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Modern Self-Defense: .45 ACP

To some concealed gun carriers, there is no other self-defense cartridge than the “forty-five.” It all begins and ends with the venerable .45 ACP, and they say things like: If it don’t start with a “4” it’s under powered. The .45 is a great self-defense option that is widely available throughout the entire country, that is powerful and relatively affordable.



.45 ACP history

To some concealed gun carriers, there is no other self-defense cartridge than the “forty-five.” It all begins and ends with the venerable .45 ACP, and they say things like: If it don't start with a “4” it's under powered. The .45 is a great self-defense option that is widely available throughout the entire country, that is powerful and relatively affordable.

Having owned my fair share of handguns chambered in this hard-hitter, I can attest to the power behind the large caliber bullet first designed by John Browning back in 1904. The cartridges of yesteryear came standard with a 230 grain bullet, which is still regularly available today and by far the most popular size available. However, common bullet weights range from 185 grains up to the original 230 with other, less common sizes also available.

Eventually, this would be the handgun load of choice for the US military, and what was used in the famed 1911 until it was swapped out for another pistol, the M9, back in 1985.

.45 auto history

My two go-to self-defense cartridges in .45. On the left, is a 230 Grain Jacketed Hollow Point from HPR. On the right, is a 220 Grain Flex Lock Critical Duty from Hornady.

Make no mistake, a 230 grain, .45 caliber bullet is devastating even if it is only traveling at 800-900 FPS. It is a great choice for people residing in places where hollow points are illegal because even the full metal jacket (FMJ, round tip, ball, etc) rounds punch big holes into bad-guys. To be exact, the caliber of the bullet is .451 or 11.4mm. The ballistics on today's self-defense cartridges is markedly improved, even though the heavier bullets still travel at the same speed.

Enough with the history of the .45 ACP. Who should carry a gun chambered in John Browning's genius design?

It isn't recommended that someone brand new to shooting starts out by carrying a handgun chambered in .45 ACP. While the recoil is manageable in guns like the Springfield Armory XD Mod.2 due to the design, other guns aren't as easily handled. Newer gun carriers would be better suited for something more tame, but almost as effective.

After all, the gun you have in your hand is better than the one you left at home, and if you're more prone to hitting your target with a gun in 9mm, carry it instead.

.45 auto history

That doesn't mean that you can't train your way into a handgun chambered in .45 ACP, just that you shouldn't start there. As far as semi-automatic pistols are concerned, .45 ACP is one of the absolute best you can buy.

Sound Off Gun Carriers! Do you carry a gun in .45 ACP? If so, let us know what you carry, along with which type of ammo. The cover pictures are two of my choices of go-to ammo for my .45 ACP guns. Let us know in the comments below. Then, make sure you sign up for Gun Carrier's FREE Newsletter so you never miss a shot.

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  1. Roy Odhner

    January 11, 2018 at 7:02 AM

    Most self-defense shootings are going to be at about room distance. In that case, I think anything chambered for .22wmr to .45acp is gonna get the job done. Still, gimme 230 grains of lead moving at about 810FPS. However. I’m less and less inclined to carry/lug around my Gov 1911 these days, and now I carry a Shield .45ACP. Love that gun. There are some times when all I can carry is my little .22wmr NAA revolver or Sig P238, and I have confidence they’ll give me the juice I need. But I still prefer to carry my Shield .45 – it’s a really nasty beast.

  2. hockey playah

    May 7, 2017 at 12:17 PM

    I can’t understand why people write about how much more of a kick/recoil the 45 has over smaller rounds like the 9mm. I don’t find this to be true at all. If I’m using a 35 oz 1911 vs a similar 9mm I find them comparable. 45 is bigger but slower, 9mm is smaller but coming out 100+ fps faster. One is a push where the other is a snap. Both great rounds I’d play with and protect my family with either but I’m partial to the 45 only because it was the first handgun caliber I owned. Tough to do in the summer but my winter gun is the sig 220 8+1 with federal hst 230 grain rounds. Summer carry is a Kahr cm9 – awesome trigger.

  3. Tom Ferrill

    August 5, 2016 at 2:28 PM

    I carry revolvers, not as much chance of something going wrong, and having to rack it to get another round in… you might get shot during that process. just pull the trigger again. safest gun is a revolver…don’t have the ballistics in front of me but the 38 is strong enough for me, accuracy is better than speed…

  4. Choll

    July 24, 2016 at 12:34 AM

    I own a FN-FNX 45 S-DA 15 Rd mag And I use the 230’s and 200’s the recoil is not that bad – the tricker it’s easy to squeeze off not much effort it Easy to control I really enjoy practicing with it . I actually like it better to practice with better than the Ruger SR40c 15 Rd mag more recoil than FN 45 my Other Ruger SR9C 15 RD MAG ,then my SW 9 mm15rd are about the same on the 115grn I just love that 45 I don’t use my Colt Trooper M111. 357 wheel gun much.

  5. John Sharpe

    July 20, 2016 at 10:40 PM

    My daughter works at a convenience gas station by herself at night. She went in to check on her day off for her paycheck. She was involved in a robbery that was taken place as she walked in. Poor robber! My daughter carries a .357 snub nose revolver with seven rounds. She pushed a store clerk to the floor and fired two rounds, Which were hollow points. Robber ran away, bleeding all the way. One round hit him in the arm and the other shattered some glass which pepper him with glass fragments. They arrested him at a local hospital layer on. Although, store clerks cannot have weapons while working, the store considered her not working at the time, she was considered a customer. Police check her CCW Permit and let her go.

  6. David Casten

    July 20, 2016 at 9:58 AM

    My CCW is a 5″ 1911 with Winchester Ranger T-230 grain, usually with an IWB holster.

  7. Yogi Bear

    July 18, 2016 at 12:06 PM

    Glock G30 JHP 10 round mags (I live in the almost Communist state of California)

  8. Luke Azbill

    July 18, 2016 at 12:16 AM

    I carry a Kimber Ultra Carry ll as my CCW. The magazines are loaded with a variety of ammunition from FMJ to JHP, some polymer tipped rounds and I have added the Ruger ARX to the mix. Never know what may show up and hope I never have to use them, but better to have them and never use them than need them and not have them. Kind of expensive training with this mix but at least I know what to expect when I pull The trigger.

  9. Tom

    July 17, 2016 at 11:51 PM

    I carry a G30sf (.45). Compact and easily concealable with 10+1 and an extra 13 rd mag. Loaded with with Federal hydra shok.

  10. Mikial

    July 17, 2016 at 11:50 PM

    My EDC is a Glock 21. I enjoy my 1911 and my Jericho .45, but both have more recoil and I don’t have as much confidence that they will not have a malfunction at a critical moment than my Glock. It hasn’t had a single non-ammunition (bad primer) malfunction since I bought it in 2001.

  11. BOB

    July 17, 2016 at 8:40 PM

    Where we live open or cc is good to go, teach hunter ed been sports for 44year so I have never the dis guard for AMERICA as it is now..we need a new MAN FOR PRESIDENT, IF one looks at where crime is worst one would see they are democratic run bankrupt states,, NOW THESE HAVE the gun control that the dems want to pass on AMERICA.. THEN we will become a MUSLIM HELL HOLE

  12. Curt981

    July 17, 2016 at 4:36 PM

    Hi a. Isn’t it great to have such a choice in this great nation to keep and bear? Look at the variety of side arms we have to choose from. So difficult to decide. My fav is the Smith and Wesson performance center 1911 for carry with the Sig P238 with laser for my wife’s carry choice. I also carry Mt Smith and Wesson 40C for lighter wear cover and concealment. I have a number of side arms ranging from a very small Beretta 22 auto through all calibers of semi or revolvers. I love them all and shoot often. My fave factory is Hornady Critical Defense for all handguns. I really like the Hornady XTP for all my hand loads, which I think are more accurate than factory loads. Hmmm. One thing to note is that accuracy comes with proper practice. Shooting a lot of rounds downrange with bad form or techniques will only make you a poor shooter. Get instructions from a good instructor and/or purchase good training DVD’s. From my experience from that shooting teams I’ve been on in the Michigan National Guard learn more about the ins and outs of your weapon(s) and practice for real life scenarios. Get with local gun clubs and participate in shooting events to improve and have fun too. Remember, the weapon you carry is only going to be as accurate as the Shooters skills will make it.

  13. Michael Koenig

    July 17, 2016 at 4:02 PM

    I carry a Heckler and Koch HK45 Compact as my CCW, loaded with Winchester Ranger-T 230-grain +P ammo. I feel that if it is good enough for SpecOps, then it is what I want when my life depends on a pistol.

  14. Dr. Larry W. Lindsey

    July 17, 2016 at 2:36 PM

    I have carried a 1911 .45ACP exclusively for concealed carry for more than 50 years. My preference is a 4″ Kimber stoked with 185 gr jacketed hollow points. With the lighter and faster bullet (the load I use has a velocity of 1170fps) you double your muzzle energy and actually reduce the recoil. This is a much more devastating round, and with the reduced recoil you also get faster and more accurate follow-up shots.

    • Dr. Larry W. Lindsey

      July 17, 2016 at 2:40 PM

      This is, of course, compared to the standard 230 gr defensive load at about 900 fps

  15. D.P. Allen

    July 17, 2016 at 11:08 AM

    Carried an accuratized M-1911 A1 that I built for myself many years ago. (school trained certified gunsmith with my own FFL many years ago) It was always my favorite for off duty and plain clothes carry. I hand loaded my own ammo with a Hornady 230 grain jacketed hollow point and 5.4 gr. of Bullseye. Tack driver that had the knockdown power to lift a person wearing body armor off his feet and make him think about the error of his ways if needed! (Started considering that factor after the bad guys started wearing body armor and also shifted my “center of mass” targeting to “center of face”!!)

    Finally had to stop carrying it because the department started requiring double action ONLY! Had to sell it to be able to afford the brand new (at the time) stainless steel Dan Wesson .357 magnum. (On duty required a double action revolver with a 4″ barrel and the Dan Wesson also had the interchangeable snubby for plain clothes/off duty carry.

    I still have my old DW, which is still fully capable as a home defense weapon now that I’m retired, but I’d trade it (with holster ammo, etc.) in a heartbeat for a good (comparable) accuratized 1911package.

  16. Jack Marchio

    July 17, 2016 at 10:05 AM

    I use a Kimber Ultra CDP 45 with 230 grain bullets for my concealed carry weapon /3″ barrel very accurate and hardly any recoil.


    • Jack Marchio

      July 17, 2016 at 10:09 AM


      I forgot to add that I use Hollow Points

  17. Leon Houston II

    July 17, 2016 at 9:20 AM

    As if it is not hard enough in America to keep up with the variances in state carry laws, ammunition laws compound the problem for those of us who travel. I grew up in New Jersey and Connecticut, married my wife in Illinois, retired from the USCG in California and now reside in Texas outside San Antonio. As much as I have wanted to take my wife to my earlier homesteads, we have no plans to travel through those states anymore. We do not even want to fly through them!

    The 45 ACP was my second pistol round that I became acquainted with since the 357 magnum started me off in pistol caliber experiences. The delayed recoil from the Colt 45 ACP as compared to the snap of a Ruger Security Six in 357 mag was the first differential I adjusted to as the required sidearm for USCG boarding officers and Port Security Units. Initially in boot at Alameda I was given a slop mop of a weapon to qualify on and was not impressed with it’s performance until I qualified at range times outside of this experience and soon bought my own custom Colt from A USCG armorer who carried it as his personal weapon.
    This weapon is my backup 45 ACP to this day! Yes I carry a full 1911 as primary and backup because I can hit what I am aiming at first time, second time and so on. I have an AMT backup that is hick-up proof because of the extra machining required around the trigger base to prevent stainless galling. This weapon is the third 45 ACP that I own.

    Now as far as ammunition, I would not recommend +P to novice shooters, but for me that is all there is available in my inventory of Underwood Ammo. My primary weapon is a well worked Springfield Armory Loaded S.S. with Hogue grips. The Custom Colt in black has thumb elevated Pacs as grips. The AMT uses +P 230g FMJ and the Springfield and Colt carry +P 185g and + P 230g XTP HP’s. I carry under LEOSA and have a TX LTC, VA CHL and Arizona CHL. The LTC is the new name for the CHL since open carry is legal here. I only open carry on my acreage property.

    The Alien Gear OWB new model holsters carry the 45 ACP weapons. Occasionally I carry A 2 3/4 ” Ruger Speed Six S.S. in 357 as my backup with Underwood ammo. As far as magazines go I use 10 round Chip McCormick and Italian 10 rd mags. I have an 8 mag carrier, most times I carry 6 mags on me with 10 in both weapons on a 1 3/4″ weapon belt. I have read TEXAS GUN LAWS and belong to several insurance services for my personal defense coverage. Dry fire practice and live ammo holster pulls are practiced with safety removal and return to safe while holstering. I carry everyday at home so the gear is at home out and about shopping. Weapon safety and responsibility reside in your mind, not your weapon, since you are the ultimate weapon. Breath, think, assess, act and respond to resultant threat or condition changes, for the effect of your actions will last a lifetime. Weapon maintenance is paramount, but safety is everything! It all begins with proper training of your mind! I read Shotgun News, Guns and Ammo, Recoil and I am a NRA member. I grew up on the old PPC courses so both hands are functional. I tried IDPA twice and was third in my division shoot, but this is gaming only, habits picked up here will kill you! Like showing clear and no re-holstering immediately for a transition. Sure it works on the range for safety, but too much of that is dangerous as you fight like you train! Targets that shoot back ain’t made of paper!

  18. John Mooney..former LCpl USMC

    July 17, 2016 at 9:04 AM

    Best handgun ever built period..along with the best rifle ever built, the beautiful M1, they were the two reasons we won WW11…

  19. Alan Hehn

    July 17, 2016 at 7:31 AM

    I have had several handguns. Starting with a 22 cal single action revolver and worked up from there to 44 mag and 45 ACP. Like there article state’s work up from smaller rounds. I carry a 9 mm with fmj but I enjoy a full frame 1911. I am considering a smaller framed 45 currently. Any suggestions?

  20. Jake

    July 17, 2016 at 7:27 AM

    For simple carry of my M1911 I normally load Glaser Safety Slugs for at least the first 2-3 rounds. Overall some may not consider them to be quite as effective as HP or JHP but they are not illegal in any place that I’m aware of either.

  21. Douglas Wycoff

    July 17, 2016 at 7:13 AM

    Ruger 1911 Lightweight Commander,with Hornady Critical Duty ammo.

  22. Mark

    July 11, 2016 at 5:53 PM

    The 45 is a very effective weapon. A far as I’m concerned the jacketed hollow point is the only thing to have in any weapon of any caliber,unless you are practicing, then fmj or round ball is fine.

    • Joshua Gillem

      July 12, 2016 at 9:04 AM

      Mark, we don’t disagree with you. However, in some states, New Jersey for example, it is illegal to have JHPs. If you get caught with them, you do jail time.

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