10mm is the very best handgun cartridge ever made. There. I said it. If you’ve been following my series of ballistic gel tests on the TFB YouTube channel, TFB TV, you’ve noticed I try to work in some 10mm as often as I can. And I’ve done dozens of 10mm gel tests for my own YouTube channel. My infatuation for the cartridge is no secret. It isn’t just puppy love, though. 10mm really is seriously awesome, but not for the reasons that many people like it.
10mm certainly is powerful for an auto pistol cartridge, but that’s not the best part.10mm is awesome because of its versatility. You can do a lot of different things with this one cartridge. Sure, you can shoot super wicked awesome powerful ammo. 10mm can indeed be loaded to higher energy levels than any of the more common auto pistol cartridges. But you don’t have to. You can carry ammunition that amounts to hot .40 S&W if you wish. Of course, manly men will complain that there is no point to carrying 10mm if you’re just going to load it like .40 “short and weak” but even weak sauce 10mm is still more energetic than the .45 auto those sort of guys usually carry. That’s really not the point, though.
Energy is a poor predictor of wounding, especially in pistol cartridges. Expanded projectile diameter and depth of penetration are the factors that most influence a bullet’s ability to incapacitate, given the same shot placement. And shot placement is the reason that it’s useful to have a slightly lighter 10mm load. The FBI didn’t develop the “FBI lite” load because of wimpy agents. It did it because everyone is able to shoot faster and more accurately with less recoil.
And that’s where a reasonable person might ask “Why even bother with 10mm, then?” After all, if you’re saying that the strength of 10mm is that it can be basically .40 S&W, then what does it have over .40 S&W? If you only wanted a pistol for personal defense in the city, that would be a good point and any 9mm, .40 S&W, or .45 Auto will do just fine.
Just because you can shoot FBI lite, doesn’t mean you have to, though. There are FBI lite type loads. And then there are insane nookular loads that dramatically exceed what most other auto pistols can do. You can use traditional designed bullets ranging from 125 gr to 230 gr. There is even the Liberty Civil Defense 60 gr that can hit a legitimate 2,000 fps from a 4.5″ barrel. While most of these loads are not well suited to personal defense, they do have other applications. Take that crazy fast Liberty load, for example. It penetrates far too shallowly to reliably incapacitate human beings, but that shallow penetration makes it a solid choice for varmint and small to medium sized game hunting such as coyote and javelina. And heavy, hard cast, flat nose bullets that produce penetration measured in feet, rather than inches are a good choice for hunting larger game or defense against dangerous critters.
The reason I like 10mm so much is that one pistol can do several things. There are cartridges that can do any one of those things better, but there isn’t any cartridge that can to them all as well and still fit fifteen rounds in a service sized pistol.