Among the most powerful and useful cartridges for self-loading handguns is the 10mm Auto. With a long reach and flat shooting characteristics, the 10mm is an accurate number in the right handgun. The original 10mm load, generally rated at 200 grains at 1,200 fps, proved to be too hot for both 1911 and CZ 75-type handguns. Today, we have loads that offer 1,180 to 1,200 fps with 150- to 180-grain bullets and 200-grain bullets at 1,100 fps.
A handloader may produce loads that offer modest velocity for practice and powerful hunting loads or tailor made defense loads. A few years ago, Federal Cartridge Company offered a 180-grain, bonded-core load at an honest 1,280 fps. It is amazing what research and modern powder technology may accomplish. This is a top-rated load for hunting deer and wild boar.
For personal defense, there are a number of good loads. One is the Federal Cartridge Company 10mm 180-grain Hydra-Shok. This load breaks 1,050 fps and offers superior performance to the .40 S&W. This is a controllable load in full size 10mm handguns. A new loading that offers dynamic performance while maintaining good control is the Speer 200-grain Gold Dot loading.
This load is intended to serve as a personal defense and home defense loading. It would also be useful for defense against feral dogs and the big cats. This load isn’t as hot as possible with the 10mm, but it offers a good balance between power and control.
I tested the Speer Gold Dot 10mm loading in the SIG Emperor Scorpion handgun. This is a custom-grade piece with excellent features—including a special FDE finish, gator grips, and night sights. I began running the pistol through a combat course with this load. Control was good and practical accuracy excellent. In firing 40 rounds, there were no failures to feed, chamber, fire, or eject.
I also fired the load for absolute accuracy. Firing from a solid bench rest firing position, taking every advantage for accuracy, I was able to fire several five-shot groups that measured two inches or less at 25 yards. This is an accurate loading.
Ballistic testing cam next. I clocked the Gold Dot 10mm loading over the Competition Electronics Chronograph. Average velocity was 1,180 fps. In my experience, velocity in the Glock 20 pistol should be slightly more compared to the SIG. Firing into water, the load penetrated 24 inches and expanded to .66 inch. The Gold Dot loading is well suited to personal defense. This would also be an outstanding all around service and outdoors loading.
Other Gold Dot Loads
There are other specialized Speer Gold Dot loads that have performed well in my previous testing. A concern with short barrel handguns is ammunition performance. As velocity is lost, the bullet is less likely to expand. Yet, if all bullets were designed to open easily at low velocity, when fired in full-size handguns these bullets would expand too quickly or fragment.
A balance between expansion and penetration is needed. Speer offers the 124-grain Gold Dot Short Barrel +P for those deploying compact 9mm handguns. Average velocity in an Honor Defense Honor Guard FIST pistol was 1,149 fps. Accuracy was above average for a compact 9mm. Firing into water the load penetrated 18 inches, optimum for personal defense, and the Gold Dot bullet expanded to .62 inch. Recoil wasn’t difficult to control.
As an experiment, I fired the load in a long slide FNH 9mm pistol. Interestingly enough, the increase in velocity wasn’t great—even with three extra inches of barrel. Average velocity was 1,211 fps. This indicates Speer uses a fast burning powder that creates a full powder burn in short barrels. This is an excellent, all around, purpose-designed loading.
.45 ACP Speer Gold Dot Short Barrel
This is a very interesting loading. Like the other two, it is supplied in a nickel-plated case. Unlike most .45 ACP ammunition, this Speer load uses a small pistol primer. I fired this loading in both a SIG P220 and Ruger SR1911 Commander. Accuracy was good to excellent, with the SIG, printing a 1.25-inch group at 25 yards. Velocity averaged 830 fps. The Gold Shot Short Barrel demonstrated a full powder burn with limited muzzle flash. Firing into water penetration was 16 inches and expansion .68 inch. This is as good as it gets in a short barrel .45.
Speer is a force in personal defense and service loads worldwide. The new 10mm loading fills an important niche in personal and home defense—sensibly less hot than hunting loads but plenty strong. The 9mm and .45 ACP short barrel loads are ideal for use in concealed carry handguns. These loads are also backed by Speer’s reputation for reliability and performance.
What is your favorite 10mm defense load and why? Share your answer in the comment section.
Bob Campbell is a former peace officer and published author with over 40 years combined shooting and police and security experience. Bob holds a degree in Criminal Justice. Bob is the author of the books, The Handgun in Personal Defense, Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry, The 1911 Automatic Pistol, The Gun Digest Book of Personal Protection and Home Defense, The Shooters Guide to the 1911, The Hunter and the Hunted, and The Complete Illustrated Manual of Handgun Skills. His latest book is Dealing with the Great Ammo Shortage. He is also a regular contributor to Gun Tests, American Gunsmith, Small Arms Review, Gun Digest, Concealed Carry Magazine, Knife World, Women and Guns, Handloader and other publications. Bob is well-known for his firearm testing.
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