HANDGUNS: 10 Minutes of 10mm History

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Many-time champion Rob Leatham gives his take on one of the most powerful semi-auto loadings. Listen! HERE’S MORE

springfield armory 10mms

SOURCE: Team Springfield, Rob Leatham (find Rob on Twitter)

The 10mm auto is a curious cartridge.

Designed originally as a best-of-all-options for the defensive pistol world, it was targeted to be an all things to all people service pistol cartridge. Sort of a hybrid of the service pistol standards, .45 ACP and 9×19 rounds. The goal? To have more capacity than the .45 and be more powerful than the 9mm.

Without completely retelling the detailed history, in the early 1970s, the late Col. Jeff Cooper was reportedly looking for a round that combined the advantages of both velocity and momentum. The ballistics of a 200 grain .400 (10mm) diameter bullet traveling 1000 feet per second looked good to Jeff on paper.

CASE CREATION
There was a problem, however. There wasn’t a readily available cartridge case for an auto pistol that would handle that bullet diameter. So it wouldn’t be as simple as just powering up an existing cartridge as had been done with .38 Special, .38 Auto, and .44 Special.

A new case had to be devised. Well, maybe not new, but altered and repurposed.

Similar “wildcat” cartridges had been developed previously using .224 Weatherby and .30 Remington brass. These had been chambered in a number of different guns. Most promising was the .40 G&A round developed by Whit Collins, followed shortly thereafter by the Centimeter and then the .40 S&W.

Of those, only the .40 S&W would ever make it into production, albeit much later, but the ground was laid for the 10mm as we know it.

10mm

BREN TEN
When the design of this new hybrid cartridge occurred, a new gun (with design input from Colonel Cooper) was being developed to accept it. Known as the Bren Ten, it was basically a sized-up CZ 75.

Both the 10mm gun and round were in development about the same time. However, the ammo was finished long enough before the gun that people were becoming impatient to try this new hybrid.

WE HAD AN INTERESTING NEW ROUND AND NOTHING TO SHOOT IT IN.

So, what to do? The combat pistol world was in its hey-day and the buzz over this new combination was eagerly awaited by pistol enthusiasts worldwide. As time dragged on and the Bren Ten didn’t seem to be happening, Colt stepped in and introduced a model to accept the 10mm. While familiar, it really wasn’t the totally new, complete package we were all hoping for.

AMMO ADVANCES
Remember that the design goal was originally to achieve a 200 grain bullet at 1000 FPS. This would deliver a flatter trajectory, greater penetration with a slightly higher level of power in both energy and momentum than standard .45 Auto (with the bonus of increased magazine capacity).

Norma, the company that originally developed the 10mm, in their enthusiasm to make the round as good as modern propellants would allow, made their ammo far more powerful than was originally requested. The ammo was approximately 20% higher in velocity than the original specifications called for. While this sounds like a good idea, it was in fact not. At least not for service-pistol use.

With that increase in power came costs that were just not worth it for the majority of shooters.

While exceeding the power of any other standardized auto pistol combination encountered, the gun/ammo combination was just too difficult for most to control.

To add to the overall problem, the Bren Ten Pistol was long delayed and in the end, sadly never made it. Some were built, but they too couldn’t take the beating of the “hot” Norma ammo. Other manufacturer’s 10mm guns did not deliver on the promise the 10 had made. They were harder to shoot than .45 in the same platform and did not hold up well to the very high-pressure ammunition.

So for most shooters, the existing 1911 platform pistol with the powerful 10mm ammo just didn’t offer enough benefits to replace the already-available and time-tested .45ACP.

Springfield Armory 10mm

10MM TIMEOUT
With no viable new gun, the high expense of ammo, and the excessive recoil that made it hard to control and shoot, the 10mm never became as popular as was hoped. And it mostly vanished from the public eye.

But it didn’t die.

Although too hot for most applications for a service pistol, the 10mm with its potentially higher power levels continued [slowly] to make friends in the civilian and law enforcement world. A lot of shooters still wanted a 1911 with more velocity, penetration, momentum, energy, and flatter trajectory than the .45 offered. The 10mm’s devout but small following, by those who recognized its niche, soldiered on.

FBI CONNECTION
The FBI adopted the 10mm after the infamous 1986 Miami shootout, where they unfortunately discovered that they needed more gun, power, and firepower than they currently had.

The bureau soon concluded after the adoption, that existing 10mm ammo was “too hot” and as a result, requested a special lower-pressure load developed for them. This new load didn’t exhibit the same problems the original hot 10mm cartridges did, and proved a good compromise between power and controllability.

This ammo was more inline with the original request. Due to the FBI adoption, the 10 was back in the limelight and major loading companies jumped on the band wagon.

Since then, the 10mm has continued to exist for both gun manufacturers and ammunition companies, albeit not as a best seller. I sense a change in the air though…

SPRINGFIELD ARMORY 1911 TRP 10MMS
Springfield now produces their top-of-the-line TRP in 10mm in both a 5-in. and long-slide 6-in. model.

But wait, what about all the 10mm problems of gun wear and tear and hot ammo?

Better materials, 10mm-particular specifications, and improved manufacturing capabilities allow us to produce superior, more-durable 10mm pistols. Specifically, one that will withstand the force of the “hot stuff” and still work with the lower pressure “standard ammo.”

Flat out, the Springfield 10mm pistols are better than any previously available models from any manufacturer.

The only thing that could make our 10mm TRPs better, is if they were easier to aim. #OldEyes

springfield armory optic 10mm

MEET SPRINGFIELD’S 1911 TRP 10MM RMR
With the Trijicon ACOG® RMR® optic sight, this 1911 offers the ballistic advantages of the 10mm round in a strong, accurate, durable package with the latest in optical sights.

For many shooters, aiming is difficult. Some eyes just don’t see that well. While vision issues can be resolved with glasses or contacts, there is almost always a compromise. You can correct vision to either the sights or the target, but one of them is NOT going to be in focus.

Optical sights allow focusing on the target. You never have to refocus back to the gun to align the sights. Seeing all the elements of a good sight picture clearly is no longer difficult. Look at your target and the dot is superimposed, showing the potential impact point of the round. The old argument of whether to look at the sights or the target no longer applies. Everything is in focus.

The 10mm is the most powerful round commonly available that fits the 1911 platform. It can be a viable “all things to all people” chambering.

For you speed junkies, the 10mm offers high velocity. Some loadings have bullets going upwards of 1300 FPS. This guarantees high energies and flat trajectories.

For the big-and-heavy-is-better guys, the 10mm bullet is .400 inch in diameter and regularly available in 200 grain weights. So it’s a perfect fit for those who like the old saying, “I don’t care what caliber it is as long as it starts with 4.”

So thanks to all you stalwart 10mm fans, a purposeful caliber has survived and will continue to thrive into the future.

Check out the new gun HERE

 

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5 thoughts on “HANDGUNS: 10 Minutes of 10mm History”

  1. I currently have a Glock model #20. It handles the the 10mm cartridge well, however, the pistol has an unsupported chamber, forcing me to use a pre-die to remove the case bulge before the sizing die. I may look into the Springfield Armory 1911 in the future.

  2. I now have a 40, not completely satisfied with the make or caliber. thought about a 10 but price changed my mine. MISTAKE.
    I use this as a concealed carry. Price was a factor in purchase. If I would loose this or have it confiscated i’m not out a lot. But if I put a good amount of money into a decent weapon it makes me think if it was confiscated or stolen. What is your opinion ?

  3. Every time I read another article about 10MM ‘s I am disappointed (again “)! I have long been a fan of that cartridge because my first ever full size combat pistol that I purchased was a S&W 1066. I love everything about the pistol! The size, the weight, the feel, the power, the recoil, everything! After my purchase, doing research on the 10MM, I was told that the FBI was using the S&W 1076. The first two numbers in the model number meant caliber,10MM. The second two were for size and action type. 76 stood for shorter barrel (41/4”) and double action only. My “66” was short barrel with a drop safety. An “06” was full size 5” barrel with a drop safety. I NEVER EVEN HURD OF THE “BREN 10” until I watched Gun Stories with Joe Montegna and the never even mentioned my S&W 1066!! I was SO disappointed! Needless to say, I will never part with my 1066 until the day I die!

  4. I have a Glock 20, Witness Stock II, Colt Delta, but my favorite is the original Springfield Omega. After all these years, it’s still my go to weapon when hiking or just for a walk in the Vermont woods>

  5. Bought the original rrun of S&W of Model 610,aStar Megastar And a Witness all in 10. Been a fan of this round since inception

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