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The 10mm Auto: The Most Versatile Automatic Handgun Cartridge on the Market

Updated on August 4, 2014
10mm Auto (from left to right): 165gr Speer Gold Dot, Remington 180gr truncated flat nose FMJ, Hornady 180gr XTP hollow point
10mm Auto (from left to right): 165gr Speer Gold Dot, Remington 180gr truncated flat nose FMJ, Hornady 180gr XTP hollow point | Source

Brief History of the 10mm Automatic

While the 10mm Automatic has been in existence since 1983, the cartridge didn't come to the forefront until 1989 when the F.B.I. adopted the cartridge after the 1986 Miami Shootout. The 10mm was selected for the amount of energy it was capable of producing. However, after a short time it was concluded that the cartridge was too large for some agents with smaller hand and that the recoil was excessive for training purposes and for proficiency. This is very possibly why the cartridge has not come to the forefront of handgun shooting like the 9mm, the .40 Smith and Wesson, and the .45 ACP. The .40 Smith and Wesson (S&W) was developed in response to the 10mm Auto's demise with the F.B.I., as it is a shorter version of the same cartridge.

Today, the 10mm auto can be found in most gun shops and some major retail outlets, but it is looked at as a novelty. The truth is, the 10mm auto is a very impressive cartridge which has a small, but fiercely loyal following. It uses the same bullets as those commonly loaded in the very popular .40 S&W, but has more energy than the .45 ACP.

Comparative Chart of Energies and Velocities for the 10mm Automatic

Cartridge
Bullet Weight (gr)
Muzzle Velocity (ft/s)
Muzzle Energy (ft/lbs)
.45 ACP*
230
950
462
10mm
180
1350
728
41 Rem. Mag.
210
1300
788
Specifications come from Manufacturer data, 10mm-Buffalo Bore, 41 Rem. Mag.-Remington, .45 ACP-Hornady. *data is for a +p load.

Uses for the 10mm Automatic

Hunting

There is a sub-sect of hunters, who have done their homework, and found that the 10mm Auto lends itself well to hunting purposes for medium sized game like deer, hogs, and has even been used to harvest Elk (spot and stalk is a must here). The energy of the cartridge, coupled with the different firearms made in the caliber make it a fun cartridge for those looking to hunt with handguns. Some compare the ballistics of the 10mm to the .41 Remington Magnum, which may seem far fetched on the surface, but really is a valid comparison. Some of the "hotter" 10mm loads that you can find commercially or load by yourself rival energies achieved with the .41 Rem. Mag.

Even for hunters who don't intend to hunt with the 10mm, it has proven to be a viable cartridge for a side arm for hunters who may need one, such as bear or hog hunters. The 10mm is incredibly potent for hogs, and has the energy to take down bear at close range. The 10mm is primarily found in semi-automatic handguns, and having the potency of the 10mm coupled with a magazine capable of holding 10+ shots, it makes sense that it would be a used as a side arm in those instances.

Self-Defense

Many of the same reasons that make the 10mm Automatic a great hunting round also pertain to it's use as a self-defense cartridge. Manufacturers like Glock and Smith & Wesson make semi-automatic handguns (some in a compact frame) in the 10mm automatic. These firearms can be used for concealed carry purposes (where legal) as well as home defense. Self-defense and hunting ammunition are essentially one-in-the-same, and for reloaders, components are abundant.

Firearms in the 10mm Caliber can be found from the following manufacturers:

  • Glock
  • Rock Island Armory
  • Smith & Wesson
  • Colt
  • Thompson Center

While the Thompson Center Contender is not a prime choice for self-defense, it is important to note for hunters, as it can be found with both 10 and 14 inch barrels and is very accurate. Most information from manufacturers is bases on a 4-5" barrel, meaning there is untapped energy and velocity potential in a longer barrel like that of the Contender.

Have you ever fired a firearm in 10mm Automatic?

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Reloading for the 10mm Automatic

Hunters and shooters alike enjoy reloading the calibers they shoot, and the same is true for the 10mm Auto. The 10mm shoots a .400" diameter bullet, the same as the .40 S&W. While the 10mm Auto may not be as popular as it's less powerful relative, the commercial success of the .40S&W benefits 10mm Auto shooters in that a variety of bullets are available in the caliber. In these different varieties of bullets, there are various weights available. However, it is important to note that lighter bullets like the 125 and 155 gr are less commonly loaded in the 10mm as they do not utilize the inherent potential of the cartridge. Many hunters and self-defense loaders choose to load 165-200 gr. bullets to fully utilize the energy possible with the 10mm Auto, as well as maximize penetration on target.

Many manufacturers make brass for the 10mm Automatic, in both brass and nickle finishes. The nickle finish is important as it allows spent casings to be pulled from the chamber more easily than brass cases. Winchester, Remington, and Starline are just a few of the manufacturers that make reloadable brass for hunters and shooters alike.

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