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.

Subscribe
Notify of
41 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Scott R Feller
Scott R Feller
1 year ago

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
Joe zugliani
2 years ago

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
Jeff Linderer
2 years ago

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
Jim Wilson
2 years ago

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

Michael Grenon
Michael Grenon
2 years ago

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
David Beck
2 years ago

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

Allen
Allen
2 years ago

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
Chris Ciasullo
2 years ago

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
Kevin Fisher
2 years ago

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
BgDnTX
2 years ago

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.

Don L. Bailey
Don L. Bailey
2 years ago
Reply to  Tom McHale

Come on Tom, your hearts in the right place, and I love my S&W Shield and will brag all day about what a great value it is and everything, but that S&W Pro Series is a really sweet shooter and it can make even someone like me shoot well. From my perspective, there will be quite a bit of difference in performance between a Shield and Pro Series 1911 even though the barrels are similar.

Pistol Pete
Pistol Pete
2 years ago

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
Genghis JR
2 years ago

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 ….

HankB
HankB
2 years ago
Reply to  Tom McHale

Spam is why pigs go in one end of the factory, and nothing but product comes out. Think about that for a moment . . .

Wayne C.
Wayne C.
2 years ago
Reply to  HankB

That’s just good economics – use everything but the squeal!! This Connecticut Yankee would have starved to death as a child if not for Spam and creamed tuna on toast! I carry a Springfield XD mod 2 subcompact in .45 and a Performance Shop S&W Shield in .40. I would love to see how the above referenced loads compare with some of the new light, fast loads like those from Liberty and Doubletap. How do I strike the right balance between recoil and terminal performance, especially in these smaller carry guns?

Wild Bill
Wild Bill
2 years ago
Reply to  Genghis JR

@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
JonSEAZ
2 years ago
Reply to  Genghis JR

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
Wild Bill
2 years ago
Reply to  JonSEAZ

@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
BgDnTX
2 years ago
Reply to  Genghis JR

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
Rob
2 years ago

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?

MAH
MAH
2 years ago
Reply to  Tom McHale

Tom, plus the fact that a projectile often has to pass through an assailants appendage prior to entering the “boiler room”. It’s hard to understand why so many folks worry about over penetration through a bad guy when 80% of the rounds fired in a defensive situation miss their intended target anyway. Tom, I shoot “jello” for a living (for LE agencies) for a major ammo maker and have seen the terminal affects of the majority of factory ammo. Good article.

James Russell Bailey
James Russell Bailey
2 years ago
Reply to  MAH

Thank you for asking why so many of us are so concerned about pass-throughs! Here’s a couple of phrases that might get your attention, collateral damage and legal prosecution. How about the phrase lawsuits? How about the concept of a dead mother holding to her five-year-old child, because someone’s two or three 10 mm rounds went through the nasty armed assailant, and wound up in the mother’s chest? How about a 357 Sig round that passes through a fleshy portion of a person’s upper torso, and ends up in the five-year-old instead of his mom? Do you have a $300… Read more »

MAH
MAH
2 years ago

Mr. Bailey, you are free to worry about over penetration all you want, especially if you are the only person on the planet that is 100% certain you will hit an intended adversary with every shot fired at them in a defensive situation. What straight thinking folks that carry a sidearm need to be concerned with is what is beyond their intended target. I agree that every person that fires a round in self defense is responsible for the final resting place of each and every bullet, but over penetration is rare in modern defensive handgun calibers. I’ve taught at… Read more »

James Russell Bailey
James Russell Bailey
2 years ago

@MAH, Once again, thank you for proving my point: that elitists such as yourself refuse to consider evidence beyond their close-minded scope of personal beliefs. I’ve done my research, watching gel test, after gel test, after gel test, and those tests to FBI standards. The fact remains, that you have many rounds that travel 18 in & Beyond, and that includes going right out the other end of the second block of gel. Jacketed hollow-points failed to open up and perform as originally designed, thus turning them into a full metal jacket, or as you referred to it a ball… Read more »

MAH
MAH
2 years ago

Mr. Bailey feel free to use all the disparaging words you can come up with in regard to my expertise and background. However, my education and 40 years experience did not come from YouTube or a discounted subscription to a gun magazine. My retirement from a career as a firearms and ballistics examiner isn’t too bad and I continue to get paid for that expertise since retirement. How much did your “expertise’ earn you in that field last year? I am done with you. Arguing with a pseudo educated “expert” is no longer worth the effort.
Good day Sir.

Clark Kent
Clark Kent
2 years ago
Reply to  MAH

Terminal ‘affects’? Does your employer have a dictionary?

JT
JT
2 years ago
Reply to  MAH

Honest. I’ll sometimes carry a Glock 34! Concealed carry properly has a lot to do with your holster, a proper belt designed for carrying and a proper cover garment.
Other carry guns? Sig P239, Glock
27 and for those summer days? Sig P238

Holster of choice is a Hidden Hybrid with the two polymer clips, an additional charge. The 2 clips allow it to stay exactly where you want it
And the polymer clips hook around your belt so the holster stays in your pants when you draw.
So…..yes a 5″ barrel full size semi is definitely carry able.

MAH
MAH
2 years ago
Reply to  MAH

Please excuse my error. The word police got me. I meant effects not “affects”. God, I hate it when I’m not perfect.

MAH

Wild Bill
Wild Bill
2 years ago
Reply to  MAH

@MAH, Brother, that was not the Word Police. That was just Cluck Kent. Almost everybody in the world ignores him. He feels repressed. That is why he makes dudgeonous comments here.

George
George
2 years ago

WINCHESTER. T SERIES

Michael Fallon
Michael Fallon
2 years ago

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.

MAH
MAH
2 years ago
Reply to  Tom McHale

Tom, had a chance to shoot any of the GoldDot 2 yet? Like all GD, It’s a bonded bullet and the new FBI 9mm load. It performs very well when shot through media that would normally plug a typical hollow point.

Mike
Mike
2 years ago

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

Bernard Goodin
Bernard Goodin
2 years ago

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