You can see the updated ballistic test using many more rounds of 10mm Auto here
Necessity is the mother of invention.
We all have to compromise, it is the way of things. Many people have decided to carry a handgun in order to defend themselves (rightly so). For those of us who carry there are many facets to consider, one of those is caliber. I am not going into the whole caliber war in this article but we are going to run a series of articles comparing calibers to one another and people can draw their own conclusions.
I decided to start with the 10mm Auto, being that it is one of my personal favorites.
A little history in the 10mm Auto before we get into my findings. Early in the 1970s Whit Collins (who was on staff with Guns and Ammo magazine) was interested in rechambering the 9mm Browning Hi-Power into a more powerful cartridge. He initially looked at the Super .38 (which came about in 1929 using the.38 Automatic but increasing the propellant to give law enforcement an edge in handgun firepower) but consulting with Col. Jeff Cooper (a retired Marine and renowned gun writer) who had the idea of a 200gr bullet .400″ in diameter traveling around 1000 feet per second.He began to work on that idea. Whit then looked at cutting down the .30 Remington Rifle case (similar to the 30-30 Winchester) for the case and the .40 caliber 180gr bullet from the 38-40 Winchester for the prototype round. He then asked Col. Cooper for his assistance on the development. Then Irv Stone of Bar-Sto barrels and John French a gunsmith begin work on the project and in 1972 a rechambered Browning Hi-Power chambered in .40 G&A was test fired. The round was a 180gr .40 that was traveling about 1050 fps. Col Cooper then began developing the .40 Super and around 1980 he collaborated with Thomas Dornaus and Michael Dixon who were working toward the same goal as Col. Cooper the .40 Super evolved into the 10mm Auto we have come to know and love.
Dornaus & Dixon Enterprises INC of Thomas Dornaus and Michael Dixon came into being in 1981 and they began to work with Norma Ammunition to produce the round and aid in pistol design. Many of the characteristics of the CZ-75 were used in the development of the Bren Ten which begin to be produced in 1983 and remained in production until 1985. Dornaus & Dixon Enterprises were plagued with issues with the pistol as they were shipped before they could be thoroughly tested in order to keep up with the already high demand. That coupled with the high MSRP and not being able to get reliable magazines from Mec-Gar an Italian company who had several issues with the heat treating and feed lips becoming deformed caused customers to cancel orders in 1986 and forced Dornaus & Dixon into bankruptcy.
This would not be the end of the 10mm Auto by any means as Colt Manufacturing saw the potential of the 10mm and begin to chamber their Colt Delta Elite, a Government Model in 10mm Auto.
In 1986 Michael Lee Platt and William Russell Matix (men who had met and became friends in the US Army) who had no prior criminal record murdered a man while he was target shooting, stole his car, and the two became bank robbers. Please bear with me as this story holds relevance to the 10mm Auto. A team of FBI agents assembled in order to search for the stolen Monte Carlo on a hunch they would be robbing a bank that day. Sure enough the car was spotted and the FBI attempted to pull them over, there was an accident and a brutal gun fight erupted. The FBI agents were primarily armed with 9mm pistols and .357 Magnum revolvers (loaded with .38 Special +P). While Platt was armed with a Ruger Mini 14 and .357 Magnum and Matix was armed with 12 ga. shotgun. There were eight FBI agents and the two suspects and in under five minutes just under 150 rounds were exchanged. Matix was hit a half dozen times and Platt was hit a dozen times through the battle, both finally expiring but not before killing two agents and wounding five. One final note neither Platt or Matrix were under the influence of any drugs.
After the shoot out the FBI did an extensive investigation and concluded that the agents’ deaths were at least partly due to the lack of stopping power of their issued sidearms, also realizing the slow reloading time of a revolver and the limited ammunition capacity as compared to a semi automatic they begin to look for a more powerful cartridge chambered in a semi automatic handgun. The FBI chose the Smith and Wesson model 1076 chambered in the 10mm Auto round.
Many of the agents had difficulty with the recoil so Federal was commissioned to load a 180gr bullet to about 950 fps, that round became known as the 10mm FBI or 10mm Lite. In 1990 Smith and Wesson realized that with the decreased powder charge the case of the 10mm Auto could be shortened allowing the grip on the handgun to be smaller. So they partnered with Winchester, 10mm Auto case was shortened by .142″ and the .40 Smith and Wesson was born also known as the .40 S&W. The S&W Model 1076 lasted less than five years with the FBI.
The .357 Sig round also owes its existence to the 10mm Auto as it is a .40 S&W case necked down to accept a 9mm bullet (.355″) created by SIG-Sauer and Federal Ammunition in 1994. There are a few other rounds that have used the 10mm Auto as inspiration.
Even though a few setbacks the 10mm still enjoys a very loyal following today as both a self defense cartridge and for hunting.. Many who compete in pistol matches use the 10mm because it easily makes power factor. Being a very versatile cartridge is what I believe keeps the 10mm alive. It can easily be downloaded to .40 S&W velocities for practice and training and then brought right back to potential for a very viable defensive cartridge. The 10mm also makes an excellent trail cartridge for those who hike or camp and carry a sidearm for protection. Many major manufacturers such as Colt, Glock, Kimber, and Tanfoglio build firearms chambered in the 10mm as well as ammunition manufacturers such as Hornady, Remington, PMC, and Federal offer a variety factory loaded rounds as well as reloading components.
There is enough information, misinformation, and opinions on the 10mm Auto to fill a football stadium. With that in mind I decided it was time to get some facts together. I wanted to be as objective as possible on this test so I procured a Glock Model 20 Generation 3 some time back, a very common quality handgun. I placed a call to Hornady whom I believe build a quality cutting edge round and had 10mm Auto in 155gr, 180gr, and 200gr their factory loads shipped to me. The last piece of the puzzle was a medium to test the rounds performance. Ideally the medium is ballistic gel but standard ballistic gel is a little difficult to work with. With some research I found a company called Clear Ballistics, who manufactured ready made ballistic gel that did not require constant refrigeration. With everything assembled it was time to get on with it.
It was a beautiful Saturday morning when we brought the gel from it’s plastic container into the world to help us answer some questions. On a side note I really liked the gel block, I feel like we bonded right off the bat and I kind of hated to shoot holes in it but on with the mission.
I also brought my CED Millennium chronograph to keep the numbers honest. We set a table up about twenty-five feet from a shooting rest and got to it. We started the shoot off with the 200gr, following with the 180gr and finally the 155gr. We decided to shoot 1 round of each into the face of the block with the face of the second block touching the end of the first.
According to Clear Ballistics we should be able to shoot three to five rounds into a block without affecting the test results. After those three rounds were fired we turned the blocks around and hung the pocket of sturdy cargo pants in front of the block, effectively adding three layers of cloth the round would have to penetrate before it penetrated the gel. With shooting the bare gel and getting the measurements we now had a baseline to compare the difference three layers of sturdy cloth would make.
After the gel test was finished and we got the measurements we moved onto the chronograph. I then shot seven rounds of each bullet weight over the chrono in order to get a good average of the bullet velocities. Once that data was recorded we recovered the spent bullets and they were measured to record how much the bullet expanded and weighed to see how much mass the bullet was able to maintain.
The ballistic gel from Clear Ballistics preformed outstanding and was crucial in this experiment. Also the Hornady ammunition preformed excellent, being very consistent and reliable. After this test the 180gr 10mm Auto has become my first choice for a carry round in my Glock 20.
|Hornady 10mm Ammo||200 Grain||180 Grain||155 Grain|
|average velocity from 4.5″ barrel||1083||1162||1309|
|bullet penetration bare gel||24″||17.5″||13″|
|bullet penetration 3 layers||23″||16″||8″|
In the video the order you see is first the 200gr Hornady jacketed hollow point, next was the 180gr JHP, and lastly the 155gr JHP.
As you can tell the 10mm Auto is a very powerful cartridge even out of a 4.5″ barrel. I ordered a factory Glock 6″ barrel and retested a few rounds over the chronograph and averaged a gain of 70 feet per second. Some say the 10mm is irreverent, hard to shoot, expensive, and outdated. I believe personally it was ahead of it’s time and should be considered when choosing a self defense cartridge. With proper training and technique many can manage the recoil of the big 10. Meghan, a young woman whom I instructed on defensive pistol shooting had no problem shooting my Glock 20 as well as her Glock 29, a subcompact pistol chambered in 10mm Auto. A total of 27 rounds were fired for the test and afterwards we did some recreational shooting. On a side note this brings the round count to well over 1200 rounds (factory and reloads) in my Glock 20 without a failure. Factory 10mm Auto ammunition is available in many flavors from mild to wild for whatever you may need from your firearm. The round also benefits from reloading, using .400″ bullets which are plentiful we well as large pistol primers. The 10mm works well with a variety of propellents and it is not a difficult round to reload but caution should be exercised when approaching hot loads as with any round.
I hope after reading this you may be so inclined to investigate this round a little deeper and see what it is all about. For me it is the underdog that is constantly prevailing in spite of (or perhaps because of) it’s checkered past.
I would like to thank the following for their assistance with this article:
Clear Ballistics http://clearballistics.com/
For the updated ballistic test click here