SMITH & WESSON NEWS RELEASE: "Smith & Wesson is very pleased to announce that the California Highway Patrol has selected the new .40 S&W Model 4006 as the agency's duty sidearm. ...According to the California Highway Patrol's Weapon Test and Evaluation: `This weapon exhibited the best performance during the endurance testing of all weapons tested.' (including Glocks and Colts in .40 and 10MM) ....`This is an important milestone for the new .40 S&W', said S&W President Steve Melvin, `because it establishes the new caliber as the choice of a most prestigious law enforcement agency....When we and Winchester decided to cooperatively develop the .40 S&W cartridge, we both felt we were an excellent new product for the law enforcement community. This selection goes a long way toward verifying that feeling."

Anyone who reads about guns at all has surely noticed the excitement created by the Smith & Wesson/Winchester collaboration in bringing out a new pistol/cartridge combination. Excitement such as I have not seen over a new handgun caliber in my thirty-five years of shooting. Putting it simply, the 4006/.40 S&W, gun/cartridge combination looks like the finest offering ever for our too often inadequately-armed peace officers. The California Highway Patrol has already ordered 7000 of these new guns. For good or bad, California often leads the nation, and this time they have taken a very positive step forward. One that will probably save the lives of many peace officers.

Peace officers are normally inadequately armed for a couple of reasons. Two of the major ones being administrators that do not understand the meaning of an effective defensive handgun, and probably even more prevalent, the fact that most peace officers are not dyed-in-the-wool shooters and do not get enough practice to be able to handle anything larger than a .38 Special or 9MM. For the first time, we now have a high capacity, 12 shot, nine 'em-'em sized semi-automatic that delivers a payload that will genuinely surprize me if it does not come very close to being the equal of the .45 ACP in the area of one-shot stops. And it doesn't stop with just the Smith & Wesson offering in .40 S&W as other makers are already offering .40's and I have seen at least three other semi-automatics in the new cartridge.

What Smith & Wesson and Winchester have done is simply to give the peace officer, and the armed law-abiding citizen, a high capacity, medium-sized, up-to-date, honest-to-goodness modern semi-automatic that delivers a bullet of adequate diameter and weight. Of course the .40 is not proven yet, but one only has to look back at the record of the ancient .38-40 which it duplicates to know what to expect. The .38-40 was a proven stopper; with modern bullets the .40 S&W should be even better.

The Winchester factory load for the .40 S&W (The 10MM Short?) duplicates the FBI load for the 10MM (The 10MM Light?), both of which are rated at 950 fps with a 180 grain bullet. The Winchester load clocks 963 feet per second from a four-inch barreled .40 S&W over the triple skyscreens of the Oehler Model 35P and the Federal "FBI" load goes 948 feet per second from a five-inch S&W Model 1006.

Two premises that have received wide circulation the past decade or so are 1) The .45 ACP is too much gun for the average police officer or armed citizen to handle, and 2) The 9MM is an adequate defensive cartridge plus as an added bonus affords greater firepower and less recoil. Both of these premises happen to be false but like so many other myths, they have received such widespread circulation that many shooters actually believe that they are true. What the .40 offers is a chance to bring us back to reality and give something very close to .45 ACP "stopping power" (if there really is such a thing) with the gun size, recoil, and nearly the magazine capacity of the 9MM. Very nearly a case of being able to have one's cake and eat it too.

In the 1870's, the .38-40 offered the same ballistics as the modern .40 S&W and over the next seventy years was outdistanced in popularity in the Colt Single Action only by the legendary .45 Colt and the .44-40. In the 1960's, Elmer Keith, Bill Jordan, and Skeeter Skelton beat the drums for a new police cartridge, but instead of getting a .41 Special at 950 feet per second in a medium-sized sixgun we wound up with the excellent outdoorsman's cartridge, the .41 Magnum at 1400 plus feet per second in the large N-framed Smith & Wesson and Ruger Blackhawk. Too much of a good thing for the purpose originally intended.

Now the wrong has been righted and we have the .41 Special but it turns out to be the .40 S&W and not in a 1960-ish sixgun but a 1990-ish high capacity wonder-ten semi-automatic. The 1960's offered a large framed .41 carrying six shots; the 1990's gives us a medium framed .40 with twelve shot capacity. Ain't progress wonderful?

The .40 cartridge itself is nothing more than a shortened 10MM to allow an overall loaded cartridge length equal to the 9MM. The brass itself, the .40 S&W that is, is longer than the 9MM, but the use of fairly blunt bullets of 170 to 180 grains allows an overall cartridge length that will work through guns designed for the 9MM. While the FBI went with full-sized semi-autos that handle the 10MM Light, the California Highway Patrol has gone with medium sized semi-autos that handle the 10MM Short. Something backwards here as the ballistics are the same but the uniformed officer carries the medium-sized pistol and the undercover agent carries the full-sized pistol. Hmmmm?

Loading the .40 S&W is no great chore and I have been loading for a couple of months now using RCBS's Carbide .40 S&W dies which have performed perfectly. Brass for the .40 S&W is not what one would classify as abundant yet so one may be tempted to trim 10MM brass to .40 S&W length. It works on the outside but not on the inside as the 10MM brass cut to .40 S&W length must be inside reamed to accept bullets without bulging the brass.

Anytime that a new cartridge surfaces it is always quite interesting to venture into the reloading of same without really knowing where one is going. Sometimes it is more than interesting if one has nothing but the seat of the pants and common sense to fly by. In the case of the .40 S&W, it was quite simple to begin reloading as I had extensive data on the .41 Action Express which is only slightly larger in powder capacity than the .40 S&W.

Going to the .41AE data, I found loads for the 170 grain bullet that were in the 950 feet per second range, cut the powder charge one-half grain and I was right on the money with the same weight bullet in the .40 S&W. All the work that had been done with the .41AE really saved a tremendous amount of time and guesswork when loading the .40 S&W.

Powders for the .40 S&W are those normally used for semi-automatics, namely Accurate Arms #2, #5, and #7, Hercules Herco, Unique and Bullseye, Winchester WW231 and WW540, and the powder that seems to work extremely well for everything from semi-automatics through the .475 and .500 Linebaughs, Hercules Blue Dot. In fact Blue Dot seems to give 150 feet per second more muzzle velocity with less pressure indicated on the primer than AA#7.

Bullets for the .40 S&W are already in abundance as .40 inches and 10MM are identical and Hornady and Nosler both have excellent 170 grain jacketed hollow points available and Speer and Sierra both have 180 grain .40/10MM JHP's that are perfect for the .40 S&W. For cast bullets in the .40, I have utilized the Bull-X 175 gr. lead semi-wadcutter and Lyman's #401043 180 grain which is what I would describe as a round flat nose design.

The .40 S&W is very easy to load for at least in the Smith & Wesson 4006 as at no time did any malfunctions occur nor were there any feeding problems with any of the bullets that were tried. This is amazing in light of the fact that I just finished testing two tried and true .45 ACP's from two different makers and both malfunctioned three times.

Duplicating the factory load of approximately 950 feet per second is quite easy and can be accomplished with 180 grain jacketed hollowpoints and 5.5 grains of AA#2, 5.5 grains of WW231, 7.0 grains of AA#5, 9.0 grains of AA#7, 6.0 grains of Herco, 8.0 grains of Blue Dot, and 7.5 grains of WW540. Loads assembled with 9.0 grains of AA#7 and the Sierra 180 grain jacketed hollow point gave the best accuracy in this bullet weight.

Switching to the slightly lighter 170 grain jacketed hollow points from Hornady or Nosler, the same powder charges cited above for the 180 grain jacketed hollow points will give velocities in the 900-1000 feet per second range. The most accurate jacketed bullet load of more than sixty loads that were tried in the Smith & Wesson Model 4006 .40 S&W turned out to be the 170 grain Nosler jacketed hollow point over 8.0 grains of Blue Dot. At a muzzle velocity of 906 feet per second, this loads groups into one and one-quarter inches at 25 yards. Its accuracy is duplicated in cast bullet loads by Lyman's #401043 over 5.0 grains of WW231 for a muzzle velocity of 975 feet per second, or Bull-X's 175 grain semi-wadcutter over 7.5 grains of Blue Dot for 1004 feet per second.

Handguns are used for many varied purposes. Target shooting, silhouette competition, action shooting, hunting, and just plain plinking to name a few. The .40 S&W may find a solid niche as a competition cartridge, but first and foremost the purpose of a handgun is defense. Immediate defense. A handgun can be carried in a properly designed holster, and be just as ready for quick action as if it were in the shooter's hand and be depended upon for a quick, one-shot stop to a life threatening confrontation. The .40 S&W could well become the epitome of defensive handgun cartridges.







LYMAN #401043 

LOAD                            MV                GROUP

5.0 GR. WW231         975                 1 1/4"

5.5 GR. WW231         1037

6.0 GR. WW231         1096 2             1/2"

6.0 GR. HERCO             928                 2"

6.5 GR. HERCO         1013                 2 1/8"

6.5 GR. AA#5             869                  3 1/4"

7.0 GR. AA#5             971                     3"

8.5 GR. AA#7             955                   2 1/2"

9.0 GR. AA#7             1005                 1 1/2"

9.5 GR. AA#7             1053                 2 1/2"

7.5 GR. BLUE DOT    937                   3 1/4"

8.0 GR. BLUE DOT     993                  2 1/2"


4.5 GR. BULLSEYE     865                 3 1/2"

5.0 GR. BULLSEYE     980                 3 1/4"

5.0 GR. AA#2               999                 2 1/2"

5.5 GR. AA#2             1015                 1 3/4"

5.0 GR. WW231         1017                     3"

5.5 GR. WW231         1039                     3"

5.0 GR. UNIQUE         946                 2 3/4"

5.5 GR. UNIQUE         1045                     3"

6.5 GR. AA#5              943                 3 1/8"

7.0 GR. AA#5             1028                 1 3/4"

8.5 GR. AA#7              938                   2 1/2"

9.0 GR. AA#7             1019                     2"

7.5 GR. BLUE DOT     1004                 1 1/2"

8.0 GR. BLUE DOT     1063                 1 7/8"

5.5 GR. HERCO             912                 3 1/2"

6.0 GR. HERCO             1004               3 1/2"



5.5 GR. AA#2                 995                 3"

6.0 GR. AA#2                 1051

6.5 GR. AA#5                 869                 3"

7.0 GR. AA#5                 920                 3 1/4"

7.5 GR. AA#5                 963                 3 1/4"

9.0 GR. AA#7                 977                 3"

9.5 GR. AA#7                 1007

5.5 GR. WW231             993

8.0 GR. BLUE DOT        936                 2 3/4"

8.5 GR. BLUE DOT       1036

6.5 GR. HERCO             965

7.0 GR. WW540             846 4                 1/4"

7.5 GR. WW540 918 3"


5.5 GR. AA#2                 957                     3 1/2"

5.5 GR. WW231             966                     3 1/4"

7.0 GR. AA#5                 975                     2 1/2"

7.5 GR. AA#5                 1035                     2"

9.0 GR. AA#7                 975 2                     1/2"

9.5 GR. AA#7                 1024                     2 1/4"

8.0 GR. BLUE DOT         906                     1 1/4"

7.0 GR. WW540             856                         2 7/8"

7.5 GR. WW540             947                         4 1/2


5.5 GR. AA#2                 964                     4"

5.5 GR. WW231             983                     3 1/2"

7.0 GR. AA#5                 962                     2 1/4"

7.5 GR. AA#5                 1073                    4"

9.0 GR. AA#7                 986                     1 3/4"

9.5 GR. AA#7                 1048                     2 1/2"

6.0 GR. HERCO             957                       2 3/4"

8.0 GR. BLUE DOT        931                         3"

7.0 GR. WW540             919                     2 1/2"

7.5 GR. WW540             965                     4 1/4"


5.5 GR. AA#2                 1013                     3 1/2"

5.5 GR. WW231             1020                     3 1/4"

7.0 GR. AA#5                 938                         4"

9.0 GR. AA#7                 969                       4 1/2"

8.0 GR. BLUE DOT        1070                    4 1/2"

6.5 GR. HERCO             1049                     3 3/4"