45 ACP Ammo You Can Count On in Your Self Defense Handgun

Tom McHale review his choices for the most reliable and best performing 45 ACP ammo to carry loaded in your self defense handgun.

The only way to find 45 ACP ammo you can count on is to test, test, and test.
The only way to find 45 ACP ammo you can count on is to test, test, and test.
Tom McHale
Tom McHale

USA –-(Ammoland.com)- You can count on any and all .45 ACP ammo, right? Can we all agree that any ammunition that says .45 ACP on the box is capable of the following?

  • Leveling an entire city block, but it might take two rounds.
  • Knocking an ill-tempered 350-pound wild boar into the next county, but only if it’s downwind.
  • Taking out an ICBM in trans-orbital flight. Obviously, those are fired from long slide pistols. Don’t tell Rocket Man; it’s a national security secret.

With that settled, it still makes sense to carefully choose your .45 ACP carry ammo. If you didn’t dedicate yourself to finding and choosing the very best ammo on which to bet your life, what would France think?

Sig Sauer Elite Performance V-Crown 230-grain

Over the past couple of years, I’ve toured the Sig Sauer ammunition factory twice. The old one was located in a cornfield in Kentucky and the brand spanking new one is just outside of Little Rock, Arkansas. Touring the factory isn’t what puts this ammo on my short list; it’s the testing and tweaking they do that explains why the ammo performs as well as it does. I’m pretty sure the folks at SIG go through enough gelatin blocks to fuel the sun, or at least Al Gore’s house for a long weekend. The reason for the non-stop gelatin slaughter is that the Sig Ammunition folks start the ammo design process with clear goals of crushing the FBI ballistic testing protocols. We can get into the details of that another time. The short explanation is that it’s a series of tests that ensure bullets penetrate to the desired depth in gelatin blocks, expand properly, and maintain their weight after passing through all sorts of barrier material like various fabrics, wood, steel, and automotive glass. Anyway, the process is to design, test against the FBI scenarios, and tweak as needed. Rinse and Repeat.

Sig's V-Crown 230-grain ammo performed beautifully in gelatin tests.
Sig's V-Crown 230-grain 45 ACP ammo performed beautifully in gelatin tests.

The result of all that is some pretty good ammo. The V-Crown hollow point design has internal construction and scoring which creates a two-stage expansion. It opens into picture-perfect bullets while penetrating deep into the target.

I’ve tested SIG's 45 ACP Ammo in a variety of pistols and measured the following velocities.

  • Smith & Wesson SW1911 Pro: 782.1 fps
  • Smith & Wesson SW1911 Sc: 780.0 fps
  • Smith & Wesson SW1911TA E-Series: 778.1 fps
  • Smith & Wesson M&P Shield Ported Performance Center: 810.2 fps
  • Smith & Wesson M&P Threaded w/ AAC TiRant Suppressor: 869.4 fps

As for penetration and expansion, I tested that with Clear Ballistic gelatin blocks on a different occasion using an FN FNX 45 Tactical pistol. Five different shots went to 16, 16, 18.75, 19.25, and 20 inches. All of those expanded to about 1.5x original bullet diameter with measurements of .655, .712, .646, .671, and .644 inches. As for weight retention, everything stayed together beautifully. The lightest bullet post-shooting weighed in at 229.9 grains.

Federal Premium HST 230-grain

If you're ever attacked by a can of Spam, here's what the 230-grain Federal HST will do for entry and exit wounds.
If you're ever attacked by a can of Spam, here's what the 230-grain Federal HST in 45 ACP will do for entry and exit wounds.

The HST bullet design has made quite a statement over the past couple of years in all of its caliber offerings. Like the Sig Sauer V-Crown, it’s designed to excel in the FBI testing protocols. That means it’s going to handle barriers like heavy clothing, wood, and glass and still perform admirably.

The 230-grain offering has a rated muzzle velocity of 890 feet per second.

When I tested it using a Shooting Chrony Beta Master Chronograph, I actually recorded higher velocities of 913.5 fps and 942.9 fps from a Springfield Armory TRP 1911 and Springfield Armory XDM respectively.

Even with the super-compact Smith & Wesson shield, the speed was just under 800 feet per second.

As for penetration and expansion, I’ll let the numbers speak for themselves.

Federal Premium HST 230-grain 45 ACP Ammo Penetration and Expansion
Gun Penetration Expanded Diameter
Smith & Wesson SW1911TA E-Series 15.25” 0.892”
Smith & Wesson SW1911 Pro Series 14.12” .909”
Smith & Wesson SW1911 Sc 14.87” .901”
The Federal Premium HST almost always develops picture-perfect expansion, even through barriers.
The Federal Premium HST in 45 ACP almost always develops picture-perfect expansion, even through barriers.

Barnes TAC-XPD +P 185-grain 45 ACP Ammo

The Barnes TAC-XPD 45 ACP ammo wins the “Golden Globe Academy Tony People's Choice made-up Award” for coolest looking ammo, although I suppose that doesn’t count for much on the street. It features the famous Barnes TAC-XP all copper bullet but tinted dark gray. Being solid, weight retention isn’t an issue as there is no jacket to shed. It’s got a deep hollow point cavity from which you could eat a decent helping of Cheerios in a pinch.

Here are the post-gel Barnes TAC-XPD bullets.
Here are the post-gel Barnes TAC-XPD bullets.

The thing about the Barnes TAC-XP bullet is that it expands beautifully after passing through all sorts of barriers. Thanks to its solid construction it has nothing to shed so it stays together and maintains its original weight.

Barnes TAC-XPD +P 185-grain 45 ACP Ammo Penetration and Expansion
Gun Penetration Expanded Diameter
Smith & Wesson SW1911TA E-Series 16.12” .788”
Smith & Wesson SW1911 Pro Series 13.87” .777”
Smith & Wesson SW1911 Sc 14.12” .808”

All that is great, but the standout feature is the accuracy of these bullets. When I stick a scope on a pistol using a UM Tactical rail mount adapter, I routinely get five-shot groups between one and two inches at a distance of 25 yards.

As for velocity, I recorded results starting at 850 feet per second for a three-inch barrel 1911 all the way up to 1,000.9 when fired out of a Springfield Armory TRP 1911 with its five-inch barrel.

The Federal Premium HST 45 ACP Ammo will shoot tight groups if you do your part.
The Federal Premium HST45 ACP Ammo will shoot tight groups if you do your part.

Are there other 45 ACP ammo loads you can count on? Sure. Anything loaded with Speer Gold Dots in 185, 200, or 230-grain weights comes to mind. Those projectiles have an outstanding reputation for consistent expansion and penetration performance too. And there are others, so don’t consider this an exclusive list – these are just the loads that have stood out over time with the testing we do here.

A Special Bonus

Just because of the joy of Boom! You may want to check out this “45” offering from Doubletap Ammunition. The Godfather of Boom!, Mike McNett, picked up the equipment and rights to producing the 450 SMC a while back and has been loading a variety of interesting options. These loads use extra-heavy rifle brass that is reshaped and cut for use in a strong 45 pistol. The net result is that the 450 SMC can launch some super heavy projectiles at impressive velocities. Whether you carry or not is up to you. It does offer interesting possibilities for making your 1911 more suitable for deep woods large critter protection.

We wrote about it a while back, so you can read the details on the 450 SMC here.

About

Tom McHale is the author of the Practical Guides book series that guides new and experienced shooters alike in a fun, approachable, and practical way. His books are available in print and eBook format on Amazon. You can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

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    Scott R FellerBgDnTXJoe zuglianiMAHJeff Linderer Recent comment authors
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    Scott R Feller
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    Scott R Feller

    i have a very different view point. Being an avid hunter I have have shot more than forty bears with a hand gun as a forester for over 40 years. Of more than twenty types of ammunition used the 185 gr silver tip (Winchester) worked the best in a colt commander 45 cal. In a glock model 23 40 cal the 200 gr in popular brands worked the best the best being golden saber. We also shot many of the bodies and retrieved bullets to evaluate their performance. Meat was never wasted has we made pepperoni sticks. Almost all shots… Read more »

    Joe zugliani
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    Joe zugliani

    Many, many great ammo manufacturers, however all carry ammo should be tested in your choice of carry sidearm cause many can be picky !

    Jeff Linderer
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    Jeff Linderer

    I carry a Springfield Champion with 4″ barrel and another 1/2 inch large chamber compensator on the end of that. My performance has always been best with light (165-185) plus p rounds. They come out of my pistol at 1200+ fps (confirmed). They shoot flat, I don’t need much lead at moving target, the compensator drops the sights quickly back on target. For 9 rounds that is about a 600 grain total weight savings over 230 grain bullets, as well. I notice you don’t mention many rounds along these lines (Corbon glasers, Corbon 165 gr +p for instance)? I once… Read more »

    Jim Wilson
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    Jim Wilson

    Why did you leave out the Golden Saber hollow point leaving the muzzle at 1050fps great carry ammo.

    Michael Grenon
    Guest
    Michael Grenon

    Don’t forget about the true star of penetration and massive wound channel Underwood Xtreme defender. Muzzle Velocity:1420 fpsMuzzle Energy: 537 ft. lbs.120hr sopid cnc copper nickle plated. 2a body armor and 16 inches of balistics..=joke with nasty long wide wound path!

    David Beck
    Guest
    David Beck

    Winchester ranger law enforcement ammo. Same as old black talon. Best overall damage from what I have tried.

    Allen
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    Allen

    Good info on results but & there’s always a “but” isn’t there, what about feeding. I doubt you will find a bad JHP from a reputable manufacturer. But not all JHP ammunition will feed with ever semi auto. That should be first & foremost in any individual shooters testing.

    Chris Ciasullo
    Guest
    Chris Ciasullo

    230 grain Federal Hydra-Shok, or Oath ammos Tango round, best 45 self defense rounds I have fired, the oath ammo Tango round is amazing, in 9mm, 45 ACP, or .357 mag

    Kevin Fisher
    Guest
    Kevin Fisher

    Although you did mention the shield a couple times you didn’t show the results when shooting any of these out of a shorter barrel. What ammo expands plus gets the desired penetration out of barrels less than 4″?

    BgDnTX
    Guest
    BgDnTX

    All these testers, including this one, shoot guns nobody uses. BARREL LENGTH of 2-4″ is what people CARRY. And not SW Pro models with 5″ barrels.
    At least he threw in a Shield.

    Pistol Pete
    Guest
    Pistol Pete

    People that think any hollow point bullet will work are in for a surprises, The length of the barrel has a lot to do with bullet expansion, what expands in a 4″ barrel might not expand in a 2″ barrel. The HST in 9 mm is my go too for self defense because I tested it and it works! Just tested the HST 38 special + p in a revolver with a 2″ barrel and it works.

    Genghis JR
    Guest
    Genghis JR

    What in the world would a manufacturing company waste a perfectly good can of #SPAM for testing ammo when there’s people starving in America ….

    Wild Bill
    Guest
    Wild Bill

    @G, Jr. Yeah, I can’t see wasting food that way. There could come a time that someone would kill us for our can of Spam or we would kill them to keep it. That can of Spam could be Christmas dinner for a family of five someday.

    JonSEAZ
    Guest
    JonSEAZ

    Point out to me, please, all those starving people in America. Welfare, both public and private, abounds, with free meals from a number of sources, for all ages, a variety of minimum income producing programs, at all levels, and many other food generating sources available throughout America.

    In my extensive travels throughout this nation, I never have seen any evidence of marasmus and kwashiorkor, starvation-induced maladies common in Africa and some other places around the world where “real” starvation is endemic.

    I say you either are a troll or are ignorant.

    Wild Bill
    Guest
    Wild Bill

    @JonSEAZ, Neither. I wrote that “…There could come a time…” I did not say that the situation existed, now. But that situation could be manufactured by any of our many foreign or domestic enemies in a flash of light . With one EMP or night of coordinated internal attacks, there would be no electricity, no welfare, no food generating sources, no POL refineries, no resupply, no next year’s harvest.
    See how knowledgeable and prepared the people of Hawaii are?

    BgDnTX
    Guest
    BgDnTX

    I’ll take all the bacon-flavored Spam you care to send me. Fried, tried, and enjoyed. And I know for a fact kids are hungry in this country. Destroying food as a gimmick for your articles is unnecessary.

    Rob
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    Rob

    So, all penetrate 15 to 17 inches (approximately) . The human body is only about six to ten inches when presented face on. What about damage past the target?

    George
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    George

    WINCHESTER. T SERIES

    Michael Fallon
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    Michael Fallon

    All great loads. I wonder why though Speer Gold dot 200g +P hollowpoints wasn’t on the list. A lot of law enforcement uses gold dots.

    Mike
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    Mike

    Were these all shot from a 1911? If so I feel they would perform different in other weapons.

    Bernard Goodin
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    Bernard Goodin

    Thank you. You just verified what I thought of the Federal rounds. My edc.n