If You Must Carry a 1911, Make it a 10mm!

If you must carry a 1911, make it a 10mm.  Think for a moment before your knee jerks out in a reflexive kick to keep the “Something Different” boogieman away from your precious preconceived notions.  Looking at you, .45 ACP fan boys.

Why on earth would I say such a thing as, “If you must carry a 1911, make it a 10mm?”  Let’s break it down.  For the moment, we’ll ignore the .45 fan boys who are all collapsed in the corner in a palsied fit.

Words Mean Things

Look at the first clause (WARNING: grammar terms in use) which states, “If you must carry a 1911…”  The clause negates the assumption the 1911 is the ultimate combat pistol.  My intent with this clause is not to rev up and troll the 1911 fan boys, although it is grand sport, rather to acknowledge the simple reality the 1911 is not the only choice in the self-defense handgun panoply.  It presumes an individual has made the conscious decision to carry a 1911 for self-protection.  This is fine.  I like 1911s.  There are, however, more modern designs on the market which in so many ways eclipse this classic war horse.  Thus, the presumption a person insists on carrying a 1911 regardless the many arguments to the contrary.

Author believes the venerable 1911 is at its best when chambered in 10mm Auto rather than .45 ACP.

The second clause: “…make it a 10mm.”  Note this clause says nothing as to whether the .45 ACP, or any other cartridge chambered in 1911s, is not a sound choice for use in a 1911 pistol.  It makes the simple assertion the 10mm is perhaps the best overall choice.  I acknowledge there are arguments to the contrary.

The “Ten” By The Numbers

Given all this, why would I say, “If you must carry a 1911, make it a 10mm?”  In simple terms, in my opinion, the 10mm offers the most advantages with the fewest disadvantages in the 1911 platform.  Nevermind the fact I consider the 10mm among the best handgun cartridges ever developed.

The 10mm is more versatile (in a 1911) than either the .45 ACP or 9mm.  We’ll keep the ultra-boutique rounds, such as .45 Super and .460 Rowland, from the discussion because they don’t pass the ammo availability test, ditto .38 Super.

Fired from a 1911 with 5-inch barrel, Federal’s 200 grain 10mm HST consistently outperformed all .45 ACP and 9mm hollow points tested by  LocaCarnivore with their exclusive heavy winter clothing barrier gel tests.

The 10mm has a dual personality thanks to its evolutionary history.  Introduced in the mid-1980s, the 10mm proved a beast.  As loaded by Norma at the time, the Ten spat forth a 200 grain bullet at around 1200-1250 feet per second which equates to 640-694 foot-pounds energy at the muzzle!  This is a whisker away from .41 Magnum power.  Unlike other hot-rod pistol cartridges, such as the .50 AE, etc., the 10mm operated in normal size handguns such as the S&W 1076 and Colt 1911 Delta Elite, Glock G20, and Glock G29.  This constituted a major step forward.  The 10mm in original form is in essence a semi-automatic .41 Magnum—count me in.

The Object of Power is Power

This means a 1911 chambered in 10mm is among the few semi-auto pistols available which is suitable for protection against large carnivores.  Looking at you, Mr. Grizzly Bear.  This fact places the 10mm far above either the .45 ACP or 9mm even when +P loads are considered.

The 10mm’s ability to provide .41 Magnum-like power makes it the only prudent choice for a bear defense 1911.

In fact, the .45 ACP +P is less rather than more effective than its standard pressure progenitor.  The faster you drive the .45 ACP, the less it penetrates due to the increased drag created by its larger frontal area when it expands—to the point it often falls well below the FBI’s minimum penetration standard.  Yes, a wide would channel is desirable, but a channel which does not reach deep enough to damage vital organs is useless, regardless the diameter.

Split Personality is not Always a Disorder

Earlier I referred to the 10mm’s dual personality.  On one hand we have the “Conan the Barbarian” load, on the other is the FBI load.  The FBI load is a 180 grain bullet fired at 950 to 1000 feet per second which provides energy in the 400 to 450 foot-pound range.  This, by the way, is the upper energy range for hot .45 ACP and 9mm loads.

The 10mm’s resurgent popularity has motivated ammo companies to introduce new, high-performance self-defense loads such as this one from Winchester.

The FBI load is a stellar performer when it comes to discombobulating human assailants—or as stellar as handguns get.  It exhibits textbook penetration in ballistic gelatin, and creates a temporary wound cavity on par with the .45 and superior to the 9mm.  It is the best of all worlds in this regard.  When fired in a full-size, all steel 1911, the FBI load has docile recoil which allows the shooter to place multiple hits in quick succession on target—the 9mm’s claim to fame—but with better terminal ballistics than the Nine.

Quantity Has a Quality All Its Own

You can fit one more 10mm cartridge in a 1911 than .45 ACP.  Thus, if you use a nine-round magazine rather than the factory eight-rounder, and carry a round in the chamber, you have ten potent rounds at your command when things get sporty.  (Shut up all you carry with an empty chamber wags.  You’re just wrong, get over it.)  One round may not seem significant, and the .45 crowd poo-poos the notion, but in a fight, each round is precious and can make the difference between going home on your feet or to the morgue in a bag.  While I’ve never experienced a shootout, and hope I never do, I have spoken with many people who have, as well as read the wise words penned by other such persons.  None—repeat none—have ever complained they had too many rounds in their gun at the time.  The FBI, themselves, in their recent landmark study, stated one major factor between those who prevail in a gun fight and those who take dirt naps is magazine capacity, thus the more the merrier.

Yes, the 9mm allows one more round yet than the 10mm in a 1911, but this comes at a price: reduced ballistic performance.  I accept the 9mm presents an acceptable trade off between magazine capacity and terminal performance.  In most circumstances, for most people, a double stack, high-capacity Nine will serve better than a single stack 1911.  If one insists on the single stack, as is with the 1911, I say better to lean toward the power side rather than the capacity side.  The 10mm again provides the best balance between these two extremes. One can take the capacity argument too far down a slippery slope, though—as the .30 Super Carry and 5.7x28mm schools have done.

The Defense Rests, Your Honor

When all factors are considered, the 10mm stands out as the clear choice in this debate.  It provides more capacity than the .45 AC–with greater power, and far better penetration.  In single stack pistols it has the ability to provide much more power than the 9mm for a small sacrifice in magazine capacity.  It is quite controllable when shot from a full-size, all steel 1911.  10mm ammunition, while not as prevalent as either 9mm or .45 ACP is still more available than the ultra-boutiques.  Thus, I stand behind my argument.

If you insist on carrying a 1911, make it a 10mm.

If you’d like to know how and why LocaCarnivore’s “Frost Giant” extreme gel test is revolutionizing the way handgun bullets are tested for use against realistic winter clothing, watch this excellent video:


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