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9mm vs 40 S&W Ammo

The ongoing debate between 9mm and 40 S&W ammo has captivated the shooting community for years. Each caliber boasts its unique advantages, making the decision a matter of personal preference and intended use. In this comprehensive blog post, we’ll explore the intricacies of both calibers, diving into factors like recoil, knockdown power, effective range, stopping power, reloading capabilities, accuracy, historical origins, and ideal applications. Let’s embark on an illuminating journey to discover the true potential of 9mm and 40 S&W ammo.

What is 9mm ammo?

The 9mm, also known as the 9x19mm Parabellum, is a widely used and popular pistol cartridge worldwide. Revered for its manageable recoil, cost-effectiveness, and high magazine capacity, the 9mm is a top choice for military, law enforcement, and civilian applications.

What is 40 S&W ammo?

The 40 S&W, developed in the 1990s, is a powerful and versatile cartridge that aims to bridge the gap between the 9mm and the 45 ACP. Known for its enhanced stopping power and widespread adoption by law enforcement agencies, the 40 S&W has carved its place in the shooting world.

9mm vs 40 S&W: Which has the least recoil?

In terms of recoil, the 9mm takes the lead. Its lighter bullet and lower powder charge translate to milder recoil, making it easier to handle, especially for shooters seeking faster follow-up shots.

Which has the best knockdown power?

The 40 Smith & Wesson boasts superior knockdown power due to its larger bullet and increased muzzle energy, making it a favored choice for those who prioritize stopping power.

What is the effective range for each caliber?

The effective range of each caliber depends on various factors, including bullet weight, barrel length, and shooting proficiency. Typically, the 9mm has an effective range of up to 50-75 yards, excelling in close to mid-range engagements. On the other hand, the 40 S&W extends the effective range to around 50-100 yards, making it a versatile option for various shooting scenarios.

Which has better stopping power?

With its larger bullet and higher muzzle energy, the 40 S&W holds the advantage in stopping power, offering better chances of incapacitating a target effectively.

Which is better for reloading?

Both calibers have active reloading communities, but the 9mm often stands out for its cost-effectiveness and the abundance of reloading components available, making it an attractive choice for those who enjoy customizing their ammunition.

Which caliber is more accurate?

In terms of accuracy, the 9mm and 40 S&W are comparable. With proper ammunition selection, consistent shooting technique, and an appropriate firearm, both calibers can achieve excellent accuracy. We would give a slight edge to 9mm because all things being equal, it will have less recoil making it easier to shoot and thus more accurate.

What is the best use for 9mm?

The 9mm’s versatility and manageable recoil make it ideal for a wide range of applications, including concealed carry, home defense, target shooting, and competitive shooting.

What is the best use for 40 S&W?

The 40 S&W excels in self-defense situations, law enforcement applications, and scenarios where enhanced stopping power is essential.

The ballistics of each caliber:

  • 9mm: Typical bullet weights range from 115 to 147 grains, achieving muzzle velocities between 1,000 to 1,200 feet per second (fps), with muzzle energies ranging from 300 to 400 foot-pounds (ft-lbs).
  • 40 S&W: Standard bullet weights range from 135 to 180 grains, achieving muzzle velocities between 950 to 1,150 fps, with muzzle energies ranging from 350 to 550 ft-lbs.

The history of 9mm:

The 9mm Parabellum was developed by Georg Luger in 1901 and adopted by the German Navy in 1904. It quickly gained popularity due to its effectiveness and reliability, becoming one of the most widely used pistol cartridges worldwide.

The history of 40 S&W:

The 40 S&W was jointly developed by Smith & Wesson and Winchester in the late 1980s. Its creation was in response to the FBI’s desire for a more powerful cartridge than the 9mm, while still allowing agents to carry more rounds than with the 45 ACP.

What is the difference between 9mm and 40 S&W?

The key differences lie in their design, ballistics, and stopping power. The 40 S&W has a larger bullet and higher muzzle energy than the 9mm, offering enhanced stopping power at the cost of slightly increased recoil.

Which caliber is best for everyday carry?

The choice between 9mm and 40 S&W for everyday carry depends on personal preference and proficiency. Shooters seeking a balance between recoil, magazine capacity, and stopping power often lean towards the 9mm, while those prioritizing enhanced stopping power might opt for the 40 S&W.


As the curtain falls on the 9mm vs. 40 S&W ammo debate, each caliber emerges as a force to be reckoned with, catering to the diverse needs of shooters worldwide. Your choice depends on your intended use, proficiency, and personal preferences. Safety, responsible firearm handling, and understanding your shooting goals are paramount. Embrace the power of informed decision-making, and let your firearm journey be guided by the caliber that best complements your shooting style.

4 Responses

  1. I am retired law enforcement and carried both calibers while on the job. I started out with the 9mm and when the 40 came out, promoted it for the department. My first 40 was the S&W 4006. I shot it well and did not have a problem qualifying with it. Often I was able to get a max score. Later ,I was issued a Glock 22 which I shot well also. When I retired, the department gave me my issued Glock 22 which they engraved my name on it with a note to my service. I have tried to find a 1911 in the 40 and did with a Rock Island, 5 in. However, I wanted to find that same model in a 4 inch. and have been unable to do so. Springfield made the EMP in 40 cal for a while, but stoped making it in the early ’90’s. Can you advise why advise this is so? Thank you in advance for your attention to this matter. DP

    1. David, first, thank you for your years of service in law enforcement, its because of people like you that we get to do what we love. Interesting issue, while there are probably a lot of reasons, my best guess would be better ballistics out of 5″ compared to a 4″ barrel coupled with the declining in popularity of 40 S&W in recent years especially once law enforcement went away from 40 S&W its probably cheaper to manufacture less 40 models.

    1. Bill – Thank you so much for reading and for the kind words! Any other caliber comparisons you want us to review?

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