Before getting to the list of the best .40 pistols, let's take a brief look at its formation.
.40 Smith & Wesson is a cartridge that was specifically developed for law enforcement. When various law enforcement agencies first began looking into semi-automatic pistols rather than the traditional revolver, a new round was required to meet their specific needs. The round was designed by Smith & Wesson and Winchester working together, and is still extremely popular to this day.
Due to its larger size and improved ballistic performance, .40 Smith & Wesson is very popular for personal and home defense purposes. It is also gets a little use as a hunting firearm, but there are much more popular rounds for this specific use. The round is unique in that it doesn’t require a firearm much larger than a 9mm firearm. Due to the reduced amount of powder, the casing is smaller than a .45 ACP, which allows the round to be used in smaller weapons. This cartridge represents an excellent mix of small size and high power.
There are hundreds of .40S&W weapons available. If you’re on the hunt for a new firearm, we have taken some of the guesswork out of this for you. For our list of best .40 pistols, we have selected five firearms and reviewed them in depth, covering their pros, cons, and suggested retail pricing. One thing to keep in mind is that the given price is the manufacturer’s suggested retail price, so you may be able to find a better deal out there.
Best .40 Pistols on the Market
The Glock name comes with a certain degree of expected quality in the minds of many people. Glock is one of the most polarizing names in the firearms industry. Their fans swear by them, but many people strongly dislike them. However, even to the people that dislike Glock, their durability is unquestionable. For our purposes, we viewed the Glock 23 as the highest quality .40S&W pistol on the market.
The pros of this weapon are the infamous Glock durability, size, and weight. As is well known, Glock firearms are without doubt some of the most reliable on the market. This is the kind of weapon that will never let you down. Despite the fact that Glock calls the 23 one of their “compact” weapons, it still has a high magazine capacity, at 13 rounds, especially when considering the smallish size.
The one con of this weapon is the lack of a safety, as is common with Glocks.
Due to the excellent combination of small size and high magazine capacity, this weapon would excel as a carry weapon or a home defense weapon, and the durability would make it decent as a hunting sidearm if you are planning to take that route.
Overall this is one of the best .40 pistols, especially considering the affordable price.
- Durability. Will work over and over again, regardless of conditions.
- Small size and weight. 5 inches tall, 23.6 ounce weight, but still holds 13 rounds.
- Extremely easy to take apart and clean.
Walther PPQ M2
Walther is criminally underappreciated in the firearms community. They make some excellent quality firearms that are some of my favorite to shoot. Especially for folks with larger hands, the ergonomics of Walther pistols are unmatched. It is nearly impossible to find another weapon that fits in your hand this naturally.
The other pros of this weapon are the unique look (James Bond used a Walther, for what it’s worth), an extremely smooth trigger, and an accessory rail on the underside of the firearm. The trigger has an extremely short pull and a very fast reset. The pull is probably the smoothest on the market.
The cons of this weapon are limited only to the price. It is one of the most expensive on the list, but it is also the highest quality .40 pistol on our list.
As far as uses are concerned, this pistol is slightly larger than the aforementioned Glock 23. It is slightly taller and heavier, but only carries 11 rounds.
We would recommend this pistol as a carry weapon or as a home defense weapon, but also as an extremely enjoyable shooting weapon.
- Trigger. As mentioned, extremely smooth with a fast reset.
- Reversible mag release. For both left-handed and right-handed users.
- Slide serrations. Makes it easier to pull the slide back, and add to the sleek look.
- Interchangeable backstraps. Added comfort for any hand size.
The CZ P-09 is a full-size pistol available in both 9mm and .40S&W. The .40S&W version makes our list thanks to its excellent shooting capabilities. If you have ever fired a CZ firearm, you know exactly what I’m talking about. They are some of the most enjoyable weapons to fire. They are extremely smooth and accurate.
The other pros of this weapon are the exposed hammer, thumb safety, affordable price, and the integral picatinny rail system. The exposed hammer is an awesome feature for someone new to firearms, as you will always know what position your weapon is in. For those that aren’t new to firearms, many people still prefer hammer fired weapons to the newer striker fired weapons, such as the Glock and Walther already mentioned.
The cons of this weapon are that it is large and heavy. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing. This is the best .40 pistol for home defense, due to its increased magazine capacity and size.
This larger size and weight paired with some of the features mentioned before limit our recommendations to only using this as a home defense weapon or for general shooting.
- Bang for your buck. Excellent quality, affordable price.
- Hammer fired. I know most old timers prefer this.
- Smooth and accurate shooting, right out of the box.
- Omega trigger. Crisp trigger, both single and double action.
- Interchangeable backstraps
Smith & Wesson M&P40 Shield
The Smith & Wesson Shield is a well known concealed carry weapon. It is very small, but is also extremely reliable. Due to the small size, many people don’t enjoy the Shield for casual shooting, but you simply cannot do better for a concealed carry weapon.
The pros of this weapon are the small size, light weight, the thumb safety, and the affordable price. The pistol is only 6 inches in length, and weighs only 20.6 ounces. This small size makes it extremely easy to concealed carry all day. It also has a thumb safety, which is an excellent feature for a firearm that is designed to be carried all day, every day.
The cons of this weapon are that it leaves a little to be desired in terms of shooting, which is pretty common in these extremely small carry guns. It doesn’t have the best trigger, and isn’t the smoothest weapon to fire. However, this really shouldn’t be surprising, given that you are firing .40S&W from such a small pistol. That’s a lot of power packed into a pretty small frame.
It could also be used for home defense, but its primary use should be concealed carry.
This is the best .40 pistol for concealed carry, without doubt.
- Size. Excellent for carrying. Small enough you may not even notice it.
- Thumb safety. In my opinion, a thumb safety is extremely important for a carry weapon. If you are carrying it every day, there are that many more opportunities for an accident to happen.
- Sights. White dot sights are very easy to use.
- Smith & Wesson lifetime service policy.
Magnum Research Baby Desert Eagle III
Last is a firearm that you don’t see all that often. The Magnum Research Baby Eagle III is a smaller version of their relatively popular Desert Eagle. However, this weapon is much more than simply a cool name. This is actually a very high quality weapon that is enjoyable to shoot. It is available with either a polymer or steel frame, and with a 10 or 12 round capacity. The polymer frame will be lighter, but the steel frame will be far more durable. There are also a few different frame sizes available.
The pros of this weapon are the thumb safety, unique styling, comfortable grip, and an integral picatinny rail. The weapon has an extremely unique look, which we found to be enjoyable. However, this specific shape also serves a purpose. It fits your hand extremely well, and the unique shape of the trigger was excellent to shoot, we found.
The cons of this weapon are the price and the size. Even with the polymer frame, this is a very large weapon and is on the heavy side.
Due to the available number of options, this weapon could serve multiple purposes.
For concealed carry and personal defense, a polymer frame with a 10 round capacity is slightly smaller, although it would be extremely difficult and there are better weapons on our list.
For home defense, a steel full-sized frame weapon with a 12 round capacity would do the trick. It’s also an excellent gun for general shooting.
Overall, this is one of the best large .40 pistols, and it is fun to shoot around with.
- Fun to shoot. All in all, a very enjoyable shooting weapon.
- Smooth action.
- Unique styling. It takes a little getting used to, but it is a very cool looking weapon.
- Ergonomic. Very comfortable to hold.
- Picatinny rail. Great for most accessories.
Overall, .40S&W is an excellent round. It offers a great combination of size and speed, fit into a smaller cartridge that can be fired from smaller frame weapons. There’s a reason that this round is so commonly used by law enforcement agencies. It has proven to be an excellent round in terms of ballistics, while still being carried in smaller weapons. The Glock 23 specifically is one of the more common weapons with law enforcement.
As you can see, .40S&W is a very versatile round. The weapons that fire this round range in size from very small concealed carry weapons all the way through full size weapons that have a 15+ round capacity. Once you’ve identified your use for the weapon, you’ll have a better idea which is best for you, but our list was designed to run the gamut of all of the various types of weapons to give you a general idea.
While there are cheaper weapons than these available, it is worth mentioning that with firearms, you often get what you pay for. Especially with larger calibers, such as .40S&W, the weapons tend to be much more expensive.