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Updated Nov 30, 2022 2:07 PM

First designed in 1983, the popularity of the 10mm Auto cartridge fluctuated in its nearly 40-year lifespan; however, it might be at peak popularity right now. Whether you’re interested in hunting, defense, or target shooting, you’ll need the good 10mm ammo to get the most out of your handgun. I’ve used my 10mm for all those use cases and tested a pile of ammo over the years. I’ve been hunting and frequenting bear country in Alaska for 20 years, and started out carrying giant, heavy revolvers. I’ve switched to carrying a 10mm in recent years, and as a last resort, it has the capability of being an effective option for several applications. Here are my picks for the best 10mm ammo offerings that you might actually be able to find in stock. 

Best for Bear Defense 

Best Practice Ammo

Best for Self Defense 

Best for Hunting

Why the 10mm Auto Is a Great Cartridge

10mm ammo is an attractive balance between power and ease of use. Tyler Freel

A popular opinion is that the 10mm Auto is a capable cartridge for bear and other wildlife defense. That opinion isn’t based on the 10mm’s power—it’s certainly less powerful than a bushel of contemporary revolver cartridges—but rather that it brings an attractive balance between power and ease of use.

Cartridges like the .44 Magnum, .454 Casull, and even .500 S&W have long been touted as bear medicine, but they present some significant challenges to the shooter. Shooting handguns well requires lots of practice, and big revolvers often aren’t much fun to shoot. They also tend to be heavy, cumbersome, and annoying to carry in the field. Even ammunition price and availability play a role, and 10mm is generally cheaper and more readily available than most big revolver ammo.

Pistols chambered in 10mm still have sharp recoil, but they are generally more serviceable to a wide variety of users. Some 10mm pistols are comfortable and compact enough to carry daily—as well as a backcountry defense gun. Many large revolver cartridges lose significant velocity when barrel lengths are shortened—due to slower-burning powders—but among all the 10mm loads listed, the difference in velocity from an extended 5-inch barrel and a compact 3.8-inch barrel averaged only 100 fps.

The variety of 10mm handguns and 10mm ammo is ever-increasing, and the cartridge is suitable for more than backcountry defense, but also some big-game hunting and everyday carry. One key to making the 10mm work for your intended application is to select appropriate ammunition. Selecting the wrong 10mm ammo for your intended use will greatly diminish its effectiveness.

Things to Consider Before Buying 10mm Ammo

The author with a 10mm strapped to his chest while hunting Alaska’s Haul Road. Tanner Denton

The key to selecting the right 10mm ammo for you is to know your application. 

  • Will it be ammo for practice? 
  • Are you looking for bear defense ammo? Black bears or grizzlies? 
  • Are you going to be hunting whitetails? 
  • Will you use your 10mm for everyday carry and home defense? 
  • Can your handgun shoot cast lead bullets? 

These questions are important ones to sort out, and they will determine what type and loads of 10mm ammo are best for you.

Many 10mm ammo options will give you similar results, and sometimes the ammo you pick will depend on availability or just personal preference. If you keep your intended purpose in mind, you can’t go wrong with anything on this list. 

For example, if you’re looking for grizzly defense ammo, you don’t want personal defense hollow points. For animal defense, look for bullets that are non-expanding or minimally expanding and offer good penetration. For hunting, look for bullets that will expand and give good penetration. For EDC or personal defense against bad guys, focus on rapidly expanding hollow points that are designed for limited penetration. Of course, some options give you some overlap and are more versatile in their use. 

Read Next: Springfield Armory XD-M Elite 3.8-inch Compact OSP 10mm w/Hex Dragonfly Review

Read Next: Smith & Wesson M&P M2.0 10mm 4-Inch Review

Lead Bullets

Some of the most popular backcountry defense options for 10mm ammo utilize cast lead bullets because of their ability to penetrate with minimal expansion. If you search the internet, you’ll see a plethora of opinions and information regarding shooting these lead bullets in your handgun—some of it true, most of it false. 

You can shoot lead bullets in pretty much any modern 10mm handgun, and it won’t blow up. Some barrels—like OEM Glock barrels—do tend to accumulate lead fouling much more rapidly than others. In theory, it can eventually cause pressure issues if you switch back and forth between jacketed and cast bullets, but you shouldn’t be alarmed. Simply make sure you clean the lead fouling out of your barrel after shooting cast bullets.

Best for Bear Defense

Buffalo Bore Heavy Outdoorsman 10mm 220-grain Hard Cast FN

Buffalo Bore

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Key Features

  • 220-grain hard cast bullet
  • Velocity: 1200 fps
  • Energy: 703 ft-lb

Why It Made the Cut

Buffalo Bore pushed the limits of the 10mm Auto cartridge to make a load that penetrates better than any other I’ve tested. 

Pros

  • Heavy bullet weight
  • Excellent penetration 
  • Good quality control

Cons

  • Heavy recoil
  • Increased fouling

Product Description 

This 10mm ammo sets the standard to which all others are compared. It squeezes the most velocity out of the heaviest bullet available for 10mm and is safe to shoot in any modern 10mm. Of course with that exceptional performance comes exceptional recoil. 

The hard-cast lead bullets won’t expand much, and you won’t see hollowpoint-like terminal performance. This load is designed for one thing—penetration. In a bear defensive situation, you probably won’t be able to select a broadside shot, you need bullets that can penetrate skulls and other bones. The Heavy Outdoorsman 10mm load is said to achieve over 3 feet of penetration through soft tissue.

Read Next: Best Bear Defense Handguns

Underwood Ammo 10mm Auto 140-grain Xtreme Penetrator

Underwood Ammo

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Key Features

  • 140-grain machined copper bullet
  • Velocity: 1500 fps
  • Energy: 700 ft-lb

Why It Makes the Cut

This ammo offers monolithic copper bullets at top velocities, and offers great penetration with better terminal performance than cast lead bullets.

Pros

  • Great penetration
  • Reduced recoil compared to heavier cast bullets
  • Larger wound channel than cast bullets
  • Shoots clean

Cons

  • Less dramatic terminal performance than expanding bullets

Product Description

Using monolithic copper bullets made by Lehigh Defense, Underwood is another company that produces ammunition loaded to the top end of performance while remaining within SAAMI specifications for safe pressures.

The machined copper bullets are solid, but feature flutes cut from the point. The flutes reduce the surface area at the point and improve penetration but create cavitation and a wound channel more like an expanding bullet than those made by solid cast bullets.

The lighter copper bullets allow for higher velocities with less recoil and muzzle energy that equals or exceeds many lead-bullet loads. You might see slightly less penetration overall than with hard-cast loads, but it’s still exceptional.

Grizzly Cartridge Company 10mm 200-grain Hard Cast

Grizzly Cartridge

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Key Features

  • Bullet: 220-grain Hard-Cast
  • Velocity: 1200 fps
  • Energy: 703 ft-lb

Why It Made the Cut

This 10mm ammo is a quality iteration of the popular animal-defense formula for maximum penetration, and it’s also slightly cheaper than some similar competitors.

Pros

  • Heavy 220-grain cast bullet gets great penetration
  • Quality Star-Line brass and other components
  • Competitive price

Cons

  • Lead fouling in bore
  • Velocity may not match advertised

Product Description 

The 220-grain Hard Cast 10mm ammo from Grizzly Cartridge Company follows the popular recipe for animal defense—heavy-for-caliber bullets at higher velocity. Although heavy-recoiling, these bullets penetrate through heavy hide and bone.

As advertised, the velocity and energy match up with other close competitors, but the velocity I measured averaged 1135 feet-per-second out of a 5-inch barrel—slightly slower than advertised. Velocity will vary slightly from gun to gun, and it’s a small enough difference that I wouldn’t pay it much mind.

HSM 10mm 200-grain Lead RNFP “Bear-Load”

HSM Ammunition

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Key Features

  • Bullet: 200-grain hard-cast lead
  • Velocity: 1041
  • Energy: 481 ft-lb

Why It Made the Cut

This 10mm ammo provides hard-cast bullet penetration with a little less recoil than 220-grain loads.

Pros

  • Good penetration
  • Slightly less recoil than 220-grain loads
  • Usually cheaper than similar options

Cons

  • Lead fouling in barrel
  • Smaller wound cavity than expanding bullets

Product Description

The 200-grain “Bear-Load” from HSM is a simple hard-cast lead bullet that provides great penetration through bone and hide. It often retails cheaper than some other common hard-cast options, but uses premium Star-Line brass.

HSM advertises muzzle velocity at 1041 fps, but I measured it at about 1160 fps from a 5-inch barrel and 1090 fps from a 3.8-inch barrel. Actual muzzle energy will also be slightly higher than advertised with those velocities. It’s a simple load but an excellent option for the backcountry.

Federal Premium Solid Core Syntech 10mm 200-grain

Federal

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Key Features

  • 200-grain Syntech-coated lead bullet
  • Velocity: 1200 fps
  • Energy: 639 ft-lb

Why It Made the Cut

This 10mm ammo offers the benefits of hard-cast solid lead bullets, and the Syntech coating reduces smoke when shooting and lead fouling in your barrel.

Pros

  • Nickel-plated cases for reliable feeding
  • Hard Lead core for excellent penetration
  • Syntech coating reduces lead fouling

Cons

  • Terminal performance not as dramatic as expanding bullets

Product Description

One of the most common complaints about hard-cast lead bullets is that they tend to foul barrels—especially in Glocks. In addition to leaving soft lead fouling in your barrel, cast lead bullets tend to be smokey when shooting. This ammunition solves both those problems by coating a hard lead core with Federal’s Syntech coating.

The 200-grain lead bullets don’t push pressure boundaries, but at 1200 fps, they still offer great penetration and manageable recoil. Nickel-plated cases aid with reliable feeding, and this premium ammo will work when you need it to. You’ll get too much penetration for it to be a great EDC load, but it’s a good option in the woods.

Best Practice Ammo 

CCI Blazer Brass-case 10mm Auto 180-grain FMJ FN

CCI

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Key Features

  • Bullet: 180-grain full metal jacket flat nose
  • Velocity: 1200 fps
  • Energy: 576 ft-lb

Why It Made the Cut 

Blazer brass is a relatively affordable target and practice ammunition with less recoil than heavy animal-defense loads. It is also reloadable.

Pros

  • Cheaper than premium defense loads
  • Bullet weight and velocity provide realistic recoil and practice
  • Could be used in animal-defense applications

Cons

  • Not specialized for any defensive application

Product Description

Blazer Brass 10mm ammo is made for the range. It features reloadable brass that accepts small-pistol primers—some manufacturers are doing this rather than using large pistol primers. The bullet is a simple 180-grain full metal jacket that won’t expand and isn’t much good for hunting.

This is primarily practice ammo sold in 50-round boxes and is more affordable than premium loads—typically sold in boxes of 20. In a pinch, it could be thrust into animal-defense applications, but it’s not the best option.

Remington UMC 10mm Auto 180-grain FMJ

Remington Arms

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Key Features

  • Bullet: 180-grain Full Metal Jacket
  • Velocity: 1150 fps
  • Energy: 529 ft-lb

Why It Made the Cut

Big Green ammo is back, and this Remington UMC 10mm ammo is made for the range. It’s relatively affordable, and they’re currently cranking it out in bulk. 

Pros

  • Competitively priced and reasonable availability
  • Less recoil than heavy defense loads
  • Reloadable nickel-plated cases

Cons

  • Only ideal for practice and target shooting

Product Description

Remington UMC ammo has long been a staple for range and practice pistol ammo, and under new ownership, they’re back in business. This simple load features nickel-plated, reloadable, large-primer cases, as well as a bronze-colored full-metal-jacket bullet.

This load’s velocity (and recoil) is a little below some other target loads, but it’s still a 10mm, and will help shooters build their skills at a more affordable rate. Since coming under new ownership, Remington ammo has been cranking out ammo full speed and It’s been getting to the shelves in many areas.

Best for Self Defense

Hornady Critical Duty 10mm Auto 175-grain FlexLock

Hornady

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Key Features

  • Bullet: 175-grain FlexLock
  • Velocity: 1160 fps
  • Energy: 523 ft-lb

Why It Made the Cut

The 175-grain FlexLock bullet provides consistent, reliable expansion and barrier penetration. This Critical Duty load is a good balance of recoil and performance without excessive penetration.

Pros

  • Rapid, controlled expansion
  • FlexLock tip prevents clogging
  • Interlock band aids with weight retention
  • Low-flash propellant for low-light situations

Cons

  • Penetration characteristics not ideal for animal defense

Product Description

Numerous law enforcement agencies use Hornady’s Critical Duty line, and in 10mm, it’s a proven performer in FBI ballistics testing. Velocity and energy aren’t exceptionally high, but raw penetration isn’t the goal for general defensive ammo. Nickel-plated cases aid in smooth feeding, and the FlexLock tip aids in consistent expansion, even after passing through a variety of standard barriers.

This 10mm ammo expands reliably while maintaining its weight without excessive penetration. It wouldn’t be a bad option for hunting deer-sized game or smaller, especially with careful shot selection. It’s not a great option for bear defense or for large game.

Winchester Defender 10mm Auto 180-grain Bonded JHP

Key Features

  • Bullet: 180-grain Bonded Jacketed Hollow Point
  • Velocity: 1240
  • Energy: 614 ft-lb

Why It Made the Cut

This bonded hollow point made my best 10mm ammo list because it expands rapidly, but the bullets are designed to retain their mass, which gives ideal personal defense performance.

Pros

  • Rapid expansion up to 1.5x original diameter
  • High weight retention
  • Low flash
  • Great for EDC and hunting light game

Cons

  • Less penetration than non-expanding bullets

Product Description

This defensive load from Winchester features nickel-plated cases and a jacketed hollowpoint that’s bonded for maximum weight retention. The cup of the hollow point is open, but the bullet jacket’s edges are scored for uniform expansion.

This 10mm ammo utilizes low-flash powder for potential low-light defensive situations and produces a good balance of velocity and recoil. It’s primarily intended for EDC-type applications, but it would make a suitable hunting bullet on lighter game.

Sig Sauer Elite Performance 10mm Auto 180-grain V-Crown JHP

Sig Sauer

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Key Features

  • Bullet: 180-grain V-Crown JHP
  • Velocity: 1250 fps
  • Energy: 624 ft-lb

Why It Made the Cut

This premium 10mm ammo is a great option for EDC. The V-Crown jacketed hollow points expand rapidly and uniformly.

Pros

  • Rapid, dramatic, uniform expansion
  • Optimal penetration for EDC applications
  • Premium components for reliability
  • Reduced recoil from heavier bullets

Cons

  •  Not optimal for animal defense applications

Product Description

Sig’s V-Crown JHP loads are one of the top EDC-type loads in general, and this offering brings it to the 10mm auto platform. Like many other 10mm loads, it’s a 180-grain Jacketed hollow point, but the V-Crown is known for its reliable flower-petal-like expansion.

Velocity and energy levels are on-par with most full-power 180-grain loads, and the ammunition functions well in compact handguns. It would work for some light-game hunting applications such as whitetail deer, but this ammunition is designed for expansion and limited penetration.

Federal Premium 10mm Auto 200-grain HST JHP

Federal Ammunition

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Key Features

  • Bullet: 200-grain HST Jacketed Hollowpoint
  • Velocity: 1130 fps
  • Energy: 567 ft. lbs.

Why It Made the Cut

The HST bullet is a well-established defensive option in other calibers, and delivers rapid, uniform expansion and great barrier penetration.

Pros

  • Consistent, rapid expansion
  • Good barrier penetration with limited overall penetration
  • Heavier than most defensive bullets

Cons

  • Heavier recoil than other EDC loads

Product Description

The HST is one of the most popular service and personal defense bullets on the market. It gives rapid, dramatic expansion, with high weight retention and good initial barrier penetration. In 10mm, it’s a great option for everyday carry. The 200-grain HST is heavier than most 10mm defensive hollow point loads and is designed to deliver maximum energy transfer without over-penetration.

Like some other 10mm ammo, this load uses nickel-plated brass that uses small primers, and quality of components is excellent. Velocities are consistent, and I measured them as averaging slightly higher than advertised. Recoil is significant, but hey, it’s a 10mm. This load would work in hunting applications for whitetail-sized game, but don’t expect tons of penetration.

Best for Hunting

Hornady Handgun Hunter 10mm Auto 135-grain Monoflex

Hornady

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Key Features

  • Bullet: 135-grain Monoflex monolithic copper hollow point
  • Velocity: 1315 fps
  • Energy: 518 ft-lb

Why It Made the Cut

This 10mm ammo features a non-lead hollow point that gives rapid expansion and almost total weight retention with less felt recoil than heavier bullets.

Pros

  • Lead free
  • High velocity with lower recoil
  • Rapid expansion with good penetration
  • Good for both hunting and EDC applications

Cons

  • Rapid expansion not great for animal defense application
  • Lighter bullet might not penetrate as well on less-ideal shot angles

Product Description

This lead-free 10mm ammo features a traditional-looking hollow point that is filled with the proprietary Monoflex material. This soft rubbery material helps prevent the hollow point from clogging, and—when compressed upon impact—aids with rapid, uniform expansion of the bullet.

Since there’s no jacket to separate, the bullet retains nearly all its weight. This aids in penetration, but although the rapid expansion makes for great terminal performance, overall penetration will be limited.

The performance characteristics and construction make it a great option for hunting—especially where lead-free is a requirement—and the reduced recoil also makes this an appealing everyday carry option.

The Hornady Handgun Hunter’s bullet is filled with Monoflex, which aids in expansion. Tyler Freel

Hornady Custom 10mm Auto 180-grain XTP

Hornady

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Key Features

  • Bullet 180-grain XTP JHP
  • Velocity: 1275 fps
  • Energy: 650 ft-lb

Why It Made the Cut

Hornady’s XTP (Extreme Terminal Performance) bullet is a well-established Jacketed hollow point that gives rapid, controlled expansion—making it ideal for hunting, and suitable for EDC applications.

Pros

  • Rapid initial expansion, but good penetration
  • Consistent velocities
  • Great all-around bullet

Cons

  • Might over-penetrate in EDC applications

Product Description

The XTP is a well-established bullet, and a great hunting option for 10mm ammo. The jacketed hollow point has a smaller-diameter opening than other points, but the segmented jacket gives pretty consistent expansion to a point.

The XTPs don’t open up to the diameter that some other hollow point bullets will, but in turn, they penetrate really well for a hollow point. Their penetration might be more than ideal for an EDC load, but it’s not what you’ll see in a heavier solid bullet. It would be a suitable bullet for animal defense if you don’t have grizzly bears in mind.

DoubleTap Ammunition 200-grain Controlled Expansion JHP

DoubleTap Ammunition

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Key Features

  • Bullet: 200 grain custom jacketed hollow point
  • Velocity: 1195 fps
  • Energy: 634 ft-lb

Why It Made the Cut

This popular hunting ammunition is at the top-end of performance for 10mm factory loads and delivers consistent, controlled expansion, and good penetration—making it ideal for hunting.

Pros

  • Better penetration than many other hollow points
  • Larger wound cavity
  • Over 1200 fps in 5-inch barrels
  • Good defensive and general-purpose load

Cons

  • Penetration is more than ideal for EDC applications
  • Not suitable for grizzly bears

Product Description

DoubleTap Ammunition is known for producing quality, high-performance handgun loads, and this 10mm ammo is one of the best options for hunting out there. Their custom 200-grain JHP controlled-expansion bullet expands to 0.74 inches, nearly doubling in diameter. It’s designed to penetrate 20 inches and defeat heavy hide and bone. The increased penetration relative to some other hollow points make this a feasible—and even favorable—load for defense and general use when you won’t be dealing with grizzly bears. They would certainly work for EDC applications as well, but with an increased risk of over penetration. DoubleTap loads with tight tolerances and attention to detail, and this is one of the best hunting options available in a factory load

Final Thoughts

The most important part of selecting the best 10mm ammo is to keep in mind your intended application and the limitations of the caliber. Most people will be looking to use it primarily for animal defense (and it’s a good choice) but remember, it’s not magic, and it can’t do everything. Among the most important things is to buy lots of practice ammo and shoot often.