If you don’t know, .40 caliber pistols were initially designed to give law enforcement guns that were more powerful than 9mm pistols.
While these guns have become less popular, they are now seeing a resurgence. You can’t argue with the fact that they have many advantages for shooters!
Why did 40 calibers become less popular?
9mm guns have good stopping power and are lighter as well as more compact than 40 cal pistols, which is why people have started seeing them replaced by 9mm pistols.
That doesn’t mean you can’t find .40 caliber pistols that are worth purchasing. There are good reasons to buy a 40 cal pistol, such as because this type of gun performs well for home security, self-defence, casual range activities, and concealed carry.
The catch is that you have to ensure you choose the best 40 cal pistol to give the 9mm a run for its money, so read our review.
As you can see from the above table, you can find 40 caliber pistols that don’t weigh a lot and which have short barrels to make them more compact. But, those (along with their rounds) are just some features to consider when choosing the most value-for-money 40 cal pistol. So, with that in mind, let’s explore these guns in more detail.
Best 40 Cal Pistol – Reviews & Buying Guide for 2021
Best overall: Walther P99
If you like the idea of the 40 cal pistol you buy being renowned by law enforcement personnel, then you’ll want to get your hands on the Walther P99. It’s a semi-automatic handgun that’s had its design tweaked and evolved over many years. Here’s what you should know about it.
- This 40 cal pistol comes with a double-action trigger that’s got a firing pin lock to keep you safe.
- It makes use of an adjustable 3-dot sight. This allows you to make your shots more accurate.
- With its non-slip Tenifer coating, you won’t ever feel like you’re not gripping this pistol correctly. This coating also helps to prevent corrosion as a bonus.
- This gun has a paddle mag release that’s really easy to engage – just use your index finger.
- One of the unique features of this gun is that it has what’s known as AS mode. It’s a trigger system that makes it safe to carry in a holster without you needing to engage a heavy pull when you make a shot.
- Since it’s really small, this is the perfect compact gun for concealed carry.
- It has a maximum effective range of 55 yards, which makes it the best 40 cal handgun.
- You shouldn’t carry this gun in a holster when it’s in single action mode as the trigger doesn’t require much force to move. You should therefore always ensure that the gun’s in double action mode. The problem with this is that it gives it a heavier pull that might put you off. So, it’s better to carry the gun in AS mode.
Runner Up: Glock 35 Gen 3 35301
Gen 3 Glock gun models are powerhouses that shoot easily and accurately, and are known for being revered by law enforcement, which makes them some of the best 40 cal pistols on the market. With that in mind, let’s check out the Glock 35 Gen 3 pistol and what you should know about it.
- This gun is highly accurate. This is as a result of its long line of sight and extended barrel, and these features make this 40 cal pistol perfect for shooting at the range.
- This gun is easy to use and highly safe. This is as a result of its “Safe Action” trigger system.
- It’s been built out of a light polymer frame, which makes it lightweight and easy to conceal. On the topic of how it’s light to carry, the slide has a cut-out section that displays the top of the gun’s barrel. This further lowers the gun’s weight.
- Even though it’s a 40 S&W, this gun has a light trigger pull weight.
- You can easily customize and upgrade this Glock, thanks to the hundreds of accessories that are available for it. This gun is revered for being used in competitions, and this point serves that purpose.
- The gun has a pre trigger. This gives you the feeling that you’re about to shoot, which can help you to shoot more accurately. It’ll keep you safer, so it’s especially useful for beginners.
- Although it’s built to be light in weight, this gun is difficult to conceal.
- The gun is said to have a magazine capacity of 15 rounds, but bear in mind that you might only receive 10 rounds if you live in a state in which there are stricter gun rules.
Alternative 1: Smith & Wesson M&P M2.0
This gun has been designed for gun sports, but it’s also useful for personal and professional use. It has innovative features that you’ll love. It comes in three caliber options: 9mm Luger, 40 S&W, and 45 Auto. For the purposes of this review, we’re looking at it with the 40 S&W.
- This gun has an extended chassis that’s made out of stainless steel. This helps to decrease flex when you shoot.
- It has a low barrel bore axis. This reduces the muzzle rise, making it easier to maintain your correct shooting aim.
- It has a light and crisp trigger pull, so it’s comfortable to use and won’t feel too heavy.
- This gun makes use of striker fire action (instead of a hammer), which means its mainspring and hammer are removed from the gun’s frame. The mainspring is inside the slide and activates the firing pin (striker) directly. This can be advantageous because it reduces the size and weight of the pistol, while also making its design simpler, which helps you to assemble, disassemble, and clean the gun in a much faster and easier way.
- To make it easier to control and help you feel comfortable when shooting it, this pistol has a textured grip.
- It comes with four interchangeable palmswell inserts. These are Small, Medium, Medium-Large and Large, and they ensure that your hand fits properly and that you can reach the trigger comfortably.
- This best 40 cal pistol for the money comes in black or FDE (Flat Dark Earth) finishes.
- The gun doesn’t come with thumb safety. While some people might think that having a thumb safety on their gun prevents or blocks fire, a thumb safety has many benefits. It prevents accidental discharge, and this also makes it useful for beginners or people who are just learning how to use their gun.
Alternative 2: Heckler & Koch P2000
While you usually have to pay more for Heckler & Koch guns, they are built to be durable and they perform well. The P2000 is one of their best offerings. Here’s what you should know about it.
- This pistol is regarded as one of the best you can find, and one of the reasons for this is because it enables concealed carry. This is as a result of its light polymer frame and metal slide. Polymer reduces the gun’s overall weight, which makes it easy to handle and carry.
- You can get this pistol in .40 S&W caliber with a 10-round magazine and 12 round extended mag.
- A feature that makes the P2000 ahead of its time (bearing in mind it first hit the scene in the year 2000) is that it’s ambidextrous. Its decocking button, magazine release levers, and slide release are all tailored to both left- and right-handed people.
- This gun was also one of the first on the market to offer replaceable back straps, and these come in four sizes: Small, Medium, Large, and X-Large.
- This is a hammer-fired pistol. Why that’s beneficial is because these guns tend to have crips trigger pulls and result in accurate shooting.
- The gun’s design is clean and sleek. Its slide has lines and cuts that blend into the polymer frame, while the lack of front serrations makes press checks smooth and easy to do.
- What some people who’ve purchased the P2000 don’t like about it is that its magazine release is very short. This digs into your finger, making it a bit uncomfortable at times.
- You need to use Heckler & Koch magazines, as this gun manufacturer does not allow third-party mags.
Alternative 3: Smith & Wesson SD VE
If you’re looking for an affordable pistol that won’t disappoint and side steps the frills, this S&W SD VE gun is worth considering. It’s basically one pistol that you can have in 9mm or 40 caliber. Let’s check it out to see why it deserves a spot on our list of reviews.
- Like many other 40 cal pistols we’ve been reviewing in this guide, this gun has a polymer frame to keep it light.
- It’s a semi-automatic gun that uses a striker-fired action which ignites with a two-piece self-defense trigger. The result? Much smoother and consistent pulls every time.
- While built simply, this 40 cal’s design is striking: it has a black polymer frame and a slide that’s made out of stainless steel. It looks attractive while being solid.
- For comfortable use, this gun not only has a textured grip but aggressive texturing on both the front as well as the backstrap.
- For easier use of the trigger, there’s a convenient textured finger located above it.
- This best .40 cal pistol can be customized, thanks to the presence of the Picatinny rail that’s located underneath the gun’s muzzle and built into the gun’s frame.
- It can handle 16 rounds of ammo, which puts it in the lead against competitors of the same caliber.
- The front sight on this gun is made out of titanium with a white outline, while the rear sight has two dots. The combination of these sights ensures that you’ll be able to see your target clearly, even when you’re shooting in low-light conditions. This makes it the best 40 cal pistol for self-defense and home security.
- Some people who have purchased this pistol have reported issues with its trigger. It’s heavy and can feel uncomfortable for some people. Luckily, there is a way to override this potential issue – you can purchase upgrade kits, such as one by Apex, which will ensure a smoother trigger.
40 Cal Pistol FAQ
Should you buy a 40 cal pistol?
Here’s what you should know about these types of guns before you go ahead and choose from our list of the best 40 cal gun options on the market.
Is 40 more powerful than 9mm?
The 40 vs 9mm debate is a heated one! While both types of guns have their benefits, there are some advantages to having a 40 caliber pistol.
For starters, bigger calibers tend to have larger diameters, which means that they’ll penetrate the target a bit more. But, does that mean the .40 caliber is more powerful than the 9mm?
To answer this question, we should look at the muzzle energy of both types. The 9mm has a muzzle energy of 364 ft-lbs, while the .40 S&W has a muzzle energy that’s quite a lot greater – it’s 484 ft-lbs.
Muzzle energy is important because it links to what we were previously talking about when it comes to bullet penetration. The muzzle energy of a gun indicates how destructive the cartridge or firearm will be. Generally speaking, when bullets are heavier and faster, they will have a higher amount of muzzle energy.
Does a 40 cal kick more than a 9mm?
When we speak about a gun’s kick, what we’re really talking about is its amount of recoil. One of the things that have made people steer away from .40 caliber pistols towards 9mm pistols instead is their high recoil.
Generally, a .40 cal pistol will have more recoil and a higher recoil velocity as compared to an 9mm. What recoil velocity refers to is the backward movement that you experience when you fire a bullet, and it’s a bit like a backward jerk. This can make shooting the gun feel a bit more difficult or less smoother than what you’d like, but if it’s power you’re going for then that might be a small price for you to pay!
Choosing a gun that’s comfortable to use, such as because it has a strong grip, can help to make your shooting experience more pleasant and make you feel more in control of your gun, so this is an important feature to look for in a good 40 cal pistol.
An example of a gun with good grip is the S&W M&P M2.0, which has a textured grip to help you feel in better control of the gun when firing it. Another example is the Walther P99 that has a Tenifer coating that’s built to be non-slip so you won’t feel like you’re battling to hold it when shooting. This also makes it more comfortable for your hands.
What has more stopping power 9mm or 40 cal?
Stopping power is an important consideration when choosing between 40 cal or 9mm. This can be defined as the ability of the bullet to incapacitate its victim.
Now, if you’re dealing with home security issues and you want to increase your self-defense, this is an especially important thing to consider as it could save your life during a dangerous situation where you need to incapacitate and escape your intruder.
In order for a handgun to incapacitate a criminal as swiftly as possible, it has to injure the person by causing hemorrhaging or striking the brain stem/tissue. The diameter of the bullet therefore matters.
A 40 caliber has a slightly larger diameter than a 9mm, coming in at 0.4 inches as compared to the 9mm’s 0.355 inches. Both are valuable and both can kill you. And, as we saw earlier in this article, both of their muzzle velocities contribute to their overall destructive forces.
Therefore, you might not know which one to choose. Consider the following:
In an experiment, shooting cinder blocks with both a 40 caliber and a 9mm revealed some interesting things. When shot, the 9mm left a dimpling cavity on the outside of the cinder block and the bullet went right through it.
However, the back side of the cinder block didn’t reveal any impact, even though there was a well-made hole on the inside of the block. By comparison, the 40 caliber not only penetrated the block but left a crack along it thanks to its powerful force.
The bullet produced a large entrance hole with a dimpled effect which was also seen with the 9mm. The inside hole that was produced by the 40 cal pistol, however, was larger than what was produced by the 9mm.
That gives a good indication of how powerful a 40 caliber can be as well as how much damage it can do to one’s target.
Can I shoot 40 in a 10mm?
If you have a 10mm pistol, such as the Dan Wesson RZ-10 or the Colt Delta Elite, both of which are considered to be some of the best 10mms, you might wonder if you can shoot a 40 caliber in it. The short answer? No!
Doing this is not advisable because you could damage the gun’s chamber. It’s also worth remembering that one of the most important gun safety rules is to always make sure you use the correct/appropriate ammo for your gun.
In addition, you have to consider the case length of the cartridges. In a 40 cal pistol, the case length is around .850 inches while the case for the 10mm is .992 inches. So, the problem with using a 40 cal in a 10mm is that the sealing of the case isn’t going to be done properly, which will cause gas to be expelled. This isn’t safe.
While some articles, such as one by The Truth About Guns, will explain why and how they shoot 40 cals in a 10mm pistol, the general disclaimer is that you shouldn’t try it at home!
You might’ve assumed that a 40 cal pistol was being completely sidelined by 9mm pistols, but as you can see from this article that’s certainly not the case.
We’ve reviewed the best 40 cal pistol to give the 9mm a run for its money, along with four alternatives that are ergonomic, powerful, and affordable.
If you’re new to 40 cal pistols, to help you learn more about them we’ve included some interesting questions and answers, and we’ve also compared 40 cal pistols to 9mm guns so you can see just how powerful they can be.
If you’ve read this buying guide and you still have your heart set on a 9mm, we’ve got you covered with some excellent choices – read our guide, “Best 9mm Revolver For 2021.”