The .45 ACP Ammo Buyer’s Guide 2023

Even more than a century after its introduction, the .45 ACP still ranks among the most popular handgun calibers. While calling it “the” handgun caliber would be an overstatement, one shouldn’t belittle its prominence. The .45 ACP has a lot of appreciators among pistol owners. This fact spurs the round’s further improvements and fosters variety. We’ll venture a guess that you must either be a proud user of a  .45 ACP pistol or a future handgun owner exploring the possibilities. Or a random passer-by who came across this article by pure accident. Whoever you are, we welcome you to our .45 ACP buyer’s guide. We’ll shed light on the now-shadowed profile of the .45 ACP cartridge and will guide you through the valid ammunition options you have.

A Brief History Insight

If you are not a fan of all those “when was the round introduced” and “why was it invented in the first place”, we suggest you skip this section. It will likely be of little value to those seeking tips on choosing the right ammo, but we cannot make a guide without some background checks.

The .45 ACP cartridge was designed by John Browning in 1905 and initially intended for use in the Colt Model 1905 pistol. The design we utilize today wasn’t the original one. During its development, the .45 ACP cartridge switched from a 200-grain bullet to a 230-grain bullet and had its powder charge increased from 21 grains to 23 grains.

After the final iterations, the round was adopted by the military for use in the Colt M1911 pistol, which became the standard sidearm of the U.S. Armed Forces. The handgun was in service from 1911 to 1986, making it one of the longest-serving pistols of any military force.

The .45 ACP cartridge owes its unturnishable popularity to its versatility. It is suitable for both self-defense and target shooting applications and is used by many law enforcement agencies around the world. The round is also used in many different types of firearms, including semi-automatic handguns, revolvers, submachine guns and carbines. Its popularity has also been boosted by its availability in both factory-loaded ammunition as well as reloadable brass cases.

Types of .45 ACP Ammo

FMJ Ammo

The Full Metal Jacket (FMJ) is one of the most popular types of  .45 ACP ammo. What sets FMJ ammo apart from a regular bullet is its structural design: it has a lead core bullet with a copper jacket that completely encases the lead. This design makes it easier to load and handle the ammo while reducing fouling in the barrel. During firing, the jacket provides a smooth, streamlined surface that helps the bullet travel faster and further without losing accuracy. As such, the two major advantages of Full Metal Jacket ammo are cleaner shooting and better penetration.

FMJ ammo is also the least expensive type of .45 ACP ammo, making it ideal for target shooting and practice drills. However, it's important to note that FMJ ammo is not recommended for self-defense as it lacks the stopping power of other types of ammunition, such as Jacketed Hollow Point rounds that we’ll discuss further. It also has a chance of over-penetrating the target, which can cause greater collateral damage and even injure people who were not targeted by the shooter.

JHP Ammo

The other popular option is Jacketed Hollow Point (JHP) Ammo, which has a few significant differences from FMJ. The major one is a working principle: the JHP ammo expands upon impact, leading to a bigger wound channel and inflicting more damage with a single shot, significantly reducing the chances of overpenetration. That makes it an ideal choice for self-defense situations where you need to stop an attacker quickly and effectively. Additionally, due to its large caliber size and heavy bullet weight, the recoil is relatively low which makes it more manageable compared to other larger calibers such as the .44 Magnum or the 10mm Auto.

Despite its advantages, there are some drawbacks to using this type of ammunition as well. For example, the jacketed hollow point round is often more expensive than other types of ammunition due to its increased effectiveness in self-defense situations. Additionally, due to its ability to expand upon impact, it may not be suitable for hunting applications where maximum penetration is desired. The chances you’ll go hunting with a weapon chambered in .45 ACP are little, of course, but you get the idea - the round isn’t a panacea.

To put it briefly, JHP boasts greater stopping power than FMJ and is more suitable for self-defense scenarios, but might be pricier than other types.

TMJ Ammo

The .45 TMJ ammo is a sibling of FMJ ammo. It features a Total Metal Jacket (TMJ) bullet, which has a full metal jacket that completely encases the lead core of the bullet. This type of ammunition is designed to further reduce lead fouling in the barrel and provide more consistent accuracy than FMJ ammo. The TMJ bullet also has less risk of ricochet compared to FMJ bullets, making it a safer option for range use.

It might seem like covering an exposed lead base is not that big of a deal, but it does decrease lead exposure, which is a major concern at indoor ranges. The burning point of smokeless powder is higher than that of lead, meaning that shooting an FMJ round will inevitably leave a small amount of vaporized lead that can foul the barrel and get inhaled by shooters. Even though modern indoor shooting ranges are usually equipped with advanced air filtration systems, shooting FMJ in high volumes still poses certain risks. TMJ eradicates the lead exposure problem.

The list is by no means an exhaustive one. The abovementioned types may be further divided into further subcategories like Boat Tail, Flat Nose, and Truncated Cone. However, they are not major types and only adjust the way the bullet behaves rather than determine it.

Intended Purpose Examples

Even though you can probably ascertain which type of ammo you need by looking at its distinctive features, we’ll provide some practical examples of how different types of ammo correspond to different purposes. We focus on different loads that much because the performance of such rounds, even though not identical, will be similar, give or take. Besides, explaining the difference between 200 and 230-grain bullets with only words will be of little use. The best option you have here is to experience the differences yourself.

Practice makes perfect, but it also takes time. Time and many, many rounds. Training with a different caliber with cheaper ammunition always remains an option. However, if the pistol you are going to use is chambered in .45 ACP, we do recommend you eventually start training with .45 ACP. Since you don’t need to destroy your target, there is no need to go for heavier loads and JHP ammo. Here are examples of affordable FMJ and TMJ .45 ACP ammo featuring standard 230-grain bullets (Winchester pack includes 200 rounds).

If you are interested in  reloading your own ammunition, you’ll need cartridges with brass cases. You can use them repeatedly, unlike aluminum cases. The price of the box of ammo becomes a lesser concern now, though it isn’t in our interest to lure you into spending more money than you’d want to.

For self-defense purposes, we suggest you settle for nothing else than JHP. When it comes to life preservation, you’d want tools that can help you protect yourself the best you could. For these, JHP cartridges are the best candidates.


Is 45 ACP more powerful than 9mm?

The debate between .45 ACP and 9mm devotees seems to be neverending, and no power on Earth can stop it. This is a topic for a blog post of its own, but here’s a brief answer. While .45 ACP and 9mm are comparable in penetration, .45 ACP leaves a wound channel almost twice as big as 9mm. It also imparts more energy upon impact, so yeah, you could say so.

What does ACP stand for in 45 ACP?

The acronym "ACP" stands for Automatic Colt Pistol, which is a designation given to firearms designed by John Browning and manufactured by Colt's Manufacturing Company. The venerable M1911 pistol was chambered in .45 ACP.

What is .45 ACP best for?

One of the major reasons for the .45 ACP's popularity is its versatility. The round can be used for a wide range of tasks, from competitive shooting to self-defense and tactical applications. With that being said, it’s considered to be a nonpareil round for self-defense.

Can a .45 stop a grizzly bear?

It is very unlikely to do so. The .45 ACP is not marketed as a bear-protection round, nor does it have the power to stop a bear. It might work if you use +P rounds, but if you have a more powerful option, you’d be safer using them.

Apr 19th 2023 Gritr Sports

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