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The .40 Smith & Wesson

May 16, 2009
The Inter-Mountain

The .40 Smith & Wesson is a rimless pistol cartridge developed by Smith & Wesson and Winchester. It is simply a shortened version of the 10mm developed in Sweden by the Norma Ammunition manufacturer. The Austrian firearms manufacturer, Glock, was the first to have a pistol chambered for this cartridge in the United States in early 1990. Smith & Wesson came out with their Model 4006 semi-auto a few weeks later.

The initial acceptance of the .40 S&W was slow because this round did not have the velocity of the 10mm auto. This led to derogatory remarks like the .40 short and weak. Over time, however, many target pistol shooters and law-enforcement officers have learned that the .40 S&W packs more muzzle energy than the 9 mm Luger or the .38 Special. At the same time, it has the accuracy of both cartridges. Many of the gun writers say that a semi-auto pistol with a 4-inch barrel is easier to shoot accurately than the 10 mm or the .45 ACP. The muzzle energy of the .40 S&W exceeds all standard pressure loads of the 9 mm Luger and many of the .45 ACP.

I do not know whether I would recommend this pistol to be used for deer hunting. Any pistol with a 4-inch barrel chambered for the .40 S&W could certainly down a large whitetail at close range (less than 25 yards). I think a pistol chambered for this cartridge would be more suitable for small and medium game hunting in this state.

The .40 S&S would definitely be a good firearm for home defense. Since its introduction in 1990, the .40 S&W has been chambered in more than twenty different makes of firearms in the United States, mostly semi-automatic pistols.

American Derringer Pistols chambers this round in their Model 1, a double barrel, single-action handgun. I have no idea for what this pistol would be good. The original Derringer Pistols may have been the favorite for riverboat gamblers in the late 1800s. After all, they were guaranteed to be accurate for 10 feet.

The .40 S&W is identical to the 10mm auto except for the length of the case. Today, the .40 is one of the favorites of law enforcement officers in the United States because of its accuracy and ease to shoot when it has to be fired rapidly.

Ammunition manufactures offer this round in a variety of bullet weights and velocities. In a pistol with a four-inch barrel, the first bullet weight was 180 grains with an advertised velocity of about 1,000 feet per second at the muzzle. In just a short period, it would be offered in factory loads using 135, 155, 16, and briefly 200-grain bullets.

Several of the gun writers say that the .40 S&W filled the gap between the 9 mm Luger and the .45 Automatic. Now, it would be difficult to find a handgun manufacturer that does not have a model chambered for the .40 S&W.

Here are three handloads for the .40 S&W:

1. Case Winchester

Primer Winchester 1 1/2 108 (small pistol)

Bullet Sierra 150-grain, jacketed hollow point

Powder & Weight Alliant Blue Dot; 9.5 grains

Note: this load is close to maximum; approach with caution.

2. Case Winchester

Primer Winchester 1 1/2 108 (small pistol)

Bullet Nosler 170-grain, jacketed hollow point

Powder & Weight Winchester 231/ 5.0 grains

3. Case Winchester

Primer Winchester 1 1/2 108 (small pistol)

Bullet Sierra 180 grain, jacketed hollow point

Powder & Weight Hodgdon HS-6; 7.4 grains

Note: all the above handloads would be good for home defense.

 
 

 

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