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.


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.

  • 41 thoughts on “45 ACP Ammo You Can Count On in Your Self Defense Handgun

    1. 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 were less than 100 feet. As with all shooting shot placement was the most critical metric, especially when facing a 250 pd. bear less than 50 feet away.

    2. 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 trained in breaching techniques with fragible compressed copper. Are any of those recommended for self defense?

    3. 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!

    4. 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.

    5. 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

    6. 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″?

    7. 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.

        1. 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.

          1. Definitely, I was mainly referring to the expansion aspect out of a 3-inch barrel with it’s lower velocity. I love the Shields. Got to try a ported .45 one from the Performance Center once and it felt more like a 9mm with the reduced flip. I agree, it’s a great value for a a carry gun!

    8. 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.

          1. 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?

      1. @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.

      2. 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.

        1. @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?

      3. 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.

      1. The FBI testing protocol calls for an ideal of 14 – 16 inches with 12 to 18 being acceptable. That’s because of lateral, angular, through extremity and other scenarios that happen, so the 6 to ten is not enough.

        1. 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.

          1. 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 or $400 an hour lawyer waiting on retainer for you?

            There are all sorts of ethical, moral, legal, and Financial, issues the people who actually have working brains consider, within the concept of actually having to use their side arms in a life-and-death situation outside their homes!

            I yearn for the day that people like you and those who think like you, are able to pull their heads out and consider the real world consequences of what happens with over penetrating rounds!

            1. 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 LE academies for 40 years and have looked at hundreds of self defense shootings and victims of shooting as a research tool for training young police officers and have only seen one case where a complete pass through occurred with .45ACP ball ammo. I had so little energy left it made only a small impression in a coke machine behind the deceased. .45 ball usually goes about 29 inches in gelatin. So please feel free to worry your little head off about over penetration, and I suggest , that if you are that concerned, get some insurance, as many folks do these days. I’ll worry more about training people to actually hit what they shoot at and be more aware of their surroundings.

            2. @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 around.

              Further, I noted the extreme narcissism in your response concerning the legal aspect of shooting that Mom or that five-year-old, why just get some insurance so someone can hire you a lawyer!

              You didn’t bother to address the moral and ethical issues, you were more concerned with a supposed instruction of people to be on target with their, 10mm, 357 Sig, Etc high energy calibers!

              I carry a 9mm, and when I can afford it I’ll be carrying a 380 as my backup, or on hot summer days, as my primary.

              I shoot for accuracy, because three or four rounds put on target, at a reasonable rate of fire, so that the rounds actually hit the target, instead of blasting away shooting as fast as possible, hoping that three or four rounds actually make it to the Target, is a superior methodology! This is why I still enjoy single stack firearms!

              Several hits from a 380 are superior to a dozen misses From a 10mm!

              For that matter, several hits from a 32 ACP, are Superior to a dozen misses In follow-up shots from a 357 Sig at a rapid rate of fire!

              Lastly, all these large calibers can in fact be accurately shot, however, it takes thousands of rounds to become proficient with such high energy calibers, and thousands of rounds more to remain proficient, is a fact, not my mere subjective opinion.

              So by all means, keep your head deeply ensconced in your narcissistic hole, and enjoy the blind disregard for the moral and ethical aspects of using a sidearm within the constraints of over penetration!

            3. 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.

          2. 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.

            1. @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.

        1. 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.

          1. No, seen demos but I’ve been itching to get it into the testing queue. Looks like really good stuff from everything I’ve seen. Thanks for sharing your results. So I guess this will be a SHOT Show mission to get my hands on some! 🙂

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