What Exactly is a 10mm Pistol?

There are a lot of different calibers of handguns. I settled on a 10mm and carry it daily.

The 10mm, also known as 10mm Auto, is the most powerful commonly available semi-automatic handgun cartridge. It fires a 10mm (40 caliber) bullet at speeds up to 1500 fps, rivaling the .357 Magnum in some cases. It is becoming a more common choice as a defensive pistol cartridge.

What’s so great about the 10mm and is it practical? I think it’s very practical and I’ll tell you about it.

How Powerful is a 10mm?

10mm pistols generally run between 400 and 600 ft/lbs. of energy. Some loads can get up to 700 ft/lbs. in a pistol. In a carbine, it usually gets an additional 150-200 ft/lbs of energy. Most available ammo is on the weak side, but there are several full-power loads available.

I like my 10mm. I carry it around the house, around the farm, and in the woods. I know that it’s a pistol that should handle any situation. I can have low-power loads for target practice, defensive hollow points for concealed carry or I can get powerful deep penetrating loads for carrying around in the woods.

That’s what I love about the 10mm. It is perhaps the most versatile cartridge for modern handguns. Bullet weights run from 125 to 220-grains. The ammo varies widely in bullet style, energy, and velocity. Some loads are as slow as 1050 fps and as fast as 1700 fps. I’ve not seen that much variety with other calibers.

I know some people have concerns about the recoil of a 10mm. You needn’t be too worried though. They recoil more than some, but not harshly. My wife was actually pleasantly surprised shooting my 10mm Glock. She said it had less recoil than the sub-compact 9mm and 38 she had tried.

Most 10mm pistols are heavier and the extra weight really helps to handle the extra recoil. I have carpal tunnel from my construction job. I’ve also shot around over a thousand rounds through my 10mm and never had an issue. All in all, a 10mm recoils about like a 45, which isn’t bad at all.

10mm Glock 20 with ammo

Is a 10mm More Powerfull than a 45?

The 10mm is significantly more powerful than a 45 on average. the 45 run s between 350 and 400 ft/lbs. The 10mm starts around 400ft/lbs and gets nearly double that in factory standard pistols.

This table shows the common loadings available for both 10mm and 45 in the standard-velocity range.

10MM AmmoVelocityEnergy
Magtec 180 gr1230 fps605 ft/lbs.
Sellier and Bellot 180 gr1156 fps544 ft/lbs.
Remington 180 gr1150 fps529 ft/lbs.
Sig Sauer 180 gr1250 fps624 ft/lbs.
Fiocchi 180 gr1250 fps624 ft/lbs.
45 ACP Ammo
Winchester 230 gr835 fps356 ft/lbs.
Fiocchi 230 gr860 fps377 ft/lbs.
Remington 230 gr835 fps356 ft/lbs.
Sig Sauer 230 gr830 fps552 ft/lbs.
Sellier and Bellot 230 gr853 fps372 ft/lbs.

The standard 45 load is a 230-grain bullet going 835 fps with 356 ft/lbs of energy. The standard 10mm load is a 180-grain bullet going 1200 fps with 575 ft/lbs of energy. Using a similar bullet weight, a 10mm firing 220-grains at 1100 fps has 591 ft/lbs of energy. 10mm was designed to be more powerful than a 45.

Sure, you can get some extra power 45 rounds, but are they actually more than standard power 10mm rounds? let’s see. Here is a chart of max-power 45 and 10mm loads.

Full Power 10mm AmmoVelocityEnergy
Buffalo Bore 220 gr1200 fps705 ft/lbs.
Buffalo Bore 180 gr1350 fps728 ft/lbs.
Underwood 200 gr1250 fps694 ft/lbs.
Full Power 45 Ammo (+P)
Buffalo Bore 255 gr925 fps484 ft/lbs.
Buffalo Bore 230 gr950 fps461 ft/lbs.
Underwood 230 gr1000 fps511 fps

The 230-grain 45 has 451 and 511 pounds of energy. The 220-grain 10mm has 705 pounds of energy. That’s nearly 40 percent more bullet energy which is astoundingly more powerful for an automatic pistol.

If you want to know more, I wrote a full article on 10mm VS 45. Here’s the link.

Are 10mm and 40 Caliber the Same?

Both 10mm and 40 caliber shoot .401 diameter bullets and both generally shoot 180-grain bullets. But, the case is longer on the 10mm and it has 25 to 50% more bullet energy. The 40 S&W was designed to mimic a weak 10mm load in a shorter case. Some 10mm guns can actually fire 40 S&W.

So, originally the 10mm was developed with cooperation from the FBI. It was supposed to merge the best of power, speed, and a large bullet. It turned out pretty good with a 180-grain bullet at around 1250 fps. The FBI instantly made it standard issue.

However, a number of office workers complained about the pistol’s recoil compared to their previous 9mm pistols. Someone important must have complained because they loaded less powerful ammo which pushed the 180-grain bullet at about 1050 fps.

At that point, Smith and Wesson said they could just make a shorter case version 10mm with the same power, and fit it in a 9mm pistol frame. That way, they could simply convert the old 9mm pistols instead of buying all new ones. The FBI opted for this new shorter version called 40 S&W.

It still had an edge over the 9mm, but nowhere near as much as the full-power 10mm did. Today, the low-power 10mm loads are often referred to as FBI or FBI Lite loads. There still are some companies making the low-power 10mm that push a 180-grain bullet around 1,000 fps. But, it’s less popular.

Is 10mm Too Powerful for Self-Defense?

10mm is not too powerful for self-defense, and with good defensive ammo, it’s an incredible choice. If over-penetration is a concern, quality hollow points will perform admirably. In situations where overpenetration is not a concern, deeper penetrating 10mm loads work exceptionally well.

The 10mm isn’t a hand cannon. It’s nowhere near a rifle, and it’s definitely not too powerful for safe use as a defensive pistol. It doesn’t have as much energy as full-power. 357 Mag, which has been hailed as an effective choice for a defensive pistol for several generations.

10mm is getting a lot more common these days. The only reason you shouldn’t consider one is if you really just can’t shoot it well. I always tell people to consider owning the most powerful pistol that they can shoot well. Because really, why not?

If you liked this article, you’ll probably also like These.

9mm Vs 10mm, Which is Better? and 10mm AUTO vs .357 Magnum

Jordan Buck

Jordan Buck is an outdoor writer, a man of faith, and a family man. He grew up hunting, fishing, and trapping. Jordan has taught marksmanship, woodsmanship, and self-defense classes. He has earned black belts in four martial arts and is a certified Krav Maga instructor. He also runs his own Gun Blog and YouTube Channel. Jordan enjoys giving his time and resources to help others and has spent 15 years volunteering in a boy's mentoring program He is and will always be an American Patriot. MOLON LABE

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