Shortest effective barrel for 45 ACP?


September 21, 2009, 07:56 AM
I'm starting to learn more about barrel length and caliber effectiveness. For example, a 357 mag round looses velocity (and thus force @ impact, f=ma, a=dv/dt) in barrel length under 3" according to what I've read.

When thinking about carrying a 45 ACP round for CCW defense, is there a minimum barrel length where the "magic" of a 45 gets lost?

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September 21, 2009, 08:11 AM
There are no absolutes. I chronographed an SP101 with a range of loads. Yes, it was pathetic with 125 grain loads, but I was getting 550 ft lbs from a 140JHP and 660 ft lbs from a 180 XTP/JHP. Your run of the mill .45 ball puts up around 360 ft lbs from a 5" barrel.

.45, 9x19, other autos that lack the case capacity of magnum revolvers and work with faster powders tend to lose less velocity per inch of barrel, but don't gain much in carbines, either. The .357 turns into a legitimate rifle caliber in a 20" barrel. The difference is the burn rate of the powders used. The .45ACP won't be significantly less in a 3" vs 5". My 9x19 carry has a 3" barrel. From it, my +P load pushes 1262 fps/410 ft lbs. From a 4.5" barrel, it pushes something over 1300 fps/440 ft lbs. Not a lot of difference there. My SP101 2.3" gun pushed a 180 grain JHP to 1302 fps/662 ft lbs, same load in a 6.5" Blackhawk gets just over 1400 fps for 785 ft lbs. I carried the 140grain load in that SP101, being more of a self defense bullet. I figured 550 ft lbs was quite adequate to kill a man with a proper hit. Besides, the Speer bullet was accurate.

Sorry, I don't have any direct data on a 3" .45, don't have a 3" .45, but you won't lose much. Of course, there ain't that much velocity in a .45 in the first place. The big and slow crowd seems to think the slower the better, so 100 fps is probably better than 850 for them, anyway, at least if they could fit a 600 grain bullet in there. :rolleyes:. :D

September 21, 2009, 08:37 AM
Can't quote statistics or source, but I recall reading that you need 2" of barrel to stabalize a bullet, or close to it.

With that in mind, it's like the gunner said, there are so many varibles, case capacity, powder, bullet weight et al to give an absolute answer

September 21, 2009, 03:54 PM
I think the American Derringer .45/.410 has about 1/2 inch of rifling beyond the chamber for the 2.5 inch .410 shell. The .45 Colt has to jump to reach that 1/2 inch, and whether it is really stabilized or not, I do not know. I don't own one.

September 21, 2009, 04:43 PM
O.P. you might check out Bullets by the Inch

Some guys took a Thompson Contender in various barrel chamberings
and cut the barrels inch by inch, from 18" to 2" for a good
amount of loads and chrono'd the results. You're right about
.357 Mag losing a lot of velocity if the barrel length is less than
6" - the slow burning magnum powder needs some barrel length
to generate the velocity most associate with that cartridge.

As far as .45 ACP goes, I have a full size 1911 5" Bbl. as
well as a 625 w/5" Bbl. both in .45 ACP. I've followed threads
and noted performance/reliability with 3.5"-3" Semi-AUtos I think
the best CCW option with the 1911 platform is the Colt Combat
Offiicers aka CCO which has the Officers Frame but the
Commander length 4.25" Bbl. I find the standard size 1911
grip the main issue for CCW not the slide length.
ALthough the CCO is not in current production several
manufactueres offer like models in 4.25 & 4" slide/Bbl with
the Officers frame.

Have you seen the S&W 325 Night Guard - N frame size
Scandium frame with Stainless Steel Cylinder and a 2 piece
2 1/2" Bbl. and other features ?


September 21, 2009, 07:15 PM
I agree there are no absolutes. This is why I keep my .45s full-size. A lot of guys don't, bit I THINK that when you start doodling with velocities and bullet weights, you may upset a combination known to work very well.

September 21, 2009, 08:16 PM
BJ, the 325 is definitely a gun to think about. Does it need the moon clips, or does it have one of those ejectors that hold the rimless cartridge in place?

September 21, 2009, 09:07 PM
On a related subject, I just came across a minty 1991-series officers model for a decent price, so this thread has just become of interest to me.

Anyone have any ideas for optimum ammo selection for an officer's model, with the complete understanding that it is never going to be the same as the original recipe 5-incher?

(This is not to discount anything offered up thus far, especially blindjustice's post; let the record show that I already have a commander... this other one is just so short, and I missed those black 1991s the first time around).

September 21, 2009, 10:42 PM
O.P. - As far as I know none of the S&W N-frame chambered for .45
ACP have the spring used in the short run of 9mm luger revolvers
S&W came out with some time back. I shoot a 625 5" Bbl. and use
Steel full moon clips, mostly from WIlson COmbat with a nickel wash
THe Full moon clips make for a quick reload. My 625 has the
master revolver Action job and the chambers have the mouths
chamfered which aids getting the rounds in - the full moon clips
also ensure all six empties come out together. This isn't always the
case with .45 Auto RIm ( and using speedloaders to load with )

You might also run across a Lew Horton 25 w/3" Bbl. it has the high
polish blue finish with a square butt, It was a distrigbutor run of
300 or so guns a few years back. SOme were nickel plated finish.

Note: with the velocity loss & the .45 ACP I'd recommend 230 gr.
or look at some of the Short Barrel loads made by Cor Bon or SPeer.

The Officer's model with the 3.5" Bbl. is significatly smaller than
a 3" Bbl. N frame S&W

A S&W out of production on the small side DA/SA is the CS45

Do a google for some of the guns mentioned on Gunbroker
you will find a pic most likely.


Double Naught Spy
September 21, 2009, 10:45 PM
When thinking about carrying a 45 ACP round for CCW defense, is there a minimum barrel length where the "magic" of a 45 gets lost?

Magic? What the heck are you talking about - magic?

September 21, 2009, 11:16 PM
I don't think you really want to know about barrel length, you want know about velocity. The minimum velocity of expansion will depend on the design, so you may be able to get away with a shorter barrel if you chose your load correctly.

These guys didn't bother testing barrels under 4.25 inches and all their velocities were greater than 800fps.

Here's some other data that includes expansion diameter from a Government and Officer length 1911. Hydra Shok-230gr and Golden Saber-230gr seemed to do well.

Stephen Camp recommends keeping the barrel length above 4.25 (Commander or Sig 220).

September 22, 2009, 01:02 AM

What ammo are you planning to carry in the gun?

September 22, 2009, 02:08 PM
What ammo are you planning to carry in the gun?

Yes, you are leaving out ammunition selection in your question.

Shorter barrels will probably need 185 gr or 200 gr bullets to maximize velocity plus expansion of JHP bullet.

230gr JHP bullets fired out of a 3" Officer's size M1911 or baby Glock will probably fail to expand.

But don't forget that constant practice and training is more important that gun or bullet selection.

September 22, 2009, 06:45 PM
Type of ammo is a good question, forgot to say. But I guess it's also part of the question I have too. I know that in shorter barrel revolvers, lighter bullets are preferred -- I've seen Cor-Bon 110 grain JHP designed for sub 2.5" 357.

So I guess a 185 grain JHP would be in order. Thing is, would I get a load that has +P to make up for the loss in velocity in a smaller barrel (and not the "low recoil" Federal type rounds)?

Buffalo bore makes a 45 ACP +P that gets over 1000 fps (I'm assuming their data is out of a 5" government type barrel). But that might be too much to handle in a micro-1911.

BJ makes a point about a 45 ACP revolver; but I think that the recoil in a 3 inch revolver made out of scandium might be less manageable than that out of a 1911 alloy frame.

So I guess the possibilities would include shooting the +P 185gr out of a micro 1911 like the Kimber ultras, or keep a look out for one of the older S&W CS45s.

September 22, 2009, 07:03 PM
the liberators in WW2 worked fine and if you have ever seen one of those the barrels dont get much shorter i guess the real question is what range you will be shooting at!

and how proficient you are with that firearm!

September 22, 2009, 07:13 PM
here are some results from a 3" STI "Off Duty":\949073\off%20duty.jpg
Close rang into beef brisket and caught in second gallon water jug behind

Shot into Beef brisket from 25 yards passed through water jug and caught in dry telephone book
Other loads in 3" STI off-duty:
.45 Off Duty
Load Velocity Group

Load Velocity Group 25 yards
Black Hills 230 Gr. Ball 761 fps 3.1
Black Hills 230 Gr JHP +P 824 3.7
Corbon 165 Gr DPX 1002 3.2
Speer 230 Gr Gold Dot
(short barrel load) 769 4.2
Remington 185 +p Golden Saber 996 2.9
Remington 230 Gr Golden Saber 796 4.0

September 22, 2009, 08:05 PM
Tprice - "BJ makes a point about a 45 ACP revolver; but I think that the recoil in a 3 inch revolver made out of scandium might be less manageable than that out of a 1911 alloy frame."

I think the S&W 325 NIghGuard and a steel frame
Officers mode 3.5" Bbl/SLidel are both around 27-28 oz.

Note to the O.P. - the barrel length listed for a Semi-AUto
includes the cartridge/chamber. In a Revolver the Bbl. length
does not include the cylinder but the length from the forcing
cone to the muzzle. So, in a 5" Goverment Model the case
length is .898 inches so the effective length of the rifling is
4.1" So a 3.5" Officers iis 2.5" equivalent in a revolver.

of course the variable in a revolver is the barrel to cylinder gap
where you can have pressure loss, and velocity can
vary between the same make/model of Semi-AUtos as
well as Revolvers.

My preference is for the 4.25' Commander lenth on
the Officers Frame - Colt's CCO model for CCW.

An advantage of the Revolver is 250 gr. SWC @ 900 FPS
with a 4" Bbl. using the .45 Auto Rim case, and carry some
.45 ACP 230 grain quality JHPs in Full Moon clips for Reloads.

Double Tap offers .45 ACP +P
230 gr. SPeer Gold DOt @ 1,010 FPS
200 gr. Speer Gold Dot @ 1,125 FPS

They don't have quite the muzzle flash out of a
Goverment Model as Speer +P 230 gr. Gold DOts
but do have a little more recoil



September 23, 2009, 01:31 AM
Ammo selection is a bit counter-intuitive. Strange as it may seem, a quick burning powder, and a heavy for caliber bullet work better then you would think. The heavier bullet requires more pressure to build before the bullet starts moving. If you look at Ballistics by the Inch, you'll see very few 45 ACP loads are optimized to get maximum velocity with a short barrel.
The result is you get better powder burning prior to the bullet exiting the barrel then you do with a light for caliber bullet. Also, most of the 185 grain bullets do NOT have a crimp grove, and, have less flat space on the sides to crimp on. The 200 grain speers are a good compromise, but, they open up to .85", where the 230 grain bullets open up to .95", or more..

Randall: I agree with your points, but, when the barrels start getting under 4", the amount of velocity fall off can be extreme. 1.8" revolvers REALLY are hard to get decent velocity in, and the only ones I have found to do this start with .454, and 350 grain bullets, and go up, to .500 Max. That said, they usually have at least 2.5" barrels...

September 23, 2009, 01:41 AM
+1 Prosser and his first paragraph.

I'll think on the second paragraph
and review what I stated.


September 23, 2009, 02:00 AM

Your pretty much totally on the money. You have to keep in mind that the only snubbies I've worked with under 454 are a 44 special bulldog, Model 63, doesn't count, and, a Model 360 PD.

I like your choices. 250's at 900 are fine, but, I think you might be able to get 260's out
at 1000 fps, using 45 Super load guidelines, in a revolver.

My choice is the Buffalobore 45 Super 230 grain Gold Dot, @ 1100 fps, both in 1911's, Detonics CM, and, if I had a 45 revolver, I'd be looking at the super and Rowland loads.

I wouldn't feel undergunned with a 200 grain Speer HP, at near 1400 fps, and, the Rowland out of a strong revolver should be able to do this, depending on barrel length...

I think I used HS-6 to load 200 grain speer flying ashtrays in bulk for 5 years of 2 hours a day, every other day shooting at the police range. Detonics said it should be about 1200 fps out of the 3.5" combat master. My point is there are two ways to skin the cat: light fast, and heavy not slow, like the 230's at 1100 or 260's at 1000 fps. I KNOW the 200 grain and 230 grain Speers will expand at Super velocities. I've yet to test the 250-260 grain bullets in 45 at 1000-1100 fps.

I consider it a pretty important part of the equation, since how well the bullets expand makes a considerable difference in permanent would channel size, and how long the temporary channel is, not to mention overall penetration...

September 23, 2009, 02:21 AM
i do believe that the human behind the firearm tends to be the determining factor to it being effective or infective.. very rarely can the human out-shoot the gun... although there are a few exceptions...

September 23, 2009, 02:52 AM
"When thinking about carrying a 45 ACP round for CCW defense, is there a minimum barrel length where the "magic" of a 45 gets lost?"

The magic of the .45 is non-existent. Bullets wound by creating a permanent wound channel, determined by initial bullet size, and then expansion, and, temporary wound channel, that is determined by how fast the bullet opens up, how fast it hits the target, and, how fast it slows down in the target, not to mention how well it sends bones flying when it hits them. The 45 is more likely to create secondary bone fragments as projectiles, since it's heavier then the other service calibers.

Tumbling and wobbling through the target can also create trauma, with a large temporary cavity around where that happens.

So, your 'magic' is determined by how well the bullet functions at a given velocity, it's weight, and it's impact velocity on the target.

Make no mistake, we do have some pretty magic bullets these days that we only used to dream of:

These are 500 JRH bullets pulled out of bison and asian buffalo. One hit bone, and opened up over an inch. The others wet nearly end to end, and cut a very large wound channel, with an over .500" inch permanent wound channel.

This round has flattened deer, going tail to front shoulder, missing everything vital, and the deer dropping in it's tracks: .475 Linebaugh, 400 grain bullet, 1350 fps out of my gun:

Heres an assortment of bullets and cartridges, starting with a .357 magnum on the far right:

My point is you can get stopping power in what you carry, but, you have to get outside the box, and, a short barreled 45 ACP isn't there...

September 23, 2009, 10:02 AM
would someone please explain this magical stopping power theory to me please?

as far as i know stopping power can be defined as an object containing enough energy to instantly STOP someone or something....

if you shoot someone in the shoulder with a 50 bmg it may not instantly stop them..

if you shoot someone in the medulla with a .22 they are instantly stopped (as your body cannot function without that part of your body)

its about putting bullets in "deadly zones" otherwise known as fatal areas... when the bullet goes in its object is to break bones, make a big hole, and drain blood...

as far as im concerned you carry the "magical" gun that you can put every single round exactly where you want to...

September 23, 2009, 10:18 AM

I've got some .45 Auto RIm, was a custom order
I've only got 109 of thesame bullet/load .45 ACP
Leadhead Hardcast 200 gr. SWC @ 1,000 FPS
Very Accurate,but leads up the barrels

Magic bullets? How about...

Barnes XPB HP* 225 gr. @ 942 FPS & it expands
in wet magazines stacked up....

* Barnes XPB = eXtremePenetration Bullet is made
of solid copper with a touch of antimony to toughen it
up, it has a very wide and deep hollow point cavity
and since the material is less dense than a copper jacketed
over lead as well as the size of the HP cavity it is a long
bullet and too long for .45 ACP but fine in Auto Rim.
CorBon uses the Barnes XPB in 165 gr. & 185 gr. for their
offereings in their .45 cal. DPX line of ammo.

The 250 gr. @ 900 FPS less leading, and it approximates
the old .45 Colt SAA 19th century load which worked well in
the 19th century and still does.

I should get some hot loads for my NIB Marlin 1894 .45 Colt
rifle speaking of 19th century firepower heck back then
they were the Assault weapons of the day, eh?


September 23, 2009, 05:05 PM

We now have pistols that have been proven, with the proper combination of bullet and powder charge to kill as effectively as 375 H&H rifles. When I first started shooting, this was NOT the case, with hotrodded 45 Colt being the heaviest bullet weight, and .44 magnum being the light fast, with solids, ala Lee Jurras loads.

MOST of the time, the effect of full metal jacket rifle calibers is a one shot stop. However, they are still dependent on wound mechanics: they need to create a large permanent wound channel, and, a large temporary cavity. Put bluntly, a FMJ can penetrate straight through, not hit anything hard, and just keep on going. The frontal section doesn't allow much of a temporary cavity to form, and, the permanent channel can be small enough, and, not hitting anything vital, so it doesn't stop anything.

However, despite the Hague, the bullet guys get around it by picking light bullets, likely to fragment, creating a large temporary cavity, and, multiple wounding fragments, and, when .308 bullets tumble, they create havoc, as do .50's. Soft points are a whole nother game.

That said, we now have .500 Maximum Linebaugh, the .475 Linebaugh, that can equal the ballistics of this 12 gauge shotgun slug, and actually exceed it, if you want to:
with devastating results. They accomplish this with bullet expansion, causing a huge permanent wound channel, and, a very large temporary cavity, both long, because the bullet maintains speed through the target, and, wide, due to pretty high hitting velocity, combined with wide frontal area, that quickly expands.

This combination gives you a larger effective disruptive target radius around the impact point of a bullet then the service calibers:

These pistols have the same ballistics as the old 50-110 rifles. They were never accused of not being effective one shot stoppers...

My point is starting with 10mm, there are handgun cartridges that far exceed the effectiveness of the service caliber rounds, and, due to a combination of bullet design, and velocity are far more effective then the service calibers, and, equal rifle ballistics in some cases, that have a long history of being very effective.

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