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In The Know: 9mm vs. .40 S&W

September 26, 2023
Gun Talk Staff

In the world of handguns, choosing the right caliber is a critical decision. Among the popular choices, the 9mm and .40 S&W (Smith & Wesson) stand out as two of the most debated options. Each caliber has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, making it essential for firearm enthusiasts and self-defense advocates to understand the differences between the two.

Within this article there are affiliate links that may or may not lead to a slight commission for the Gun Talk team because they gotta eat too.

9mm: The Versatile Workhorse

The 9mm, short for 9x19mm Parabellum, is perhaps one of the most versatile handgun calibers available today. Developed in the early 20th century, it stood the test of time and is widely used by military, law enforcement agencies, and civilians alike. Here are some key features of the 9mm:

  1. Ammunition Cost: One of the most significant advantages of the 9mm is its affordability. Ammunition is readily available and often cheaper compared to other calibers, making it an excellent choice for target shooting and practice.
  2. Magazine Capacity: 9mm handguns typically offer higher magazine capacities, allowing users to carry more rounds before needing to reload. This can be a crucial factor in self-defense situations.
  3. Recoil: The 9mm generates less recoil than many other calibers, making it easier for shooters to maintain accuracy during rapid-fire situations. This reduced recoil also means faster follow-up shots.
  4. Adequate Stopping Power: Modern 9mm ammunition evolved to provide effective stopping power, with advancements in bullet design and hollow-point technology improving its terminal performance.

.40 S&W: The Middle Ground

The .40 Smith & Wesson cartridge, often referred to as .40 S&W, was introduced in the early 1990s as a compromise between the 9mm and .45 ACP (Automatic Colt Pistol). It was developed to address concerns about the 9mm's perceived lack of stopping power. Here are some key aspects of the .40 S&W:

  1. Stopping Power: The .40 S&W is known for its increased stopping power compared to the 9mm. It offers a larger bullet diameter and increased energy, making it an attractive choice for law enforcement agencies concerned about penetration and stopping threats effectively. The argument can be made that with the uptick in stopping power shooters wouldn’t need as many rounds.
  2. Recoil: While the .40 S&W provides more stopping power, it also generates more recoil than the 9mm. This can result in decreased shot-to-shot accuracy and slower follow-up shots for some shooters.
  3. Ammunition Cost: .40 S&W ammunition tends to be more expensive than 9mm rounds, which can be a factor to consider for those who frequent the range.
  4. Magazine Capacity: Typically, handguns chambered in .40 S&W have slightly lower magazine capacities than their 9mm counterparts due to the larger cartridge size. However, the difference in capacity is minimal.

Choosing the Right Caliber

Ultimately, the choice between 9mm and .40 S&W comes down to personal preferences and intended use. Shooters seeking a balance between stopping power and recoil might lean toward the .40 S&W. Those prioritizing affordability and higher magazine capacity often opt for the 9mm.

In recent years, advancements in ammunition technology have narrowed the gap between these two calibers, making both effective choices for self-defense. It's crucial to consider factors like recoil tolerance, ammunition availability, and intended use when making your decision.

Whether you're a seasoned shooter or a newcomer to handguns, understanding the differences between these two popular calibers is essential for making an informed choice that suits your needs and preferences. So, what ammo is out in the world?

9mm Ammo Options

There are several reputable ammunition manufacturers known for producing high-quality 9mm ammunition. Here are some well-regarded brands in the ammunition industry:

  1. Federal Premium: Federal Premium is known for its consistent quality and a wide range of 9mm ammo options, including self-defense rounds like HST and Hydra-Shok, as well as target and practice ammunition.
  2. Winchester: Winchester ammunition is a household name with a long history of producing reliable and accurate rounds. Their Winchester White Box ammo is popular for target shooting.
  3. Remington: Remington offers a variety of 9mm ammunition options, including their Golden Saber line for self-defense and UMC line for target practice.
  4. Speer: Speer Gold Dot is a trusted choice for self-defense 9mm ammunition. Speer also produces Lawman for practice rounds.
  5. Hornady: Hornady Critical Defense and Critical Duty are well-regarded for self-defense purposes. Hornady also produces high-quality target and competition ammo.
  6. CCI (Cascade Cartridge Inc.): CCI Blazer Brass is known for its affordability and reliability, making it a popular choice for target practice.
  7. Fiocchi: Fiocchi offers a wide range of 9mm ammunition, including budget-friendly options for target shooting and premium self-defense rounds.
  8. Sellier & Bellot: S&B is a Czech manufacturer is known for producing consistent and affordable ammunition, including both target and self-defense loads.
  9. Magtech: Magtech is known for its cost-effective yet reliable 9mm ammunition options, suitable for both practice and self-defense.
  10. PMC (Precision Made Cartridges): PMC Bronze is a well-regarded budget option for target shooting, while PMC Starfire is available for self-defense.
  11. AAC (America’s Ammunition Company): AAC produces ammo for many different calibers and is consistently solid on the range.

When choosing a brand of 9mm ammunition, consider your intended use. For self-defense, look for well-tested hollow-point or defensive rounds. For target shooting or practice, seek affordable options that still offer reliable performance. Keep in mind that factors like bullet weight and design, recoil characteristics, and your firearm's compatibility also play a role in your selection. Always check your firearm's owner's manual for recommended ammunition types and consult with a firearms expert or instructor for personalized guidance.

.40 S&W Ammo Options

  1. Federal Premium: Federal offers a wide range of .40 S&W ammo, including their HST and Hydra-Shok lines for self-defense and American Eagle for practice and target shooting.
  2. Winchester: Winchester is a respected name in the ammunition industry and produces .40 S&W ammunition suitable for both self-defense and target shooting, including the PDX1 and USA lines.
  3. Remington: Remington offers .40 S&W ammo options such as the Golden Saber for self-defense and UMC for target practice.
  4. Speer: Speer Gold Dot is a well-regarded choice for self-defense in .40 S&W. They also produce Lawman ammunition for training and practice.
  5. Hornady: Hornady Critical Defense and Critical Duty lines are known for their reliability and expansion in self-defense scenarios. Hornady also offers ammunition suitable for competitive shooting.
  6. CCI: CCI produces Blazer Brass, an affordable option for target shooting in .40 S&W, and also offers self-defense loads like the CCI Blazer Clean-Fire.
  7. Fiocchi: Fiocchi produces a variety of .40 S&W ammunition, including FMJ rounds for target shooting and XTP rounds for self-defense.
  8. Sellier & Bellot: This Czech manufacturer offers consistent and affordable .40 S&W ammunition suitable for both target practice and self-defense.
  9. Magtech: Magtech is known for its reliable and cost-effective .40 S&W ammunition options, including their Guardian Gold line for self-defense.
  10. PMC: PMC produces .40 S&W ammunition like PMC Starfire for self-defense and PMC Bronze for practice.
  11. Sig Sauer: Sig Sauer Ammo is known for a wide range of offerings, Sig Sauer Ammunition is as reliable as the mass-produced P365. Their self-defense ammo is second to none, and their range ammo burns consistent.

Making the Right Choice

The decision between 9mm and .40 S&W ultimately depends on your personal preferences and intended use. Shooters seeking a balance between stopping power and recoil control might favor the .40 S&W. Those prioritizing affordability and higher magazine capacity often opt for the 9mm.

When making your decision, consider factors such as your recoil tolerance, ammunition availability, and intended use to ensure your choice aligns with your needs and preferences.

Whether you're a seasoned shooter or new to handguns, understanding the distinctions between these popular calibers is crucial for making an informed decision that suits your specific requirements.

Where to Find the Best 9mm and .40 S&W Ammo Deals

Ammunition is a crucial component for firearm enthusiasts and those who prioritize self-defense. However, the cost of ammo adds up quickly, making it essential to find the best deals without compromising on quality and safety.

1. Online Retailers: Convenient and Cost-Efficient

Online retailers have become a go-to destination for ammo shoppers seeking affordability and variety. Websites like Primary Arms, Palmetto State Armory, and Brownells often offer competitive prices and frequent promotions. Here's why online shopping is a top choice:

  • Price Comparison: Online platforms allow you to easily compare prices and deals from multiple vendors, ensuring you get the best bang for your buck.
  • Bulk Discounts: Many online retailers offer bulk purchase discounts, allowing you to save significantly when buying larger quantities of ammunition.
  • Subscription Services: Consider signing up for newsletters or notifications from your preferred online retailers. They often send out alerts for exclusive deals and discounts.

2. Local Gun Stores: Support Your Community

Don't overlook your local brick-and-mortar gun stores. While they might not always offer the lowest prices, they provide certain advantages:

  • Mostly-Knowledgeable Staff: Local stores often have experienced staff who provide valuable advice and guidance on choosing the right ammo for your needs.
  • Instant Gratification: You can get your ammunition immediately, avoiding shipping costs and wait times.
  • Special Promotions: Keep an eye on special sales events and discounts offered by local stores. They may have deals not available online.

3. Gun Shows: A Treasure Trove of Deals

Gun shows are excellent places to score ammo deals. Vendors at these events often offer a wide selection of ammunition at competitive prices. Tips for making the most of gun shows include:

  • Research in Advance: Know what types and quantities of ammo you're looking for, and research the average prices online to ensure you're getting a good deal.
  • Negotiate: Don't be afraid to negotiate with sellers, especially when buying in bulk. Many vendors are willing to haggle.
  • Check Quality: Inspect the ammunition for signs of damage or corrosion before purchasing and verify that it meets your firearm's specifications.

4. Ammunition Price Tracking Websites: Stay Informed

Several websites and apps track ammunition prices across various online retailers. These tools can help you find the best deals and quickly identify when prices drop. Examples include AmmoSeek and GunBot. Just enter your preferred caliber and set up price alerts to receive notifications when deals match your criteria.

5. Buy in Bulk and Reload: Long-Term Savings

Buying ammunition in bulk quantities potentially reduces the cost per round. Additionally, reloading your spent casings provide some savings in the long run. However, reloading requires proper equipment and knowledge of the process to ensure safety and performance.

Finding the best ammo deals involves a combination of online research, attending gun shows, supporting local gun stores, and considering bulk purchases and reloading. By exploring these options and staying informed about price trends, you can enjoy your shooting hobby or self-defense needs without breaking the bank. Remember always to prioritize safety and quality when purchasing ammunition, regardless of the deal. – Gun Talk Staff


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