10mm ammo is often outshone by more popular handgun cartridges like 9mm and .45 ACP. However, if you want to shoot a real powerhouse with enough oomph to stop a charging grizzly, 10mm is the answer. Honestly, there’s a lot to love about 10mm Auto. This great, all-around cartridge is a great option for self-defense, big game hunting, and woods carry. It is also a pretty fun option for target shooting (as long as you don’t mind some punchy recoil).
But what should you feed a 10mm handgun? We’ve seen a slew of new ammo hit the shelves over the past 10 years. With no shortage of options, finding the best 10mm ammo can feel like a complicated task. We’re here to help you navigate the options and find the best 10mm ammo to suit your shooting needs.
Table of Contents
- A Brief History Lesson
- A Note About Recoil
- Best 10mm Ammo on the Market Reviews
- Best 10mm Ammo for Hunting
- Best 10mm Ammo for Self-Defense
- Best 10mm Ammo for Plinking and Practice
- Final Thoughts
A Brief History Lesson
We have the legendary Lieutenant Colonel Jeff Cooper to thank for the 10mm Auto cartridge. Jeff Cooper may have influenced modern shooting more than any other individual. His contributions include the Four Basic Rules of Gun Safety, the Combat Mindset, the Modern Technique of the Pistol, and plenty more. He also founded the American Pistol Institute (now known as Gunsite Academy), which has been, and continues to be, one of the most respected firearms training facilities in the world.
Cooper originally developed the 10mm Auto cartridge for the Bren Ten, a semi-automatic pistol made by Dornaus & Dixon Enterprises between 1983 and 1986. Although the Bren Ten did form a small, dedicated fan base thanks to a brief appearance on the popular TV show, Miami Vice, the design never really took off.
However, Cooper’s cartridge had a lot more going for it than the Bren Ten. With more power than the 9mm Luger and better ballistics than the .45 ACP, this flat-shooting cartridge became a superb option for handgun match competition.
After undergoing extensive testing, Cooper’s 10mm Auto cartridge was formally accepted by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI). In 1990, the Bureau began using the cartridge in their issued Smith & Wesson 1076 semi-auto pistols. Although only used in this capacity for a brief time, the FBI still uses 10mm Auto in the Heckler & Koch MP10s used by their special response teams.
A Note About Recoil
Although most shooters wouldn’t consider the 10mm Auto a serious contender for “big bore” status, it comes pretty close. It does have one thing in common with big bore calibers, and that is some pretty punishing recoil.
The recoil produced by most 10mm loads is enough to scare off many shooters. In fact, its relatively brutal recoil is probably the major reason the cartridge hasn’t been more widely adopted by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies.
Delivering roughly 1.5 times the kinetic energy of the popular .45 ACP, 10mm pistols shove a ton of recoil back at the shooter. That sharp recoil can do a serious number on your wrists. Although 10mm is indeed fun to shoot, it isn’t a caliber you’ll want to use for an all-day range visit. That can make gaining and preserving proficiency with this cartridge difficult, to say the least.
Best 10mm Ammo on the Market Reviews
10mm Auto is typically used for two primary purposes: hunting and self-defense. While there is definitely some ammo that do both well, we’ve divided our favorites into these two categories.
Since we also think shooting 10mm Auto can be pretty fun (although definitely not for the faint of heart), we’ve tossed in some options specifically for target shooting.
Best 10mm Ammo for Hunting
When it comes to hunting, especially tough hogs and big bear, penetration is usually the name of the game. These hunting loads are perfectly capable of punching through thick hide and diving deep to reach vital organs.
Buffalo Bore is known for designing hard-hitting loads capable of taking on the world’s largest and most dangerous game. Buffalo Bore’s 10mm loads are capped with 220-grain hard-cast, flat nosed bullets.
Heavy Outdoorsman loads use a unique propellant blend that somehow manages to push that hefty 10mm projectile at an impressive velocity of 1200 feet per second. WIth that speed, these bullets hit 25-yard targets with a whopping 651 foot pounds of energy. With that kind of energy, these loads are perfectly capable of plowing through hide, bone, and muscle to reach deep set vitals. In fact, they deliver up to three feet of penetration.
With performance like that, Buffalo Bore Heavy Outdoorsman is great for backcountry bear defense or dropping big deer, elk and other tough cervids.
Federal Premium’s Trophy Bonded Bear Claw is a full-power load proven to take on tough animals. With a flat nose design, Trophy Bonded Bear Claw projectiles offer ample, reliable expansion, while also providing consistent accuracy. The tough outer jacket of these high-quality bullets is bonded to the soft lead core. This provides both excellent weight retention and deep penetration. These tough projectiles are perfectly capable of smashing through hard bone and tough muscle to reach important vital organs.
Made with nickel-plated brass cases, these cartridges offer consistent feeding and extraction. They function perfectly in popular semi-automatic pistols like the Glock 29.
Don’t let that 150-grain lightweight bullet fool you. Underwood Ammo’s Xtreme Hunter has been optimized to achieve maximum penetration despite the relatively lightweight projectile. To achieve this, Underwood uses a solid copper slug and machines unique fluting right into the bullet nose. The design increases the bullet’s frontal surface area, so the slug plows through barriers like they aren’t even there. Then, when the bullet contacts the target, it hits with a massive amount of energy.
The solid copper design ensures the bullet won’t break apart, even when it strikes hard, thick bone. And although this is a non-expanding bullet, the fluted design allows it to carve a massive, permanent wound channel as it travels through soft tissue. The effect is devastating damage for a quick, ethical kill.
Best 10mm Ammo for Self-Defense
For concealed carry or other self-defense applications, you’ll want a 10mm load that offers ample terminal expansion. Here are just a few of our favorites.
Hornady is certainly one of the heavy hitters in the world of defensive ammo, and their Critical Duty line definitely hits hard. Designed specifically for law enforcement and tactical shooting, Critical Duty offers excellent ballistic performance for defensive applications.
Loaded with 175-grain FlexLock bullets, these loads meet FBI penetration standards. They even outperform most other loads on the agency’s tough barrier tests. Designed with a flexible polymer tip, FlexLock hollow points punch through even the toughest barriers without clogging. They even bust through plywood, wallboard, steel, and auto glass.
Hornady uses a unique InterLock band that holds the bullet’s outer jacket firmly in place to prevent core/jacket separation. The result is an impressive 99 percent weight retention.
These rounds also feature nickel-plated brass cases that offer serious corrosion resistance. The bright cases also provide high visibility for those tough, low light chamber checks, making them ideal for your full-size EDC pistol.
10mm Auto is a fairly new addition to Speer’s iconic Gold Dot line. A welcome addition, these loads feature Gold Dot’s signature expanding hollow point. Weighing in at a hefty 200 grains, these JHPs are a lot to pitch downrange, especially considering the caliber’s famously snappy recoil. However, Speer knows what it's doing. They manage to keep recoil manageable by resisting the urge to load these cartridges to the hilt. Although the muzzle velocity (1100 fps) isn’t anything close to impressive, it delivers more than enough energy (537 foot pounds right out of the muzzle) to drive these heavy projectiles deep enough to do serious damage, especially at common defensive distances.
SIG Sauer manages to sling lightweight 10mm projectiles at blistering speeds with their Elite V-Crown loads. With a hot muzzle velocity of 1250 feet per second, SIG Elite V-Crown are some of the fastest 10mm rounds currently on the market.
Although the speed is indeed impressive, it’s what the bullet does when it reaches the target that really excites. By using a stacked hollow point design that places a second narrow cavity behind the first V-shaped cavity, these bullets balloon to ¾ of an inch in soft tissue. This slows the bullet, allowing it to dump a massive amount of energy into the target and achieve optimal target penetration.
SIG uses top-notch, nickel-plated brass cases that feature a special Techni-Crom coating to provide an extra layer of corrosion resistance. Techni-Crom also enhances cartridge lubricity for some of the smoothest, most reliable feeding and extraction on the planet.
Federal Premium’s Hydra-Shok loads are used by law enforcement agencies across the country. Although the 10mm loads don’t produce impressive velocities (it only eeks out 1025 fps at the muzzle), not every self-defense load needs to be a speed demon.
What Federal 10mm Hydra-Shok lacks in velocity, it more than makes up for in terminal performance. Hydra-Shok JHPs have a copper jacket that hydrostatically ruptures along pre-notched fault lines. The design initiates rapid expansion in soft tissue. However, Hydra-Shok projectiles also feature a hardened center post that prevents over-expansion and preserves bullet weight to drive the projectile deep into the target.
While these loads definitely shouldn’t be categorized as “low recoil,” they do seem to produce less felt recoil than most other 10mm loads. This allows for faster, more accurate follow-up shots, which can be a serious game changer in a self-defense situation.
If you want to peg varmints with your Glock 20, this is the ammo you want in your magazine. Hornady Handgun Hunter loads are built around one of the toughest hunting bullets on the face of the planet. Hornady’s patented MonoFlex bullet is made from a tough copper alloy that provides up to 95 percent weight retention. This solid slug drives into targets and plows through hide, muscle, and bone like it isn’t even there.
The hollow point cavity of the MonoFlex bullet is filled with a special elastomer material that compresses upon impact. As the material is compressed, it pushes outward to initiate rapid, aggressive expansion.
Like all of Hornady’s ammo, the Handgun Hunter line features premium components, including select propellants, top-of-the-line primers, and quality virgin brass cases perfect for reloading
One of the drawbacks to 10mm Auto is the relatively expensive price per round. This can leave budget-conscious shooters feeling guilty when practicing or shooting just for fun. Remington UMC is the answer.
The UMC line is Remington’s second-tier ammo. However, the performance is anything but second rate. Although the price tag is super affordable, the rounds deliver respectable velocity, reliable performance, and repeatable accuracy. This is perfect plinking, practice, and range ammo that won’t break the bank, even if you’re a high-volume shooter.
This popular Czech ammo brand has been providing shooters with reliable, affordable loads since 1825. Today, Sellier & Bellot shares a parent company with popular Magtech.
Topped with a standard 180-grain FMJ projectile, this ammo is perfect for plinking and target shooting. However, these bullets cruise from the muzzle at a respectable 1230 feet per second. With this caliber, that speed produces enough power to crash through bone. If you want a load that can pull double duty, Sellier & Bellot 10mm handgun ammunition will work for both woods carry and range training.
Although 10mm Auto almost disappeared from the shooting scene, after a major resurgence it looks like this once obscure cartridge is here to stay. This highly versatile cartridge works well for hunting, self-defense, competition, and just-for-fun shooting. If you’re in the market for quality rounds for your 10mm pistol, any of the options on our list of the best 10mm ammo should serve you well.