Ammunition

Showdown: .357 SIG Sauer vs. .40 Smith & Wesson

IMI Handgun on Ammo

The .45 ACP cartridge was introduced in 1905, not in 1911 as commonly stated, and the 9mm Luger came along in 1908.

These have been the most widespread service cartridges in the world.

The .38 ACP, .38 ACP Super, 9x23mm, 10mm Auto, .356 TSW, .41 Action Express and .451 Detonics have all came and went.

Some felt the .40 Smith & Wesson would be much the same, but it has held on.

At present, the .40 S&W isn’t at the top in police sales, having been replaced by the 9mm. I have seen this cycle before. Time will tell.

The .357 SIG was a brainstorm introduced for a specific goal different than the baseline of the .40 S&W. Let’s look at each.

The .40 S&W was intended to replace the 9mm Luger in police service.

Replacing the .38 Special and .357 Magnum revolvers was nearly, if not completely, done.

The failings of small-bore service cartridges were real and well documented.

There were problems with larger calibers, mainly focused on handgun size and recoil.

The .357 Magnum is a formidable cartridge, but also generates considerable recoil.

Solutions such as the .38 Special +P+ left us with a loading no more effective than a standard-pressure 9mm.

The .45 ACP and 10mm Auto came with inherent difficulty in control. Another problem is weight.

While the FBI’s many ammunition test programs are well-known, they are simply a small part of what this prestigious agency does.

The FBI also conducted a study on handgun size and weight.

They found that a handgun weighing over 35 ounces becomes a burden on the hip during a shift.

A lighter weapon was needed, particularly for those wearing suitcoats. 

1911 pistol
The SIG Emperor Scorpion Fastback Carry .357 SIG is among the author’s favorite handguns. 

.40 S&W History

The .40 S&W was developed because it could be shoe-horned into a 9mm platform.

Most of the new generation 9mm service guns are blocky and a little large for the caliber.

The .40 wasn’t an engineering challenge. A 180-grain JHP at 950 fps is a good combination for personal defense.

The original Winchester loading proved effective not only against normally clad assailants, but against large animals as well.

The 9mm generated complaints from DNR officers who needed to put-down suffering animals and urban officers attacked by dangerous guard dogs.

The .40 proved to be a capable performer. Results were good to excellent. Control is good in service-size pistols.

When you move to the GLOCK 23, control is there for those that practice.

Subcompact pistols are not well-suited to the .40 S&W or the .357 SIG, 10mm Auto or .45 ACP. The .40 S&W was a success story.

While the 180-grain is most common, there are other loadings as well, including the 155-grain JHP at 1,100 fps and Hornady’s Critical Defense at 165-grains that offer good expansion while maintaining good penetration.  

40 S&W Expanded Bullet
These are expanded .40 Hornady bullets. This is an excellent controlled expansion, ideal for police duty.

.357 SIG History

The .357 SIG was designed to answer a different problem. Complaints with the 9mm revolved around the caliber.

The systems — GLOCK, SIG and Beretta service pistols — were solid.

But agencies still using the .357 Magnum revolver did not wish to give up their unequaled wound potential.

The magnum offers excellent penetration against sheet metal. This made highway patrol commanders reluctant to give up the .357 Magnum.

A few went to the 10mm, a large and heavy handgun. SIG developed a rule beater.

They developed a solid-steel slide rather than the stamped-steel slide of the standard SIG when they designed the P229.

The new .357 SIG P229 chambered a necked-down .40 known as the .357 SIG. A simple re-barrel gave us a new service pistol with the GLOCK as well.

Agencies now had a semi-automatic pistol no larger than a 9mm firing a cartridge nearly equal to the .357 Magnum.

Penetration is on a par with the .357 Magnum revolver.

It took some development to produce an expanding bullet with similar wound ballistics to the revolver.

The .357 SIG has never been as popular as the .40 S&W, but has been a successful cartridge. 

357 SIG Expanded ammo
This SIG .357 SIG load expands and fragments. This is a formidable loading.

Performance Comparisons

Today, practically every handgun chambered for one may be had in the other caliber. A simple barrel change is all that is needed.

My first experience with the .357 SIG was with a Bar-Sto barrel fitted to a GLOCK Model 22.

Among my favorite carry guns is the SIG 1911 Emperor Scorpion Fastback Carry.

This Commander-size pistol features a nicely rounded mainspring housing and 4.25-inch barrel, as well as few sharp edges.

The pistol features night sights. I have accumulated a stack of Wilson Combat magazines. The SIG 1911 pistol has never malfunctioned.

Accuracy is excellent. I have a spare barrel in .40 Smith & Wesson. I tried using it as a lark, but have stayed with the .357 SIG.

While another shooter may find the .40 a better choice, my personal needs learn toward the .357 SIG. Let’s look over the reasons. 

Personal defense is my primary concern. The SIG Sauer Elite 125-grain JHP exits the Commander-length barrel at 1,370 fps.

(Count on a little more velocity from a GLOCK.) Accuracy is excellent. This load fragments in ballistic testing.

If I need greater penetration, the Hornady .357 SIG 124-grain XTP is a fine choice. Recoil is modest, no more than a 9mm +P in a 1911-size handgun.

I don’t usually carry this pistol in the outdoors. If I did it would be good for bobcats and feral dogs. 

.357 SIG Cartridge
SIG’s V Crown hollow point is well designed and the loading offers real integrity of manufacture.

Other Factors

The .40 caliber has a number of load choices. Recoil is manageable with 180-grain loads. Penetration is good.

The 180-grain loads are useful for animal defense. There are special high-penetration loads and also 135-grain loads that expand quickly.

The .40 is a proven loading with excellent properties. The heavier bullet may have greater recoil.

The .357 SIG shoots flat to 50 yards, but this hardly matters in personal defense. The .40 shoots flatter than the .45 ACP.

In accuracy, I have to give the .357 SIG an overall edge in every handgun I have tested. The .40 is plenty accurate enough for defense use.

A SIG P229 .40 is a superbly accurate handgun.

The P229 .357 is usually more accurate if a half-inch to an inch in accuracy at 25 yards is meaningful. 

Conclusion: .357 SIG vs. .40 S&W

The .357 SIG and .40 S&W are not as similar as we may first think. Nor do I think I need one if I have the other.

These are great calibers. While I could get along well with either, I think that I like the .357 SIG better for specific uses.

If I did not have the .45 ACP, I would want the .40. So perhaps the .40 is still one of the finest compromise calibers. 

What do you think of the .357 SIG and .40 S&W? Let us know in the comments below!

About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.


Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Handloader
Rifle Magazine
Handguns
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns



Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (10)

  1. I have shot the P-229 in .357 SIG at 100 yards. I researched the ballistics which showed a 6 inch drop which is about the length of a dollar bill. I fired one shot to check the drop which was right on . I then fired a palm sized group at 100 yards. With this round it is really easy . Far easier than most pistols can manage. The only other pistol caliber that comes close is the .44 Magnum, and it is not anybodies idea of everyday carry.

  2. I’ve shot both and my carry pistol is a Glock 31 with a replacement barrel in .40S&W. I started out with a Glock 22 as a duty weapon because of small hands and not being able to grip the Glock 21 which was the department’s issue at the time (they’ve since transitioned to the G17). I got consistently good groups and even qualified for SWAT with the G22. The 31 was a compromise (originally looked at G17 but wanted “more”.
    My reason for not carrying the .357Sig is costs. Commercial ammo for .357Sig was around $0.90-1.20/rd (flat vs JHP). The .40S&W ran $0.40-$0.90. Since I don’t reload, it became a cost issue. Now .40’s are $1.00-1.20 for ‘wadcutters’ and iI can’t even find .357Sig. I have 2-3 boxes for ‘purposes’ but it’s not a cost effective solution.

  3. Regarding .357 Sig vs. .40 S&W, the choice was made for me by my employer who replaced their .38 wheel guns with Glocks chambered in .40 S&W. We got a substantial discount with the supplier on Glocks, and that’s how I wound up with a Glock .40. I later purchased a slide/barrel for 9mm which I found to be a much better choice for personal protection. The ease of the conversion increased my appreciation for Glock, however, I’ve purchased a Sig 226 in .40 S&W. What I found was that just as you said in. your article, .40 S&W has a lot of recoil and muzzle jump in light weight pistols. The extra weight of the all steel Sig negates all that. If I felt I needed the extra power of the .40, I could just put the model 23 barrel back on my Glock frame to carry….or put up with the weight of the Sig. But I also have an S&W 586 in .357 magnum…..

  4. I’ve changed my mind over my favorite carry choice several times over several decades. Most recent was an FN Herstal BDAO. Jumped to this from a 1911 for several reasons. Increased capacity and the ‘always on’ that comes with DAO. No safety, no hammer spur and every trigger pull is the same. I still love that gun but it’s being replaced as my EDC after more than a decade by a Glock 22. I was never a fan boi so I’m late to the party but I have to say I’m a believer. Considerably more umpf but at the cost of only 2 rounds of mag capacity. Lot’s of loadings readily available.

  5. I have both calibers for my SIG 229. I just change barrels. After all, the SIG 357 is a necked down 40 so the magazines fit perfectly. Quick break down and barrel change is easy. As far as shooting, I think the SIG 357 with the higher muzzle velocity is a bit more difficult to control during multiple shots. I switch on and off with my carry pistol as I don’t want one or the other to feel neglected in my gun safe. :0(

  6. I originally like the .40 S&W because it about the same ballistics as the .45 ACP in a smaller package with more rounds. I enjoyed the round and used it as my EDC. Then I discovered the joys of 10mm and my .40 S&W handguns languished.

    The 357 Sig was starting to appeal to me because of the huge difference between the .40 and 10mm. The secret service’s use of it (though they have now moved back to 9mm) also was a feather in it’s cap. Digging into it I thought about a simple barrel swap to get me into the lower energy range of 10mm.

    Then I got into reloading. Having purchased Longshot power for the 10mm for my plinking load (180gr at 1278). I was checking out the Hodgdon site and looking at the .40 S&W. To my surprise the .40 S&W with 8.0gr of Longshot and 180gr XTP gives us 1159fps (Hodgdon’s site) and brings us into 10mm lite range. I thought that must be a misprint and dug into it some more only to find out it was a valid load. Still hesitant I worked up a load carefully for my Beretta 96A1 and PX4 Compact. To my amazement the faster .40 provided a nice performance boost. I did need a different spring for the 96A1 to run reliably.

    My preferred caliber is at least the .40. That being said, 10mm is my EDC in a 5″ Kimber 1911 (155gr XTP at 1500fps). Never did get into the 357 Sig because of the performance potential of the .40 when reloading your own (or buying Underwood ammo).

  7. I have no experience with a .357 Sig cartridge or pistol. When they first came out I owned a .40 Glock. Like you, Mr. Campbell I prefer a1911 in .45ACP. I have heard that the .357 Sig has what some my consider to be excessive muzzle blast and “snappy” recoil. Have you found this to be true? To be honest, as a retired LEO and armed civilian I will continue to carry either the 9mm, or the trust worthy .45ACP.

  8. As usual your wright on…..
    While I’m not a fan of the 40 SW, I do respect it, finding it superior to the 9MM in every way.
    The one problem I have is the rainbow trajectory it has compared to the 357 SIG.
    Anyone can pull a lucky shot if your up close, I’d rather conduct my gun fights at larger distance if possible.
    My preference in a hand gun is to be accurate out past fifty yard’s enough to pull head shots and flat shooting enough not to need to guess holdover. The 357 SIG and the 38 Super fit those needs best. Ballistically the SIG and the Super are much the same, both pushing round at 1500 FPS and faster if you know what your doing while reloading. Both see well over 600 ft pounds of energy when it comes to thump.
    The advantage the SIG has is the ease of swapping out barrels and using the 40 SW since it is the same case practically.

  9. I have both calibers.
    I bought a Sig SP2022 in .40 S&W, for personal carry and later a .357 Sig barrel.

    I usually carry it as a .40 caliber for animal defense (2 & 4 legged) especially with the Buffalo Bore 200gr hard cast bullets in the woods.

  10. I have a Glock 31 which shoots 357 sig. If I switch out barrels I can shoot 40 S&W with the same gun, magazine need not change. I enjoy shooting both rounds, but I feel safer carrying the 40 S&W because of the larger grain round. Penitration is important to me and the 357 sig is just a glorified 9MM. My round of choice is the 180 grain 40 S&W even though many fellow shooters seem to hate it. I don’t rightly know why. I also love to shoot the 10 MM. Same round just more power. I personally own more 40 S&W guns than any other. Recoil does not seem to be a factor to me, and I seem to hit my target better than with a 9 MM. The great thing about the 40 S&W is that it tends to be less expensive a gun than the 9MM because it’s not as popular. I would rather carry a 357 sig than a 9MM because of the extra grain in bullet and powder, but the 40 S&W is my favorite.

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