can run 180gr close to 1200 and the G35 can surpass 1300, I’m not aware of a .45 ACP, let alone a 9mm that can do that, and like I said, not far behind the “mythical” 10mm at all. Of course for the less accomplished handgunners out there the .40 can be loaded to shoot just as lightly as the lightest 9mm so it doesn’t disturb their apparently weak wrists.

    The .40 offers so much that of the big three, it covers the most ground and is, I think, to most versatile of them followed by the .45 (since you can have good performance from the ACP sized .45 Super, but that’s another story).

  53. Josh, your post is right on the mark. Recoil in a full size handgun is negligable in a 9mm, .40, or a .45. I shoot all of them and .357 Sig as well. Yes, handguns recoil, yes you have to hold onto them perhaps tighter than you think, you have to practice, both with one hand, two hands, weak hand and strong hand. I have fun with all of them. What I do like about the .40 is that it makes nice big holes in my splatter targets that are easy to see past ten yards, just like the .45. I also like .40 as it is REALLY cheap to shoot compared to .45 and .357 Sig. .357 Sig is so accurate, so flat shooting it feels like the perfect round for me, but why choose one flavor when you can eat all of them? In reality .40 is not a compromise at all, but a really cool alternative that offers a lot of capability, a lot of capacity and some pretty cool power in a reliable round. My P226 has never failed to feed FMJ or JHP of any .40 round ever. My homedefense gun is an AR-15, I feel much better about .223 or 5.56 fragmenting when it hits sheetrock than any of my pistols. For carry, do what feels good for you, the balistics do not matter if you cannot reliablbly make good hits with your favorite flavor. I am comfortable with 9, 10, 12, or 19 rounds of any modern 9, .40, .45, .357 Sig, if I need more then I can pull my backup or reload… :-).

  54. Guys , bottom line is 10mm, covers all the bases, from low loads to hot loads… there is nothing that all the other calibers do, that a ten can already do… with advancements in metalurgy and polymers.. there is no reason gun companies can’t design a smaller framed 10mm pistol: with 15 or more capacity… they won’t because nobody would buy anything else.. other calibers…. its all about market selection and profits! the 10mm nullifies all other calibers, thus reducing their market strategy to make you buy several pistols in other calibers instead of one caliber ( 10mm) THAT DOES IT ALL AND IS FOR HUNTING ! THERE IS A PROVEN FACT THAT MOST COMPANIES DON’T WANT THE 10MM TO RESURGE…. THINK ABOUT IT.. 10MM PUSHES LIKE A 45 ACP.. SHOOTS FLATTER THAN OTHER CARTRIDGES, HAS THE SAME CAPACITY AS 40 S&W.. AND PENETRATES BETTER THAN .357MAG.. SPEND TIME WITHE 10MM IN MULTIPLE PLATFORMS LIKE I HAVE, AND I GUARANTEE YOU WILL CHANGE CALIBERS… OR HAVE YOU HAD TO MUCH KOOL-AIDE FROM THE GUN PUSHERS AND AMMO COMPANIES! DOESNT TAKE ANY MORE POWDER OR BRASS, LEAD ETC.. TO MAKE 10MM VS 45ACP…. SO WHY IS SO HARD TO FIND SOMETIMES… IT’S BECAUSE YOU GUYS KEEP BUYING INFERIOR CARTRIDGES AND THEN ARGUING ABOUT WHICH IS BETTER…. WHEN THE BEST CARTRIDGE 10MM HAS BEEN FOR QUITE AWHILE NOW.. DON’T THINK SO ASK TED NUGENT, KEITH WARREN,..

  55. I have 2 40s a XDSC for carry and I love it, Also a glock 35 , t shoots extremely well and very fast back on target The ATV and camping, fishing, etc along with a Ruger SP101 with 4.25″ barrel in 357 Mag
    To me the 40 acts like my 357 about the same in velocity, I enjoy both very much, nothing against the 9 but prefer the 2 I carry

  56. fast forward to 2016 and the 40s&w is falling out of favor faster than lightning. guys on texas gun trader just cant get rid of thier 40s and i see some pretty big price drops and they still dont sell. there is no logical reason with terminal ballastic advancments on both the 9mm and 45acp side to own a 40 anymore. im not a big james Yeager fan, but hes right in saying pick either a 9mm or 45. ive been done with the 40 for a while

  57. Well I know that this is an old thread, but cant resist. `~The 40 S&W is so highly used by LEO’s and government users for a reason, and a good one. Remember that the 40S&W was made backwards. The case is thick, just cut down from the 10mm. The stiff case is where the pressure comes from. It is a hand load caliber if I ever saw one. Those of us who play around with loads can attest to its overwelming favor over a 9 or 45. Speed. Ok how about 1279 fps with a 165 grain boolit. Do the math. Thats almost 600 ft lbs of energy. That load penetrates with a fmj. I have fired Underwood 165 gr ammo and it is so very impressive. Nothing in a 9 comes close. Nothing in a 45 flies so flat and accurate. My hand loads do a tad better. The 9 case is limited. The 45 is too. But you can load hotter with the 40S&W. Not even close with a 9mm or a 45acp. I carry an all steel Kahr K40, and a T40 at times. The extra weight tames the recoil. If you must have light, go 9. If you want 600 ft lbs of energy, go 40 S&W. Also. Did you know that the 40 S&W has much lower DB report than a 9 or 45 ? The ammo is always easy to get. But it is so easy to hand load. My favorite combat/range gun is my STI SS 5.0 1911, with a 5.5 inch barrel in 40 S&W. I hit anything I shoot at with it. I have cornoed 165 gr loads at over 1300 fps average. Who needs a 10mm.


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