.45 ACP stopping power

Not open for further replies.
Remember also, that a bullet strikes with a very small fraction of its surface. The amount of force is concentrated into the tip of the bullet, so the target is not getting a large amount of force over a large surface.

One of the better examples of this, is in some of the D-Day landing films. The Germans were using mostly MG34's and 8x57mm Mauser ammo. There are soldiers who are hit, and then just fall forward to the sand; not thrown backward as is depicted in movies. While some of them were surely hit with 20mm cannon fire, they still fall forward.

Another good example is to watch how deer react when hit with a "hunting" caliber round. Deer react involuntarily to a hit from say, a .30-06. In all the flim, video, and on-site hits, I've never seen a deer get knocked off its feet from the impact. Not even with a 1 oz. shotgun slug.

Why would anyone believe that a 200 pound human would react any differently than a 200 pound buck?
Whoa folks, though there are cases where guns have failed to stop, including 12 gauge, not so long ago morgue monsters collected many autopsies and police records about shootouts and over a time found there was some correlation between power of the gun and stopping power.

Massad Ayoob, David Spauling, Marshal and Santow, and others collected quite a bit of data.

Yes as .45 does have more stopping power than a .22. Yes a .357 125g JHP has a real good record.

But they also found a) shot placement mattered alot b) sometimes even the biggest and most powerful would fail.

Like I said, clout .vs. control .vs. concealability and portability.

If you can handle the .45 or .357 magnum with full loads, or the .357 SIG or .40 S&W then by all means go that direction. And if all you can handle is a .38 or 9mm, then use it. But whatever you get, become a good fast shot for that is what will matter the most, not the bore size.

This might call for some tests on dead pigs or something!
I shoot live pigs in my trap, wild ones. I've shot 'em in the head with an NAA mini revolver and a Federal .22 HP and it didn't bounce off. A head shot is lethal every time, no matter the caliber. The most impressive was the pig I head shot with a .357 140 grain JHP in the top of the head between the eyes and his eye ball popped out 3" from the pressure in his scull. I've put 'em down with the .45, too. Never THAT impressive, but the penetration is. Usually, a 200 grain SWC will penetrate right through the neck/body and out the sternum.

I can tell ya this, I ain't standing in front of a .45 and letting someone shoot ME in the head with it.

All doubts aside, it happened exactly as I described. I was using a 5" Colt series 80, loaded with Wolf 230 gr Ball. No fewer that two or three rounds of the stuff failed to penetrate that big sows head. The first was directly between and slightly above the eyes, leaving a streak of torn skin and exposed bone. She was fairly animated after that, so the follow-up's were not so neatly placed. Only the behind the ear shot did the trick. The land-owner took all of his pigs cleanly in a nearby trap with a Taurus .22 revolver.

The combination of the ball ammo and steep angle to that skull simply made for a ricochet prone shot. Still, it leaves one sober over how ineffective a handgun could be in an actual dangerous encounter. I keep an AK by the bed. People might take issue with me toting that to the office, so I guess handguns have a purpose.
Could be.
But I distinctly remember the one in 1968.
Khe Sanh was in 1968.

It was in Stars & Strips all about the hero doctors who removed it from the guy and he lived.
It was an armed 40mm M-79 grenade.

I also just don't believe a 10 pound 81mm mortar round going 700 FPS is likely to stop inside a man.
Either going up fresh from the tube, or coming back down from the sky.

Sand is considerably more dense and hard than human tissue and therefore would resist the bullet's passage more than human tissue. That would stop the bullet faster resulting in more force being applied by the bullet.
If the bullet does not exit the target, the total momentum applied to the target is the same in both cases. The bullet that stops quicker applies more force, but for less time, so the impulse is the same as for the bullet that stops more slowly.

If the bullet exits, of course, not all of its momentum is transferred to the target, so in that case the impulse would be less.
If the bullet does not exit the target, the total momentum applied to the target is the same in both cases.
That is correct--that's why a ballistic pendulum works.
The bullet that stops quicker applies more force, but for less time, so the impulse is the same as for the bullet that stops more slowly.
If the deceleration time is significantly different, the practical effect is also significantly different even if the impulse is identical. That's why crumple zones in automobile construction are so effective at reducing injury. The car still stops in both cases and therefore the same momentum and impulse are applied, but the effect is very different in terms of peak forces.
Bullets can do strange things, and I know of cases where this kind of stuff has happened involving most common handgun calibers.

There's still a vocal element within the shooting community who believes that the ".45 ACP is the only REAL man stopper". Those folks are often repeating the same old lines that probably date back to the first world war.

The truth? Whether you are shooting a 9mm, .40 S&W, .357 Sig, .45 ACP, .45 GAP, etc, shot placement and bullet design are the two keys to stopping the fight. The other truth is that all handguns are rather weak when it comes to "stopping power" if compared with centerfire rifles and shotguns. They exist in two totally different worlds when it comes to getting the job done.

Having attended some wound ballistics classes, I'll say that cartridge choice is a rather individual thing, and most of the well-known ones will work just fine, and about equally. For every .45 ACP failure you can find, I can point you to one with a 9mm, and vice versus.

In my department we authorize the .45 ACP and 9mm. When I started in my career all of the gun guys were carrying .45's. I did too. Most of us have switched to 9mm handguns by now. Why? By my estimate they give the same odds of stopping a fight, but I can carry nearly twice as much ammo in a cartridge that provides less recoil (meaning faster follow-up shots). I can also practice much more cheaply with it on my own time.
what he said.

Worked real well for Alvin york.

As it usually did when shooting people who were cold, exhausted and often half-starved.

Expecting the same performance against a 6'5" 300-pounder who spent the last three years pumping iron in the prison yard is unrealistic...especially if he happens to be wired for sound on his favorite pharmaceutical candy.

I worked with a girl at RJR Tobacco whose estranged husband shot 7 times across a living room with his father's stolen Remington Rand loaded with hardball. She ran across the street to a neighbor's, and collapsed while the EMTs were en route.

She was able to return to work in about 6 weeks. The Rand was returned to its owner. Joe whackjob went to jail.
If the deceleration time is significantly different, the practical effect is also significantly different even if the impulse is identical. That's why crumple zones in automobile construction are so effective at reducing injury. The car still stops in both cases and therefore the same momentum and impulse are applied, but the effect is very different in terms of peak forces.
Definitely true, but as I understand it, the discussion was whether a bullet that could barely move a 150-lb sandbag would knock a 150-lb human backward from impact, and the answer is that both 150-lb objects would be knocked backward exactly the same amount, i.e. not much at all, since that is a function of momentum transfer. Someone might react and move when hit, but there is not much contribution from momentum transfer.
For the record

I can remember two head shot failure to stop incidents.

1. The first was 4 decades ago when a kidnapper in Florida decided to murder the child he had kidnapped. He shot him in the head with a .22lr pistol and left him for dead after the child fell down. It turns out that the bullet was deflected by the skull and traveled under the flesh to exit on the opposite side. The boy survived.

2. A violent attack on two police officers resulted in one killed and the surviving officer fighting the man at close range. He fired a round, a .38 Special I believe into the attacker's forehead and after dropping to the floor, the killer started to get up again to continue his attack. The officer dropped him with a pelvis shot, I think and the bad guy died of blood loose.

I agree with the people who are putting accuracy first, then bullet size. I am issued and carry a .40 S&W, but I would prefer a 9m.m. as I have faster recoil recovery and that allows me to more accurately place my follow up shots in a shorter time. Plus, I like the extra rounds, the 9m.m. allows me to carry.

Okay so as we all know the .45 ACP packs some heavy punch. Is that really true tho? Because one of my buddies went to a CHL class and the instructed said that at 10 yards a man was shot with a .45 that hit him right in the forehead and it didn't penetrate the skull is went between the skull and skin and came out at the top of his head leaving him virtually unharmed. Then another that at about the same distance a man was shot with a .45 and it was deflected of his front teeth. Both are hard to believe but stranger things have happened. Though I would ask and hope someone who is more knowledgeable on the cartridge would comment.
I think that the individual is confusing the .45acp with the .25acp. I have heard of the .25acp doing this time and again, but the .45acp has to much energy + mass to do what this individual is implying. that is unless you have a skull the thickness of a hog!
Last edited:
Yes, bullete do very strange things.

I think though, that no one can doubt the .45 ACP is an effective caliber with proper shot placement.

Carry with confidence. :cool:
It is not uncommon for round nose bullets regardless of caliber when they strike an angular surface such as the forehead to be deflected. Just think a rounded object striking a rounded object. Deflection becomes quite easy. Jim Cirillo probably had more experience with gunfighting than most will ever see. In his book he made note of this phenomena. In fact in one instance they shot a very large man nearly a dozen times with their .38 round nose bullets.
These rounds had an infamous reputation for overpenetration.
The man went down a bloody mess. When they estimated his age (figuring him to be dead) he opened his eyes and said something to the effect that he was much younger than their guess! He asked to borrow a rag to blow his nose and out came one of the bullets. The man was so large they couldn't get him on to the stretcher. He became upset and just walked out to the waiting ambulance.
As I said the man was very large and they were most likely shooting at an upward angle. Knew a guy when I was growing up in Detroit that was shot by a much smaller man 5 times in the head by .45 ball. They all bounced of his noggin and he proceeded to stomp his would be killer! Had another buddy have a guy try to kill him in a bar by shooting him in the back of the head with a .25.
The bullet entered the skin. Slid around the skull to about his temple. His nickname was "Thor" and he looked the part. A large blonde haired, blue eyed biker. He got up and pounded his would be killer. Both went to the hospital. Thor was out that night with a few stitches. The other guy spent 3 weeks in the hospital followed by jail. The point of all this?
a.)Handguns regardless of power/size cannot be guaranteed even with a headshot to stop someone.
b.) All handguns are relatively weak compared to almost any long gun. Even the "mighty .45".
c.) Every shooting is a unique event. The size, speed, angle of impact, type of bullet, number of rounds impacting all cause different results from the same weapon/caliber combination. Does the bullet(s) strike bone, muscle, fat, elastic/non elastic tissue? Is the subject drunk, on drugs, enraged, mentally ill, or just plain determined to do harm? All these things effect bullet performance on target.
d.) The statistics we were given were 85% of those shot with handguns survive. The exact opposite for long guns. Around the same percentage don't survive. This does not mean 85% are not stopped by handguns. Ergo stopping power is something that cannot be quantified with an degree of accuracy because of all the variables involved.
This problem bothered Cirillo enough that he went about trying different kinds of wadcutters and other bullet types to improve performance. This was the early years of the Super Vel JHP's. He found they worked well on body shots but not much better on head shots. I recommend you read his book for more detailed information. For shots on angled surfaces like heads and car doors he found sharp profiled wadcutters tended to work best. The flat surface tended to "grip" well even when hitting a sharp angle.
What to make of all this? If all things were equal bigger is better. But things are not equal. For instance the mighty .45 in W.W. II tended to not do well when trying to penetrate the German issue helmets of the time. The 9mm (yeah the .45 on stun b.s.) went through our G.I.'s helmets quite well. So if you use just that criteria (which won't work because it is too limited of a definintion) the 9mm is a "better" stopper than a .45.
The lesson to all this? Stopping power " is a myth. At least short of a 120mm tank gun is an intangible concept. Way too many people think because they buy a .45 caliber (or fill in the blank with your favorite pet caliber) they are safe. Your skills, mind set, tactics, and often luck will determine the outcome of a fight more than anything. To consider oneself well armed and capable because of a certain caliber is foolish. Well trained with your weapon. Good situational awareness. Agressiveness when called for are much more important than anything else. Answer to if the bullet deflects off the skull? Shoot them as many times as necesary no matter what caliber you're carrying until they are no longer a threat. Of course that requires working with your weapon and getting a good set of skills with it. Most folks would rather trust their hand cannon of choice will protect them. Much easier than hard work after all.
Posts; .45acp ....

First I didn't read all the forum posts to this topic, so keep that in mind. ;)

Second, anecdotal or second hand stories of gunshot wounds or how handguns actually perform under real world conditions is as old as time. :rolleyes:
I've heard many, many tales, anecdotes, news reports & research(which seems questionable :scrutiny: ).

In short, Id feel well armed with a .45acp pistol. Will it stop a Mack truck rolling down on you at a 100mph? No. Will it fend off every 7'07" biker strung out on bath salts? Maybe not. :uhoh:
But I'm confident with my marksmanship, gun selection(Glock 21 .45acp, gen 04 with night sights) & ammunition choices; Winchester Ranger T/T Series 230gr +P JHP with MagSafe SWAT(home defense, 05 rounds).

Could a .357sig, .40 or 9x19mm defend you? Sure, ;).
Many top firearm & tactics trainers like Pat Rodgers & Hamiltion Yam are now using 9x19mm sidearms. The S&W Military and Police 9mm has been selected by a few US police agencies over .40s/.357sigs/.45acp in the last 2/3 years.
Is the 9mm better than a 1911a1 .45acp? No but the newer duty pistols offer a lot and some gunners prefer the 9x19mm now.
:rolleyes:Nothing beats the stopping power of a Detroit Cinderblock.

Guaranteed one shot dropper on a head shot, EVERY SINGLE TIME.

Those little red ones can sometimes be useful, too.


Beyond that, as has been fairly addressed, stopping power is mostly myth, mixed with hyperbole and dreams.

Carry what you can shoot well, use high quality ammunition and high quality magazines. Practice regularly, and pray you never need to find out if you made the right choice.
Even if you didn't , if you have a quality firearm you can shoot well, it has proper defensive ammunition and is fed from proper magazines ( or cylinders ! ), you'll do just fine.
two things to remember...

1. The plural of "anecdote" is not "data".

2. Most "anecdotes" are actually horse excrement.

Oh, and if the .45acp was as useless as some claim, we would have figured that out about 100 years ago. Or sometime between then and now. :)
Post #72....

Post #72 is true.
The .45acp was everyone's All American in 2000 & could do no wrong.
Now in 2014, the vanity & popularity has swayed a bit but the caliber is still tops for LE, home defense or CCW.
It's not for everyone but it's robust, powerful & able to drop dangerous felons with proper use. :D
My Glock 21 .45acp has a 13+1 capacity, I do not feel under-gunned.
I also carry extra 13rd Glock pistol magazines.
Greatest feat of .45 ACP stopping power

It was the .45ACP that was used for the greatest feat of stopping power in all of recorded history. This feat was accomplished during the 1970s. The man using the .45ACP was John Cooper. In an extraordinary display of skill, John Cooper using the .45ACP was able to stop millions of people for the last four decades from using critical thinking to realize that the 9mm Parabellum is a viable self-defense cartridge and is not 40% less effective than the .45ACP.
Then another that at about the same distance a man was shot with a .45 and it was deflected of his front teeth

I worked with a guy that claimed to have "caught" a 30-06 bullet in his teeth. :rolleyes:
When I began to try to reason with him, he claimed he shot a deer (whitetail) and the bullet passed through the deer and hit a disc blade on the ground that had broken off when planting, then it ricocheted back at him (apparently around the deer?) and he then "caught" the bullet in his teeth. :D

I personally believe neither story, now failing to penetrate the skull. That I'd believe about nearly any pistol caliber. Given the right circumstances.
Not open for further replies.