9mm vs 10mm: Which One is Better? thumbnail image

9mm vs 10mm: Which One is Better?

80 Percent Arms   |   Jul 14th 2022

One of the age-old debates amongst gun enthusiasts is over the 9mm and 10mm rounds. Which is best - 9mm or 10mm for your handgun or pistol caliber carbine? Both have pros and cons so which one should we choose? While this might be a very debatable point for folks on forums everywhere - we have some opinions on the matter as well. 

Why Choose 9mm?

9mm is one of the most popular rounds on the planet and for good reason! 9mm has an incredible array of options with ammo and guns to choose from. It is widely available in a large swath of different load types and it can be purchased in any gun store with incredibly inexpensive options available.

The 9mm was developed by Georg Luger and brought to market in 1901 as the 9x19mm Parabellum - also known as the 9mm Luger. To say the 9mm is a success would be a dramatic understatement. 9mm is the most popular pistol and submachine gun round in history. Nearly every military on the planet has a weapon chambered in 9mm. Today 9mm has been developed into one of the best personal defense rounds on the planet and with technological developments in handguns specifically, a whole lot of 9mm can be carried in a weapon smaller than the average hand.

Not only can we afford to shoot a 9mm a lot but it also has a very light recoil. 9mm has a recoil that can be controlled by almost any shooter without much of an issue. Less time spent fighting recoil = more time spent working on other fundamentals of shooting. Less recoil also allows for a new shooter to feel comfortable with a weapon quicker as they will not be scared of having to control a massive recoil!

Advantages of 9mm

To summarize, there are many advantages of the 9mm. Let’s have a look at the advantages of the 9mm vs. the 10mm.

  • Low recoil
  • Many firearm options
  • Cheaper ammo
  • Broad assortment of ammunition types for all applications

Disadvantages of 9mm

While there are not many disadvantages to 9mm we still have to think objectively here. Having a lower recoil means that the cartridge has less energy. Less energy means less lethality and less takedown power. Using hot-loaded hollow points is one solution to this disadvantage.

9mm Ballistics

Grain Weight: 124

Bullet Type: FMJ

Muzzle Velocity: 1,090 fps

Muzzle Energy: 348 ft/lbs

Velocity at 100yds: 946 fps

Check out more 9mm Ballistics on this chart.

Why Should I Choose 10mm?

10mm is a round that has an interesting historical background - mostly from the FBI wanting a cartridge with more stopping power and velocity than the 9mm. Without boring you too much just know the FBI originally adopted the 10mm because they wanted a semi-automatic handgun capable of magnum-level performance. What made them realize this? Well, in 1986 FBI agents cornered two violent bank robbers in Miami where a heavy small arms firefight ensued, resulting in the two FBI agents' deaths (Special Agents Jerry Dove and Benjamin Grogan). Five more were wounded as well as the two bank robbers.

What came next when the FBI pieced together the timeline was that they realized Special Agents Dove and Grogan had both wounded the bank robbers before being killed themselves - but the 9mm bullets they were firing didn’t penetrate the robbers' body armor at high enough velocity to inflict mortal wounds. This began the hunt for a new cartridge, something more powerful than the 9mm. Soon after, the 10mm was adopted by the FBI.

It didn’t take long for the FBI to realize many of their agents couldn’t shoot the 10mm well due to the recoil and started loading the rounds lighter - thus negating the purpose of the 10mm. Later down the road this “10mm FBI” round that they gave out to folks who couldn’t manage the recoil became necked down to .40 S&W.

10mm is actually a fantastic round when it isn’t having its performance crippled though. Semi-automatic handguns loaded with magnum performance capabilities make for one heck of a round! For this reason, the 10mm is very popular with backcountry hikers/campers, hunters etc. You may have heard 10mm described as a great weapon to take down a bear and though I’ve never actually shot a bear with a 10mm, the ballistics of a 10mm certainly make me think I'd rather have a 10mm in bear country than a 9mm.

Advantages of 10mm

10mm has many advantages and has been described as an excellent choice for law enforcement. To summarize some of the things we said above, some advantages of a 10mm are:

  • High velocity and stopping power
  • Magnum-level ballistics in a smaller and lighter semi-automatic pistol
  • Excellent takedown power for wild animals

Disadvantages of 10mm

I bet you can already sort out some of the disadvantages of 10mm but if they aren't immediately obvious we will summarize them here as well. Some disadvantages of 10mm are:

  • Lack of ammo availability
  • High cost of ammunition
  • Heavy recoil
  • Guns tend to be bigger than 9mm which can be an issue for shooters with smaller hands
  • Much 10mm is loaded to .40 S&W levels of power - which negates the purpose of the 10mm entirely
  • Lack of handgun model options

Who Should Choose 10mm?

Spending a lot of time in the backcountry and worried about bears, lions or even tigers... A 10mm might be a great choice for you! If we plan on hunting hogs, mountain lions etc with a handgun, 10mm is also an excellent choice! With such incredible takedown power (provided we purchase 10mm ammo loaded to proper specifications) 10mm is also an excellent choice for home defense.

10mm Ballistics

Grain Weight: 180

Bullet Type: FMJ

Muzzle Velocity: 1,008 fps

Muzzle Energy: 406 ft/lbs

Velocity at 100yds: 917 fps

Check out more in-depth ballistics on this chart.

Which caliber is better?

So which is better, 9mm or 10mm? Both cartridges have clear pros and cons and both cartridges are proven to be excellent choices. In our opinion the 9mm is the overall best choice for the shooter not interested in taking down a bear or mountain lion. The 9mm can be had in far more weapon’s platforms, far more ammunition variety, is easier to shoot, and is far cheaper when you head to buy ammo.

Remember - we want to become proficient with our weapons first and foremost. A $4,000 custom handgun in 10mm is cool and gives plenty of cred for the ‘Gram, but if we don’t practice often and have no training then it is useless. I would rather be the guy that shoots a lot and is proficient with my 9mm than be the guy that cannot hit the broad side of a barn with his fancy 10mm.

Por qué no los dos?

We hope this helped you sort out which round is a better choice for you. Both are great options; it just comes down to what you need the weapon to do for you. There truly are very few reasons the vast majority of people would ever need a 10mm - it's likely a want. 

Thanks for kicking it with us here on this 80 Percent Arms blog. Are you ready to own a cool, customizable 9mm pistol? Check out our  GST-9 MOD1 and build your own handgun! Or, you can also build your very own AR-9 to shoot 9mm through an AR platform. But for those diehard 10mm fans… we may have something in store for you soon. Until next time, stay strapped!