To be honest, when the 40S&W came out in in 1990 I was under-whelmed. I felt that the flexibility of the 10mm was close to ideal and that the 40S&W would never catch on. I actually was a fan of Evan Whildin’s of Action Arms Limited (think Uzi) 41 Action Express. Ironically, the 41AE was designed to replicate the 41 Magnum which itself was designed as the “ideal” law enforcement cartridge (according to Bill Jordan et al)
But I was sure wrong about the 40S&W! At the time it seemed to fill in the middle-ground and resolve the great caliber debate: 9mm vs 45ACP, fast vs slow, single-stack vs double-stack mags, light vs heavy. It caught on quickly and like a wild fire among law enforcement and quickly became the dominant round. I can’t help but think that the fact that we were under the 1994 high capacity magazine ban limiting capacity helped fuel its popularity – at least in the civilian market.
Despite this, it would take me about a decade of a proven track record to warm up to it. Let’s face it – the older I got, the heavier that full size 45 felt.
What was once old is new again!
Enter 2014 and the FBI has re-adopted the 9mm (more on that in a minute) and it seems that the internet is a buzz with stories of how the 40 is either dead or dying. More recently I have even seen a trend of where very well-known firearms experts seem to go out of their way to discredit the 40S&W. Not that I necessarily disagree with their reasons or evaluations (there is a pro and con to everything), but I find the sudden upswing of anti-endorsements odd.
Just yesterday I saw a thread where a prominent competition shooter said that he (still) preferred the 40 to the shock of many on the internet. There was a bit of criticism and I was surprised to see him defending his choice and even qualifying it. Gosh folks—he can shoot whatever he likes. I will never understand why anyone cares what someone else uses.
Speaking of what is old is new – consider the possibility of another assault weapons ban. It is a common mantra of anti-gunners’ “common sense” legislation. If we were limited to 10 rounds in new pistols again worse (all firearms) would your opinion change? Think that it couldn’t happen? Tell me how it couldn’t happen for the decade that it did. It is only because of the NRA that there was a 10 year sunset. If not for that clause we would STILL be under its limit (end political rant).
Internet declares the 40 S&W in its last days
But I digress, why do I think that the stories of the 40’s death are exaggerated?
The biggest reason is that it still holds about 60% of the U.S. Law enforcement market.
That is huge – it means that there are more 40 S&W pistols in service than ALL other calibers COMBINED!
Incidentally, the most popular law enforcement pistol is the Glock 22. Glock civilian sales are completely different and the best seller in the U.S. is the model 19.
But the FBI just switched to 9mm so the 40 will die out!
Will it? I was wrong about the switch-over to 40 S&W but this time I am not seeing the massive shift to follow the FBI like we have in the past. Yes, I know that there are some, but not like before.
Seems like the FBI switches standard issue very frequently. From memory I can think of four changes: revolver to 9mm, to 10mm, to 40S&W and now back to the 9mm. I think that most departments would have a hard time justifying the cost of changing calibers so frequently, let alone BACK to one previously used. Today’s political environment is also, unfortunately, much more hostile to law enforcement. I feel that there may be a public backlash to “buying the police new guns.” There would definitely be accusations of funding waste.
Abandoned FBI rounds just don’t die
I also question the belief that a round will die out because the FBI no longer uses it. Historically this simply is not true. None of the rounds that the FBI used formerly have died out! The 38, 357 Magnum, 9mm, 10mm, 40S&W are definitely still popular. For literally YEARS people have been saying that the 10mm was dead. At worst, it is a boutique round even though there were new pistols from Glock this year (who already has a pretty good line of 10’s), one from SIG (who has never made one previously) and an expanded line from RIA. Not too bad if you ask me. The 40S&W is even more established than the 10mm ever was.
Going down the same road as 41AE and 41Mag?
In fact, of all the rounds discussed I think that the only one that I would say is dead is the 41AE. It was never adopted by any agency and only available from a few providers – in a conversion kit, Tanfoglios and the IMI Jericho. I think ammo only came from UZI/Samson. If you think that the 40 S&W has a bit of kick or is hard on guns the 41AE was worse. I sold my Browning HiPower conversion kit long before it disappeared.
The 41 Magnum has fared a little better – It was adopted limitedly and revolvers are still made. Ammo is still available but far from common place. This is truthfully probably what a lot of people think of (hope?) for the future of the 40 S&W. But, the fact that a very powerful REVOLVER round (significantly more powerful than the 10mm) intended for law enforcement but only adopted by a few agencies (2 or 3?) still exists today is pretty remarkable. Besides Rick (Walking Dead) how many agencies even issue any revolver as a duty sidearm? Maybe some Corrections and Reserves? I think the 40 and 41 Mag comparison is not 1-to-1, but it is noteworthy.
Which is better: 9, 40, 45, 50AE? Google!
The 9mm vs 40S&W vs 45ACP vs whatever debates have been hashed to death on the internet. Way too much time and bandwidth is wasted on justifying what the “best” round is. I am not going to engage in each caliber’s pros/cons – and every cartridge has BOTH. Google’g will result in a ridiculous amount of material.
Some arguments are just not worth participating/Google first!
I do feel that I have to point out a weird caliber argument that I saw yesterday. Someone called the 40S&W “Short & Weak” when compared to the 9mm. Now, when the 40S&W was introduced there were people who called it “Short & Weak” in comparison to its big brother 10mm but using the phrase in a justification of the 9mm over 40S&W is just wacky – check your cartridge dimensions first! I wish I had kept the link to that particular thread. On second thought, I am glad I didn’t.
My conclusion? Somebody buy me a Wilson (in any caliber)
Carry what you want. They all work…mostly (well, they are all still just pistol rounds). As for the experts – they are not wrong and I respect their opinions (heck, I just bought a Glock 43 as a backup/deep conceal!). I am unsure of the seeming animosity towards the 40 S&W and why there feels like an anti-40 campaign. They are people too and are entitled to their opinion and to buy what they like.
But, like most police departments, I am heavily invested in 40 equipment and ammo. So, my main carry will continue to be 40S&W. Not that I don’t think that there are plenty of other reasons to stick with the 40 (it works and I like the boom), but economics alone are a big reason that the 40 S&W won’t be going away any time soon.
I am a sucker for ballistics, although admittedly their value is often over-stated and people spend far too much time arguing which one is “better.” Choosing 115gr vs 124gr vs 147gr should not be a traumatic experience :) However, I find it interesting when we get real world data.
Since I am looking to get a Gen4 (29 or 30) in the near future I found it interesting. Especially since it includes two of my favorites: Speer GoldDot and Hornady TAP.
1. Remington Golden Saber 230gr
765 fps/ 805 fps
A mild to shoot load. Pretty weak as well. Unlike the others (except for #2 this one is a few years old.
2. Federal 230gr Hydro Shock
810 fps/ 830 fps
Another older and very mild to shoot load.
3. Buffalo Bore 230gr JHP (Montana Gold bullet) +P
One thing about Buffalo Bore is their bullets go as fast as they say. When I pulled the trigger on this load I had to really hang on to the gun. Big kick and big boom. Truth in advertising but pretty usless for point shooting or any one handed shooting. I did not bother with the G30 test.
4. Hornady TAP 230gr +P (XTP bullet)
847 fps/ 865 fps.
Heck of a nice load. Easy shooter for full power. Obviously +P means different things to different ammo makers. This is a great full power 45 acp load.
5. Hornady TAP 200gr +P (XTP bullet)
938 fps/ 965 fps
Also heck of a nice load. Plenty of speed but easy to shoot. Outstanding load.
6. Speer Gold Dot 230gr
802 fps/ 846
Good standard pressure performance and as gentle as can be. Made the G21 feel like it was shooting marshmallows. Easier to shoot than the Hornaday loads.
7. Speer Gold Dot 200gr +P
997 fps/ 1050 fps
Woof! I didn’t know Speer had it in them. This load is a rocket! Recoil and blast are really up there though. With enough practice I could learn to shoot it well but not without specific training (remember… point shooting, on the move and either hand). It’s an awesome powerful load but too much of a good thing at least for me.
8. Double Tap 230gr JHP (Gold Dot’s)
860 fps/ 890 fps
This is the load I carry when I’m toting a Glock 45. It’s a standard pressure load that moves the bullet very very fast. I reshot them last weekend in a direct comparison to the Hornady loads above. I could not tell a recoil difference. Easy, fast and accurate. The only downside is they are only occasionally available from Double Tap.
Updated with additional loads and GL21 vs GL30 info
I really want something like a Glock 30 or an Officer’s size 45ACP pistol. Mainly because the shortest 45ACP I own has a 4.25″ barrel.
I like big bullets but I also like them to go fast — hence why I am a 10mm fan. Spare me how you don’t need speed. My first pistol was a 5″ 1911 and that was a long time ago. I don’t need to be sold on the fact 45ACP it works. I am not debating that. However, the 45ACP is an incredibly LOW pressure round @ ~18,500 CUP (how old school is CUP?) it WILL lose velocity quickly with shorter barrels. It is one of the main arguments that 45GAP has going for it (loses little in say a 3.5″ bbl platform).
Conventional wisdom would say that, on average, a round will lose 20-30-40-50 fps per 1/2″ or barrel loss. I know quite a range, no?
Doing a little looking I was able to find some info posted by the late Stephen Camp. I trust his #’s 100%. For those that didn’t know him, he was a gentleman and also a HiPower guru. It comes from this THR thread: http://www.thehighroad.org/archive/index.php/t-102573.html. This is good info and is pretty close to BBTI’s estimate of 787fps.
The most significant result is that, at least to me, (very) short barrel ballistics for the 45ACP is virtually identical to short barrel 40S&W. The 40S&W loses little in a 3.5″ platform–in some loads as little as 30fps from a 4″–when comparing 40/180 to 45/185. Keep in mind that a 40/180 gives you the same sectional density of a 45/230. I know that to a lot of folks 45/230 is still king and might think it blasphemy to move away from 230gr you might find it noteworthy that John M. Browning actually designed the 45ACP to be a 200gr bullet. Anyway, I find 45/185 to be very accurate. A 40/180 just as accurate, much more common and cheaper to shoot.
Stephen A. Camp
September 21, 2004, 12:45 AM
Hello. As part of a project I’m doing, I recently borrowed a Colt Defender, a compact variation of John Browning’s 1911. Several different commercial loads were chronographed to see just how much velocity these short barrel pistols lost.
The gun’s owner replaced the factory grips and installed/fitted Swenson ambis as he’s left-handed.
I had a ballpark idea but had never checked any of these over a chronograph as I don’t own any 1911 pattern pistol with shorter than a 4 1/4″ barrel.
That does not mean that other folks don’t and I figured the results might be of some interest to them. Figures are based on 10 shots fired approx. 10′ from the chronograph screen.
Remington 185-gr. MC-Flat Nose:
Average Velocity: 923 ft/sec
Federal 185-gr. Classic JHP:
Average Velocity: 885 ft/sec
Corbon 200-gr. JHP +P:
Average Velocity: 958 ft/sec
Sellier & Bellot 230-gr. FMJ:
Average Velocity: 722 ft/sec
Winchester USA 230-gr. FMJ:
Average Velocity: 765 ft/sec
Federal 230-gr. Hydrashok:
Average Velocity: 799 ft/sec
Winchester Ranger 230-gr. JHP:
Average Velocity: 797 ft/sec
Winchester Ranger 230-gr. JHP+P:
Average Velocity: 866 ft/sec
The Federal 185-gr. JHP (left) and the standard pressure Winchester Ranger SXT (RA45T) were fired into water and both expanded nicely. The Federal JHP’s jacket separated. This is more common in water than in tissue. The SXT round expanded slightly less than when fired out of a 5″ barrel. A police officer who attended a Ballistics Seminar
put on by Winchester advises that they do recommend use of the +P version in pistols having less than 4″ barrels to insure more certain expansion should the bullet pass through barriers before striking the target.
Wondering about the G21 vs G20? Well, I have some data from a website no longer available too:
Corbon 165gr BHP+P —————————– 1160 vs 1096
Federal 165gr Personal Defense —————– 1083 vs 1023
Remington 185gr Golden Saber ——————- 961 vs 913
Remington 185gr+P Golden Saber —————– 1040 vs 993
Win 185gr SilverTip —————————- 922 vs 875
CorBon 200gr+P JHP —————————– 1072 vs 1019
CorBon 230gr+P JHP —————————– 937 vs 904
Fed 230gr HydraShok —————————- 919 vs 860
Hornady 230gr+P XTP —————————- 943 vs 886
Rem 230gr Golden Saber ————————- 852 vs 825
Win 230gr SXT ———————————- 889 vs 840
Now I am off to find some 357magnum short barrel ballistics. Have a good night.
Settle down, Angus!
Is anyone interested in some of the original documentation that I have from 45 Super creator Ace Hindman? Somewhere around here I have original correspondence, including hand-written instructions on beefing up a 1911, his actual pressure test results from Federal and Hodgdon, his handload data, how to cut and ream 308 brass to 45Super (historical significance since Starline 45 Super is now available) and original reviews and write ups from various magazines, books, etc. Ace was truly a gentleman and believed in sharing his work. He was very helpful to this poor, Top Ramen-eating, college student who only owned one pistol at the time. I couldn’t afford the Ace Custom 45’s conversion for 45 Super but that didn’t stop him from helping me.
It will be a significant amount of work to find this stuff, scan it, and post it, so if there is no interest I won’t bother. Please email me (or use the contact page option) if you would like to see the material.
So, supposedly on p 119 of “Combat Arms” there is an AD of the June issue of “Shooting Times” (confused yet?) with the pistol on the cover. Oh, and supposedly Ruger has a new pistol announcement on the 18th. Coincidence?
I am a little disappointed that it isn’t built on the Zytel/polymer frame like the P345. This would reduce the weight, give you replaceable backstraps, add checkering to frontstrap, etc. That surely would have made it stand out (and also piss off the 1911 purists). Oh well, the purists have yet another 1911 to chose from. At least it doesn’t have front cocking serrations.
Anyway, here is a pic of the pistol…(click to enlarge)
That leaves remarkably few that do not make a 1911. HA! When I bought my first one in 1990 people made fun of me because of the “wonder-nine” craze and said that the 1911 and 45ACP were done. Double-HA!
They have been getting excellent reviews for providing full power 10mm (and other calibers). Several people on various forums have confirmed SwampFox’s velocity #’s which are amazing. I just ordered some myself.
Check out this 10mm 200gr XTP load @ 1325fps!
(WARNING: For supported chamber pistols only!)
For those pistols without a fully supported chamber like Glocks and quite a few 1911’s I got this load:
10mm 200gr XTP @ 1240fps (still smoking!) I got a box of this too for my Colt Delta Elite.
I have been looking for a “thumper” woods load for camping/hiking/etc. And have selected this 200gr JFP (full power 1325fps). Again WARNING: For supported chamber pistols only!)
These loads are exactly why I bought a pair of S&W 1006’s!
They offer 5 round packs so that you can try the ammo, and will custom load to your specs!
They also offer other calibers like 45ACP+P and 357magnum. I am a big Hornady XTP fan, but they do offer other popular bullets too (Golden Saber, SilverTip, Gold Dot, etc).
Can’t wait to try it out! (More info to come later)
I am not affiliated, just a big fan of full power ammo.