By Sam Hoober, Alien Gear Holsters
The “caliber wars” are completely redundant by this point, but people still like getting into it and one of the rounds that is getting more frequently touted as a wunderkind is the 10mm Auto. The Springfield 10mm TRP RMR is a joy to shoot and the new(ish) XDM 4.5 in 10mm sure ain’t bad either.
It’s a great round, no doubt about it. Is it everything people say it is? Is the 10mm the king of all handgun rounds?
In point of fact it’s not, but if you wanted to get into a particular caliber for its inherent advantages, 10mm offers a lot if you have the right job in mind for it.
Cartridges are merely tools and each has a best use. 9x19mm is the gold standard of personal protection rounds because it’s more or less the floor for reliable stoppages when used in a personal defense role, recoil is very manageable and ammunition is cheap. .44 Magnum is good for handgun hunting as it offers the devastating energy necessary to down large game at close quarters, but isn’t the best for personal defense because recoil is punishing and it’s – if anything – overpowered for humans.
And so on.
What is 10mm good for? Almost everything, actually; there is no better all-purpose handgun round out there except maybe for .45 Super despite that round never catching on. It can be loaded light for target use and personal defense, and loaded heavy for handgun hunting. It’s been proven in the field for use on whitetail deer and hogs. A number of Alaskans carry 10mm pistols for bear defense and there are a number of reports of successful bear stoppages with the round.
Light loads are basically a .40 S&W with a longer case. Medium loads are about equal to most .357 Magnum loads. Handloaders have long bemoaned how diluted 10mm factory loads are, so it’s capable of .41 Magnum power levels.
However, it does come with some costs.
First, ammo is a little more expensive. If you’re used to buying 9mm hardball, you’ll get a little sticker shock. If you’re used to buying .45 ACP, it isn’t too much worse.
As to use as defensive ammunition, most real-world results in self-defense encounters basically indicate that overpowered handgun ammunition doesn’t really give you much advantage; going up 1mm won’t guarantee a one-shot-stop at all. It remains that 9mm is cheaper, easier to shoot, and with modern hollow points, more than effective enough for personal defense.
As far as handgun hunting goes, .44 Magnum, .45 Colt +P, .454 Casull (and larger) have an edge in terms of velocity, energy and terminal performance. Will it work? You bet! But there are some tools that work a little better at that task. As far as a bear pistol goes, that’s a little different. 10mm has worked in the field and gives you more (and faster) follow-up shots, but a .44 Mag has drastically more energy on impact.
Then there’s the hitch of actually finding a gun.
There are plenty of 10mm pistols out there, be in no doubt. The bulk of them, however, are 1911-pattern guns. Only a few are Commander frames (Rock Island Armory makes a couple) but none are lightweight models. Compacts in 10mm are rare (I’m aware of three, two of which are Glocks and one is made by Tanfoglio) so you’d better be up for packing a full-size if you’re determined to carry a 10mm pistol.
I don’t find toting a Gov’t frame to be untenable, but mine has also been relegated to safe duty in lieu of a compact 9mm. Then again, you want a full-size gun if you start shooting the harder stuff.
Granted, this is the on-paper stuff that doesn’t really factor into most people’s purchasing decisions. The reason a person buys a gun is usually not because “well, it has the most optimal features for the purpose” such as concealed carry, range use and so on; they buy it because it looks cool and is fun to shoot. That’s why so many people buy AR-15s. Shooting 10mm is a heck of a lot of fun, and I totally want a Delta Elite at some point.
Is it the be-all, end-all of handgun rounds? No, but it covers most bases about as well as they can be covered. You should totally get one if you want. Just don’t drink too much of the Kool-Aid, so to speak.
Sam Hoober is Contributing Editor for AlienGearHolsters.com, a subsidiary of Hayden, ID, based Tedder Industries, where he writes about gun accessories, gun safety, open and concealed carry tips. Click here to visit aliengearholsters.com.