.40 S&W

From Academic Kids

The .40 S&W is a 10 mm pistol rimless cartridge designed by Smith & Wesson, a famous American firearms manufacturer.



It evolved from the 10 mm Auto pistol ammunition which had been adopted by the FBI, but turned out to be too powerful. The FBI started using a lowered charge version of the 10 mm Auto ammunition, a subsonic load often referred to as the "FBI load". Smith & Wesson redesigned the cartridge to make it shorter while maintaining the performance of the FBI load. The .40 S&W cartridge quickly surpassed the 10 mm cartridge in popularity and units sold. With the .40 S&W being shorter than the 10 mm Auto, many existing 9 mm Luger pistols could be adapted by their respective manufacturers to fire the new cartridge.

IMI attempted a similar cartridge in the 1980s, called the .41 Action Express (or .41 AE) for the Jericho 941 pistol. This cartridge was based on the .41 Magnum case, cut down to fit in a 9mm frame, and using a rebated rim the same diameter as the 9mm Luger. The .41 AE is ballistically similar to the .40 S&W, to the point that many reloading manuals suggest using .40 S&W load data in the .41 AE. The .41 AE is a more attractive cartridge in many ways, as the rebated rim allows a simple barrel and magazine change to allow most 9mm guns to be converted to .41 AE. The .41 AE uses .410 inch bullets, whereas the .40 S&W uses .400 inch bullets. However, as it lacks the backing of ammunition manufacturers in making .410 caliber bullets suited to semiautomatic pistols, the .41 AE has not achieved widespread popularity.

Initial acceptance of the .40 S&W was slow, since the round was very underpowered compared to the 10mm Auto it was based on. This lead to derogatory names such as ".40 Short and Wimpy" or ".40 Short and Weak". It was, however, a ballistically better choice than the 9mm for police and defensive use, and it quickly gained popularity once pistol manufacturers began to adapt their 9mm pistol designs to create additional models chambering .40 S&W.


The new .40 S&W cartridge has become a huge success in the United States, because its much more capable than the 9 mm Luger, without the overkill of the 10mm Auto cartridge. In the rest of the world it has become a popular combat pistol shooting sports cartridge.

The .40 S&W is the considered by some the best cartridge for law enforcement use available today, combining superior stopping power when used with expanding ammunition and manageable recoil into a package that remains compact.

Muzzle velocity

  • 8.7 g (135 Gr) Full Metal Jacket: 400 m/s (1310 ft/s)
  • 11.6 g (180 Gr) Full Metal Jacket: 290 m/s (950 ft/s)


  • .40
  • .40 S&W
  • .40 Auto
  • .40 Short & Wimpy (a derogatory comparison to the parent 10 mm Auto cartridge)
  • .40 Liberty
  • 10mm Kurz

See Also


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