Any ballistic info. on .45acp from a 3" barrel?


February 18, 2004, 11:35 AM
I'm looking for velocity and expansion info. on different ammo from a 3".45acp.

Anybody got links, or data?

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February 18, 2004, 06:11 PM
I don't mean to be a smart butt... and hopefully someone else will come along with more informative... information, but I think with 45ACP from a 3" barrel you just kinda shoot a bullet and hope for the best as far as expansion goes.

What gun are you specifically asking about? I'd be tempted to say that 230 Gr Ranger would be a very good bet if anything was going to expand. Standard pressure 230 Gr Golden Sabers are probably a good bet as well. Both feed well through many guns.

In a uber-compact 1911 platform, I'd tend to stay - or at least start - with the 230 Gr loads, mostly for reliability reasons. Some may suggest 185 Gr or even 165 Gr loads for best expansion potential and I might even check out the Taurus bullets as they look interesting, but I'd personally feel best about a FMJ-profile standard pressure 230 Gr HP myself.

February 18, 2004, 06:19 PM
You can find lots of this type of info by running searches over at the 1911 forums. That's how I decided to run Fed 200-gr EFMJ in my 3" SA loaded Micro.

February 19, 2004, 06:12 AM
The best thing about a .45 is that even if it doesn't expand, it still produces the largest entrance wound of all the calibers.
Now to not worry about feed problems and be able to use all ammo, no matter the bullet weight or even +P power level, you can use 3 inchers like this........

Double Naught Spy
February 19, 2004, 07:03 AM
1. In real life, expansion from pistol cailber ammo fired from pistols with barrels of the proper length (standard original design barrel lengths: 5" for .45 acp, 4" for 9 mm, etc.) is iffy.
2. A 3" barrel is really iffy for .45 acp.
3. To get higher velocity needed to expand when using a shorter barrel and when you can't up the powder load unsafely, you must use a lighter projectile, say 185 gr.

I am looking at the March 2001 Shooting Times issue where they were specifically addressing the issue of smaller 1911s and selection of defense ammo. The barrel sizes they used were from 3 (Kimber 3.16") to 6" (Springfield longslide).

Of note, the .45 acp was really designed for a 5" barrel. That does not mean other lengths of barrels won't work. What it does mean is that the standard of 850 fps is based on using X amount of powder that produces 850 fps out of a 5" barrel for a 230 gr slug.

That is part of the reason .45 acp does not make for a good rifle round. You might get slightly better accuracy with a rifle or carbine chambered in .45 acp, but little, none, or even less velocity depending on the barrel and round use.

In Shooting Times, there was not much gain of velocity with the 6" over the 5" barrel and in a couple of cases, there was loss of velocity. Several of the velocities between the Commander 4.25" and 5" barrels were not great at all, usually around 30 fps. The difference in the 3" to the 5" barrel was much greater. They ranged from 75-125 fps. What does that mean? According to Forker's "Ammo and Ballistics" book, loss of that much velocity is roughly equivalent to hitting your target 50 yards away for much of the 230 gr ammo he chrono'd at various distances.

Using the Speer Gold Dot 185 gr hollowpoint, out of the four barrels the velocities were 901 (3.16" barrel), 1012 (4.25"), 1024 (5.0"), and 1046 (6.0") fps. This resulted in expansion of .527, .592, .597, and .612" but it should be pointed out that expansion was based on shooting into water, not gel and not animal parts.

Given that many .45 acp do not expand reliably in real life situations, the shooter may not want to choose to shoot a 230 gr hollowpoint from a 3" barrel. For the Fed. Hydrashok, that round will only be going 769 fps, a full 132 fps slower than if fired from a 5" barrel. If it is going to have trouble expanding a full speed, then it will have even more trouble traveling at 132 fps slower. The 3" shot is 15% slower than the 5" shot.

Barrel lengths do make a difference in velocity and that difference can be significant between 3" and 5" barrels. However, there will be diminishing returns with increased barrel length over 5" on the .45 acp.

Personally, I liked the information on the Speer Gold Dot 185s, not the +P ammo. As such, you would get essentially a higher velocity round without the extra POP of +P and still get better performance from a 4" barrel than some other 185 gr. ammo does from a 5" barrel.

Majic is right. Even if all goes wrong for expansion, you still get your .45 hole(s) and that isn't too bad at all!

For additional consideration, I carry my Kimber Ultra Elite quite a bit, but not because of the Speer Gold Dot 185s and their potential expansion. The Kimber and cartridge are a compromise to be able to carry in situations where I can't carry a full-size. The gun is reliable and the cartridge is reliable from the gun and is reported to be a good performer, but a 3.16" barrel is far from ideal for terminal ballistics.

February 19, 2004, 10:17 AM
A while back one of the gun rags tested all the Cor-Bon .45ACP+P fodder in an .45 AMT Back-up (I own one). They tested 230gr, 200gr, 185gr, & 165 gr.

The only one to expand reliably with the AMT Back-up was the 165gr.

Only problem was, the 165gr did not feed reliably in my Back-up.

These days, if I carry my AMT Back-up, it is stoked with hardball. I'm not one of those ".45 hardball will knock a man down like a bolt of lightning" kinda guys. I just figured that the possibility of expansion was not worth as much as ensuring the AMT functioned reliably.

I would not expect a .45 JHP to expand reliably out of a 3" bbl.

February 19, 2004, 10:58 AM
The Nov. Dec. 2000 issue of American Handgunner Pg. 50, Charles Petty did a test of 5",4.25" and 3.16" barrels in .45 cal and found little differance in volocity's between them... Check it out.:confused:

February 19, 2004, 11:02 AM
I meant to say bullet expansion.. Very little differance.Volocities were,5"- 864;4.25-874; and 3.16" 790fps..All with gold Dot 230 gr.Expansion was: 5"-.62; 4.25"-.62 and 3.16"-.59:D

February 19, 2004, 12:32 PM
Thanks for the replies.
My gun is a Colt Defender, with a 3.0 inch barrel.
I was reading the post under Tactics, where the 230gr Hydra Shok didn't expand in the Cal. gunshop shootout.
That was shot from a Glock that has 3/4" more barrel than I do.

I've picked up a box of the 185gr Speer Gold Dots.
Time to slay some milk jugs!

February 19, 2004, 12:59 PM
Well.........your Dots are a good choice. Look for a round that isnt designed to expand with great velocity.

Theory....faster bullets expand better?

Well, typically yes but there is NO RULE!

A bullet designed to expand from 800-1100 FPS wont expand alot of times when going too fast or too slow.

Most of it is staying within acceptable velocity ranges which most guns should give it and finding the best bullet design you can.

Look at Taurus/Barnes All Cooper 45 APC 185 gr JHP..........the thing is SLOW! It has the same velocity as a 230 FMJ when fired from the same gun. BUT IT EXPANDS like crazy. Clothing/Denim doesnt stop it either.

I use this as an example because its strictly the design of the bullet they are relying on for expansion not speed. With speed comes pressure, with pressure comes recoil, with recoil comes higher recovery time between its a good thing to have.

Look around......there is ALOT of info out there on this subject and good luck.........Shoot well.

Tropical Z
February 19, 2004, 07:41 PM
When i get my patriot with its 3.3" barrel, im gonna hope it feeds well using Hornadys 200gr HP's.For some reason im fascinated by that round.:confused:

Double Naught Spy
February 19, 2004, 09:31 PM
manyironsinfire, the 'very little difference' in velocity you note for going to a 3.16" barrel is a great deal of velocity when it comes to handgun ammunition performance relative to expansion. You gotta figure that most handgun ammo that is supposed to expand is barely over the cusp of being able to do so at very close ranges, inside 25 yards. A round that expands at 850 fps may not expand at all at 820 fps. So a loss of just a little velocity can drop the round below crucial necessary velocity needed to expand.

Most of the full size (230 gr.) rounds with standard or +P loadings are not going to make the necessary velocity to perform well (for expansion) out of short barrels). With that said, you may still good penetration, just no expansion.

February 20, 2004, 10:33 AM
DN SPY, You could be right about terminal volocity=expansion.. I have crono'ed both reloads and factory that have 10 to 15 fps differances depending on a number of variables, not excluding barrel lenght, weather, type of barrel, etc...But a .45 leaves a big enough hole in its self to warrent me carring my ultra carry..

Double Naught Spy
February 20, 2004, 04:22 PM
...and therein is the beauty of the .45 acp.

February 20, 2004, 04:44 PM
I asked this very same question over on the Tactical Forums ( and also did a few searches on the topic over there as well.
Seems that the general consensus is that the Speer 230grn Gold Dot and the Win/Ranger 230grn would perform the best out of the shorter barreled .45s. I’ve got 100rounds of 230grn Gold Dot +P on the way right now from Georgia Arms… we’ll see if the Glock 30 likes it or not.

And of course, as has already been noted- 'Hey? A half inch hole even with zero expansion? What's not to like?'

February 20, 2004, 10:38 PM
Federal 230 gr HS runs about 890 fps from a 5", about 815 from my Defender.

I use the Federal PD 165's, which go about 990 fps from the short Colt.

February 21, 2004, 03:23 AM
Has anyone given any thought to the Federal Expanding Full Metal Jackets, or the CorBon PoweRball for the snubbie .45?

February 21, 2004, 09:27 AM
See the second reply above.

February 21, 2004, 09:39 PM
Fired from a 3.25" barreled CS45 ... Winchester T-Series & older +P SXT, if I remember right ... 4-Layer denim gelatin ...

Standard velocity on left ... 802fps/13"/.76
+P version on right ... 839fps/12"/.77

Seemed to work okay on that particular day, and in that particular short-barreled weapon ... but there are NO guarantees from anyone.

If I couldn't get the Winchester Ranger T-Series ammunition anymore ... which may well occur at some point, depending on our purchasing ... I'll simply go down to a local store and buy some more Speer standard pressure 230gr Gold Dot loads, or, if they aren't available that day, some Remington standard pressure 230gr Golden Sabre ... continue practicing ... and not worry overly much about the issue.

I'm watching the development of the all-copper HEX bullet design with interest, though ...

Functional reliability & potential accuracy of whatever BHP/JHP ammunition I'm using in MY weapon ... and MY ability to properly respond, should the reasonable "need" arise ... and PLACEMENT ... and knowing WHEN the use of deadly force is lawful and appropriate ... are much more important considerations in my daily affairs.

February 21, 2004, 09:42 PM
another view of same bullets, in same order as listed in previous post ...

February 24, 2004, 10:02 AM
Looks like those would do the trick.

Thanks for the info. guys.

I like the Winchester Personal Defense, because I get 50rds for $16.
My gun feeds it well, I can afford to shoot a lot, and it makes a .45 hole even if it doesn't expand.

Anyway, I've got another excuse to buy more ammo.

February 24, 2004, 01:52 PM
Anyway, I've got another excuse to buy more ammo. :scrutiny:

Excuse? It's an obligation ... a duty. :D

Practice, practice, practice ....

Properly, of course. ;)

February 25, 2004, 11:06 AM shot some Taurus Hex (al-copper) rounds into gelatin. All expanded fully from a 5" bbl.

Charles Petty, in a review of the Hex for American Handgunner, found their muzzle velocities all well exceeded 900 fps from shorter bbls, including the Officers model (4.3).

Taurus says it's going to extend production to other calibers.

Cor-Bon says it's coming out with rounds in .45, .40 and 9mm using the same Barnes bullet, the XPD, for "expanding deep," I believe.

I've run a box of the Hex rounds through my Star PD. Without gelatin or a chronograph, all I can speak to is reliability, recoil and accuracy. Copper is supposed to be inherently more accurate than lead, and that bore out in my testing. All 20 fed and ejected without a burp, and the recoil was not unpleasant.

You can order them from The Gun Source for $15/20.

ammolab (

gunsource (

February 28, 2004, 11:37 PM
I tried the Federal Hydra shoks 185 gr out of my Para 12.45. Know I know this is not scientific, but I shot a treated 3.5" thick board at 10 feet. The entrance hole was nice an round and the exit hole was just massive. If I remember correctly about and inch and a half wide.

Again, not scientific, but lead medium reloads sometimes barely went into the wood. Some I could easily pick out.

I know the new Taurus ammo talks about expansion, but what about penetration? Bullets can expand nicely without penetrating. I'm not saying they don't penetrate, but I've seen no data about that either.

I think the rule is a bullet needs to penetrate 7" for a (supposed) 1 shot knockdown in most cases. A .45 should easily be able to do this even out of a 3" .45

March 1, 2004, 11:35 AM
Penetration in the Ammolab tests ranged from 11.8 to 12.4 inches. Expansion up to .85 inch.

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