Ammunition

5 (More) .45 ACP Loads to Consider

Springfield Ronin 1911 and SIG Sauer ammo .45 ACP Loads

The .45 ACP is easily my favorite and most used cartridge. The .45 ACP has been doing the business and getting the job done since 1905 with no end in sight.

The .45 ACP has been chambered in pistols, revolvers, carbines, submachine guns and derringers. Unlike many cartridges, the .45 ACP works well in all of these firearms.

Some .45 ACP History

The .45 ACP was developed hard on the heels of the abysmal failure of the .38 Colt cartridge in warfare.

By all accounts and testing, the .38 Colt was practically worthless, at best suited for lightweight personal defense firearms, not warfare.

The .45 Automatic Colt Pistol cartridge had many design criteria. General John T. Thompson had a great deal of input on the new cartridge.

Thompson was a visionary and a proponent of fully-automatic weapons for the military. (He later invented the Thompson submachine gun.)

After the disaster with the .38 revolver, he engaged in a great deal of testing, including shooting animals and human cadavers.

Coupled with his military experience, he concluded that rapid-fire with a big-bore pistol was the only route the Army should take in training and in choosing the Army’s new handgun.

There was nothing wrong with the .45 Colt cartridge, but the revolver was a dated design. The new cartridge should be as similar to the .45 Colt as possible.

Man Shooting .45 ACP Springfield Ronin 1911
The Springfield Ronin is a joy to fire and use.

Further Developments

John Browning took the Colt 1900 .38 ACP design and by 1905, a Colt automatic firing the .45 ACP was developed. This cartridge shared the .900-inch cartridge length of the .38 ACP.

Browning favored a 200-grain .45 at 1,000 fps, the Army specified a 230-grain FMJ at 850 fps.

Interestingly, the two most powerful cartridges in general use were the .44-40 WCF that could jolt a 200-grain bullet at 1,000 fps in a long barrel revolver and the .45 Colt could break 900 fps with a 255-grain bullet.

The .45 ACP was as powerful as any handgun cartridge of the day in practical terms. The FMJ bullet ensured good feed reliability.

A good crimp, sealed primer and wide extractor groove ensured reliability. A relatively small charge of fast-burning powder exhibited little muzzle flash and a clean powder burn.

In 1911, an improved Colt pistol was adopted by the U.S. Army. The original loading was designed to be effective against mounted troops, and this meant horses.

Jaguars were also part of the threat profile, from hard experience in the jungles. It isn’t often given the credit it deserves, but the .45 ACP can be an effective cartridge for animal defense.

(I have taken two deer with one shot each with the .45 ACP, one at about 35 yards and the other at about 15 yards.)

The .45 ACP earned an excellent reputation during two world wars and many battles in between.

During the past decades, expanding bullet loads have been developed, making the .45 ACP even more effective for personal defense.

Let’s look at a handful of modern loads that offer good promise. During the test program I used a Government Model .45 ACP with a five-inch barrel.

The Springfield Ronin is an accurate and reliable handgun.

.45 ACP Loads
The author fired a box of each load with good results.

.45 ACP Loads to Consider

1. SIG Sauer 230-Grain FMJ

Never understate 230-grain jacketed ‘hardball’ .45 ACP loads. This is among the few non-expanding bullets with an excellent reputation for wound potential.

If defense against large animals is a goal, then a hollow point is probably not something that should be considered, as greater penetration is needed.

The SIG Sauer loading burns clean and offers excellent accuracy. Velocity is 860 fps, a little over the average 830 fps of most military loads.

Feed reliability isn’t a question. While most of us use FMJ loads for practice in a hard spot when JHP loads are not available or prohibited, this is a good personal-defense loading.

2. Speer Gold Dot 230-Grain JHP

I cannot imagine a more proven personal-defense loading. The Speer Gold Dot has been issued by many agencies across the country.

The Gold Dot features a good balance of expansion and penetration. The new Gold Dot G2 is an even more effective loading than the original.

Accuracy is excellent. Velocity is 871 fps.

Target with holes from Speer Gold Dot .45 ACP Loads
Firing from a braced position, the author fired this group at 15 yards with the Speer Gold Dot.

3. Winchester 185-Grain Silvertip

The Winchester Silvertip has been around longer than most jacketed hollow point loads. It isn’t really silver plated, so it isn’t useful against werewolves!

Nor did the Lone Ranger have a hand in this loading. The Silvertip isn’t quite the same design as the original, although the crease/fold hollow sump designed is similar to the first design.

This loading has undergone considerable upgrades and improved performance over the years. This loading breaks 944 fps.

At this velocity, a 185-grain JHP is easily controlled compared to more powerful loadings, but offers plenty of velocity for good expansion.

This is a good personal-defense loading, particularly for those concerned with recoil or overpenetration.

Small .45 ACP Derringer
The author’s smallest .45 was fired with a few rounds with good results.

4. Fiocchi 200-Grain XTP

This bullet has a good combination — Fiocchi quality and the excellent design features of the Hornady Extreme Terminal Performance bullet.

Velocity is 955 fps. This is a good velocity for a 200-grain bullet. With this additional velocity, expansion is good.

The XTP bullet makes for an excellent balance of expansion and penetration. The 200-grain XTP also has a reputation for accuracy.

5. Hornady 185-Grain Critical Defense

The XTP was designed for service use. Penetration is the primary requirement. Hornady Critical Defense is designed for personal defense.

This bullet features a polymer plug in the hollow point. This plug ensures expansion, no matter the obstacles the bullet encounters.

The Critical Defense load breaks 992 fps. This is a strong load that takes every advantage of a modern expanding bullet. Accuracy is excellent.

Target with .45 ACP holes
The author fired this group at seven yards as quickly as he could regain the sights in recoil with the .45 Springfield.

Conclusion

I fired these .45 ACP loads for velocity, feed reliability and accuracy. At 15 yards — beyond typical engagement distance — all loads tested would group five shots into less than two inches.

These are suitably accurate for personal defense or even competition. None are loaded too hot for good control.

While there may be a place for +P .45 ACP loads, they aren’t needed in typical personal-defense sized handguns.

The .45 ACP offers modest recoil for the power of the cartridge, little muzzle blast, and an excellent balance of expansion and penetration.

The five loads covered are good to excellent choices.

Want to read about more amazing .45 ACP choices? Here’s our previous blog post on 5 Good .45 ACP Loads.

What are your favorite .45 ACP loads? Why? 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 (5)

  1. I carry a RIA 1911 with a 4in barrel, I use lehigh defense critical fracturing with a 170 gr. projectile traveling at 1100 fps. I like it because of the limited but adequate ( around 18 in) penetration with added lethality of the fracturing pedals. See Iraq 888 on YouTube for more info.

  2. Vincent, yes the Smith & Wesson 745
    Is a full size 1911 model weapon and when carrying it concealed, I hide it with a coat of some kind.

    Like any fashion minded gun toting county boy, I dress for the weather with the season mind. That also means I choose my conceal carry weapon to go with how I’m dressed.

    Being a country boy, I’m just naturally expected to have a small arsenal at my disposal or how else could I ever be accepted with in my chosen community. Hahaaa-haa..

    From my arsenal of weapons I can choose which pistol best meets my needs for any given day. I would prefer to carry either the .38 Super or a .45 ACP, both in a 1911 frame.
    Those two weapons offer the maximum stopping power with the best accuracy and that for me means head shots out to fifty yards being the acceptable minimum.

    But with the current fear in the public of a mass shooter showing up just about anywhere, I take it on myself to dress in a manner so not to scare the living daylights out of everyone. I chose my gun to carry so I can best hide it under my clothing choice for the day and the activities I’ll be involved in.

    Like women and their handbags, I chose from the guns I own the one that best matches how I’m dressed.
    That can range from a pocket pistol like my Beretta .32 Tomcat to my .45 ACP Smith & Wesson 745 though I do find my Para-Ordnance P10 .45 ACP and Kimber Micro 9mm get picked for just about all my warm weather outings since anymore some kind of “T” shirt and jeans combination is the dress code of the day.

    Winter time let’s me mix and match my guns and attire, so I dig out some of those guns that would make Dirty Harry take notice, sort of like playing dress up….. Hahaaa.

    Like it’s been said before, the best gun is the one you got with you. But the best advice I can give anyone is learn to keep yourself out of situations that can quickly escalate into a life and death situation. Good pratical training with being prepared for that one in a million situation that you could find yourself or those you care about involved in.

    And with that little knowledge I will add that I carry in my vehicle a Springfield Armory XD9 and multiple magazines for it in a bag along with some emergency items just in case I ever need to walk into a mass shooter situation. Know your weapon as well as your own limitations. Being prepared can save lives.

    Have some fun today…..

  3. GVance13, I have to say I am impressed with you hand loads of 185 Hornady at 1250 fps! According o my ballistics file (Excel calculated), this delivers 652 ft. lbs. of ME. This is up in the higher mid range of the .357 Mag, which can go all the way up to 900 ft. lbs. (pre-loaded by a manufacturer). I looked up your Smith & Wesson 745, and learned that it is only a single action pistol, which surprised me! I though all semi auto handguns were double action. This may explain why it ‘died’ off so quickly. My next purchase will probably be a Ruger double action GP100 or the new Redhawk .357 Mag with 8 rounds. Both of my handguns are single action Ruger revolvers, and my .357 Blackhawk has a hair trigger.

    I can also see that youe Smith & Wesson gun may be a big too big for concealed carrying. My .357 Ruger has a 6 1/2″ barrel, so it is too big also. My .45 LC Ruger Blackhawk has only a 5 1/2 barrel, and could possible be carried, although probably not too comfortably. If I go with one of the double action Ruger revolvers, it will probably be a 4.2″ barrel. The .357 Mag round can be very powerful, as I mentioned above.

    Vincent (12-16-2020)

  4. I am an owner of a Ruger 45 Colt Blackhawk that shoots both 45 Long Colt and 45 ACP ammo as well with a cylinder swap. Since this is a heavy duty revolver, shooting 45 ACP ammo is like plinking, so I have fired a lot of different rounds from various manufacturers. But shooting the 45 LC ammo is usually not like plinking, and some loads are so powerful that I have to use two hands to shoot the heavy load.

    In regards to Bob’s very nice and informative article, I love ready about 45 ammo, whether that be the ACP or LC types. In owning handguns, I having I have created a very elaborate ballistics file, covering 34 handgun calibers, with about 1,800 entries, where each entry is ammo listed has a link to where you can buy it online. My 45 ACP and 9mm listings are the biggest, followed by the 45 LC caliber. The 45 ACP has 324 links to ammo online. Of course, a lot of these are the same ammo (duplicates), but available from different online retailers or manufacturers.

    With Bob’s first ammo listed, the Sig Sauer 230 gr cartridge, I could not find any such ammo with a MV of 860 fps with a bullet of 230 gr. I looked for retailers and at the Sig Sauer pages as well. All their 230 gr 45 ACP ammo has a MV of 850 fps. Perhaps Bob is measuring this ammo himself, and has found it to be a bit faster than reported? With his second 45 ACP ammo described, I found just the opposite! The online specs show that for the Speer Gold Dot Ge the MV is 950 fps, instead of the 871 Bob shows. This produces 461 ft. lbs. of ME, which is starting to get into the more powerful 45 ACP ammo loads. The third cartridge is the Winchester 185 Silvertip round, which I have and have shot. Online it shows the MV of 1,000 fps and not the 944 fps. Again, perhaps Bob is testing his ammo himself, and found the ballistics to be a lower than reported, where the MV is almost always directly related to the barrel length of the gun, which could be the variance here. Online ballistics do not typically tell you what barrel length was used to achieve the reported fps.

    With Bob’s next 45 ACP round, I did not have this one in my ballistics file! So, I added it in, even though the availability everywhere I went to online seems to be zero! My ballistics info on Bob’s 5th entry was essentially the same, where mine shows 990 fps for the MV.

    But I would like to add in this list another very fine, low cost (whatever that means today!), and powerful 45 ACP round. This is the Atomic 185 round with a MV of 1225 fps, delivering 616 ft. lbs. of ME. This has some kick too, even in my heavy duty Ruger Blaqckhawk, but if you have a smaller handgun, such as a light 45 semi auto handgun, beware with this ammo. In addition, a lot of semi auto handguns are rated only up to certain power levels, whereas in my revolver I have no such restriction for the 45 ACP. Perhaps this is why Bob left this ammo out of his report, as well as other high powered 45 ACP ammo.

    Vincent (12-16-2020)

  5. My general use 45 ACP is a Smith and Wesson 745 which I hand load the 185 Hornady XTP hollow point bullets at a quick 1250 fps. They stop Whitetail deer quick and easily with a proper placed shot.

    While I carry a Para Ordnance P10 45 ACP during the cooler months as my concealed carry weapon, I chose the easier to conceal Kimber Micro 9 during the warmer months and just figure that I will just have to weight the bad guys down with lead to slow them down long enough for me to get away.

    While I’ve grown to love rounds like the .357 Sign, the .38 Super and the 10mm, it’s hard to beat a simple model 1911 in .45 ACP.

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