Ammunition

Why the .40 Is Still Kicking

There has been a move recently to the 9mm Luger in law enforcement circles. I can’t say the .40 S&W ever really caught on in concealed carry, but I have trusted the .40 for some time.

I am certain the 9mm is easy to shoot well. I am also certain the .40 can be too much in ultra-compact pistols. I am equally certain that cops will be dying because of inadequate calibers.

The cycle is a regular one, and there will be a panic to adopt the .40 S&W, .45 ACP or .357 SIG again. Perhaps adopting a modest-recoiling load like the .40 165-grain Hydra Shock, a 165-grain load at 180-grain velocity would be a better answer.

But then, I am not the one in charge. In .40 S&W service-size and compact pistols, good control and accuracy potential is there. In subcompacts, momentum takes a toll.

Among the things I have learned in researching wound potential, is that only actual damage counts for anything. The wound potential of a cartridge depends upon the level of penetration, the diameter of the bullet and bullet expansion.

Larger bullets make bigger holes. Coupled with the constant of adequate penetration, a larger caliber always has more potential to do damage, cause blood loss, and shut down the adversary’s body.

The only repeatable and verifiable means we have of gauging wound potential is by studying the effects of a bullet in artificial media. So-called stopping power studies involving secret sources and anonymous reports have a validity of zero.

The standard of evidence required in traffic court would not allow their admission. Lab results in comparing loads matter. As for the actual expansion of hollow-point bullets in bodies, they cannot be counted on 100 percent.

Hornady and Remington .40 S&W Ammo
If you choose the .40 for defense, standard-pressure loads should be used in compact handguns.

Why the .40?

Among the most successful handgun and cartridge combinations of the past 30 years has been the .40 Smith & Wesson cartridge and service-size handguns.

The SIG P229, GLOCK Model 22 and the Beretta PX4 Storm are among them. This caliber has proven as effective as a handgun cartridge is likely to be.

Handguns are not very powerful compared to a rifle cartridge, with the “weak .38” and “strong .45” more alike than different when compared to a rifle.

Shot placement means the most. Just the same, .40-caliber handguns have demonstrated good to excellent all-around results. The question of control has come up from time to time, but in my experience it relates primarily to subcompact pistols.

Interestingly enough, the .40 S&W is already much less popular than the 9mm Luger or .45 ACP among civilians compared to the .40 caliber in police issue. The .40 simply did not catch on as it did with those in uniform.

I have seen many .40 S&W handguns come through my concealed carry classes. Those firing service-size platforms in .40 have done well, while those using subcompact pistols have not.

The GLOCK 27 and compact XD pistols in .40 caliber are often too much pistol for most shooters to handle the recoil in rapid-fire. For female shooters, recoil can be startling.

We know the subcompacts are difficult to manage with this high-intensity, big-bore cartridge, but what about service-size pistols? Beginning with GLOCK 23-size pistols, the .40 Smith & Wesson offers a manageable system.

The same might be said of the SIG Sauer P229 in .40. The goal of the .40 wasn’t to produce a weapon that is as controllable as the 9mm, because we had the 9mm.

The goal was to offer superior wound ballistics. The .45 ACP is always an answer, but the size, weight and perhaps more importantly grip width of full-size, service-grade .45 ACP pistols was deemed too much.

I like the .45 ACP cartridge, but my hand size does not allow me to handle the big frame GLOCK pistols well. Most of us can handle the GLOCK 17/22 frame well.

SIG P224 .40 Caliber
The SIG P224 is an overlooked jewel in .40.

Power and Control

A power-factor rating was developed to compare handgun calibers. It has been used as a rating for Major and Minor rules in competition and also to gauge the suitability of a handgun for personal defense.

The weight of the bullet is multiplied by the velocity and then divided by 1,000 to come up with the PF. For example, a 200-grain bullet at 1,000 fps would have a PF of 200.

While the PF doesn’t consider weapon weight, it is useful to compare the recoil of various cartridges. Many shooters feel that a PF of 200 is the upper level at which a shooter can control a handgun well.

A PF of 150 to 170 is better for accomplished shooters. The difference in recoil between the 9mm and .40 does not reflect a considerable difference in control with a trained shooter.

Recoil and report mean you are firing a powerful cartridge. It must be controlled with proper technique.

When you consider the balance of expansion and penetration in the .40 S&W cartridge and the frame size needed to contain the 10mm or .45 ACP cartridge, there is a consensus that perhaps the .40 is the ideal cartridge and the larger calibers may represent a point of diminishing return.

Certainly control, magazine capacity and compactness favor the .40-caliber handgun.

I have tested quite a few handguns cartridges using water jugs as the media for penetration and expansion.  Water jugs are six-inches wide and results are usually within 10 percent of gelatin results in penetration and expansion.

Although not as precise as gelatin, you may wish to check if the duty load also performs well in a subcompact and water is a good cheap basis of comparing loads.

In any case, gelatin isn’t a human being, and water is simply a means of comparison. I think that the .40 performs as designed, penetrating to an ideal depth while maintaining good expansion.

The .40 is also more consistent from load to load as far as results go, while the 9mm may run a deviation in penetration from seven to 18 inches, per my testing of many loadings.

Until the laws of physics are revoked, the .40 will remain an excellent all-around choice for duty and personal defense use.

GLOCK 35
This long slide GLOCK .40 is as good as it gets in an easy-shooting .40.

At present, there are a number of quality police trade-ins in .40 S&W at a bargain. It isn’t unusual to see GLOCK pistols — and sometimes the SIG P-series — on the used shelf for less than 400 dollars.

In new handguns, the Taurus G2C, an improved version of the original compact pistol, features a proper recoil spring for controlling the .40 and is priced just a bit over 200 dollars.

I recently picked up a full-size Beretta PX4 Storm for less than 250 dollars. The .40 is a fine defense cartridge, increasingly affordable, and may even be effective in animal defense.

The .40 S&W is too good to be overlooked. If you favor the smaller type .40 pistols, stick with load such as the Hornady Critical Defense, a purpose-designed defensive loading. Remington’s Ultimate Defense may also be useful.

Testing the .40 S&W

In order to demonstrate the power and accuracy of the modern .40 S&W, I turned to one of my favorite ammunition companies.

Buffalo Bore offers hard-cast loads for maximum protection against animals, rapid-opening hollow-point bullets for personal defense, deep-penetrating loads and all-copper (lead free) hollow points.

There are many choices. I recently tested several Buffalo Bore loads in my vintage Springfield P9 full-size .40 S&W pistol. The results were very interesting.

Buffalo Bore .40 S&W Caliber
Buffalo Bore offers excellent power and reliability in .40 Smith and Wesson caliber.

Among the most interesting load is one using the Barnes 125-grain XP bullet. The TAC XP exits the Springfield’s barrel at just shy of 1400 fps. The .40 closely mimics the .357 Magnum with this load, but with a larger diameter bullet.

My choice for personal defense would be the 155-grain hollow point. This load is rated +P and should only be used in larger-frame .40 S&W handguns. 1290 fps beats most factory loads by 100 fps.

This isn’t a loading I would recommend in small-frame handguns, the shooters ability to handle recoil is the limiting factor. In the big CZ-type Springfield, recoil is in .45 ACP class. Accuracy is excellent.

I really like the performance of this loading. A standard loading for the .40 is the 180-grain weight. The Buffalo Bore load expands well and penetrates up to 20 inches. The 180-grain JHP exits the Springfield at a solid 1120 fps.

This is an exceptional loading, well suited to service use. Buffalo Bore offers a line of Outdoorsman loads for use in animal defense. Many of us like to travel in the great outdoors and are concerned by wild animals.

Most are not dangerous, but the frequency of animal attack cannot be disputed. It takes a lot of penetration to break down a big cat or a bear.

Few of us can afford a special-purpose .44 Magnum or .454 Casull for field use, and then there is the problem of expending enough ammunition to master the handgun.

Buffalo Bore offers hard-cast loads in the popular handgun calibers.

A hard-cast bullet isn’t simply a lead bullet, far from it, but a bullet alloyed with other metals to produce a very hard bullet that doesn’t lead the barrel, offers excellent accuracy, and drives deep.

The .40 Smith and Wesson 200-grain Hard-Cast Outdoorsman, standard pressure, drives hard at 990 fps. I attempted to test penetration but gave up. The bullet sailed through 48 inches of water.

This is good penetration and applicable for animal defense.

Conclusion

The .40 Smith and Wesson offers real performance as a service load, personal-defense load and even an outdoors load.

It is better than most would think, and a solid choice for a dedicated handgunner.

Do you like the .40 S&W cartridge? Tell us why or why not in the comments section below!

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (67)

  1. No offense intended to anyone . . . this is just my opinion based on research and experience.

    The .40 is a caliber created specifically for the FBI because many of its agents could not effectively shoot the 10mm the .40 was derived from. In the long run, the .40 does not offer advantages over the 9mm that are significant enough to justify the expense and bulk of the .40 vs a quality 9mm handgun round. This is why you are seeing law enforcement switching back to the 9mm and why the .40 has never caught on with military or international law enforcement agencies. Both modern 9mm and .45ACP offer plenty of advantage to make the .40 redundant and sub-par.

    1. Sort of agree and sort of disagree. The only reason why 9mm is very close to effectiveness is all the R&D does into the 9. If bullet mfg poured the same R&D into 40…well, bigger is better (at least that’s what she said).
      Also, as someone who shoots a lot, the old 9mm theory is, it’s cheaper effective. And when the SHTF, it will be plentiful and cheaper. Guess what! Just bought more 40 cal CHEAPER than 9!!! Supply and demand is a funny thing.

      With that said, I almost exclusively carry my 9mm. Between Concealment etc, it works best for me, but I do occassionaly carry my g27.

      If I were law enforcement that can openly carry, I’d carry a large pistol with preferably a 40 over both 9 and 45 (best of both worlds sort of thing).

      Don’t forget, it’s voting season. Vote early, vote often for your 2A candidates!

  2. For the Glock 22 I have a 9mm conversion barrel. I’ve tested my relative ability to fire at an advancing target back to back with the 9 and 40. I found very little difference for myself. But that’s full size man shooting full size gun. For concealed carry subcompact, 9mm please.

  3. The wife an I retired just over two years ago, leaving the people’s republic of massachusetts behind, after being taxed out of our dream home we built ourselves! We ended up in Sunny Central Florida! Or like I call it, Real America! Back in mass I knew all the police chiefs in the area on a first name bases, but could never get a concealed carry permit/license at all! But within two months here in Florida we both had taken the Sheriffs Concealed Carry Course, being a Veteran I did not need to, but since it’s been so long, other than a trip here an there with my brother and friends to a range, it’s been a while. So I know I can always and did learn something new. We both ended up with new Glocks, she got a Model 43,4th gen 9 mm, I bought a Model 22, 4th gen .40. I was always a fan of the .45, having qualified Expert with one in The U.S.Army, but size, weight and ammo cost, plus number of rounds carry capacity seamed low, compared with the.40. Sorry for the long rant, but everyone I wish good luck have fun and stay safe and healthy!

  4. Love my Bersa Thunder Pro .40
    It’s not made anymore though. It’s my first pistol at age 21 in 1992. Have fired over 4,000 rounds and still extremely accurate. 13+1. using Hornady Critical Defense 165 grain.

  5. The main reason Federal reduced the velocity of the 165 grain HydraShok to the same as the 180 was that there were too many through-and-through penetrations being reported. Having spent the first third of my LE career with wheel guns, I have a deep respect for the .357 Mag, especially the Federal 125 grain JHP. I carried a Sig 229 .40 S&W with a Sig 239 .40 S&W for off-duty THEN the .357 Sig arrived and I had Irv Stone set both my Sigs up with his excellent barrels in .357 Sig. The .40 S&W is a fine round, I just like the .357 lightning bolt.

  6. Gutsy topic in this world of 9mm mean girls. But I approve. I’m rocking the .40 and couldn’t agree more with the things you’ve shared. It’s easily a far more flexible than 9 with far more potential (soft shooting .40 loads are out there but with the ability to loaded well into 10mm territory).

  7. My everyday is a Sig P226 chambered in .40 S&W. This 226 was constructed with the stainless steel frame, which shows it’s heaviness among friends and fellow shooters when they’re not ready for it. But coupled with a 12 round mag of anything Federal 165/180 grain, the balance is off-the-charts top notch. I absolutely will help keep the .40 alive and well!

  8. In my mind there is no substitute for the .40 S&W. It is the perfect balance between manageable recoil and power. In a self defense situation, many of us may not be range accurate on shot placement. The .40 S&W compensates for that with increased penetration and power. With practice the recoil is not a problem in my view. I have a Springfield Armory 1911 EMP that I have had for 15 years. It is a custom cut down version of the venerable 1911 made for concealed carry. It has a bull barrel for added accuracy and dependability and custom grips with positive control characteristics. It is not cheap but is a fine hand gun. Regrettably is is no longer chambered for .40 S&W. 9mm only. I believe my gun will be a classic in .40 S&W. Maybe one day SA will make it again that caliber.

  9. Many, many years ago, so many I can’t remember the model, my brother gave me a Taurus 40 S&W. It felt good in my hand and it was a great shooting gun. I have never looked back. Now many years later, and many guns and calibers gone through, my favorite shooter is my HK VP40. It is my all around range gun, concealed carry, like a daily driver, this is my daily shooter. Love the .40.

  10. From the KAHR PM40 (just about as compact a 40 as you can get) through 3 S&W’s (a SIGMA, and M&P P.C. C.O.R.E. & 40C), an FNX-40 (just gotta’ love that hammer!) to the SUB 2000 I have found the 40 S&W to be the best combination of power, accuracy and capacity. Modern developments in ammunition have also benefitted this round: the Buffalo Bore loads mentioned are truly awesome out of a 16″ barrel!

  11. I love the .40 S&W. My first pistol was a full metal Star Firestar single action in .40, and I fell in love with both. After I retired the Star, I replaced it with a S&W Shield Performance Center in .40. I also have a Springfield XD Mod. 2 compact in .45 and an old J.P. Sauer revolver in .38/.357. The .40 is still my favorite. While recoil is a bit sharper in the lighter Shield compared to the Firestar, I have no trouble controlling it and it is not uncomfortable to shoot. It’s grip is a good fit for my smaller hands and provides good control, but still offers decent mag. capacity. My state limits mags to 10 anyway, so…. I also enjoy shooting the .45, but the smaller Shield is my go-to carry gun and the one I shoot most at the range.

  12. It’s funny how i ended up with my P320 in .40 S&W. My son in law wanted a subcompact and got a .40 S&W carry. He saw a 9mm sub with night sights and decided he preferred it over the other. All I had to do to get my P320 was buy that and switch the grip module and FCU. He even wanted to pay for the kit he wanted as he would have to anyway. So I got a brand new Sig Sauer P320 in .40 for yup…$329. It stays in my EDC backpack with 3 spare 18rd mags. The best part is a month ago he had to have the 365XL and gave me the 9mm sub kit. Now I have the sub 9mm kit if I want to create the FCU from the aftermarket to have a complete piece. The carry version of the Sig is hands down my favorite. plenty of stopping power without any nasty side effects. If you can shoot +P 9mm you can shoot .40 S&W. I know lots of guys comin home to who believe that anything you carry should have a 4 in front. Ask them how they know that and you’ll require the same.

  13. I have had the FNS 40C as my carry gun for 4 years. Love the caliber love the gun. The recoil is easy to get used to after very little time. Accuracy is great with this round and I trust the stopping power compared to smaller calibers. Seems like a weird cycle going on now with the .40 firearms and ammo harder to come by and being replaced by the 9mm in a lot of instances. I for one am stocking up on .40 ammo and will continue to use it as my carry firearm.

  14. My carry piece is an SD40VE, 4″ bbl. I run 165gr JHP for self defense.
    Recoil is quite manageable (I’m not a big guy) and accuracy good.
    I feel confident this combination is great for the average person
    in a concealed carry/self defense role and would recommend it
    to anyone.

  15. several commenters talk of the miami fbi shoot out but don’t seem to know the problems shot placement and bullet performance wasn’t as much the problem as a lack of barrier penitration. confronting subjects in a vehicle or using a vehicle as cover and the subjects firing a shotgun and mini-14. the rifle rounnds penitrated and injured agents in and behind vehicles. one of the agents killed caried a 9mm s&w the weapon was rendered in operable when struck by a rifle bullet the gun fight was ended by a wounded agent firing an 870 loaded with buck shot one handed then a 38 one handed. no handgun rounds have good bearier penitration and performance. if you want to know more do the research the shoot out did prompt a change in the fbi training and firearms but don’t think things happened because either the ammo or firearms available we in adequate.

  16. I have carried a .40 since 1997. In a glock 22. I have shot a lot of rounds through both i have owned. I like a heavy bullet to shoot usually shoot 180gr. I like the recoil of a .40. Dont get me wrong i love a .45 but the .40 is easier for me to recover from for follow up shots. The teport from a .40 is not bad in the instances i have shot it with out ear protection. I like the pretty standard flat meplat of a .40 round vs a rounded 9mm desigin. I shoot a lot a big centerfire revolvers with either a keith type bullet or LBT bullet. I like what a fkat point dies on game and im a firm believer on two holes through a target. The FBI started out with a 38 with a 158gr lead bullet. Abondoned the 9mm after the dade co shoot out. Devoloped the 10mm then the 40. Now back to the 9 with wonder bullets and “tests” i keep the 40

  17. Love my M&P 40 it was my first semi auto hand gun. Always had revolvers because I used them for hunting. I loved my S&W 629 with a 8 3/8 for deer hunting. But unless you’re Dirty Harry it’s little bit to much for concealed carry. Bought a M&P 40 Shield first. As soon as my girlfriend shot it she claimed it. Went to Fin Feather & Fur on Black Friday & found a regular M&P 40 which is now my favorite gun in collection. Since Christmas I’ve probably 7,000 rounds through it. My girlfriend has put nearly the the same through her Shield. We bought have become very proficient with our M&P’s 40.

  18. I live on a farm. Have never pointed a pistol in self defense, a 12 ga works better. However we have shot a lot of things that needed shot. 22LR sucks, 22Mag is ok. 9MM sucks, 40S&W works very well. Had to shoot a opossum 3X with a 9mm one time and other things usually run before expiring. The 40 doesn’t have these issues.

  19. Although I have all different caliber guns, I have to say my preferred for personal defense whether at home or concealed carry, I my H&K P30 in .40S&W. Fantastic pistol!!! Accurate, reliable, that feels like you’re shooting 9mm. Although concealed carry can be hard for all day use, own holsters work best. Very surprised H&K wasn’t mentioned!

  20. I love both calibers…
    Usually carry a Sig 938 concealed and a full size M&P 40 OTW

    No caliber quarrels in this house

  21. Excellent article. Most police departments will no doubt move to 9mm then back to 40 & 45 – I’ve seen this cycle before. I still like the forty and what I like even more right now are all the good deals you can get on 40 ammo and pistols because shooters are favoring the 9mm (which I also like too). Unfortunately for me, as I get older I’ll probably be one of those guys that will go to the 9mm simply because recoil from the 10mm, 357 sig, 40 and 45 will be too much for my old bag of bones. BUT until that time comes, I’ll be shooting the bigger bores. Happy shooting! 🙂

  22. When the FBI adopted the 9mm they provided the firearms purchaser with a fantastic opportunity. 40 S&W handguns became abundant and at greatly reduced prices. Ammo became plentiful and cost competitive with 9mm. When statements justifying the switch to 9mm because bullet technology has made the 9mm just as effective as .40S&W and 45ACP, those statements don’t point out that bullet technology advancements also improved the .40 and 45.

    A few other observations:
    1)The latest panic buying saw 9mm ammo unavailable very quickly while 40S&W was available. If possible, a person may want to have not only a 9mm but also a 40 S&W as part of a backup plan. 2) If recoil is an issue try a round like the Winchester Defend. 3) Some .40 S&W pistol can shoot 357 Sig by simply changing to an appropriate barrel. The 357 Sig is a fantastic round and adds flexibility that the 9mm cannot match. Finally, thanks to the author for highlighting the Sig P224 pistol which is fantastic in both in .40 and 357 Sig.

  23. After carrying a S&W model 59 for 8 years in law enforcement, I decided to try the .40. The Glock 23 did not FEEL right. So I bought a 4003 Smith & Wesson and it was like reuniting with an old friend. I liked it so well that I found a 4013 S&W to buy .
    The 165 grain JHP is a great round, but I can feel the additional power behind the 180 gr. JHP. This is my preferred carry round.

  24. I usually carry a G27 and can shoot it very well. For some reason it I shoot it more accurately than the G22, does have better sites. As far as recoil and control, I really like how the G27 handles while shooting. Yes it kicks a little more than the G22 but I am able to control it better as I like how it kicks differently than the G22. Weird I know, but if you like the gun you are more likely to go shoot it. Looking forward to shooting it with a recently purchased G23 barrel for it. Hoping the recoil does not change drastically.

  25. I was a policeman for 13 years with Glock 22 and 27 . The .40cal is fantastic!! Only reason departments are changing is financial! Cheaper guns and definitely practice ammo which they use a LOT of! Love my .40cal Glocks!!

  26. Retired Fed LEO + 8 yrs USMC

    I started with an old 1911 45 in the corps and was sad to hear that the USMC had gone to beretta 92 (9mm’s). It was all about the cost/financial. Spoke with A Vietnam Veteran Marine (relative) about handgun calibers, he then told me his experience in the war/field, he had to shoot at the enemy with a 38 vs the 45. He said 45 was far superior for the take downs.

    Years later i entered the LEO career and started with a S&W 357 mag 6”. I had 6 in the cylinder and 6 on my belt loops. I was in the field with a total of twelve, my confidence was high and conciseness to make all rounds count. The agency then changed to a mandatory one gun for all, a 40 caliber brick.
    Management went with their choice of handgun maker and caliber, from behind their cushy air conditioning office chairs.
    The 40 caliber and the idea was great, in a pinch you can use each other’s magazines In a fire fight.
    The 40 caliber had the punch needed to work for you in any situation, of course we had other tools as well.
    I was also an Firearms Instructor for the agency for 16yrs with with quarterly qualifications with our service weapons (pistol-shotgun-M/4).
    With experience I can say not everyone is made to handle a 40cal with precision and accuracy, some of the shooters were smaller frames and perhaps needed a 9mm. They were intimidated by the recoil and heavy handgun.
    The MP-5 was an excellent weapon in 9mm, you can practically put all of your rounds in one hole. The Arm chair warriors changed that too and went to the UMP-40,in controllable unable to have a stable cheek weld etc..
    Overall you the shooter MUST establish muscle memory, practice, practice, and practice some more. You must one with the bullet, shot placement is always essential.
    I prefer the 40cal but you the reader have to choose which one is best for you, stay away from thinking financial, looks. Go for what feels natural in your hand and can go from the holster to your target naturally.

  27. The discussion of .40 SW found here is as close to spot on as one might find!
    Any additions or comparisons I might add would be the addition of the 10mm as long as your using the .45ACP in the discussion. It should be remembered that the .40 is the Kurtz (short) version of the 10mm!
    The 10mm is a very useful dangerous game cartridge an should be noted within the outer limits of this discussion. Buffalo Bore using BarnsX is my go to field load for my 10 when I carry it in Alaska.
    Also the suggestion that the .44 Mag or .454 are overly expensive may be a fit of an overstatement. That neither caliber is an “enjoyable day at the range” first choice for fun … kinda caliber, they are very effective dangerous game and hunting calibers.
    One will find many who carry these calibers here in the North Country as their EDC.
    There is one other caliber that deserves mention in this tread … .41 Mag … this is my other choice of EDC. I have carried it in the same 4 5/8” Ruger Blackhawk since the early 70’s.
    The .41 Mag is the much overlooked and often forgotten caliber that yet holds a nitch and still chambered in some production firearms.
    The .40 can be a handful in the “compact” polymer frames without question. However, that changes when one try’s an all steel framed compact. The recoil is controllable to a far greater degree but of course the trade off is the increase in weight.
    For those who aren’t as concerned with the weight issue try the .40 in a compact 1911, or , my choice, an IMI Baby Desert Eagle (Jericho 941). You may be pleasantly surprised!
    .

  28. I never saw the .40 as being developed as a better option than a 9mm, after a shootout, the FBI wanted more firepower, so they adopted a 10mm handgun. Although much more powerful, it was evidently not popular overall in the agency. Grip size, recoil, maybe lack of training. The solution was solution was shorting the cartridge, less powder same caliber round… the .40 S&W… less recoil, with right design easier to return on target, grip size options… My frustration with the 9mm, was really FMJ rounds- with those rounds, yes, I do want bigger caliber — bigger hole. However, with current ammo choices the 9mm can perform quite well. The perfect caliber and handgun, it is what works for you, seems easy for you to shoot, provides the performance you are comfortable with and will keep increasing your skill level. Have a great 4th of July.

  29. I have 2 40 and like them to are S&W the other is a FM my 2 S&W was one of the first to come out and they was bought with in 2 month of each other and are the same model I do reload for all of my hand guns 380 up to a Dan 375 rifles 223 up to 30.06

  30. I came to the .40 S&W about 8 years ago. In my PPQ M2, I’ve found it to be accurate and easily handled. I CC a SIG P365 most of the time, but when weather allows, I’ll carry the Walther.
    I agree with the author, that it’s not as easily handled in smaller guns, but in full size guns the recoil is tamed down. I prefer the Hornady Critical Duty 175gr in the PPQ.
    The FBI switched back to 9mm, but I think they gave it up too soon. Their money would have better spent investing in more training.

  31. 68 y/o. Ht 5’6″. 145 lb. Short fingers and wide hands. Shooting x 12 yrs. First gun PX4 in 40 cal. Second gun Kahr PM-40. Have bought CZ 85, HK VP 9 and a couple of other things since. Beretta PX4 is very soft shooter. Not a bullseye gun but consistently hits center chest as far as my eyes allow. Kahr PM 40 is my love. One must be aware that, if you buy the smallest Kahr in 40 cal, you will have to fix its tendency to break parts. But the way it shoots made me stick with it and I’m glad I did. Yes, it kicks hard. Straight back into my hand. Very easy to control. And this is from someone who can’t shoot a J-frame. It especially likes Sig ammo but shoots anything. It took me much longer to settle in with my nines in spite of the fact that they are very accurate guns. (in the hands of other people) I find 9mm squirrely and requires more concentration for me to control and I have to wonder how much part burn rate/recoil timing plays in all this. I’ve heard both calibers described as “snappy”. Could 9mm be a little more so? Other things that make me wonder about this are the fact that 45acp kicks harder but slower and many people find it easier to control than 40. Then there is my spring piston pellet gun. No, it doesn’t kick hard. But the timing of the recoil makes it hard for me to hit the side of a barn. Squirrels love it. I know what the remedy is but don’t seem to be able to master it. I always go back to my CO2 gun. Squirrels hate it. Anybody else find 40 easier to shoot or am I just weird like that?

  32. Having been instrumental in the development and release of the 40 S&W cartridge at Smith & Wesson I can say that the primary reason for it’s existence was to provide the biggest caliber possible in a 9mm size frame. The development actually started in the late 1970’s but was dropped due to a lack of interest by the S&W upper management. Remember at that time in history the semi-auto pistol was just gaining ground with law enforcement. After the infamous FBI Miami shoot out the FBI started looking at the 10mm. When we showed them the 40 B&S (the original round was named after the two primary engineers, Dick Baker and Norm Spencer. It would be re-named the 40 S&W in 1989 prior to it’s introduction at the 1990 SHOT Show) they showed no interest. They already owned some 3 million rounds of 10mm so they were stuck with the 10mm at least for a few years.

    The caliber circle will turn again and the 40 and 45 will re-gain their favor among new shooters that will “discover” them.

    Tommy Gun Campbell

  33. I’ve shot .40 S&W for many years. I purchased a H&K USP for target and self defense use years ago, and later bought a Glock 27 sub-compact for concealed carry. I was surprised at the ease of hitting 10″ steel places consecutively with the model 27 at 25` to 30` but I noticed a significant group variation when using the extended grip as opposed to the flush one. The capacity was not impressive to say the least, either. I traded it off for a SIG P320, for concealed carry – but never really liked sights for quick target acquisition, especially in dimmer light conditions. I now carry an H&K P30 .40 S&W-V1 LITE LEM. I am very happy with the grip and feel, as the HK has 3 interchangeable grip panels. I usually shoot at 50`. My first shots are often dead center, and stray a bit afterward – but with the exception of a stray or two, are normally grouped nicely in critical wound areas of silhouette targets. I want to try out an HK P2000 SK Sub Compact Pistol .40 DAO (V2) LEM before putting down the $800.00, and might consider the Springfield Armory Hellcat 9mm if it fits my hand well – only for the price, capacity and ease of concealability.

  34. My service weapons at a point in my career was the SigSauer P226 40 cal and also the SigSauer 9mm . I always felt that my 40cal was a softer more accurate shooting Pistol. When I retired I was not able to buy my duty weapon as it was passed on to the new guy. My first handgun I bought after retirement was the SigSauer P226 Stainless Elite in 40 cal and purchased a 357Sig Barrel along with it. I still love that gun and use it for my backpacking Adventures located in a chest holder. I take my 40 Cal with the Buffalo Bore hard cast Outdoorsman loads just in case. Love my Sig 40

  35. I switched to 40 from 9 for 1 reason. A shoutout close to home, and I knew who everyone was. Two people died one lived. The ones shot by a 40 died, the 9 lived. I wish it was the other way around, but that can’t be changed. The 9 lived and was ambulatory, the 40 bleed out rapidly. The shots were all body, with shot placement not playing a factor. Caliber did.

  36. I’ve never been a huge fan of the .40 cal. I was an early adopter of the 10mm, so to me a 40 cal was a weak 10mm. I never had trouble controlling it, and you can get ammo loaded down to 40 cal standards if you want less recoil.

  37. I used the 1911A1 when I was in the Army as an MP. Loved it, but not it’s capacity, (max 7 rnds… but they only let us have 5 rnds each mag). They were going to the 9mm as I got out.

    My first pistol was a Glock 19. I loved the pistol but hated the 9mm because of stopping power, (or lack thereof).

    I went to work again in law enforcement and we used the Glock 22/23. Ever since, I have never gone back to the 9mm.

    Even though I am now retired I still personally carry the Glock 23. My brother, who is a total “gun idiot” has listened to me and now has a Glock 23 for home protection.

  38. I always love the “modern day tech and design has made the 9mm performance almost equal to 40 performance” crowd.. Sorry, if you use that same analogy the 40 cal should still perform better.

    As suggested in the article it is hard to quantify the results of a 9mm and 10mm (40 cal) striking living tissue in a defensive situation. Ballistic gelatin may help as a guide but how exactly a 9mm to a 10mm hole actually stops a threat still has some unknown quantifying results in actual performance..

    I have had a long career carrying a gun everyday. Started out with a 9mm then a 40cal for 20 years, now back to the 9 mm for 11 years. From both actual personal experience using them and training, I will take a 40 cal everyday. My off duty carry is a Shield in 40 cal or Glock 23.. no problems getting them to perform..

  39. I’m definitely a fan of the .40S&W. My first was an all-steel S&W 4006. No problem handling recoil in this heavy stainless frame gun! Then I got a Kahr CM40 for concealed carry. While very small and light, it only carries five rounds (well, so does a J-frame .38!). Recoil is more than a bit brisk side, even with 155gr bullets that I typically use in this tiny gun. I recently picked up a S&W Shield 2.0 that is about a half-inch longer and also a half inch longer grip that carries one more round. Much easier to hold when shooting! With the 7-round extended mag, it is even easier to hold.

  40. I have been using the Beretta PX4 Storm for, oh, I guess about a decade now, in .40. I did a lot of research before I decided on this weapon and caliber. I find the Beretta, even with some of the highest power loads, is very controllable with its rotating barrel. It is very accurate and the recoil is very little and easily manageable. I recently went to the range with a friend who has been a 9mm and .380 user for some time. He was very surprised by the accuracy and speed of recovery on my Beretta. Being a polymer frame gun, it weighed less than his 9mm, even with the full 17 round clip. I let him fire a couple clips through it and he was very impressed. I explained to him that weapon choice is very important, just as is caliber size when it comes to self defense. He worried that he could not conceal it well, but I showed him how I do it and explained that even my friends that know I always carry concealed never know if I have it on or not without patting me down. He told me that he is seriously considering changing to the .40 now. I have seen Police Officers die due to the fact that their 9mm was not powerful enough to stop the threat. I remember using the .38 in the old days of the revolver and used to carry a .357 Colt King Cobra so I could carry back up speed loaders with magnum loads. 18 rounds was not enough so my briefcase had a little extra. I have considered the PX4 in .45 as it is basically the same size as the .40, but carries much less ammo, and in todays world, and even yesterdays, numbers count. In a firefight, you can never have enough ammo, or punch from that ammo. I will always stick with my .40 and .357. With my .40 and one clip, I have 35 rounds ready to go. Twice as many as we used to carry with our revolvers. (Yes, 35. One in the chamber at all times)

  41. I have used the .40 sins it was first introduced mostly for its lower cost and I love it. Now i’me old and i can not handle the recoil of the 180 gr. bullet. I was pleased to read this blog and to learn of the 125 gr. So look out CTD I’m going shopping. Thanks.

  42. I switched away from 9mm in 2012 and love using .40 S&W cartridges,started out with Hydro Shock and Magtech First Defense JHP for everyday carry then found Barnes XPD copper hollow points and tested them out on gel and was amazed of the wound travel and path it made and have been using them ever since. even switched my .45 acp to Barnes XPD +P for my 1911.s and my Shield 45.

  43. I love the forty caliber round and have carried it and still do when I don’t carry my G20TSF(Tactical length being a little longer slide and barrel and using the Short Frame Gen 3 GLOCK frame)10mm pistol as I feel it’s just a magnum dirty cal in regards to feel due to my barrel and slide being ported with four internal ports and an open top slide. My favorite all around pistol round is and most likely will always be the forty caliber cartridge and like most others I have a G17 and G43 9mm pistols that the G43 I carry from time to time for deep conceal carry as I’m licensed to carry or as a back up to my G22 or G20TSF. My G17 I never carry and is just a fun gun since even with the new EHP(External Hollow Points)I don’t carry or even shoot. FYI… Anyone who’s not heard of it seen Underwood’s Extreme Penetrators with the new type EHP solid brass projectiles your missing out on the best one or three hands down rounds ever made for pistols if not any gun caliber… There my new go to self defense rounds as I was sold when I tried them out in my .458 SOCOM AR and the devastation compared to Underwood’s hollow points is not even comparable. Also G2 I think their name brand is sells a similar round and when made of steak I bet that the cops get the 9mm pistol round penetrates armor plates with one shot and popped the watermelon right behind it AFTER going through a windshield and not to forget kept flying straight after hitting and going though the windshield of a SUV and hitting the armor plate going right through and killing the what would be a man’s head right behind it with just one shot! That’s impressive to keep going straight and tip forward after hitting something so hard like a windshield and still do it’s job and not over penetrate! Of course they don’t sell us civilians those rounds as I guess we aren’t worth as much as some cop(which is BS!)but can still get that round without the ability to defeat armor but still will defeat windshields and other known barriers we may expect in a self defense situation. Happy shooting people!

  44. The 40s&w is high pressure round having a having recoil not heavy just sharp snappy ,older calibers are low pressure 38-45- some 9mm are more a push .40 plays the numbers small case big gr bullet high velocity spec. One write up listed all rds about the same on power in the version s best for the caliber in the right bullet weight +P loads 9mm and 45 have been around 100 + years still useable today . Shot placement is more important than 100 fps more velocity or energy .

  45. I believe it all comes down to training for shot placement; IF you can handle the recoil. I am a much better shot with my model 686 (.38 special or .357) than my SP2022 (9mm). And, I’m a better shot (right now) with my SP2022 than my G23.

    For home defense and concealed carry; starting with JHP is a good start.

  46. I like the .40 call in S &W I use for my Glock 22 and for my kel-tec sub 2000 rifle. In the pistol .40 has some kick, put the same round in kel-tec and it is smooth.

  47. When the FBI returned to the 9mm, they cited 6 reasons why. 3 of them were financial: cheaper ammo, longer lasting guns, and less training time. Because of financial considerations, they were willing to settle for “adequate” instead of “best available”. I accept their decision, but will make my own regarding what I use!

  48. Dude! I have a Springfield P9 LSP! Don’t see very many P9’s. I love mine in 40. Bought the wife an XD in 40 so we have the same ammo if SHTF! She is tiny but actually liked the grip of the XD over the XDS! She’s 105 lbs soaking wet and can handle the recoil of 135gr @ 1250fps. And most importantly is dead on accurate!

  49. I’ve shot 9’s, 45’s 357’s and 40’s for many years. I have a Baby Desert Eagle full frame 40 cal. for my carry weapon. Its got all that I want. A lot of ammo without compromising a smaller grip. Accuracy where I don’t find it with a 9. I reload so 40 is the greatest way to go for target shooting for me.
    I find the 40 a midway between the 9 and the 45. I get speed and knockdown power without the restriction of less ammo like the 45 and more penetration than the 9.
    it would take a lot to have me change to another weapon. I love the 357 but find it extremely hard to get a semi auto without it being a huge weapon.

  50. Love my. 40. I have a Smith and Wesson shield. I can handle the recoil just fine and in a rapid fire situation all 7 rounds are grouped quite well, no complaints here!

  51. The ammo market is messed up right now. 45 acp is cheaper then 9mm. In 20 years of shooting, i would have never thought that would happen. I like all calibers but the cost of 9mm made me switch to that. When you shoot 1-2 thousand rounds a month. It adds up. The current market when this article was written was in full blown panic mode.

  52. I purchased an FN 40 Subcompact about 6 months ago. I cannot say enough good things about it. It’s a fantastic gun with 14+1 rounds, it makes a nice Conceal Carry. Matches up nicely with the Kel Tec Sub 2000 40 as well!

  53. The 40S&W seems the perfect parity between the 9mm and the 45acp.
    As a bonus, you get more rounds than a 45 acp.
    I never feel undergunned with a 40.

  54. Part way through the mail was hot sweaty on the head. We CAN’T change physics. Modern day technology has placed the .40 S&W start in the past. The round was great when it was offered and developed but with modern day bullet and powder tech the 9mm wins the day. We talk about “knock down power” and how the 9mm just can’t make up that ground lost in bullet weight but it always had with velocity. Unfortunately that velocity wasn’t able to be transferred in times past and much of the energy was wasted in the scenery behind the target. Now with modern ballistic advancements the amount of energy transfer from a 9mm, 40, and dare I say 45 are nominal and I’m not just talking about stat sheets I’m speaking from the field. You can split happened with numbers but just as you can load a 40 to the Cinderella charge and top it with a “silver bullet” the same can be said for the 9. Only when you’re through putting round down range with that 40 I’ll still have at least 2 9mm pills in the wings waiting to find a home. All and all I don’t believe this will be a full circle situation and there is a reason 40 hasn’t got the ballistic attention it deserves. That’s because it DID and it came to the end if it’s road.

    All that being said a hole is a hole as grandad use to say and I’ll put my money on any of them over none of them. Keep shooting; smart, safe, and have fun.

  55. ”In the big CZ-type Springfield, recoil is in .45 ACP class. Accuracy is excellent.”

    I feel that same way about my gun. My first gun was an XD 9102, service pistol. After later learning about the CZ line of pistols, I feel that the XD is very similar but nowhere near in quality as the CZ. Hopefully I’ll be able to one day get the Rolls Royce of guns. I got my XD while on my way to an indoor shooting range for the first time with a cousin. I was supposed to get a Hi-Point in 9mm like he had but when we stopped at a gun store, the salesman told me all 9mm Hi-Points were sold out. He then directed me to the available line of XD pistols. He was very professional about his presentation as he explained why I might like to purchase a Springfield. There were no 9mm in the Springfields, and we were supposed to be the range sooner than later. I settled on a .40 and that has been my favorite handgun. A few years later I went to an annual shot show and shot off all kinds of guns, including several Glocks in various calibers. I didn’t feel the Glock perfection and all the other hype. I felt that my gun was the best fit for me. I later purchased a Shield in .40 and it was pretty tough on my hands. But I ported it, got a new spring and guide rod and did other things to it to mitigate recoil. That was supposed to be my EDC conceal carry firearm, but my county prohibits it.

  56. MJ

    When a .38 impacted the base of the guys jaw and each shooter took 12-14 hits according to the FBI report===don’t think shot placement the problem. Minor caliber was the problem.

  57. @Billy, the Miami shoot out (I was about 25 yards away, didn’t witness, but heard) was a failure of shot placement.

    9mm gets all the attention. So the round has the best ballistics. Nobody is really out there saying, let’s develop a better 40!

    With that said, I LOVE my G27. Years ago before I became active with my shooting skills, I hated shooting. My G27 kicked n bucked. It helped me discover and love the 9mm and shooting in general.

    I consider myself a profecient shooter now. About 6 months ago, I broke out that dinosour of a firearm (g27). I got some very lightweight bullets and low n behold I was pretty damn good.

    Practice is the key as always, I’d rather hit you with a 22 than miss you with a 45!

    Now here is the KICKER: 40 S&W is SAME PRICE AS 9MM!

    Everyone; 9mm, because it’s cheap and in demand, it’s the best. Well…it is is SO MUCH DEMAND, it actually the SAME PRICE! Go figure!

    1. MJ, must have been interesting at your place that day. The main bad guy that day was shot 12 times, with one shot clipping an artery. He had 24, nice, round, 9mm holes in him. 115grn FMJ ammo is good for practice and plinking. Not so much for self defense unless you hit the heart or brain stem. But fast forward 30 years and 9mm self defense ammo has really come of age, with 124 grn hollowpoints getting rave reviews from police for 1 or 2 shot stopping power. But 1986 is still in the back of mind. I am glad you brought you G 27 back out. I truly feel though. felt recoil is also a result of how the gun fits your had. As I said, the Gen3 Glock 23 and 27 fit my had like a glove and I shoot both very well. The Gen4 Glock 22 I recently purchased, I am struggling with. I am using it to practice for work where we use Gen4 G17. The Gen4 is too small in my hand. When I retire I’ll modify the grips and change the trigger. But my belief is supported by my recent purchase of a G40 10mm. The slimmer frame on the large frame pistol fits me great. Shooting 180grn full power 10mm fells like shooting 165grn full house .40. Keep shooting and enjoying. To paraphrase an old motorcycle phrase, ‘It’s not what you shoot, it’s that you shoot’. Long live .40 S&W!

  58. I’m a 40 fan for sure. My all around favorite is my Browning Hi Power. I liked it in 40 so much I bought 2. Also my tricked out G23 and Ruger PC carbine in 40 make for a great kit. My favorite factory load is Federal HST 165 gr HP.

  59. When I decided to purchase my first semi- auto I looked at the .45, but the cost and 7-8 round capacity turned me off. Because of the Miami shootout in 1986, a 9mm was not option (at the time reliable 9mm self defense ammo was non-existant). My first .40 was a Gen3 Glock 22. It was a wonderful gun but I wanted something smaller so I traded it for a Gen3 Glock 23. It was perfect! My double taps with 165grn ammo were almost in the same hole. The grip fit my hand like a glove. I found the .40 to be very, very, manageable. I shot several steel plate challenge matches with it. I have been a .40, and Glock fan for 20+ years. I recently acquired a Gen3 Glock 27. I love it. It loves 180grn ammo and is very concealable. I find the pistol quite manageable, easily putting double taps on target. .40 may be a bit much for some people (my brother bought an XDM compact in .40 but eventually bought a Gen4 Glock 26). There are now very reliable 9mm defense rounds out there which I believe is leading the resurgence of the 9mm, but Miami is still in the back of my mind, and besides, I love my .40’s

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