For many years now there has been a debate among handgun owners as to what the single most effective self-defense handgun cartridge is. It was a very valid debate when the choice was limited to the 9mm Parabellum and the .45 ACP.
But prompted by tragedies within law enforcement, the debut of such new cartridges as the .357 Sig, the .40 S&W, and the 10mm Auto has shifted the focus of this debate to these significantly more powerful cartridges. It was not until Sergeant Evan Marshall (formally a member of the homicide section of the Detroit Police Department) decided to undertake a definitive study of wound ballistics based upon his collection of hundreds of autopsy reports that we had access to reliable information on this topic. His findings proved beyond doubt that the 10mm Auto is the single most effective self-defense handgun cartridge yet developed.
The impetus for the development of these new handgun cartridges is an infamous incident known as the “FBI Miami Shootout” that took place on April 11, 1986 between eight FBI agents and two serial bank robbers in which two agents were killed and five others were wounded –despite outnumbering the bank robbers four to one. In fact, despite the fact that the two robbery suspects, William Russell Matix and Michael Lee Platt, were struck multiple times during the shootout, Platt was able to continue firing. It should be noted that although tactical mistakes were made by the FBI agents, the real blame lies with the underpowered 9mm Parabellum cartridges loaded with 147 grain bullets which were standard FBI issue at the time of the incident. Consequently, following the death of its agents, the FBI decided to undergo the search for a more reliable handgun cartridge and thus, it eventually settled on the 10mm Auto.
Originally developed by eminent firearms expert Lieutenant Colonel Jeff Cooper in 1983 and later modified by Swiss ammunition manufacturer FVV Norma AB for use in the Bren 10 Auto Combat Pistol produced by Dornaus & Dixon, this handgun and its accompanying .40 caliber cartridge was conceived to bridge the gap between the high capacity, but relatively low-powered, auto-loading pistols of the day, and more powerful, but low-capacity, magnum revolvers in order to provide both police and civilians with an auto-loading, semi-automatic, handgun that would combine the best aspects of both designs.
Unfortunately, Dornaus & Dixon decided to subcontract the manufacture of magazines for its new pistol rather than produce them in-house, and the company that D&D chose to do so proved to be far less than reliable which resulted in both defective magazines as well as a shortage of supply. This led to Dornaus & Dixon declaring bankruptcy after only three years of production, despite high demand for the new pistol. However, even though this magnum-powered pistol cartridge produces what many shooters consider to be excessive recoil, the design concept was deemed sound and thus, due to continued demand for the Bren Ten even after production cased, Colt decided to revive this new pistol cartridge by introducing a version based upon the 1911 John Browning design in the form of the Delta Elite 10mm Auto in 1987.
It should be noted that although the 10mm Auto (aka 10 x 25mm) does seem to provide the ultimate in handgun stopping power when loaded with a relatively lightweight bullet, it is not the best choice for shooters with smaller statures or those who are recoil-shy because it requires a large frame handgun like the .45 ACP and generates a significant amount of recoil. But, for those who can handle both the frame size and the recoil, Marshall’s results have proven that it outperforms even the mighty .44 Magnum (remember Dirty Harry?) as a self-defense cartridge! In fact, according to author Steve Fuller, terminal wound ballistics are dependent on four different factors: the bullet’s muzzle energy, its depth of penetration, the size of the temporary stretch cavity, and the size of the permanent crush cavity. And according to the autopsy results compiled by Marshall, the 10mm Auto loaded with 135 grain hollow point bullets with a muzzle velocity approaching 1,400 fps (as loaded by CorBon) results in a one-shot stop in almost 100 percent of cases studied! Thus, when full-powered loads are employed, the performance of the 10mm Auto can equal, or even exceed, that of the .357 Magnum and retain more kinetic energy at 100 yards than the .45 ACP produces at the muzzle!
So, if you are considering the purchase of a handgun for self-defense purposes and you have a sufficiently large stature to accommodate the frame size of the 10mm Auto as well as the ability to withstand the recoil, it is without a doubt the ultimate “man-stopper” provided that appropriate ammunition is chosen.
However, for those of you with slightly smaller statures or those of you who are recoil-shy, then the .40 Smith & Wesson (aka .40 S&W, Shorty .40, .40 Short & Weak) is a viable alternative since it fires the same diameter bullet as the 10mm Auto from a shorter case (10 x 22mm) and thus, while it provides similar stopping power to the 10mm Auto, it generates significantly less recoil.
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