40 S&W Ballistics

40 S&W Ballistics

A look at the ballistics of some of the most popular 40 S&W ammo loads in the United States.

A relatively hot handgun load, the 40 Smith & Wesson gives shooters impressive muzzle velocity and energy compared to similarly sized pistol loads. Let’s take a look at what the caliber is all about and get a feel for 40 S&W Ballistics.

Quick 40 SW Facts:

  • Developed solely for self-defense, 40 S&W ammunition combines a heavier bullet than a 9mm and faster muzzle velocity than the 45 ACP to deliver consistently debilitating energy downrange.
  • Nearly identical accuracy and bullet drop to the 9mm. (Learn more about 40 S&W vs. 9mm here.)
  • Developed in response to the FBI’s demand for a smaller, lower recoil cartridge than the standard 10mm.
  • Most shooters don’t consider 40 SW practical for hunting. Although, taking a hog or deer with a hard cast bullet wouldn’t prove impossible with good aim.

40 S&W Ballistics Chart

Ammo Velocity (Feet per Second) Energy (Ft. Pounds) Bullet Drop (Inches) Ballistic Coefficient
Ammo NameBarrel LengthMuzzle25 yds.50 yds.75 yds.100 yds. Muzzle25 yds.50 yds.75 yds.100 yds. Muzzle25 yds.50 yds.75 yds.100 yds. (G1)(G7)Sect. Density
Blazer Brass 180 Gr. FMJ4985954926901877388364343324308-0-2.4-7.3-14.90.1470.161
Sellier & Bellot 180 Gr. FMJ4968940915892871375353335318303-0-2.5-7.5-15.30.1570.161
Tula 180 Gr. FMJ49193380.161
Magtech 180 Gr. FMJ4990966944924904392373356341328-0-2.3-7.1-14.40.1990.161
Black Hills 180 Gr. FPL48002560.161
Black Hills 200 Gr. RNFP Cowboy48002840.179
Blazer 180 Gr. FMJ41000967938911887400374352332315-0-2.3-7.1-14.50.1470.161
Winchester USA 180 Gr. FMJ410209934163940.161
Winchester USA 165 Gr. FMJ4106010294123880.147
Federal American Eagle 165 Gr. FMJ4113010781035999967468426392365342-0-1-4-9.10.1540.147
Remington UMC 180 Gr. FMJ4990964940392371353-0.3-1.10.161
Federal American Eagle 180 Gr. FMJ41000972946923901400377358340324-0-1.4-5.3-11.60.1750.161
PMC 180 Gr. FMJ4985957931908887388366347330314-0-2.4-7.2-14.80.1640.161
Federal HST 180 Gr. JHP41010980954930908408384364346329-0-1.4-5.1-11.40.1750.161
Blazer 165 Gr. FMJ410501008972941913404372346324305-0-2.1-6.6-13.50.1390.147
Fiocchi 165 Gr. FMJ411001016954443378333--0.8-3.90.1550.147
Federal Hi-Shok 180 Gr. HP41000972946923901400377358340324-0-1.4-5.3-11.60.170.161
Speer Lawman 165 Gr. TMJ4115010891040999964484435396365340-0-0.9-3.9-90.140.147
Federal Hi-Shok 155 Gr. HP4115010871036994959455407370340316-0-0.9-3.9-90.130.138
Speer Gold Dot 180 Gr. HP41025988956928902420390365344325-0-1.3-5-11.20.1430.161
Fiocchi 125 Gr. Sinterfire Frang.412654440.112
PMC 165 Gr. FMJ4989964941920900358340324310297-0-2.3-7.1-14.50.1870.147
Federal HST 165 Gr. JHP4113010781035999967468426392365342-0-1-4-9.10.150.147
Remington HTP 155 Gr. JHP4120511461095500452413--0.2-0.80.138
Speer Gold Dot 165 Gr. JHP41150109010421001967484436398367342-0-0.9-3.9-8.90.1380.147
Speer Gold Dot 155 Gr. JHP412004960.138
Federal American Eagle 155 Gr. FMJ41160109510431000963463413374344319-0-0.9-3.8-8.90.138
Hornady Critical Defense 165 Gr. JHP31175111610671027992506456418386360-0-1.7-5.4-11.10.1540.147
Speer Lawman 180 Gr. TMJ41000967937910885400373351331313-0-1.4-5.3-11.80.1470.161
Speer Lawman CleanFire 180 Gr. FMJ41000967937910885400373351331313-0-1.4-5.3-11.80.1470.161
Prvi Partizan 180 Gr. JHP4968943920899880375356339323309-0-2.4-7.4-15.10.1750.161
Hornady 180 Gr. XTP49509038623613262970.161
Winchester 180 Gr. Bonded JHP49853880.161
Barnes 140 Gr. TAX-XPD HP4112010611014975940390350320295275-0-1.9-6-12.30.1280.125
Remington Golden Saber 165 Gr. JHP4115010891040484435396-0-0.90.135

40 Cal’s Fabled History

A Glock 40 cal pistol

The 1986 FBI Miami shootout was a disastrous altercation between eight FBI agents and two violent bank robbers. Armed with a 12 Gauge shotgun, two 357 Magnum revolvers, and a 223 Rem semi-automatic rile, the suspects killed two agents. They wounded five more. Although the agents were armed with handguns chambered for 9mm, 38 Special, and 357 Magnum, it took them a total of 18 shots to kill their assailants.

In response to the grizzly debacle, the FBI decided to replace their standard issue revolvers with semi-autos. The semi-autos could hold more rounds and agents could reload the pistols easier. The agency required their new cartridge deliver equal or better terminal performance to their tried and true 38 Special +P load. At the start, they tested candidate 9mm, 10mm, and 45 ACP rounds.

The FBI eventually adopted the 10mm. However, many agents found the handgun’s size and recoil too much to manage. After further research, the FBI determined they could load the equivalent of a less potent 10mm cartridge in a casing that was additionally shortened by 0.142”. This smaller yet still amply powerful round was named the 40 S&W in honor of the company that aided its development along with Winchester.

Ballistic Overview

40 SW ammunition headstamps on a table

The 40 S&W combines an energy advantage over both the 9mm and the 45 ACP with less recoil than the 10mm. Typically, you’ll get a muzzle velocity of around 990 fps. That means its 180 grain bullet delivers 392 ft lbs of energy out of the muzzle. That’s nearly 33 percent more energy than the minimum estimate for what a self-defense round ought to achieve. The same 40 S&W round would provide a 904 fps velocity at 100 yards while retaining approximately 84 percent of its initial energy. Expect a bullet drop of 14”.

Typical 40 S&W factory loads offer a 165 or 180 grain projectile, although bullets ranging in weight from 135 to 200 grains are also available. The 165 grain bullet offers a 1,150 fps muzzle velocity for accordingly greater muzzle energy.  Although, its lesser weight may provide less of the momentum requisite for deep penetration through soft tissue.

A conventional double stack 40 S&W magazine holds 16 rounds, making it practical for a hectic self-defense scenario where you couldn’t aim as casually as you would at the range. While the 9mm still reigns supreme as America’s favorite self-defense round, for situations where you would like a little more firepower at the cost of approximately doubled recoil, the 40 S&W is a suitable choice for your carry weapon.

Other Attributes

  • While the 40 S&W may have the same bullet as the 10mm it was parented by, its muzzle velocity is about 200 fps slower.
  • Known as the “40 caliber,” but don’t confuse it with the 10mm. 10mm is also technically (but not referred to as) 40 caliber. The 40 S&W is also known as the 40 Auto, 10x22mm, or 10mm Kurz.
  • Still used by the FBI, as well as the U.S. Coast Guard and some spec ops teams.
  • Due to most 40 S&W rounds’ subsonic muzzle velocities, they are a natural choice for suppressed firearms.

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