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Choosing the Perfect Caliber: 9mm vs. 10mm Showdown

by Brady Kirkpatrick, Wed, May 31, 2023


Hey there, fellow firearms enthusiasts! Brady Kirkpatrick here, Founder of, and today we'll be diving deep into the fascinating world of two popular calibers: the 9mm and the 10mm. 

If you're considering purchasing a new handgun or just curious about the differences between these two calibers, you've come to the right place. We'll explore the history and development of each, compare ballistics, recoil, penetration, and availability, as well as discuss the costs and popularity of both calibers. So, without further ado, let's jump right in!

History and Development of 9mm and 10mm Calibers

The 9mm Caliber: A Brief History

The 9mm caliber was designed by Georg Luger in 1902 for the Luger pistol. 

This caliber quickly became popular and was adopted by many militaries and law enforcement agencies around the world. In the civilian market, it became a favorite for self-defense and target shooting enthusiasts. 

The 9mm caliber is offered in various bullet weights, types, and velocities, making it a versatile choice for many shooters.

The 10mm Caliber: A Brief History

The 10mm caliber, on the other hand, was designed by Jeff Cooper in 1983 for the Bren Ten pistol. While not as widely adopted as the 9mm, some law enforcement agencies, such as the FBI, have used 10mm pistols. 

The 10mm caliber is popular for hunting and self-defense due to its higher power and better terminal ballistics. Like the 9mm, the 10mm caliber is offered in various bullet weights, types, and velocities.

Ballistics Comparison of 9mm and 10mm Calibers

Understanding Ballistics and Their Importance

Ballistics refers to the science of a projectile's motion, specifically its trajectory, velocity, and energy. Comparing ballistics is crucial when choosing a caliber, as it helps determine a bullet's effectiveness for different purposes, such as self-defense, hunting, or target shooting.

Muzzle Velocity and Muzzle Energy

The 9mm caliber typically has a muzzle velocity of around 1,200 feet per second (fps) and a muzzle energy of 350-450 foot-pounds (ft-lbs). In contrast, the 10mm caliber boasts a higher muzzle velocity of approximately 1,400 fps and a muzzle energy of 650-800 ft-lbs. 

This difference in energy can significantly impact the bullet's terminal performance, making the 10mm more suitable for hunting larger game and self-defense scenarios where stopping power is essential.

Trajectory and Terminal Performance

The trajectory of a bullet refers to its path through the air. Generally, the 9mm caliber has a slightly flatter trajectory than the 10mm, making it more accurate at longer distances. 

However, the 10mm's higher energy and velocity provide better terminal performance, meaning it can cause more damage and has a greater chance of stopping a threat.

Recoil Comparison of 9mm and 10mm Calibers

Understanding Recoil and Its Importance

Recoil is the backward force generated when firing a gun. It affects the shooter's ability to control the firearm, make follow-up shots, and maintain accuracy. Comparing recoil is essential when choosing a caliber because it can impact shooter comfort and effectiveness.

Felt Recoil, Muzzle Rise, and Shootability

The 9mm caliber is known for its relatively low recoil, making it easier to control and more comfortable for shooters with less experience or smaller stature. 

The 10mm caliber, however, has a more substantial recoil due to its higher energy and velocity. This can make it more challenging to manage and less suitable for shooters sensitive to recoil or those with less experience.

Penetration Comparison of 9mm and 10mm Calibers

Understanding Penetration and Its Importance

Penetration refers to a bullet's ability to pass through a target, and it is important in determining a bullet's effectiveness in stopping a threat or taking down game. Comparing penetration can help shooters choose the right caliber for their needs.

Sectional Density, Expansion, and Barrier Penetration

The 10mm caliber typically has a higher sectional density than the 9mm, meaning it can penetrate deeper into a target. The 10mm also tends to expand more consistently and create larger wound channels, making it more effective at stopping threats. Additionally, the 10mm has better barrier penetration capabilities, making it a more suitable choice for law enforcement or self-defense scenarios where threats may be behind cover.

Availability Comparison of 9mm and 10mm Calibers

Ammunition Manufacturers, Types, Prices, and Supply

The 9mm caliber is more widely available than the 10mm caliber, with a larger number of ammunition manufacturers offering various bullet types and prices. For example, a box of 50 rounds of 9mm ammo costs between $13.49 to $34.99, depending on the brand, type, and quality. The average price per round is about $0.35. In comparison, a box of 50 rounds of 10mm ammo costs between $29.85 to $49.99, with an average price per round of $0.65.

Cost Comparison of 9mm and 10mm Calibers

While the given price ranges for the 9mm and 10mm ammunition may be accurate at the time of writing, it's important to note that ammunition prices can fluctuate due to various factors such as supply, demand, and even geopolitical events.

Ammunition Prices, Reloading Costs, and Maintenance Costs

The 9mm caliber is generally more affordable than the 10mm caliber. A box of 1000 rounds of 9mm ammo costs about $700, while a box of 1000 rounds of 10mm ammo costs about $850, a difference of $150. Reloading components for 50 rounds of 9mm ammo costs about $15, while components for 50 rounds of 10mm ammo cost about $20, a difference of $5.

Popularity Comparison of 9mm and 10mm Calibers

Market Share, User Base, Gun Models, and Online Reviews

The 9mm caliber is more popular than the 10mm caliber, with a larger market share and user base. There are more gun models chambered in 9mm, and online reviews tend to favor the 9mm for its affordability, availability, and lower recoil. 

However, the 10mm caliber has a dedicated following among hunters and self-defense enthusiasts who value its superior terminal performance and stopping power.


In conclusion, both the 9mm and 10mm calibers have their merits and drawbacks. The 9mm is more affordable, available, and has less recoil, making it suitable for a broader range of shooters. 

The 10mm, however, offers better ballistics, penetration, and stopping power, making it a popular choice for hunting and self-defense. Ultimately, the best caliber for you will depend on your specific needs, preferences, and shooting experience.

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