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Food Thread: Carbs May Be A Dirty Word, But They Sure Taste Good! | Main | Sunday Overnight Open Thread (2/24/19)
February 24, 2019

Gun Thread: Shooting and 40's [Weasel]

40s scaled.jpg
Preferred refreshment of your higher-class MoMe.

Whaaa? You Gangstas thought I was talking about these 40's?

Nah, Bro's and Bro-ettes! You never, evah shoot while sippin' a 40! That's pretty much Rule Number Uno. So what the hell am I talking about? Good question! Let's jump on down below and find out together, shall we?

40 sw drawing scaled.png
.40 Smith & Wesson

No, I'm not talking about your "other" favorite beverage, I'm talking about the .40 Smith and Wesson! A relative newcomer to the Wonderful World of Cartridges, the .40 S&W was developed by Smith and Wesson (duh) in 1990 at the request of the FBI. At the time, the Bureau was searching for a replacement for their 9mm Parabellum duty weapons, apparently then using ammunition little changed from it's inception in the early 1900s. During the selection process, a 10mm Auto with a light load was tested, and the rest, as they say, is history. What the Bureau found was a reduced 10mm load achieved the desired ballistic performance without the heavy recoil of standard 10mm Auto ammunition. The reduced powder charge also required less case volume and the subsequent shortening of the cartridge allowed it's use in a smaller frame pistol. With that, the .40 S&W was born.

The Bureau's fascination with the new cartridge lasted about 20 years. Around 2007, or about the time law enforcement agencies around the country finished following the FBI's lead and transitioned to the .40 S&W, the Bureau was contemplating a return to the 9mm Parabellum. Citing advances in bullet design, among other things, the Bureau completed the change back to the 9mm with ballistically improved ammunition around 2015.

P229 scaled.jpg
Gratuitous picture of Sig P229 in .40 S&W

All sorts of factors are taken onto consideration when comparing weapons and ammunition. Design ergonomics, magazine capacity, recoil and economics are all important before ever beginning to consider ballistics. Terminal Ballistics is the science of what happens when a bullet hits a target, and includes all sorts of ways to measure the resulting transfer of energy and destructive power. Factors influencing the amount and effectiveness of this kinetic energy transfer primarily involve bullet design, mass, and velocity. Suffice it to say, terminal ballistics is a field of study unto itself.

To greatly oversimplify the issue, you can have a light fast bullet, or a heavy slow bullet. What matters most is the shot placement, the energy delivered and the behavior of the bullet once it arrives on target. The reality, I believe, is there is no magic bullet. Everyone has their favorite, but at the end of the day, you cannot shoot someone in the toe and reasonably expect to do much more than make them mad. Not even with the latest sooper-dooper maximum coolness defense load. While advances in bullet expansion technology have helped tremendously, time spent reading (any other) gun blogs might be more profitably spent at the range making sure you can consistently hit a target with whatever you're shooting.

So all of this is just fine and dandy, but there needs to be some basis for comparison between calibers and loads. One practical way to at least get some idea of cartridge performance comes in the form of muzzle energy, or ME, which is a calculation of the energy a bullet has when leaving the barrel. Many times this value is listed on the cartridge package, but the math isn't too difficult.

Muzzle Energy Calculation

Energy = (bullet weight*velocity^2)/450,437

So a 180 gr bullet exiting the barrel at 990 fps has a calculated ME of about 392 ft lb, while a 230 gr bullet with a velocity of 835 fps has a calculated ME of about 356 ft lb. Again, this formula is a simplified method of computing energy and generally comparing one load to another. It does not take into consideration the performance of the projectile once it enters the target, for example, when comparing the effectiveness of a hollow point bullet with a regular ball bullet. Many will disagree with the use of muzzle velocity altogether, and I will not argue with the observation it only paints part of the picture, but I do think it offers a valid starting point for general comparison.

45acp 10mm 9mm scaled.jpg
left to right: .45ACP, .40 S&W and 9mm

Using the energy formula formula to evaluate the three ball cartridges above we get:
- 45ACP: 230gr, 835fps = 356 ft lb
- .40 S&W: 180gr, 990fps = 392 ft lb
- 9x19mm: 115gr, 1150fps = 338 ft lb

Again, this does not necessarily indicate the effectiveness of these rounds because key variables are missing, chiefly penetration and expansion, but it might help you in thinking about which caliber and powder charge to begin with when selecting a defensive bullet.

So what do you all think? Any opinions of the .40 S&W from those with a law enforcement background? Did the FBI rush to make the change without giving adequate consideration to advances in ballistic performance? Was their reversion to the 9mm a good idea based on ballistics alone? Which other factors might have been involved? How about the rest of you? Do you own a pistol chambered in .40 S&W, and what are your opinions of the cartridge?


Muzzle Energy Calculator
Article: 9mm vs .40 S&W
Article: .40 S&W
Article: .40 S&W Still a Good Round?
Article: 10mm Gel Tests
Article: .40 S&W a Fad?
Article: Ayoob - .40 S&W

***Mail Bag***

CBD reloads scaled.jpg
"The Harasser" by Dildo Arms

Speaking of advances in cartridge development, the Gun Thread has obtained this photo of a new prototype cartridge from Dildo Arms. Dubbed "The Harasser" it has already generated significant "buzz" in the firearms community, and received very solid endorsements from both the Career Criminal and Street Thug lobbies. Congratulations to the developer, Mr. Charles B. Dildo!


Please note the new and improved gmail account morongunthread at gmail dot com. If you have a question you would like to ask Gun Thread Staff offline, just send us a note and we'll do our best to answer. If you care to share the story of your favorite firearm, send a picture with your nic and tell us what you sadly lost in the tragic canoe accident. If you would like to remain completely anonymous, just say so. Lurkers are always welcome!

That's it for this week - have you been to the range?

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posted by Open Blogger at 07:00 PM

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