These have been the most widespread service cartridges in the world.
The .38 ACP, .38 ACP Super, 9x23mm, 10mm Auto, .356 TSW, .41 Action Express and .451 Detonics have all came and went.
Some felt the .40 Smith & Wesson would be much the same, but it has held on.
At present, the .40 S&W isn’t at the top in police sales, having been replaced by the 9mm. I have seen this cycle before. Time will tell.
The .357 SIG was a brainstorm introduced for a specific goal different than the baseline of the .40 S&W. Let’s look at each.
The .40 S&W was intended to replace the 9mm Luger in police service.
The failings of small-bore service cartridges were real and well documented.
There were problems with larger calibers, mainly focused on handgun size and recoil.
The .357 Magnum is a formidable cartridge, but also generates considerable recoil.
Solutions such as the .38 Special +P+ left us with a loading no more effective than a standard-pressure 9mm.
The .45 ACP and 10mm Auto came with inherent difficulty in control. Another problem is weight.
While the FBI’s many ammunition test programs are well-known, they are simply a small part of what this prestigious agency does.
The FBI also conducted a study on handgun size and weight.
They found that a handgun weighing over 35 ounces becomes a burden on the hip during a shift.
A lighter weapon was needed, particularly for those wearing suitcoats.
.40 S&W History
The .40 S&W was developed because it could be shoe-horned into a 9mm platform.
Most of the new generation 9mm service guns are blocky and a little large for the caliber.
The .40 wasn’t an engineering challenge. A 180-grain JHP at 950 fps is a good combination for personal defense.
The original Winchester loading proved effective not only against normally clad assailants, but against large animals as well.
The 9mm generated complaints from DNR officers who needed to put-down suffering animals and urban officers attacked by dangerous guard dogs.
The .40 proved to be a capable performer. Results were good to excellent. Control is good in service-size pistols.
When you move to the GLOCK 23, control is there for those that practice.
Subcompact pistols are not well-suited to the .40 S&W or the .357 SIG, 10mm Auto or .45 ACP. The .40 S&W was a success story.
While the 180-grain is most common, there are other loadings as well, including the 155-grain JHP at 1,100 fps and Hornady’s Critical Defense at 165-grains that offer good expansion while maintaining good penetration.
.357 SIG History
The .357 SIG was designed to answer a different problem. Complaints with the 9mm revolved around the caliber.
The systems — GLOCK, SIG and Beretta service pistols — were solid.
But agencies still using the .357 Magnum revolver did not wish to give up their unequaled wound potential.
The magnum offers excellent penetration against sheet metal. This made highway patrol commanders reluctant to give up the .357 Magnum.
A few went to the 10mm, a large and heavy handgun. SIG developed a rule beater.
They developed a solid-steel slide rather than the stamped-steel slide of the standard SIG when they designed the P229.
The new .357 SIG P229 chambered a necked-down .40 known as the .357 SIG. A simple re-barrel gave us a new service pistol with the GLOCK as well.
Agencies now had a semi-automatic pistol no larger than a 9mm firing a cartridge nearly equal to the .357 Magnum.
Penetration is on a par with the .357 Magnum revolver.
It took some development to produce an expanding bullet with similar wound ballistics to the revolver.
The .357 SIG has never been as popular as the .40 S&W, but has been a successful cartridge.
Today, practically every handgun chambered for one may be had in the other caliber. A simple barrel change is all that is needed.
My first experience with the .357 SIG was with a Bar-Sto barrel fitted to a GLOCK Model 22.
Among my favorite carry guns is the SIG 1911 Emperor Scorpion Fastback Carry.
This Commander-size pistol features a nicely rounded mainspring housing and 4.25-inch barrel, as well as few sharp edges.
Accuracy is excellent. I have a spare barrel in .40 Smith & Wesson. I tried using it as a lark, but have stayed with the .357 SIG.
While another shooter may find the .40 a better choice, my personal needs learn toward the .357 SIG. Let’s look over the reasons.
Personal defense is my primary concern. The SIG Sauer Elite 125-grain JHP exits the Commander-length barrel at 1,370 fps.
(Count on a little more velocity from a GLOCK.) Accuracy is excellent. This load fragments in ballistic testing.
If I need greater penetration, the Hornady .357 SIG 124-grain XTP is a fine choice. Recoil is modest, no more than a 9mm +P in a 1911-size handgun.
I don’t usually carry this pistol in the outdoors. If I did it would be good for bobcats and feral dogs.
The .40 caliber has a number of load choices. Recoil is manageable with 180-grain loads. Penetration is good.
The 180-grain loads are useful for animal defense. There are special high-penetration loads and also 135-grain loads that expand quickly.
The .40 is a proven loading with excellent properties. The heavier bullet may have greater recoil.
The .357 SIG shoots flat to 50 yards, but this hardly matters in personal defense. The .40 shoots flatter than the .45 ACP.
In accuracy, I have to give the .357 SIG an overall edge in every handgun I have tested. The .40 is plenty accurate enough for defense use.
A SIG P229 .40 is a superbly accurate handgun.
The P229 .357 is usually more accurate if a half-inch to an inch in accuracy at 25 yards is meaningful.
Conclusion: .357 SIG vs. .40 S&W
The .357 SIG and .40 S&W are not as similar as we may first think. Nor do I think I need one if I have the other.
These are great calibers. While I could get along well with either, I think that I like the .357 SIG better for specific uses.
If I did not have the .45 ACP, I would want the .40. So perhaps the .40 is still one of the finest compromise calibers.
What do you think of the .357 SIG and .40 S&W? Let us know in the comments below!