Steve Comus – GUN TALK

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Pistols in 10mm
What about the 10mm? The what?

Thinking about trying a new caliber handgun, but want something a little different? What about the 10mm auto?

Cartridge popularity can rise and fall, as evinced by the 10mm auto. It made some waves in the ’80s when it was introduced, faded off, only to come back bigger and better than ever these last couple of years.

THE 10MM COMPARES with other pistol cartridges. Here, the 10mm auto, center, is flanked by the .40 S&W, left, and .45 ACP.

The history of the 10mm is somewhat star crossed in that originally there was a pretty good supply of ammo for guns that either did not exist, or guns that existed but lacked magazines.

That part involved Dornaus & Dickson’s Bren 10 semi-auto pistol. The magazine snafu pretty much put an end to the Bren 10’s future. Norma, meanwhile, had made a whole bunch of beautiful 10mm ammo. As the Bren 10 faded away, the Colt Delta Elite 10mm came onto the scene. That was in 1987. I was there to shoot some of the first game animals ever taken with the DE.

For a number of years, the most prolific maker of pistols to shoot the 10mm auto was Glock. Within the past couple of years, other companies have discovered the 10mm auto and now, most companies that offer 1911 pistols have at least one model chambered for the 10mm auto.

Probably the biggest factor keeping the 10mm auto from enjoying more popularity in the early years was the development of the .40 S&W cartridge. The .40 S&W essentially is a short version of the 10mm auto. The same diameter bullets can be used, but the shorter overall cartridge length allows the .40 S&W to be chambered in pistol frame sizes that were designed for the 9mmP.

COLT DELTA ELITE in 10mm auto is one of many 1911 platforms that shoot that cartridge. Magazine holds eight rounds.

The whole idea behind the 10mm auto was to have a cartridge for a semi-auto pistol that delivered performance close to that of a .41 Magnum from a revolver. It comes close.

Ironically, I also happened to be on hand when the first animal ever shot with the .40 S&W was taken. It was on a hunt with Mike Jordan from Winchester ammo, and it was a wild hog. Went down hard.

To compare, nominal velocity of a 180-grain bullet out of a .40 S&W is 1,015 feet per second while the nominal velocity of a 180-grain bullet out of a 10mm auto is 1,030 (interestingly, the nominal velocity of a 200-grain bullet out of a 10mm auto is 1,050).

A lot of the hype lately for the 10mm auto imagines it to be a hunting cartridge. Certainly it works for hunting, but probably more appropriately as a backup/coups de grace proposition than a primary hunting rig.

One thing is certain. The 10mm auto is a heck of a lot of fun to shoot, and among semi-auto pistol cartridges, it ranks really well – right up there with the .45 ACP, offering a tiny edge over the .40 S&W. Which means it is something to think about for those who want something different, something fun and something that works well in a variety of settings.

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Steve Comus is a nationally recognized hunting editor with Safari Club International and a former WON Guns and Hunting Editor. His column appears every other week in WON and he can be reached at

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