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Popular EDC’s Practice Load Recipes: .40 S&W



Times are tough when you can’t find .40 S&W on the shelves, yet here we are. This snappy little cartridge has always been the answer for those who want to carry 9mm-sized handguns yet need a bit more punch. Although the resurgence of 10mm Auto has nearly put this round in the grave, there are still plenty of guns out there looking to be fed. Here’s a top practice round that feels like you’re shooting something that would make liberals scream.

X-treme bullets are at heart here again because they are affordable and accurate and just plain good-looking. Shiny bullets matter because they feed better and leave less of a skid mark down your barrel. I like their 180-grain round-nose flat-point pill because it pulls the most out of the “forty short & weak” and has the same profile as a hollow point.

I found this recipe to work well in just about any case, but for the sake of this article, let’s stick with the Federal nickel-plated jobbies. This plating gets you exponentially more reloads out of each, although some might find them a little more challenging to size. Forty-cal builds a fair amount of pressure, so a little more resilience is a good thing. This is the same reason why I use CCI primers, as they have just about the hardest cup on the market.

Forty is a finicky beast, as only a handful of powders will break the 1,000 FPS mark with heavy bullets. Among my favorites is good ol’ Winchester 231 because it’s inexpensive and relatively easy to find. Furthermore, it’s one of the most versatile pistol powders on the market, and as such, you likely already have it sitting on your loading bench. If we consider the listed maximum (5.6-grains in the Lyman 50th manual), we want to carefully approach a load of 5.3 grains at the loading bench and on the range.

We start by putting everything together with a set of Hornady Series II dies. These are my go-to because they feature the proper taper crimp that holds your bullet in place without affecting headspace, eliminating an extra step. This is one of the few “shortcuts” that produces safer ammo and, in many instances, more accurate rounds. I seat to an overall length of 1.115″ and use 1/8 of a turn of crimp to keep the projectile in place under the stress of feeding and recoil. After you have everything set up, build five rounds with 5.0 grains of powder, then 5.1, 5.2, and eventually 5.3. At the range, fire each group of five in order from lightest to heaviest powder charge while inspecting fired cases for signs of pressure. It’s the simplest load development you’ll ever do, and you might find that one charge groups better than the other.

This round is going to feel right on the wrists and produce respectable accuracy out to 25 yards, although I have been known to push much further with it. For fun, I like to bang IPSCs placed on the 100-yard rifle range just because I know it’s capable. Crank them out on a progressive or enjoy the slow ride on a single stage; either way, enjoy making the worst cartridge ever created! (Food fight in the comments below.)


Bullet: 180-gr. X-treme Copper-Plated Round-Nose

Propellant: Winchester 231

Charge Weight: 5.3-gr.

Primer: CCI Small Pistol #500

Case: Federal

Case Trim-To Length: .845″

Cartridge Overall Length: 1.115″

Velocity @ 10’ (F.P.S): 1000 FPS


*Handloading can be dangerous without proper training. Always confirm all recipes with a reputable, published reloading manual and start with the minimal listed charge weight, working up in small increments. The components listed cannot be substituted for any reason. If unfamiliar with the process of making ammunition, it is recommended to take the NRA Basic Reloading course and/or work closely with a certified instructor.








  1. Bemused Berserker

    November 21, 2022 at 10:55 am

    I have to chuckle because this is the same load I use for .40 S&W. I stopped at 5.2 grains of Win 231 for 180 gr pills. In my Walther PPQ it achieves the best accuracy in testing.
    I’ve tried a few other powders with mixed success, so I’ve keep returning to the 231 for its performance.

  2. Cougrrcj

    November 22, 2022 at 5:19 pm

    “Worst cartridge ever created”? Really??? I happen to like my .40 just fine. I DON’T consider it ‘short and weak’ More energy than a 9mm, larger diameter projectile with a larger hollowpoint cavity, same overall length for a smaller gripframe for my short fingers. I daily carry a compact .40 S&W Shield, but also have a full-size all-steel 4006 (yeah, it is heavy, and not a viable CCW gun, but accurate as heck at the range). I prefer the 165gr JHPs in this caliber for carry duty, and practice with same weight in FMJ.

    9mm? Yeah, I have those as well… Ruger LC9 for concealed carry, as well as a ‘vintage’ S&W 39-2. Both utilize 115gr JHPs for carry duty.

    I also have a Springfield XD45, but prefer to carry either the .40 or 9mm before I’d consider it.

    But what do I ‘normally’ carry? A 3″ five-shot .357. It’ll ALWAYS go bang!

  3. meeester

    November 23, 2022 at 10:55 pm

    For a very clean minor load I’ve been using 2.8 gr of Ramshot Competition under powdercoated 175s. Softer than a 9mm? Perhaps. Someone using an HK V9 with 115’s going 1150 tried my similar gun; an HK VP40, with similar power factor 180 loads. Their immediate response was …SMOOTH! Then I handed him a mag for his 9. One shot and he says . . . .VIOLENT!
    W231/HP38 isn’t great for light loads but moderate loads of 4.7 HP38 are what I use in a CMMG Resolute PCC in 3 Gun. Xtreme makes 180s with a concave base that you may like to test.
    The 90gr inceptor or whatever they’re called (the copper resin bullets) came out of my PCCs around 2,000+ ft per second. I haven’t done enough of these yet to group them. I got them for the 200 yard stuff in 3gun but 1100fps 175s are consistent enough that I’m not looking for anything else right now.

  4. James

    November 27, 2022 at 7:24 pm

    Would like to see new pistols and rifles chambered for:
    41 AutoMag
    41-454 Casull
    41-50 Action
    41 Magnum

    Also would like Ruger and Heritage make revolvers in 25 Stevens. Hornady could make new factory ammo.

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