Love for the .40

The Gun Community is starting to drift away from the .40.  A lot of Trainers that I respect are moving away from the .40 to the 9mm.  They can shoot faster with it.  They have their reasons… Cost of ammo is higher than 9mm, it has more recoil than 9mm, and you can get more rounds in the same size magazine in 9mm.  That’s all true.  Sure.  But I think some of them just like to wow students with Buzz Gun firing rates.  Sure, you can shoot a 9mm really fast and look like Chris Costa doing it… but you are doing it with a smaller and weaker cartridge.  The .40 has more recoil because you are putting out more punch.

In .40 I have a bullet that has a 27% increase in Diameter, heavier bullet weights.  It performs more like a .45 than it does a 9mm, yet I get roughly double the capacity of a .45 in a pistol with the size and comfort in the hand of a 9mm grip frame.  A .40 caliber will typically give up only 1 or 2 rounds from a 9mm.  Yet we have about double the capacity from your typical .45 pistol.  Considering that you are not really giving up any actual power from a .45, that’s a good trade.
The .40 is the cartridge of choice for a majority of Law Enforcement for a reason.  Police, both Federal and Local tend to be picky about what they choose to carry and usually do a lot of testing.  This is why they usually end up picking a .40.  They don’t just adopt a cartridge because it’s popular.  Let’s not forget that reason we have the .40 is from the unfortunate event with the 86 Miami Massacre.  During that event, the 9mm failed to do it’s job.  So did the .38 Special.  The result was the FBI’s search for a better cartridge.  This gave us the 10mm, which was fantastic, but too much for the Lawyers and Accountants of the FBI to handle.  S&W then developed the .40… which is where we are now.
So I do like the .40 S&W cartridge, and will continue to use it.  I don’t need to follow the typical path of going backwards.  .45 to 9, back to .45, then back to 9mm… See this goes back to the Old West days… we all had .45’s.  Then the Army went to the .38’s.  After we fought the Moros, we had the Trials of 1905 where we decided we needed a .45 again… this the 1907 trials that lead to the 1911 adaptation which served just fine until the 80’s when we went with a 9mm again.  I’m done with all that, and so is Law Enforcement… I’ll stick with .40 caliber.

35 thoughts on “Love for the .40”

  1. This is a cycle that won’t stop any time soon and there will always be people who get blinded with sheer capacity and put brute performance in the back seat. I will give it to the .40 as not only will it throw a heavy projectile (up to 180gr.) it will throw it out very fast giving it a very solid “one, two” punch. It’s a great round, I just wish it was more affordable. As far as the “Old West” I think the 44-40 was the most popular cartridge, and nothing to sneeze at.

  2. If I was carrying a service weapon on the job again, it would be the 357 Sig, the .40 S&W, or a .45 ACP, in that order, in a plastic frame. I base that on what I’ve heard from a couple of emergency room surgeons and the testing done buy local and state wide police agencies. The urban agencies tend to go with the .40 S&W, the agencies that deal with open countryside, animal put downs, and Highway patrols tend to go .357 Sig. The .45 ACP is around because of old timer love I think. I use if for my CHL weapon.

    1. .357 SIG is good. Unfortunately ammo availability is low. A lot of State Agencies and Feds, such as the US Air Marshals, use it.

  3. Amen Ogre! I love my .40 as well. Let the gamers keep their 9mm, I’ll stick to my M&P 40 and be just fine. (I use my .40 in IDPA, and get crusty looks once in a while.)

  4. I think I could be happy with a single caliber for my handgun stable. That caliber would likely be .40S&W/10mm with the .40S&W being my choice for personal defense – concealed carry and the 10mm getting the nod for all out performance in a full sized gun. The icing on that cake is the increasing availability of revolvers chambered for these rounds.

    Advances in bullet performance have made the choice of caliber something of a moot point but your points are well taken.

  5. It was a pretty long time before you could get 357 Sig at WalMart. It tended to sell fast back in the day.
    If I ever win the lottery I’d like to do some experimenting with hot full metal jacket with really large meplats bullet loads in .40 S&W and the .45 ACP. The Hornady makes some bullets in .45 ACP that they market as for targets but I’d like to see how they did on boards and jello.

  6. Being that I wrote the post Michael cited, it should be a surprise what side I’m on… But the most recent decision to shoot .40+ caliber round you cited was made 26 years ago. (That decision can rent a car!)

    There have been huge gains in bullet performance over the past 25 years narrowing the gap in performance. But the key factor is cost/performance.

    Police departments spend other peoples money so the cost side is less of an issue. For trainers that shoot thousands of rounds a year, that is lost money in their pockets. For CCW’s the $ translate to fewer trigger pulls, less range trips and fewer training classes.

    If the choice was you have 2 magazines and a gun to defend your family what do you want in the gun… Ok, .40.

    But if the choice is, this year you have a $2,500 training budget and you can either shoot 5,000rds of .40 or 6,000rds of 9mm AND have 2 days with an instructor.

    I want the 9mm because that is what I trained with, it is what I have most trigger time with and it allows me to get better training.

      1. If you get a popular gun model like flock or smith and wesson then ou can train using cheaper 9mm in a conversion barrel. There goes the price argument.

        1. You need to train with what you will shoot in the same cal. Liabilty exposure increases with every different factor in training vs real world.

  7. I think that sometimes when folks jump down in bore and power, they are possibly operating on a flawed assumption. I don’t KNOW this, and I’m not trying to annoy people, it’s just something I wonder about inside my own little head; I think people may be assuming they’ll be able to get off more than one shot.
    Sometimes you don’t. Sometimes the goblin doesn’t cooperate. Sometimes you have a part break. Anything could happen. I think it may be better to have as much horses in that first shot as possible.
    But that’s my little world.

  8. You know, I can’t recall ever even shooting a .40 S&W. That’s strange, I know, since everybody and his brother around here own .40 S&W handguns. But the .40 never interested me at all. I’ve hung with those ancient, 100-year-old 9mm and .45 Auto calibers. The only recent innovation in handgun calibers that really interest me is the .357 SIG but the ammo is so hard to locate and expensive, I can’t justify it.

  9. The .40 S&W has to be the most successful new cartridge introduction in the last 50 years. I don’t shoot .40 S&W and when I carry a handgun, it’s usually a Glock 17 or 19 and if I’m feeling ornery, a Glock 20 with Winchester Silvertip 10MM ammo. Honestly, with the advances in bullet design, a 9MM is nothing to sneeze at and is perfectly serviceable as a defensive cartridge.

    1. Do yourself a favor and run a few rounds of a recent batch of Silvertips across a chronograph. Mine barely made 1100 out of my G20 last summer. Winchester is a bunch of dirty stinking liars.

  10. Charter Arms recently came out with a nifty .40 caliber revolver called the pit bull- nice back up to the semi’s that most of us carry.

  11. I agree about 9 vs 40 vs 45. I have them all and have carried them all. Last several years it’s either a 45 or a 40, but 9 is ok too.

    This discussion, while important and interesting, is about #4 on the list of priorities when it comes to self-defense (the first three being mindset, proper use of tactics, and skill with equipment/gun). So, when reasonable people disagree about 9 vs 40 vs 45, for the most part I don’t get too worked up about the differences of opinion. I generally settle on 40, myself, for the same reasons you gave. If 9mm was what was available when I needed it, I’d do my best with that.

  12. I’d say poor tactics had a good part in the tragedy of the Miami shootout between Platt, Mattix and the Feds. Men who didn’t have their vests on or secured properly, guns held between legs and sliding to the floor upon impact with the vehicles. Didn’t somebody lose their glasses too?

    The FBI couldn’t really fault themselves so the blamed the 9mm, spent a ton of money on testing cartridges, asked S&W to add a decokcer to a pistol, issued the S&W 1076 and then asked the ammo manufacturers to attenuate (read: castrate) the cartidge when some agents complained about the power/blast/recoil/whatever. What you had left was a 9+1 gun that shot a .40 cal 180 grain bullet to the same speed as a standard pressure 185 grain .45 ACP in an 8+1 gun. In that case I’d rather have the bore size. Because a 185 grain .45 ACP JHP is less snappy than a .40 S&W 180 grain JHP moving at the same velocity.

    IMO they should have just went with a 4506 (or 4566) or a SIG 220 which already had the decocker they desired.

    Or perhaps chose a 124 grain 9mm which would have saved a lot of time and money. Because a 124 grain 9mm probably would have went the extra inch in depth needed to actually reach Platt’s heart.

  13. I’m not a .40 shooter, but last I saw Georgia Arms sells .40S&W FMJ for $.01 per round more than 9mm. I’ve had good luck with their .45ACP and .38Spl ammo.

  14. It’s all good…   I shot a G23 once and hated it. I shot a G27 and liked it.  Go figure?  I have no problem with anyone’s caliber choices.  I shoot 9mm for most of the reasons BGUP does so I won’t repeat it.  Rob Pincus, Michael Bane and Steve Reichert are proponents of 9mm when a rifle is not handy.  Police may have a desire for higher power due to the need to fire through barriers.  I shot a friends Sig Sauer in 357 sig and loved it.  Cost and availability of ammo definitely affected my decision to go with 9mm..   I had lunch with Rob Pincus while shooting a TV show a few weeks back.  My takeaway from that conversation was that, once you have a reliable firearm, spend your money on training and practice.  Stay Safe!

  15. There’s nothing wrong with .40.
    There’s nothing wrong with 9mm Ranger T 127 grain +P+ either, which is why I feel comfortable carrying it in my G17.

    1. One, if not THE best 9mm load in existence. Great choice. No one can truly say for sure but I’m confident that THAT load would have put Platt down.

      1. A Sheriff’s deputy and a deputie’s widow will strongly disagree with that assessment. The bad guy in question eventually passed, but that was due to affixiation from fluid buildup in his lungs brought on by paralysis due to one of those ranger sxt’s lodging in his neck. None of the other some dozen ranger sxt’s managed to stop the bad guy from engaging them with a long gun at a range around 5 yards.

        1. Oh, god. A dozen rounds you say? All upper torso, center of mass hits, right? Wow. The 9mm really is a pitiful round. Amazing how all the people that were killed by it over the past 100+ years ever managed to actually die. Especially when you bring up an incident like this.

          And then there was an LAPD off duty female police officer, hit with a Remington 125 grain scallop jacketed hollowpoint which entered here heart. She was able to return fire and kill her attacker with her Beretta 92. Sure she almost died. But she was still able to kill the punk after being shot IN THE HEART with a .357 MAGNUM.

          You’re incident proves nothing. In actual shootings the 127 grain Ranger +p+ has a terrific track record. I’m sure that shooting you cited is outside the percentage of success. Drugs and a feirce will to live can do amazing things.

  16. Meh, I don’t do caliber wars. ’86 was a long time ago in bullet development. Things have come a long way since then. I carry an LCP. Yes it is a mouse caliber. I would like to go up to 9mm, but mostly because ammo is cheaper to practice. Since you are going to have to shoot a BG at least twice with a pistol anyway,( http://www.buckeyefirearms.org/node/7866 ) I will take the smallest lightest pistol that I can carry. I never have the excuse that it is too bulky or heavy to carry comfortably. YMMV PS, your bike sure is shiny today!

  17. My favorite part is when the guy says that “9 has come a long way with round developement” and then says “and plus it has way less recoils and can get more shots off”. Am I the only one who payed attention during physics class? You can’t have a gun that pushes back less while pushing the bullet with the same amount of energy. .40 beats the 9 handily in the energy department (as long as it’s not downloaded because the company making it is run by pussies like the 10mm and .357 sig manufacturers)

    The next best part is where they say the 9mm +p+ has just as much energy as the .40 standard loadings. Completely ignoring the existence of the +p .40 loadings.

    I carry a .357 sig myself. But I’m planning on changing to .40 soon for the bigger bullet and wider expansion.

    1. Well, there are factors in recoil feel. The way smokeless powder burns under different conditions can create varying impulse profiles. Even out of nigh-identical firearms, I prefer .45ACP recoil over 9mm recoil. The absolute energy in the .45ACP recoil impulse is higher, but it’s spread over a few more milliseconds than the 9mm recoil impulse, so it’s more of a “push” than a “snap.”

      The idea that 9mm is lighter, when it comes to actual feel, is one of personal preference. I can follow-up quicker with a .45 than a 9mm, if using relatively-comparable loadings.

  18. >’86 was a long time ago in bullet development. Things have come a long way since then.

    That’s all well and good, and I’ve got no qualms about carrying a smaller caliber if I need to hide a smaller gun. But the higher power calibers have also had the same benefit in terms of bullet development. To be fair, you have to remember that you’re comparing 9mm not to the .45/10mm of ’86 (or even the .40 when it first appeared), but to the loads and the bullets available for the higher power calibers today. The disparity is still there, since the bar has been raised for all defensive ammunition.

  19. Perhaps the reason so many instructors are using 9×19 is that’s the caliber the customers are showing up with. The 40 S&W may be the “caliber of the month” but the civilian market still likes the 9mm. Instructors are in the business of selling a service not a particular type or caliber of gun so they have to adapt to the reality of the market. With more people buying guns as a tool instead of a lifestyle, I expect to see this trend continue. Heck, anecdotal data from the LGS and few local instructors indicate that more than a few women are picking guns like the Beretta Bobcat, Walther P22 or some similar pocket gun in 22LR.

    I might get one for my wife…

  20. I own a lot of 9mms, a .40, and have a .45 on the way. Why? Cause I want to compete in Limited and Single Stack as well as Production. :) The .40 is what I want to talk about right now, it’s a Glock 22 GEN 4 police trade-in. Who the heck would trade in a brand new gun? Some police dept that discovered that their officers don’t shoot the .40 as well as the 9mm and went back to their old guns.

    Anyway, as long as there are multiple calibers, the people that care will switch on occasion. Personally, I think the three major calibers all work just fine as a self defense cartridge. I wouldn’t want to get shot with them, but 80% of the people that do get shot with them in this country, live to tell about it.

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