Diet: What Should I Feed My M1911?

John M. Browning designed the .45 ACP full metal jacket “hardball” cartridge for the 1911 pistol. This is a 230 grain jacketed round nose bullet loaded to a muzzle velocity of 850 fps which served as the military issue load throughout the 75-year tenure of the 1911 as the standard issue firearm for the U.S. armed services. It remains the favorite for reliability and accuracy. Since this bullet will penetrate more than two feet in ballistic gelatin, law enforcement agencies and civilians prefer jacketed hollow point bullets for personal defense applications because JHP bullets expand more and reduce the risk of over-penetration. There are a number of good loads for personal defense. Among the best are the Federal 230g HydraShok, the Remington 230g Golden Sabre, and the Winchester 230g SXT. Regardless of the load you select, you will get better reliability from JHP cartridges which are close in shape to the original 230g hardball cartridge.

Two very good resources on the performance of factory .45 ACP ammunition are Firearms Tactical’s Ammunition Test Results and Dean Speir’s .45 ACP Ballistics Tests.

Pet Loads for the 1911

(Editor’s Note and Warning: Always start testing a new load at 10% below the recipe and work up, checking fired brass for signs of excessive pressure such as bulges around the head and cratered or blown-out primers.)

From Bill Wilson in Wilson Combat 1911 Auto Maintenance Manual

It’s critical that you feed your 1911 pistol good ammo if you are to obtain maximum reliability. The load that I’ve shot the most over the past 19 years is – .45 ACP, 5.0 gr Hercules Bullseye, 200 gr. H&G #68 L-SWC (sized .452″), and primer (I use Winchester), OAL 1.250″, Taper Crimp .469″ at case mouth, primers .002″ below flush. This load has proven to be accurate and reliable in any pistol I’ve tried it in.

More recently, I’ve been shooting a lot of Hodgdon Clays powder because it’s so clean burning, about 4.7-4.8 usually makes major power factor.

For hollow point loads, I’ve had best results with Hornady XTP bullets. Both the 200 gr. and 230 gr. have been extremely accurate and perform well on hogs and deer. I load the 200 gr. to 950-1025 FPS using Royal Scot “D” and the 230 gr. To 875-950 FPS also with Royal Scot “D” because of its low muzzle flash. OAL should be 1.225″.

If you don’t hand load, I’d recommend any of the promotional ball ammo such as Winchester Q loads, Federal American Eagle, Remington UMC. For serious work, I prefer Federal 230 gr. Hydra-Shok and Cor Bon 230 gr.

The proper recoil spring for your particular pistol/load combination is the heaviest recoil spring you can use that will still allow the pistol to reliably lock open after the last shot when held loosely in one hand.

From L. Mo:


I have a friend who is FBI SWAT & the rounds they use for their SIG 9mm’s, Springfield .45’s & MP5 10mm’s are Remington Golden Saber. The .45’s are the 230 grain bullets.

From: Michael Orick:

If expansion is what you are after, the Remington 185 +P (not the GS +P) expanded to .81 caliber and penetrated 9.5 inches in the FBI heavy clothing test (from a SIG P220). The 230 GS did .73/.18.85 if you need to drill for oil.

Some others (all from 5 inch guns):

Fed PDA 165 .75/11.0
Speer 185 .68/14.75
Federal 185 .61/19.8
Win ST 185 .73/10.9
Speer 200 .45/23.45
Fed 230 HS .66/16.35
Win 230 .51/24
Win 230 Ranger SXT .63/17.8
Win 230 BT .74/13.95

Mike >>>>——->

From Mamba:

>Does anyone have a pet load they would like to share with me?

4.3 gr of Win Super Target and 230 lead will maker the mildest major load around. Real clean, real accurate in all my guns.

From Allen E Willits:

3.0 to 3.6 grs. of Clays with a 230 round nose lead bullet works well, maybe start low (3.0) and work up, 3.6 will make major powder factor in USPSA , I’m doing this from memory, so ya might check a reloading manual, I use a harder lead and don’t have hardly any leading problems, I shoot out of a H&K USP .45 and a 1911.

If you have access to a chronograph and can keep fps under 900-950 max I find leading isn’t a problem, also if jamming is a problem, shorten the OAL a couple of hundredths, didn’t seem to be a prob with the RN but the SWC didn’t like the recommended OAL, 1.25″ went to 1.22″, nose design of the SWC seems to affect what OAL wants to be, had same prob with both guns, H&K more picky though. good luck, Al

From Chuck:
Subject: Re: [1911-l] 45ACP pet loads

IMHO, Bullseye is tough to beat….. it is VERY accurate, it’s economical though it is a bit dirtier than some other powders. In terms of economy, it is the best…. I use it for the majority of my pistol loads (in 9mm, 38spl. and .45 target loads.) I’m currently using Hogdons Clays for my .45 IDPA loads, BUT will drop it as soon as my current supply is exhausted. Clays is relativly clean burning. It is not well adapted to smaller capacity cartridges. I have used Unique for my higher end .45 loads for years and years, and will go back to it when the Clays is gone. Neither of these powders are as economical as Bullseye. WInchester 231 is fairly economical as well, and gives good accuracy.

From Syd:
Subject: Re: [1911-l] 45ACP pet loads

>Does anyone have a pet load they would like to share with me?

My regular is 5.6g of Win 231 with 230g FMJ

From Gene Temple:

>I’ve been told that my choice of Bullseye Powder was a weak one because of
>how “dirty” bullseye is. What is a better, cleaner, choice?
>Also, what brass do you find stands up to repeated use. I’m using
>Winchester (W-W) cases right now. I’ve reloaded them three times so far and
>they are all doing well, and hope for them to last at least two more

I shoot a 5″ Kimber GM and like: WW brass, cci primers, 5.6gr. 231, and 230gr. FMJRN.

Brass life: You’ll lose them first, unless your pistol dings them up badly while ejecting. I have some that have been loaded 14 times, and still look like new when they come out of the polisher. (Excepting the interior, of course.)

From Chuck:

Bullseye (or Bulls Eye as it was labeled when new) has been around 100 years…. that isn’t an accident. The original load for the .45 was Bullseye powder and a 230gr. jacketed bullet… that is to say, that is the round the pistol was designed to shoot… that is a pretty good endorsement. The makers of Bullseye (the company has changed hands several times… most recently Alliant brand) have kept the stuff remarkably consistent over the years. I have loading data developed by people who shot National Match in the 1930s.. and the loads they developed then for Bullseye then work exactly the same as they did then… same velocities and extremely accurate. As an aside, my Grandfather’s load of 4.7gr. of Bullseye with a 225gr lead round nose bullet still works fine today.. he must have developed that load sometime around WWI … though it could have been prior to the war (his M1911 was made in January 1912.) My Lyman Loading Manuals from the late 1940s give loads that work the same today as well… so at least for the period for which I have data there seems to have been no change in the performance of Bullseye powder. While there are lots of opinions on which powder is best, you will not go wrong with Bullseye. I use it for my 9mm and 38spl. ammo. and (since I finally ran out of 5066) sometimes in my .45 (target loads.).

I have loaded .45 ACP for a long time. I started out loading IMR #5 (no, I’m not that old… just got a great deal on a lot of it) Pistol powder and later moved to IMR #5066 (same comment again) both of which were regarded as the best load for National Match shooting. Later I went to Bullseye when my supply of the IMR powders ran out. All of the above gave very good accuracy… much better than I could do for my part.

As with many people I liked Bullseye a lot…but it was and is fairly dirty. About four years ago I tried Clays. After doing some comparisons, I found Clays to be a very slight bit less accurate than Bullseye, but again, both are more accurate than I am…BUT it is very clean burning, meters with excellent accuracy and economical. I have not used anything else since I did those tests. I load eight to ten thousand rounds of .45 ACP per year with Clays and have always been very pleased with it… I am so confident with reloads using Clays that I use my hand loads with Clays for schools like Thunder Ranch etc.

Clays is great powder… and you will not go wrong with it… there are other good powders, particularly Bullseye…but Clays is right up with the best.

From Chris Wiley:

>I’m new to this reloading thing and was wondering what the more experienced
> users prefer for IDPA competition.

I use 5.5 g of Win Super-Target over a 185 g SWC or 4.9 g of Win ST over a 200 g SWC. My choice of durable brass is Star-Line. Mine have stood up to at least 10 cycles and only split a 3 so far.

From Bill Boyer:

Hogdon Clays is the only powder I use in 45s any more. I just love the stuff. It’s very clean burning and I’ve been able to come up with a couple of fairly soft shooting loads that still make major power. My favorite, and the softest shooting, is a 239 lead round nose over 3.8 gr., for a cleaner load or use indoors I use 3.9 gr. with a 230 Rainer bullet.

Other Good Online Reloading Resources

Winchester – Get their electronic reloader’s guide

M.D. Smiths’s Reloading Page – One of the original reloading sites on the web. Smith’s loads are hot.

Ammo.com – The place I buy my bullets. They have great prices and service.

Dillon Precision – My favorite reloading presses

American Firearm Page/Oregon Trail Bullet Company

Alliant’s Interactive Reloading Guide

Midway USA

Comments, suggestions, contributions? Let me know