September 24, 2010
The .40 S&W semiauto cartridge has been thumping around since 1990.
This may indeed be one of the strongest .40 S&W loads in the business.
The .40 S&W semiauto cartridge has been thumping around since 1990. It got its big push when Smith & Wesson and Winchester proved that they could equal midrange 10mm performance with a shorter cartridge out of a smaller gun.
The .40 S&W is not just a shortened 10mm. The 10mm case is built to magnum specifications with a much heavier web, thicker case walls and uses a large pistol primer. The .40 relies on a small pistol primer for ignition. The .40 case measures .85 inch in length and should be trimmed back to .84 for reloading. It takes RCBS shellholder No. 27 and should be loaded to a maximum length of 1.135 inches according to the Speer Reloading Manual Number 12.
To say that the .40 has gained substantial respect is an understatement. It is the most successful new semiauto cartridge of the last 50 years and joins the .45 ACP and 9mm in the top-three list of the last century.
The initial Winchester load launched a 180-grain bullet at 950 fps--a load the FBI wanted. Before long, other ammunition companies got busy developing bullets and loads that offered performance only handloaders could achieve prior to this time.
The only way to increase bullet velocity while holding pressure reasonably constant is to shave weight from the bullet. The first work along these lines in the .40 resulted in 150- to 155-grain bullets that left standard-length barrels doing from 1,100 to 1,200 fps. A 155-grain bullet leaving the muzzle at 1,150 fps generates 455 ft-lbs of energy, but the work didn't stop there.
The Nosler JHP penetrated the 10 percent ballistic gelatin 10 5/8 inches. It expanded well and stayed together.
Cor-Bon was the first to offer an even lighter bullet in the .40. With a 135-grain Nosler, Cor-Bon's initial load generated more than 1,300 fps and more than 500 ft-lbs of instrumental energy. Triton soon followed suit with the same bullet loaded to about the same velocity.
According to Evan Marshall and Ed Sanow, Cor-Bon has since switched to a Sierra bullet while Triton continues with the Nosler JHP. Producing more than 500 ft-lbs of muzzle energy and generating excellent results with law enforcement on the street, this .40 load is indeed stepping into the limelight. This comes as no real surprise because the stubby little semiauto round achieves almost identical ballistics as the famed 125-grain .357 Magnum revolver load that is often regarded as near magical. Indeed, hot, light .40s are achieving enviable success with one-shot stops approaching 96 percent. While such a figure is historical in nature, past performance at least makes it perfectly clear that the .40 S&W has done a great job thus far--when stuffed with the right ammunition, of course.
Triton's answer to the 135-grain Cor-Bon load is the TR40HVA. Featuring a 135-grain Nosler bullet at an advertised 1,325 fps, this load generates more than 500 ft-lbs of energy. The Triton load uses a nickel case sealed at the primer and case mouth as well. This load appears to be one of the best all-around .40 S&W loads in the business. While some Triton loads exceed SAAMI pressure and are marked "+P," none of the .40 S&W loads is so designated. However, these loads certainly cannot be called sedate.
The Nosler JHP expanded to .622 inch and retained 82 percent of its weight.
Over the course of several days, I managed to run nearly 100 of these 135-grain loads through a pair of Model 99s, one an S&W and the other the Walther version. Any way you cut it, the Triton load looks like a winner. Out of the Walther, this load took top accuracy honors and was topped only by Cor-Bon in the energy column. Producing 474 ft-lbs of energy and 1,258 fps velocity 15 feet from the muzzle, it appears that Triton's advertising is spot-on as well. This load averaged less than two inches at 25 yards in the Walther, just edging out Cor-Bon. The SW99 didn't do quite as well, but the Triton 135-grain JHP took second place in the accuracy column, topped only by Cor-Bon in the energy column.
I also ran the Triton/Nosler load into carefully prepared ballistic gelatin, and again the load came out a winner. The bullet exhibited classic, uniform and perfect expansion to .622 inch, expanding 56 percent in the process. The recovered bullet weighed 110.3 grains, retaining 82 percent of its starting weight. The load penetrated 10 5/8 inches, leaving an impressive wake and good permanent stretch cavity.
The Triton TR40HVA round is available from a few select dealers scattered around the United States. If low-cost shooting is your game, you might want to look elsewhere for ammo. This load costs $15 per box of 20 rounds. If, however, you need ammo to save a life, this might be the best ammo you can find.
TRITON TR40HVA 135-GR. JHP
| ||VELOCITY/ES/SD @ 15 Feet (fps)||5-SHOT GROUP SIZE @ 25 YARDS (inches)|
|ES= extreme spread SD=Standard Deviation|