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9mm versus .40

9mm and .40 are among the most popular types of handgun ammunition in the world. In this guide, we’ll explore the history, the key differences and the pros and cons of each caliber. 

9mm caliber

The 9mm caliber, also known as 9mm Luger or 9mm Parabellum, has been around for decades. One of the most successful cartridges of all time, the 9mm was invented in 1901 by George Luger. Since its inception, the 9mm has proved a popular choice for law enforcement agencies and defense departments. It is also used by the military and those with self-defense training. 

The 9mm caliber was widely available throughout the 20th century but it really came to the fore in the 1980s and 1990s when police and military personnel started using the 9mm cartridge. 

.40 caliber

The .40 S&W, also known as the .40 Smith & Wesson, was developed specifically for law enforcement purposes. Released in 1990, the aim was to design a stronger, more powerful bullet, which was compatible with standard-sized handguns. 

9mm versus .40

As two of the most prolific types of ammunition ever made, it’s not uncommon for the 9mm and .40 to be pitted against each other. There are significant differences and each cartridge offers pros and cons. Here are some key factors to explore when comparing the 9mm and .40 S&W:

  • Price

Price carries a lot of weight when selecting ammunition for law enforcement and military purposes. It can also be an important factor for handgun owners who are just starting firearms training, as they will want to practise frequently to hone their skills. The baseline cost of the 9mm is lower than the .40 S&W making it an appealing proposition for those limited by budget. 

  • Velocity

Velocity impacts the performance of the bullet both in terms of how it fires from the gun and how it hits the target. When comparing velocity, it’s important to note the size of the bullet. For a 9mm Luger, the most common size would be 115 grain. In the case of the .40, the size is usually larger at 155 to 180 grain. When comparing these sizes, the 9mm Luger would perform better.

  • Muzzle energy

Muzzle energy relates to the force at which the bullet hits the target. As the .40 usually has a larger bullet, the force is greater.

  • Trajectory

Trajectory is most important when firing at long range but it can influence accuracy when using handguns. The trajectory is similar when using similar sized bullets for both 9mm and .40 S&W. If the bullet is larger, which is often the case for .40, the bullet will drop faster. 

  • Recoil

When buying or using a handgun for defense purposes, it’s essential to be able to control and manage recoil. When comparing 9mm vs .40, the recoil is slightly more manageable with the 9mm. For training purposes, the 9mm is often recommended for smaller and lighter shooters, as well as those who have less experience. 

  • Load capacity

Many people want to ensure that they have sufficient ammunition at all times. Load capacity is an important consideration when searching for a handgun. If you browse products, you’ll find that there isn’t a huge amount of difference between capacities in products that are made for 9mm and .40 S&W. If you know that you want a handgun with a specific capacity, you will be able to find options for both types of cartridges. 

  • Power

The .40 S&W is known for its power and it is generally considered to be more lethal than the 9mm. 

Which is best for me?

It is always beneficial to focus on your individual requirements and preferences when deciding which type of ammunition or handgun to buy. Think about how you use your gun, your budget and your priorities in terms of what you’re looking to achieve. Both the 9mm and .40 S&W cartridges offer an array of features and advantages and they are both extremely effective. These cartridges are used around the world and they have been around for many years. When you look closer, there are differences and one caliber might suit an individual or an agency or department better than the other. The 9mm tends to be more affordable and recoil is more manageable while the .40 S&W is more potent. 


The 9mm and .40 calibers are among the most popular types of ammunition in the world. There are advantages and disadvantages of both options and it’s wise to consider how you use your gun and what you want to achieve before you decide what to buy. 

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