Three Nines To Beat

Welcome To Planet Parabellum

Smith & Wesson M40 Revolver

S&W’s M40 sports a grip safety and smooth stocks. The Tyler T adapter? An excellent afterthought.

Luger 9mm

Test bed: A 1918-vintage Luger — godfather of 9mm platforms. A .38 throwback

Buffalo Bore Ammunition

Left to right: Buffalo Bore’s +P 147-gr. HC Outdoorsman and +P+ 124-gr. Penetrator, SIG’s 147-gr. JHP Match Elite.

As basically a .38 Special/.45 ACP guy when it comes to handguns, I’ve always looked on with a bit of fascination — perhaps mixed with primitive metric dread — at the 9mm takeover of All That’s Holy. Call it the 9mm Luger, 9×19 or 9mm Parabellum, whatever, there’s one thing you can’t deny. It’s the boss.

Think the .223/5.56 has a lock on the rifle market? The Big Nine em-em is the commercial hooh-hah handgun caliber driving new pistol models, handgun bullet technology, you name it. Heck, there are even 9mm revolvers (actually no new thing, anyone remember Smith’s M547 back in the early ’80s?). And there are 9mm pocket autos as compact as yesterday’s .380/.32 ACP specimens. Yep, we’ve come a long way since those days of milsurp P-38s and first-generation S&W Model 39 autos.

Cops use the 9mm. Secret Squirrel government agencies use it. Our most elite-est military outfits use it. And a whole bunch of CCW-savvy civilians pack it. The 9mm survived a lengthy — but doomed — LE infatuation with the upstart .40 S&W, but now it appears to be firmly back in charge.

So rather than dating ourselves by bemoaning the (partial) eclipse of Dragnet’s .38 snubbie as carried by Sgt. Joe Friday, we’ve decided to check out a couple of what are probably the top 9mm loads we’ve seen in quite a spell.

We shot all three in a pair of guns representing current and vintage 9mms. First, a 5 Springfield XD with a Leupold Delta Point Pro optic. Second, Thomas Mackie’s 1918-vintage Erfurt P-08 (that’s “Luger” to those uninitiated in the vagaries of German model terminology).

The loads in question? SIG’s 147-gr. Elite Match JHP and Buffalo Bores scorching +P+ 124-gr. Penetrator and 147-gr. HC +P Outdoorsman. Our velocity figures? Well, from the 5 XD we averaged 917 fps (SIG 147), 1,309 fps (Buffalo Bore 124) and 1,098 fps (Buffalo Bore 147).

From the Luger (which can get cranky when asked to function with standard-pressure 124s and 115s), results were only slightly less impressive — 893 (SIG 147) and 1,029 fps (Buffalo Bore 147). We didn’t try the Buffalo Bore “Double +P” 124s in Thomas’ family heirloom. It seemed … improper somehow. After all, it’s WWI “bring-back” courtesy of his grandfather. But in terms of accuracy at 25 yards — despite the legendarily capricious Luger trigger and minuscule V-notch sights — Imperial Germany’s vaunted “curio and relic” certainly impressed us with both 147-gr. loads.

Last Of The Lemon Squeezers

As much as we like being surprised by new items in the Wide World of Guns, it’s still pretty tough to top being able to fool with a long-out-of-print classic. We recently had retro-thrills aplenty with a vintage S&W Model 40, which was the Centennial J-Frame’s “call sign” once Smith went to numbering their models in 1957. The Centennial was introduced in 1952 on Smith’s 100th anniversary and served as the template for the company’s still-in-production “hammerless” snubbies long after its production life ended in 1974 (along with its alloy stablemate, the Model 42). The signature feature of the Centennial/M40, however, was the grip safety, which was jettisoned in future models, whether alloy, carbon or stainless steel.

Our post-1957 specimen — featuring atypical (at least as regards current J-Frames) smooth walnut service stocks — had a little “aftermarket” something extra, a Tyler T grip adapter. Now, a dyed-in-the-wool “originalist” would probably yank the Tyler T off. But from a shooter’s standpoint, we found it to be a very sensible addition — ensuring the hand-filling qualities you may need in order to positively depress the grip safety. Then, as now, J-Frame service stocks are on the skimpy side and smooth ones can get kinda “squirmy.”

At any rate, this Golden Oldie shot like a champ for us with Federal Premium 130-gr. +P HST Micro Personal Defense and Black Hills 148-gr. HBWC. From the M40’s 1-7/8″ barrel they averaged 786 and 633 fps respectively. Accuracy results at a snubbie-friendly 30 and 50 feet were all we could ask for in group size as well as POA/POI harmony. And the DAO trigger was simply outstanding, with just enough “one-click stage-ability” to make things easy.

Buffalo Bore, Ph: (208) 756-3434
Federal Premium, Ph: (800) 379-1732
SIG SAUER, Ph: ( 603) 610-3000


GUNS readers will feel his presence increasingly in upcoming issues, but we’d like to take this opportunity to introduce our new Editor, Brent T. Wheat — now officially on board and in charge. Brent’s a former police officer and long-time gun guy with a serious track record in writing and editing. Busy as he is already, we’ve managed to coerce him into introducing himself:

Guns Editor Brent Wheat

Brent’s Midwest bona-fides are beyond question. Who else would go out on a day like this?

Greetings, loyal readers! This is my first opportunity to speak as the new Ruling Despot here at GUNS and I wanted to share a few words to help quiet the bowels of those worried we might suddenly start featuring gratuitous cleavage or scowling tactical-beards on the cover.

Nope. Overall, I consider myself a firearms generalist who still has an unbridled, youthful (some might say immature) sense of enthusiasm for everything from ancient matchlock muskets to the latest polymer pistol. My overall editorial philosophy will mirror this “12-year-old boy turned loose in a gun show” outlook.

My mission is to keep the fun in GUNS. The shooting lifestyle is tremendously enjoyable so we should revel in the glory of our shared passion. Shooting can be a serious business but most of the time, if we’re doing it right, we should have a big smile on our faces! I do and “our” magazine will likewise!

We’ll talk more next month!

Until then,
Brent T. Wheat

GUNS Magazine January 2019 Cover

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