Looking for a great caliber to carry for a duty weapon, or a sidearm with the power to stop a charging bear?
We’d like to introduce you to the humble 10mm.
This little powerhouse can be a bit snappy to handle, but they’re great at stopping just about anything, which is why we think they’re ideal for self-defense, target shooting, and more!
Today, we are going to be looking at a variety of 10mm ammo designed for a little bit of everything, so you can find the perfect rounds for your needs–whatever they may be. Let’s talk about it!
Where Did 10mm Come From?
Jeff Cooper, along with engineers at Norma designed the 10mm round to be the premier combat round. Unfortunately, like the 41 Magnum, the 10mm was kicked to the curb after a short stay with the FBI. Apparently, some weak wristed agents couldn’t pass muster.
Long story short, the round was downloaded so much the extra case space was useless, so it became the 40 Short and Weak. The 10mm didn’t die though, and I dare say it has seen a small resurgence recently in the shooting community.
For some time, the only maker of 10mm guns was Glock and sometimes Colt. However, these days we have 10mm XDs and 1911s from Springfield Armory, 10mm 1911s and 2011s from budget companies like RIA, and SIG produced the P220 in 10mm as well. Even S&W brought back the S&W 610 a revolver in 10mm very recently.
This niche little round has grown, and why not? It’s a versatile round that can be used for hunting, self-defense, and even animal defense while hunting. It can be downloaded to be more pleasant to shoot or compete with.
Lucky Gunner runs a blog called the Lounge and it’s a haven for information. They also created an awesome test matrix to test the ammunition they sell. This test involves ballistic gel and was established by the FBI years ago to test handgun bullet effectiveness.
The test utilizes professional-grade ballistic gel that will measure the depth a round penetrates. The goal is for the round to penetrate at least 12 inches of ballistic gel, but not penetrate more than 18 inches.
This applies to self-defense ammo and to be honest that it the most important consideration for a weapon.
To ensure the test is realistic and accurate they utilize 4 layers of fabric to represent clothing. These many layers simulate a worst-case scenario in which you are defending yourself in January in North Dakota and the bad guy is wearing appropriate winter wear.
The testing involves 5 shots fired from 10 feet away and for the 10mm test they used a Glock 20.
The Glock 20 is likely the most affordable and common 10mm pistol on the market and representative of most 10mm pistols. The only small 10mm handguns out there are the Glock 29, some oddball compact 1911s, and EAA has a subcompact Witness in 10mm.
If you are going with a 10mm, you likely aren’t looking for a subcompact gun anyway.
I used this data, as well as personal experience and advice from a friend who is a major 10mm aficionado, to pick a number of rounds based on a few different requirements.
The three categories are self-defense, plinking, and even hunting.
Best 10mm Ammo
Self-defense and duty use are what the 10mm was originally developed to do. The 10mm is a great self-defense load and to a degree, it might be a bit much to a lot of people. However, no one can deny it’s not a potent, man-stopping round.
1. Federal 180 Grain Hydra-Shok
Oh yeah–having Hydra-Shok rounds in the best self-defense ammo isn’t a big surprise. The Hydra-Shok brand has always been a worthy contender when it comes to both effective penetration and efficient expansion.
This 180 grain Hydra-Shok round is relatively mild in terms of velocity. It moves at only roughly 1,000 FPS. This makes it about a 100 FPS faster than a standard 40 S&W load with a 180-grain round.
However, it does penetrate 15.9 inches on average and expands to an impressive .61 inches. It’s a heavy little load that is controllable, especially from a full-sized gun. Penetration and expansion are the bullet’s job and your job is to ensure the round hits somewhere effective enough to ensure the penetration and expansion matters.
This is a bit of a medium powered self-defense load. The Hydra-Shok rounds are incredibly popular with police forces. They are well proven as a carry round they excel.
The round has a nickel-plated case that prevents corrosion of any kind from being carried day-in and day-out. Normal brass casings can corrode over time, especially when carried IWB and exposed to sweat.
It’s a nice touch for a self-defense round. It’s a little pricey, but it’s not ammo you shoot 500 at a time of.
2. Hornady 180 Grain XTP
If I was going to choose a 10mm load I would take the Hornady 180 Grain XTP round. It’s very potent and quite powerful. If I’m going to be carrying a big 10mm, why would I not carry a round that takes the 10mm’s performance to the edge?
I know some like a little less recoil, but the 10mm is best respected as the powerhouse it is. The Hornady 180 Grain XTP loads throw a 180-grain pill at roughly 1150 feet per second. That’s close to original Norma spec round.
This XTP projectile expands to .64 inches which is massive and excellent for self-defense. It penetrates, on average, to a deep 16.9 inches. On average, the round loses almost zero weight meaning the round goes deeper.
The Hornady 180 Grain XTP load is snappy, but the 10mm is not for the weak of heart. The round is a hard hitter and is surprisingly affordable. It’s at least on average with most 10mm self-defense ammunition.
3. Barnes VOR-TX
I’m not sure why anyone would want a low recoiling 10mm load, but it exists, and someone out there may enjoy it. The Barnes VOR-TX is an all copper round that weighs 155 grains. This lightweight round flies an anemic 1073 feet per second.
However, it does penetrate to a decent 12.6 inches on average. Now what makes this ammo stand apart from other milquetoast loads is the round’s expansion. Sure, the penetration is average, and the velocity is low, but let’s talk expansion.
The round on average double its size! It expands to .81 inches. It retains every grain of weight as well. On top of that, the recoil is minimal. It is really a fascinating take on self-defense ammunition.
It will certainly do massive amounts of damage as it travels through a soft target. The Barnes VOR-TX is a great load for recoil sensitive shooters who are for some reason using a 10mm load.
Again, the versatility of the 10mm is at work.
Hunting with the 10mm is nothing new, and its use as a self-defense firearm against angry animals is another common use of the round. Denmark’s Sirius Patrols have issued the Glock 20 in to deal with Polar Bears, so the round does work against big and mean animals.
4. Underwood 200 Grain Nosler JHP
Underwood’s name is one associated with hard-hitting rounds and their 10mm is no slouch. This 200-grain jacketed hollow point round is a brutal beast, and you’ll see and feel it via muzzle rise and recoil.
The Underwood 200 grain 10mm round moves at a blistering 1250 feet per second. It’s one of the few that mimics the original Norma loads. Underwood uses a Nosler projectile for excellent expansion and weight retention.
The round itself is perfect for taking down deer and hogs and some predators like coyotes. The Underwood 200 grain is no slouch and is perfect for a humane kill. Handgun hunting is hard, so you need a round that expands and penetrates brilliantly to ensure that the animal is killed humanely.
This is an expensive round and not one you’d plink with much. It’s also a bit much for self-defense and likely penetrates much deeper than 18 inches. We think that this is a round that should stick to hunting and wilderness use.
The Underwood 200 Grain Nosler JHP round uses low flash powders, which is great because most shots are likely taken in low light and you want to keep your eye on your prey.
5. Underwood 200 Grain Hard Cast
This round is very similar to the one listed above. Both are 200-grain projectiles, and both move at 1,250 feet per second. However, this is not a jacketed hollow point, but a hard cast load.
Hard cast loads are not designed to expand, they are designed to be bulldozers. They penetrate deeply, breaking and tearing through bone, muscle, fat, thick hides, and more. These rounds are designed to rip through big animals at close range and they have proven to be able to do that.
The Underwood hard cast round is extremely brutal and can be used at distances further than bad breath. These rounds are coated with a Hi-Tek polymer coating that will reduce barrel fouling, important for guns like Glock 20 that use polygonal rifling.
These rounds, like the previous Nosler loads, are snappy, to say the least–but when an angry animal is bearing down on you, we’re pretty sure you won’t really care.
Let’s be real here–the most shooting we will do with our 10mm will be plinking, or practice, or whatever you want to call it. It means we are shooting at targets, building our skills, and enjoying ourselves. Here are a few loads for plinking purposes.
6. Magtech 180 Gr FMJ
The Magtech 180 grain FMJ, brass-cased ammo is affordable, reliable, and fun to shoot. It’s not a complete full-powered load, but it does sport some impressive specs for a cheap training round. The 180-grain projectile flies at 1164 feet per second.
This delivers a little snap and recoil. It’s not uncomfortable, but it will give you realistic practice that’s not a glorified 40 S&W round. The ammo is also some of cheapest brass cased rounds out there. These are very affordable loads that are new production and reloadable.
It’s high-quality ammunition that is well suited for training and practice, and plenty accurate and potent for punching paper or ringing steel.
7. Federal American Eagle
I personally like recoil and the challenge it creates to handle a gun, but not all may feel that way. Maybe you just want an easy day at the range. American Eagle offers that with their 180 grain 10mm autoload. This ammo is very mild and comfortable.
The round glides along at 1050 feet per second and the round delivers a comfortable 10mm experience. This is brass case FMJ loads that meet all of Federal’s strict quality control measures.
It would likely be a great round for competition where recoil is a hindrance, but you want to qualify for Major Power scoring. Federal is cheap too, and very common to find online and in gun stores far and wide.
Some other perks? The Federal rounds are also very clean ammo and are subsonic! It’s very suppressor friendly and perfect for both handguns and carbines in all suppressed forms. This isn’t the only subsonic 10mm, but it’s one of the more common and affordable options for quiet plinking.
The Mighty 10mm
A gun isn’t much without ammo and the 10mm offers shooters a lot of versatility. If you’re looking to expand your caliber collection, find a good sidearm, or are even just curious about it, why not give 10mm a try?
Did I miss any great ammo brands on my list? If so, tell me about them in the comments. I’d love to know more! While you’re here, check out the best 10mm handguns.