The Iconic .45 ACP Ammo: Self-Defense & Range Training With the 45

.45 ACP Cartridges

The .45 Automatic Colt Pistol (ACP) is one of the most iconic and sought after handguns in history. You should do your homework before shooting, however, to ensure that you are using the right round for the right job. Seasoned shooters have strong opinions about which is the “right ammunition.” That debate has been going on ever since the gun was created by John Moses Browning in 1905. Experts say the right answer depends solely on how you are going to use the ammo. Hobbyists want to hit the range while others plan to use their gun for self-defense or home protection. Therefore, the question remains – what is your perfect .45 ammo? There may not be one particular brand or type that will fulfill all your needs. They will work well all around but can’t be considered ideal. For example, self-defense rounds must have ultimate stopping power. That can be found in a hollow point round. Range training is more forgiving, since you can practice with a similar but less aggressive round.

What’s Your Purpose?

First, you must decide on how the ammo will be used. Second, pick the ammo that will work best for that specific application. .45 ammo comes in two styles: Full Metal Jacket (FMJ) and Jacketed Hollow Points (JHP).

Full Metal Jacket

Full Metal Jacket (FMJ) ammunition has a soft lead core that sits in a copper jacket. It offers decent penetration, but there is no expansion, so it is best used at the range or for target shooting. FMJ is not ideal for self-defense because it could over-penetrate. The ammo could go astray or run through the target and cause collateral damage.

Jacketed Hollow Point

Jacketed Hollow Point (JHP) is the top choice for a self-defense round. It has a lead core that sits inside in a copper jacket; but unlike FMJ, it has expansion. The core of the round will expand upon impact, creating a wider channel than the FMJ. However, the copper jackets slow down the ammo so over penetration is unlikely.


You should read reviews and test the ammo before buying a large amount. Find out what others use and test the rounds for yourself. Never take the word of someone without doing your own tests. Lucky Gunner has an excellent reputation of conducting thorough tests on ammunition, much like the field tests used by the FBI.

How Ammo is Tested

Experts use the following tests to determine the ballistics of ammo. The tests will show what results to expect and how to conduct your own tests. The testers use a compact pistol, an ideal weapon for concealed carry. A gun with a larger barrel will show higher numbers for muzzle velocity and penetration.

  • Fire 5 shots of each with each brand of ammo to achieve a good average.
  • Shots should be fired from 10 feet away, the average distance in most defense situations.
  • Place 4 layers of fabric in front of ballistics gel to mirror real life situations; fabric mimics heavy clothing.
  • Ideal penetration for the ammo is 12 to 18 inches; results show adequate stopping power without over-penetration.

Top Picks

Here are the top ten picks for .45 ACP cartridges. Down below are the top choices for self-defense and range training.


Name of Product Bullet Weight Rounds Muzzle Energy Muzzle Velocity
Speer Gold Dot JHP 230-grain 20 405 ft-lbs 890 fps
Federal LE Tactical Bonded HP 230-grain 50 460 ft-lbs 950 fps
Blazer Brass FMJ 230-grain 50 365 ft-lbs 845 fps
Federal Classic Personal Defense JHP Hi-Shok 230-grain 50 370 ft-lbs 900 fps
Federal American Eagle FMJ 230-grain 50 405 ft-lbs 890 fps
Hornady Critical Defense FTX 185-grain 20 333 ft-lbs 900 fps
Magtech FMC 230-grain 1000 358 ft-lbs 837 fps
Remington Golden Saber JHP 230-grain 500 391 ft-lbs 875 fps
Winchester Supreme Elite JHP 230-grain 20 432 ft-lbs 882 fps
Hornady Custom XTP JHP 200-grain 20 494 ft-lbs 1055 fps

Best .45 ACP Ammo for Self-Defense

Self-defense requires fast thinking and skill. Therefore, it’s imperative to know your weapon and to choose the right ammo. You may only get one chance. Self-defense doesn’t always mean killing the target, but rather, scaring away an intruder to keep yourself safe. You must handle each situation with efficiency and accuracy.

Federal Ammunition: Personal Defense 230 Grain JHP

Federal Ammunition Company produces a 230 grain jacketed hollow point (JHP). It is often called the best large caliber for self-defense regarding to accuracy, precision, and penetration while maintaining close to 100% weight retention.

Hornady Ammunition: Duty Defense 220 Grain FTX JHP

Hornady manufactures this 220-grain, .45 ACP. +P ammo is an FTX that offers ultimate stopping power. It has similar characteristics of Hornady’s cartridges, offering accuracy, precision, and penetration with maximum expansion.

Speer Ammunition: Gold Dot JHP 230 Grain JHP

Speer’s Gold Dot has a longstanding reputation for delivering a clean product. This 230-grain jacketed hollow point is an accurate round that fires controlled penetration powerful enough to stop any threat.

Best .45 ACP Ammo for Range Training

Federal Ammunition: American Eagle 230 Grain FMJ

Federal Ammunition is always at the top of the list in this category. It produces a 230-grain .45 ACP cartridge with a full metal jacket, non-magnetic lead core, and non-corrosive Boxer primer. The cartridge can be reloaded up to 5 times and offers high quality at an affordable price. The American Eagle .45 ACP is Federal’s newest production bullet featuring a clean-burning powder and ballistics similar to Federal’s Premium Personal Defense rounds. It is an ideal for practice shooting purposes.

Magtech Ammunition: 230 Grain FMC

Magtech Ammunition has been manufacturing ammo since 1926. They produce all components used in their ammo including the powder, primer, and projectiles. The company has strict quality standards. Magtech’s reputation and high quality ammo have skyrocketed them to the forefront of the industry.


.45 ACP ammo makes a strong showing in both self-defense and range training categories. Test several manufacturers to determine which works best for you. Shooters like the .45 ACP because it is affordable and can be bought in bulk online or at retail stores.

Your choice should be based on performance and comfort. Regardless of which ammunition you choose, there is never a substitute for practice. Never wait until a situation calls for action to learn how the ammunition will perform.