It’s no surprise that a good portion of the gun industry thinks that the 40 S&W is a dead cartridge. While I would certainly say that it’s nowhere near as popular as it once was, I think it’s far from dead. In fact, several of my friends still trust 40 S&W to get the job done if they need to defend themselves during an attack.
That said, it seems as if the gun industry as a whole is moving away from this venerable caliber, with fewer gun makers producing guns for it. I’ve even been inside gun stores who refuse to stock guns or ammo in 40 S&W, just because they say it won’t sell.
But there is still a market for these guns.
And if you’re in the market for a new 40 caliber handgun, you may not know which direction to go in, so I thought I’d put together the short list for you. This is a list of the top 3 best 40 caliber handguns on the market right now (plus a runner up).
These are firearms that you can still buy new, or find used if you’d rather take a discount.
What are the best 40 cal handguns?
- Glock 27
- HK VP 40
- S&W M&P Shield 40
There are not as many guns that fit the bill as there used to be, and to be considered here, I have a couple of requirements.
- Reliability – For inclusion into this short list of the best 40 S&W pistols, the gun has to have proven reliability. I’m not just talking about me shooting these guns, but industry-wide reliability. They should be proven.
- Aftermarket support – For inclusion into this short list, there has to be aftermarket support. This is the main reason why this is only three guns long, and why I’m not adding something like the Baby Desert Eagle to the list (even though that links to my review on that pistol). There just isn’t as much holster support for it.
Let’s get crackin’ —
When I say Glock 27, please know that the other 40 cal Glocks go here, as well. I can only name one, but they’re all good to go.
One thing that helps Glock stand out is compatibility. What I mean here, is that the magazines across their pistols are cross compatible with each other just as long as they’re the same caliber and the grip of the gun isn’t too long for a shorter mag.
For example, you can carry your Glock 27 with the 9 round magazine inserted, but you can carry a 15 round Glock 22 mag on your hip for your reload. This gives you more ammo, while maintaining your concealability. (Where it won’t work, is if you try to stick the 9 round mag into the G22, because the mag is too short.)
The Glock 27 is a gun that I have personally carried for self-defense before, and one of my best friends has also carried for many years. The G27 is a sub compact pistol that nearly disappears on your body when trying to conceal it.
This is a great option for those of you in the market for a smaller pistol, just know that this one is a little harder to hold onto than the bigger pistols. The main reason being, that the grip is a lot shorter and unless you’ve got a mag with a pinky extension it can be pretty snappy for the newer shooters, or those who are recoil sensitive.
Glock’s pistols are reliable almost to a fault, and every pistol of theirs I’ve ever shot, and there are many, has worked flawlessly.
HK, or Heckler & Koch (pronounced coke, not cock or cotch), is considered to be the Cadillac of the gun world by many. Their guns aren’t cheap by any stretch of the term, and they’re almost a status symbol hated by the poors.
I don’t personally own one of their pistols because I’m pretty close to being one of the said poors, even though I own and carry SIG Sauer pistols, like this P320 AXG Classic.
The VP 40 is highly customizable in terms of grip and palm swell, so you can really get the grip feeling the way you want it for your particular hands.
Speaking of the grip, while I’m not usually a fan of gun makers telling me where to put my hands with the finger grooves, the VP series of guns feels great in my hand and is very comfortable to shoot.
The one strange thing about this one, is the paddle mag release, instead of a button. Once you get used to the paddle, it becomes second nature and is very intuitive. In fact, I tend to prefer it now after shooting the HKs more, because it doesn’t require me to change my grip.
HK’s pistols, while not the prettiest to look at, actually perform very well. The main issue you may find is concealing your pistol, because it is a full size handgun.
But it can be done, and I carry a similar sized pistol on a regular basis without issue, like the above-mentioned AXG Classic. It’s a big pistol that I have no problem concealing all day long with the right setup.
So the above picture shows an M&P Shield 2.0, but the truth is that I’ve fired most of the models of the M&P ranging from the original one to the latest 2.0 and they’re all great guns. They shoot great, are reliable, the trigger is pretty decent, and the sights are good.
For me, the mag release is positioned and shaped good enough that I don’t have to adjust my grip as much as I do on other guns. Your mileage may vary on this aspect, however, just because all hands are shaped differently.
In terms of popularity, the M&P lineup is up there, probably somewhere right behind the Glock pistols.
Of these three guns, Glock has the most amount of aftermarket support, and the S&W comes in at a close second. There are tons of upgrades available to you from the trigger to the sights, and everything in between. (Though, I will say that I’m not a fan of trigger jobs for carry guns, unless it is a direct replacement and doesn’t change the function of the trigger in any way.)
Even better is that this pistol is also reliable to almost a fault, and I have several friends who swear by them and trust them with their lives.
I don’t currently own one, probably because I’m a SIG snob, but it’s on my short list if I ever win the lottery.
Runner Up — Springfield XD 40
I own and carried a full size XD in a different caliber for several years and a few of my friends trust the XD40 pistols with their lives.
So, why is it only a runner up?
It does have a good amount of aftermarket support if for no other reason than these guns have been around forever. The issue I have with them is the grip safety.
I used to be a big fan of the grip safety, and the benefits it offered. Nowadays, I don’t recommend them to people because they can be problematic.
While I’ve never experienced it personally, I have friends who have had the grip safety pop out while shooting at the range because they have oddly shaped hands. The grip safety is required to be pressed for the gun to fire, so that could be a problem if you ever needed to defend yourself with your gun.
Then again, you should hopefully have fired your pistol a whole bunch before actually carrying it for self-defense and should know if you’ll have this problem.
So, it is runner up. I still own mine, and it is a good gun that is fun to shoot at the range. But I don’t carry it anymore.
40 S&W guns are not as sought out as they used to be, probably because 9mm has had such a huge leap forward in terminal ballistics. Then again, 40 is still around and doesn’t seem to be going the way of the dinosaur any time soon.