Handguns and Ammunition Forum banner

.40 S&W: Intrisically Inaccurate?

3569 Views 21 Replies 13 Participants Last post by  brerarnold
The .40 S&W cartridge seems, to me, to have been birthed under somewhat dubious circumstances. The nipped-off little 10 mil is a direct result of recoil sensitivity on the part of the FBI's Agents, at the time of the original 10mm auto cartridge's adoption into that agency's service.

Many people believe that because of the peculiar way that the shortening and charge reduction affected the cartridge's geometry, operating pressures, and velocities, the bullet simply does not stabilize as well, resulting in a round that is somewhat less accurate than its other service-grade counterparts, such as the 9mm, .45 ACP, and 357 SIG.

I'm personally tempted to agree with them, having seen many more accuracy problems with .40s than with any other caliber I am aware of, and having never seen a group turned out by a .40 which I found genuinely impressive. This is not to say that the .40 is incapable of generating the level of accuracy necessary for good combat shooting, but more to say that it is less than ideal as a bullseye gun, and more likely to noticeably exaggerate any accuracy problem already present in a given example of any service-grade automatic. I hate to think that the most popular caliber in U.S. law enforcement might be deficient, in some way, but I've just never seen enough to give me any reason to believe anything else to be the case.

One or two examples is not enough, I really need the .40 owners to come out of the woodwork, and show me a lot of 25 yard, sub-2.5" groups, before this nagging doubt of mine can really be put to bed.

I'm not even voting in the poll, either. The jury's still out on this one, with me.

See less See more
1 - 20 of 22 Posts

I can't agree that the .40 is less accurate than the 9mm or .45 ACP. I've had four .40's. One Glock 23, one CZ-75B, and two Hi-Powers. Accuracy has been on par with my other 9mm Hi-Powers or 1911's. The cartridge will shoot better than most of us are capable of, IMHO.
Mind you, I haven't head to head tested them, but just mentally averaged the results I've seen.

"No" vote, not that *I* could tell any difference.

If/when the .40 (or 9mm, or others) gets as much time spent developing bullseye loads as the .38 Special or the .45ACP it will likely do as well.

Only my belief, based on no particular testing. I do have several of them.


I voted yes but I really must qualify that vote. There are so many different bullet weights for the .40 that it seems to me that any rifling twist is a compromise.

If there is a barrel out there optimized to say, the 155gr, then it'll probably hold its own with the other rounds for accuracy. However, as things stand now, I cannot shoot a group as tight as I can with a 9mm, and that's not for lack of familiarity or excessive recoil.

I did qualify with a Glock 22 from the Sheriff's Dept. I was happy, but not thrilled. I then went and shot my friend's G19. I got much tighter groups. He later got a Walther P99 in .40, and the groups opened up again.

I'm a person who finds the .44mag a bit on the light side for my tastes, so again, it wasn't recoil or flinching.

As an aside, I can put almost any centerfire auto to shame with a S&W M19. I just prefer the extra firepower and acceptable combat accuracy of the autos.

Josh <><
See less See more
Hello. I voted "no" although if speaking of the forty at its inception, I'd have cast my vote exactly the opposite. In the very first 40-caliber pistols I shot, accuracy was sort of mediocre but remember that it was a new round and the ammo makers had not yet come up with the "magic loads" that tend to work fairly well in the widest selection of handguns. Indeed, some factory ammo was blowing cases now and again in unaltered factory pistols! I witnessed a couple of factory ammo KB's within a few months of the forty's being released.

Whether or not bbls have changed or tweaked over the years, I cannot say as I've not been privy to such industry information and have not bought but two forty's as I'm just not interested in the cartridge. The two pistols were a Browning HP forty and a CZ-75B. The Hi Power was "pickey" with regard to which loads it would group. It did quite nicely with Remington 165-gr. Golden Sabers, Winchester 155-gr. STHP's and a 180-gr. cast flat point loaded to just under a thousand ft per second. With other loads, groups were sort of "ho hum" at best. The CZ seemed to "like" a much wider selection of factory loads.

See less See more
That's funny - my initial take was just like Mr. Camp's. I initially was not at all impressed with the .40 Short and Weak. I've come to realize that it is as accurate as the platform and the shooter - my handloads demonstrate that it's hard to even roll a bad one. :)

My BHP in .40 was a one-hole gun with factory loads (admittedly only at 10 yards, though) and my SIG-Sauer P239 is almost as good. I've certainly shot .40 handguns that were not so accurate, but I no longer feel the cartridge itself is to blame.
Mr. Chubby,

An interesting question sir (tips my hat). Make my vote a +2 with Mr. Camp and Mr. Erich (and most of the other folks who have responded).

To be honest I was a big 10mm fan, and carried first a Colt Delta Elite at work as my primary. When my agency killed single actions, I converted to a S&W 1006. It was hard for me to find either a factory round or reload my 10s did not seem to like. So I did sort of resent how the FBI trashed the 10mm, as I had some inside information and understood what was really going on there. It was not the pistol, nor the ammo. Rather it was a round the FBI was having loaded to their specs by two companies. Both companies and Smith tried to convince my illustrious brothers in arms that their specified load was simply too light to reliably operate the platform. An increase of 40fps in the loads would make the pistols 110%. But since my cohorts in crime knew far better than anyone else, they chose to trash the pistol/caliber and revert to a different round.

Smith actually developed the 40S&W in response as sort of a polite way of showing them, see this is really what you wanted, you just did not know it. So what does the Bureau issue these days? Would you believe a Glock in 40, lol. (No we do not swap spit in case you had not figured that one out, but I try to be polite when discussing them anyway.)

My first venture into the 40 was very early on, and to be honest I was simply not that impressed with it. I put it aside for a few years, went back to my two P226s in 9mm and was fairly content, although a bigger round suits me better honestly. When we changed the 40 round we issued for those who elected to carry a personally owned 40, I gave it another try on the range one day.

Maybe I was just more mellow about the round then, or maybe the ammo folks had simply gotten it a bit better too, but I shot the different round much better that day. I had a couple of other instructors shoot my 4006 and we all agreed something was different then. I sold the 4006 to a co-worker who shot it that day and just had to have it. I bought two P226s in 40, and they became my carry pistols at that point.

I currently have 4 pistols in 40S&W - a P226 on a steel frame, a 229, an FN HP, and a 75B. I find the accuracy in all 4 to be more than acceptable for carry purposes. As Mr. Camp noted, I do think the 75B is a bit more user friendly with the ammo it likes, as I have simply not found a poor combo for it yet, be it factory or reloads. But I can say the same about my 226 and to a lesser degree the 229. To be honest I only bought the 229 when an odd firearms policy would allow me to carry a personally owned 229 at work again, but not a 226. That was subsequently changed to allow the 226 again as well. So once I could go with a 226, the 229 does not get fired much, as I am simply not an alloy frame person really. Eventually I will probably sell it or trade it for another steel framed 226. But I could end up with a 229 in steel as Sig now offers that version too.

As a matter of fact, my HP does not give me bad groups either now that I think about it. So I guess I would have to say something has happened with the factory ammo out there now. Or maybe I have just mellowed - or both. So I do not find its accuracy to be inherently different from other comparable carry calibers - at least in present day times anyway.

I recently was shooting a variety of 40 rounds both factory and a limited number of reloads, in testing a newly acquired chronograph. Honestly I was paying more attention to not killing my chorno that I was my target, lol. But I had a farily decent one holer about 10 yds away when I was through. It was not a 1 incher, but again I was paying more attention to my taped areas on my rods than my target. It was probably more like one inch wide and maybe two inches high when I had fired all the various factory and handloads.

I do admit I am a major 357 Sig fan these days. I did notice when I had finished firing 70 rounds of assorted factory and reloads through my chorno with that caliber, my target was more of a 1 incher period. But I have found that round to be amazingly accurate too.

During test firing I was shooting as rapidly as I could. As soon as my buddy told me he had a reading I fired again. But I think the results I obtained would be more than adequate for social purposes or LEO carry purposes. I am not a competitve shooter, and never have been. But I do know from talking with a couple of such shooters, the 40 is being used more and more by a lot of shooters with good results. So I think that too would seem to establish it is certainly accurate enough for most things the average shooter would need to do with it.

That being said, I have to be honest, most of my 40s now live with a 357 Sig barrel in them too. But again, that is really why they make Fords, Chevys and a ton of other brands - so folks can drive what they want. Just my thoughts for what they are worth, others may disagree.

See less See more
Thanks, folks. I've been thinking about saving up for a CZ 97B, but there's a strong chance that it just won't fit my hand properly. If it doesn't, then my only choice will be another 75, in .40.
You know, with these responses, I might have to try a newer .40. The P99 was just out and the Glock was a Gen 1 or 2 gun - it had no finger grooves at any rate.

Josh <><
Mr. Chubby,

I really don't think you would be unhappy with a 75B in 40 sir. I am impressed enough with mine, at some point (sooner than later) I anticipate buying another 75B in 40 and one in 9mm.
I really do think the 75B has a lot to offer and is still basically a sleeper price wise. So I want to buy a couple of other ones before they become to well regarded and the prices go up.

I fully expect the CZ 75 to top out at around $750 for a base model. What's worse, I don't see the 97B, the P-01, and the like being a cent less than a high end SIG, before it's over with.

Also, let me say, right now, that if I can find someone who makes a drop-in 357 SIG barrel for the CZ 75, it's over.

I will probably champion that gun as the best possible service auto imaginable, for the rest of my days.
See my post titled "New Project" under the 1911 section of this forum for pictures of a 1 hole 3 shot 25 yard group. as well as a couple others.
Mr. Chubby,

I have noticed when I was on the CZ forum and folks were discussing prices they have paid for their pistols, there seems to be a major difference depending on the state or even the gun store you are standing in on what the CZ pistols cost.

I recently was in a Sportsmans Warehouse in Tucson, AZ and they are selling the 75B in 40 in black polycoat for $449, and the 75B in 9mm, black polycoat for $439. So all I can suggest is look around a bit, you might be surprised to find one at a very reasonable price.

These prices I just quoted on both pistols are for NIB.

Good luck,

See less See more
Hi there chubbypidgeon,

I've been shooting the .40 S&W for the past 11 years and started back when it first came on the scene in my Glock 23.

First, I'd like to say that Mr. Camp does indeed have the historical perspective correct based on my experience as well. However, with the passage of time, the ammunition makers have gotten the .40 S&W round up to speed and it is no less accurate than the other centerfire ammunition depending on the handgun and the shooter.

As a reloader, a believe this round can do as well as others in the same class and have no qualms about wringing out its accuracy potential.

I remember when they used to say that the 9mm was not an intrinsically accurate cartridge. Now you see it at camp Perry. It was just a matter of developing it and its guns for bullseye. I see no reason why the same thing couldn't be done with the .40 S&W as well. They used to call it the "Short and Weak" as well! Shame about the 10mm, though. I lusted after the Bren 10, and was very excited about the cartridge. I put a hundred rounds through a 1006 and fifty through a Glock (both rentals), and really enjoyed it. Perhaps Glock will give the Model 20 the grip treatment that they are offering for the 21, and the Ten will hang in there.
I bought a new S&W Model 4006 in the summer of 1990. The only ammo available at that time was the Winchester 180 gr JHP in twenty round boxes.

Accuracy with this load in the 4006 was mediocre at best. As more makes of .40 ammo became available, I tried them all and I never could get the 4006 to do any better with any of them. I bought handloading dies and bullets and various powders and tried to work up at least one load that would give acceptable accuracy. I consider acceptable accuracy to be three inch groups at 50 feet. None of my handloads would do it. So I put the 4006 in the safe and gave up on it.

Then in 1997 I bought a new Browning HP .40 and I acquired a factory .40 barrel for my Sig P229 .357 SIG. Took both pistols to the range and tried them with Winchester white box 180 gr FMJ. Both pistols easily grouped under three inches at 50 feet. Further range sessions with assorted factory ammo and handloads confirmed that the Browning and Sig were accurate with just about anything I fed them.

I dug the 4006 out of the safe and placed in on consignment sale at a near give away price just to get rid of the inaccurate thing. I have since read of similiar accuracy problems with the S&W 3rd gen fullsized pistols chambered for the .40 round.

My most recent .40 acquistion is a Beretta 96 INOX. It has proven to be an accurate shooter and groups just as well as the HP and P229,

I keep hearing and reading about the .40 S&W being an inaccurate round. I don't believe it.

See less See more
A qualified no. This is not to say that when we take the sum total of loads and guns that it might not work out that way, but it is probably got more to do with the guns (mechanical accuracy, types and wts of triggers, sight radius etc).

In my fledgling years everyone said the 9mm was inaccurate also. Not so in a really good gun, they can be quite accurate.

Jim H.
for the most part it is the guns it is chambered in that are not accurate. ive been shooting the 40S&W continuously since 1994, and ive become fairly well convinced that its both the pistols, and the (censored) pulling the trigger that gives the 40 a bad name. plus there are a lot of folks out there with zero experience with the cartridge that just like to repeat what they've read. not all 9's and 45's are tack drivers, and neither are all 40's.
I modified one word in your post, leftyo. I'm sure you didn't mean it.

1 - 20 of 22 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.