In this Article:
When you need more power in an autoloader, nothing else can substitute. The 10mm pistol is my go to, and I’m here to tell you why.
Maybe you’re looking to go in the woods with the big bad wolf, maybe you just need more kick and fireball than what 9mm gives you — but either way, you need some more power from your autoloader.
No matter what your application, we got the best 10mm Auto pistols.
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Where Did 10mm Auto Come From?
One of the men that really propelled firearms design and ideas forward was Jeff Cooper.
Something you’ll learn about him quickly is that he never met a honker of a cartridge that he didn’t like.
The 1970s and 80s saw a lot of rapid changes in policing in America, due to a wide range of events. Something that was seen by Thomas Dornaus and Michael Dixon was that police used a weird mix of guns, many of them revolvers.
They decided that the world needed a semi-auto pistol that was as good in defense as it was in offense and that it should have the power exceeding both .45 ACP and .357 Magnum.
The pair went to the big name in the firearms world at the time for help and as it would turn out, Cooper was already working on such a project. Not long after, their combined efforts resulted in the Bren Ten.
It wasn’t sunshine and roses after that though, their newly formed company faced a lot of manufacturing and design issues that lead to their bankruptcy in 1986, just 3 years of (crappy) production later and the Bren Ten was dead.
This should have been the end of 10mm Auto but surprisingly Colt released the Delta Elite in 1987 and the FBI adopted the 10mm Auto in 1989 as their standard issue cartridge.
While many in law enforcement embraced the 10mm Auto, it quickly showed that it has problems. Mainly, the recoil and the size of the guns.
Qualification scores dropped across the board, most notably for women.
This combined with durability issues lead the FBI to request a lighter load for the 10mm and not long after in 1990 this resulted in the .40 Smith & Wesson.
.40 S&W quickly replaced the 10mm Auto as the new LEO golden child until 9mm once again came back in vogue in the mid-2010s.
Best 10mm Guns
Glock is a solid choice for a lot of reasons, durability, reliability, common parts, the list goes on.
Something that Glock gets a little overlooked for is the fact that Glocks are all basically the same. If you’ve shot one Glock, you’ve kind of shot them all. That’s a good thing and a bad thing, depending on how you liked it.
If you’re looking for an “in the woods” pistol, hands down I recommend the Glock 20 over anything else — and I’m not even a fan of Glocks.
The fact is that the G20 is one of the most durable and reliable 10mm guns ever made. And it carries 15+1 rounds of 10mm, that’s a lot of 4-legged deterent in a small package.
Designed with all of the great things that makes Glock a Glock like 3 internal safeies, unbeatable reliability, and annoyingly plastic sights, this is exactly what you expect it to be.
If you’ve ever handled a Glock, it’s like that — but spicy.
The only downside is that the G20 is locked into the Gen 4 configuration. Glock has said multiple times that they have no plans to update the G20 (or any of the magnum Glocks) to the newer Gen 5 pattern.
There is still huge aftermarket support for the Gen 4, but it would be nice to see those baseline Gen 5 upgrades. Maybe someday.
A Glock 20 isn’t fancy and it sure isn’t pretty, but this is a workhorse. A real mean beast.
If I had a bear charging at me, I’d rather have a shotgun loaded with a full tube of 3″ magnum slugs — but a Glock 20 would be my #1 choice of pistol and my pick for the best 10mm pistol in general.
Check out our full Glock 20 Review.
Springfield Armory TRP Operator 1911
The Springfield Armory (SA) TRP Operator is one heck of a gun. I picked it up and it almost felt like I was hoisting my S&W 8 3/8″-barrel .44 Magnum.
What a solid platform!
The Operator is one (or two, if you count the 5-inch version) of a series of 1911s that Springfield Armory produces. All of their 1911s are built to close tolerances from the best materials available.
10mm shines in this gun, and SA takes full advantage of its capabilities. We are in the middle of my state’s firearms deer season and I would love to take one of these with me in the field.
The 6-inch barrel not only provides ballistic advantages but it yields a longer sight radius. (This particular model is also available with a standard-length 5-inch barrel, if desired, see specs above).
Something that really sets it apart from other options is the adjustable target sights. These aren’t amazing for something like self-defense, but they are perfect for handgun hunting.
Normally, pistol iron sights are “close enough” since they aren’t shooting far and your sights cover up enough of the target that it’s hard to get high precision anyway.
When hunting, you need something better. Zeroing your sights perfectly for your load helps a lot, but so does just having finer sights so you can aim better.
This can be the difference between wounding an animal and dropping it where it stood.
For hunting, I’d give this my first choice as the best 10mm pistol.
Colt Delta Elite
Colt’s Delta Elite (named after a Special Forces unit) was the second pistol in production chambered in 10mm, with the Bren Ten being the first. The gun was introduced in 1987 and enjoyed some success. However, due to so-so sales and the availability of the .40 S&W, production was dropped in 1996.
At the SHOT show of 2008, Colt displayed a reincarnated Delta Elite. The pistol had gone back into production, in no small part because of the rising popularity of the 10mm cartridge.
These guns are legendary for their build quality and their iconic history. Colt has flubbed a lot of things over the years, but the Delta Elite has been one of the best wins.
The only thing is that the 1911 platform isn’t really a great gun to convert into a magnum caliber simply from a fundamental durability standpoint. Even Delta Elites are known to beat themselves to death if you run really hot 10mm loads.
Save the hot stuff for hunting, and use some lighter loads for everything else.
Sig Sauer P220 Legion
One of the best firearms ever designed, the P220 has enjoyed success in every possible way.
Almost adopted as the US standard issued sidearm in 1985, the P220 in 9mm barely lost to the Beretta 92FS. Despite that, it still saw extensive service with SF units like the Navy SEALs.
This version is chambered in 10mm and is the “Legion” version, basically a P220 but upgraded and given a cosmetic makeover to make it really pop.
Giving you the legendary durability and reliability of a Sig P220 but upping the power factor to 10mm makes for a rock-solid handcannon.
If you’re looking for a wild animal gun, this would be my alternative to the Glock 20.
Ruger has a long history of giving the people want they want. And what they want is a 1911 in 10mm that isn’t going to cost you your firstborn.
Again though, don’t forget that the 1911 is a little limited in regards to magnums.
That said, Ruger makes a great option that is more budget-friendly than a Colt Delta Elite.
The trigger is outstanding, night sights are standard, and the fit and finish is stellar even for Ruger.
Great for hunting or as a range queen, the Ruger SR1911 10mm pistol is a fantastic option for everyone wanting that big 1911 feeling without entirely emptying your wallet.
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Concealed Carry, Ammo Choices And The 10mm
There are those out there who carry a 10mm but they usually tend to use slightly lower-powered ammo.
There’s no need for Underwood, Double Tap or Buffalo Bore full-tilt loads for most personal-protection scenarios, unless you need to stop a charging Chevrolet (Impala, of course).
Federal and Hornady make loads that go around 1030-1050 feet per second and use good XTP or Hydro-Shok bullets. These are only two examples of personal defense 10mm ammo; there are other fine defensive loads out there that are a bit north of .40 S&W velocities but not quite in the rhino-stopping neighborhood.
In terms of versatility, the nice thing about the 10mm is that if you want 1500+ feet per second, that is easily obtained by looking at top-end loads made by the some of the companies listed above.
The range of velocities is great in factory 10mm ammo. You can extend that range even more if you reload. You can make buffalo-stompers, and then turn around and make a squirrel load that won’t vaporize it when you shoot it.
The point is that sometimes we just don’t need ammo that creates a great big boom when fired when something lighter would do.
Hence the Federal – Hornady – etc. lighter loads.
Some of those lighter loads will also drastically increase the longevity of your gun. Even the best 10mm autos can work themselves into the grave if you feed them hot enough ammo for long enough.
Why buy a 10? Why not! If you are any kind of experienced pistol shooter and you have “outgrown” the 9mm, .40, .357 Sig or the .45, give the 10mm a try.
There are guns out there from a street price of around $400 if your budget is tight, up to mid-four-figure prices for semi-custom guns. It’s a versatile round, as stated above.
The 10mm’s popularity continues to grow as more and more shooters discover it. From being all but dead in the 1980s it is stronger than ever today.
This time around, the 10mm is here to stay.
Wow, I didn’t know that any Kimber could be had for the price mentioned above. I paid about the same money for an Iver Johnson (Philippines) 1911. But it has a feature that I really like in a 10mm; 6″ barrel, plus adjustable sights. As for down-loading 10mm, well what is the point then of having a 10? I guess it adds versatility, but almost nobody is going to have a 10mm as their only pistol.
I agree. The Kimber is a good buy, and it surprised me as well when I was researching it. As for downloading the 10mm, I think some people do that to get .40 S&W ballistics out of their 10mm. It would be softer-shooting, maybe a great practice round but I think I’d carry the full-meal-deal 10mm rounds for serious work. Thanks for your comment!
If you carry one fire arm, where fire power is in question. Along with bullet capacity then its wise to choose the 10MM Glock Model 20. Revolver Caliber is another discussion. 10 MM is my choice. I’ve carried a 10MM for about ten years as a police officer.
David, I agree – my Glock 20 article/review should be out before long. The 10mm is one effective round. It’s good they’ll let you carry it. A lot of agenices wouldn’t allow it. Thanks for writing, and thanks for your service!
You do realize the Ruger pictured here is a 45 acp, not their 10mm. There is a huge difference in the SR 1911 45 and SR 1911 10mm. You also say the Ruger has adjustable three dot sights. The SR 1911 10mm has bomar adjustable sights. It also has a bull barrel with no bushing, Sorry huge Ruger fan.
Jeff, Yeah, my fault. Wrong photo. You are right on the other points as well. Sometimes I just get it wrong. Thanks for writing and pointing these things out.
What about the Springfield Armory XDm shown on the cover photo?
Mike, in a word- great! As I said above, I own the XD(M) in .45. I really like the sights and other features that Springfield incorporated into it. I also don’t mind the grip safety. Hopefully, I will end up owning one in 10mm. I’d say go for it – I only read good reviews about the 10mm version. Thanks for writing!
Good article, as a former LEO, I’ve always thought a 10mm is a lot for a carry sidearm but you bring up some good points. In your last paragraph you wrote, “…unless you need to stop a charging Chevrolet (Impala, of course).” But did you mean “…unless you need to stop a charging Impala (Chevrolet, of course).”? I’m unfamiliar with a charging Chevrolet, unless you meant you need to stop famed Buick race car driver Louis Chevrolet.
Mick, that was my lame attempt at humor – I simply meant that the 10mm would come as close as any pistol cartridge in its ability to take a car out – shooting through the windshield or through the radiator. Again, a feeble attempt. I thank you for your LE service – I assume you probably carried a 9mm or .40? The 10 is a bit much for everyday carry as you point out but will definitely end the argument. Thanks for writing!
LOL, thanks for explaining to my feeble brain. I simply thought you had accidentally reversed the words “Impala” and “Chevrolet” in the article. FWIW, I did get what you meant. Thanks for the great article!
Mick, Glad we got things straightened out. Thanks again for writing – we appreciate it!
No mention of the Sig 250 10mm ?
Bill, Like I said in the reply above, I had to draw the line somewhere. Sig makes excellent pistols and their 250 is no exception. I wish I had the time and space to list all the 10mm guns I know about but unfortunately ran out of both. I appreciate your comment.
Thanks, and true. Interesting article.
I’m glad you liked it – thanks for writing again.
Missed a top of the heap. Dan Wesson. Fit finish and accuracy.
Ron, yeah, I probably should have included the DW 10mms, but had to draw the line somewhere. Those are excellent guns. I had an original DW .357 revolver with three barrels. Great build quality, which has been carried over since CZ bought them. (And, the Pistol Pack has been reintroduced!) Thanks for writing!
Probably no need for a double tap.
Bert, no doubt, my friend! The 10mm speaks with authority. Thanks for the comment.
Probably only half-counts since it requires a conversion barrel, but if you get the chance to shoot the FK Brno PSD in 10mm, do so! It’s a great pistol if you can stomach the price tag and size, and it recoils less shooting full-power 10mm than my Glock 40. Only down side is I don’t know of any threaded barrel options at the moment for the PSD so comps and suppressors are out.
Allen, yeah, that is some pistol, and you are right about the price – it has an MSRP of $1650. Not cheap, but you get what you pay for here – convertible calibers and excellent build quality, just to name a couple of features. I appreciate your comments = thanks for writing!
A friend travels to Alaska every year for salmon fishing and he highly recommended the G40. I checked almost every single 10mm in your article and finally settled on the G40. After installation of a LWD Custom Barrel, Vortex Venom RDO, Trijicon Suppressor Height Sights and a host of smaller upgrades the G40 is one of the most accurate guns I own. I don’t know if it’s the longer sight radius/slide or whatever but, the recoil isn’t what I expected and, dare I say it, it’s pleasant to shoot. The balance of the G40 isn’t negatively affected by the attachment of an Olight PL Mini. I’ve never had a single FTF/FTE. Because of this Glock I even purchased an LE Trade in G22 GEN 2 and I’m upgrading that one too. Maybe in the future you would consider an article on multi-caliber handguns? Thanks for your great articles, keep it up.
Honu, sounds like you have the Glock side of the 10mm figured out! I’ll bet that 40 is fun to shoot. And, I have a review of the Taurus 692 Tracker revolver coming soon – it has a .38/357 Mag and a 9mm cylinder. It’s not a semi-auto, which is probably what you’re referring to but it is handy. I’ll have to check into doing a multi-caliber autoloading article. Thanks for writing!
Couple nominees for consideration:
Rock Island Armory TAC ULTRA HC—threaded 5.5-inch barrel, 16-round capacity, MSRP $899.00! There’s no leading “1” missing from that price.
Looks like EAA has unfortunately stopped importing the excellent CZ-75-patterned Tanfoglio handguns, but they can be bought elsewhere or as back stock, and there are several flavors of solid 10-mil among them to suit different tastes and purposes. I know Mike has written of the strengths of the CZ-75 platform elsewhere, and apparently all is well when it is skillfully adapted to the big 10.