The Best .45 ACP Ammo for Self Defense and Range Practice
.45 ACP (.45 Auto) is one of the most popular handgun calibers in the world. These are fat, hard-hitting rounds known for their use in the legendary 1911 pistol.
In this guide, we'll be pointing you in the direction of the very best .45 ACP ammo on the market today for both defensive shooting and practicing at the range. We will also be referencing ballistics testing, which provides a clear side-by-side comparison on how each of our recommendations stacks up against each other.
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For those of you who are in a hurry, here’s a preview of our top picks.
Best .45 ACP Self-Defense Ammo Preview
|Ammo||Average Penetration||Average Expanded Diameter||Average Velocity|
Best Cheap .45 ACP Range Ammo Preview
Hollow-Point vs Full Metal Jacket
Ammunition breaks down into two major categories: hollow-point and full metal jacket (FMJ). We cover the differences between these two types of ammo extensively in our Hollow Point vs Full Metal Jacket guide, but the most important thing to know is that you should use hollow points for self-defense. These bullets expand on impact and transfer greater energy into your target (i.e. they have more stopping power).
Hollow points are far more expensive than FMJ ammo though, so most people won't be able to use them regularly at the range. We do, however, recommend testing the specific ammo you plan to use for self-defense semi-regularly to ensure it functions properly in your firearm.
Generally, though, you can use cheaper full metal jacket ammunition for range practice.
What to Look For when Buying .45 ACP Self-Defense Ammunition
Penetration Depth - According to the FBI, a bullet’s optimal penetration depth is somewhere between 12 to 18 inches. Any less than this and the bullet may not reach the vital organs of an attacker; any more and your shots run the risk of over-penetration, which puts bystanders located behind the target at risk of being harmed. In general, I would recommend penetration closer to 18 inches rather than 12, just so you can be confident your bullets are packing sufficient stopping power.
Bullet Expansion Diameter - Bullet expansion diameter refers to the measured diameter of the bullet upon contact. Unlike FMJs, hollow-point bullets expand and sometimes fracture on contact with the target. This is designed to increase the bullet’s overall stopping power by transferring more of the bullet's energy into your target. Ideally, you want the highest amount of expansion possible from your ammunition while still being sure that it falls somewhere between the 12- to 18-inch penetration depth sweet spot.
Lucky Gunner, our go-to website for purchasing ammunition (see review here), has conducted extensive tests on the most popular self-defense ammunition. They used ballistic gelatin testing to determine the average of these metrics for all their listed hollow-point ammunition. The .45 ACP ammo listed below was tested by firing 5 rounds of each type of ammunition using a Kahr CW45 from 10 feet away through four layers of fabric to simulate heavy clothing.
Just like in our best 9mm ammo guide, we used this data to find our picks, then tested them to ensure they function well in a variety of our handguns.
When it comes to self-defense ammo, price is a secondary concern. This is because self-defense ammunition is what we may rely upon some day in a life or death scenario. With this in mind, I recommend buying the highest-performing self-defense ammunition you can find and biting the bullet on the price.
However, when you are at the range, it's generally fine to use whatever is the cheapest ammunition that functions properly in your firearm. We like to buy ammo in bulk online, as this gives us the best prices. If you go this route, but don't go to the range that often, rest assured that ammo lasts a long time when stored properly.
A couple of final notes before we list off the best .45 ACP ammo. First, you should be aware that some of the ammo listed below is +P ammunition. Check your owners manual to be sure your gun is rated for +P before using it. Also, be aware that self-defense ammo is less readily available than FMJ; so you may need to check multiple websites if your choice is out of stock.
Note for Newbies: Always only use ammunition of the correct caliber for your firearm. This can be found in your owners manual and often on the barrel of your handgun.
With all of that covered, here's our list of the best self-defense .45 ACP ammo:
Federal LE Tactical - 45 ACP - +P 230 Grain Tactical Bonded HP
First up, we have the +P 230 Grain Tactical Bonded Hollow-Point from Federal Law Enforcement Tactical. These cartridges use nickel-plated casings that are box primed and reloadable. Federal’s Premium Ammunition offers slightly deeper penetration and a higher velocity than the T-Series, but less expansion.
- Average Penetration - 14.7”
- Average Expanded Diameter - .842”
- Average Muzzle Velocity - 950 fps
Federal Premium Personal Defense - 45 ACP - 230 Grain HST JHP
Federal also makes great 230 Grain HST JHP ammo that's not +P. This will produce less wear on your pistol at the cost of lower penetration and velocity. These are slightly more expensive than the +P cartridges but tend to be easier to find in stock.
- Average Penetration - 13.4”
- Average Expanded Diameter - .840”
- Average Muzzle Velocity - 890 fps
Winchester Ranger T-Series - 45 ACP - 230 Grain JHP
The T-Series (Talon) from Winchester has the highest expansion on our list. It uses a reverse taper jacket design and has a nickel plated case. It’s most popularly used among law enforcement. The only downside is it's not very readily available.
- Average Penetration - 14.2”
- Average Expanded Diameter - 1.010”
- Average Muzzle Velocity - 885 fps
As mentioned in the introduction, with range ammo I recommend buying cheap and in bulk. We've covered just how much you can save buying bulk practice ammo online.
Below are our choices for the best .45 ACP ammo for range practice.
Blazer Brass - 45 ACP - 230 gr FMJ
For those looking for an all-American FMJ you can’t go wrong with Blazer Brass.
We've shot tens of thousands of rounds of Blazer Brass in a variety of calibers, including .45 ACP, and we've found it to be exceptionally reliable, despite being very affordable.
You can find the best price per round if you buy 1,000 rounds, but you can also buy a box of 50 or 200 rounds.
Sellier & Bellot - 45 ACP - 230 Grain FMJ
Sellier & Bellot is a manufacturer from the Czech Republic.
We came across them when looking for the cheapest brass 9mm FMJ ammunition, but have since shot a few thousand rounds of theirs in a variety of calibers.
To date, the performance has been fantastic, and we've yet to have any ammo-related malfunctions with their stuff.
The best part??? They're regularly the cheapest brass-cased ammo available!
Again, it's cheapest to buy 1,000 rounds, but you can also buy boxes of 50 rounds.
That wraps up our guide. Buying self-defense ammo that you know you can rely on is obviously incredibly important, as is finding affordable range ammo. Hopefully you now have a much clearer sense of what to look for when buying ammunition, along with where to buy it (here are the best websites to buy ammo online). Also, be sure to check out our Best .45 ACP Pistol Guide. Thanks again for reading, and we’ll see you next time!