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Old July 14, 2014, 05:34 AM   #1
Praxidike
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Why was the 40s&w invented?

After the 1986 FBI Miami shootout, why was there a need for the creation of the 40s&w? I ask because I recently purchased a 40cal handgun, so I've been researching and looking over old YouTube vids and forum threads pertaining to handgun calibers. Almost everyone is stating that the 9mm and 45acp is the way to go. The consensus is also that the 40 is very similar performance wise to the 9mm, and that the recoil is more manageable with the 9mm and 45acp.

From my reading, the 40sw was created because it was later found that at least 1 of the 2 men in the Miami shootout was shot in the chest (almost hit the heart), but the bullet did not penetrate enough to put him down. If, as everyone says, the 9mm and 45 are almost identical or better than the 40s&w recoil and performance wise, then why did the FBI need to ask Smith & Wesson to create the 40s&w?

Anyone have any links to what the performance of the 9mm ammo that the FBI carried back in the late 80s early 90s, so I can compare the stats to todays 9mm ammo?
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Old July 14, 2014, 05:59 AM   #2
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Long story short, .40SW was invented as a Soft&Weak version of the 10mm Auto round, originally adopted by FBI after Miami'86
the original 10mm was too strong for many agents, so it was downloaded, and so it became possible to shorten a 10x25 Auto case to 22mm, so resulting shorter round would fit into 9mm parent frame instead of original, larger and heavier .45cal pistol frame
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Old July 14, 2014, 08:50 AM   #3
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What max said.
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Old July 14, 2014, 09:40 AM   #4
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A few more details

The real blame for the 1986 fiasco in Miami was poor tactics. The 9mm and 38 handguns used by the FBI at the time took the blame. The FBI started looking at replacements and settled on the 10mm.

Once the guns got into agents hands 2 problems arose. Some agents found recoil to be excessive and did not shoot the guns well. Other agents with smaller hands had problems gripping the large framed 1006 S&W pistols.

A slightly reduced load solved the first problem, but not the second. S&W engineers figured out that they did not need a case as big as the original 10mm case for the reduced loads. They shortened the case down to what we now call the 40 S&W and fit it into smaller 9mm sized guns. This solved both problems.

Quote:
If, as everyone says, the 9mm and 45 are almost identical or better than the 40s&w recoil and performance wise, then why did the FBI need to ask Smith & Wesson to create the 40s&w?
At the time 40 S&W was a much more effective round than 9mm or 45, not a compromise as is often claimed on the internet. But bullet technology has come a long way since 1986. With today's bullets there just isn't much difference between the actual performance of 9mm, 40 or 45. Since 9mm will always be cheaper, always have less recoil and hold more rounds in comparable size guns it is making a comeback.

I still believe the 40 offers advantages over both 9mm and 45. It is just that those differences are not as dramatic as they were 20 years ago. If I were employed in LE, it would be my preferred choice I currently don't own one, but only because I do own a 10mm. Which does offer significantly better performance than any of them.
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Old July 14, 2014, 09:49 AM   #5
Jim Watson
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FBI 9mm ammo in 1986 was Winchester 115 gr Silvertip.
Still in production, but superceded in law enforcement by better designed hollowpoints.
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Old July 14, 2014, 09:55 AM   #6
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Fundamentally, the .40 is just an attempt to get a goldilocks cartridge - not too big, not too small, not too powerful, not too weak, etc. And it came from dialing back the 10mm, which was found by the FBI to be too powerful (powerful = recoil = difficulty for some shooters & slower time between shots). There's nothing magically good or bad about it. It's a fine cartridge.
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Old July 14, 2014, 09:57 AM   #7
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Poor tactics = imnsho

I was "on the job" when that went down [ the Miami shootout ] ,and I was VERY,VERY interested as I was fearful that I could be involved in such a cluster puck.

I read and followed ALL that was ever given or released about that "shootout".

I saw much bravery ,and MUCH foolishishness.

The real problem was NOT the failure of a single pistol round to stop a madman,it was the tactics AND failure to use the proper tools [ rifles / shotguns / submachine guns ] that were in other vehicles or not at hand when the "stop" went down.

2 men died for lack of expectation of the true violent nature of the perp's.

I see no problem with any PISTOL rounds that were used,Tactics and MUCH more preparation to handle VIOLENT men was missing.
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Old July 14, 2014, 10:03 AM   #8
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While the 1986 fiasco was poor tactics, the .40S&W came around because many municipal police departments and other LEO agencies were looking for something more effective against soft body armor that the 9mm. As been said, most jumped on the 10mm. Problem was, many of these departments had female officers and other slight male officers that could not handle the weapons or the recoil. Many of those found the same true with the .40 and is why so many have gone back to 9mm. Same has been true in the civilian market.
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Old July 14, 2014, 10:23 AM   #9
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The Miami Shootout is what drove the FBI to start doing serious research into handgun terminal performance and to set the minimum and maximum penetration requirement, along with other parameters, for handgun ammo sold to the FBI today. This resulted in all defensive handgun ammo having very similar terminal performance, negating the advantage the 357 Magnum, 40 S&W and 45 ACP had over 9mm.

The 40 S&W was introduced before the FBI study was completed and implemented. Initially, terminal performance was better than the 9mm but not quite as good as the 45. Being a new caliber it required a whole new line of bullets to be developed. Because development was taking place as the FBI was releasing data from their tests, it was one of the first to really benefit from the new research, giving the 40 S&W an edge. It's popularity took off and it began replacing the 9mm.
Not long after, the feds limited magazine capacity. Shooters reasoned that ten large diameter bullets were better than ten small bullets and the 9mm began to fade into obscurity.

The 9mm began to gain traction again when the mag ban sunsetted and serious effort was made to improve terminal performance of 9mm bullets. Then the cost of copper and brass (along with other metals) rose dramatically due to demand to feed China's industrial revolution. Ammo prices rose and calibers needing more raw materials rose higher than smaller calibers. The 9mm having a clear capacity and economical advantage over the larger calibers, along with nearly identical terminal performance, it has come to dominate the market like never before. It has nearly killed the 40 S&W and has pundits claiming it now makes the 45 ACP obsolete.

The 40 S&W is a good caliber and very important step in the development of modern self defense ammunition. But greater ammunition cost, reduced capacity and accelerated wear in the 9mm framed handguns it was developed to be shot in handicaps it. The 9mm is simply a more practical choice and we may see the 40 S&W fade into obscurity
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Last edited by MistWolf; July 14, 2014 at 10:31 AM.
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Old July 14, 2014, 10:35 AM   #10
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Quote:
It has nearly killed the 40 S&W
What is the empirical basis for this claim?
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Old July 14, 2014, 10:40 AM   #11
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It was invented because we didn't have any effective pistol cartridges at the time.

Soon after it was determined that the 40 could be improved by necking it down to 9mm. So now we have the ultimate cartridge in the 357 Sig.

But the real winner seems to be the 9x19mm developed in 1902.

Ain't that a hoot?
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Old July 14, 2014, 11:01 AM   #12
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law enforcement was exempt from the hi-cap ban.

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Old July 14, 2014, 11:01 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Watson View Post
FBI 9mm ammo in 1986 was Winchester 115 gr Silvertip.
Still in production, but superceded in law enforcement by better designed hollowpoints.
That does not make much sense to me. The 9mm was developed ages ago. Other than the shape of the bullet head, what else could have possible changed that much? I keep hearing people say that the 9mm of today is so much more potent than the 9mm of 20 years ago. Is it that they did not have p+ 9mm at the time that the 40s&w was created? Can someone point to supporting documentation?

Also logically, if a change in the bullet head design made the 9mm of today preform better than the the 9mm of yesterday, couldn't that same design be applied to the 40s&w bullet thus keeping the performance gap between the 9mm and 40s&w that existed 20-25 years ago the same even though they BOTH were improved?

I can understand the higher complicity, lower cost, and less recoil argument for the 9mm and against the 40s&w, but the performance argument doesn't make any sense and it seems like it's just a claim is being loosely regurgitated and thrown around without much thought, logic, or data to back it up.

Last edited by Praxidike; July 14, 2014 at 11:24 AM.
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Old July 14, 2014, 11:37 AM   #14
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It seems the 9mm needs to be loaded to +P or +P+ to get close to the .40 energy levels, while generally spitting out a smaller grained bullet. I don't have a 9mm and prefer .40 and .45, so I wonder if what I always hear about the 9's faster follow up shots is valid when +P or +P+ ammo is used(?).
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Old July 14, 2014, 11:56 AM   #15
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More and more agencies are trading in their 40 S&Ws, 40 S&W pistols aren't selling as well, ammo is generally not as available.

Prax, bullet technology is constantly evolving with the demand for better hunting and defense ammo. Better bullet designs to give more consistent expansion and penetration under a wider variety of conditions and having to meet FBI specifications in order to sell ammo to LE agencies.

FBI specifications tell manufacturers how their bullets must perform and they apply their improved tech to achieve that performance regardless of caliber. New tech does improve the performance of the 40 caliber bullet, but the specifications also ensure that all handgun caliber perform the same. All must meet the requirements for defeating various barriers such as windshield glass, sheetmetal and heavy clothing and still meet the minimum penetration requirement without exceeding the maximum.

These specifications mean there has been an overall improvement in handgun terminal performance but it also means that all defensive ammo, regardless of caliber, are almost equally effective
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Old July 14, 2014, 12:05 PM   #16
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People wanted something more powerful than 9mm, but not as big as 45ACP.

Bignames like Jeff Cooper, Chuck Taylor, etc. worked on it.

They did not get it right the first time, the 10mm. Even Chuck Taylor admitted that the 10mm was something very different from the original project goal.

S&W with collaboration with few others fixed it, and got a 40S&W.
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Old July 14, 2014, 12:06 PM   #17
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Quote:
Other than the shape of the bullet head, what else could have possible changed that much?
Bonded jackets eliminating core seperation and reverse tapered jackets that allow for more consistant expansion at a lower velocity while limiting over expansion and fragmentation.

Quote:
Also logically, if a change in the bullet head design made the 9mm of today preform better than the the 9mm of yesterday, couldn't that same design be applied to the 40s&w bullet thus keeping the performance gap between the 9mm and 40s&w that existed 20-25 years ago the same even though they BOTH were improved?
If bullets don't expand the 40 cal bullet is going to leave a larger hole if they expand to the same diameter they'll leave the same diameter hole. Not saying this is always the case.
Modern 9mm ammo does a good job of expanding and exceding the FBI's minimum penatration requirement and recoils less.
More holes vs larger holes, run what'cha brung and hope it's enough.
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Old July 14, 2014, 12:07 PM   #18
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Quote:
If bullets don't expand the 40 cal bullet is going to leave a larger hole if they expand to the same diameter they'll leave the same diameter hole. Not saying this is always the case.
Modern 9mm ammo does a good job of expanding and exceding the FBI's minimum penatration requirement and recoils less.
As if only 9mm expands better.
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Old July 14, 2014, 12:12 PM   #19
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The migration to 9mm has more to do with logistics and shooting skills than anyting else.

The "9mm is just as good as 40S&W" claim is used to justify that, but it is based on limited data. It's based on Jello testing, but human body is not jello. More powerful bullets have less deflection from barrier and bones. Kinetic energy and temporary cavity certainly affects, non-elastic tissues, such as brain and liver,etc., which counts since there are cases where shot to the brain failed to stop.
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Old July 14, 2014, 12:15 PM   #20
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Since the OP's question has been answered, I'd add that one advantage to the .40 S&W is that in many pistols you can change caliber to .357 sig w/ only a barrel swap.
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Old July 14, 2014, 01:35 PM   #21
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Pistol rounds will never be reliable one shot stops regardless of the caliber.

I just read about the Baby Face Nelson FBI shootout where Nelson received seven obove the belt line hits to his torso from the FBI agents Thompson sub machine-gun and was not even slowed down, until he was hit in the legs with two shotgun blasts from another agent.

The shotgun blasts knocked Nelson down, but he quickly got backup and killed both FBI agents with his 351 rifle.

So seven rounds of 45 ACP from the longer barrel of the Thompson hardly slowed him down!

Nelson was able to take the FBI agents car and drive to his girlfriend's house where he did expire, but the point is these caliber debates are a waste of time, it's all about shot placement with pistol calibers.

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Old July 14, 2014, 01:40 PM   #22
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The development of a .40 caliber pistol cartridge was going to happen at one time or another, as interest in it had been simmering for a while.

Cooper's interest & involvement with the development of the 10mm Auto introduced in '83 probably helped quite a bit.

Then there was the .41 AE in '86.

The interest in the .41 Magnum revolver cartridge, and its slightly reduced power Police loadings were always simmering in the background, too.

Let's not forget the much earlier American revolver cartridges, the .41 Short Colt and the .41 Long Colt. The .41LC certainly seemed to have earned some respect.

The stimulus of the FBI's search for something different in a pistol service caliber, and the willingness of S&W and Winchester to work with them, just seemed to be the final impetus to give the .40/10mm cartridge enough of a push into bring it to fruition in a modern incarnation. Something less punishing and magnum-like, and yet still effective. Something probably more akin to what was originally envisioned for the 10mm Auto.

It simply came along at the right time.

It's not without its detractors, though. It's harder on guns than the 9mm & .45 ACP, but that's prompted the gun makers to make improvements to some of the guns, too.

After some time was spent trying to - (probably inevitably & understandably, looking at American shooters) - "Magnum-ize" the .40 S&W with lighter & hotter loads, interest in the original 180gr bullet weight and velocity has seemingly returned quite strongly. Not surprising, really, as it seems to have demonstrated itself to have been satisfactory at what it was originally envisioned and designed to do.

Nowadays we also have some better bullet designs that have been tweaked to satisfy some different perceived requirements and preferences.

Unlike the 10mm Auto and the .41 Magnum, it eventually gained wide acceptance, and even preeminence, as a service cartridge for American LE.
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Old July 14, 2014, 01:43 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kokapelli View Post
Pistol rounds will never be reliable one shot stops regardless of the caliber.

I just read about the Baby Face Nelson FBI shootout where Nelson received seven obove the belt line hits to his torso from the FBI agents Thompson sub machine-gun and was not even slowed down, until he was hit in the legs with two shotgun blasts from another agent.

The shotgun blasts knocked Nelson down, but he quickly got backup and killed both FBI agents with his 351 rifle.

So seven rounds of 45 ACP from the longer barrel of the Thompson hardly slowed him down!

Nelson was able to take the FBI agents car and drive to his girlfriend's house where he did expire, but the point is these caliber debates are a waste of time, it's all about shot placement with pistol calibers.
Were was he shot? In the Miami shooting, it was later found that one of the shooters was hit in the chest early on in the gun fight, but the bullet failed to penetrate.

I'm more concerned about if I have to shoot through barriers, will there be enough energy left to penetrate through flesh, tendons, and bone to the point to stop the attacker from shooting or advancing.
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Old July 14, 2014, 01:48 PM   #24
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Quote:
I can understand the higher complicity, lower cost, and less recoil argument for the 9mm and against the 40s&w, but the performance argument doesn't make any sense and it seems like it's just a claim is being loosely regurgitated and thrown around without much thought, logic, or data to back it up.
Bullet design has come a long way. In the 1980's you had basically 2 choices. Some ammo penetrated very deep, but expanded very little. Hollow point bullets of that era tended to expand too much and give very little penetration. This is what happened in Miami. The 115 gr bullets did not penetrate enough to reach vital organs.

Today's technology will let us make bullets that do both. You can get deep penetration AND get good expansion with the same bullet today.
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Old July 14, 2014, 01:58 PM   #25
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The 10mm round was the most public of the corrective actions taken by the FBI, but by no means the only.

Amid all the data and findings gathered after the Miami Shootout was a single minor tidbit about the 9mm bullet fired from an agent across the street- the 9mm round that traveled through the arm and into the chest of the primary antagonist stopped just short of his heart. Much more was made of that than was appropriate (in my opinion) and a similarly inappropriate conclusion was made- that if that one 9mm round had just gone a *little* deeper and done a *little* more damage the event would have ended right there and two agents would still be alive. While it was a valid observation, it was given more credit than it was due.

They later discovered that the money they poured into the over-credited solution created other problems as mentioned previously. So an agent with some mad reloading skilz down-loaded the full-house 10mm and they went with that. Someone with their head on straight at S&W realized that there was a lot of leftover space in the 10mm cartridge and proposed shortening the case, creating the .40 S&W as a way to jam the cartridge into a smaller gun.

The Speculation: There has been some suggestion that the .45acp round would have been found sufficient if someone important in the Bureau hadn’t recently shot down the requests to start using it. So with the 9mm too weak to go deep, and adoption of the .45acp out of the equation (so as to avoid embarrassment) that left going back to the .38, adopting the .357, or trying something altogether new. Budgets back then allowed the something altogether new, so the altogether new 10mm round was developed along with an altogether new handgun and sub-gun from which to shoot it. After all, when you’re the FBI and you want a new gun and cartridge, then you get a new gun and cartridge; funding is (or was anyway) of little relevance.
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