Today’s Ask Josh comes to us from Dave R., a regular at my local Cabela’s, where I run into him a lot. I somehow always run into him at Five Guys, the range, and more. The other day, Dave came at me with this . . .
”I don’t understand why they even make the 1911 in .45 (ACP) caliber anymore. I mean, the 10mm Auto does it all better. Even then, why do they make the 1911 in 9mm? That seems pretty stupid to do considering that it is lightweight and a 1911 is heavy. I just think it’s dumb.”
Well, Dave is a great guy, but unfortunately he will read this and know that I’m happy telling everyone just how wrong he is. In my opinion, the 10mm is the one that makes little sense and I’ll be looking forward to your replies in the comments.
This post was originally entitled something like, “Is the 10mm Auto REALLY that good?”, but I felt that limited the scope since Dave brought up the 9mm as well. The casualties will likely mount as I continue, so I’m just going to go straight for the throat.
I’ve written about this topic a lot over the years. I tend to be hard to impress and even harder to convince when it comes to fads and trends. The 10mm doesn’t impress me at all. I just don’t see what it offers except for perhaps a specialized few.
I’m a real world guy who actually puts the testing out front. I’ve run dozens of ammo tests here over the years; my first big article back eight or nine years ago was about cutting down a 308 barrel from 26” down to 13”. I take pride in putting real results out there for you, dear reader, and I am often skeptical about what the industry is selling. When it comes to the 10mm, I really can’t see the appeal despite the ‘sectional density’ and ‘best millimeter’ meme arguments.
In all my real world testing in gel, game, and through other materials, the 10mm has done nothing better than .45 ACP. Feel free to debate this, but after thousands of rounds fired in materials testing, the data on my end just doesn’t support the marketing surrounding it.
That’s the thing: any good scientist will tell you that you can’t defy the laws of physics. If you find something that somehow does, the physics itself must be rewritten to encompass that new understanding. The evidence doesn’t support the superiority of the 10mm, but the marketing does. Go figure.
As far as things like penetration go, and I’ve heard the arguments, I don’t believe the facts support them. Comparing similar ammo types, the Buffalo Bore 255gr+P Hardcast .45 ACP at 900fps penetrates bare gel just as deeply as comparable ‘bear load’ 10mm Auto rounds. The sectional density argument is also moot in that I have 9mm rounds presently available on the shelf that are also extremely good at deep dives.
The entire penetration concept is not how well a bullet goes into gel, but how easily that bullet can reach a vital area with retained energy. In the case of handguns, 50 yards is far and energy bleeds rapidly regardless of the caliber used. There is no perceivable difference I can detect on target.
Remember, the goal of hunting, which is what the 10mm is now heavily marketed towards, is also done at the exact same ranges as the .45 ACP, wherein 50 yards is a long shot for any handgun. I’ve shot deer with the .45 ACP at that distance and had clean pass-throughs with Hornady 220gr+P Critical Duty. The idea that the 10mm somehow owns the penetration game is false.
The sectional density argument only comes into play in extreme cases, many of which come down to bullet choice given the caliber at hand. A .45 ACP hardcast, and even FMJ, will out-penetrate a 10mm JHP in virtually all cases, but all are capable of reaching the vitals of a large deer easily.
After all, to get an exit from the chest cavity, all you need is about a foot, maybe 14” of penetration in general when the vitals are only five to six inches deep for a fatal hit.
I just don’t see the utility and I’ve really tried. I’ve owned and shot many 10mm pistols over the years, but I’ve never been convinced that it has any serious real-world advantage in the 1911 over the .45 ACP.
I’m a hardcore .45 guy because I’ve found it to work in just about every circumstance without any real issues. This has to do with the fact that the .45 doesn’t ever really lose much due to the fact that it is inherently subsonic and has bullets designed to work extremely well at those slower speeds.
Why Does Dave Believe The 10mm Is Better?
The point Dave made comes from the idea that the 10mm is somehow inherently better than .45 ACP. Why? Simple answer: idol worship. The round was originally meant as a do-all round and was the brainchild of Col. Jeff Cooper. The man was, of course, a big-thinker and did more for handgunning than almost anyone else.
The problem is many of his ideas, like the 10mm, were prisoners of their time. Concepts like the Scout Rifle have flourished to an extent, but today there are only a few options out there that are worth it. The lever action market benefitted the most from this idea, where the handgun and carbine markets have always struggled to adapt to his ideas.
Cooper lived in an era where there .45 ACP was king and the 9mm was considered to be generally weak sauce. His 10mm concept was great as it did some (emphasis on some) things better than .45 ACP at the same ranges. However, it fell dramatically from favor shortly after being introduced, despite enjoying a brief window of success and a stint with the FBI.
The 10mm’s true legacy — the .40 S&W — is far less popular today and has been regularly dropped from some manufacturers’ catalogues as fewer and fewer companies make guns chambered for it.
The thing that makes America great is that we have the ability to choose what we do and buy what we like. I will never tell a person not to buy a 10mm pistol, and Dave owns several. I will tell them, if asked, that they are likely buying a gun that will not serve them as well as they imagine in the few circumstances where the 10mm round may be an advantage.
The 9mm 1911
I think that the 1911 in 9mm is actually very practical. I’d love to get my hands on a Staccato 4” in Parabellum. The ergonomics of the 1911, its great triggers, and low recoil all make the gun in 9mm a joy to shoot, especially if you want to shoot accurately.
Down the road I may invest in such a thing, but would it replace the .45 ACP in my hard-use lifestyle? Not at all, but I think that it would be a great addition for general use and carry. I carry a G19 or P365 most of the time, and I doubt that I’d fully replace either of them in my rotation. The .45 ACP for hunting is just about perfect and I have yet to have a bad experience with it.
Overall, I think that most people would be completely fine with a .45 ACP and 9mm 1911 set, as those two guns would accomplish virtually everything you would need from two working pistol calibers.
So what do you think? Is the 10mm all that or have you not seen an advantage over .45 ACP when you actually used it in the field?