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GUNS Magazine January 2010 - Page 56
.40 SMITH & WESSON CARTRIDGE. t was early 1990, and the venue was the premier firearms industry convention. SHOT, the Shooting and Hunting Outdoor Trade Show —held in Las Vegas that year—saw the introduction of the .40 Smith & Wesson cartridge by Olin/Winchester, which had created the cartridge, and by S&W, which had built the Model 4006 pistol first to be chambered for it. The new round was a hit of unprecedented proportions. Within a matter of only a few years, it would come to dominate the police handgun market in the United States, and would achieve huge popularity among the armed citizenry as well. It was a classic example of the right thing introduced at the right time. The ’80s had seen the first big wave of the coming tsunami in which the semiautomatic pistol would at long last swamp and drown the traditional police service revolver in North America. Throughout the decade, as the changeover gained momentum, there emerged two strong camps in terms of just what autoloader should replace the old six-shooter. This was seen classically in the rank and file of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and would play itself out elsewhere, in police departments all over the country. One camp held firepower was the raison d’etre of a magazine-fed duty sidearm, and they wanted a large reservoir of firepower in their magazines. This side pushed for the paradigm of the period, a 9mm pistol typically taking a 15-round magazine with a 16th in its firing chamber. The S&W Models 459 and 659 fit that profile, as did the Beretta 92 series and the SIG SAUER P226. The other camp felt “stopping power” was more important than round count, and the auto pistol that side wanted was the .45 Automatic Colt Pistol. There was GUNS MAGAzINE’S 55TH ANNIVERSARY YEAR COINCIDES WITH THE 20TH FOR THE Massad Ayoob I little question that a .45 slug hit harder than a 9mm. After all, at 230 grains the .45 bullet was literally twice as heavy as the long-standard 115-grain 9mm. The 1911 of the period carried seven rounds in the magazine and an 8th in the chamber, as did the SIG P220, while the Smith & Wesson Model 645 carried 8+1 and magazines were now available that would let a standard configuration 1911 do the same thing. Different competent, charismatic instructors and role models pushed in different directions. The FBI saw Bill Vanderpool emerge as the champion of the “high capacity” 9mm, and Urey Patrick as the standard bearer for the .45. When rival teams form on important issues within an organization, it’s important the leadership find a way to cut the Gordian knot and resolve the matter with a compromise that satisfies both sides and allows all to move on. In the Bureau, that role fell to John Hall, then head of the Firearms Training Unit at Quantico. Hall took a novel route: the 10mm 56 WWW.GUNSMAGAZINE.COM • JANUARY 2010