The .40 Smith & Wesson cartridge is a true success story. Part of the reason is that it’s a well-balanced compromise between the high cartridge capacity of the “Wonder Nines” and the reputed stopping power of the .45 ACP. Another part is the fact that .40-caliber firearms and ammo have increased in variety and improved steadily over the last 25 years.

The .40-caliber concept isn’t new. Eleven percent of Colt Single Action Army revolvers were chambered in .38-40. Sometime in the 1960s and ’70s, Bill Jordan, Elmer Keith and Skeeter Skelton brought the .40-caliber revolver concept back by calling for the development of a new revolver cartridge that fired a 180- to 200-grain bullet of approximately .40 caliber at about 1,100 fps.

As semi-autos became more popular, this “ideal” ballistic formula stimulated the development of pistol rounds like .40 Guns and Ammo, the .41 Action Express and the 10mm. In 1990, Smith & Wesson and Winchester cooperatively developed a .40 cartridge with a standard rim that could be fired in a 9mm platform. The idea caught on like wildfire after the appearance of the S&W Model 4006 and its 180-grain JHP cartridge with a velocity of 1,010 fps and 408 foot-pounds of muzzle energy.

The vast majority of .40 S&W guns used today for personal defense and law enforcement are semi-autos. The following is just a sample of some of the more popular .40-caliber pistols currently available. There are other well-made .40 S&W pistols on the market and they should not be overlooked just because they’re not listed in this article.



Kahr Arms

Springfield Armory

Sig Sauer

Smith & Wesson


Heckler & Koch



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