.40 smith and Wesson ballistics test

As one of the most popular defensive calibers it is only logical to include it in the series of ballistic tests I have performed.

First, a little history on the .40 S&W,

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 ,40 S&W. 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 two suspects involved. In about 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 nor Matix 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. 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 1989 Mr. Melvin at Smith and Wesson and Mr. Bersette at Winchester realized that the power levels the FBI were seeking could be achieved  by shortening the 10mm Auto case .142″ allowing the grip on the handgun to be smaller and better controlled by the agents with smaller hands. In about six months from conception the .40 S&W was born.

The .357 Sig round also owes its existence to the .40 S&W case necked down to accept a 9mm bullet (.355″) created by SIG-Sauer and Federal Ammunition in 1994.

The .40 S&W has gained popularity over the two decades it has been around but has also drawn a bit of criticism.  After reading my findings you can decide for yourself.


It all started on a very beautiful Sunday with my friend Clinton Jameson, a couple of blocks of ballistic gel, my CED chronograph, a Kahr CT 40, and a pile of ammunition. Much of the test ammunition was donated by Clinton.


We set up the chronograph and gel twenty-five feet from the pistol and got started. For the record, the Kahr CT 40 has a four inch barrel. Clinton and I believe this is a good average represented as barrel lengths of common carry pistols.  I am also writing a review of the same pistol so this is giving me a head start on the review. To see the full review of the CT 40 click this link.




Please click on the table to see a larger version.

After all that it looks like the .40 S&W is a viable defensive cartridge, with modern pistols and bullet designs popular defensive cartridges seem to do much better than they did some years back. I have always kidded my friends who favor this round by referring to the .40 Smith and Wesson as the .40 Short and Weak (as I am a 10mm Auto junky) but after this experiment I will attempt to wean myself from that comment, but baby steps my friends, baby steps. Let’s not get crazy all at once as I speak sarcasm fluently.

The bullet on the left is through bare gel and the one on the right was through the 3 layers.


The Speer Gold Dots


Hornady Critical Duty and Defense


Civil Defense and Remington JHP.

The Civil Defense round showed complete fragmentation through bare gel and 3 layers with the only the base being recovered at .40″


Winchester PDX1 and the Remington Golden Saber


From left to right, Winchester PDX-1   Cor-Bon 165 gr, Federal HST, Remington Golden Saber


This was the wound track of the Civil Defense



Clinton Jameson


Wayhoo 95

By Hunter Elliott

I spent much of my youth involved with firearms and felt the call early on to the United States Marine Corps, following in my father's and his brother's footsteps. Just after high school I enlisted and felt most at home on the rifle range, where I qualified expert with several firearms and spent some time as a rifle coach to my fellow Marines. After being honorably discharged I continued teaching firearm safety, rifle and pistol marksmanship, and began teaching metallic cartridge reloading. In the late 1990s I became a life member to the National Rifle Association and worked with the Friends of the NRA. Around that time my father and I became involved with IDPA and competed together up until he passed away. I began reviewing firearms for publications in the mid 2000s and have been fortunate to make many friends in the industry. Continuing to improve my firearms skills and knowledge is a never ending journey in which we should all be committed. I am also credited as weapons master on a few independent films.

4 thoughts on “.40 Smith and Wesson ballistic test, updated.”
  1. The FBI’s decision to pursue a mid-velocity 10mm load was made before the S&W 1076 was even adopted. The great irony is that even though the .40 S&W duplicated the FBI’s 10mm ballistics, the FBI’s Firearms Training Unit did not authorize a .40 S&W load or pistol for several years.

  2. Included, is a shameless plug for Beretta, but he combination of my PX4 and the .40 Smith, is consistantly capable of puting one round on top of another at 15 yrds. I am very satisfied.

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