Thursday, February 23, 2012

As the .40 S&W Turns...

Every so often I'm really surprised when the world begins to turn in my direction. Several years ago, when I unloaded all my carry/competition guns in .40 S&W, I took a lot of heat. How could I abandon the World's Greatest Cartridge, a veritable laser death ray of lethal efficiency? I said then the were lots of reasons:

1) Ammo development has drastically narrowed the gaps between 9mm, .40 and .45.
2) The sharper recoil made it harder to rapidly make the follow-up shots I believed might be necessary. In small CCW style guns, .40 could be areal bitch -- I refer you to my little Star, one of the first super small .40s.
3) From a reloading standpoint I didn't like the pressure curves on some of the most commonly used powders for the .40.
4) I wondered about the longevity of scaled up 9mms.

There's a lot less love for the .40 out there these days. This is from the When the Balloon Goes Up blog, referencing the Safety Solutions Academy Podcast:

I am not a fan of the .40 and I think Paul did a good job in summarizing why and you should listen to his podcast to hear his explanations because he takes a slightly different bend than I do.  For me I would summarize the reasons I don’t carry a .40 as…

1. Ammo costs more than a 9mm and I want to maximize the training I get for my center fire training budget

2. The recoil is unpleasant and training isn’t as much fun

3. The terminal ballistic performance isn’t improved enough for me to want to deal with the added cost or unpleasantness

4. You can get more bullets in the same gun in 9mm, and assuming they are both effective more is better

5. I shoot IDPA and there is no minor scoring, so I don’t have to.


Anonymous said...

Oh crap. Here we go again.

I handload, carry and compete with nothing smaller than 40; major power factor and above only. Does it affect my stage times? Yes. Recoil in 40 or 45 is not unpleasant. To each his own I guess.

Also, captcha requires multiple reiterations/reloads to prove I'm human and seems to give me a headache. Any other systems available?

Frank W. James said...

Oh I don't know. I was an early critic of the .40S&W. Mainly for 2 reasons; the first was the lack of accuracy in the early factory ammo (it's gotten better but its still not what it should be) and the second for what you mentioned -- excessive chamber pressure or pressure spikes in some cases. I still think that's an issue, but its not as bad as it was.

However, I've found it does a better job at 'stopping' raccoons here around the farm buildings this winter than even gold-dot 9mm does, so it's starting to warm the cockles of my heart.

For those who argue 9mm does the job just as good as .40 I have only my personal experience to go on and if a round won't stop a 15 lb. raccoon then I'm not willing to bet my bootie it will work better on something that's at least 10 times bigger...

All The Best,
Frank W. James

George said...

The only reason I shoot .40 S&W is USPSA competition in L10 and Limited. Other than that, I prefer to shoot .45 ACP or 9mm.

Moosejaw said...

aah....the ubiquitous 10mm kurtz.

never shot one but was always interested in owning one...

I carry a .380 mostly because of the weight and my bad back...

I only use to compete in CAS and love the big booming .45 colt and I also love my bone stock Remington Rand 1943 1911. it is my Wild Bunch gun.

I use to deer hunt with a Redhawk or my old style Vaqueros(with magnumized .45 colt loads)and now just slip my .380 in my vest pocket for a Coup de GrĂ¢ce, thanks to the herniated disks...and carry a lightweight rifle.

but, as a concept, the .40 s&w was always intrigued me especially living in the PR of NY and being limited to a 10 round could utilize the complete double stack mag and not go afoul of the law and still have a more powerful load...recoil not being a problem with me. but now you say that the 9mm is equivilent to the 40S&W....and there is another caliber that is all but forgotten that was in the mix when shortening the 10mm was the thing to do....what ever happened to the .41 action express? and do they even make ammo for that one any more...

enquiring minds want to know...

John said...

I have a pistol that has "40S&W" etched on the barrel. I always thought it was pronounced "Ten Millimeter Short".

Anonymous said...

I'm kinda in Frank's court here. "Kinda" because I still shoot and often carry a 10mm. My first Colt semi-auto was a Delta Elite and it is sweet. It was a bit violent with the original Norma ammo, but the slightly de-tuned newer stuff works great. I've been using Winchester's "silver-tips" and have had no functional problems. I wish that Speer loaded "Gold Dots" for it.

My go-to 10' is my 1006 S&W. I hunt, hike and camp in black bear country, so that one goes with me.

My most accurate and favorite 10' is my S&W 610 revolver. It is just plain beautiful and my favorite gun, period.

All are "different" to shoot than the 9mm's, or the .45's. For some reason, I don't mind the quick recoil impulse and I think that the power and penetration are better than the best 9's. And you get one more round in the mag' than the .45's. Ballistic gel tests show it all, the 10mm has impressive performance, provided you pick the right bullet. The 10' adequately ventilates the big boar coons around here too.

But alas, my actual daily carry-guns are 3rd-gen Smith's, in 9mm! In those, I really appreciate the improved ammo now available. They are the right weight and size and offer good all-around performance.

Bottom line? I guess I also agree with you Michael.

Life Member

Chaz said...

Michael, the comments you quote from that other writer are silly. Recoil is snappier in the .40, yes, but NOT unmanageable to anyone who knows how to shoot. There is a significant difference betweeb the terminal performance of the .40 and the 9mm, and the ONLY way you bridge the gap is with +P+ 9mm ammo that has as much recoil as most .40 ammo, thus being no easier for the less disciplined to shoot. And basing carry gun decisions on competition gun needs is not smart, no way. The .40 has proven itself with the Border Patrol, where they've demonstrated its decisiveness fight-stopping abilities, and whatever improvements you can make in 9mm bullets are ALSO carried over to the .40 - duh.
So yeah, it might not be the bee's knees for competition, but for anyone who takes the time to learn to handle their carry gun the improvements in terminal performance are FAR more important than the inconsequential increments in time consumed, IMO. Frankly, I just don't get it. I've shot and carried both calibers, and never once thought about giving up the power of the .40 for the known lack of performance in the 9mm.

Liston said...

With the advent of the flash mobs and other group thuggeries, I go for higher capacity 9's with Michael.

If Ruger built a TRUE SR22 magnum, with the striker fired system and a 30 round capacity, I would be happy to carry that.

And the .22 NAA mini-revolver is worth 100 big guns left at home.

Anonymous said...

but...but....but...I thought all of us on the internet gun blogs and forums had matured to the point where we were past the 9mm vs. .40 vs. .45 ACP, snubbie vs. pocket 9mm, AR15 vs. AK47, tastes great vs. less filling, and Chevy vs. Ford debates and discussions.

I thought a while back that we all had decided that shot placement was EVERYTHING, regardless of caliber.

My guess, Michael, it's not that the rest of the gun world is leaning towards the 9mm because you said so, but just simple economics, even more so as gasoline approaches the $4 a gallon mark and most likely the $5 point after Memorial Day. 8-(

Anonymous said...

Hey guys, go retro...38 Super !!!

JD(not the one with the picture) said...

I hope everyone sells their .40's, then I can pick up some nice guns cheap.

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