The past few months have been good to the 10mm cartridge and 10mm pistol fans. While sales and popularity of the .40 Smith and Wesson seem to be slipping, the 10mm is enjoying a comeback. New pistols including the Kimber Custom II, the now well-established Ruger SR1911, and even a double-action revolver have been met with enthusiasm.
There is much to like about the 10mm. It is a powerful, but controllable, cartridge with excellent accuracy potential. The 10mm was designed as a custom handgun cartridge to shoehorn a .400-inch projectile into a 9mm platform. This didn’t work out well, and competitors such as the .41 Action Express did not prosper.
Cutting up (then rare in the states) CZ 75s and fabricating parts resulted in the original Bren Ten pistol. Eventually, the 10mm was shortened to the .40 Smith and Wesson and the original design envelope was realized by placing the cartridge into 9mm-size frames. The .40 offers excellent wound ballistics and penetration in its size glass. For general use and police service, it is a good cartridge but falls short of the expectations of many hard core handgunners. The 10mm demands a .45-size frame. This is ideal for many of us as the size and weight of the heavier pistol offer good control.
The Full Monte
There is a need among some shooters for a cartridge more powerful than the .45 ACP in the 1911 platform. The .45 Super was one attempt that for several reasons has not been generally adopted by the shooting public. The 10mm is ideal for the 1911, big-frame Glock, and large-frame CZ platform.
The 10mm offers range and penetration improvements over both the .40 and the .45 cartridges. While weapon wear is a concern, with the proper recoil spring system this is less of a consideration. With attention to load practice, the 10mm responds well to cartridge development, both by handloaders and the factory. As Colonel Cooper said, there are things that may be accomplished at 50 yards with the 10mm that cannot be accomplished with the .45. Unlike the .40 and .45, the 10mm qualifies as a go-anywhere do-anything handgun capable of personal defense, defense against dangerous animals, and hunting game in the deer and boar classes. In this regard, it is similar to the once immensely popular .44-40 WCF cartridge.
Comparisons: 10mm vs. .357 Mag.
An inevitable comparison of the 10mm and .357 Magnum must be addressed—particularly in light of the introduction of the Ruger GP100 10mm revolver. It is generally assumed the .357 Magnum is more powerful than the 10mm. With modern loads this isn’t necessarily true.
Another advantage is that the 10mm begins with a .400-inch bullet. Whether it expands or not, the frontal diameter of the 10mm is greater than the .357 Magnum. Top end loads, such as the .357 Magnum Buffalo Bore 180-grain hard cast, will beat the 10mm for pure energy and penetration when fired in like barrel lengths. Barring the Coonan, however, the .357 Magnum is a revolver cartridge. This makes the 10mm a very interesting cartridge for those who prefer the self-loader for personal defense, but it isn’t just for automatics anymore!
The 10mm Revolver Option
The story of revolvers chambered for self-loading cartridges is a long one. Since self-loading pistol cartridges do not have a cartridge case rim, moon clips are necessary for proper headspace. Revolvers chambered for an automatic pistol cartridge will chamber and fire the cartridges OK, but they will not eject. Revolvers have been chambered in .38 Super, 9mm, .40, 10mm, and .45 ACP — even the .380 ACP.
Ruger’s GP100 is a rugged, reliable, and accurate revolver that is a natural for the 10mm. While the piece may appeal to those who own a self-loader, this revolver is a good option for anyone wanting a powerful and reliable handgun. The Match Champion version of the GP100 features a fiber optic front sight and well-designed grips. These wood grips appear larger than the usual rubber factory grips at first glance, but the cross section is actually smaller than standard GP100 grips and fits my average sized hands well. They are long, which makes for a good fit for larger hands, but not thick. The combination of a high-visibility fiber optic front sight and fully-adjustable rear sight make for excellent hit probability.
The stainless steel revolver features a four-inch barrel. The barrel profile differs from the .357 Magnum and is pleasing in appearance. The action is smooth in double-action fire and the single action trigger is crisp enough for good accuracy. Due to the larger hole in the barrel and chambers, the Ruger GP100 Match Champion 10mm is lighter than the .357 Magnum version at 37 ounces. The revolver is wider and bulker to conceal than a 1911, but the proper holster goes a long way toward addressing this. Mine often rides in a pancake-style holster from DM Bullard.
The question might be why the 10mm revolver? Due to its popularity, 10mm ammunition is readily available—more so than the .41 Magnum, as an example. Recoil is less than most magnum cartridges, and the 10mm offers good performance at long range. It isn’t a magnum, but the 10mm is a respectable number. Consult the tables and you will find excellent performance.
While some prefer a revolver, the self-loader is controllable in rapid fire and puts hits into a target more quickly—no argument there. But animal attacks in the field often demand that the handgun be pressed into the animal’s body and fired repeatedly. The automatic would jam after the first shot. The revolver will keep firing.
This is an old story—revolver versus self-loader—that continues to be played out on a daily basis. The bottom line is that either will save your life, if you practice with the chosen handgun. There are advantages to the revolver that cannot be overlooked. Either type is well suited in 10mm for the person who desires more power for one reason or the other. The 10mm is also much easier to master than the .41 Magnum for field use, and it seems it will prove easier to master than the .357 Magnum. As for combat practice those using these powerful handguns rely on a fast and powerful first-shot hit delivered with good accuracy. It isn’t about peppering the target as much as hitting the target and putting it down for the count.
A few words on moon clips…
Shoot for the Moon
An advantage of moon clips in loading and unloading compared to conventional revolvers is that spent cartridge cases are easily ejected whether the barrel is pointed upward or downward. You need not be concerned with a cartridge case rim becoming trapped under the ejector star when the cases are attached to a thin steel moon clip. When using a moon-clipped revolver, loading is fast and positive. Keep the finger tips near the front of the cartridge and guide them into the chamber, then press the six cartridges home.
The .40 S&W option, the GP100 will not accept .40 S&W ammunition, it simply falls into the chamber. However, by utilizing moon clips the .40 functions as well as the 10mm. Ruger’s newly-designed moon clips are superior to any previous design. They are secure, have a bit of spring in them, and are easily loaded and unloaded. Accuracy isn’t quite up to the 10mm, but it is good.
The SIG Sauer Elite 180-grain JHP breaks about 990 fps in the Ruger — plenty for defense use. These loads allow for excellent control. While wound potential is high recoil is not and these loads make a reasonable choice for personal and home defense. Few if any handgun cartridges will provide a better balance of wound potential and control than the .40 S&W in this revolver. The ballistics are basically those of the old .41 Special, an expensive custom proposition. Pistolsmiths rebored an L frame or GP100 .357 Magnum to a special shortened .41 Magnum. The GP100 10mm is superior in every regard.
Self-Loaders — It’s All in the Springs.
A significant difference in handling and recoil impulse between two pistols may be traced to the recoil spring. As an example, the Ruger SR1911 10mm exhibits healthy recoil. It will feed and function with lighter 10mm loads. When I first obtained the Kimber Custom II 1911 in 10mm, I was disappointed that it would not cycle with my 180-grain 1,050 fps handloads. When I moved to full-power 10mm loads, I was surprised. The Kimber not only functioned perfectly but recoil was considerably abated.
A heavy recoil spring that harnesses the power of the 10mm is essential. You may change the recoil spring for a lighter version for lighter loads. (Try the Wilson Combat Spring Caddy.) The Ruger isn’t a bad gun and will feed any commercial loading. The Kimber, as delivered, is properly set up for heavy loads. A heavy recoil spring and Wilson Combat magazines makes for a service-grade set up for the Ruger SR1911 as well.
10mm Ammunition Selection
The first question when choosing ammunition must be “Is it reliable?” There are good loads available that are feed, cycle, and function reliably. The Hornady 10mm 155- and 180-grain XTP loads have proven accurate in the Ruger 10mm handguns, both revolver and automatic. The 155-grain load expands more quickly and offers an excellent balance of penetration and expansion. The 180-grain load is a good hunting load for taking thin skinned game.
I like the Critical Duty 175-grain load for general use. Designed for those agencies that issue the 10mm, this is a first-class service load. A relatively new choice is the Speer 200-grain Gold Dot. This load has a good balance of expansion and penetration. Feed reliability and accuracy are excellent. For those desiring to deploy a load for protection against the big cats and feral dogs, one of Buffalo Bore’s hard-hitting, all-copper hollow points fill the bill. For protection against bears, and this is a stretch for any handgun, Buffalo Bore’s hard-cast bullets offer extreme penetration that just may do the business.
Federal Cartridge Company introduced one of the most powerful factory 10mm loads are few years ago. The 180-grain bonded core load breaks a solid 1,275 fps in most handguns. This is an excellent hunting load that has taken its share of deer. For those wishing to limit penetration in home defense, Honor Defense — maker of the Honor Guard pistols — offers a special composition bullet that rapidly fragments in gelatin testing but offers good penetration against light cover. The SIG Sauer Elite V Crown JHP is available, affordable, and effective for personal defense. In short, 10mm ammunition selection is broad and very interesting.
Many shooters with extensive experience prefer a harder hitting caliber than the 9mm or .40 S&W but do not necessarily wish to step up a hard-kicking magnum. Magnum loads in the revolver and the high intensity .357 SIG (in the automatic) are often hard on the mechanism. The handguns do not blow up or crack frames, but wear on small parts is increased. The 10mm offers a viable alternative in a standard .41 frame revolver or .45 frame automatic. The 10mm offers good accuracy in the right handgun and the cartridge hits hard.
If you do not prefer the 1911 or a revolver, there are other alternatives. The Springfield XD is now available in 10mm. This is a modern striker-fired polymer-frame handgun that will give the Glock 20 a run for its money. The single most accurate 10mm self-loader I have fired, bar none, is the SIG P220 Emperor Scorpion. Whatever action type you prefer, even if it is a single action revolver, the 10mm is readily available. The 10mm may also be the best choice for heavy defense use among modern handgun cartridges.
Are you a 10mm fan? Do you own a 10mm for hunting or defense? Why? Share your answers in the comment section.
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