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A more perfect "10": Federal's 180-grain trophy bonded JSP gives 10mm users a real performance upgrade.

Looking back, it is easy to conclude the 10mm cartridge came from a nearly dysfunctional family. It started out in the right direction; however, problems arose of one kind or another.

The 10mm cartridge goes back to the early 1970's when experimenters cut down .224 Weatherby brass and loaded it with 180-grain .38-40 bullets. Muzzle velocity in a Browning High Power was reported at 1,100 fps. By 1977 the velocity was up to 1,250 fps and it caught the attention of Jeff Cooper who rarely ever looked past the .45 ACP.

For the first time there was a possibility a semi-automatic round was available, which could replace the .45 ACP in Col. Cooper's mind. He really liked the 10mm and we soon had a new pistol and factory ammunition in .40 caliber. This new 10mm round was loaded by Norma with a 200-grain bullet at more than 1,200 fps. The semi-automatic pistol, which housed it was the Bren Ten, an improved CZ 75 produced by Dornaus and Dixon.

This new semi-automatic pistol could be carried in the double-action mode with hammer down on a live round and safety engaged, or it could be carried in cocked-and-locked mode--Colt Government Model-style. Cooper got behind the project and the orders poured in, but problems surfaced quickly. Production was slower than had been expected, ammunition was too powerful, causing problems with the gun and magazines were not made in-house but produced in Europe.

Through no fault of Col. Cooper, Dornaus and Dixon failed, with some buyers getting pistols but no magazines. It appeared the 10mm was dead. Ammunition was available but the pistol was not.

Colt went out on a limb and chambered the Government Model and Gold Cup in 10mm and saved the cartridge. Soon 10mm's were everywhere (around 1990) and we soon had 10's from S&W, Glock, Springfield Armory, IAI/AMT, LAR, AutoOrdnance, Wyoming Arms, Thompson/ Center, and Ruger even offered a Convertible Blackhawk with two cylinders in .38-40 and 10mm.

Law enforcement looked to the 10mm as a solution to such problems as they had in the FBI Miami shootout. However, it was soon surmised the ammunition was too powerful and the call went out for a 180-grain bullet at about 950 fps. If it looks familiar it is because it became the .40 S&W. The 10mm languished and the .40 S&W flourished.

Today the 10mm is still available from Colt and is also offered in 1911 form from Kimber and Nighthawk. There are others, but these are the three I had at my disposal for testing Federal's new 10mm load. Federal has been offering both JHP and FMJ 180-grain 10mm ammunition at a rated muzzle velocity of 1,030 fps. They have now upped the ante considerably with a 180-grain Trophy Bonded JSP at a rated 1,275 fps.

Federal says of this load, "... it is a full-power load that takes complete advantage of the caliber's true capability. While many 10mm loads are watered down to produce ballistics similar to or just above those of the .40 S&W, this cartridge offers the muscle needed for both big-game hunting and personal protection. Its new Trophy Bonded JSP bullet makes the load even more effective. Based on the proven Trophy Bonded Bear Claw rifle bullet, its heavy jacket features a formed internal profile that pre-programs and controls expansion to ensure deep penetration. Nickel-plated cases provide easy extraction."

Federal does not fudge at all on their muzzle velocity claims and this is very potent ammunition. In the 5-inch-barreled Colt Delta Elite and Kimber Stainless Target II. muzzle velocity was 1,309 (685 ft-lbs of energy) fps and 1,302 fps respectively while the longer barrel on the Nighthawk resulted in 1,342 fps. Only the shorter 4-inch barrel of the Glock 20C gave less than advertised muzzle velocity at 1,226 fps. Accuracy in the three 1911-pattern semi-automatics for 5 shots at 20 yards came in at 1-1/4 inches in the Colt Delta Elite, 7/8 inches in the Kimber Stainless Steel Target II, and a very miniscule 5/8-inch group came from the barrel of the Nighthawk. The Nighthawk is a totally custom pistol and expected to perform this way even when the shooter is in the middle of his seventh decade as I am.

Recoil will definitely get your attention, especially in the Colt and the Kimber, while the heavier weight and longer barrel of the Nighthawk cuts down on subjective recoil somewhat. The Glock was the most pleasant to shoot because of two factors; one being the compensated barrel and the other the fact polymer-framed pistols go a long way in soaking up some of the recoil as the frame flexes somewhat. Don't take my word for it. Bill Loughridge of Cylinder & Slide says the same thing.

To get some idea of what power I had in my hand without resorting to the messiness/extra work of ballistic gelatin, I used a one-gallon jug of water. The Federal 180-grain Trophy Bonded JSP literally exploded the selected target. The picture provided tells the story.

While the new load may be more than most want for self defense, especially when Federal offers 180-grain loads at 250 fps less muzzle velocity, it should be just the ticket for hunting and every bit as effective as the lighter weight .41 Magnum loads. I expect the new Federal load will provide excellent results in the game fields especially on feral pigs and deer-sized game.

Of all the semi-automatics offered in a long range of calibers, I would rate the 10mm using the new Federal load in a 1911-style, semi-automatic pistol as the best combination of both power and packable portability. There are more powerful semi-auto cartridges and larger, heavier pistols, however the 10mm full-house load in the 1911 pistol seems like a most sensible compromise.

Federal Cartridge

900 Ehlen Dr.

Anoka, MN 55303

(763) 323-2300


P.0. Box 1868

Hartford, CT 06144

(800) 962-2658


6000 Highlands Parkway

Smyrna, GA 30082

(770) 432-1202


1 Lawton Street

Yonkers, NY 10705

(914) 964-0771

Nighthawk Custom

1306 W. Trimble

Berryville, AR 72616

(877) 268-4867

For more info:
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Title Annotation:OUT Of the BOX[TM]
Author:Taffin, John
Publication:Guns Magazine
Date:Jan 1, 2015
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