Is The Modern 10mm Still A Handful?


Shooting the 30th Anniversary Colt Delta Elite proves the 10mm ammo has come a long way.

How is the old 10mm new again?:

  • The round has languished since the birth of the .40 S&W.
  • In 2002, Doubletap began offering 10mm loads, which help rejuvenate intrest in the round.
  • Able to spite a 165-grain bullet 1,350+ fps at the muzzle, the round is a stiff shooter.
  • However, there are loads — such as from Hornady — that make the caliber as manageble as shooting a +P .45 ammo.

The 10mm Auto cartridge was introduced in 1983 for the infamous and now defunct Bren Ten pistol. Though some credit Jeff Cooper as the inventor of both, he was not. An inspiration, on the other hand, he was. The round appeals to defensive handgunners because it replicates the power of the .357 Magnum out of a semi-auto pistol, with a higher capacity than the .45 Auto. But it never really caught on. The high price of the ammo was proportional to its recoil, and most shooters find both unpleasant.


The 10mm gained its fame in the Colt Delta Elite (1987) and was briefly the darling of the FBI. This short-lived affair faded with the birth of the .40 S&W, and the 10mm has sort of languished since. However, Doubletap — initially a boutique ammunition manufacturer out of Utah — began offering a variety of 10mm loads in 2002. This fed the limited but enthusiastic demand and unquestionably rejuvenated interest in the cartridge. So much so, for 2017 Colt celebrated the 30th anniversary of its Delta Elite with a new version equipped with a rail. I procured one for testing and figured it an ideal opportunity to discover what external ballistics could reasonably be expected with modern 10mm loads.

If you can handle the recoil of a .45 Auto, you can handle a 10mm. However, handle and manage are two different things. A 165-grain bullet exiting the barrel of a 40-ounce gun at a confirmed 1,350+ fps generates more than 650 foot-pounds of energy. If you describe that as pleasant, you’re lying. If you think you can control it as easily as a .45 Auto, you’re full of sheep dip. On the other hand, available 10mm loads from Hornady will emulate the recoil of +P .45 Auto loads, which are stiff but not hand-numbing.

The 10mm genuinely fills the niche of a semi-automatic hunting handgun, and high-end shops such as Nighthawk and Wilson Combat offer pistols ideally suited for that pursuit. Of course, if you have a Napoleon complex, the round will surely impress your friends, or at least yourself, while at the range.

Though the new Colt Delta Elite Rail Gun exhibited all the sharp edges common to Colt’s 1911s, the trigger was decent, functioning was excellent, and accuracy superb. You can pick one up for about a grand. And, you now have a lot of 10mm loads to choose from. Some of those epitomize pure wickedness; others remind you of a .40 S&W. Like Baby Bear, you should be able to find one just right for you.


Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the October 2017 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.

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