Letter: .40 S&W

Dear Hugh

Service caliber semi-automatic handguns are generally considered to be in calibers 9mm, 40 S&W, and .45 ACP. A lot of people really seem to enjoy Monday morning quarterbacking the virtues of these calibers and their theoretical stopping power. Well, everyone should have a hobby. The reality is that any pistol (unless it is maybe the 500 S&W) is far less effective than a rifle. I am not sure who said it first, but a common quote is that the purpose of a pistol is to allow you time to reach your rifle.

Recent events (see below) are resulting in the .40 starting to receive unfavorable press, where everyone (including gun writers who previously thought the .40 S&W was the greatest thing since sliced bread) are now starting to poo-poo the caliber.

Cartridge popularity comes and goes in the gun press. I can remember when the “experts” were all extolling the virtues of the .45 GAP, the .32 H&R magnum, the .32 NAA, the .357 SIG, and other wonder cartridges. Likewise, the hard corps gun press will claim that anything other than a .45 auto is a “mouse gun”.

I am writing in “defense” of the .40 S&W. I have owned twenty or so different .40s over the years and can honestly say that it is a perfectly adequate cartridge as handgun cartridges go. That’s faint praise, right? Well, as far as I am concerned, handgun cartridges can never really exceed “adequate” when it comes to defensive use.

I would propose that the present time is a great time to be a prepper looking to buy used service weapons in .40 S&W. The caliber is incredibly reliable; I have well over 20,000 rounds through one of my Glock .40s and don’t think I have ever had a misfire. The round has plenty of power, “makes major” in most competitions, and is available at reasonable prices in both target and social rounds.

What we are seeing right now in the market place is the confluence of two trends that have driven down the price of pistols in .40 S&W to unheard of lows.

First, police departments tend to replace their duty weapons every 10 to 15 years; the .40 S&W was introduced in 1990, making today about the time that agencies are ready to replace their second generation of pistols.

Second, the FBI has just announced that they will be replacing their service weapons, which are mostly .40 S&W, with 9mm pistols based on the improvements made to 9mm ballistics, which make it (at least in their tests) as effective as both the .40 and the .45 in a package that is easier to shoot and that has higher capacities in the same design envelope.

These events have served to push down the price of used, quality .40 S&W pistols to unheard of lows. Sig Sauer P229 and P226 pistols can be had from wholesalers or on Gunbroker.com for as low as $300. (I bought a P226 police trade-in for $305 just a few weeks ago.) These are guns that sell new today for up to $800. Likewise, Glock 22s and 23s and S&W M&Ps in .40 are available at incredibly low prices. You can find barely used police trade-in .40s from mainstream manufactures for little over $200.

Used accessories are also available at bargain prices. Retention holsters can be picked up for a few bucks, and trade-in magazines are running $12 to $15.

If you are in need of acquiring or upgrading your handguns, forget about the 9mm vs .40 vs .45 debate, and take advantage of the buyers’ market in .40 S&W pistols. – Bruce F.