Some “dead” cartridges just seem to stay alive; the 10mm is the perfect example. Specifically, let’s examine 10mm handguns.
Having used the 10mm for more than two decades, its demise has been repeatedly predicted but has never actually occurred. Carried on duty, concealed, for SWAT and occasional hunting, it remains a favorite.
Roughly the ballistic equivalent of the .41 Magnum revolver cartridge — another one that won’t die — it has maintained a following since its very inception. Popularity has ebbed and flowed, but it’s never waned. In fact, it keeps rising.
Once limited to a couple of handguns, there are several offered today, more each year. Commercial ammunition once sparse is widely available in numerous loads from major manufacturers. It has become one of the most versatile handgun cartridges you can use; one reason it’s still around. But what role does it really fill?
10mm Handgun Versatility
The 10mm’s biggest strength is the ability to wear almost any hat a handgun round can.
Loaded with light- to mid-weight bullets (125-140 grains) it’s a superb self-defense round. With 125-grain controlled expansion ammunition, it delivers impressive energy with controlled penetration and devastating wound channels. Even at very high velocities — many at more than 1,500 feet per second — recoil remains almost light.
Move to the 150-160 grain loads and you get more energy and greater penetration, especially through media with only a slight increase in recoil.
Barnes makes an excellent 155-grain XPB in its VOR-TX line that performs incredibly well even at lower velocities. It’s perfect for older 1911 pistols.
Hornady does much the same thing with its Critical Duty line using a 175-grain bullet at 1,150 fps from a 5-inch barrel.
If you are looking to hunt, the 10mm may be the best semi-auto hunting cartridge on the market today. Loaded with 200- to 230- grain hard cast bullets, you can reach impressive levels of penetration for larger game.
Home or self-defense, duty or off duty, target or hunting — the 10mm is capable of doing them all.
Use the correct load and the 10mm will excel in semi-automatic pistols, revolvers, and even submachine guns.
For years the FBI Hostage Rescue Team fielded HK MP5/10s chambered in 10mm. It may very well be the best subgun cartridge ever used. Recoil is minimal allowing for solid control with pinpoint accuracy.
Using one many years ago, I put 20 rounds into less than two inches at 50 yards from a kneeling position. Given its 8.85-inch barrel, it easily penetrates a number of barriers using the correct ammunition.
Modern pistol caliber carbines are starting to build in this caliber and they can be impressive.
Colt’s Delta Elite is the most prolific platform for the 10mm. It is followed by the Glock 20, Glock 29, and the latest Glock 40 using a 6-inch barrel. I’m happy to report that my personal carry Delta Elite gets a steady diet of 155- to 180-grain loads at 1,200-1,500 fps.
Glock 20s are currently used by agencies in Alaska as a primary pistol. I carried one for years as my duty weapon.
Glock’s 40 MOS allows the use of an RDS and is perfect for hunting hogs or any number of game animals. Tanfoglio made one for years and it became a very popular competition pistol.
Several manufacturers make new 1911s in this caliber including Springfield Armory’s latest: the TRP.
Early Colt Delta Elites benefit from the light loads, but modern 1911s are all capable of shooting heavier and faster loads. My personal carry Delta Elite gets a steady diet of 155- to 180-grain loads at 1,200-1,500 fps. It has received that treatment for years with no issues. Custom 1911s chambered in this caliber seem to grow in numbers every year.
Revolvers are a perfect platform for this caliber.
Smith and Wesson’s Model 610 remains very popular (with an impressive price to boot) and is now available with a 6-1/2″ barrel.
One of the most impressive 10mm revolvers I’ve come across is the Ruger Super Redhawk. Smooth, strong, and built to Ruger’s standards, it is an excellent hunting handgun that is easy to carry. Need a dependable backup in the backcountry? This may be it. This double-action revolver packs a true wallop that is more than ready to take on bear country. If it were up to me, I’d equip every backcountry hiker and hunter with a 10mm just to keep the statistics of bear attacks down.
Bottom Line on 10mm Handguns
So where do 10mm handguns fit in? Just about anywhere.
The only place it really does not seem to work is as a compact. A few commander-sized handguns have been made, but recoil is pretty intensive.
For anything else, there is a 10mm that will fit. Concealed carry, home and vehicle defense, duty, tactical teams, hunting — anywhere you need or want the power this cartridge brings to the table. Few cartridges can go from the holster to the hunt with nothing more than a magazine swap.
Is it for everyone? Absolutely not. But nor is it the monster many make it out to be. Every person I have introduced this caliber to immediately says, “Oh, it’s not that bad.”
Give 10mm handguns a try. You will be surprised.