The 45 ACP ammo is not hard to come by. But do you really need it, or should you lean toward the far more popular 9mm rounds? In my opinion, 45 ACP detractors often speak out of place. Or at the very least, they don’t make strong enough arguments as to which ammo to use in self-defense, as opposed to tactical situations. In this 45 ACP ammo review you’ll get the tips you need to select the best 45 ACP ammo and learn the differences between the top brands, including some of our favorites.
What Is 45 ACP Defense Ammunition?
The 45 ACP defense ammo used to be one of the most popular rounds because it’s used in one of the favorite sidearms, the Colt M1911. Although mostly replaced by the 9x19mm Parabellum cartridges in modern military and law enforcement applications, it enjoys plenty of success in the civilian sector. Many firearm enthusiasts still favor the 1911 for its accuracy and guaranteed stopping power.
Are There Different Types of 45 Ammo?
Contrary to popular belief, the 45 Auto and 45 ACP are one and the same. You don’t have to wonder if you’re looking at the correct ammunition for your gun. Many manufacturers assign different designations to their cartridges. But that doesn’t mean that there are any core technical differences between 45 Auto and 45 ACP rounds.
Despite the clear variation in specs, performance, and design, the caliber remains the same. 45 ACP and 45 Auto rounds go in the same handguns. Here are some better tips on how to figure out which 45 ACP bullet best complements your gun.
How to Pick 45 ACP Defensive Ammo
You go by similar traits when choosing any other type of pistol rounds. However, some attributes and characteristics matter more than others. Here are some examples.
I don’t want to disparage the 45 ACP ammo. Many people find it outdated, but that doesn’t mean it’s no good. It’s just not as impressive as 9mm or 10mm caliber ammo these days. Compared to those bullets, the 45 ACP has a lower velocity range.
Take for example the 9mm. This round can reach up to 1500 fps, and it usually offers at least 1000 fps in muzzle velocity. In comparison, the 45 ACP ammo has a range of 750 to 1200 fps.
And rarely hitting the top speed too. So, if you want more stopping power, the velocity really makes a difference with the 45 ACP. Plenty of bullets in this caliber are on the slow side.
The muzzle energy or release energy also translates into power and indicates weight retention capabilities. For 45 ACP bullets, the muzzle energy can range between 300 and 500 ft.lbf. You’ll notice that this is higher on average than the more popular 9mm rounds.
That’s great on the part of the 45 ACP since it compensates for the lower speed.
Now it’s time to discuss the style or design of the bullet. Should you opt for a hollow point or not? If you want the deadliest 45 ACP ammo then hollow point is the way to go.
Because this type of bullet favors expansion, you get the most powerful 45 ACP ammo in terms of internal damage. The wider entry wound and the added fragmentation on the inside will stop many aggressive threats in their tracks.
If you go by wound size alone, the best 45 ACP ammo causes more damage. The reason loyalists of the 9mm speak against this caliber is that the 9mm reaches its target much faster. But if you shoot both bullets through a chuck of ballistic gel, the results speak for themselves.
The best 45 ACP self-defense ammo causes more than enough disruption on its own, despite lacking some speed. Its higher release energy and heavier grain outclass 9mm rounds.
Mind the Recoil
I agree that heavier and more powerful 45 ACP ammo is the way to go. But only if you want to cause extra damage.
For comfort, I recommend a lower grain and smaller release energy. Why? It’s because this caliber bullets often create a recoil that can be hard to handle, especially for inexperienced and smaller shooters.
This ammo is no joke, despite falling out of favor these days. But the deadlier the 45 ACP you use, the harder it is to manage.
How Many Bullets Can Your Gun Hold?
There may be some minor size differences in 45 ACP bullets. This is important in my opinion because the caliber already limits your magazine capacity.
As opposed to 9mm handguns that can easily store 15 + 1 rounds, you may find it hard to walk around with more than 11 or 12 45 ACP rounds. So, while stopping power is definitely important, don’t underestimate the need for having enough bullets.
Best 45 ACP Ammo
If you want affordable 45 ammo, then the Federal American Eagle offers a bargain price. Each box comes with 50 cartridges, making this ideal for self-defense and shooting range applications.
The muzzle velocity of these rounds ranges between 824 and 890 fps. Its release energy rating is 404 ft.lbf at under 25 yards. It’s not the most powerful of 45 ACP bullets, but each round gets the job done.
I recommend this if you’re a high-volume shooter. The FMJ (full metal jacket) style is ideal in these situations and makes it easy to shoot static range targets too. Note that the 230 grains combined with the energy produced can result in a significant recoil.
It may take you some additional practice time to fully familiarize yourself and feel comfortable with these rounds.
- Ideal for practice
- Good balance of speed and power
- Favors high-volume shooting
- Hard to control recoil
Here is what you get from a box of Speer Gold 45s: 20 rounds per box at 230 grains each. These are heavy-duty bullets that obliterate targets at close range.
What’s even better? This is among the most manageable 45 ACP bullets. Due to the muzzle energy of just 343 ft.lbf, the recoil is easy to handle, which doesn’t happen often with caliber.
Granted, the speed tops out at 820 fps, and that’s at 25 yards. The bullets are not lead-free, but the muzzle flash isn’t a big issue regardless. I like the use of nickel plating for the casing due to its superior corrosion resistance.
You may appreciate this too if you need stopping power more than a smaller recoil. The bonded casing helps weight retention and provides more consistency with shots. The rate of expansion is uniform enough and causes additional damage.
The Speer Gold Dot ammo excels in accuracy and control. But, it’s far from the deadliest in this caliber. That’s because its rate of expansion, while uniform, is not the highest.
- Superior accuracy
- Low recoil ammo
- Up to 15” penetration
- Bonded hollow point bullets
- Not the most impressive expansion rate
Don’t confuse this with the Federal Premium Hydra-Shok line. It’s quite different but almost just as deadly. These 230-grain bullets are as close to the original 45 ACP ammo as they come, at least in terms of weight and mass retention.
The HST rounds reach up to 890 fps. The muzzle energy rating is 404 ft.lbf, and that’s good enough to inflict serious damage while also reducing the recoil. I’m confident that even less experienced shooters can use HST rounds with some degree of comfort.
The jacketed hollow point design doesn’t cut through the air quite like others. However, the controlled expansion compensates for the lack of speed, even though it’s not the quickest expansion. With that in mind, one of the best qualities of the HST bullets is their consistent feeding and firing.
The combination of a skived jacket and the lead core reduces the risk of misfiring and helps maintain accuracy at the same time. Even the corrosion resistance is good thanks to the nickel-plated brass jacket. At 20 rounds per box, you’re also getting a good price per bullet.
- Up to 15” penetration
- Low to medium recoil
- Reliable primer for consistent feeding and firing
- Superior weight and mass retention
- Slower rate of expansion
If you ask me, this is perhaps the most affordable 45 ACP defense ammunition. And, for some shooters it can be the best 45 ACP ammo for target practice. The cost per round is as low as they come, without sacrificing too much performance.
Don’t get me wrong. The CCI Blazer 45 ACP rounds are powerful in every way. But when compared to others, they are slower. Be that as it may, there are quite a few advantages in using this ammunition in your 45 caliber handgun.
First of all, it’s cheap and you get 50 rounds per box. Secondly, the bullets have a 352 ft.lbf muzzle energy. This gives them lower recoil and allows you better control in a shot grouping.
The muzzle velocity is 830 fps, which is surprisingly fast for a 230 grain 45 ACP bullet. Given the low recoil, you can use these rounds in performance applications. And, you may also appreciate the reloadable nature of the cases.
The boxer primer offers consistent ignition, thus making the ammo even better suited for self-defense and personal security.
- Low-recoil bullets
- Dependable boxer primer
- Good control and weight retention
- Reloadable brass casings
- No expansion can lead to over-penetration
Another affordable box of 45 ACP ammo comes courtesy of Magtech. The manufacturer offers a low cost per round and 50 bullets per box. The muzzle velocity of these cartridges is 837 fps, which of course may depend on outdoor conditions too.
With its rated release energy of 358 ft.lbf, you can’t complain about too much recoil from these bullets. Besides, the FMJ (full metal jacket) style bullet has excellent feeding traits.
If you want to improve your accuracy of shooting 45 ACP ammo, these Magtech bullets can serve you well. First of all, they’re cheap enough for you to practice daily, and the anatomy of the bullet should improve grouping consistency by at least 2%.
Note that these rounds offer no expansion. So, while you can shoot two birds with one stone, so to speak, you should also be very careful when using these bullets for self-defense or bush defense. They rarely stop inside your target.
- Very fast at under 25 yards
- Good mass retention
- Superior penetration capabilities
- May improve grouping accuracy
- Bullets don’t expand
- Not the most long-lasting cases
Final Thoughts and Recommendation
As you can see by now, there are plenty of 45 ACP ammo options if you want reliable bullets for self-defense. While law enforcement officers may not use this caliber nearly as often these days, its availability for civilian uses continues unabated.
If you ask me, the Federal Premium HST could be the best 45 ACP ammo on the market still. Despite having a slower rate of expansion, the bullets balance speed with quick expansion after impact.
Furthermore, the low to medium recoil makes the ammo more manageable. And don’t forget that few bullets have the same firing consistency.