Over the last century, there have been a lot of new and niche handgun calibers that have come and gone, but one has stuck around and proven its versatility in many scenarios. We are, of course, referring to the ever-popular 10mm.
Since its inception, 10mm has been a popular pistol cartridge for both civilians and law enforcement groups for defense. It’s even been used extensively for hunting and protection from large predators like bears.
Today, there are many manufacturers making pistols chambered in 10mm, each providing the same advantages mentioned above. Out of all the models, which ones are worth considering adding to your collection? That’s our topic of discussion today; follow along as we break it down:
Understanding the 10mm Handgun
History of the 10mm
The 10mm cartridge was developed in 1983 when there was a push for a higher velocity, high-grain cartridge. After its inception, it was mainly produced by the FFV Norma AB in Sweden, and it was finally selected for service in 1989 for the FBI. Though it was decommissioned a few years later, it remained in use in Hostage Rescue and SWAT teams; even cooler, 10mm led to the creation of .40 S&W, as they both use the same bullet diameter, although .40 S&W has a shorter casing. Today, 10mm is favored by a few select law enforcement agencies, civilians, and hunters.
Pros and Cons
As we said, 10mm has a wide range of uses. Compared to the popular 9mm cartridge, the 10mm boasts superior ballistics, delivering greater kinetic energy and higher muzzle velocity due to its increased powder charge. The round is essentially a bulked up .40 S&W, boasting much more muzzle velocity and kinetic energy. It’s most comparable to the older .41 Magnum cartridge; ballistically, they’re similar, but 10mm has the benefit of being capable of being used in semi-automatic platforms.
10mm is a very versatile round, with dozens of manufacturers producing ammunition for different purposes. Like most calibers, you can commonly find full metal jacket, hollow-point, high-velocity, and subsonic 10mm rounds. Given its high velocity and kinetic energy, 10mm is a more than capable round for numerous scenarios.
While it is a great cartridge, it isn’t without its flaws. The 10mm’s power comes at the cost of increased recoil, which might be challenging for beginners. If you’re used to shooting handguns of various calibers, the recoil isn’t going to be too much to control, but for newcomers, it can be a bit much to control at first.
Additionally, depending on the firearm make and model, the magazine capacity can be limited, akin to the .45ACP. While large-frame 9mm handguns can accommodate 17 to 20+ rounds, large-frame 10mm handguns usually hold only 10 to 15 rounds, assuming it’s a double-stack pistol.
Even with its drawbacks, the 10mm cartridge is still a great cartridge for defense and recreation. As we mentioned before, there are a lot of manufacturers making pistols chambered in 10mm. If you’re set on getting one, it can be hard to pinpoint which ones are the best. Fortunately, we’re tackling that topic next. For more comparisons, our pistol caliber guide breaks down a variety of calibers, highlighting each of their pros and cons.
Best 10mm Handguns for Concealed Carry, Hunting, and Self-Defense
Depending on how you want to utilize the 10mm cartridge, there are a lot of handguns to choose from. While you generally can’t use handguns to hunt any medium to large sized game, it’s allowed in some states to hunt select game with 10mm. In many cases, hunters in dangerous locations with large predators, like bears and mountain lions, will carry a 10mm sidearm in case they are attacked by one of these animals. The high velocity and heavier weight of 10mm rounds lends itself to these types of applications, making it a great addition to have when hunting.
Bear Protection Requirements
In order to use a 10mm handgun for protection against bears in the wild, you’ll need to check up on some things to make sure that you can use one.
Before going out on your trip, you’ll want to make sure that your state allows you to use a 10mm handgun for defense against bears. Every state has different laws regarding hunting and defense, and you’re responsible for knowing those laws beforehand. There may be restrictions on magazine capacity, barrel length, frame size in your state, so be sure to check to see what’s allowed before buying.
In terms of bear defense, there aren’t usually state requirements to abide by except for gun carry laws. A suitable bear defense handgun should ideally have a large magazine capacity, a full-length barrel, and, if desired, an optic cut. These features give you the best chance possible if you’re ever charged by a bear or other large predator when out hunting.
In addition to this, the ammunition should be chosen for its ability to penetrate thick hides and bone, with high-velocity and heavy loads being preferable for such scenarios. Straight-line penetrator ammunition works best in these scenarios; bears are known for having incredibly thick and tough hides, and dense muscles and bone protecting their vitals. Higher-power cartridge loads give you the best chance of penetrating through to a bear’s vitals, eliminating the threat.
While 10mm handguns are a fantastic option for self-defense, our guide on the best handguns for self-defense goes more in-depth on the topic.
While it’s possible to hunt large game like deer with a 10mm handgun, your state laws may prohibit their use. Assuming your state allows them, make sure if there are any barrel length, magazine capacity, or size requirements.
Like rifles, certain bullet types are better for hunting than others. Fortunately for 10mm, there are a lot of great hunting loads to use. Hornady’s Handgun Hunter, DoubleTap Ammunition’s Hunter 10mm, and Winchester Big Bore loads are all great 10mm rounds for hunting. Each of them is jacketed hollow points that expand on impact, making them a great option for big game hunting.
While not completely necessary, a longer barrel would be quite useful when hunting. Longer barrels provide increased muzzle velocity, accuracy, and kinetic energy, making them advantageous for hunting. For hunting, the extra muzzle velocity increases accuracy and gives the bullet more kinetic energy, making it much more effective upon impact. For handguns, a longer barrel usually also comes with a longer sight radius, which offers slightly greater precision when aiming at a target at further distances. When you factor all these benefits together, a barrel length of 5-inches or more is recommended for hunting.
If you’re seeking a 10mm handgun for concealed carry, there are a wide variety of options at your disposal. Something to note, however, compact 10mm pistols tend to be larger than their more compact 9mm counterparts since they have to use the same frame size needed for .45ACP. The magazine capacity of compact 10mm pistols is often limited too, due to the larger cartridge size and pressure requirements. Still, there are both single-stack and double-stack options available.
There’s a lot to consider when shopping for a new defense gun. Check out our beginner’s guide on guns for self defense if this topic is new to you, or if you want a refresher. Knowing what to look for based on your needs is the best way to get a head start in your search.
Top 10mm Handguns
There are a lot of 10mm handgun options available today. It’s difficult to find the single best 10mm pistol since there are so many different variants and different purposes like hunting and defense. To make it simple, we’re going over some of the top pistols available:
GLOCK 20 Gen 5
The GLOCK 20 Gen 5 is one of the most popular full-size 10mm handguns on the market today. Having the same form factor as the GLOCK 21, the G20 has a 4.61-inch barrel length and a standard capacity of 15 rounds.
Being a Gen 5 version, this variant of the GLOCK 20 has all the same benefits other Gen 5 GLOCK pistols have, such as a smooth grip, an enhanced trigger, and additional serrations on the slide. In addition to these upgrades, it comes standard with a light/accessory rail, and can be purchased in both the standard and MOS version, allowing you to run a mini-reflex sight.
GLOCK 20 SF
The GLOCK 20 SF variant is mostly the same as the standard GLOCK 20, albeit with a few differences. For instance, the 20 SF has a shorter frame, which makes it a little bit better for smaller hands. It also isn’t currently available in a Gen 5 configuration, so it comes with finger grooves and the older slide design and serrations.
Coming from the renowned firearm manufacturer SIG Sauer, the P320 XTen provides the excellent design and ergonomics of the P320 while being chambered in 10mm. Another full-size pistol, it has an overall length of 8.5-inches, a barrel length of 5-inches, and it has a standard capacity of 15 rounds.
The P320 XTen is, like its name suggests, part of SIG Sauer’s X-Series of handguns. Because of this, it has a lot of upgrades from the factory, including an upgraded trigger, grip module, and optic mounting plate. All of these upgrades make the P320 XTen a great option for defense, as well as a viable option for hunting.
M&P 2.0 10mm
The Smith and Wesson M&P 2.0 has been an incredibly popular handgun since its inception. Now, there is a 10mm variant available. Like the previous mentions, it’s also a full-size pistol. It has an overall length of 7.9-inches, a standard capacity of 15 rounds, and a 5-inch barrel. There is an additional variant which has a 4-inch barrel instead.
Like other M&P pistols, it comes with replaceable grip panels and palm swells to make finding the optimal grip as simple as possible. It also comes standard with an optic mounting plate on top of the slide, as well as raised sights to give you either an absolute or lower 1/3 co-witness, depending on the sight you use. All of these features make the M&P 2.0 10mm a great defense pistol for the home or out in the wild when hunting.
Rock Ultra HC
Part of Rock Island Armory’s Ultra series handgun line, the Rock Ultra HC 10mm is a double stack variant of their traditional 1911 chambered in 10mm. It, too, is a full size handgun with a barrel length of either 5-inches, 5.5-inches, or 6-inches. There are other differences to take into consideration.
Only some of the models, like the Match and Tac Ultra, come with a light rail. Besides this, each model comes standard with black G10 grips, upgraded fiber optic sights, a 4-to-6-pound trigger, and has a standard capacity of 16 rounds. The Rock Ultra HC variants give you the best options that maximize both defensive and hunting capabilities.
One thing to note, however, is that, as of right now, there are no options that allow you to mount mini-reflex sights on the pistol. That said, the upgraded iron sights still provide an accurate sight picture, but the lack of red dot capabilities is something to take into consideration.
Our final entrant from GLOCK is the highly renowned GLOCK 40. One of the largest guns on this list, it has an overall length of 9.49 inches and a barrel length of 6.02 inches. Like the 20 SF, this GLOCK model currently doesn’t have a Gen 5 version available. Instead, it’s currently a Gen 4; it has a grip with finger grooves and is compatible with old generation components.
The GLOCK 40 is arguably the best GLOCK pistol available for hunting. With its longer 6-inch barrel, bullets have more muzzle energy and stay accurate out to distances of up to 50 yards. Like the previous GLOCK models, the 40 also comes with an accessory/light rail, and an MOS plate for mounting optics. Because of these features, many hunters opt to hunt with the GLOCK 40, and many argue that it’s one of the best hunting pistols available.
10mm is one of the most versatile cartridges available, being a great option for home defense, defense while hunting, and for hunting large game.
With defense in mind, each of the pistols listed above would be a great contender for the job. With that being said, the longer barrel of the Rock Ultra HC and GLOCK 40 can be a bit cumbersome to concealed carry and could potentially slow you down when drawing. If carrying OWB, you won’t have to worry about this, but if not, it’s a major drawback.
This makes the GLOCK 20 Gen 5, 20SF, SIG P320 XTen, and M&P 2.0 10mm the better options for defense. Each is modular, has optic mounting capabilities, and has high capacities of 15 rounds.
If you’re looking to hunt, however, the GLOCK 40 and Rock Ultra HC are the better options available. While the Rock Ultra doesn’t have any optic mounting capabilities as of yet, the 6-inch barreled match variant’s precision pistol sights make up for the lack of an optic. As for the GLOCK 40, it too has a longer 6.02-inch barrel, 15-round capacity, and optic mount makes it one of the strongest hunting options available.
Regardless of your purpose for buying a 10mm handgun, don’t forget to take your needs and personal preferences into consideration. So whether you’re wanting to hunt or defend yourself, a 10mm handgun will always make for an excellent addition to your arsenal.