When it comes to self-defense, there are several valid arguments for the 9mm vs 10mm handgun. Both are very popular and have their advantages and disadvantages. However, the 9mm is widely regarded as the ‘ideal’ handgun for self-defense. This goes for both home defense and conceal and carry. The popularity of the 9mm means that largely we have to defend the 10mm to justify it as a viable option.
Understand that the decision of which handgun to buy is a very personal decision. Every person has a different preference on weight, size, power, and recoil. Some people plan to conceal and carry, while others plan to use the weapon for home defense. Some stay in the city and worry about crime, while others spend time in the wilderness and are more concerned with predators. Before making a purchase, weigh your priorities and options to find the perfect fit for your needs.
The 10mm handgun was developed through a group effort by Col. Jeff Cooper, Norma, the FBI, and Smith & Wesson. The firearm was designed for use by FBI agents but was quickly set aside for other weapons. Some people claim that the recoil was too much for the wimpy FBI agents. However, the truth is that the weight and power simply slowed down their firing. Additional weight and recoil make target acquisition take a bit longer. When an agent is defending themselves and trying to put two or three rounds in a target quickly, the 10mm was not ideal.
The FBI did find that with different ammo, the 10mm handgun performed better in speed tests. The FBI lite load drastically reduced recoil and helped with performance. However, with a lighter load it eliminated the need for such a heavy gun. This brought the FBI back to the 9mm, .45 caliber, and actually sparked the design of the .40 Smith and Wesson. It makes a strong argument for the 9mm vs 10mm.
One of the biggest discussion points when evaluating the 10mm vs 9mm is power. In self-defense, power equates to penetration or over-penetration. There are really two schools of thought on power. Some gun owners want as much power as they can handle. They want to put down any target with one shot, regardless of what happens behind the target. This makes more sense for gun owners that use their handgun in the wilderness. You certainly do not want a lack of power if a bear or a wild hog is charging you.
On the other hand, is it really responsible to have that much power? You might take down your target with one shot, but possibly injure or kill somebody standing behind that target or even in another room. It is quite possible for a strong round to travel through a body and then keep going through a wall. In ballistics gel tests a 9mm would typically travel about 13 inches after impact, while the 10mm was sometimes over 17 inches. This means that a 10mm could potentially travel through two people at center mass and still keep going. That is a huge amount of power.
However, in the question of bullet penetration from a 9mm versus a 10mm the key lies in the ammunition. More velocity does not always mean deeper penetration. When you switch to jacketed hollow point defense rounds the penetration is about the same. The reason is that increased velocity causes a hollow point to spread faster after impact and to spread further. This creates more resistance and slows the bullet more than a round travelling at slower speeds. If you hit your target, the hollow point is just as safe as a 9mm round.
More importantly, you should always think about collateral damage before you fire any handgun. If you are not confident that you can hit your target without hurting other people, you do not take that shot. It is that simple. If gun owners are responsible about the way they use their firearms to defend themselves, then power is rarely an issue.
Recoil is probably the biggest argument in the 9mm vs 10mm debate, but it should not be. Yes, it is true that almost anybody can handle the recoil from a 9mm. Yes, the average 10mm round has noticeably more recoil than the average 9mm round. However, you will see a wide range of results based on the 10mm rounds you choose. If you go with a large, high speed round you will notice the recoil. However, there are plenty of rounds that have a similar kick to a 9mm.
It all comes down to the purpose for which you will be using your 10mm. If you are going to be in the bush and need it for protection against predators, then a heavier round and heavier recoil makes sense. Chances are you will only get one shot off anyways. If you are a city dweller and plan on using it against two legged predators, a light round is fine. There is no real benefit to using a more powerful 10mm round for normal self-defense.
In the cost debate between the 9mm vs the 10mm, the 9mm has a slight edge. While the guns themselves are similar in cost, the rounds off the shelf are much more affordable for the 9mm. However, there are two significant points to consider that negate this cost difference. One is that the cost to reload your own 10mm is almost identical to the cost to reload your own 9mm ammo. More and more gun owners are moving to reloading their own ammo to save on cost. I recently wrote an article that showed reloading the average 9mm round saves 73% versus the cost of buying off the shelf.
Moreover, when disaster strikes and ammo is hard to find the 10mm will still be left on the shelf. The 9mm ammo will be the first to go because a much higher percentage of gun owners use 9mm ammo. For me, this is even more important than the cost of the round. Many people hesitated to use their .22 rounds until the option of buying online came around. You simply could not find it in stores. All in all, we would call it a wash for many gun owners.
The purpose of your firearm may greatly determine your argument between the 10mm vs the 9mm. The 9mm has several models with several sizes and several purposes. Just looking at the Glock you have a 17 for home defense, a 19 for primary conceal and carry, and a Glock 26 for a backup or pocket pistol. All of these models have good stopping power but different sizes for anybody’s specific needs.
The 10mm is a bit more limited. If you needed to, you could use a 10mm for conceal and carry. It would be difficult. The gun is fairly large which makes it hard to conceal and less comfortable. Its primary purpose would be for home defense or for wilderness defense. While this limits the marketability of the 10mm over the entire potential customer base, it makes it the perfect weapon for a portion of the market.
Conclusion On 9mm Vs 10mm
The comparison between the 9mm vs the 10mm is a tough one for us. The 10mm has die-hard fans that are incredibly loyal. These owners love the power. They like knowing that their target will be disabled with one well-place shot. However, the majority of the market prefers the 9mm. It is more versatile, easier to handle, and safer in the minds of some users. There were undoubtedly several FBI agents that would prefer the power of the 10mm. In the end, the majority ruled and smaller firearms were chosen.
Again, this is a very personal decision. We like both weapons and own both for different reasons. When heading on a hog hunt in March, the 10mm will be along. For everyday purposes, the 9mm is used. Your best bet is to try out both at the range and see how they feel. For most people, if you can handle the recoil the 10mm is pretty incredible. Take your time and find the option that best fits your needs. Despite the differences in the 9mm vs 10mm, both are quality options. We are sure you will be happy with whichever option you choose.