Tom McHale hurts our brain with more info about 10mm ammunition than you probably need to know.
USA – -(AmmoLand.com)- For the past month or so I’ve been tinkering with a 10mm pistol, the Springfield Armory 1911 Range Officer Elite. It’s a beautiful handgun that’s made special by its caliber choice of 10mm. Roughly equivalent in ballistics to the lower end of .41 Magnum, and more powerful than the tried and true.357, it’s an interesting option for a carry gun.
The 10mm shares case diameter with the .40 Smith & Wesson, so in theory, pistol capacity can be the same in a double-stack design. The 10mm is a bit longer, so grip size circumference has to be bigger than that for other calibers like 9mm and .40.
10 mm Ammo Boom Factor
For carry or home defense use, the most common loading for 10mm ammunition will be a 180-grain projectile. I tested a pile of the excellent Sig Sauer V-Crown from a Springfield Armory 1911 Range Officer Elite and measured average actual velocity of 1,186.3 feet per second. That translates to muzzle energy of an impressive 562.6 foot-pounds – a good 150% more than most 9mm or .45 ACP loads.
Of course, if you want to go with different bullet weights, you can find some interesting options too. For example, the Doubletap Ammunition 135-grain Controlled-Expansion bullet left the same Range Officer Elite pistol at near warp speed of 1,494.3 feet per second. That speed cranked up muzzle energy to 669.5 foot-pounds.
If you’re in the more is better crowd, Doubletap also makes 190-grain Equalizer load that fires two projectiles from each case: a 135-grain JHP and a 95-grain lead ball. Ouch.
Combo Carry and Outdoors Caliber
If you are worried about grizzlies, like Dean Weingarten is, I’d choose an MK-19 Automatic Grenade Launcher over any pistol caliber. However, I’ve not yet found a comfortable holster for that beast. If you plan to carry a pistol in town and out in the woods, 10mm isn’t a bad option.
For outdoor use, consider some of the more interesting ammo from Doubletap Ammunition. They make a 10mm round that packs a wallop with a 200-grain hardcast lead bullet; When I tested it, it chronographed at an average of 1,132 feet per second. That’s 569.84 foot-pounds of kinetic energy and serious penetration considering the hardcast bullet ballistics.
Pondering the recoil factor subjectively, I don’t notice much difference between the .45 ACP and the 10mm when fired in similar pistols. Neither are causing temporary PTSD, but then again, I’m shooting both calibers from full-size, all steel pistols. For the .45 ACP, I shoot a Springfield Armory 1911 TRP which weighs in at 2.63 pounds empty. For 10mm, I’ve been testing a Springfield Armory 1911 Range Officer Elite which tips the scales at 2.56 pounds empty. Obviously, these are weighty pistols so perceived recoil is mitigated – a lot.
If we do some quick recoil math and run the numbers for each using an “average” load and the weight of each pistol, the 10mm shows a bit more energy. The .45 ACP TRP firing a 230-grain bullet at 880 feet per second generates 5.43 foot-pounds of energy. The 10mm Range Officer Elite firing a 180-grain bullet at 1,181 feet per second delivers 6.28 foot-pounds. It’s more, but not a night and day comparison. To put those numbers in perspective, a lighter pistol like the .45 ACP Springfield Armory XD-S socks you with 8.15 foot-pounds of recoil energy. So, taken in context, if you’re cool with a .45, a 10mm isn’t going to make you run for your safe space.
Just for kicks, I ran the recoil math on a couple of 9mm pistols too. Since the lighter weight polymer pistols increase the felt recoil number, the results are a bit surprising. When firing a Glock 26 Gen 4 with 124-grain 9mm bullets moving at 1,151.5 feet per second, you’ll catch 5.43 foot-pounds of recoil energy. Even the larger and heavier Glock 17 Gen 4 will deliver 5.65 foot-pounds of recoil energy thanks in part to higher velocity generated from its longer barrel.
Invention: A Cartridge and Pistol Pairing
Back in 1979, two guys, Thomas Dornaus and Michael Dixon, wanted to make a bigger semi-auto pistol that exceeded the performance of the .357 Magnum while offering the capacity and fast reload benefits of semi-automatic pistols.
Around the same time, Colonel Jeff Cooper was jonesing for a new pistol and cartridge combination, which he called the .40 Special. A working partnership led to Cooper providing insight and design ideas and Dornaus and Dixon handling engineering and manufacturing. The prototype pistol from this effort, based on a beefed up and redesigned CZ-75 was called the Combat Service Pistol (CSP) 80. One thing led to another, and before long the new pistol was deemed the Bren Ten and the cartridge the 10mm Auto. The pair manufactured the pistols from 1983 to 1986, but rush-to-market quality issues doomed the effort.
After the infamous 1986 Miami Shootout, the FBI embarked on a search for a more powerful handgun alternative that would penetrate more consistently to incapacitation depth.
After lots of bickering and testing, the agency standardized on the 10mm in 1989. Sort of. The final ammo product was issued to Special Agents carrying the Smith & Wesson 1076 pistol. The 10mm Fed affair didn’t last long as the recoil was a bit stiff and the pistol size too large to meet the agency objective of standardizing on a single handgun for everyone. Oh, and the 10mm ammo was more like a 10mm minus. The FBI wanted the cartridges downloaded to fire a 180-grain bullet at 950 feet per second instead of the full 10mm velocity spec.
Before too long, someone noticed that a downloaded 10mm case had extra interior space for rent and the shorter .40 S&W was born. The rest is history. We should note that the movement to .40 S&W wasn’t entirely because of recoil. The longer 10mm case requires a larger pistol, and those with smaller hands had trouble reaching the trigger with proper leverage to fire in double action mode.
Reloading for the 10mm is easy. Reloading for the 10mm is a royal pain in the @ss. It’s easy because both cases and bullets are large and easy to handle. There are plenty of projectile options in .40 caliber, so it’s easy to find components. Reloading is a royal pain because the brass is so similar to .40 S&W. Actually, it’s virtually identical except for the length. Try sorting through a pile of mixed range pickups and see how much fun it is to find the 10mm cases.
The 10mm shares bullet and case diameter with the .40 S&W. Both use a .400-inch diameter projectile. The case is also nearly identical with the exception of length. The 10mm parent case is a .30 Remington while the .40 S&W parent case is a… 10mm. No big surprise there. Both have diameters that start at .425 inches at the base and narrow to .423 inches at the case mouth. The big difference is that the 10mm case is .992 inches long while the .40 S&W empty case measures .850 inches. When loaded with a projectile, those figures translate to maximum overall cartridge lengths of 1.250 inches for 10mm and 1.135 inches for .40 S&W. It doesn’t sound like much, but when you’re trying to design a pistol grip fits all hand sizes, that extra distance required makes things tricky.
Is it Better Than…?
Guess what? Whether it’s better than 9mm, .40 S&W, 45 ACP, .357 Sig, or .38 Super is irrelevant. It would be a boring world, indeed if we were all limited to the one “best” choice. How utterly miserable life would be if we only had one type of pickup truck, lawn tractor, 80s band, or Chia Pet character? Do you like it? Does it do the job you want it to? If so, go for it.
Tom McHale is the author of the Practical Guides book series that guides new and experienced shooters alike in a fun, approachable, and practical way. His books are available in print and eBook format on Amazon. You can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.