I’ve never been a fan of the .40 S&W cartridge and I explained why in my “Teats, Bulls and the .40 S&W” article of June 22nd. While I never jumped on the .40 bandwagon, many police departments across the nation did in the 1990’s. That appears to be slowly changing.
I see regular news stories, some dating back several years, documenting the switch back to 9mm by PD’s nationwide. The reasons given for the switch to 9mm vary, but most PD’s feel the .40 S&W lowers hit probability and are concerned with the reduction in capacity. Back in 2011 the Wichita (KS) police made the switch back to 9mm from .40. Their tactical firearms instructor at the time said that “many officers’ shooting scores have been bad ever since the department armed with the .40-caliber handguns.”
This seems to be a fairly common theme, many departments have seen their qualification scores drop after switching to the .40 S&W. In an article from July 29th of this year, Chief Doug Barthel of the Sioux Falls (SD) PD said “the pistols have better accuracy and the ability to carry two more bullets than the [.40] Glocks.”
Columbia (SC) made a similar switch back to 9mm, swapping their Sig .45 ACP handguns for FN 9mm’s. Assistant Police Chief Ruben Santiago said officers will have improved accuracy with the lighter handgun, which doesn’t have as much recoil as the Sig .45-caliber pistols they’re replacing.
In 2011 the St. Paul (MN) PD switched from .40 back to the 9mm as well. The St. Paul PD started off with 9mm’s then switched to .40 S&W 18 years ago when the .40 S&W craze was sweeping PD’s across the nation. At the time when the switch occurred, 9mm ammo wasn’t performing as well as it does today with modern bullet technology. According to Sgt. Cory Tell “the performance of 9mm ammunition has changed dramatically and it’s much more powerful than it previously was.”
This is something I’ve talked about as well, modern 9mm bullet technology has leveled the playing field. When many of the police departments were jumping to .40 S&W, bullet technology was still in its infancy which helped to fuel the switch-over to .40. PD’s felt bigger was better in the absence of quality bullet designs. Today we have an assortment of modern high-performance 9mm loads that offer better penetration and expansion than loads on the market back in the 1990’s. A modern 9mm easily rivals the best .40 S&W or .45 ACP round in terms of ballistic performance and in real-world shootings. Even the FBI, who lead the charge in developing the .40 S&W, now authorizes their agents to carry 9mm service pistols.
Many people don’t understand how modern bullet technology has benefited the 9mm. Most .40 and .45 hollow points have historically been able to achieve 12″-18″ of penetration in 10% ballistics gel while offering on average 1.75% expansion — the magical numbers necessary to meet FBI standards. For the 9mm, this hasn’t always been the case. It took many years for bullet technology to evolve to allow the 9mm to achieve the same performance as its bigger brothers. Going past 12″-18″ of penetration is considered a bad thing which is why manufactures aren’t trying to increase the penetration capabilities of .40 and .45, just the 9mm.
The 9mm isn’t just making a comeback in police circles, most of the nations top firearms instructors also prefer 9mm handguns. Here’s a list of a few big names in the training world and their caliber of choice. This list is captured from public sources.
|Trainer||Gun(s) / Caliber|
|Travis Haley||Glock 17 9mm (also 9mm M&P)|
|Massad Ayoob||Glock 9mm (.357 Sig & .45)|
|Chris Costa||S&W M&P 9mm|
|Larry Vickers||Glock 17/19 9mm|
|Gabe Suarez||Glock 17 9mm|
|Rob Pincus||9mm (recommends a variety of handguns in this caliber)|
|Paul Gomez (RIP)||Glock 17/19 9mm|
|James Yeager||Glock 19 9mm|
|Andy Stanford||Glock 19 9mm|
|Kelly McCann||Glock 19 9mm|
|Jason Falla||Glock 17 9mm|
|Michael Janich||Glock 17 9mm|
|Dave Spaulding||Glock 19 9mm (sometimes Ruger SR9c)|
It seems .40 S&W continues to fall out of favor with more people coming to the realization the 9mm offers higher capacity, lower recoil, lower training costs and solid terminal ballistics when compared to the .40 S&W. During the last gun buying craze every caliber from .22LR to .45 ACP was absent from shelves around the country, however most people reported ample supplies of .40 S&W sitting around. Obviously this is a bonus for the .40 S&W since in times of crisis you might have a better shot at finding ammo, but does this single point outweigh the other benefits of using 9mm? That doesn’t appear to be the case as it seems not only the police and trainers are moving away from the .40 S&W but the general gun buying public is too.
***Update: ToddG over at pistol-training.com penned a similar article that went live a few hours after this one. He makes some interesting points in his article that I believe are worth consideration.