Since it first appeared, the .40 cartridge has been the object of recurrent controversy. Initially intended as an alternative to the 9mm and 10mm, to many shooters it somehow became an alternative to the .45ACP instead.
Smith & Wesson developed the .40 cartridge. However, in spite of much fanfare and anticipation of its appearance, Glock surprised everyone by bringing out their Glock 22 and 23, long before S&W could produce a gun that utilized their cartridge.
From a marketing standpoint, this was quite a coup, especially since at the time the Glock pistol was still relatively new and being touted as something of a revolutionary design. As a result, the Glock 22 and 23 quickly came to dominate the .40 caliber pistol market, eventually evolving into additional best-selling configurations in the form of the G27 sub-compact and full-sized G35.
Testing of the .40 has shown that while from a ballistic standpoint it compares favorably with the .45ACP, its performance as a manstopper is considerably less. Nonetheless, it does outperform the majority of 9mm loads currently available and is experiencing a nationwide increase in popularity as a law enforcement cartridge.
Recognizing the fact that many factory .40 loads are loaded a bit hot for optimum weapon control/penetration, the ammunition manufacturers quickly expanded their product lines to include a wide variety of bullet weights from 135 to 200 grains intended to give the buyer a full range of choices, depending upon his needs and perceptions of what would best satisfy them.
However, as is the case with other cartridges, all of these don’t shoot sufficiently close to point of aim at 25 or 50 meters, making it necessary to carefully test any load under consideration from this standpoint as well as intrinsic accuracy, controllability, penetration and bullet expansion. In my Glock 22 test gun, none of the 180-grainers shot anywhere near point of aim, impacting eight inches high at 50 meters and four inches high at 25 meters.
For my needs, this makes them unsuitable, since too much adjustment of point of aim is needed to hit small, angled or partially obscured targets. Under the stress of a deadly encounter, changing point of aim is so unnatural that it would almost always be forgotten, resulting in a miss.
However, I must point out that my Glock 22 has low-profile Trijicon tritium lowlight sights. With sights that utilize a higher front and rear sight, this might not be a problem. Moreover, it must also be said that the 180s do shoot as accurately as any of the other loads I tested, so if you prefer heavier bullets, this should be taken into consideration.
Getting right to my own preference, the best overall performer in my gun was CorBon’s 140-grain DPX JHP. Initially, it shot just a bit to the left of point of aim at 25 meters, but was easily correctable with a minor movement of the rear sight to the right. Accuracy was excellent with 25-meter 3-shot Ransom Rest groups of 1.5 inches or better being the norm.
Controllability in fast shooting sequences was quite good, allowing two center hits on a Taylor Combat silhouette target at 7 meters from Weaver Ready in 1-second. On multiple targets, I was able to meet the ASAA (American Small Arms Academy) Handgun Combat Master standard of a center hit from the holster on each of two targets in 1.2 seconds, three targets in 1.5 seconds and four targets in 1.8 seconds without undue difficulty. However, with some loads, this might prove difficult even for a master-level shooter, since they’re loaded too hot for optimum controllability. Performance on small, angled or partially obscured targets was also quite satisfactory, with 5-meter 1-second headshots also being performed on a reliable basis.
Because it utilizes the superb Barnes-X 6-petal HP bullet, the CorBon 140-grain DPX JHP also exhibits excellent expansion in both water and living organisms. I have used it to down a half dozen coyotes, deer and a mountain lion out to 60 meters, experiencing 1-shot stops as a virtual norm. In all cases, the bullet expanded perfectly and was found either under the hide on the off-side of the critter or lying on the ground beside it, a textbook performance. My G22 has now digested over 500 rounds of this particular load without a stoppage.
Though they didn’t show much expansion, the Speer 155-grain Gold Dot JHP and Federal Premium Hydra-Shok 165-grain JHP produced equal accuracy, and were noticeably more “punchy,” making them less controllable. Still, they were at least acceptably controllable and shot pretty much to point of aim.
Demonstrating accuracy in the 2.5-inch or better range, the CorBon 135-grain Pow’RBall, Hornady XTP 155-grain JHP, Remington 155-grain JHP, Federal Premium Hydra-Shok 165-grain JHP and the Remington Golden Saber 165-grain JHP shot to point of aim at 25 meters, but while functioning was flawless, they showed minimal expansion and more abrupt recoil.
To keep manufacturing costs, and thus retail prices, as low as possible, the majority of ammo manufacturers make it a practice to use JHP bullets that can be utilized in multiple cartridges.
In each instance, the bullet is designed to upset while retaining its structural integrity at the higher velocities of the hotter of the two cartridges. In order to accomplish this goal, it must be sufficiently tough not to disintegrate or blow its lead core, but this also means that it won’t show much expansion at the lower velocities produced by the lesser powered of the two cartridges.
On the other hand, the CorBon 135-grain Pow’RBall and 140-grain DPX JHP are designed to upset at the velocities produced by the .40, rather than 10mm. As a result, they both expand quite nicely. Of the two, the 140-grain DPX JHP is the more versatile, but due to its minimal penetration, is best utilized in situations where this characteristic is an asset, such as in home-defense. For general-purpose functions, however, in my opinion, the 140-grain DPX JHP is without a doubt a superior overall choice.