Tiger McKee

Shootrite Firearms Academy

Why I Don’t Like the Forty

ImageI do not like the .40 caliber. I’m sure there will be plenty of people who disagree with me on this, but since it’s my column I get to state my opinion. This opinion is based on two issues with .40 caliber pistols. Keep in mind that an issue is something that is common, you see it a lot, as opposed to a problem, which is normally limited to an individual or particular weapon.

The .40 was developed specifically as a law enforcement caliber by Smith & Wesson and Winchester and as a direct result of the 1986 F.B.I. Miami shootout between agents and two hard criminals, Platt and Matix. Both bad guys were killed, but two agents were killed with five others injured. Basically the F.B.I. was looking for a cartridge that had the performance of the .38 Special +P load that would work with a semi-auto pistol. The .40 is supposedly the ideal blend of bullet size and velocity.

There is no doubt the .40 performs well, but it has a very sharp recoil impulse, which is hard on shooter and pistol alike. The most common issue we see with shooters is related to recoil. With the .40 you must use a good aggressive stance, arm position with isometric tension between the arms, and the proper grip to provide the resistance necessary for the pistol to function properly. Failures to eject, commonly called stovepipes or smokestacks, are more frequent with the .40 than 9mm’s and .45’s. This is especially true when shooters are working with one hand, during injury drills, or firing using a less than ideal platform, like laying sideways on the ground.

The sharp recoil of the .40 literally beats pistols to death. No, you probably won’t see a problem if you only run a few rounds through your pistol a couple times a year. But with heavy shooting sooner or later with the .40 you’ll likely see problems develop, and a lot sooner than with a 9mm or .45. A few years ago one area department we train sent several of their officers here for five-day handgun classes. We worked hard and during the class each officer fired approximately five thousand rounds. After the classes the officers’ pistols had send their pistols in due to problems with the rails on the slide and frames. They had been beat out. (The pistols were replaced, but they were never given a good reason from the factory why this problem appeared in the first place.)

The recoil also presents a problem with individual shooters who come to fear the snap of the .40 and begin anticipating the recoil, which of course drastically affects their accuracy. You can take the same shooter, give them a 9mm or .45, and their accuracy improves. I know recoil shouldn’t be an issue, but with most shooters it is so we might as well go ahead and acknowledge it. Several departments I deal with have switched from .40 caliber pistols to .45acp weapons with a noticeable increase in their qualification scores.

When new shooters me what they should get my immediate answer is a 9mm. And, as we know, it’s a lot more about where you put the bullets as opposed to how big or fast they are moving. Get a pistol that works for you, plenty of ammo, and practice the fundamentals until you can perform them under any conditions.

November 15, 2012 - Posted by | Auto Pistol

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