The .45 ACP is the most iconic round in American history. Colt introduced the pistol and ammunition in 1905. John Moses Browning, legendary firearms designer, developed the model at the request of the U.S. military. The military had complained that their present round – the .38 Long Colt – was not sufficient. It lacked penetration and stopping power. Colt presented the round to the military and it was put through a series of field tests alongside a similar round from Savage. The Colt ammunition performed brilliantly throughout 6,000 rounds in various conditions. The Savage round ran a very close second, but Colt won the day. It was adopted as standard issue for Colt’s M1911. The ammo’s stopping power made it an instant favorite of the U.S. Cavalry, and it was soon taken on by the U.S. Army.
Firearms experts say the M1911 was the main reason the .45 ACP cartridge became popular with military, law enforcement, and civilians. The gun was carried by many military heroes, including WWI legend Sergeant Alvin York. The Tennessee-born sergeant is one of the most decorated Army soldiers in American history. He received the Medal of Honor for heading an attack on a German facility, killing 25 enemy soldiers and capturing as many as 132.
The ammo continued to be popular throughout and after WWI and WWII. It was commonly used in Vietnam, chambered in the Thompson sub-machine gun.
In 1985, the U.S. military replaced the .45 ACP with the 9mm Parabellum. However, certain military members, including Delta Force, Marine Expeditionary Units, and United States Special Operations units are given the choice of using guns chambered in .45 ACP.
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The most common .45 ACP round uses a 230-grain lead bullet which sits in a tapered case. Other weights are available, including 165-grain up to 255-grain.
Full Metal Jacket
The FMJ is a bullet that is completely encased in a copper jacket. The style was popular with the military for full auto weapons, solving the problem of lead bullets that often misfired or jammed. The .45 FMJ is popular among civilians for target shooting, practice, plinking, and competition. The FMJ is not recommended for self-defense.
Jacketed Hollow Point
The JHP ranges in weight from 165 to 255 grains. The bullet has a lead core encased in copper. The JHP differs from the FMJ because its nose is uncovered, exposing a soft lead tip. This feature allows the round to expand upon impact. Although JHP rounds falter when hitting solid targets, they are still preferred as self-defense rounds.
Cost, Availability, and Accuracy
Ammo for a .45 is popular so it is affordable and easy to obtain. The cartridges can be ordered online or purchased at retail outlets. Below are examples of .45 rounds and their average cost.
Magtech has plants in Czech Republic, Brazil, Germany, and the U.S. It manufactures over 1.5 billion rounds of centerfire ammunition per year. This .45 round has good ballistics, with a muzzle velocity of 840 fps.
Cost: 28.5¢ p/r
Blazer Brass .45 ACP ammo is made by CCI/ATK. The reloadable round has a muzzle velocity of 845 fps with a slightly sharper recoil impulse.
Cost: 31.5¢ p/r
Federal American Eagle
Federal’s “American Eagle” brand has a good reputation for making solid, high performance ammunition. Its FMJ round has a higher muzzle velocity of 890 fps.
Cost: 30.0¢ p/r
Federal LE Tactical Bonded
Federal created its LE Tactical Bonded .45 ACP for law enforcement use. It has a bonded-core bullet with a muzzle velocity of 840 fps.
Cost: 66.5¢ p/r
Speer Gold Dot 230 Grain JHP
Speer created one of the first .45 JHP bullets to be used by many law enforcement agencies. Police often used it as standard issue for Sig P227 handguns.
Cost: $1.33 p/r
Federal Classic Hydra – Shok Personal Defense
The Federal Hydra-Shok is made with a central lead post which helps with expansion. The ammo was launched in 1988 at the request of the FBI.
Cost: 44¢ p/r
Hornady Critical Defense FTX
This lead-core JHP bullet uses additional metal in the core, which is unusual. The bullet’s core is secured to the jacket through Hornady’s InterLock groove, which helps it to keep its structural integrity when a target is hit.
Cost: $1.08 p/r
Remington Golden Saber
The Remington Golden Saber uses a bonded for maximum terminal performance. Its specs fit perfectly into FBI protocol and offers excellent penetration and expansion.
Cost: 50¢ p/r
Winchester Supreme Elite PDX-1
The Winchester PDX-1 uses a Winchester Ranger Bonded bullet. The bottom of the bullet shows exposed lead. The ammo offers superior expansion and penetration that exceeds FBI protocol.
Cost: $1.20 p/r
Bullet weights of .45 ACP ammo range from 165-grains to 255-grains. The performance level depends upon the shooter and the desired use. However, it is important to compare and match bullet weights as closely as possible if you intend to use different weights for different purposes. For example, if you plan to use .45 ammo to target shoot or plink as well as carry, then switching weights can cause issues with aim and recoil. Differences are minor, but it may be crucial during a competition or in a home defense situation. Additionally, changing bullet weights may affect your sight adjustment.
Best 45 ACP Ammo for Self-Defense
Using a .45 handgun for self-defense ensures that the target will be stopped. However, it requires skill. A .45 has deep penetration and maximum stopping power, which means that novices stand a chance of creating collateral damage if fired in the home. It is important to note that self-defense or home defense does not necessarily mean killing a target. It could be a way to stay safe while scaring away an intruder, whether its human or animal. As a concealed carry, a .45 may be difficult for some shooters to draw when needed.
Top picks for self-defense rounds:
Hornady Custom XTP
The Hornady XTP bullet has a hollow point cavity and a scored jacket, which aids in expansion. Hornady also offers a +P version with a muzzle velocity of 1055 fps. Experts consider this round to be excellent for self-defense and home protection.
Speer LE Gold Dot 45 ACP 230 Grain JHP
Speer creates high-performance rounds for personal protection. This JHP provides consistent shot-to-shot expansion, with high accuracy and reliable results.
Federal Personal Defense 230 Grain JHP
Federal makes a 230 grain jacketed hollow point (JHP). Experts often call it the best large caliber for self-defense for precision, accuracy, and penetration.
Hornady Duty Defense 220 Grain FTX JHP
Hornady manufactures this 220-grain, .45 ACP ammo. The +P ammo has precision, accuracy, and penetration with maximum expansion.
Speer Gold Dot JHP 230 Grain JHP
This 230-grain JHP is accurate, fires controlled penetration, and delivers superior stopping power.
Best .45 ACP Ammo for Law Enforcement
The .45 ACP was created for the military and law enforcement. While many police departments have changed to 9mm rounds, some still prefer to use a .45 for its penetration of hard targets. It also provides the necessary stopping power the officers need. Although some departments carry 9mm sidearms, it is not unusual to find members of law enforcement that still carry a .45 as a sidearm or an off-duty service weapon.
Popular rounds include:
Winchester 45 Auto 230 Grain JHP Ranger Bonded
Ranger® Bonded 45 ACP Ammunition was made to deliver maximum penetration through hard and abrasive barriers, including auto glass. The round is effective due to Winchester’s core/jacket bonding process. This ammo is popular with law enforcement as a service round.
Winchester 45 ACP +P 175 Grain Ranger Frangible SF
Ranger® Frangible is made for shooting in close quarters. It uses lead-free-powdered metal projectiles to deliver excellent frangibility against hard targets. The round also has reduced ricochet which helps with specific and accurate training exercises.
Winchester 45 Auto 230 Grain JHP Ranger T-Series
The Ranger® T Series ammunition has superior expansion and deep penetration enhanced by the engineered segments used in Winchester’s patented SXT® design. It delivers consistent stopping power when it is needed most. The ammo is also available in a +P version.
Hornady .45 Auto +P 220 Grain Critical Duty
Critical Duty is the cream of the crop for tactical and law enforcement professionals. The Flex Tip® design eliminates clogging and assists bullet expansion. Its jacket-to-core InterLock® band keeps the bullet and core from separating, giving superior expansion, maximum weight retention, and consistent penetration.
Best .45 ACP Ammo for Target Practice & Range Training
Competition shooters, plinkers and trainers demand ammo that fires clean with high reliability and accuracy. Indoor or outdoor, .45 ACP ammo works well as target ammo whether you’re in for range training or gearing up for your next match. Here are some popular brands:
Winchester Service Grade 45 ACP 230 Grain FMJ
Winchester Service Grade is a workhorse ammo. It is reliable and clean-burning target ammo.
Federal American Eagle Non-Toxic Primer 45 ACP 230 Grain TMJ
Federal’s non-toxic TMJ bullet is made for indoor range practice. The rounds are not fully jacketed and are loaded with primers free of toxic metals.
Federal American Eagle 230 Grain FMJ
Federal makes a reloadable 230-grain FMJ ideal for practice shooting and plinking purposes. This new round is similar to Federal’s Premium Personal Defense rounds.
Best 45 ACP Ammo for Hunting
Seasoned shooters have an ongoing argument on handgun hunting. Some say you shouldn’t do it unless your main gun misfires. Others say it’s fine as long as you know what you’re doing. Although they will never see eye to eye (especially holding Grandpappy’s 30-06), these rounds may make it a bit easier to choose.
Hunters pick Federal, Hornady, Remington, Speer and Winchester ammo more than any other. You can buy ammo online to save money. You’ll be able to build up stock and get ammo for every type of prey from whitetail to elk to bear.
Hornady® Superformance™ Rifle Ammunition
Hornady uses a powder blend that gives an additional 200 fps from a Superformance round. It results in reduced wind drift, flatter trajectory, and superior accuracy.
Remington® Premier® Core-Lokt® Ultra Ammunition
Premier Core-Lokt ammunition does against large game. It retains 95 percent of its weight and gives expansion twice the original diameter. Terminal performance up to 500 yards.
Nosler is a solid all-around bullet. It loses some points for accuracy but gives high terminal performance.
Federal Premium Trophy Bonded Tip Rifle Ammunition
Vital-Shok line was designed after the Trophy Bonded Bear Claw® cartridge. It has higher performance and downrange accuracy.
Deer are the most hunted game animals in North America. The deer population was in danger in the early 20th century due to lax regulations, but today they number about 30 million. The season starts in August and runs through January (depending where you are). They are hunted mostly in the eastern U.S. although they are also seen west of the Rockies.
Deer can be difficult to kill with .45 ammo unless you’re a crack shot. They’re fast and require exact placement before they’ll go down. The most sought after rounds include
Browning’s BXR, Winchester’s Deer Season XP, Nosler’s Ballistic Tips, Hornady’s American Whitetail, Hornady’s SST, Browning’s BXR, and Federal’s Non-Typical ammo.
People often misunderstand the tenacity and strength of hogs – particularly if they are feral. Brought over from Spain in the 1500s, wild hogs escaped from their encampments and ran rampant throughout the U.S. They became invasive and destructive animals that are hard to kill. Their thick skins and bulk require ammo with deep penetration. Bonded rounds have the most effect against wild hogs. Top notch ammo includes Hornady’s Interbond, Nosler’s Accubond, Federal’s Trophy Bonded Tip, Hornady GMX, Browning’s BXC, and Federal’s Trophy Copper ammunition.
Bear Hunting & Protection
Most hunters say that hunting bear with a handgun is asking for trouble. Of course, it depends on the ammo and the size of the bear. Bear aren’t easy to kill with a handgun, but it can be done – if the placement is right. Experts say that you’d have to make a direct hit to the heart or through the eye. Perhaps that’s why most hunters opt for a more powerful weapon and keep the .45 as a backup weapon. Bears don’t attack without reason but getting close enough to shoot his eye out is a dangerous proposition. Remember that a bear is a creature with thick skin, dense flesh and a great deal of fat. Stories of mama bears charging people on her turf are legendary. If that happens, any gun you choose may not be enough to save you. Arguments aside, most experts say that if you are going to hunt bear with a .45, your ammo should be at least 230-grains. Penetration is key.
If you are hunting with .45 ACP, consider these choices for ammo:
.45 Colt Buffalo Bore 255 Grain SWC
This standard-pressure semi-wadcutter (SWC) round mirrors the traditional 255-grain SWC load. Known for high accuracy, this round delivers deep penetration. The only downside is a strong recoil.
- Bullet Weight: 255 Grain
- Muzzle Energy: 566 ft lbs
- Muzzle Velocity: 1000 fps
- Casing Material: Brass
.45 ACP Fiocchi 230 Grain FMJ
This Fiocchi round gives excellent performance for a high volume shooter and hunter. It is an affordable, highly accurate round with excellent consistency.
- Bullet Type: Full Metal Jacket (FMJ)
- Bullet Weight: 230 Grain
- Muzzle Energy: 377 ft lbs
- Muzzle Velocity: 860 fps
- Casing Material: Brass
.45 Federal 230 Grain FMJ
Federal offers a 230-grain FMJ with deep penetration, high accuracy and reliable expansion. It has a non-magnetic lead core full metal jacket and uses noncorrosive Boxer primer.
- Bullet Type: Full Metal Jacket (FMJ)
- Bullet Weight: 230 Grain
- Muzzle Energy: 404 ft lbs
- Muzzle Velocity: 890 fps
- Casing Material: Brass
.45 ACP ammunition has been around for more than 100 years. Seasoned shooters, pros, and newbies alike covet it for its status, power, and versatility. In the right hands, it is an all-around cartridge that will serve you well – at the range, in the woods, in the backyard or at your local indoor range.