Okay, so let me start out by noting that Dave Higginbotham, who doesn’t care much for .40 S&W, is the Editor-In-Chief here at GunsAmerica. But with all due respect, I think he needs to get out from behind the computer and shoot a bit more. There are some nice things to be said about .40 S&W. I’m really just starting to shoot it a lot more than I used to and there are some great advantages
1. IT ISN’T 10MM
Amen, brother! It’s also not a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. There are a few guns out there that are engineered to handle the 10mm well, but in most cases it will make your upper lip quiver to shoot it. I think every good collection should include one, but I much prefer the .40 for any sustained use. Yes, there is a reduction in the ballistic impact, but carrying a gun you’re scared to shoot might not be the best strategy either.
It might be a compromise between the 10mm and the 9mm, but I think it is a good one. 10mm is for hunting boar (or mastodon), while .40 S&W provides a controllable yet powerful round. For self-defense, it has proven stopping power while still being manageable enough to keep that front sight where it belongs and not be overcome by the first shot.
2. THE CLOSENESS TO 9MM MAKES IT A COST EFFECTIVE OPTION
I agree that the majority of handguns chambered in .40 S&W are really just the 9mm pistol with a slightly heavier recoil spring, and as such they do wear out faster in that caliber than does the 9mm sibling. The shooter is also going to feel most of the pressure difference in the form of recoil too, and for some that is unacceptable. But I can’t help but wonder how many guns there would be in .40 S&W it required additional engineering, tooling, and production time to produce. Because the 9mm and the .40 are essentially a manufacturing 2-fer, we gun enthusiasts have a plethora of options in the marketplace. Yes, cost of ownership over time is going to be a little more because the parts are going to wear faster with the pressures of the .40, but the trade is being able to get all the popular guns in either 9mm or .40 S&W for the exact same price.
In fact, the savvy enthusiast might just have the .40 caliber gun with a 9mm drop-in barrel and mags… but that’s another conversation. As to the danger of ultra-high pressures with .40 S&W, I will concede that as a consideration, but not much more so than any other caliber. If you over-seat your 9mm or your .45 ACP you’d better hope you’re shooting an over-engineered gun too.
The .40 S&W Glock 35 (top) is engineered for the caliber beyond just barrel and spring. Compared to the 9mm Glock 34 (bottom) note the smaller relief cut to retain more steel in the slide.
3. IT’S ACCURATE AS HECK
For some reason, the accuracy gods smiled upon the .40 S&W as a near perfect (and maybe just darn lucky) blend of bullet weight and velocity to make it one of the truest rounds to shoot. I can shoot one-hole groups with .40 S&W in situations that I know I’d do worse with a 9mm or a .45 ACP. There is just something about the round that gives it inherent accuracy. Am I saying this because I’ve done exhaustive testing or researched the best data sources? Nope. I just shoot it good – and if I shoot it good I tend to love it.
I can shoot groups like this, off hand with a .40 S&W. What’s not to love!
4. LESS VOLITILE AMMO SUPPLY
You say toe-may-toe, I say toe-mah-toe. It is true that you’ll typically find less selection of .40 caliber ammo on the shelf at your local store or even at the outfitter, but most of us do our serious buying online anyway, right? When Firearmaggedon came, seeing a box of 9mm on the shelf was like witnessing Bigfoot playing chess with E.T. in the town square. Most of the folks that shoot .40 S&W are in law enforcement or some similar capacity, and they already placed their contract orders and weren’t panicked by the shortages. That meant that they weren’t at Wal-Mart 2 hours before opening to get a box of Winchester White Box in .40 S&W. And that meant that it could be had – when almost nothing else could. And because it is so common in the LEO arena, come the zombie apocalypse, it’ll be easy to scrounge for!
5. A RELOADER AND COMPETITER’S DREAM
Reloading .40 S&W is easy and cost-effective. It has a nice big case mouth which helps when seating bullets and other manual parts of the process. You never (ever) get it mixed up with that darn .380 brass and wonder why this round “doesn’t seem right” while loading, as is common with 9mm. It doesn’t take much more powder charge than 9mm and the bullets are not much more expensive. And back to the volatility argument, in times of famine it can be easier to find .40 caliber projectiles. And here is a secret that I’ve only recently discovered for myself: You can obtain “competition approved” power factor with .40 S&W at such low pressure (due to the bullet weight) that it actually recoils less than most 9mm loads. Next time you see that guy at the IDPA match shooting a Glock 35 instead of a Glock 34, chances are he knows. And that slightly larger hole can sometimes be the difference between down zero or down one!