Designers from Smith & Wesson and Winchester introduced the .40 Cal S&W cartridge in 1990. The ammunition was designed along with Smith & Wesson’s Model 4006 pistol, months after receiving a request from the FBI for a new type of ammunition. However, one week before the ammo went to market, Glock introduced the Glock 22 and Glock 23, chambered in .40 cal.
Development of .40 Cal S&W
The Federal Bureau of Investigation requested that S&W create a new ammunition to replace their standard issue sidearms. The request came after a 1986 shootout in Miami. Two bank robbers confronted FBI agents and a shootout ensued. During the standoff, agents realized that they could not reload and fire fast enough to take down the criminals. The bank robbers killed two FBI agents and wounded five. Agents killed the bank robbers.
The FBI stated that the .38 Special revolvers were no longer sufficient for their agents. They requested to replace them with semi-automatic pistols. Agents asked Smith & Wesson to develop a new type of ammunition that could be retrofitted into 9mm semi-automatic handguns. S&W and Winchester developed the .40 Cal, based on 9mm and .45 ACP ammunition. The new medium-velocity round had the same accuracy as a 9mm while using the specs of a 10mm load. The FBI approved the ammo and hoped it would prevent another catastrophe like the one in Miami. Shortly after the FBI adopted the round, law enforcement agencies across the country switched to the new ammo. Although the FBI no longer uses the .40 Cal S&W, it endorses the Sig Sauer P226 and P228, both of which can be chambered in 9mm and .40 cal. The U.S. Coast Guard uses the .40 Cal S&W as a standard issue sidearm.
The .40 Cal S&W is a medium velocity cartridge ideal for concealed carry and self-defense. It uses a 0.40-inch diameter lead bullet that can range from 105 to 200 grains. The casing measures .85 inches long, .424-inch at the base. The cartridge has an average pressure of 35,000 psi. The muzzle energy is higher than the standard pressure of a .45 ACP, with 350-500 foot-pounds of energy. Ballistics performance tests in the 1980s and 1990s prompted experts to refer to the .40 Cal as “the ideal cartridge for personal defense and law enforcement.”
Use for Self-Defense
Civilians choose the .40 Cal for the fact that it is easy to use. It has a light recoil, which makes it an accurate round. Self-defense and home defense situations require accuracy and adequate stopping power. Consumers can choose a variety of options for design and bullet weight. Shooters choose the .40 Cal S&W for the same features that were required by the FBI and law enforcement, including a high magazine capacity, light recoil and high muzzle energy. Although the .40 Cal S&W isn’t a highly sought after ammo, most firearms manufacturers offer compact and sub-compact models chambered for the round.