.45 acp Defensive Rounds Created Equal?


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CTGunner
April 24, 2010, 04:47 PM
After doing a 500 round function test on a new 1911 using Speer Lawman FMJ 230 grain .45acp ammo I'm feeling confident that it's close to ready for everyday carry.

My questions pertain to selecting a defensive load for a 1911:

1. How many rounds of the defensive load do you recommend running through the gun before feeling confident in it for carry?

2. I can't afford to function test the stuff that's going for almost a buck a round on any real scale beyond a few boxes...maybe I could swing a hundred rounds. On that note - I was able to pick up 300 rounds of Federal Classic JHP 230 grain ammo for a reasonable price. I'm hoping that if it functions well, this can be my everyday carry ammo...Is this ammo OK? What am I giving up by not going with the stuff that costs significantly more i.e. hydrashock and other equivalents etc.

Unfortunately, the gun store guys were really of no help. Thanks for your input?

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KodiakBeer
April 24, 2010, 05:32 PM
My only input is that I once shot a deer with a .45acp, 165 grain hydra-shok at 70 or 75 yards. It went down right there - just dropped straight down, kicked once and then was dead. The lungs were soup, the bullet stopped under the skin on the far side and was perfectly mushroomed and .8" inches in diameter.

One shot is hardly a scientific sample, but it convinced me. I think 165 grain loads make a lot of sense. They have higher velocity and less recoil, so follow up shots are just that much quicker (not that I needed one in that case). To my way of thinking, the lighter rounds in .45 are like having the higher velocity of rounds like the .40, but with the added advantage of making bigger holes. I can't imagine any other round performing as perfectly as that hydra-shok did.

As for the expense - hydra-shoks were designed to feed like ball ammo. I'd still function test them, but after that just practice with the Federal 165 grain ball ammo which is loaded to the same specs as the Hydra-shoks.

Again, one shot is hardly definitive, but 165 grains is plenty of weight for any penetration you'd want, and higher velocity is always a good thing unless the recoil becomes prohibitive. In .45, the recoil drops with the lighter loads, so... what's the downside?

Kwanger
April 24, 2010, 05:37 PM
I personally think that at the end of the day, a JHP is a JHP - and if you factor in cost, the fancy super expensive stuff just bankrupts you and offers little if any substantial improvement over "normal" JHP rounds.

Functionwise, I'm generally happy after a few magazines worth.

Vonderek
April 24, 2010, 07:22 PM
Nothing wrong with Federal Classic. I don't know where the 200 rounds of SD ammo thru the gun before the ammo is reliable thing got started. I just make sure each carry mag of a particular gun will feed a particular ammo with no hitches before trusting it.

Mags
April 24, 2010, 08:02 PM
My favorite 3 defensive loads for the 45 ACP is the 230 grain Gold Dot, 230 Grain Golden Sabres and the 185 grain Winchester Supreme Silver plated. The next 2 I prefer are the Federal Hi Shoks and Hydra Shoks in the 230 grain flavor. I tested 25 rounds of each and decided to "jungle load" the Golden Sabres and Winchester in my defensive mags.

rbohm
April 24, 2010, 09:54 PM
the nice thing about the .45acp round is that even in the standard ball round, it has good stopping power, without excessive penetration. pick your favorite hollow point that feeds reliably through you weapon, along with a couple of secondary favorites in case you cant fine your primary favorite round, and stock up.

CTGunner
April 24, 2010, 10:04 PM
Thanks for your thoughts.

Sharpie1
April 24, 2010, 10:11 PM
Back when it was readily available, I always bought the Winchester white box JHP ammo at Wal-mart for my defense handguns in 9mm and .45ACP. I bought it because it was reasonably priced which allowed me to practice with it as well. Even if there is a "better-performing" JHP cartridge than that, I'm not interested - since I won't be able to consistently practice with it. I shoot a lot - so, this way I am confident that I can shoot what I carry -and that my guns can feed what I buy.

CTGunner
April 24, 2010, 10:16 PM
Back when it was readily available, I always bought the Winchester white box JHP ammo at Wal-mart for my defense handguns in 9mm and .45ACP. I bought it because it was reasonably priced which allowed me to practice with it as well. Even if there is a "better-performing" JHP cartridge than that, I'm not interested - since I won't be able to consistently practice with it. I shoot a lot - so, this way I am confident that I can shoot what I carry -and that my guns can feed what I buy.

This was my logic in going with the Federal Classic. Glad I'm not totally alone on this.

mljdeckard
April 24, 2010, 10:42 PM
In the real world, I think that even the difference between FMJ and JHP ammo is limited. I tell people, use JHP ammo because handguns are too small to do the job at all, and you need all the advantages you can get, and premium JHP is an advantage, although I think that the actual real world difference may be small.

As for how many rounds to test with, I always say 200, because this is the threshold of probability where you need to think about what the odds are that you will have a malfunction in a gunfight. Ideally, we should make it more like a thousand, but as you are finding, there is a practical limit to this. When you start spending more money on test ammo than you did on the gun itself, you have probably passed the threshold of practicality. If 100 is what you can do, do it. And yes, I think to a practical degree, classic Federal JHP ammo will simulate HSTs. Just remember that this is your life you're protecting here, and anything you can do to make it as real as possible is probably worth it. If you can't afford the 200 rd test now, put plans in place to do it as soon as possible.

CTGunner
April 24, 2010, 11:12 PM
In the real world, I think that even the difference between FMJ and JHP ammo is limited. I tell people, use JHP ammo because handguns are too small to do the job at all, and you need all the advantages you can get, and premium JHP is an advantage, although I think that the actual real world difference may be small.

As for how many rounds to test with, I always say 200, because this is the threshold of probability where you need to think about what the odds are that you will have a malfunction in a gunfight. Ideally, we should make it more like a thousand, but as you are finding, there is a practical limit to this. When you start spending more money on test ammo than you did on the gun itself, you have probably passed the threshold of practicality. If 100 is what you can do, do it. And yes, I think to a practical degree, classic Federal JHP ammo will simulate HSTs. Just remember that this is your life you're protecting here, and anything you can do to make it as real as possible is probably worth it. If you can't afford the 200 rd test now, put plans in place to do it as soon as possible.

Thanks for your reply, it's really insightful and practical at the same time. Honestly, I feel like I'm already doing more than 80% of people who carry just by running the 500 round function test. Another 200 rounds of premium ammo is hard to swallow but your point is well taken. I will start with the Federal classic, see how it runs, and go from there. I'm finding out quickly that shooting, much like life in general, is all about prioritization...oh, and it isn't cheap.

hinton03
April 24, 2010, 11:46 PM
I put one full mag through each of my carry mags. I generally rotate 4 mags through as carry mags so that is 32 rounds. Most folks will say that isn't enough but I am satisfied with this procedure.

Manco
April 24, 2010, 11:51 PM
1. How many rounds of the defensive load do you recommend running through the gun before feeling confident in it for carry?

The common recommendation is 200 rounds, but if you plan to train on a fairly regular basis and already have confidence in the gun, then perhaps a box or two will suffice--if there are any issues with a particular load on an otherwise reliable gun, then they'll usually show up quickly enough.

I was able to pick up 300 rounds of Federal Classic JHP 230 grain ammo for a reasonable price. I'm hoping that if it functions well, this can be my everyday carry ammo...Is this ammo OK? What am I giving up by not going with the stuff that costs significantly more i.e. hydrashock and other equivalents etc.

It should work fine, but in my opinion you would get more consistent performance from premium defensive ammo such as Federal HST, for example. In tests, budget JHPs (usually just older designs) tend to fail to expand more frequently than premium JHPs when passing through clothing, and some tend to fragment when passing through barriers or even just in the body sometimes. Some are better than others, and the current Federal Classic is actually pretty decent in the informal tests I've seen, although it is slightly but definitely outperformed by more modern (and expensive) JHPs, at least in tests.

Some people would ask you whether you think your life is worth a few extra bucks, while others will say that the premium rounds offer nothing for their additional cost, but I think the truth is somewhere in between the two extremes. If you really don't think that you can afford something that is a little better, then the Federal Classic JHP should get the job done well enough. Oh, and personally I prefer that the primers and bullets are sealed to the case to help avoid contamination (especially when carried), so you might want to look into that regarding this load, but it's not strictly necessarily (just makes me feel better).

My only input is that I once shot a deer with a .45acp, 165 grain hydra-shok at 70 or 75 yards. It went down right there - just dropped straight down, kicked once and then was dead. The lungs were soup, the bullet stopped under the skin on the far side and was perfectly mushroomed and .8" inches in diameter.

One shot is hardly a scientific sample, but it convinced me. I think 165 grain loads make a lot of sense. They have higher velocity and less recoil, so follow up shots are just that much quicker (not that I needed one in that case). To my way of thinking, the lighter rounds in .45 are like having the higher velocity of rounds like the .40, but with the added advantage of making bigger holes. I can't imagine any other round performing as perfectly as that hydra-shok did.

.45 ACP and .40 S&W do tend to have similar velocities with similar bullet weights. Given that, obviously the .40 will penetrate more while the .45 will make larger holes. If the .45 gives you all the penetration that you need for game of a certain size, then it's ideal for that case, but it should be said that some hunters prefer complete penetration in order to get a clear blood trail (from the typically nasty exit wound) in case the deer does not drop immediately, and that in the general case some prefer to have a greater margin in case more bone and tough tissue must be penetrated (one shot indeed proves little), which 230 grain bullets should offer.

As for the expense - hydra-shoks were designed to feed like ball ammo. I'd still function test them, but after that just practice with the Federal 165 grain ball ammo which is loaded to the same specs as the Hydra-shoks.

It's too bad that .45 ACP FMJ bullets tend to be round-nosed as opposed to flat-nosed or truncated-cone like .40 S&W FMJ bullets, which more or less mimic JHPs.

Again, one shot is hardly definitive, but 165 grains is plenty of weight for any penetration you'd want, and higher velocity is always a good thing unless the recoil becomes prohibitive. In .45, the recoil drops with the lighter loads, so... what's the downside?

Some would say that the recoil of slower, heavier rounds is lower--it's all about individual perception. And choosing between different loads and calibers is all about what margins you're willing to accept. Even a .22 LR handgun can get the job done, no question about it, but larger, more powerful calibers give one a greater margin for success. Personally, I'd hate to find out that one of the bullets I fired during a shootout stopped just short of a bad guy's vital tissues just because it was too light and happened to pass through an arm or leg or beer belly first (some people are a lot bigger than a garden-variety deer). Within reason, I prefer my bullets to be able to punch all the way through at practically every conceivable angle, and then a little extra on top of that. Others disagree, sometimes vehemently, for their own reasons.

Back when it was readily available, I always bought the Winchester white box JHP ammo at Wal-mart for my defense handguns in 9mm and .45ACP. I bought it because it was reasonably priced which allowed me to practice with it as well. Even if there is a "better-performing" JHP cartridge than that, I'm not interested - since I won't be able to consistently practice with it. I shoot a lot - so, this way I am confident that I can shoot what I carry -and that my guns can feed what I buy.

That's not a bad idea, training with exactly the same load you use for defense. :cool: On the other hand, since I don't perceive that much difference between different loads in the same caliber with the same bullet weight, I choose to practice with even cheaper FMJ ammo and very little with my somewhat costly defensive ammo. Like I always say, we should do whatever we're most comfortable with as individuals, because at the end of the day, most of the things we enjoy discussing here really don't make that big of a difference in the grand scheme of things.

.45Heater
April 24, 2010, 11:55 PM
I didn't see it mentioned here but.... Ranger T Series feed really nice in all of my 1911's. The profile is pretty close to ball and the expansion looks great. That said, in a .45, as long as it feeds well, all will get it done. I do like some lower grain(180gr) in my 3" .45 to commensate for the lose of velosity out of the smaller barrel length.

CDW4ME
April 25, 2010, 12:10 AM
In 45 acp I would be fairly content with any JHP load that fed reliably and hit with the sights.
I'm as guilty as anyone when it comes to wanting the "ultimate" load. I paid a hefty sum for a few boxes of Ranger "police only" ammo.
The Ranger is good / superior ammo and produces the highest velocity of the 230 gr. bullets I tried, but my PM45 did not easily go into battery when loading the 1st round from the magazine; in contrast, Remington JHP fed like butter. The Ranger may be a "better" bullet, but I'll take reliable feeding over a slightly more tweaked bullet. I've got that pistol loaded with the "cheaper" ammo, because that's what the gun likes.

The Lone Haranguer
April 25, 2010, 03:03 AM
They are not created equal as some loads are better than others, but there is not a lot of difference in "stopping power" between them either. Pick the one that feeds reliably in your gun. The latest fancy "high tech" load will do you no good stuck on the feed ramp. Two hundred rounds of every load is not really necessary, but it should get through at least four magazinefuls with the mags you will be carrying. I recommend one in the gun (obviously) and one spare. Since most defensive JHPs come in 20-round boxes, two boxes apiece should be sufficient.

Ops Officer
April 25, 2010, 03:31 PM
Most of my ammo for range is FMJ with the exception being the last couple of mags of JHP. Time spent on the range for functionality and familiarity reveal a lot about the ammo and the handgun. Some ammo won't feed very well in some of my guns. Hard primers account for some failures. Magazines sometimes present a problem, but I've culled out all that don't work well on my auto-loaders. Some ammo shoots high or low, depending on the gun. I try to get all this sorted out before I depend on a handgun for self defense. It only takes one issue for me to exclude a particular ammo or a handgun from use as a self defense weapon until I know I can fix the problem. A couple of hundred rounds usually is enough to tell the story. So far, I've never had a problem with Gold Dot, Ranger T, or Golden Saber. I limit ammo for home defense to standard pressure. Two handguns are rotated for home defense duty. They would be the last two I've taken to the range without experiencing an issue. Also, they could be a revolver or pistol, normally .45 ACP.

So, that's the way I do it. If you have pushed 500 rounds of Lawman FMJ through your 1911 without an issue, you are good to go. BTW, I wouldn't have a problem using quality .45 ACP FMJ for self defense. It won't expand like JHP, but it won't contract either. A .45 ACP makes a pretty large hole and has a lot of mass for stopping power. [B][B]

Manco
April 25, 2010, 07:38 PM
Hard primers account for some failures.

While I shoot ammo from a variety of manufacturers, I make sure to shoot at least some Speer Lawman or CCI Blazer during each session, since their handgun primers are said to be among the hardest. That way, if my gun's primer strikes are getting too light for whatever reason, I'll be able to detect it before it affects the use of my defensive ammo (which is currently from Winchester, so I shoot WWB to test primer ignition, as well).

I limit ammo for home defense to standard pressure.

So do I since it more closely matches what I train with, and I prefer to limit blast and flash anyway for home defense purposes.

KodiakBeer
April 25, 2010, 09:00 PM
Manco: .45 ACP and .40 S&W do tend to have similar velocities with similar bullet weights. Given that, obviously the .40 will penetrate more while the .45 will make larger holes. If the .45 gives you all the penetration that you need for game of a certain size, then it's ideal for that case, but it should be said that some hunters prefer complete penetration in order to get a clear blood trail

I'm not recommending the .45acp as a hunting round. I made a poor shot on a deer with a black powder rifle and it paused and looked back at me, so I put one out there with my .45 since I feared it would get away wounded before I could reload my smoke pole.

I never did find another hole besides the .45 round through the ribs, so I obviously missed that first shot and the deer was just pausing to wonder about all the smoke and noise...

I was just impressed with the instantaneous kill of that 165 grain hydra-shok - and I was only shooting that weight because the shop had been out of 230 grainers.

Anyway, I started buying the federal ball in 165 grain, and carrying the 165 grain hydra-shoks for carry. The make a lot of sense on several levels - the reduced recoil makes double-taps much easier, and after seeing the performance on a living creature I have no doubt about the terminal effectiveness.

I've shot deer with handguns - mostly .44 mags with flat-nosed slugs. You shoot them, it goes right through, the deer runs 20 or 30 yards and falls over. Very effective. The only instantaneous handgun kill I've ever seen is with that hydra-shok...

Hatterasguy
April 25, 2010, 09:00 PM
I'm cheap, and don't feel like spending a ton of money on hollow points. I just run good old 230gr FMJ, I know it works, and I know how it shoots.

It works fine for the military.

rbohm
April 25, 2010, 10:42 PM
I'm cheap, and don't feel like spending a ton of money on hollow points. I just run good old 230gr FMJ, I know it works, and I know how it shoots.

It works fine for the military.

yes it does work fine for the military, but military's around the world are limited to fmj ball rounds. by treaty they are not allowed to use frangible rounds of any kind.

CTGunner
April 25, 2010, 11:07 PM
Quick update - The Federal Classic worked pretty well. However, I did have a few (3) very random malfunctions today, double feeds, with the lawman. I kept shooting though and got through another 200 rounds, after the double feeds, without issue. By the end of the day I had 650 rounds total through the gun without cleaning. I'm feeling reasonably confident that 3 failures in 650 rounds is OK.

Old Shooter
April 25, 2010, 11:15 PM
Yeah, If you get attacked by 650 bad guys and only 3 get thru I guess thats OK....

Just kidding...

I think I'll look around and see if I can find some of those 165 grain rounds, sounds like they might be worth looking into.

sigsteve
April 26, 2010, 12:28 AM
I'd say that the best thing you can get for a defensive load is going to be the Federal Hydra shok in 230gr. I've shot a few people with them and they stopped them pretty good. :D

Tinman357
April 26, 2010, 02:35 AM
SigSteve; Glad to hear that my choice of .45 stands up to a real world test. Sorry you had to test it though. I assume the BG deserved it and you rest easy with the choice. If so, Well done. If you don't rest easy then you at least have my understanding.

Hatterasguy
April 26, 2010, 05:54 PM
yes it does work fine for the military, but military's around the world are limited to fmj ball rounds. by treaty they are not allowed to use frangible rounds of any kind.


Well I'm not an expert but I highly doubt if I double tap a bad guy in the chest with two .45ACP rounds they are really going to know the difference or care that its Winchester white box 230gr FMJ insted of pricey hollow points.

I'd be willing to bet that if they are still able to move and speak they will be begging me to call 911 and crying for mom.

KodiakBeer
April 26, 2010, 07:13 PM
Hatterasguy: Well I'm not an expert but I highly doubt if I double tap a bad guy in the chest with two .45ACP rounds they are really going to know the difference or care that its Winchester white box 230gr FMJ insted of pricey hollow points.

Well, you're wrong... FMJ rounds do far less damage inside a human (or animal) body than expanding rounds. There's a wealth of information out there demonstrating that fact. People and organizations have shot everything from live goats, to cattle carcasses to ballistic gel with the same results. Police data from actual shootings of people further demonstrate that effectiveness.

I don't know how much real-world difference there is between this low priced hollowpoint and that high priced hollowpoint, but any hollowpoint (assuming that it works and actually expands) is going to do a lot more internal damage than a FMJ.

More damage equates to a greater probability that he won't keep shooting back at you.

Manco
April 26, 2010, 08:51 PM
Well, you're wrong... FMJ rounds do far less damage inside a human (or animal) body than expanding rounds. There's a wealth of information out there demonstrating that fact. People and organizations have shot everything from live goats, to cattle carcasses to ballistic gel with the same results. Police data from actual shootings of people further demonstrate that effectiveness.

There seems to be a common belief among many that ~0.45" is a special bore diameter that is always highly effective no matter what. Y'all can keep your puny 9mm JHP that expands to ~0.65"--I'll take a .45 hard-ball round over it any day of the week because this caliber has stopping power! Right.... :)

Manco
April 26, 2010, 09:51 PM
By the way, on the topic of light versus heavy bullets, keep in mind that heavy bullets are generally longer than light bullets, so if they both expand to the same diameter (hypothetically, for the sake of argument), then a light bullet will be more like a disk while a heavy bullet will still have a substantial "stem" behind the expanded nose. Whatever these bullets may do in ballistic gelatin, when shot into human bodies in real life scenarios, bullets often quickly lose stability and tumble, in which case a heavy bullet with its greater length is likely to gouge a more consistently wide permanent cavity than a light bullet (not a big difference in practice, but I just wanted to point it out for the sake of completeness).

KodiakBeer
April 26, 2010, 10:39 PM
Manco, you may be right about the light vs heavy thing... I dunno... I suspect that if it was empirically tested in gel, you'd get a bigger cavitation wound with the 165's because of the added velocity. I suspect you'd get a deeper wound with the 230's. Yet, a 165 at close to 1,100 fps is going to give you all the penetration you need unless your opponent is in the neighborhood of 400 pounds, in which case you can just run away laughing at him instead of shooting him.

I shoot a Kimber compact with an aluminum frame and when I double-tap with 165 grainers, I shoot faster and the holes are closer together. That's not due to a lack of practice with 230 grain rounds, because 230's are all I shot for years and years. Try it yourself - even with a full sized 1911, you'll notice a difference.

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