SKILLS: My Caliber Crisis: Do I Need A 10mm?

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Every gun owner at some time is compelled to test the waters with a new cartridge. Here are Tom McHale’s thoughts on his latest pursuit. READ MORE

10mm
The 10mm and the Springfield Armory Range Officer Elite Operator makes for a potent combination.

SOURCE: Springfield-Armory Armory Life, by Tom McHale

I’m having another caliber crisis.

Over the years, I’ve ventured into cartridge odysseys that include unusual chamberings like .357 Sig and 300 Blackout. More recently, I’m kind of developing a thing for 10mm. I’ve been testing out a Springfield Armory Range Officer Elite Operator chambered in the big-boy version of the .40 S&W and I’m kinda liking it. There are definitely some benefits. Let’s discuss.

Weight and Velocity
We’re going to argue forever about whether the light, small and fast 9mm is as good as the heavy, fat and slow .45 ACP, so why not just choose heavy, moderately portly and fast?

The 10mm, when fired from the Springfield Armory Range Officer Elite Operator, launches 200-grain bullets in the 1,100 feet per second velocity band. That’s the mid-weight of the .45 ACP bullet family and the mid-velocity range of 9mm.

How Powerful is a 10mm?
Many stand in awe of the 10mm, likely because it has a simple, yet badass name. Then there’s the fact that the FBI moved to it (sort of) for a time. It’s hard to argue with credentials like that.

Being the inquisitive sort, I wanted to see how it stands up to all the other common cartridges and a few other kinetic energy-generating objects. So, I dug up my database from all the ammunition and guns I’ve tested over the years and looked up a pile of actual cartridge, velocity, kinetic energy, and momentum calculations for some representative samples.

10mm
The 10mm is the big-boy version of the .40 S&W, and offers a lot of punch downrange.

As a side note, I like to look at both kinetic energy and momentum to tell the whole story of how “powerful” a cartridge is. Kinetic energy is easy — we all know “foot-pounds” as a standard measure of “oomph.” However, kinetic energy emphasizes velocity the way it’s calculated, so a super-light bullet can have huge foot-pound numbers simply because it’s moving fast. The slow and fat projectile crowd likes to take bullet weight into consideration and that’s where the momentum calculation comes into play.

At the risk of insulting physics, you might think of kinetic energy as destructive power, like a power drill. And you might think of momentum as the ability for one object to move another. The more weight the “mover” object has, the more powerful it is. Think wrecking balls. They don’t move all that fast, but few of us would want to be hit with one.

Anyway, I fired several different loads from the Springfield Armory Range Officer Elite Operator pistol you see in the picture above and recorded velocity so I could run the numbers. Just for fun, I did the math on a few other non-shooting moving objects and added in info on several other chamberings.

So, what does all this mean? Here are the important learnings —

The 10mm mostly tops the charts for “rational” handgun power levels. Sure, a .44 Magnum brings half again more kinetic energy, but unless you’re Dirty Harry, it’s not the most practical carry handgun.

If you’re a foot-pounds junkie, 10mm thumps 9mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP.

The 10mm and .357 Magnum are similar from a kinetic energy perspective. While the .357 Magnum uses a much lighter projectile, it moves a lot faster, hence the high foot-pound count.

A 10mm has about the same momentum as a PGA drive launched by Bubba Watson, although I’m pretty sure the 10mm projectile will win handily in the penetration and expansion tests. Sorry Bubba.

10mm

Capacity
There’s nothing to write home about here. Normal capacity for a 10mm is virtually identical to that of a .40 S&W. That’s because the case diameter is the same, although the 10mm cartridges are longer. Remember, the whole point of the .40 S&W “great compromise” was to offer more capacity than a .45 ACP pistol while launching larger bullets than a 9mm.

While 10mm is powerful, it’s by no means the uncontrollable “hand-cannon” that many have claimed. In a solid gun like the Range Officer Elite Operator, it’s more than manageable.

But What About Recoil?
I think the real recoil penalty (or lack thereof) is what makes the 10mm interesting. While it’s not as easy to control as a 9mm or .40 S&W, it’s not all that different from that of a .45 ACP pistol of the same weight. What you feel as recoil depends largely on the weight of the pistol, so if you’re comparing a steel 1911 chambered in .45 ACP to one packing 10mm, the numbers work out about the same.

I won’t bore you with the common-core math details, but the recoil energy of a .45 ACP 1911 and 10mm 1911 works out to 5.43 and 6.28 foot-pounds. To put those numbers in perspective, the same math on much lighter Springfield Armory XD-S pistols in 9mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP works out to 5.07, 6.92 and 8.15 foot-pounds.

The Bottom Line
Here’s my take. If you want a gun that’s super-duper easy to control so you can deliver rapid-fire strings without the sights moving, buy a steel 9mm like a Range Officer or EMP. If you want more power in a semi-automatic package that’s as carry friendly as a .45, consider the 10mm. You might fit an extra round or two in a gun of similar size owing to the smaller cartridge diameter while fulfilling your need for speed.

10mm

Tom McHale
Tom is a perpetual student of all things gun and shooting related. He’s particularly passionate about self and home defense and the rights of all to protect themselves and their loved ones. As part of his ongoing learning, Tom has completed dozens of training programs and is a certified National Rifle Association instructor for pistol and shotgun. Tom is a professional writer by trade these days and has published seven books on guns, shooting, reloading, concealed carry, and holsters. In between book projects, Tom has published somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,700 articles for about a dozen gun and shooting publications. If he’s not writing, you can probably find him on the range.

Springfield Armory® recommends you seek qualified and competent training from a certified instructor prior to handling any firearm and be sure to read your owner’s manual. These articles are considered to be suggestions and not recommendations from Springfield Armory. The views and opinions expressed on this website are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Springfield Armory.

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19 thoughts on “SKILLS: My Caliber Crisis: Do I Need A 10mm?”

  1. THANK YOU for not saying the old (and incredibly wrong…) “Its like having a .41 Magnum in a 1911! ”

    It is basically what the ORIGINAL POLICE LOADS (AKA : REDUCED LOADS or “.41 Special” loads) for the .41 Magnum were, NOT the regular as we know it know full magnum loads. So the accurate is “It is like having a .41 SPECIAL in a 1911”

    Means it is still excellent, but it is not the same a s a full .41 Magnum. Nice to see that information getting out there!

  2. I carry the full size 1911 in .45. I’m very good with it. So, I wouldn’t have any problem handling a 10mm, but I’m not interested. First, I like a bigger, fatter, bullet at moderate speeds, and that’s the .45 in spades. The downside though is that most people are looking for smaller, lighter, easier to shoot guns for carry. They don’t practice even with those, so they for sure won’t practice with a bigger, heavier gun that kicks a bit more than a .45. I alternate my carry guns with a Redhawk .45 Colt, and a M69 S&W .44 Mag with .44 Spl loads, so I’ll several levels above even the more dedicated shooters as far as carry goes. The 10mm is a good caliber, but it just isn’t a viable choice for most shooters especially if you are looking for a carry gun.

    1. I am with you on the bigger diameter, you need to look at a 460 Roland, just swap out your 45acp barrel and spring add a max load of AA7 it will push a 185 xtp over 1500+ fps out of A 5″ comped barrel. Very impressive on whitetail ;-).
      I still like my 10mm I have 4. A 5 inch Kimber, 2 6inch a Springfield Omega, and a 6 inch Para and a 7 inch AMT. all shoot 180 an 200 into small holes….m

  3. It’s a virus, because I’ve been bitten by the same Buyanewgun bug and looking seriously at the 10mm as a new range toy. I’m happy with my Sig P365 for concealed carry.

  4. I own two 10mm – a Ruger six shot revolver & a XDm auto. Love both. Reload brass with 6.5 gr. Unique for practice loads. Recoil about same as .40cal. May never go back to 9mm.

  5. I like my 3 10mm handguns and use them more than the 9 45’s I have. For me the 10mm does everything I need from self defense to hunting.

    BTW the CCI Mini Mag is 40 grains NOT 4.

    duh…

  6. What are the recoil energy figures for 9mm, 40 and 45 in an all steel firearm of the same barrel length? How about in the typical CC barrel length of around 3 – 3.5 inches? Like a Kimber Micro 9 or Springfield 911 9mm, Springfield EMP 9 or 40, and Kimber Pro size 45?

  7. I like the 10 mm but then again I reload and have my choice of velocity and bullet weight except I liked the Norma factory loads in 165 or 170 grain bullet weight. I don’t think those loads or bullet weights are currently available. Buy a 10 if you want one . If you want lesser velocity there is always the 40 S&W and yes I also own a 40. Each has it’s place and use.

  8. I bought the RIA because it’s all steel, 16 round capacity, 70 series, and it’s a $650 pistol.
    This is a full size pistol but my everyday carry is not going to be a sub compact anyway so why not go with something that launches 180 grain pill at 1250+fps!
    10 mm is not your ladies gun but if you want to conceal carry a pistol this size it’s very doable. I’m a big guy, 6’ 1” 230 lbs and it’s no harder to carry than my FN9S and it packs a much harder punch.
    I must admit though that I am a gun geek and also have the 6.5 grendel, which is another “superior “ caliber, and like the 10mm it’s not for everyone.
    Is it a novelty or will it take off and be recognized as the superior caliber that it is? IMHO it should have done this in the 80’s but just like my bias towards it, other opinions are just as valid and have their merits, they’re just wrong. Just kidding, they all have their place and that’s in my safe, awaiting their next call to duty.

  9. the FBI bought the 10mm.then they de=tuned it ..then s&w made the de-tuned 10mm and called it a .40 cal. it fit into 9mm sized guns. everyone was happy. but it was not a 10mm….the fbi still (I believe) has mp5/10mm… wow what a submachine gun. 180 grains is the standard weight for this round.

  10. I have a Springfield XD/M in 10mm that holds 16 rounds of 10mm.. More than enough to stop a bear or any bad guy for that matter. Much more than a 1911 anything.

  11. “Learnings?” Didn’t your Spellcheck cringe? Down range it sounded like nails on a chalkboard. “Lessons.” Those things are called “Lessons” Tom.
    BTW, thanks for the assorted ballistic calculations on non-firearm items. It’s a good thing you didn’t need to calculate their recoil impulses.

  12. I’ve had a 40 S&W in an XDM for a few years now and love it but decided to buy a 10 mil in an XDM just because I’d like a little more power when I’m “hanging out” in bear, moose and lion country and I’ve fallen in love with it. It doesn’t pack the fire power of my 3 inch M-29 44 mag but it sure does carry a lot more comfortable.

        1. I think you can find a springfield 1911 in 10mm. Glad they are catching up I have had my G20 for a long time.

  13. 7 years ago or so the only ammo you could find anywhere was 40mm. walmart would have lots of boxes of it on a an otherwise empty shelf so i wanted a 40. Did find a good deal on a 92afs 9mm so learned to reload 9mm by hand and with a press. Can shoot that 9mm all day . The first time out i could hit a 5 inch swinger. Stop it on the back swing , swing it again and stop it on the the back swing at 30 to 45 feet. Never had shot a pistol before. Loved it. stopping a target or attacker is about being able to hit the target. Maybe repeatedly. I finally got a 40 but I found the 40 to have fewer rounds and it hurt so much to control and shoot i sold it. Many of the fbi and other folks gave up on the 40 as theyd rather hit a target well than expect 1 or 2 off center hits to stop the threat. hit a guy in the heart or lungs and if hes not feeling any pain from drugs hes got 2 to 3 minutes to kill you before he bleeds enough to pass out. But hit his brain or spinal cord at the neck and hes down. Accuracy often trumps damage done by a round. The recoil of a 40 made them more difficult to repeat shots quickly.

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