What You Need to Know About the .40 S&W and the Top 13 .40 Pistols

The .40 Smith and Wesson cartridge has now been around for over 30 years. And, it’s still a top choice for those looking for a quality pistol for both the range and the home.

To supporters, a .40 S&W combines the portability of a smaller .9mm with a higher caliber round that more closely matches a .45 ACP. So, keep reading to learn a brief history of the .40 S&W cartridge. And continue scrolling to learn about 13 of the top .40 pistols available.

 

A Brief History

The .40 Smith & Wesson (S&W) cartridge was born from an April 1986 bank robbery involving the FBI. Following this shootout, and the subsequent death of two agents, the FBI sought to create a more powerful round than the .9mm a majority of agents were using that day.

This search led to the creation of a .10mm load with a 180-grain bullet. Subsequently, the FBI commissioned S&W to develop a smaller .10mm cartridge case that would ballistically match the .10mm. Then, in 1990, the .40 S&W was officially unveiled.

 

The Top 13 .40 Pistols (In no Particular Order)

 

Sig Sauer – P229 Nitron Compact

Sig Sauer P229 Nitron Compact

Sig Sauer’s P229 Nitron Compact is a quality, compact .40 handgun. The P229 is a large sidearm, especially considering its polymer frame. One of the P229’s signature qualities is its one-piece G2 grip. This G2 grip narrows the P229’s grip making it easier to handle for those with smaller hands.

Meanwhile, the P229’s alloy frame gives the P229 some heft most polymer-framed guns lack. But this alloy frame also helps to ensure your P229 is around for the long haul.

Specs:

  • Magazine Capacity: 10 rounds
  • Height: 5.4 inches
  • Weight: 34.4 ounces
  • Width: 1.5 inches
  • Barrel Length: 3.9 inches
  • Grip: E2
  • Action: Double-Action/Single-Action

 

2. Sig Sauer – P320 Nitron Compact

The P320 Nitron Compact bears many similarities with its cousin above, the P229. It’s roughly the same size and length and features similar, standard three-white dot sights. But here’s where the similarities end. The first difference you’ll notice about the P320 is its magazine capacity.

With a 13-round capacity, the P320 is a slight upgrade from the 10-round P229 magazine. Additionally, while the P320, in total, is lighter than the P229, its frame is made from stainless steel. This stainless-steel frame ensures your P320 is around for the long haul.

But the most significant difference between the two Sigs is their trigger action. The P229 operates on a more common double-action/single-action trigger. On the other hand, the P320 works on a striker-fired interchangeable trigger group. This striker-fired system gives you a smooth consistent pull.

Specs:

  • Magazine Capacity: 13 rounds
  • Height: 5.3 inches
  • Weight: 25.8 ounces
  • Width: 1.3 inches
  • Barrel Length: 3.9 inches
  • Grip: Polymer
  • Action: Striker-Fired

 

3. Glock – G22

Glock’s G22 is a police standard across the country for a reason. The weapon combines a lightweight polymer frame, with a high magazine capacity, and a Safe Action trigger system. Each of these features makes it an ideal choice for a service weapon.

Like other Glocks, the G22 has a slender frame, especially considering its high magazine capacity. This slim grip, plus its interchangeable backstraps, makes it easy to wield for those with smaller hands. But the G22’s real separator is Glock’s patented striker-fired Safe Action trigger.

The Safe Action System works to provide users with a consistent trigger pull throughout the life of your weapon. Three automatic, independently-operating mechanical safeties are built into the gun’s fire control system. These features work to give your G22 a smooth pull and crisp release.

Specs:

  • Magazine Capacity: 15 rounds
  • Height: 5.47 inches
  • Weight: 25.57 ounces
  • Width: 1.26 inches
  • Barrel Length: 4.49 inches
  • Grip: Polymer
  • Action: Safe Action

 

4. Glock – G35

The Glock G35, like the G22, is a lightweight yet durable .40 S&W handgun. Also, like the G22, the G35 combines a large, 15-round magazine with a slender frame. Plus, one of the best features of the G35, like its Glock cousins, is its striker-fired Safe Action trigger system.

As previously covered, this Safe Action system uses multiple springs to absorb the handgun’s recoil better. Similarly, this system, and recoil absorption, should help extend the life of your gun’s components. It’s reported the spring assemblies of Gen4 Glocks will last over twice as long as the typical recoil spring assembly.

This spring system, with the G35’s longer barrel, makes it an ideal sidearm for both self-defense and use on the range. The G35 combines accuracy, durability, and the power of the .40 cartridge to produce a high-quality handgun.

Specs:

  • Magazine Capacity: 15 rounds
  • Height: 5.47 inches
  • Weight: 27.69 ounces
  • Width: 1.3 inches
  • Barrel Length: 5.31 inches
  • Grip: Polymer
  • Action: Safe Action

 

5. HK – USP

Like other handguns on this list, HK’s USP has a light, polymer-based frame. HK pioneered the use of polymers in their pistols over 30 years ago. Now, in its USP reinforces its polymer frame with stainless steel inserts at areas subject to stress and friction. These inserts make the USP more durable than your average polymer-built sidearm.

One of the USP’s most significant features is its Browning-type action with a patented recoil reduction system. According to HK, this system reduces recoil felt by the user, as well as recoil effects on your pistol’s components. Additionally, the system allows users to change the type of trigger firing mode they want to use.

This customization, in conjunction with the gun’s accuracy and durability, makes the HK USP a quality firearm for numerous occasions.

Specs:

  • Magazine Capacity: 13 rounds
  • Height: 5.31 inches
  • Weight: 29.12 ounces
  • Width: 1.26 inches
  • Barrel Length: 4.25 inches
  • Grip: Polymer
  • Action: Double-Action/Single-Action/Double-Action Only

 

6. HK – VP40

The VP40 is a modern classic .40 S&W handgun. Like the USP, HK’s VP40 features a 13-round magazine as well as a similar height and weight. Additionally, the VP40 shares HK’s proprietary captive, flat recoil spring. But the VP40 sets itself apart from the USP and other guns on this list with its striker-fired trigger system. This system works to give the VP40 an enhanced “light pull” trigger.

The VP’s enhanced trigger gives users a short, single-action type break, and a similarly quick reset. Plus, polygonal bore profile increases velocity, makes cleaning easier, and lengthens the life of your barrel. Each of these features add up to make the VP40 one of the top .40 S&W handguns on the market.

Specs:

  • Magazine Capacity: 13 rounds
  • Height: 5.45 inches
  • Weight: 28.93 ounces
  • Width: 1.32 inches
  • Barrel Length: 4.09 inches
  • Grip: Polymer
  • Action: Striker-Fired

 

7. Ruger – SR40

Ruger’s SR40, like others on this list, is a quality .40 S&W handgun made from a polymer body. This polymer frame, with the gun’s glass-filled nylon grip, makes the gun both lightweight and slender. These features make the SR40 one of the best feeling handguns, especially for those with smaller hands.

This nylon grip, combined with the gun’s polymer frame and reversible backstrap, gives the weapon quality ergonomics. These ergonomics are critical for accuracy and control, especially during high-pressure situations. They also help to combat the recoil from .40 S&W rounds. That’s why Ruger touts the SR40 as one of the easiest recoiling .40 handguns on the market.

Specs:

  • Magazine Capacity: 15 rounds
  • Height: 5.52 inches
  • Weight: 27.2 ounces
  • Width: 1.27 inches
  • Barrel Length: 4.14 inches
  • Grip: Glass-Filled Nylon
  • Action: Striker-Fired, Double-Action Only

 

8. Smith and Wesson – M&P40 M2

Similar to HK’s USP, the M&P40 features a reinforced polymer frame. Unlike other polymer-based guns, the M&P40’s polymer body is reinforced with an extended stainless-steel chassis. This stainless-steel chassis was reinvented for the M2 version of the M&P40. These reinvented inserts provide the M&P40 with both greater strength and rigidity.

While this stainless-steel chassis makes the gun a tad heavier, it also makes for a more reliable and accurate sidearm. And the M&P40 features a new, crisp trigger with a lighter trigger pull and a distinct, audible reset. This improved trigger helps the M&P40 stay consistent from round to round.

Similarly, the trigger combined with the beefed-up frame helps reduce weapon flex when firing. Each of these features makes the M&P40 a more reliable and accurate sidearm. Combined with the gun’s aggressively textured grip and interchangeable palm swells, these features help users improve aim recovery when oscillating between multiple targets.

Specs:

  • Magazine Capacity: 15 rounds
  • Height: 5.5 inches
  • Weight: 25.9 ounces
  • Width: 1.3 inches
  • Barrel Length: 4.25 inches
  • Grip: Polymer
  • Action: Striker-Fired

 

9. Beretta – Px4 Storm

The Beretta Px4 Storm .40 S&W is a reliable, polymer-based pistol. One of the features that most distinguish Beretta’s Px4 Storm from the other guns on this list is its rotating barrel design. In theory, the rotating motion of the barrel translates to improved recoil and reduced muzzle flip.

Another distinguishing feature of the Px4 Storm is the weapon’s availability in four different action types. The most common type, F, is the traditional Single-Action/Double-Action. The G model is similar to the F but doesn’t have a decocker that doubles as a safety. Model D is Double-Action only. Finally, the C model is constant-action with features a spurless hammer, no decocker, and no safety.

Specs:

  • Magazine Capacity: 14 rounds
  • Height: 5.51 inches
  • Weight: 27.7 ounces
  • Width: 1.42 inches
  • Barrel Length: 4 inches
  • Grip: Polymer
  • Action: Single-Action/Double-Action

 

10. Walther – PPQ M2

Walther’s PPQ M2 .40 S&W pistol is a reliable, polymer-framed .40 pistol. And while the handgun features a fairly standard polymer grip, it makes up for it with its ergonomics-forward design. This ergonomic grip helps users minimize shot-to-shot recovery and improve accuracy when firing.

This recoil stabilization is especially helpful for shooting .40 rounds from a polymer-based pistol, like the PPQ M2. Another main feature from the PPQ M2 is its short, trigger reset. This shorter trigger reset allows users to empty a magazine at a rapid pace. All of these benefits add up to make the PPQ M2 a quality, easy-to-shoot pistol. It’s great for either home defense or on the range.

Specs:

  • Magazine Capacity: 11 rounds
  • Height: 5.3 inches
  • Weight: 24.5 ounces
  • Width: 1.3 inches
  • Barrel Length: 4 inches
  • Grip: Polymer
  • Action: Striker-Fired

 

11. Springfield – XD-S Mod.2

Springfield’s XD-S .40 is a small pistol that packs the punch of a typical .40 S&W handgun. With a width of less than one inch, the XD-S is the slenderest pistol on this list. This frame makes the XD-S a perfect choice for those with smaller hands or less grip strength. Adding to the gun’s ease of use is its quality and unique grip.

The XD-S features new GripZone texturing that’s designed with multiple gripping textures to match the specific dynamics of the human hand. Springfield’s GripZone has three interrelating surfaces. Zone 1 is the most aggressively textured. Zone 2, where the palm and inside of the fingers grab the pistol. Finally, Zone 3 features a mild, light grain texture.

In addition to its size and grip, the XD-S separates itself from other guns on this list through its dual captive recoil spring system. This system combines a large coil spring and a secondary smaller coil spring within a captive-style, two-piece guide rod assembly. The dual spring systems work to combat recoil and are especially noticeable when using a .40 S&W or .45 ACP round.

Specs:

  • Magazine Capacity: 6 rounds
  • Height: 4.4 inches
  • Weight: 22 ounces
  • Width: .9 inches
  • Barrel Length: 3.3 inches
  • Grip: Polymer
  • Action: Striker-Fired

12. FN – FNS-40

The Belgian-made FNS-40, like many on this list, is a quality striker-fired, polymer-framed pistol. Like the M&P40, the FNS-40’s polymer body is reinforced with stainless-steel inserts. These inserts help balance the gun, reduce reoil, and improve accuracy. Each of these features makes the FNS-40 one of the best available .40 S&W handguns around.

Specs:

  • Magazine Capacity: 14 rounds
  • Height: 5.5 inches
  • Weight: 27.5 ounces
  • Width: 1.35 inches
  • Barrel Length: 4 inches
  • Grip: Polymer
  • Action: Striker-Fired, Double-Action Only

 

13. Kahr – CT40

The final handgun on this list is Kahr’s CT40. The CT40 features smaller, seven-round magazines. A standard front white-dot sight gives way to dovetailed back sights with a white rectangle. These sights work to distinguish the CT40 from other pistols on this list with standard three white-dot sights.

Another way the CT40 distinguishes itself is in the barrel. The CT40 utilizes conventional rifling, not polygonal rifling, that’s more common. This rifling helps make the CT40 one of the most inexpensive weapons on this list. But don’t worry about a reduction in quality. The CT40 receives top marks for accuracy.

Specs:

  • Magazine Capacity: 7 rounds
  • Height: 5.13 inches
  • Weight: 23.9 ounces
  • Width: .94 inches
  • Barrel Length: 4 inches
  • Grip: Polymer
  • Action: Striker-Fired Double-Action Only

 

To Summarize:

As with the list of the .45 pistols, each of the handguns here is a quality sidearm. Each of these best .40 pistols gives you an awesome blend of power, reliability, and accuracy. A .40 pistol is a perfect fit for those looking to split the difference between a .45 ACP and a .9mm.

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