The Forty Comes of Age

posted on November 4, 2014

I well remember Smith & Wesson’s new product press conference at a Las Vegas SHOT Show conference room. They announced the introduction of a brand-new automatic pistol cartridge—the .40 S&W—and the third generation gun to go with it. That was 1990 and nothing has been quite the same since. Before the introduction, the firearms press was awash with stories of policemen going down in a blaze of glory and a pile of brass from their ineffectual 9 mm pistols. Presumably, policemen in general were dying for a .45 pistol the size and weight of those vintage 9 mms. It is interesting to look at this round’s performance at the quarter century mark, as well as its impact on small arms in general.

I might be missing something, but you just don’t seem to hear much about the .40 S&W being a poor fight-stopper. If the .40 has silenced that criticism, it has done its job. Technology in firearms and ammunition has improved to the point where relatively few police officers are undergunned in handgun fights with criminals. Skillfully used, most police service handguns are up to the job. That includes the steadily popular 9 mms, which benefit most of all from improved ammunition. The .40 S&W is a pivotal cartridge and continues to be the most effective pistol cartridge in wide use, particularly when all its characteristics are concerned.


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