Love it or hate it, the vaunted 10mm has definitely been enjoying a resurgence of late.
Here are the top 5 10mm handguns out there capable of taming this underrated beast of a cartridge.
Colt Delta Elite
When the original Bren Ten pistol was coughing its last ragged gasps of air in a failed attempt at becoming a commercial success, Colt stepped up in 1987 and introduced the pistol that introduced many of us (including myself) to the then-new 10mm cartridge.
The Colt Delta Elite, a 1911 re-engineered to fire the 10mm cartridge, likely saved the hot caliber from going the way of the dodo.
The Series 80-based Delta Elite was discontinued in 1996 after the introduction of the .40 S&W drove 10mm sales into the gutter. However, Colt re-upped the Delta Elite’s contract in 2008 and the pistol has been in continuous production since.
Colt Delta Elites are magnificent pistols—almost always great shooters, they still embody all the characteristics that make 1911s the hugely popular guns they are. Delta Elites fit into standard 1911 holsters, and provide a bit more horsepower for the hunter or shooter who needs their 1911s to go to 11.
Smith & Wesson 3rd Generation 1006 family
Along with the Delta Elite, the 10mm owes the Smith & Wesson 1006 family of pistols a huge debt of gratitude for keeping the caliber from being relegated to obsolescence.
After the 1986 Miami FBI Shootout, the FBI wanted a new autopistol in a caliber that provided superior ballistics to the 9mms and .38 Special +P revolvers that generally failed to perform in the Miami incident.
The FBI introduced a torrid but brief 10mm love affair with the Smith & Wesson 1076—a beefy, all-stainless steel handgun with a single-stack magazine, 4 1/4″ barrel, and Sig-Sauer style decocking lever. After just five years, the FBI was all done with the powerful 10mm, and adopted the higher-capacity Glock 22/23 in the .40 S&W caliber.
The S&W 1006 family—which includes the 1006, 1026, 1046, 1066, 1076, and 1086—is based on Smith’s beloved 3rd generation series of autopistols, and is rugged and overbuilt.
The Smith & Wesson 10mms were only in production for a few years, so if you’ve ever longed for one, grab it! They’re being scooped up by collectors and are not getting any easier to find.
The Glock family got a little bigger in 1990, when the Austrian company rolled out the Glock 20. Based on the new larger frame meant to accommodate chunkier cartridges such as the .45 ACP, the full-sized Glock 20 boasts a 15-round capacity.
The big-for-a-small-gun “subcompact” 10mm Glock 29 is smaller than the 20 but still chunky, with a 10-round magazine and shorter barrel and grip frame. The newer Glock 40 is a longslide hunting/competition model based on the Glock 20 frame.
Both the 20 and 29 offer “SF” (Short Frame) models that help shooters with smaller hands operate the pistol with greater ease by reducing the distance from the back of the frame to the trigger.
The Glock 20, 29, and 40 bring the 10mm heat to those who gotta have their Safe Action and polymer frames. These almost-indestructible pistols have been increasing in popularity as carry sidearms in locations where large bear encounters are possible.
Fifteen shots from a full-power 10mm are available in short order; this quick-firing insurance is touted by many to be better insurance against an irritated bear over more-powerful, slower-firing revolvers. And speaking of revolvers…
Smith & Wesson 610
About the time Glock was setting the 10mm world on its ear with the G20, Smith & Wesson was doing the same thing—in a completely different direction.
Since revolvers are kinda Smith & Wesson’s “thing,” they adapted their large stainless steel “N” Frame to house six 10mm rounds. Since the 10mm is a rimless design, something needed to be done to allow extraction of the fired cases from the cylinder.
To accomplish this, Smith & Wesson took a page from history and turned to a simple solution used by the .45 ACP-chambered models 1917, 625, and Model 25-2 revolvers in the past: moon clips.
These small stamped steel devices hold six of the rimless rounds, and provide a surface for the extractor star to push against, allowing use of the ejector rod on the cylinder to push the cases out. Simple and effective—and faster to load the gun, too!
Added bonus: using the moon clips, one can shoot the shorter .40 S&W in a S&W Model 610 for practice, or when the more expensive 10mm ammo isn’t available.
The 610 was not a home run out of the gates, enjoying a production run of just a couple years before being dropped from the Smith & Wesson catalog. However, due to the 610’s popularity in competitive shooting, Smith & Wesson brought the 610 back into limited production in 1998.
Sig Sauer P220
I saved (in my opinion) the best for last—the Sig Sauer P220. For 2015, Sig introduced their vaunted P220 line of pistols in the 10mm caliber, and the 10mm world went nuts.
Already known for producing some of the finest combat pistols n the world, Sig Sauer rolled out the P220 in 10mm and promptly dropped the mic.
Offered originally in all-steel 5″ barreled models for hunting and full-sized duty purposes, the P220 10mm is now offered in a wide array of configurations, finishes, and sizes, including the uber-sexy P220 Legion in the photo above.
Since the ’70s, the P220 has been making its mark on the handgunning scene, propelling .45 ACP, 9mm, and .38 Super bullets to intended targets with extreme accuracy and reliability. The P220 platform made the jump to the larger and more powerful 10mm cartridge very successfully after some design changes and beefing up, and the 10mm P220s are difficult to find and highly sought after.
Sportsmen have taken to the P220 10mm readily, prompting Sig Sauer to offer a camouflaged variant geared towards hunting.
One would have a very hard time indeed finding a more finely made and dependable 10mm autopistol than the P220.
Anyone else out there?
There are many new variants of 10mm autos being introduced—especially in the past couple of years. Ruger recently introduced their SR1911 pistol in a promising 10mm configuration; Remington also rolled out their 1911-based 1911 R1 in 10mm. However, the five pistols listed above are the cream of the crop in 10mm land, and will absolutely serve you well if you’re looking for more horsepower in your autopistol. As the 10mm movement gains traction, we’re sure to see more new designs and configurations brought out; so keep your eyes peeled and your wallets ready….the 10mm is back!
Sources: Sig Sauer, Colt, Smith & Wesson, Glock, Drew Perez