Before getting to the list of the best .40 cal pistols, let's take a brief look at its formation.
Largely as a result of the 1986 Miami shootout, the FBI began searching for a new pistol round in earnest when the knockdown capabilities of the then in service 9mm and .38 Special – even in +P loadings – were found to be inadequate and jeopardized agent lives. The Feds initially adopted the 10mm Auto, but found that the caliber was a bit too stout for too many agents. Therefore they requested that Smith & Wesson, along with Federal Ammunition, try to moderate the round while still delivering improved ballistic performance. The result was introduced in 1990 as the .40 Smith & Wesson. The caliber is essentially a shortened 10mm Auto and for almost thirty years was the primary choice of US law enforcement. In the last year or so, however, the FBI has returned to the 9mm Luger with improved bullet designs. The reason is for better recoil control and for increase the increase in magazine capacity - the 9 gets about an additional two rounds in a standard magazine. This decision by the Feds resulted in many law enforcement agencies following suite.
Nevertheless, the 40 remains popular with many shooters for the same reason it was adopted in the first place: better knock down capabilities and some shooters just enjoy the recoil. While the .40’s position as third most popular semi auto round (after the 9mm and .45 ACP) may have gained a bit of distance, it shows no sign of dropping off into obscurity and there is a fair assortment of firearms available in the caliber.
Bellow is the list of best rated 40 caliber pistols on the market.
Best 40 Caliber Handguns Comparison
SIG Sauer P320 Pistols
Springfield XD MOD.2
Smith & Wesson M&P M2.0
Glock - G23
HK VP40 Pistols
Walther PPQ M2 Centerfire
CZ 75 SP-01 Shadow
Sig Sauer P220
FN - FNS-40
Top 10 Best .40 Cal Pistols: Review
1. Hi-Point 40SW-B
There is no getting around this fact: Like all Hi Points, the .40 is a cheap and ugly gun. That said, it is surprisingly not a cheaply made gun. While it is clunky, heavy, clumsy and has design lines and a trigger not even a mother could love, it is surprisingly robust. Inexpensive enough for people to buy and abuse just to see if they CAN break it, Hi Points have taken a lot of abuse – verbal AND physical - yet still work. As such, they have earned a spot as fulfilling a practical use need: for a “truck gun” and for minimal investment.
The “Saturday night special” stigma of cheap for thugs means cheap enough for low income individuals in need of protection. And Hi Point offers a quality above the stereotype. These pistols will not win much respect from other shooters at the range and they certainly will not win a lot of precision shooting competitions (though that may be from societal more than mechanical limitations). If the need there, however, Hi Point delivers at a cost that will not break the bank and with a dependability factor that many big-name manufacturers promise but for a lot more money …albeit with better looks too.
2. SIG Sauer P320 Pistols
The P320: Sig Sauer’s latest offering of a striker fired polymer framed gun has made a big impression, especially after the design won the US military’s contract as primary sidearm to replace the Beretta M9 series. What the P320 offers, besides Sig quality and a decent out of the box trigger, is surprising versatility: the frame is offered in several different grip sizes, slim to full, as well as four different frames: sub compact, compact, carry and full. Gun manufacturers have been doing this for awhile, but the P320 can be transformed to these different sizes with the same gun. Further, the serial numbered receiver is an internal chassis that can be removed and put into different frames. This allows the gun to also use different calibers with different kits: the 9mm Luger, .357Sig and .40S&W are all interchangeable. The military models, designated the M17 and M18, are still being deployed and battlefield reports are due to follow shortly, but the civilian versions have had a hard time staying on the shelves. Partially from demand and partially from Sig meeting the government contract. The versatility, however, promises an interesting product. I'm not too biased to say that this is a best compact 40 cal pistol.
3. Springfield XD MOD.2
The Springfield XD Mod.2 series is actually made by I. M, Metal, a Croatian firm, that was originally based off of the HS2000. This is sometimes a turn off for some American buyers, but they are really only denying themselves. Croatians have a long history of being at odds with their neighbors, and consequently demand a reliable and durable firearm, qualities the XD possesses. The XD Mod 2, the current production model, is a best 40 cal pistol for the money. There are two passive safeties: the trigger cam (similar to what is seen on the Glock) and the grip safety (similar to a Colt 1911). The gun will not function unless the shooter’s hands are where they need to be. Further, there are two indicators: a cocked indicator in the form of a silver button on the back plate of the slide, and a loaded chamber indicator on the top of the slide where it meets the barrel. Both are raised so they can be read by touch in the dark. Add to that a stock fiber optic front sight and great ergonomics: the grip angle supports a point of impact where you point methodology: this is a gun meant to work with the shooter while working for the shooter.
4. Smith & Wesson M&P M2.0 Full-Size Pistols
Smith a Wesson’s M&P M2.0 pistol does a wonderful job in making up for a few of Smith’s misteps in recent years (coughSDV9). The polymer striker fired pistol has decent economics, comes with additional rubber textured backstraps to accommodate different sized shooting hands, is easily converted for right and left handed shooters and has a very nice, crisp trigger: perhaps one of the best out of the box on the market for a “service” level firearm. There are also several variants - compact to target – available on the market. Models are also available with or without the manual safety (to meet different law enforcement agencies’ requirements) – but all have the passive trigger safety. From a price point, S&W also is quite competitive. The slide release/stop is low profile to keep from snagging, but the result is that it is difficult to manipulate with just the thumb for some shooters. True, there are shooting disciplines that find that means of closing the slide sacrilegious, but in the heat of the moment, all rules are secondary to what gets the job done: requiring two hands to get your firearm back in play is seen by more than a few defensive pistol experts as a detriment. While this point can be, and is, hotly debated, it is still a consideration. The S&W M&P series, however is a good all around multi purpose gun. One of the best 40 s&w pistols you can find on the market.
5. Glock - G23
The Glock 23: Love them or hate them, Glocks have a reputation for working no matter what. They are boxy, and their lines are anything but inspired, yet thirty years of rough service by special forces, law enforcement and everything the civilian market can throw at it have done little to stop Glocks from working when needed. There are four different .40 caliber variants from sub compact to target: (models 27, 22, 23 and 35) with the compact (23) being perhaps the most popular offering the best balance in concealability and accuracy. For novice shooters, Glocks may offer a few speed bumps: they are a firearm designed as a tool rather than a recreational item: there is one external safety at the trigger. The somewhat obtuse grip angle makes the muzzle point high and there are no loaded chamber or cocked indicators. It is a qood draw and shoot gun, and as such should be utilized by shooters trained in such tactics. Out of the box, the Glock is a good service weapon. There are also a lot of after market accessories and upgrades available for this series of firearms for competition or for personal defense.
6. HK VP40 Pistols
Introduced in 2014, H&K’s VP40 (for volkspistole, or people’s pistol) series of striker fired handguns represent the company’s first return to striker systems since the 1980’s. The VP40 is a truly ambidextrous design with slide stop/releases on both sides as well as the dual paddle magazine release. The paddle instead of button release is the one hiccup many users remark upon given that it requires either shifting the grip to use with the thumb or some practice with the use of trigger finger. The cocked indicator is a recessed red button that cannot be felt, but requires a visible inspection, additionally the loaded chamber indicator has discretion in mind. The pistol comes standard with glow in the dark sights (or tritium night sights with the LE package) and three sets of back and side grip panels to customize for fit. All of this makes a potentially very comfortable handling firearm. The VP trigger is also perhaps the crispest offered by H&K with virtually zero creep after take up. Finally, it is one of the least expensive in the H&K lineup, coming in a at least a couple hundred less than it’s closest sibling, the P30.
7. Walther PPQ M2 Centerfire Pistols
The Walther PPQ M2 in .40 caliber shares many of the same positive ergonomics as the H&K VP40 making it a very comfortable pistol to handle and point. Unlike the H&K, however, the M2 traded in the ambidextrous magazine paddle release of the PPQ M1 for a thumb button release that can be reversed for left handed shooters. Nevertheless, the Germans seem to have an unusual tendency to make southpaw shooters feel welcomed and appreciated: it has the dual slide release. Also while the H&K has more “bells and whistles” with the slide extensions for better handling and manipulation, night sights and variable grip side panels, the Walther has arguably a much better target trigger with a very short reset making it a favorite of competitions shooters looking to cut milliseconds off of their time. By many standards or appraisal, the PPQ is simply a new generation P99, as it shares quite a few traits from that service pistol with a few tweaks here and there to make it a new generation target and service pistol in one package.
8. CZ 75 SP-01 Shadow
The CZ SP-01 Shadow, is the upgraded CZ75 with target sights and an improved trigger. It is the competitions variant of this family of pistols and shares many of the basic characteristics of the 75 – which is also available in .40 S&W. The slide is mounted into the frame rather than on top, giving the pistol a lower bore axis improving both accuracy and recoil management. The trade off is that the slide has a fairly low profile that may make manipulation, especially with sweaty hands, somewhat difficult. This can be overcome with consistent training and even gaining purchase on the rear sight assembly for additional leverage. Despite this initial awkwardness to some shooters, the design is very popular (CZ75 clones are made in Italy, Turkey, Israel, the Philippines and the US). Imitation is not only the sincerest form of flattery but also the clearest indicator of technological approval. This is also the first pistol discussed that is not polymer framed: the increased weight potentially removes it from a best 40 cal pistol for concealed carry and more suitable for competitive shooting or home defense.
9. Sig Sauer P220
Sig p229 Duty The Sig P229 series of firearms are some of the most rugged service weapons on the market. Like the Beretta 92 series, the gun is bigger and tougher than it really needs to be and has been in use with several federal agencies, including the US Secret Service for years. In addition to being durable, the gun comes with a decocking lever that is easy to manipulate one handed and can be controlled in the drop: meaning there does not have to be a loud “Clack” as the hammer drops, but can be dropped slowly by releasing the lever slowly. This means the gun is safe for carry with one in the chamber, the first trigger pull will be the heavy double action while follow up shots will have the lighter single action: that first heavy pull often being the difference between a no shoot resolution and an accidental discharge. While not as accommodating of southpaws as other firearms, the P229 series still offers durability and surety of performance that only comes from long term use and abuse.
10. FN - FNS-40
FN Duty FNH FNS is a well made dependable robust gun. FNH appears to typically gear its marketing to European police and law enforcement with the civilian American market being a secondary option. The lack of after market features and accessories however, makes it somewhat less popular in the States as a result. Consequently, the company seems to suffer from the European attitude that the gun is just a tool rather than something that can be customized… or even carried in something other than a duty – read as big and bulky - holster. However, FNS and FNX series of pistols (differing in either striker or hammer fired systems) come with different back straps and are available in black, flat dark earth (FDE) or two tone editions. Triggers are very decent with the striker fired ones having less creep after take up, with crisp breaks. Fabrique Nationale Herstal does not make a bad product, never really has.
What is best .40 pistol for you?
For rough and active duty use: the best choices appear to be the Glock 23, the FNH, the Sigs P229, P320, and the S&W M&P. All three are designed with the idea of service and reliability first. Glock’s current editions are available in Gen 3, 4 and 5. The latter two come with three instead of two mags and reversible mag releases and the gen 5 eschews the molded finger grooves for a left handed slide stop. The FNH is also designed for service use by righties or lefties but suffers from the lack of after market upgrades or accoutrements. The Sig P320, although a wealth of performance data is forthcoming as the weapon is being deployed to military units at this time. Further, the ability to change pistol types and calibers without having to get a new permit (depending on the state one resides in) is a nice plus. The P229 is tried and proven but weighs the most of the ones mentioned for this use. Carriers will want a secure rig to make sure the weight does not cause problems during long periods of use. Returning to the M&P: its use by a large number of police departments shows it has a decent service reliability and acceptance. The ultimate choice will be fit and feel of the individual shooter.
For home defense and casual shooters: the Springfield XD is often viewed as a good choice for new shooters. Especially as a home defense and personal defense weapon: its status indicators can be read by touch in the dark and the two passive safeties can prevent some of the more common potentialities for accidents – these do not make the gun “fool proof” simply a bit safer in a stressful situation. The S&W again becomes a potential option as it offers some relief to left handers while being a reliable home defense pistol.
For target shooting, the CZ and the Walther are probably the best options with the CZ offering a single and double action trigger option and a bit more weight – which can hep soak up the recoil. But for sustained shooting, some shooters will find the PPQ more acceptable, and the trigger may help tip the balance. Comfort with either pistol is fairly evenly matched but really depends on the individual shooter.What about the Hi Point? Its presence on this list is admittedly made very grudgingly. The company does fulfill a need: cheap and reliable is a need many shooters or wannabe shooters may have. Further, as a “tuck away” in the trunk of glove box, the gun meets that need reliably. It the perfect illustration of having a gun if you need it but not wanting anyone to know you have a gun.