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The Beloved 10mm – Too Powerful Even For The FBI

smith and wesson 610

image credit smith-wessonforum.com

If there was a bullet in the world of modern automatics that was incredibly loved and incredibly underrated it would be the 10mm. The 10mm is a round that has developed a cult-like following of true believers. It is a cartridge that was developed by a firearms genius, issued to the FBI in a rush and just as quickly de-issued. It has a reputation as a wrist-breaker and one heck of a man-stopper. It’s often a misunderstood round and has its legend surrounding it.

The 10mm was developed by the legendary Jeff Cooper. Jeff Cooper was a proponent of powerful, heavy-hitting rounds designed to take a man down with minimal fuss. The 10mm was designed by a hand gunner for hand gunners. The round is versatile enough to be “amped” up for hot powerful loads, or toned down for easier control. The original 10 mm offered some impressive ballistics, the loading was a 170gn JHP at 1,300fps. The round offered more than 600 foot pounds of energy.

In response to the 1986 Miami shootout, the 10 mm was adopted by the FBI. The 1986 shootout left a team of FBI agents outgunned by two men, one wielding a semi-auto rifle. The FBI outnumbered the shooters, and was armed with mostly revolvers, with only a couple of automatics. The fling between the FBI and the 10mm was a brief affair. For a while the 10 mm was the go-to cartridge for law enforcement, and the FBI’s adoption sent police agencies around the country wanting their own 10 mm. It was decided, though, that the 10mm was too powerful, and had too much recoil for most agents to successfully qualify, and therefore was viewed to be too much for the average agent to handle in a fight.

In my opinion the recoil of the 10mm isn’t excessive in anyway. I am a large man, but in all honesty that doesn’t matter as much as people think. I’ve known plenty of smaller-frame people who can handle .44 magnum loads quite well. Anyway, back on point, it’s my opinion the 10mm’s recoil isn’t as bad as the .357 magnum load.

The problem was the people shooting weren’t necessarily hand gunners, or even serious shooters of any kind. These agents were familiar with the light-recoiling 38 special and 9mm para bellum loads. To inexperienced shooters the 10 mm must have seemed like a real cannon. Once the 40 S&W was invented the 10mm was effectively dead, kind of.

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The 10 mm gained some fame as being Sonny Crockett’s choice in the show Miami Vice with his Bren Ten handgun. Then Colt adopted the round in their 1911 platform, called the Colt Delta Elite. Smith and Wesson’s 1076 was chosen by the FBI for their brief 10 mm love affair. There was a group of hand gunners out there that saw the value of the 10mm cartridge and have developed their own little cult. The amount of loads for the 10mm these people have devised is mind-blowing.

The 10 mm is far from a popular round, but the little group of 10 mm lovers has kept the little round that could going in a variety of platforms.

Bren Ten

The Bren Ten was a weapon that had tremendous potential, but failed to live to the hype. The Bren Ten was based off the popular CZ 75 handgun. The Bren Ten was the first 10mm pistol and as I mentioned Sonny Crockett’s signature weapon. The Bren Ten suffered from some major quality control issues, with a good Bren Ten being an amazing weapon, and a bad one being a paper weight. A Bren Ten cracked frame wasn’t an uncommon occurrence. Other issues included magazine quality, magazine availability, and price, often around $100 a piece. All these factors doomed the Bren Ten. There have been a few attempts to revive it, but none have been incredibly successful.

Colt Delta Elite

The popularity of the 1911 platform cannot be ignored. It’s everywhere to the point I’m sick of reading about it. Colt knew this and developed the Delta Elite. A 1911 platform chambered in the 10mm round was going to happen — it just had too. The Delta Elite was much more successful than the Bren Ten, and much more reliable. The Delta Elite was even brought back in 2009, causing a slight resurgence in the 10mm round.

Glock 20 and 29

Glock even threw their hand in when it came to the 10 mm. They produced the first 10 mm with a polymer frame. The Glock 20 is probably the most popular 10 mm out there, and is the most affordable. Glock’s reputation also helps, and they even released a compact version called the Glock 29. The Glock 20 offers 15 rounds of 10 mm making it an amazing lot of fire power.

Smith and Wesson Model 610

Here’s probably the most unexpected 10 mm handgun out there. This is a 6-shot revolver that utilizes moon clips to eject the rounds. Revolvers chambered in auto cartridges are rare enough, but to find one in a not-so-popular round like the 10 mm is truly unique. This revolver is pretty popular on the competition circuit and follows the traditions of magnum powerhouse revolvers.  It’s extremely accurate, and very controllable, and is a viable option for those wheel gun lovers out there.

The 10 mm is even seeing some resurgence out there. One of the major problems is the price point for these guns is often very high, with the exception of the Glock 10mm. The good news is Rock Island Armory has developed a 10 mm 1911. Rock Island Armory is a company that makes budget friendly 1911 45s. These 1911 are both affordable and high quality. I expect the 10 mm to be nothing but good.

I personally hope the 10 mm keeps gaining popularity. This will give us more weapon options and cheaper ammo. I personally would love to see Sig release a 10 mm handgun. The 10 mm is a hand gunner’s round for those who want magnum performance with a higher capacity. It’s not the perfect round, but it comes really close.

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3 comments

  1. I’ve had a 10mm for quite a few years now. I fell in lust/love with this round after watching Miami Vice back in the ’80s. Mine is an EAA Witness. Never any trouble with it. No failures to fire, no extraction/ejection problems, no anything. Heavy recoil? Not on your life. Accurate? You bet. And one of the great things about it was the price. It was less than half what a Delta Elite cost back in the day. It has a MSRP of $525 today, but real street price is about $75 – $100 cheaper. And yes, it comes in polymer.

  2. I absolutely LOVE my Smith and Wesson 1006. I don’t think the recoil is a big deal and love the hard hitting accuracy. It has held up well with Underwood 180 grainers and home rolled 180 grain XTP’s.

    • Agree completely with Craig. I purchased my 1006, new in box, in 1990 (or 91) for $375. It is one of the smoothest, sweetest shooting guns I’ve had. The recoil is a non-issue. The only challenge is for folks with smaller hands (and this would include female shooters). The size of the grip is slightly deeper than the 40 or 45 (as expected to accommodate the 25.2mm brass length). None of which should be considered negatives for the gun, that’s just the tradeoff required for more powder and muzzle-velocity. Very, very nice gun.

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