.40 S&W? Yes Please!

.40 Smith & Wesson: Still A Good Round? , .40S&W (center)

David Tong [via ammoland.com] writes:

There’ve long been questions regarding the reason the .40 Smith & Wesson cartridge has been losing popularity, even though as of as late as 2011, some 65 percent of American law enforcement was carrying a pistol chambered in the round.

Its gestation has been so oft-repeated (Miami 1986 FBI shootout, insufficient penetration of one 9X19 Winchester Silvertip, and so on) that I won’t add anything to that discussion.

American LE agencies are looking for several things in a duty handgun. Accuracy, economy of both ammunition and handgun, adequate light-barrier penetration for ISO 1 wood framed buildings or automotive sheet metal and glass, reasonable recoil levels for non-shooting recruits that are not firearm saavy, and consideration to magazine capacity.

Several things happened in 2016 that some pundits suggest are the death knell of the . 40 S&W.

– First, during the Army handgun trials, it was determined (mostly) that the new Modular Handgun should retain 9mm NATO (9X19) caliber.

– Second, the US Army Delta Force and Navy SEALs both adopted the Glock Model 19 as their official service pistol.

– Finally, the FBI, whose reticence about the 9mm in 1986 ultimately led to their advocacy of the .40 S&W, had an about-face and returned to 9mm thirty years later.

Their reasoning, which has a marked impact on LE agencies who typically follow the FBI’s logic in terms of both forensic review as well as logistical concerns, was that none of the main three defensive pistol rounds, 9mm, .40S&W, or .45ACP, had substantially different wound profiles or “stopping power,” the latter they termed a “myth.”

Smith and Wesson M&P40 pistol in . 40 Smith & Wesson

They additionally stated that the softer recoiling 9P was going to be easier to train personnel with, cheaper to offer cash-poor departments to practice with and issue duty ammunition to the troopers, and overall made more financial sense with what might be perhaps greater round count longevity with whatever pistol was issued.

What was once Glock’s primary advantage, being able to purchase one of three main grip frame and slide sizes for detectives or uniformed exterior carried patrolmen while being able to use the longer magazines in the smaller pistols is no longer something they have alone. Indeed, most manufacturers including Smith and Wesson have essentially produced substantially similar handguns of different lengths and weights as well.

How this boils down, to me, is this. Most people consider the .45 “too large” a pistol with a large magazine of 12+ rounds, and the raison d’etre of the .40 was to offer a 9mm sized pistol carrying 12-15 rounds of ammo, rather than 17-20 9mms.

Why take the reduction in capacity? The perception that a . 40 Smith & Wesson still has advantages in expansion and penetration, the two key points agencies look for in actual performance.

. 40 Smith & Wesson Ammo Testing

The website, www.luckygunner.com/labs has what is currently the most detailed exposition and testing of these three rounds capability with the FBI heavy clothing test model over synthetic ballistic gelatin. When one compares the best possible 9mm rounds versus the best .40s, the . 40 Smith & Wessons provide a shade better of each, while the best .45s are a tick better than the best .40s.

In short, a pretty “linear” result, given like-for-like levels of cutting-edge development and technology exerted for all three rounds.

Despite some folks stating that 9mm having a reputation for class leading penetration, the .40 Smith & Wesson and .45 demonstrated yet more in the Lucky Gunner tests. There is however a balancing act – those rounds that penetrate greater generally expand less, and vice-versa.

Note expanded diameters favor larger calibers with equal penetration.
Note expanded diameters favor larger calibers with equal penetration. While the 40 Smith & Wesson  (. 40 S&W ) is in the middle of the pack.

An urban officer might not have quite the same needs to put bullets into a vehicle, compared to a Forest Service Ranger who might have to put down an aggressive bear or cougar, for example.

Another recent You Tube video on that discussed .40S&W and did a pretty good job was Army veteran Paul Harrell’s comparison of two Glocks, a Model 17 9mm and Model 22 .40, of the same size and profile.

His informal solo test showcased a variety of current ammunition, and while the time elapsed for accurate rounds on target for 9mm was a bit shorter, he advised the viewer to make up his or her own mind when the .40 Smith & Wesson showed superior penetration and expansion and whether the extra second to fire six to eight rounds was that big a deal.

In my own hands, I do tend to agree that even in a full-sized pistol that the .40 Smith & Wesson does have a recoil pulse that feels “sharper,” though I would hesitate to label it “harsh.” I have also fired the .40 in the SIG-Sauer P229 and the S&W M4006, both all metal hammer fired pistols, and I did not find the recoil bad at all, certainly not enough to bother me.

What continues to draw me to the .40 S&W is the variety of bullet weights and velocities that you can fire in it. The 135gr at 1250fps, the 155 at 1150, the 165 at 1050, and the 180 at 950. Each has its place, as the lighter bullets generally offer greater dynamic expansion and reduced penetration, while the heavier offers the opposite.

Thus, the .40 Smith & Wesson remains a good choice and will be around for decades, as all American LE or military rounds do. The FBI may think it’s a great idea to return to the 9X19, but that doesn’t mean we do, especially if prices on clean used pistols and ammo for the . 40 S&W remain momentarily somewhat depressed.


  1. avatar Ralph says:

    “reasonable recoil levels for non-shooting recruits that are not firearm saavy (sic)”

    Let’s not kid ourselves. What the author means to say is “reasonable recoil levels for female recruits who are afraid of guns.”

    1. avatar ORCON says:

      Nailed it.

    2. avatar Norincojay says:

      I thought all cops are highly trained with firearms? That’s why they should be able to use firearms ordinary citizens shouldn’t be allowed to possess? Is that not true?

      1. avatar Warren Pease says:

        Yup! In California, we even have a special list of guns that regular people may own. Law enforcement is exempt.

        1. avatar Kevin says:

          I get your point, but that list is not what you can own, it is what California gun dealers can sell, there are other ways that you can own many different guns, such as private party transfers, as long as they meet certain criteria, like a 10 round magazine.

  2. avatar Slab Rankle says:

    The writing is on the wall. Police departments are returning to the 9 mm en masse.

    We all know what that means.

    Lots more incidents of perps getting up and running away, firing back at officers after being hit, and a new cycle of condemning the 9 mm for the inadequate little cartridge that it is and a search for a suitable replacement.

    Why go through all this again? I guess all those Armored Personal Carriers have to be paid for somehow, and all those girl cops can’t handle the .40 S&W.

    What do they say about doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results?

    I say go back to the .41 Magnum. I’m sure S&W will be happy to resurrect the Model 58 yet again.

    1. avatar anonymoose says:

      They’ve had the Model 57 in their current Classics lineup for about a decade or so now. I would love an L-frame in .41 Mag.

      1. avatar Slab Rankle says:

        They could do it. They have an L Frame .44 Magnum now.

        Few would buy it. The recoil of a .44 without the glamour.

  3. avatar Tile floor says:

    I think the partial decline has to do with the boom of single stack or subcompact 9×19 pistols. With those being all the rage, it makes more financial sense from a manufacturing standpoint to press that issue. As for the above comment from Ralph, yep that’s precisely it. Take those two factors and with 9mm self defense ammunition being a far cry from what it was 30 years ago, it’s no wonder it’s came screaming back past the .40.

    My duty gun is a .40, a Glock 22. Don’t have any problem with it. All my personal stuff is either 9 or .357 Mag.

    1. avatar strych9 says:

      This is basically my thinking.

      Loads of people want the smallest, lightest semi auto they can find for CCW but without the perceived losses of going to .380 or smaller. 9mm has been one of the “big three” and being the smallest of them is positioned to do well in the sub-compact single stack part of the market.

      There’s also a stigma among inexperienced folks when it comes to recoil within the “big three”. When my wife did our CCW course with my Glock 30 the instructor asked her repeatedly if she wanted to borrow a different gun and couldn’t understand why she kept saying no… Until he watched her shoot it. Now one of her “go to the gas station” pieces is an XDs 3.3 in .45ACP.

      Yeah, it’s a personal thing to some degree but it’s also people believing what they’ve been told by someone who really doesn’t know what they’re talking about. The people who complain to me about .40 are the same ones trying to buy my 941 in .40 as soon as they shoot it.

  4. avatar James says:

    You say there’s a wide variety of bullet weights, but I’d argue for 9mm there too. 115, 124 and 147 grains are obviously the most common, but 165 grain is available from Freedom Munitions HUSH line, and Liberty Civil Defense has loads as low as 50 grains if we want silly numbers like 2000 FPS. While these are outliers, there’s definitely variety available on either end of the spectrum, as well as within there, for instance Hornady Critical Duty is 135 grains.

    1. avatar Joel says:

      I’m curious. What are the velocity numbers for the 9mm critical duty round? And how does it compare to a 135 grain .40 round? ?

      1. avatar Joel says:

        Well I decided to answer my own question.

        135 9mm +p velocity numbers roughly equal 135 .40 ‘reduced recoil’ rounds.

        1. avatar CHLChris says:

          Equal bullet weight and equal velocity means equal kinetic energy, yes. But sectional density for a .355″ bullet is a lot greater than the density of a .401″ bullet. Thus, between those 2 loads (135gr 9mm +9 and 135gr 40S&W “reduced recoil”), the 9mm has a distinct advantage in terminal ballistics. At least theoretically.

        2. avatar cisco kid says:

          Actually its not theoretical at all. W.D.M.Bell proved it 117 years ago when he proved at the time that out of all the calibers he tried on elephants only the 6.5mm would consistently shoot right through the head of an elephant because of its superior sectional density. All of the large big bore calibers failed and when they failed to penetrate sufficiently the hunter got stomped to death.

          The Germans proved it in 1914 when they tested the .32 acp v/s the .380 acp. The .32 penetrated a helmet and the .380 would not.

          The U.S. proved it in 1945 when they tested the 9mm v/s the .45 acp. The 9mm penetrated the helmet at 125 yards and the anemic .45 acp bounced off the same helmet at only 35 yards.

          P.O. Ackley proved it when he penetrated 1/2 inch armor plate with the .220 Swift while the 30-06 with armor piercing ammo failed the test.

          FN of Belgium proved it when their 5.7 mm pistol penetrated a bullet proof vest while the other pistol calibers they used failed to do so.

          Bullet diameter, velocity and sectional density all have an effect on penetration and with insufficient penetration you usually do not get lethality

  5. avatar Hoplopfheil says:

    I used to care but now I don’t. I like all calibers because they’re fun to shoot!

    I do think it’s interesting that Lucky Gunner’s tests reinforce the simple hierarchy of bullet size. I’ve heard the claim that .40 is better all around compared to .45 due to the benefits of modern technology, but I’m not sure who to believe.

  6. avatar HP says:

    I don’t prefer .40, but I also don’t dislike it enough to get into one of these heated caliber war arguments. That said, I love 9 and 45, with 45 taking a slight edge for purely superficial reasons. It’s a nice feeling loading those fat bullets into a gun.

  7. avatar Hannibal says:

    Gee, another caliber war bait. I wonder how this will go… other than like very other one.

    -My caliber, the .##mm is clearly the best round. You girlies go ahead and carry the .##mm if you can’t deal with the recoil like a man. I can shoot through 3 bears and an alpaca, what are YOU going to do with them, play Canasta?

    >What! Get with the times, magic bullet elves have made my .##mm the best round, better than yours and with more capacity, cheaper and easier recoil to boot! They also give you a blowjob when you get done with a box.

    -So those magic elves just visited the .##mm? No, they also visited the .##mm and made it twice as good at one-shot-power-drop-kills with hydrostatician force.

    >Look, if .##mm is good enough for the (pick some SOF group), you really think it’s not good enough for you? Everything you said is a proven myth while every anecdotal I offered is SCIENCE!

    -Neener neener poo poo!

    >No u!

    (Did I about cover it?)

    1. avatar Pseudo says:

      Well, all your hypothetical arguers are incorrect. Calibers that are all some fraction of a millimeter are all going to have pretty garbage performance out of handguns. Maybe ##mm or .## inch is what they should be arguing about?

    2. avatar jwm says:

      Nope. This covers it.

      If you ain’t carrying two .500 S&W mags you’re a wussy man.

      Caliber wars are now over.

      1. avatar Bradley says:

        Actually, the 460 is a much more lethal round, due to its much higher speed.

        1. avatar jwm says:

          What part of caliber wars being over did you not understand?

    3. avatar adverse4 says:

      Looked good to me.

    4. avatar Tom T says:

      Hannibal nailed it. You can find almost identical comment threads from the early days of the internet. Same tired talking points they got from previous debates in the subject.

      Most seem to be made by kids who bought their first gun and have some weird sense of “loyalty” like a college football team or something.

  8. avatar former water walker says:

    Meh…got a couple 9’s. Cheaper and plentiful inexpensive ammo. If I want a one shot stop I’ll use my 12 gauge. I have no problem with 40 either but everything costs more without any appreciable benefit.

    1. avatar Joel says:

      Didn’t you read yesterday’s post? .410 is all you need…..

  9. avatar Mark N. says:

    During the last Obama ammo drought, the only thing on the shelves for months was .40, which told me a lot about its popularity in my neck of the woods. I’ve only fired one mag out of a full size Glock. Compared to my lightweight short barreled 9mm EDC (which is a bit lively, shall we say), I couldn’t see what the big deal was.

    1. avatar RSic says:

      There’s your problem 40s&w and Glock don’t like each other, try HK, SIG, PARA, COLT, and several others, and in sub compact there are a few that can tame the power of the 40s&w

      1. avatar Guardiano says:

        Steyr S40-A1. Rides just above my right buttcheek most every day, loaded with 10+1 Hornady XTP from Freedom Munitions.

      2. avatar jackalope says:

        How about .40S&W out of an actual S&W?

  10. avatar TheOtherDavid says:

    I’ve also read that since the 40 pistols are for the most part 9 mm frames firing heavier more powerful cartridges, the mechanical wear and tear was significantly higher in 40 than in nine.

    1. avatar SicRose says:

      Very true you, in the early years unless the pistol was built around the 40s&w there was trouble, but now most companies realized there was a problem and corrected it, some still can’t fix it and try blaming the caliber, do a utube search and you’ll see the majority comes from the same brand

  11. avatar Art out West says:

    Paul Harrell has a good channel, and deserves more views than he gets.

    40/9/45/38/357 I like them all

  12. avatar Ironhead says:

    Shoot what you are comfortable with.
    I have 9mm, 45acp, and 357 mag. I have no need for a 40 sw.
    Now if i found a smokin deal on one i would consider it. Just dont need it.

    1. avatar H says:

      Don’t “need” ANY of those you mentioned, either. Didn’t BUY any of them based on “need,” did you?
      I bought all of mine (which are more than you write about) because I WANTED them.
      And MORE, too.
      Don’t “need” my .50BMG, either, but I WANTED it, so……. Same with a .300 WinMag, or -06, or .308, or 7.62X51mm, yada, yada, yada.
      “NEED” was NEVER a factor.
      Hell, my old department issued me an M1911A1 and a 12 gauge shotgun for patrol because I “NEEDED” those tools to do my job protecting the good citizens of my county and ensuring I came home every night or day to my family and also to thwart the Bad Guys from harming others, too.
      Oh, and the Army said I “NEEDED” that big-assed 105mm Main Gun on my tank, too, but that’s just a bit too much to go around CCW these days.
      “Need” ain’t any factor, Sir.
      I need.
      I Want.

  13. avatar cisco kid says:

    First off the picture of the wound cavities is pure propaganda on 3 counts.

    One, the 9mm can be had with “plus P” ammo which is actually which the police use not the ammo pictured.

    Second the 9mm when using the 115 grain loads even without “plus P” ammo makes a bigger “temporary wound channel” which brings us to point 3 and that is we are looking at a temporary wound cavities that contracts within a millionth of a second.

    The 40 S&W has been an absolute failure since day one and for a number of reasons.

    The most serious is that many guns that were chambered for the .40 were retro fitted from 9mm frame guns. Guns that were never designed to stand the pounding of the .40 which resulted in cracked frames and slides and early failure of internal parts.

    The explosion factor:

    Early 180 grain loadings (the best load for the .40) had no air space in the cartridge and when the round suffered “bullet set back” it detonated blowing quality hand guns high sky which Combat Handguns Magazine Reported a number of years ago which included a Browning High Power, a Glock and a Ruger, all considered high quality durable handguns. As a matter of fact the Browning had a re-engineered slide and the frame was made thicker and harder for the .40 S&W cartridge but it did not prevent the gun from disintegrating when the cartridge detonated. In other words even guns like the High Power that were somewhat re-engineerd for this cartridge rather than being designed from the ground up just did not cut the mustard. Many other brands of guns simply had their barrels re-chambered for the .40 and many plasticky pistols suffered cracked frames because of this.

    The .40 is the worst of both worlds, with less capacity and higher recoil and people therefore shoot them less well.

    The cost of .40 ammo is higher and all the upgrades in ammo seem to be designed around the more popular 9mm not the .40

    Another less well known fact is that as long ago as 1900 it was found that bullet diameter had little if any bearing on killing power. Even the difference between the .45 and the 9mm is a scant 1/10 of an inch and rather it is penetration and bullet placement that kills not bullet diameter. It interesting to note that much of Africa’s big game was killed with ordinary small bore 6.5 mm, 7mm and .30 and 8mm guns and that many big game ivory hunters were killed precisely because they used big calibers that often did not penetrate sufficiently to reach the vitals while the old surplus military rifles that were much smaller in caliber had superior penetration and were used by poor white farmers and black game rangers and together the two groups wiped out most of Africa’s big game not the much hated ivory hunters.

    Pistolero magazine in the 1980’s went to Mexico to get around animal cruelty laws and shot barn yard pigs with the .45 acp, 9×19, 38 special and .357 magnum hand guns and found no difference at all between these calibers and their killing power. Pistolero stated the pigs jumped higher and squealed louder when shot with the 9mm in comparison to the larger .45 acp.

    In 1900 Col. Thompson conducted live cattle shooting tests in the stock yards of Chicago and found that the 9mm Luger and .30 Luger actually killed as well as the larger .45 cal. revolvers he used but he kept this secret because he still believed a new auto cal. .45 acp was the way to go for the military so he lied between his teeth to the U.S. Ordinance Dept. and the Morons without doing any testing of their own bought his bullshit hook line and sinker and adopted the .45 acp caliber which the Military demanded of John Browning who originally designed the proto prior models of the 1911 to fire a .38 caliber cartridge. History proved that Browning was correct as his 38 caliber cartridge had superior penetration over the .45 acp and the gun could carry more rounds too boot and with less recoil the people shot it better as well. The only screw up Browning made was that originally he did not put a manual safety on the 1911 which the Military soon demanded. Its strange that 106 years later the Morons in the Military adopted the Sig p320 with no manual safety. History repeats itself and I wonder how long the Morons in the Military will take to realize and demand the Sig p320 get a manual safety and damn quick considering the fact that most recruits have never seen let alone fired a handgun in their life

    1. avatar Joel says:

      Uh, this is the ‘comments’ section? Article submissions should be submitted to Robert.

      1. avatar Andrew says:

        So in order to get near .40 performance you have to plus power a 9mm heavy load and call it equal to a reduced load of pretty much the lowest weight .40?

        So how does that compute? How about… heaviest 9mm at max powder load vs heaviest .40 at max powder load. Uh, .40 wins.

        And what type of recoil do you get out of a plus 9mm load? Some say that contradicts the move to 9mm, which is to get a lesser recoil.

        So in order to do reduced recoil, let’s measure the lightest 9mm round with a reduced powder load vs the lightest .40 round with a reduced powder load.

        .40 is better than 9mm. .45 is better than .40. Simple physics, dude.

        And, yeah, FBI is going with 9mm because of a bunch of wimps (and possibly who got kickbacks to go with 9mm, anyone thought that one out?)

        1. avatar Ardent says:

          That’s the thing, 9mm is adequate, .40 is a little better and .45 is a little better than that, but like all things gun, there are compromises in capacity, weight, size, felt recoil and cost among others.

          A well known gunshop owner said it best way back in 1984: ‘Any of these is a great choice for home defense’.

          Without examining ones own needs and developing and understanding a philosophy of use, arguments about caliber are meaningless. What is it you want to do, how do you intend to go about it, and under what circumstances? The answers to these provide the context for asking about caliber.

      2. avatar James says:

        This is how I feel on every gun forum. Sifting through the good comments and trying to ignore the cringey “old guy” comments.

      3. avatar jwm says:

        This is the cisco kid. He considers me a racist cause I declined to buy a vacation cottage in France. And anybody that disagrees with him is an ‘ignorant hillbilly”.

        1. avatar Guardiano says:

          Please keep it straight: it’s “hilljack,” or alternatively, “Jethro.”

    2. avatar Tim says:

      “…..I wonder how long the Morons in the Military will take to realize and demand the Sig p320 get a manual safety…..”

      You ‘kid’, right? Kidding?


    3. avatar RSic says:

      It would be nice if you completed some facts, it was determined 9mm killed equally to 45 when tested against dead humans or dead animals, but when they were tested against live horses and cattle at the Chicago stockyards different results came about, it was found the greater the diameter of the bullet the greater shock effect, The 45 was superior to the 9mm against living animals, typically the animal dropped within six shots with the 45 while shot in identical places with the 9x19mm the animal was still standing after twelve shots, read more of 9mm failures in Iraq and Afghanistan. smallarmsreview.com under military effectiveness of pistol cartridges, or more modern results at ballistics101.com, you’ll see for your self the many improvements in pistol calibers, a 9mm is at a bare minimum for defense, why would anyone not want an advantage, if you say I’ll just use +p or +p+ why not just go with 40s&w they also have +p Buffalo Bore or Lehigh Defense Ammo, or non +p like Underwood Ammo or RBCD Ammo impressive 2100ft/sec, or maybe Liberty Civil Defense 2000ft/sec

    4. avatar Kevin says:

      Quite a few bold claims there Cisco, I have A Glock 23 with about 6k rounds through it, always works perfect, never a problem, I replace the recoil spring every 2k rounds. I shoot it just as easily as a 9mm, the recoil is fine. 40sw may show a bit of recoil in a pocket pistol, say a Kahr PM40, but a Glock 22,23,27,35, no problem. I always laugh at people who say a 40sw is a compromise, give me a break, why because the 9mm or 45acp were on the market first? All calibers compromise something. 40sw is a great round.

  14. avatar uncommon_sense says:

    The 135gr at 1250fps …

    Full power .40 S&W loads with 135 grain bullets and 4.25+ inch barrels produce muzzle velocities around 1330 fps … which is on the heals of .357 Magnum.

    Also, that 9mm 124 grain load at 1180 fps (in the gel test photo) sounds like a +P load to me.

  15. avatar Rich says:

    I see the 357 sig in the charts but no mention of the round. Yea the ammo cost more but the velocity is higher. Good penetration round.

  16. avatar Rich says:

    I see the 357 sig in the charts but no mention of the round. Yea the ammo cost more but the velocity is higher. Good penetration round.

  17. avatar OkieRim says:

    LOL….”Remedial training is better solution than re-equipping an entire agency” …and this is the main issue. Departments either not pushing their training because of funding, or just too lazy or ignorant to know that more firearms training is needed.

  18. avatar Hank says:

    I watched a guy shoot a 9mm once. Turned him gay.

    1. avatar DJ Saul Teanuts says:

      Sounds more like a trans. But what do I know? I have a weiner and dig chicks.

    2. avatar Tom T says:

      Only because it is metric.

  19. avatar cdc says:

    August 9 2014 should be a good indicator that shot placement matters more than caliber.

    1. avatar Joel says:

      True, but it’s harder to start a ‘shot placement war’. Not that TTAG hasn’t tried. It just doesn’t get people as excited.

  20. avatar Jay in Florida says:

    I am just as happy with my 2 40s as I am with my 9mm guns. The difference in recoil in a full sized gun is to me negligible. That said I still and will most days carry my 1911 compacts loaded with 8 rounds of HSTs and be as happy as a clam.
    I dont feel under armed with any of my choices for carry guns. Regardless of caliber.
    Im also thankful Im not an LEO forced to carry something I may not want to.
    By the way I like my Commander sized 10mm with full power loads the best . And I dont have any bears in my vicinity………….ever. I might feel sorry for anyone who gets popped by a nice flat shooting 10mm. Even if it did over penetrate a tad.

  21. avatar Accur81 says:

    I just got some good lookin’ .40 Smith loaded with 200 grain JHPs, rated at 950 FPS from Underwood Ammo (as well as a bunch of cool Extreme Penetrator / Defender ammo). Chrono results pending.

    At any rate, hot .40 is absolutely, positively more powerful than hot 9mm. The 9mm is wonderfully efficient, but won’t ever give you 600 FPS from a 4″ barrel, which can be achieved with Underwood 135 grain JHP.

    Anyways, the .40 is still fine and I’ve got thousands of rounds in it. Sure, the 9mm is more popular and it’s easier to shoot.

  22. avatar Guardiano says:

    I just got hired by a police department that is in the process of switching from .40 to 9mm later this year. I haven’t asked why yet. I’m a .40 shooter myself, but that’s only because when I bought my first handgun in 2008 as a NY to GA transplant (Ft Benning, Infantry Officer Basic Course), I didn’t really know much about handguns or pistol calibers, so I chose the middle way to be safe. These days I think I probably should have picked 9mm (and a Glock 19 instead of a Beretta PX4), but I continue buying .40s anyway out of ammo and training inertia. Perhaps my new employers can get me to change my ways. I DO really want to buy a Stryk B anyway.

  23. avatar pete says:

    I’m all for getting away from 40 as a standard LE gun. I mean, not all officers in all places have to be highly skilled shooters, and 9mm lowers the bar for basic self defence. There are other important skills, like knowledge of law, psychology and/or civics.

    Now as a recreational shooter, for me 40 in a gun with a full grip and weight over say 27 ounces, is just more of a good thing.

  24. avatar kap says:

    South East Asia War games convinced me of the uselessness of the 9mm, best stopper was a .45 with more one shot drops than a 9, the .45 round would actually make an attacker stop (not necessarily kill them), where a 9mm they just kept on coming. the only reason the 9 was adopted was because our spineless leaders wanted to appease NATO, and with having Women enter service less recoil, our gutless Senators and Congressmen pleased them to the detriment of the armed forces! and to the benefit of the Senators back pocket!
    I once heard a SEAL “say that it didn’t matter what pistol round you used, put two in the heart and one in the head they were not about too complain about what caliber you used!” not all of us aspire to the shooting skill level of a SEAL and will take any shot that stops the attack with virtually any weapon in our hot little hands
    The question of .45 vs 9mm is moot, when the .44 special is better than both, LOL.

  25. avatar deepdive68 says:

    It’s a lot different for a LE agency where they are picking one gun and one caliber for a bunch of different people than it is for us where we pick a gun that fits us the best for a given task. Generally, I prefer .45 acp because I like the recoil impulse better and in most pistols it feels better to me. I’ve been mostly shooting 9mm because of cost. In smaller guns, the best shooting for me I have found is a Shield .40. I shoot it well and even better than the same gun in 9mm and it feels better in my hand on recoil than a litany of similar size pistols in 9mm and .45. I have never figured out why it fits my hand so well, even shooting it side by side with the Shield 9mm.

    So my opinion is that for non-LE the caliber of the three is not as important as having the pistol that best fits you. All three do the job for most every situation a citizen self-defense shooter is likely to encounter.

  26. avatar Zamorak says:

    This is so silly. Clearly the FBI should be carrying FN Five-SeveN if they’re concerned with recoil versus penetration.

    Oh wait, but that round is really expensive…

    Is it possible they’re all switching to 9mm simply because it’s cheaper? Does that sound like our Federal government??

  27. avatar Buzz Word says:

    I consider the .40 S&W slightly superior to the 9mm Luger and the .45 Auto, not a compromise between the two at all.. with hot loads, the .40 belongs with the .357 SIG and the .357 Magnum as proven fight stoppers. I carry 9mm Luger as my pocket backup pistol. I’ve found the 9mm to be easier to shoot and slightly more reliable although I had three double-feeds out of a single box of Corbon 115-grain rounds loaded too hot for my Glock 26. I now carry a Glock 23, which is the .40 version of the Glock 19. The G23 fires Hornady Critical Defense rounds at about 500 ft-lbf, which packs quite a wallop compared to most 9mm rounds including +P loads.

  28. avatar Joseph Coates says:

    LEO are going to use the most durable, idiot proof firearm they can get their hands on with the most cost effective round. 9mm, .40S&W, .357 Sig, .45 etc will all work just fine. Any quality DA/SA. DAO, or Striker Fired firearm from any good manufacturer will also work. They are going to use whatever is most affordable for the cost. Hence most carry Glocks in 9mm.

  29. avatar Gunr says:

    If you really want to get a “BANG!” out of life, let a carpenter nail you!

  30. avatar int19h says:

    .40 S&W will die out for one simple reason: any perceived or real advantages that it offers are simply not enough to justify having another mass-produced and mass-stocked cartridge in the manufacturing and logistics pipeline. It has nothing to do with magazine size, recoil etc, and everything with standardization: if everyone is using 9mm, that makes it cheaper due to economics of scale.

    Thus, there’s always a trend towards standardizing on a few cartridges, each of which is “good enough”, picked from a group of broadly similar options often by virtue of historic accident (as 9mm was). Cartridges that aren’t in the “standard” category don’t necessarily die, but they become exotic and boutique, and stay alive so long as they can retain some unique niche, however small. But for that, they usually need to be sufficiently different from one of the standard cartridges. So for example .45 ACP has several niches – e.g. “perfect for subsonic”, “maximize power of your single stack”, “what classic collector’s 1911 shoots”. 10mm also has some – “most powerful practical cartridge for a semi-auto” and “protection against wildlife”, for example. But .40 S&W does not – its sole claim to fame is being slightly more powerful than 9mm; and it’s not powerful enough to claim a niche long-term.

    BTW, for those who doubt the power of standardization: note how 9mm is winning not just in one country, but across country borders, and even across military alliances – with both Russia and China and even North Korea adopting it for their duty handguns and SMGs, we’re basically at the point where all other non-specialized pistol calibers worldwide are becoming extinct for military purposes.

    1. avatar jwm says:

      Yep. The 9mm is the world’s cartridge. And the .40 is only slightly more powerful with the correct, and more expensive, self defense loads.

      For military use we’re talking, mostly, fmj. And there’s not any difference in performance between the 2 in fmj.

      The .40 will get a short boost from the sale of surplus cop guns. They will be a good bargain for the budget concious short term. But once the supply of surplus guns dries up the extra cost of the ammo is going to cause it to be shelved in favor of the 9. It’s easy to spend more for the ammo than the gun.

      .40 will go the way of the .45 gap and the .9mm.

    2. avatar Guardiano says:

      The .40 has been around for 27 years, and new production handguns continue to roll off the line in that caliber. You really think some departments switching back to 9mm is going to “kill” the .40?

      1. avatar cisco kid says:

        Cartridge calibers die a slow death and often hang on for decades and decades. I think the .40 will be around for another 30 years but in far fewer sales of newer guns as the police reject it more and more. Some calibers that were never used by either the Military or Police like the ill conceived .45 Gap are an exception to the rule but I image even that turd of a cartridge will hang on for a while longer as well (at least as far as ammo is concerned).

        The .41 Remington Magnum was another big flop as well. Not only did the Police turn it down but the public never liked it much either but strangely enough its still being made and sold. Why anyone would want one when you can get a .44 Mag and if you do not like recoil just shoot .44 special in it makes more sense than being stuck with a .41 that has mostly only full power ammo available for it. I know that at one time the police load in .41M was loaded way down to 44 special velocities but that went over like a lead balloon as well.

        The .25 NAA Cartridge (.32 acp necked down to .25) and the .32 NAA Cartridge (.380 necked down to .32 acp) are two great pocket pistol calibers but due to the complete ignorance of the general public have just not caught on, and more is the shame for sure as I would rather carry a .32 NAA any day over a .32 ACP. The .32 ACP which again through ignorance should have totally disappeared back in the early 1900’s when the .380 acp was invented has hung on for decades and decades and still sells a lot of handguns although far fewer in the U.S. than it used to. Its always been extremely popular in Europe which shows the Europeans know a good caliber with they see one. Its penetration is superior to the .380 but a lack of good expandable bullets in 71 grain hurts this cartridge as the lighter and popular 60 grain pills do not have as good as penetration nor do they reliably feed as well either (except in the Seecamp).

        There are some cartridges that do almost totally die out and the shame of it is some were superior to the cartridge that replaced it. I am thinking of the 222 Remington Magnum that was so superior to the .223 it bears little argument or analysis. The 222M had more velocity, shot flatter and was superior in accuracy with its longer neck. Cheap military surplus brass in .223 coupled with the AR being chambered for the .223 killed of the 222M rather quickly. Its just a shame none of the firearms companies have the intelligence to at least bring it back in a bolt action hunting rifle. I would be the first to buy one. Sako years ago made a dandy one but alas the current model Sako’s are not in the same class as the originals in either workmanship or design but even so I would probably buy one if Sako brought it out in that caliber. Finding ammo is another problem or even empty brass.

        And there was the 6.5 Remington Magnum one of the few 6.5 mm cartridges that was a real flop and not all that accurate either but the .264 Winchester Magnum had the same problem, poor accuracy and a wrong barrel twist to boot and the 7mm Rem.Mag put the final nail in its casket. Few Jethro’s know that if Winchester had put a faster twist barrel on its .264 M and called it the Winchester 6.5 mm magnum and promoted it as a big game cartridge using heavy bullets it just might have eclipsed the Rem 7mm M. With the new resurgence of the 6.5 calibers popularity,especially in various new Magnum calibers history has again come full circle. Maybe this time around the 6.5 using 160 grain bullets at high velocity will finally put a nail in the coffin of the various 7mm Magnum calibers which the 6.5 should have done decades ago.

  31. avatar AnthonyC says:

    I find the .40 S&W to be a great round for those of us in round restricted states, like here in NY. It does not make sense to carry a full size M&P, XD, Sig P226 or Glock 17. Why carry all the extra size and weight when your magazines are neutered to 10 rounds? Even the compact models such as the G19 can regularly hold 15.
    But if you compare a G27 vs G27 or the subcompact Sig P250/P320 9mm vs .40 cal , you usually down only 1 or 2 rounds in the same size footprint. If you move up to the .45 ACP in the Sig P320/P250 then you’re down to 6 rounds in the mag.

  32. avatar Russ H says:

    Contrary to what some say, the 40 S&W is not going anywhere for a long time. Most law enforcement agencies still use it and will continue to do so because of the great balance of penetration and expansion. It’s more than the 9mm but easier to shoot than the 45 for most non-shooting cops (same for novice civilian shooters). As for non-law enforcement folks – they will jump from round to round based on whatever the latest “trend” is – just like weapons. Delta and the SEALs are using this, the Army is using that, cops use this but Cooper used that. What people don’t take into account is units such as Delta and the SEALs practice all the time – they are required to be good shots or they’re out. They can use the 9mm because they typically do head shots, not center mass. So many “civilians” buy weapons in calibers they’ve never fired before because they read this or that stating how great it is, only to find it’s too much for them. I picked up a “used” (eight rounds fired) Sig 239 in 357 Sig for a song because the owner said the recoil was too much. He bought it because that round was the going thing back then. I slapped a 40 S&W barrel on and used it for my carry gun as a detective with the state police in AZ (we only use the 40).

    Bottom line: The 40 will be around for a very long time, wait and see. It’s a great round.

  33. avatar ozzallos says:

    Okay, but here’s the ugly truth– Why did you have to invent a brand new caliber when dropping the weight of the universally available 45acp would have achieved the same results? No, really. And what did you gain? A round? Maybe two max? Don’t believe me? Try Ballistics by the Inch. 185 easily pushes the same velocity of most 40s&w. What was the point? 9mm I can understand– Quantity has a quality all it’s own and 9mm offers a lot of rounds on target. But 40? lol?

    Sorry, but .40s&w is the platypus of handgun rounds– A diverging branch of evolution that by all rights never should have survived with attributes that make you scratch your head, but it somehow survived regardless.

  34. avatar Gunrunner says:

    The only reason .40 had the chance it did in the consumer market is because of the 1994 mag capacity ban. It helped .45ACP too. If the mag only held 10, people figured they’d at least go larger caliber.

    Once the ban expired, .40 began its decline in popularity.

  35. avatar Ken says:

    I only have two things to say in favor of the 40 S&W, Hickok45 carries it everyday in his Glock 27…and so does Lenny Magill from the Glockstore. Both men, experts in handguns and calibers, had many choices of course, but chose the 40 S&W for their daily protection. While certainly others have made different choices, I do respect these two men on this particular subject.

  36. avatar nyglockowner says:

    Paul Harrell is the man.
    Let’s see what the meat target has to say.

  37. avatar jackalope says:

    We need a Part 2 for this column, featuring 10mm, 357Sig, 38 Super, and any other “cult” load. I like 357Sig myself. Due mostly to living the foothills of the northern Rockies. Lots of big, toothy animals up here. 10mm is in my future.

  38. avatar Barry Mckockiner says:

    Did anyone actually watch Harrell’s video? It pretty much settled the argument. To anyone with eyesight at least.

  39. avatar JAY says:

    I’m a big .40 fan, mostly because that’s what I started out on back in the earlier 2000’s in the form a Glock 23. A lot of people have a lot of really bad information about the .40, but it’s a great cartridge overall, in fact I think it’s probably the best option for a semi auto pistol. Ammo is cheap, not as cheap as 9mm but not that far off. It’s on a 9mm frame which helps ergos, it has great capacity and most people don’t realize that you can load the .40 pretty hot. Imagine a G19 that can shoot a 180gr bullet over 1200 fps or a 200gr hardcast at over 1150 fps (those are handloads, but still), that’s a G23. Those loads will kill anything the 10mm will and it’s the same size and weight as a 9mm. I figure that if I need more power than that, I’ll just grab one of my .44’s.

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