Best 40 Caliber Pistols: Which is Best?

by Terril Hebert

November 9, 2023



Ten years ago, pistols chambered in the .40 S&W cartridge were a popular choice for personal protection and law enforcement duty use. It is more powerful than 9mm Luger or 45 ACP, while offering more capacity than the latter, with the beauty of being chambered in designs initially intended for the former. But as law enforcement has gone back to a new generation of 9mm pistols and loads to shoot in them, the Forty Cal has been on the wane. Despite that, there is no shortage of .40 caliber pistols out there. That begs the question: which one is best to choose?

Why Pick the .40?

The .40 S&W debuted with great promise in 1990. The 40 Cal promised more ballistic power over existing 9mm Luger ammunition and satisfied big bore fans with a larger bore diameter over rounds like the 9mm Luger or the .357 Magnum. But it offered more magazine capacity and could readily be chambered in existing 9mm designs, which could not be said for the old .45 ACP round. The FBI quickly adopted the round that year and state and local law enforcement follow suit. But in the 2010s, the .40 began to seem unnecessary. 

The .40 is a more expensive round to shoot over the 9mm Luger and modern 9mm +P loads have closed the power gap considerably. Statistical analysis of law enforcement shootings by such branches as the FBI and NYPD found that agents tended to need more ammunition to achieve a hit on target. This indicated that the .40 is harder to shoot well over the alternatives. In 2015, the FBI returned to 9mm and the .40 began to fade in law enforcement, a decline that was mirrored in the commercial market.

 But that does not mean you should not buy a .40 caliber pistol. Gun and ammunition selection is still plentiful and the amount of police trade in firearms makes it an economical option for those of us who don’t burn through hundreds of rounds in a weekend class. There is also diminishing returns when one goes for a 9mm +P load. The .40 has been criticized as a high pressure round that causes increased wear on the pistols chambered for it. Standard pressure 9mm Luger ammunition is somewhat more sedate, but going to +P loads opens the shooter up to some of the same issues as the .40. The .40, even with its issues, still holds a sizeable advantage in ballistic power that can be useful depending on whether you are facing two legged or four-legged predators.

Gun University’s Choices of the Best .40 Caliber Pistols

Best .40 Caliber Pistols

Best for carry

S&W M&P Shield .40

S&W M&P Shield .40
  • Striker fired
  • Flush or extended magazines
  • Very compact
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CZ 75 Tactical Sport II
  • All steel frame
  • Competition trigger
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best for duty

Glock 22

Glock 22
  • Established for duty
  • Light polymer frame
  • Extremely reliable
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best overall

Sig SP2022

Sig SP2022
  • P series ergonomics with polymer frame
  • DA/SA trigger
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Spec Comparison of the Best .40 Caliber Pistols

Below is a table of the specifications for the best 40 caliber pistols.

FirearmBarrel Length (in)Overall Length (in)ActionWeight (oz)Capacity
Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 403.16.1Striker-fired34.246+1 / 7+1
CZ 75 Tactical Sport II5.258.9Single-action48.517+1
Glock 224.497.95Striker-fired28.4315+1
Sig SP20223.97.4DASA29.012+1

Best .40 Caliber Pistols

Here is our list for the best 40 caliber handguns:

  1. S&W M&P Shield .40
  2. CZ 75 Tactical Sport II
  3. Glock 22
  4. Sig SP2022

Best .40 Caliber Pistols – Reviews 

1 S&W M&P Shield 40 : Best for carry

S&W M&P Shield 40 Featured Image

S&W M&P Shield 40

A compact M&P pistol that is slim, lightweight, and chambered in 40 S&W.

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  • Shootability C+
  • Reliability A-
  • Ergonomics B
  • Accuracy B
  • Value A-

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S&W M&P Shield 40 Specs

  • Barrel Length 3.1 in
  • Overall Length 6.1 in
  • Action Striker-fired
  • Weight 34.24 oz
  • Capacity 6+1 / 7+1

S&W M&P Shield 40 Review

For a time, the subcompact .40 was somewhat popular for concealed carry and back-up duty use. These short-barreled and chopped grip handguns offer a lot of power in a small package. Thankfully, that time has passed. The .40 round from a short barrel has plenty of power, but more blast than from a longer barrel. The shorter grip also prevents the shooter from getting a full firing grip and taming the recoil. An experienced shooter can be well served with a Glock 27, Springfield XDS, or other micro .40. But for most of us, these small .40s can be among the most miserable, if not challenging, handguns to shoot. One model that stands out as marginally better than the rest is the S&W Shield.

That is right. The S&W Shield, not the fourteen-round 9mm Shield Plus. M&P Shields in .40 and .45 caliber are slim, single stack handguns just like the original 9mm Luger Shield, but they did not get the facelift. The original Shield started the movement of shooters back to a reliable, effective, compact 9mm handgun that was easy to carry thanks to its single-stack magazine. 40 and 45 were still popular big bore options, and the Shield came out in those calibers as well. (when)

Despite not receiving the attention its 9mm partner rightly deserves, the .40 caliber Shield is not a bad pistol by any stretch. Although it is not prolific as the Glock 27, the Shield is a thinner gun than the Glock and the competing XDS and Kahr offerings still out there. It also avoids the XDS’ magical ability to lose roll pins spontaneously and the Kahr’s reputation for mixed bag reliability. The main difference is grip. Although it is thinner and potentially hard on the hand, it affords the use of the full hand with the magazine inserted. Out of the available subcompact .40 caliber pistols still out there, the Shield is the easiest to shoot. It is the best of relatively poor options.

S&W M&P Shield 40 Pros and Cons

  • Slim profile for ease of carry
  • Tactile loaded chamber indicator for redundant safety
  • Text
  • Slim single-stack grip concentrates felt recoil into the web of the hand
  • Light weight amplifies felt recoil and muzzle flip over larger handguns

S&W M&P Shield 40 Deals

2 CZ 75 Tactical Sport II : Best Full Size

CZ 75 Tactical Sport II Featured Image

CZ 75 Tactical Sport II

A full size, all metal framed handgun ready for competition.

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  • Shootability A
  • Reliability B+
  • Ergonomics A-
  • Accuracy A
  • Value C+

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CZ 75 Tactical Sport II Specs

  • Barrel Length 5.25 in
  • Overall Length 8.90 in
  • Action Single-action hammer-fired
  • Weight 48.5 oz
  • Capacity 17+1

CZ 75 Tactical Sport II Review

The CZ 75 is a Cold War classic that has been around since, you guessed it, 1975. This pistol was then just the latest in a long line of quality go-to-war handguns CZ has produced over the years. But it has been the 75 that has both stuck around and changed with the times. It was one of the first “wonder nine” handguns and is a double-action/single-action version of the legendary Browning High Power. Today, you can still get a classic CZ 75, but this all-steel model is joined by aluminum-framed and polymer framed versions that vary in size, caliber, and configuration to suit any need.

 The CZ 75 Tactical Sport II is part of CZ’s line up of competition-grade handguns. The Sport II is an all-steel full-sized handgun with thin aluminum grips. Its forty-eight ounce weight is on the hefty side for a duty handgun, but it is a setup that is more than passable for home defense and competition shooting on the clock. The added weight may get tiring after a long day of shooting, but it soaks up the .40 caliber round’s recoil like a champ. The all-steel construction of the Sport II also mitigates potential long-term wear concerns that affect other .40 caliber pistol designs. 

The Sport II has all the advantages of an all-steel construction and a design that is both proven and copied the world over. While it will likely be easier to shoot than polymer-framed duty pistols, the added weight might be a liability for everyday carry. Likewise, unlike most CZ 75 variants, the Sport II is a single-action handgun. It must be carried with the hammer back and the ambidextrous thumb safety engaged, similarly to a 1911-style pistol. 

CZ 75 Tactical Sport II Pros and Cons

  • All-steel construction for added durability and recoil control.
  • Single-action only for a light, crisp trigger pull for each shot.
  • Single-action only for a platform that is traditionally double-action. This can lead to safety issues if you forget to engage the manual safety.
  • You will pay a premium for extra magazines when you find them.

CZ 75 Tactical Sport II Deals

3 Glock 22 Gen 5 MOS : Best for duty

Glock 22 Gen 5 MOS Featured Image

Glock 22 Gen 5 MOS

The most recent full size Glock 22 with upgrades including optics ready MOS system, removed finger grooves, and front slide serrations in 40 Smith and Wesson.

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  • Shootability A+
  • Reliability A+
  • Ergonomics A
  • Accuracy A
  • Value A

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Glock 22 Specs

  • Barrel Length 4.49 in
  • Overall Length 7.95 in
  • Action Striker-fired
  • Weight 28.43 oz
  • Capacity 15+1

Glock 22 Review

Although Smith & Wesson is responsible for designing the .40 S&W cartridge and its initial popularity, Glock beat Smith onto the market with a .40 caliber pistol in the Glock Model 22 back in 1990. The Glock 22, and its smaller brother the Glock 23, quickly set the standard for .40 caliber duty handguns. 

The most modern iterations of the G22 Gen 5, which comes with an ambidextrous slide and magazine release, as well as front and rear cocking serrations. The G22 MOS is an identical pistol but updated for red dot optics. 

The Glock 22 is a full-sized duty pistol with a 4 ½ inch barrel and a fifteen-round capacity. Aesthetically, it is identical to the Glock 17, which is chambered in 9mm Luger. The only appreciable difference is the Glock 17 holds two additional rounds. The Glock 22 is among the most prolific .40 caliber pistols out there. Finding parts and magazines are as simple as can be, whereas finding additional support for other .40s can be tricky. Part of this is thanks to the Glock 22’s popularity in law enforcement circles before the return to 9mm duty pistols. Due to its size, the Glock 22 is also among the easiest .40 caliber pistols to shoot. 

The Glock 22 and the slightly smaller Glock 23 are a standby .40 caliber pistol. But the earliest iterations of these pistols have the same unsupported chamber as other Glock pistols. Early on, these models have a reputation for cracking frames and other premature wear. But since then, Glock’s .40 caliber pistols now have a chamber that fully supports the .40 caliber’s case. 

Glock 22 Pros and Cons

  • The first .40 caliber pistol to market and a popular duty pistol that enjoys massive aftermarket support from internal parts to magazines.
  • Full sized handgun with a double-stack grip that is wide enough to distribute recoil and long enough to get all fingers on the pistol.
  • Early models with unsupported chambers are potentially unsafe to shoot.

Glock 22 Deals

4 Sig SP2022 : best overall

Sig SP2022 Featured Image

Sig SP2022

A polymer framed handgun with the ergonomics the classic metal framed P series of handguns.

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  • Shootability A
  • Reliability A-
  • Ergonomics A-
  • Accuracy B+
  • Value B+

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Sig SP2022 Specs

  • Barrel Length 3.9 in
  • Overall Length 7.4 in
  • Action Double-action/single-action hammer-fired
  • Weight 29.0 oz
  • Capacity 12+1

Sig SP2022 Review

The Sig Sauer SP2022 is not a likely contender as a top handgun in any category. In the mid-1990s, the polymer framed handgun was quickly becoming the way of the future and heavier steel and aluminum framed pistols were looking long in the tooth. Polymer guns are cheaper to produce and to buy. They are also lighter weight and better able to stand up to corrosion without constant care. Among the metal-framed pistols in need of a facelift were the Sig P220 series of double action pistols. Instead of going whole-hog with a striker-fired design like the Glock, Sig kept the familiar double-action single-action mechanism and lines in their first polymer framed pistol, the SP2022, otherwise known as the Sig Pro. 

The SP2022 got its moniker from a 2002 400,000-unit French gendarmerie contract for the new pistol with an expected service life of twenty years. Despite this substantial order, the SP2022 does not enjoy the notoriety of the 220 series or the later P320 polymer guns that eclipsed it in Sig’s lineup in the late 2010s. It remains in production and is Sig’s least expensive offering. The SP2022 is a full- sized double stack handgun with a decocker and a loaded-chamber indicator. 

While the 2022 is most found in 9mm Luger and a fifteen-round capacity, it is available as a twelve-shot .40 caliber. While inexpensive, pedestrian, and perhaps too obscure for some, the SP2022 may be the best .40 caliber handgun that can be had. It retains the same lightweight polymer frame modern shooters demand, but is still large enough to get a full grip to tame the recoil of the .40. Most importantly, it is one of the few handguns designed as a .40 caliber first. The SP2022 first debuted as a .40 caliber handgun before being introduced in 9mm. Most .40 caliber pistols out there were 9mm handguns, re-chambered to work with .40. 

Sig SP2022 Pros and Cons

  • Double-action hammer-fired for added safety during administrative handling.
  • Introduced specifically in .40 S&W, rather than 9mm Luger.
  • Thicker slide and frame compared to other .40 caliber pistols, making it harder to carry inside-the-waistband.
  • Now discontinued in favor of the model in 9mm Luger.

Sig SP2022 Deals


Police departments nationwide are phasing out the .40 S&W round in favor of 9mm Luger. But don’t let intragovernmental politics get in the way of effectively arming yourself for whatever the task is at hand. To be clear, government agencies are not going back to the standard pressure 9mm ammunition of 1990 that the .40 was meant to replace. On the table today is 9mm +P and +P+ ammunition. These rounds come close to the .40 in terms of power, but are not nearly as easy to shoot as standard pressure 9mm ammunition. Agents will get back a few extra rounds of capacity and a very subjective ability to shoot better by going to the 9mm +P. But the added pressure could take away that ability. Worse, trading the higher-pressure .40 for a higher-pressure 9mm will not magically solve wear problems that were virtually nonexistent with standard pressure 9mm. 

The 9mm Luger is probably the better choice today, particularly when building a brand-new shooter with equipment that is serviceable for both training and powerful enough for duty. From a governmental level and granular level, the 9mm is more economical. But the bean counter’s choice might not be the best choice for you. The .40 still has more power potential than both the 9mm and .45 ACP. It is also available in packages that are wieldier than what can be had in 10mm. The current move toward 9mm Luger is making new pistols harder to sell and used .40 caliber surplus models hog the market as well. While the .40’s case looks bleak on the surface, there is still plenty of opportunity and plenty for the .40 to offer. Whether you are preparing for personal defense at home, wilderness defense, or need a little extra pasta to knock over plates on the firing line, you might give a long look at 9mm then turn to .40. 


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About Terril Hebert

Terril is an economic historian with a penchant for all things firearm related. Originally a pot hunter hailing from south Louisiana, he currently covers firearms and reloading topics in print and on his All Outdoors YouTube page. When he isn't delving into rimfire ballistics, pocket pistols, and colonial arms, Terril can be found perfecting his fire-starting techniques, photographing wildlife, getting lost in the archives, or working on a novel.

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