Got a shiny .45 ACP pistol and want to feed it the best?
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!
Table of Contents
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.
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
- 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
- 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.
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:
Best .45 ACP Ammo for Home Defense & Target Practice
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
What’s your take on the 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
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
Prices accurate at time of writing
Prices accurate at time of writing
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.
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.