Best .45 ACP Ammo [2018]: Home Defense & Target Practice

Got a shiny .45 ACP pistol and want to feed it the best?

Lots of Ammo
Lots of Ammo

Or if you can’t wait…here’s our list of the best .45 ACP ammo:

.45 ACP AmmoNotePenetrationExpansion
Federal 230 gr HSTOverall Best: Defense14.0".85"
Speer 230 gr Gold DotLonger Barrels: Defense12.9".71"
Federal +P 230 gr Tactical Bonded LEHigher Pressure: Defense14.6".86"
American Eagle 230 grBest Deals: RangeN/AN/A
Blazer Brass 230 grMost Affordable: RangeN/AN/A
PMC Bronze 230 grRunner Up: RangeN/AN/A

Read on to see how we chose our recommendations of the best ammo for home defense and target shooting.  Plus a couple places to buy it for cheap!

*Update 2018*: More online shop locations

Best .45 ACP Ammo for Home Defense

The .45 ACP is a slow moving but heavy round that is well-known for its stopping power.  1911 anyone?

I like the popular adage…”the 9mm will kill the body, the .45 will kill the soul.”

The 9mm has caught up with new bullet technology, but there’s no disputing that a big fat round will still do some serious damage.

Handgun Caliber Smallest to Largest
Handgun Caliber Smallest to Largest

Testing Background

One of our favorite places to buy ammo from, Lucky Gunner, ran an epic test of self defense ammo.  We condense it down into the absolute best .45 ACP ammo from the results.

Here’s a brief overview of what they did which closely follows standard FBI procedures:

  • Shot 10 feet away
  • 4 layers of fabric in front of the ballistics gel to make for a “worst case” scenario of a really bundled up bad guy
Gel with 4 Layers
Gel with 4 Layers
  • Ideal penetration of 12-18 inches.  More than 18 inches might go completely through the baddie and hit something you didn’t intend on hitting.  While having a 12 inch minimum protects against thicker than usual targets and the possibility of hitting something before the torso.
  • 5 shots for more data
5 Shots into Ballistic Gel
5 Shots into Ballistic Gel
  • More compact gun.  Most tests are run with a full-sized pistol but Lucky Gunner used a compact Kahr CW45 with a 3.64″ barrel compared with a 5″ barrel of full-sized guns.  The reasoning is that most defensive situations might entail smaller guns and because of the smaller barrels, the velocity drops a little bit from the manufacturer’s data.
Kahr CW45
Kahr CW45

While with other calibers that have more variance of standard bullet weights, we stuck with the most popular 230 gr .45 ACP round because it’s the weight that we shoot 100% of the time.

Note, if you’re using a 1911 (and you should always try your self-defense ammo anyways), please test out a bunch of self defense ammo to make sure the jacketed hollow points (JHP) feed.  Some 1911’s are finicky and only like full metal jacket (FMJ/ball) ammo.

And why JHP rounds for self-defense?  Expansion is always better since it transfers almost all of the energy into the baddie and prevents most over-penetration.

Here are our suggestions:

1. Federal .45 ACP 230 gr HST

Penetration depth is right in the 12-18″ sweet zone, with great expansion on all five rounds, and good velocity for a shorter barrel.  Since the penetration is an average of 14″, this round would likely be fine (no over-penetration) in longer barrels as well.

My personal favorite brand (Federal HST) and what I use in my 9mm too.

  • Average Penetration: 14″
  • Average Expansion: .85″
  • Average Velocity: 822 ft/sec
Editor's Pick
Federal .45 ACP 230 gr HST

Federal .45 ACP 230 gr HST

.45 ACP 230 gr HST
.45 ACP 230 gr HST

2. Speer .45 ACP 230 gr Gold Dot

Penetration is slightly less than the HST which may suit it better for longer barrels.  Expansion is still great and velocity is slightly lower, which probably affects the penetration.

  • Average Penetration: 12.9″
  • Average Expansion: .71″
  • Average Velocity: 752 ft/sec
Speer 230 gr Gold Dot
Speer 230 gr Gold Dot

3. Federal .45 ACP +P Tactical Bonded LE

If more pressure/velocity is the name of the game for you, I recommend this newer round.  Great penetration, awesome expansion, and slightly higher velocity due to the +P (but not by much).  Law Enforcement model.

  • Average Penetration: 14.6″
  • Average Expansion: .86″
  • Average Velocity: 887 ft/sec
Federal +P 230 gr Tactical Bonded LE

Federal +P 230 gr Tactical Bonded LE

Prices accurate at time of writing

Federal 230 Tactical Bonded P Expansion
Federal 230 Tactical Bonded +P Expansion

Now how about the best .45 ACP ammo for practice and the range?

I’ve shot a lot of .45 ACP through my 1911 and here are a few of my favorites that always fed well and went bang!  I stay with brass cased name brand ammo since I had bad luck with steel-cased and cheaper ammo.

4. American Eagle .45 ACP 230 gr

Great deals last year but I feel there’s still a surplus.  So now I’m starting with AE first.

Editor's Pick
American Eagle .45 ACP 230 gr

American Eagle .45 ACP 230 gr

5. Blazer Brass .45 ACP 230 gr

Usually the cheapest brass cased round in other calibers.  But always reliable and good to go.  Brass is a little hard to reload so it’s great if you are at a range or class where you can’t pick up spent brass.

6. PMC Bronze .45 ACP 230 gr

My go to brand for range shooting ammo.  Sometimes ends up cheaper than Blazer and is great brass to reload.


If you want to see the full results from Lucky Gunner, check their post out here.

So there you have it…our recommendations for the best self/home defense and range target shooting ammo.  Let us know which ones you went with and how they run in your gun. 

Or head to our Ammo & Reloading section for more!

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18 Comments on "Best .45 ACP Ammo [2018]: Home Defense & Target Practice"

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John Woodward

My choices were the same as yours again choosing the Federal Ammunition. However, Winchester has some 45acp hollow points with some impressive credentials My 1911 Colt doesn’t not fuss about whatever I shoot in it.

Steve Graham

From personal and professional experience (30 years OCSD), your 45acp review is spot on!!!

Joel K

Wondering why Winchester Ranger-T wasn’t mentioned? It currently seems to be a little hard to find but if anything, according to the Lucky Gunner data, it meets if not surpasses your testing criteria when compared to the home defense rounds mentioned here. Just an honest question, no bias here.

Mark Wynn

Did not consider various Hornady …? hmmm


Critical Defense is the only Hornady product to consider. “Custom” and “American Gunner” are so-so and Critical Duty is to be avoided like the plague if you are serious about stopping a threat as fast as possible and surviving.

Mark Wynn

Hornady FTX, in .45, .380 and .22 WMR