Monday, January 31, 2022

Renewed interest in the 10mm Auto as an optimum defensive round


The 10mm Auto pistol round has been controversial almost since its inception back in the early 1980's.  It's more powerful than the famous .45 ACP, and appears to be at least as (if not more) effective than the latter when a suitable defensive bullet (i.e. hollow-point) is used.  It has the big advantage that the same size pistol can carry more 10mm rounds than .45's.  However, it also kicks harder and is less controllable by the average shooter, particularly in rapid fire.  I'm not going to go into all the details here.  If you're interested, consult any or all of these articles:

At present, only a relatively few enthusiasts carry the 10mm for personal protection.  However, two circumstances are causing shooters I know (and myself) to reconsider that.  Sure, the round has its disadvantages, but the changing threat environment means that its advantages may now outweigh them.

Firstly, we have the growing phenomenon of urban crime and unrest in the form of "flash mobs" or extremist demonstrations (a.k.a. "riots").  We've discussed criminal flash mobs here on several occasions.  They've now developed into organized shoplifting gangs and mobs of hoodlums, assaulting not just specific stores but entire shopping districts, sometimes hitting several stores at once.  If you happen to be shopping in the area at the time, don't expect the cops to be there to protect you.  They'll either be keeping clear, under orders from politically correct District Attorneys and city leaders, or they'll be swamped with incidents all over the place, so that you have to wait your turn.  As for rioters and "demonstrators", we've already discussed the threat they pose to our neighborhoods, added to which is the fact that in many cities, they're a protected species;  they're allowed to get away with their criminal behavior, while those seeking to defend themselves against it may be officially targeted.  See these two articles:

For the most recent example of such politically correct prosecutions, see here.  It's a travesty of justice - for heaven's sake, the shooter had already been found by a police investigator to have acted in legal, legitimate self-defense! - but when you get a rogue, politically motivated D.A., all bets are off.  I hope and trust that the jury will dismiss the prosecution for what it's worth - namely, nothing at all.

In so many words, if you're confronted by multiple criminals, you may (and probably will) need multiple rounds to deal with them.  A pistol chambered in 9mm Parabellum, the single most popular handgun round in the USA and worldwide at this time, certainly has sufficient magazine capacity to provide those multiple rounds;  and, if an effective defensive bullet is used, will probably be successful in most cases - but not all, because there's another factor that enters into the equation.  That factor is illegal drug use.

The drugs available "on the street" have typically not enhanced criminal performance during the commission of crimes, with the exception of the notorious PCP (a.k.a. "angel dust").  I had occasion during my work as a prison chaplain to deal with PCP addicts, and the effect of the drug on their psyches was staggering.  Many of them were left permanently mentally impaired, and were unpredictably violent, aggressive and confrontational.

Sadly, today other drugs are coming to the fore that have an equally devastating effect on those who use them, particularly when they're mixed together.  Fentanyl is being combined with synthetic marijuana (a.k.a. "spice"), methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, etc. to produce far more dangerous behavior and behavior-altering effects than with the latter drugs alone.  Veteran street cops with whom I've had contact tell me it reminds them of the earlier PCP plague.  In particular, they're finding that felons shot with a 9mm pistol are simply not being stopped fast enough to prevent them causing serious injury or death to their victims, because the round isn't causing enough damage to put them down rapidly in their chemically-'enhanced' state.  One of them wrote (I paraphrase it below, to clean up his language):

Our department mandates that we carry a pistol chambered in 9mm, but we're allowed to carry any backup weapon of our choice, provided we can qualify with it. I and a few others have switched to Glock 29's, chambered in 10mm Auto, for our backup guns.  If we meet up with one of these drugged-up guys, we reach for our backup gun even before our 'primary' weapon, because we know we're going to need something more powerful than a 9mm to stop him.

There are those who'll argue that more accurate shot placement would allow the smaller round to perform just as well as a larger one.  That's fine in theory, but when you've got a moving target (the perpetrator) closing on you rapidly, possibly with a weapon in his hand, and you're moving to avoid his attack, and your stress and adrenaline levels are off the charts . . . it's a whole world away from shooting slowly, calmly and without stress on the square range at paper targets that don't move and aren't threatening you.  Some (very few) shooters can perform as well under such extreme stress as they do during training.  Most of us can't.  We should expect to be less accurate - which places more of a burden on the rounds we're shooting to do the best job they can when they hit whatever they hit.

I know many shooters blindly trust the "official" figures, charts and data, which claim that a quality 9mm hollowpoint will deliver as much expansion, penetration and energy as a bigger round.  They're right, on paper.  However, real life doesn't take place on paper, and drug-addled criminals can and will make a mockery of what "the book" says should happen when they're shot.  I discussed this issue in an article some years ago:

Bullet and cartridge effectiveness for self-defense

If you didn't read that article at the time, I strongly suggest that you click over there and read it now.  In particular, read the whole thing, not just the beginning.  There's a lot of "meat" in there, and it's all important.  In brief, size (projectile cross-section, bullet weight and overall expansion potential) does matter;  and bigger bores have benefited from the same technological advances that have improved the 9mm.  They've all gotten better than they were.

In brief, due to the possible need to repel multiple assailants, cartridge capacity is important.  While the 9mm is champion in that regard right now, the 10mm (and its smaller cousin, the .40 S&W) is pretty close on its heels, and all of them usually outperform the venerable .45 ACP.  (For example, comparing full-size models, the 9mm Glock 17 holds 17+1 rounds;  the 10mm Glock 20 and the .40 S&W Glock 22 both hold 15+1 ;  and the .45 ACP Glock 21 holds 13+1.)

On the other hand, there's the need to hit a potentially hopped-up assailant as hard as possible, to make him cease his attack on you.  The 9mm is no slouch, but it hits less hard than the .40 or .45 - and the 10mm outperforms all of them, if a full-power round is used.

So, with the 10mm Auto, you have a lot of power - probably as much as a good shooter can control in accurate, high-speed firing - and a higher-capacity pistol.  That combination is looking increasingly like a winner in today's self-defense environment.

I'm testing some Glock 10mm's right now, and I'll report back on how I find them in some practical, real-world-related shooting tests in due course.  I'm sure my disability and pain level will make it a difficult exercise.  To help with that, I'm trying a few aftermarket accessories like a heavier tungsten recoil spring guide rod, combined with a stronger spring.  Are they worth it?  (To be answered in the context of another question - "What's my life worth?")  Are the advantages of the more powerful round worth the pain it'll cost me to use it?  We'll see.



Always Ready said...

Can't wait for your 10mm review...will be buying one as soon as I can find ammo.

Marco the Lab said...

I bought a blue label glock40 several years ago. Holds 15 rounds which is crazy. Never jams. I have to really commit to holding it as tightly as possible, until my knuckles turn white, if I want any accuracy shooting fast. Not easy to hang on to. But it's a big gun!

T Town said...

The stronger springs may help with the recoil, but it will also likely make racking the slide more difficult. Since I suffer from beginning arthritis in my hands, I will be interested in your evaluation of 10mm pistols.
Have you considered testing a RIA 10mm? It is 1911 style, but with larger capacity mags.

riverrider said...

the man that killed my leo best friend took 11 .357 magnum rounds in the torso and still had to be tackled and held down. he lived but was paralyzed and died of old age in prison. the twelfth round went thru the truck he was trying to get another gun from.

BC said...

From my reading over the years, the step up in actual lethality occurs from projectiles traveling over 2000 FPS when they hit the threat. This appears to deform tissue beyond the elastic limit and do more damage than expected from simple projectile size alone, were projectiles under that speed tend to do their damage primarily from crushing or punching a hole.

Yes 10mm handles intermediate barriers (auto glass or body, extremely heavy clothing, bones) better than 9mm; but in FBI testing the difference is in the single digit percentage range for most materials. Additionally, the vast majority of handgun defense loadings are designed to meet/pass the FBI spec for gel penetration so you don't see a large difference there either.

I'm not sure I see the practical gains of going with full size 10mm vs a full size 9mm when both are loaded with modern defense ammunition. Still looking forward to what you see though.

Bob57 said...

I am an aficionado of the 10mm round for my trips into the woods of the northern Midwest area. We have significant populations of wolves and coyotes near my home and they tend to work in groups (like a furry flash mob). I have a Glock 40 which holds 15 rounds of 10mm and has a 6" barrel which improves accuracy and bullet velocity. I bird hunt with a dog and the gun is great protection for us both.
When I'm closer to civilization, I prefer my Glock 22 in 40 cal or if I have to be even more concealed, I have a Glock 43x. While that's a 9mm gun, it's still more effective than a kind word.
I have owned a number of handguns, and prefer the Glocks because I've never had one fail on me.
I do not find the recoil from the 10mm round to be that bad. Can I get back on target as fast as I can on my 43x? No, but my belief is that with any gun, my first shot will be my most accurate.

FTG3 said...

Pushing close to 72 years old with hand nerve damage so while I would love the caliber thirty years ago, just not in my future. I rarely shoot 45acp due to hand pain but can handle some 9mm. After two magazines of 45 my neurapathy really acts up. In black bear country of Arizona I use to pack a 45 but believe a good 147gr 9mm is heavy enough too. Just my 2 cents.

Old NFO said...

I"m with FTG... sigh... Age DOES impact our ability to handle the recoil of larger calibers. I'll stick with my .45 and be happy.

tweell said...

I'll stick with my 9mm, thanks. It's what I have practiced and trained with, and right now I don't want to spend the time and money to procure and get good with another weapon. I did the Front Sight 4 day class a few months ago with my son and nephew, our 9mms had no problems unlike some heavier firearms brought by other students.

We did a basic shoot house, and it seems that when I'm in a more 'real world' situation instead of the 2 torso shots we were trained for I go for the head. Oops. Got mildly scolded for it.

boron said...

I have three semi-autos chambered for the 10mm (all lost in that tragic boat accident couple years ago [MGFM]). My wife of 50 years, who's still a tall, slinky sylph, has no problem with the recoil using any of them with either commercial or my (little bit hotter) handloads, though she hates racking the slide on the Colt 'less she's wearing a glove,.

XTphreak said...

In today's "supply chain" impacted market, I have little to no interest in adding yet another caliber to my available selections, plus reloading supplies (dies, brass, projectiles).

A search on for 10mm JHP returned results of $0.99/rd up to $3.00/rd.

I'll stick with 9mm & .45ACP.

I will probably go to the "NY Reload" and carry an extra pistol when I think I'm in any risk of a mob situation.

or have a rifle handy

or stay home lol

Sport Pilot said...

I've never been a fan of the 10MM as aside from a few more rounds it wasn't leaps and bounds beyond the 45ACP. I carried a 40 S&W for over two decades and now my prior agency has gone to the 9mm.

Honestly, I believe that the Shield Plus and Ruger LCP Plus are well paired together. If I feel the need for more then the Shield in 45 ACP will do, beyond that if I'm in a vehicle then a shotty or carbine.

T Town said...

Due to the onset of arthritis in my fingers, I have switched to a Ruger Security 9, because it is hammer fired and easier for me to rack the slide than striker fired pistols are. Sadly, I also gave up my 357 revolver because I can no longer fire a double action revolver while keeping it on target, and I am not skilled enough to thumb the hammer and fire quick enough to consider that as an option.
Because of the deteriorating condition of my fingers, and consequently my grip, I opted to look for better 9mm ammo, instead of getting a pistol in a larger caliber. I found a 9mm 147gr +P hard cast 9mm offering from Underwood Ammo, and Buffalo Bore. I went with the Underwood Ammo because it has a polymer coating on the bullet. Then, this morning after reading this post, I did some searching and found another promising round from Seismic Ammunition that is a 9mm 185gr HP, which I am considering getting a box to try.

Beans said...

And here I am, happy with my poor bastard .40S&W as my everyday shooter.

MNW said...

The 9mm loads over 147gr are ment for suppressors and are on the same lever as a .38 special.

The hard cast loads are meant to penitrate and will not mushroom very much, if at all. They are good for some 4 legged vermin, but less than ideal for 2.

MNW said...

I have a friend with a Glock 20 and 29.

They are fun to shoot, even with full power loads. The large Glock ergos are awful for me though. The new S&W 10mm has my interest though.

The Glock 10mms are rough on brass if you are going to load full house 10mm. RCBS make a die to iron out the bulge. Most factory target ammo is little more than .40 in a longer case. Full power 10mm is a different beast.

My EDC for the longest time has been a LW Commander in .38 Super. A 124gr XTP at 1360 fps does a number on hogs and is only a bit snappier than 9mm. It has all the pluses and minuses of the 1911, but has been an excellent gun for me.

I have a couple of .45s, .38s and a 9mm that I also use from time to time, but my #1 is that Colt. Present circumstances have lead to more use of the 9mm - quantity has a quality all its own. 124gr +p HST or Gold Dots are my go too for 9mm.

The note above regarding velocity is correct to my experience. Terminal effectines is a complicated topic that has been debated, at nauseum. That being said every pistol less less than every rifle. Nobody will argue that 10mm at the top when loaded to its potential.

XTphreak said...

The Federal 150 gr HST gives 900 fps with muzzle energy of 270 ft lbs.

A Standard .38 Spl 158 gr @ 755 gives 200 ft lbs muzzle energy.

The HST 150 gr HST Micro produces less recoil and lower muzzle flash, which to me is important as My Sig 938 is not a big gun.

My preferred 9mm in all my other 9mm is the old Federal 155gr JHP "Classic" 9BP. Been using it since the 80's.

1180 fps and 356 ft lbs.

The Sig is controllable with the 9BP, muzzle flash is much greater at night.

Juzta said...

Go for it! The poly Glock frame does well mitigating the recoil of true 10mm loads. My gen3 20sf is modified with a 6" KKM barrel (drop in) and a 22lb return spring. The KKM is much better on brass, more accurate, and adds well over 100fps to my handloads compared to the std 4.6 barrel. Std length barrels are also available. Polished the trigger linkage with Q-tips and Mothers, really helped with the feel right up to release.

John T. Block said...

Q: Where can you get 2,000 fps,from a pistol?
A: an AR Pistol, plus 30 rnd. Mags. Short of the RIA .22 center-fire, no pistols gonna cut it. I avoid cities, and pray I'm good enough w/ my G-17 or 4".357. And I like .45s, too. 40 S&W? Less ammo, same power as a 9mm.
And you're not taking on a mob with anything LESS than an AR, IMO. Theres always the .44 mag, of course....

Bucky said...

Buy a 45, go with real world experience and avoid the BS.

Will said...

how would the Coonan .357 compare to a 10mm 1911? (shame the .41mag Coonan didn't pan out)

Peter said...

@Will: I've never shot a Coonan .357, so I can't speak from experience. Its grip looks to be at least as "fat" as a 10mm. 1911 design, and perhaps more so. Perhaps readers who've shot one will chime in with answers.

McChuck said...

I'm not a real fan to the 10mm, unless you plan to pair it with a carbine. Then it's nearly ideal.

Make sure to check the 10mm ammunition you buy. A lot of them develop little more energy than good .40 S&W loads.

Contrarian View said...

People laugh at the .40 S&W (otherwise known as .40 Short and Weak) but I like it. Terminal ballistics are equivalent to the .45 ACP and it's much easier to shoot than the 10mm. In a riot or multiple assailant situation, speed of follow-up shots may be important, in which case I would prefer the 40 to the 10.

In he-man gun circles this is heresy. But it's similar to a situation I saw at a bowling-pin shoot. One enormous, and very nice guy, who liked to have fun, shot his 8" 500 S&W Mag revolver in the "big-bore" class against 1911s and other .45 ACPs. His first shot went "BOOM!!!", sending the first pin into orbit and the muzzle rising toward the sun; and before he could haul his sights back down onto the next target two guys with 1911s would have cleared their tables. Lots of laughs all around.

Uncle Lar said...

Any time we get above 9mm .38sp we venture into the area of serious pistol shooters. Trouble is, the majority of those who go armed are required to do so by the job, not because of a love of firearms. It's why the 1911 isn't standard for LEO and still in service in our military exclusively on the special ops teams.
Will also note that the only viable selling point for the new .30 super carry round is that you can fit 20% more rounds into a magazine than with a .380 or 9mm. The round itself is ballistically a twin to the .32 H&R magnum. Which itself takes second fiddle to the .327 magnum.
And all that of course gets into the discussion of revolver vs semi auto.

XTphreak said...

Hope this doesn't repeat as I tried to post it a minute ago.

I apologize for not proofreading my post above before hitting submit.

The Federal 9BP is of course, a 115gr JHP rather than "...155gr...".

My bad.