Smokey Merkley

Smokey Merkley

In 1983, Lt. Col. Jeff Cooper, retired USMC, was working on a pistol and caliber he felt would replace the .45 auto that had served the military and civilians alike for over 70 years.

He would refer to the caliber as the “Super Forty.” He had Domaus and Dixon Incorporated design the pistol, which was called the Bren Ten and was inspired by the CZ-75.

As often happens, production of the pistols was delayed by several problems. Domaus and Dixon went bankrupt and Cooper had to look for another pistol manufacturer.

On April 11, 1986, eight FBI agents in Miami, Florida, got into a shootout with two heavily armed bank robbers. Although the two bank robbers were eventually killed, when the dust settled, two of the agents were dead and five were seriously wounded, ending their careers in the FBI.

It is often referred to as the “Miami Massacre.” The most incredible thing about the shootout is that both bank robbers were shot several times early on in the fight by .38 S&W rounds, 9mm rounds, and 12-gauge shotgun rounds, but continued to kill and wound the FBI agents.

The FBI did a lot of soul searching for answers after the terrible loss to their ranks that day. The FBI turned their attention to why the initial bullets that hit the robbers didn’t stop the fight.

They also asked Colt to supply them with several of their Delta Elite 1911s in 10mm. The performance of the 10mm auto rounds were impressive in the FBI tests. A 175-grain bullet left a 5-inch barrel at 1,290 feet per second and had 649 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle, while a 180-grain bullet left the same 5-inch barrel at 1,300 feet per second and produced 708 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle.

The FBI purchased a large order of Smith & Wesson Model 1076 pistols in 10mm and issued them to their agents. Eventually, the FBI was instrumental in reducing the size and power of the 10mm cartridge and it became the .40 S&W. The FBI Hostage and Rescue Team and the FBI Special Weapons and Tactics Team are still issued the 10mm auto.

The Danish military issues Glock 10mm autos to their Arctic unit, the Slaederpatruljen, as a defense against polar bears. I know what you are thinking, and I would rather have a .300 Weatherby Magnum if I were going to visit polar bear country.

Today, civilians in the western United States are showing an increased interest in the 10mm auto for carrying in the backcountry, and there are a lot of fine pistols to choose from. Colt, Kimber, Glock, Sig Saur, Smith and Wesson and Dan Wesson all produce 10mm auto pistols, just to name a few.

The 10mm auto not only hits hard, it recoils more than the .45 auto it was designed to replace. Folks with small hands will have a problem controlling the piece unless strict attention is given to the proper two-handed grip of the pistol. Ammunition is sold as mild, medium and heavy loads. Even the mild loads shoot flatter and recoils harder than the .45 auto.

Buffalo Bore sells loads for the 10mm auto that produce 1,100 to 1,200 foot-pounds of energy. They claim that their loads are safe in good quality firearms, but I’m a little skeptical.

The slide on several of the 10mm pistols will start to come back a little before the round exits the muzzle. Buffalo Bore says they are safe but recommends installing a stronger spring if you notice it happening to your pistol. I’m assuming a 20- or 21-pound spring might work, but I am leery of going over the original pressure specs of any cartridge in a semi-auto pistol.

I think the 10mm auto is here to stay. There are enough people who really like the round and can shoot it well, so I think we will probably see more people carrying them in the backcountry in the next few years.

Smokey Merkley was raised in Idaho and has been hunting since he was 10 years old. He was a member of the faculty of Texas A&M University for 25 years. There he taught orienteering, marksmanship, self-defense, fencing, scuba diving and boxing. He was among the first DPS-certified Texas Concealed Handgun Instructors. He can be contacted at