The 9 lives of the 10mm

A little history in the 10mm Auto.

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, began 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 feet per second. Col Cooper then began developing the .40 Super and around 1980 he collaborated with Thomas Dornaus and Michael Dixon, who was working toward the same goal as Col. Cooper, and the .40 Super evolved into the 10mm Automatic 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 began 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 began 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 gunfight 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 shootout 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, and 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, and the 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.

So now we know a bit of history on the Ten Mike Mike.

Short video of a female student running a Glock 29 with full power 180gr FMJ 10mm. Makes me think maybe all the hype of that round being tough to control is hype.

You can also sort through reviews I have done on 10mm Auto firearms and see a multitude of shooters of all skill levels running the firearms.

Dan Wesson Razorback 

Dan Wesson Bruin 

Dan Wesson Wraith 

Colt Delta Elite 

Ruger SR1911

Ruger Super Redhawk 10mm

Ruger GP 100 Match Champion 10mm

Glock 40

Coonan 10mm

Hi-Point 1095 

American Derringer 10mm 

Wilson Combat Hunter 10mm

As you can see I have a bit of experience with several platforms in the 10mm Auto as well as a ballistic test 

I fell in love with the big 10 in the mid 1990s when I bought my first Colt Delta Elite. I went into this old country store to look around at their decent selection of guns. I saw the stainless Colt, lying there in a side case with other second hand pistols. I spoke to the man at the counter and learned it was a trade in on a shotgun or something along those lines. It had been there well over a year largely ignored, for attention was on the newest shotgun or some super short magnum bolt gun. I had heard of the 10mm and knew a little about it but the gun was priced to move and so I took the Colt home with me, stopping off for some 10mm reloading dies and bullets. It was then I began to learn of the cartridge and develop a true appreciation of its potential. I still have the Delta Elite as well as a modest collection of 10mm handguns. It is easily my favorite handgun cartridge of all time.

The cartridge has risen and fallen several times, through no real fault of its own. Just as it begins to fade into oblivion it is snatched back from the jaws of history and reenergized. When the .40 S&W was chosen over the 10mm it seemed the cartridge was doomed to never reach mainstream for the last time. Few manufacturers were offering factory pistols and factory loaded ammunition was slim pickings.

Yet again the 10mm began to gain traction, but not due to any real reason in particular. In my opinion, some of the factors were handgun hunting was gaining popularity. Concealed carry had become very popular and many sought out a powerful handgun for the streets as well as the woods, all the while the cult-like following continued to sing its praises in increasingly popular internet forums and message boards.  I imagine it was a lot of small reasons for the resurgence and not most of the major manufacturers offer a handgun option in 10mm while several carbines have been introduced. The ammunition manufacturers have also put some R&D into the cartridge and have given us a plethora of options for target, hunting, and self-defense applications.

I am thrilled the 10 is making its comeback and it appears it has embedded itself well into the shooting community it shall not be going away anytime soon. With the ability to be downloaded for easy range use of punching paper but the capacity for some very serious self-defense ammunition, the 10mm has a lot of variables. With so many options of bullet weights, designs, and velocities it is not hard to tailor your 10mm firearm for several tasks, with plenty of overlap so you should never be undergunned.  If you have not added something in 10mm to your collection, well now is as good of a time as any, especially if you are looking to upgrade your carry gun.

 

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8 Responses to The 9 lives of the 10mm

  1. 58marine December 17, 2018 at 7:44 am #

    Well done, Hunter. I’ve been thinking about picking up a 10mm, but I don’t think it’ll replace the 9mm I use for edc. Any thoughts on that?
    Semper Fi.

    • Hunter Elliott December 18, 2018 at 11:48 pm #

      The 9mm is a fine defensive round for sure. I sometimes carry one myself and have no problem at all. I do prefer the 10mm though, while you do lose a bit of capacity I like the versatility of a round that will serve well in town or on the trail. The 135gr JHP from Double Tap is a fine defensive round while you have the 230gr hardcast LRN for large critters.

      Semper Fi brother.

  2. Patrick Foret December 17, 2018 at 4:20 pm #

    I find it interesting that after the Miami shoot out the FBI blamed the 9mm for the extended war as opposed to the truth. The 10 was then adopted shortly but was too much gun for the faint at heart, Then the 40 S&W and now back to the 9mm. What exactly will be blamed next time? Maybe just simply lack of training.

    • 58marine December 17, 2018 at 4:35 pm #

      I was a range officer at a public range and quite a few cops shot there. On average, they were some of the worst shooters I came across. Go figure.

    • Roger V.Tranfaglia December 29, 2018 at 3:35 pm #

      One point about that shootout I read sometime ago. Military training! The 2 bad actors were trained in OFFENSIVE tatics. Whereas the FBI were trained in DEFENSIVE tatics.

  3. Silence DoGood December 29, 2018 at 12:54 pm #

    You should never print the names of the two perps in the Miami shootout. Their names should never be spoken again. To be forgotten is the ultimate disrespect. Continuing to print their names gives them eternal life.

    The FBI’s seminal white paper on the 1986 shootout was Special Agent Urey W. Patrick’s “Handgun Wounding Factors and Effectiveness.” His overall conclusion is summed up in seven words: too little penetration will get you killed. Prior to that, penetration generally took a back seat to expansion. A bullet that expanded to the size of a shot glass was considered ideal, regardless how limited its penetration was.

    So the FBI created an imaginary “ideal” bullet that would penetrate at least 12″ but not more than 18″ and expand to at least 150% of its original diameter (in 10% ballistic gel). And they conceived of six different conditions under which the bullet had to exhibit that same level of performance, including against winter clothing (because thick clothing tends to fill the cavity of a hollowpoint and alter its expansion characteristics), and after penetrating a sheetrock wall or an automobile windshield.

    Then they challenged bullet manufacturers to create just such a bullet. A tough ask, to say the least. And to their credit, they bullet companies have manned up, given the FBI what they’d asked for. And they continue to make bullets tested to the FBI standard.

    More than any other single development, that is the single most important consequence of the 1986 Miami shoot-out. The days of designing bullets based on tests using hog carcasses or water-logged telephone books are over. To quote SA Patrick, “There was no meaningful ammunition testing prior to 1988.” But the FBI changed that, because of the Miami shootout.

    And that’s why the FBI has gone back to the 9mm. Because they didn’t abandon it because it was ever inadequate, the abandoned it because the performance of the available bullets was inconsistent.

  4. Silence DoGood December 29, 2018 at 7:27 pm #

    You should never print the names of the two perps in the Miami shootout. Their names should never be spoken again. To be forgotten is the ultimate disrespect. Printing their names only keeps memory of them alive. Keeps them alive.

    The FBI never considered the 10mm to be “too much gun,” they did their own testing and found a less powerful load than what Col. Cooper would have preferred was adequate to their needs. They never issued a “full-house” 10mm load, they only ever issued what came to be known as “the FBI load” or “10mm-lite.”

    S&W realized there was a lot of wasted case capacity in the 10mm-lite load so they approached the FBI and proposed a new cartridge that would have identical ballistics to their 10mm (lite) load but would come in a shorter enough case that it could be used in a 9mm-sized gun. That is how the .40 Short & Weak came to see light of day. The round the FBI carried in their .40S&Ws shot the same bullet at the same MV as had their 10mms.

    The FBI’s seminal white paper on the 1986 shootout was Special Agent Urey W. Patrick’s “Handgun Wounding Factors and Effectiveness.” His overall conclusion is summed up in seven words: too little penetration will get you killed. Prior to that, penetration generally took a back seat to expansion. A bullet that expanded to the size of a shot glass was considered ideal, regardless how limited its penetration was.

    So the FBI created an imaginary “ideal” bullet that would penetrate at least 12″ but not more than 18″ and expand to at least 150% of its original diameter (in calibrated 10% ballistic gel). And they conceived of six different conditions under which the bullet had to exhibit that same level of performance, including against winter clothing (because thick clothing tends to fill the cavity of a hollowpoint and alter its expansion characteristics), and after penetrating a sheetrock wall or an automobile windshield.

    Then they challenged bullet manufacturers to create just such a bullet. A tough ask, to say the least. And to their credit, they bullet companies have manned up, given the FBI what they’d asked for, and they continue to make bullets tested to the FBI standard.

    More than any other single development, that is the single most important consequence of the 1986 Miami shoot-out. To quote SA Patrick, “There was no meaningful ammunition testing prior to 1988.” But the days of basing bullet design on tests against hog carcasses or water-logged telephone books are over. And terminal performance is more about the bullet than about the caliber or the cartridge. Any bullet with the FBI seal of approval can be counted on to do the business, regardless of the cartridge.

    And that’s why the FBI has gone back to the 9mm. Because they didn’t abandon it because it was ever inadequate, they abandoned it because the performance of the bullets that then were available was inconsistent. And you’d be a ill-advised not to defer to the FBI’s subject matter expertise in this matter and limit your carry loads to something with their blessing.

  5. Mike in a Truck December 30, 2018 at 7:53 pm #

    Ready!Moving! This is what a two ( actually 3) man fire and maneuver team does. This is what the two perps did. They conducted a combat assault against law enforcement-their worst nightmare. LE expect the criminals to move away from them-not towards them or flank them.Nothing-Nothing is more terrifying than an opponent coming straight at you or from an oblique angle-while laying down suppressive fire. Hardware cant make up for lack of software. But the 10mm was a very good step in the right direction.My brother has one of those S&W in 10mm.A big handful for sure.Yes there is a gap in my universe that needs to be filled with a 10mm handgun. But it will be revolver.

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