Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

The Gun Safe

5 Best Defensive ‘Bullets’ for the .45 ACP Gun

When discussing firearms, ammunition shouldn’t be an afterthought. With the continued ammo shortage in some parts of the country, it’s important to give thought to the ammo you choose whether. This round-up focuses on the perennially popular and powerful .45 ACP (Automatic Colt Pistol) cartridge. 

.45 ACP Glock 21. Image Credit: Creative Commons.
.45 ACP Glock 21. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

When discussing firearms, ammunition shouldn’t be an afterthought. With the continued ammo shortage in some parts of the country, it’s important to give thought to the ammo you choose whether. This round-up focuses on the perennially popular and powerful .45 ACP (Automatic Colt Pistol) cartridge. 

Federal 230-Grain Hydra-Shok Jacketed Hollowpoint (JHP)

Evan Marshall’s controversial one-shot stop statistical studies of the late 1980s and early 1990s and similar studies by Massad F. “Mas” Ayoob and the FBI’s infamous “Wound Value” ratings from the Bureau’s 1990 ballistic gelatin tests rarely agreed upon a given caliber – or gelled – but in the case of the .45 ACP Hydra-Shok, they all did so. 

One thing that distinguishes the Hydra-Shok from competing brand JHPs is a distinctive central post in the base of the hollow; the specifics are too complex to explain here but as ballistics expert Cpl. Ed Sanow explained roughly 30 years ago, that post employs fluid physics to bolster the round’s terminal performance and promote reliable expansion. 

As the manufacturer proclaims, “Proven since its introduction in 1989, Hydra-Shok remains one of the most popular choices among self-defense experts. Federal Premium uses stringent manufacturing processes and rigorous testing to ensure Hydra-Shok loads perform accurately and consistently.” 

Remington 185-grain JHP (Standard-Pressure Version)

This is your go-to load if you have an older M1911 pistol such as, say, a pre-Series 80 Colt or a pre-90s Edition Springfield Armory, a WWII-era Remington-Rand, an Argentine Ballester-Molina, etc. These guns were designed solely to feed military-spec full metal jacket (FMJ) “hardball.” You can certainly hire the services of a fine gunsmith like Bill Wilson, Carlos Castillo, or TJ Jimakas (to name just a few of the myriad of M1911 pistolsmiths out there) to do a throat and ramp job to accommodate modern JHPs, but that means extra time where the gun is away from your holster, handbag, or nightstand, and therefore not in a position to defend you and/or your loved ones; likewise, that also means extra money that instead could be spent on ammo and range practice time building your proficiency. 

The fine folks at Remington took this to heart when they conjured up their 185-grain JHP. They designed the ogive of the bullet to match the feed profile of hardball ammo so it’ll feed and cycle reliably in any one of those military surplus guns. The downside, or compromise, is that it has less dynamic expansion and more proneness to overpenetration – a 30 percent probability of a through-and-through wound, compared with a 70 percent exit likelihood with GI “hardball”— in bad guys’ bodies. However, to quote Massad Ayoob in his superb 1987 book “The Semiautomatic Pistol in Police Service and Self Defense,” “It is still a distinctly better performer than hardball.”

GI-Spec 230-grain Full Metal Jacket (FMJ) “Hardball”

Speaking of hardball – from any reputable manufacturer, that is – while it’s far from the best choice in light of all the good JHP loads out there, it’s still a good choice if either (A) you have one of those aforementioned mil-spec guns but are unable to get ahold of Remington JHP, or (B) you do in fact have a more modern pistol that’s indeed factory-throated for JHPs but you’re stuck in a jurisdiction that forbids expanding ammo.

Indeed, that’s a major reason why the .45 ACP cartridge has remained so popular after 108 years of existence, i.e. it has good stopping power even with non-expanding ammo (just ask WWI hero Sgt. Alvin York). 

As the one saying goes, “A 9mm may expand, but a .45 never shrinks.” Indeed, even Gabe Suarez – who is way more partial to 9mm Parabellum – states, “That is not to say the 45 is worthless, as it is certainly not. If I was limited by foolish laws to 10 rounds or less, or to FMJ ammo, I might opt for such a pistol, but I think the lack of capacity is a serious limitation.”

Winchester Ranger Talon 230-Grain +P JHP

Remember those infamous Black Talon rounds that caused the heads of ACLU-types to (metaphorically) explode back in the early-to-mid 1990s? Well, as the website notes, “Winchester Ranger .45 ACP is one of the most in demand .45 rounds on the market- and for good reason. After all, it is nothing more than slightly modernized Black Talon ammo, but with a market friendly sounding name. This hard hitting ammo is famous for reliable penetration and destructive expansion, and consistent operation in a variety of .45’s … Designed for the rigors of life and death law enforcement use, it is without a doubt one of the best choices the lawfully armed citizen can make for their carry ammo.”

CCI Speer Lawman 200-grain JHP AKA “The Flying Ashtray” and 230-Grain Gold Dot JHP

The so-called “flying ashtray” is arguably the most famous defensive load ever devised for the .45 ACP caliber, and Mas Ayoob’s writeup will help you understand why: 

“[I]ts hollow cavity is so wide it can literally swallow a .32 slug … One of my clients shot a suspect at a range of a few inches, just below the mouth … out of a [Colt] Gold Cup and traveling 1,000 fps. The detailed medical reports clearly indicates ‘total avulsion of the lower mandible,’ that is, the lower jaw was completely blown away from the face from the canine teeth forward. The bullet fragmented and joined the spray of bloody mist and bone particles that spewed from the side-to-side shot. The suspect, incidentally, survived, though his seven-figure lawsuit against the officer did not.”

Sadly, the old-school “flying ashtrays” have been discontinued, so if you can find any at a gun show or a surplus ammo website, jump on it as quickly as you can! Fortunately, Speer now makes a worthy successor, their 230-grain Gold Dot JHP

Christian D. Orr is a Senior Defense Editor for 19FortyFive. He has 34 years of shooting experience, starting at the tender age of 14. His marksmanship accomplishments include: the Air Force Small Arms Ribbon w/one device (for M16A2 rifle and M9 pistol); Pistol Expert Ratings from U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) Criminal Investigator Training Program (CITP); multiple medals and trophies via the Glock Sport Shooting Foundation (GSSF) and the Nevada Police & Fires Games (NPAF). Chris has been an NRA Certified Basic Pistol Instructor since 2011. 

From 19FortyFive

‘You Really Oughta Go Home’: F-22 Raptor Stealth Fighter Flew Under F-4 From Iran

A Second American Civil War? 

Something Is Terribly Wrong With Former President Trump

Written By

Christian D. Orr is a former Air Force officer, Federal law enforcement officer, and private military contractor (with assignments worked in Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Kosovo, Japan, Germany, and the Pentagon).