5 Reasons Why I Love .40 S&W

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.

More power in an equivalent size? What's not to love?

More power in an equivalent size? What’s not to love?

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.

The .40 is known for extraordinary accuracy and consistency. You can't say that for all 9mm.

The .40 is known for extraordinary accuracy and consistency. You can’t say that for all 9mm.

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!

{ 20 comments… add one }
  • Rodger Smith June 10, 2017, 10:58 am

    First the best caliber is the largest caliber you consistently hit your target. And hopefully it’s the 40 caliber. I’m not going to go on about being former military or current Leo probably won’t believe me anyway so facts. It’s been proven and it’s no doubt but the 40 caliber hits harder and penetrate further. +P what that lol 155gr to 200gr . Very versatile. Power of a 45cal fast like a 9mm . It for the shooter that wants more than 9mm can offer. but don’t like the power and slowness of the 45cal. And to carry the weight of the 45cal all day. Not once I say that the 9mm it is a bad ground by no means. But it’s not versatile the 40cal is. Here’s another example of Versatility. My self-defense round is 165gr horny so I practice with 165gr HP Freedom ammo . Identical accuracy. If you do that with the 9mm it’s expensive.the reason the 9mm has gotten so popular with large outfits military/law. More people can adapt quicker to the 9mm then the 40cal. So that everybody’s on the same page 9mm less recoil power weight and money. Yes it’s like 1 penny but add 20000 Penny’s it’s cheaper.but not because it’s Superior. It’s just more adaptable. Every caliber has its place. And the 40 cal place is in the hands of a more trained shooter. I have a 9mm fun to shoot. At a range for games but not for my protection and self defense. That’s where the 40cal comes into play. Even when I shoot it at the range I shoot it differently than a 9mm. I’m more serious with the 40 cal I take my time each shot counts. Stop by 9mm is like my toy fun toy.

  • MJM May 19, 2017, 6:00 am

    “COMPETITOR”, please.

  • Jon January 19, 2016, 10:16 am

    If you listen to the FBI report and for that fact the Army report, They are not going back to the 9mm because it is superior to the 40. The reason is their people are not gun people who learn to shoot and get use to the 40s power. They do not practice, Most only qualify once a year. The police are paper pushers and the weapon is way down the line of what their job is, Unless they are swat then they may train a little more often. Just look at the statistics of people shot at point blank range with the 9mm and lived, That scenario with a 40 or 45 would of been different Im sure. I have nothing against the 9mm but for me I will keep my 40, If I need to shoot more to control the round that is a good thing, Try the G35 you will think you are shooting a down loaded 9mm. I use a xd sc 40 for carry and I shoot it better than my S&W 2006 which was a lot heavier weapon. If you don’t practice you wont hit your target with a 22. It is not the round its the lack of knowledge and practice, Cops are not gun people go to the range and watch them shoot pretty scary actually. Just because somebody cant handle a rounds recoil does not mean that round is bad, And because the 9mm is easier for most to shoot does not mean its the do all round either. They have done a lot to help the 9mm so the average person can rely on it for protection. Even with all the p+p+p+p They come up with it still does not out perform the 40, Ive read where guys are comparing their 9mm and say oh its the same as a 357mag GET REAL!!!

    • Rodger Smith June 10, 2017, 10:21 am

      I pretty much agree with everything you just said. I would also add you can practice with 165 grain and use it for self-defense. Just expensive with the 9mm shooting 147gr target Rd . I am with the Sheriff’s Department were required 3hours every quarter. And that’s hard for some. I go every chance I get but the range is not far from my house and I’m single. My Department issues 180gr I shoot 165g . Article on the internet about 165gr is the best for the .40

  • Jon January 19, 2016, 10:15 am

    If you listen to the FBI report and for that fact the Army report, They are not going back to the 9mm because it is superior to the 40. The reason is their people are not gun people who learn to shoot and get use to the 40s power. They do not practice, Most only qualify once a year. The police are paper pushers and the weapon is way down the line of what their job is, Unless they are swat then they may train a little more often. Just look at the statistics of people shot at point blank range with the 9mm and lived, That scenario with a 40 or 45 would of been different Im sure. I have nothing against the 9mm but for me I will keep my 40, If I need to shoot more to control the round that is a good thing, Try the G35 you will think you are shooting a down loaded 9mm. I use a xd sc 40 for carry and I shoot it better than my S&W 2006 which was a lot heavier weapon. If you don’t practice you wont hit your target with a 22. It is not the round its the lack of knowledge and practice, Cops are not gun people go to the range and watch them shoot pretty scary actually. Just because somebody cant handle a rounds recoil does not mean that round is bad, And because the 9mm is easier for most to shoot does not mean its the do all round either. They have done a lot to help the 9mm so the average person can rely on it for protection. Even with all the p+p+p+p They come up with it still does not out perform the 40, Ive read where guys are comparing their 9mm and say oh its the same as a 357mag GET REAL!!!

  • uknoweverything December 6, 2014, 5:18 pm

    Wilson had just been punched in the head a few times….which of course wouldn’t get your adrenaline pumping or impact your shooting directly afterwards, would it?. Also Im very curious about the stopping power of 9mm against a 6’4″ 292 pound man charging you? Lastly did you know that this year the pentagon wants a caliber larger than the 9mm. But hey have fun with the reduced felt recoil, you will need it when you have to dump your !ag to stop a bad guy.

  • SPAZ-12 November 25, 2014, 9:45 pm

    *Volatile

  • Nicks87 November 25, 2014, 8:11 pm

    .40 S&W is so good it took six shots to the head and upper body to stop Michael Brown. Officer Wilson also missed four shots. Maybe because of the 40s increased recoil and muzzle rise? No thanks I will stick with 9mm and so will the military, Multiple Federal LE agencies and 90% of the worlds police depts.

    • Chris December 20, 2015, 8:19 am

      Sorry he was shot with a 9 mm

      • Chris December 20, 2015, 8:21 am

        Sorry he was shot with a 9

    • Jon January 19, 2016, 10:21 am

      Get real he was shot with a 9mm, How many shootings took place lately where people were shot point blank in the head with a 9mm and lived? Its people like you who keep the miracle cartridge 9mm alive, I bet you can hunt elephant with it, Stop a charge of a grizzly, Its the do all round, Just because your so recoil sensitive don’t make excuses

    • Steve 46 March 27, 2017, 5:15 pm

      9mm

  • Nicks87 November 25, 2014, 8:10 pm

    .40 S&W is so good it took six shots to the head and upper body to stop Michael Brown. Officer Wilson also missed four shots. Maybe because of the 40s increased recoil and muzzle rise? No thanks I will stick with 9mm and so will the military, Multiple Federal LE agencies and 90% of the worlds police depts.

    • Will Dryder November 26, 2014, 1:15 pm

      Armchair quarterback? Please consider that no two engagenents are alike. Too many factors here to explain. You fall to see the forest for the trees. The final result was the threat was stopped. By your simplistic reasoning, the .22 LR should be your cartridge of choice as it still has the highest mortality rate.

      • Nicks87 November 29, 2014, 11:33 am

        It’s just one recent example of the .40s sub-par performance, plenty of others to pick from just do a quick google/youtube search. Simplistic reasoning? I never once said 9mm has a higher “mortality rate”. 9mm offers a better balance between stoping power, capacity and recoil (which leads to faster follow up shots) it’s also more cost effective to shoot/train with, which is the MOST important factor when choosing a caliber because shot placement trumps caliber all day long.

        • Tyler London April 27, 2015, 11:58 am

          Yeah, 9MM magically breaks Newton’s law and gives you more of everything without any drawbacks. It’s truly all gains, right?

          I don’t believe in something for nothing (9mm claims) and I don’t believe in nothing for something (.40 claims). All the current .40 bashing equates to nothing but poor understanding of the balance factor. Each cartridge does something the other doesn’t. Pick one, live with it, and get off your damn high horse about it.

    • Keith February 3, 2015, 10:46 pm

      “We have to do better than our current 9mm.”

      The MHS will be an open-caliber competition that will evaluate larger rounds such as .357 Sig, .40 S&W and .45 ACP.
      That’s a July quote from the Pentagon

      Read more: http://kitup.military.com/2014/07/army-40-caliber-fbi-returns-9mm.html#ixzz3QkDTPPGY
      Kit Up!

    • Tyler London April 27, 2015, 11:52 am

      Making conclusions about a cartridge based on a grand total of ONE shooting? Did you see Wilson’s shot placement? He could have been using a .500 Magnum and the results would have been the same.

    • Rogue September 1, 2015, 9:52 pm

      I wonder how superior your feeling now that the military has acknowledged that the 9mm is junk and have asked for a more powerful round in their new service pistol (my son-in-law is over in the sandbox and he, like many others, leave their 9mm at base and go to work with their “unofficial” sidearm – a 1911 in 35acp). Further, how about those Marines. USMC special ops units couldn’t wait for the new service pistol contract contract. Instead, they got permission to ditch the 9mm early for a special issue 1911 in good old 45acp. And lastly, if you read the FBI white paper on why they and many other law enforcement agencies went to 9mm it was not because of the 9mm superior performance. It was because it was cheaper to train with and easier for new and infrequent shooters to use (like teaching your kid to shoot with a .22lr). I have a few 9mm that are used for “play time” at the range. But when it’s time to get serious about self defense, I holster my Sig Sauer Pro in 40 S&W and leave you kids at the playground with your pea shooters.

  • Ditto November 25, 2014, 3:38 pm

    Excellent article. The .40 S&W has been taking a beating on the internet for awhile now, and it’s mostly undeserved. There is no perfect caliber, not 9mm, not .45acp, or even .357 or .44 magnum. They all are good, but they all have their weaknesses. I’m just glad we have a choice.

    As for accuracy, I found your comments on your experience with shooting 40’s interesting. The first time I shot a Glock 23, after having struggled over time to hit anything at all with a 9mm handgun, I was suddenly transformed into Rob Latham, Jerry Miculek, Hickok45, Annie Oakley…. you name it. I couldn’t miss anything. Never thought it could have anything to do with the cartridge. I had always just assumed I wasn’t a good shooter when I missed with my 9mm gun, and that the Glock 23 had a good trigger.

Leave a Comment

Send this to a friend