The 10mm


by R.K. Campbell

photography by R.K. Campbell

December 28th, 2007




I may use specialized handguns for hunting and competition, but when it comes to personal defense I recommend a good general purpose handgun. I donít like to use the micro minis or long barrel Magnums. A compact handgun with a four inch barrel that weighs about thirty four ounces, in a caliber beginning with 4, is ideal. Fast into action and controllable, these handguns are practically ideal for personal defense. Heavy enough for control, but not heavy enough to produce diaper drag effect on our trousers compacts are a great choice. But there are times when common sense dictates a larger handgun. I am not Dog the Bounty Hunter, but occasionally I engage in the pursuit of those who misbehave. After twenty three years as a peace officer I sometimes get my hand in. Most of my work is done with a computer, but the final chapter is often face to face. Most are punks or con men and some are down on their luck.  But yeah buddy, some are the real thing. These frequent flyers demand respect for their potential to inflict harm. I deploy a full size Government Model .45 and appropriate backup in these situations. I am not situationally armed, I am always armed...but like the FBI, when I sense a greater need I buck up with more iron. I have concluded that the 10mm offers an advantage if facing felons behind cover or in vehicles. Ours is a mobile society and vehicles are the most common means of transportation. Suffice to say the 10mm has found its place in the hearts and minds and holsters of savvy shooters. The 10mm has advantages in versatility, but can be a harsh mistress. With full power loads the 10mm demands proper technique and practice to control. If you deploy a 1911 in 10mm as I do, a full length all-steel guide rod and 20 lb. recoil spring is demanded. The recoil spring must be changed more often than that of a .45 or .38 Super. The finest 10mm pistol ever produced is the modern Kimber 1911, and there is little room for discussion in that regard. But I am old and full of emotional attachment. My 10mm is the Colt Delta Elite. The 10mm came first, but modern shooters are more familiar with the  .40 S&W.  Depending upon your plane of reference, the .40 is to the 10mm as the .38 is to the .357--but the .38 came first. confusing? No. The 10mm requires a large frame automatic pistol due to its cartridge case length. The .40 may be chambered in a 9mm size frame. The 10mm was originally offered with a smoking hot 200 grain FMJ loading that broke 1200 fps from the now defunct Bren Ten.  This was found to be too hot for longevity. No one blew their guns up, but quite a few Colts were turned into rattling wrecks and some suffered cracked frames. Today the Hornady 200 gr. XTP breaks 1050 fps or a little more in the 200 grain weight. This load offers good penetration and some expansion. For more dynamic expansion the 155 grain XTP from the same maker breaks 1355 fps. That is honking. To duplicate .40 caliber ballistics in the 10mm the Federal Hydra Shock breaks about 1,000 fps with a 180 grain bullet. This is the original "10mm Lite" that the .40 S&W is modeled after. The Hydra Shock is a controllable, accurate load that is fine for general defense. But when the scenario calls for defense against felons behind cover or for protection against wild animals I move to a heavy 10mm load. The Cor Bon 150 and 165 grain JHP loads are impressive. For animal defense, Cor Bon's 180 grain JSP loads would be ideal. There are many loads available, but the point is if the shooter is skilled enough to deliver the shots accurately, the 10mm offers plenty of horsepower. The 10mm is perhaps a specialist's cartridge. It shoots as flat as the .38 Super and is much more effective at any range. The 10mm offers .357 Magnum or a little better power in a flat and relatively compact package compared to the revolver. The 10mm is offered in a platform that invites a seasoned shooter to exhibit excellent speed and control. This is not the cartridge I deploy on a daily basis, but when I need something more than the .45 the 10mm is an important part of my battery. The 10mm should never be discounted out of hand. It is a fine alternative to the more common cartridges and a powerhouse than can do the business.

At this point, someone will ask how I conceal the 1911. The Colt Delta Elite is no larger than the 1911 .45 and I have carried a Government Model .45 concealed for most of my life. (Thirty nine years just about.) Presently I am carrying the Delta Elite in a strong side holster from Harlow Holsters. The holster is well made of good material, offering excellent retention. There is a speed slot in the front of the holster to assist in bringing the muzzle clear on the draw. Coupled with a good belt, this is a fine concealed carry rig. For greater concealment in humid weather, I deploy a Mach 2 Kydex inside the waistband holster. This rig travels very close to the body and rides high. It is very different from every other Kydex IWB I have  attempted to use. The MACH 2 rides a bit higher above the belt that others, giving a practiced shooter the opportunity for a good sharp draw. Plus, the geometry is quite comfortable.

The 10mm is often a misunderstood cartridge. Loaded with the 10mm Lite the pistol is more controllable than any .45, but with full power 10mm loads the 10mm outgrips the .45 or the .38 Super. The 10mm may not be an everyday cartridge, but neither is the 10mm and the Colt Delta Elite ready for retirement in the foreseeable future.

R.K. Campbell


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Click pictures for a larger version.


The author's Colt 10mm has seen considerable use and still has much life left.



The .45 ACP, left, is a fine general purpose cartridge but the 10mm, right, has many good points including penetration.



2nd Lt. Matthew Campbell finds the Colt Delta Elite with full power 10mm a hoot. He is firing a Cor Bon hunting load.



Low recoil loads such as the Federal Hydra Shock are very pleasant to fire and deliver power in the .40 caliber Smith and Wesson range.



The authorís Harlow holster is a first class rendition of the strong side belt holster in the western style.



The Harlow belt scabbard features basket weave carving the author thought was a lost art



Size comparison, left to right: the .38 Super, 10mm and .45. These happen to be the authorís favorite cartridges. The 10mm is perhaps the most interesting.