How effective is the 45 ACP Ball round for self-defense?

You answered your own question with what WWII vets had to say about it. 230 gr ball ammo taking care of business for over 100 years...

^^^^^ This, my dad was one of those vets. One of the few things he ever told me about the war. He wasn't a gun guy at all, probably didn't know the difference in bullets. He did know the 45s were effective.
I'm an "Operation Torch" era baby. I was four when the soldiers started coming home in quantity. I grew up with almost every adult somehow connected to the war, changes in work, diet, dress; but of the adults I grew up among, there were no war stories. There were some indications, an uncle who walked funny, days when Dad shouldn't be disturbed, unusual reactions to some smells or sounds or weather, but not one war story from any of them.

The only really kinda war related tale (and I've recounted it here in the past) was when Dad gave me an 7 or 8 year old appropriate hand gun safety lesson and let me take the 1911 and one cartridge to school for Show-n-Tell. The teacher liked my Show-n-Tell and I had to do it again in a couple other classes and the gun and the cartridge got passed around and all the kids felt how heavy it was. The 1911 and the cartridge sat in my teachers desk drawer, unlocked and for part of the day unsupervised as well I imagine and I took it home after school.

That was the only day I got to hold the 1911 but when I had friends over sometimes Dad would get it out so they could see it and feel how heavy it was. I don't remember seeing the pistol after second or maybe third grade and have no idea what happened to it.

But back to the topic, I am confident 230 ball will feed, fire and eject and that part of a SD carry weapon are really, really important to me, so in just about all my carry guns I tend to prefer FMJ in the weight that the handgun was initially suggested.
Jeff Cooper and his acolytes maintained it was THE round for self defense, he wrote he had little experience with the 41 Magnum but recommend it for those still wedded to the revolver.
AMost veterans never saw combat, being in the rear with the gear, support positions, etc. Though quite a few found themselves deployed as riflemen.
.45 ACP was designed by John M Browning because that's what the Ordnance Bureau specified they wanted. This was all based on the Thompson-Legarde Tests done after the Army figured out that the .38 Long Colt wasn't cutting it. They shot a couple of horses, but they also shot cattle and cadavers too.

And the Ordnance Board specified performance on par with the .45 Govt that it had reissued to troops in the Philippines along with the Singke Action Army revolvers pulled out of moth balls. That round was designed and deployed during the Plains Indian Wars.
Which vets do we listen to? The ones that tell you that a hit to a pinkie finger will stop the fight? Or, the ones that say the guns that shoot them are unshootable? I dont put much faith in all the war stories, heard WAY too many whoppers over the decades. ;)

Personally, if the gun is a 1911 and hasnt been to a smith to have some basic things addressed, I would want ball ammo in the gun if I were counting on it. The odds the guns will work reliably are a lot better, and that actually goes for pretty much anything. I'll take a reliable gun over a magic bullet any day.

Ball ammo works fine as a stopper, as long as you can shoot, and that goes for 9mm and some others too. A lot of people have died after being shot with ball ammo from both. Now, if youre lacking in attaining/maintaining your skills, your mileage with any of them isnt really going to make any difference.

And, if you bought into all the war story BS and think one round is all its going to take to stop the show, and stop right then to marvel, instead of carrying on shooting as you should be, I think youre likely going to be surprised and disappointed. But, then again, even a blind squirrel gets lucky once in a while. :)

I always thought over-penetration was a good thing, but, apparently, it’s henot. :)
The veterans I grew up around were all pretty tight lipped about their combat experiences. In all, I knew a total of seven WWII veterans. Three were Marines. Two of them fought on Guadalcanal, one fought somewhere in the South Pacific never would say where. His brother told me he saw quite a bit of combat in the South Pacific. One, my mother‘s first cousin, was with the 101 Airborne and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. My next door neighbor was one of Darby’s Rangers and fought in Italy. One, a policeman and department gunsmith, was in the Army and fought in France and Germany as a combat infantryman. One, the first guy I ever worked for, was with the 82nd Airborne in Holland. He received the Purple Heart. The last guy, the father of my best friend growing up, was part of an artillery unit serving in France during the war.

Out of all six of them, the only one war story I heard was from the guy that was with the police department and their department gunsmith... If you can call it a war story. His squad came upon an abandoned German tank in a small town. They found the tank crew foraging for food. They apparently had not had anything much to eat in a week. They got the drop on the tank crew whom immediately dropped their weapons.
My friend told me he knew the Germans had lost the war when all the German tank commander asked for was to be fed.

I was just a skinny little kid that wanted to learn about guns…all kinds of guns. The consensus of this group of men was that the 45 ACP was a man stopper and that’s all they would say about it. I figured they had to know because they had been there. We were taught that it was impolite to ask specific questions about what they saw in the war. It was obvious they didn’t want to talk about it. BS war stories from these men? No sir. One look at them and you knew otherwise.
It beats a sharp stick but I would never choose a fmj round nose in any caliber if I had the choice. If I had a caliber where penetration with hollow points was questionable I would use a flat nose cast bullet or a Lehigh extreme defender.
Know what all those veterans DIDN'T do a whole lotta shooting with during WWII?

The 1911.

They figured that out in WW1 already. The army went through a good deal of effort trying to come up with enough 1911’s and Colt revolvers and whatever else could be procured for WW1, and after the war they concluded that handguns effect on combat was practically none. That’s why they started the light rifle program which resulted in the M1 carbine. They figured if they are going to equip the rear echalon troops with a weapon they might as well make it something that’s actually effective in the hands of the average person.
No such Era ever existed

The US population in 1945 was 140 million, so roughly 11% of all Americans fought in World War II.
Sigh. Let's just say, if anyone wants to quibble, a preponderance of adult males of a certain age group in my family, extended family, our church and our social circles. To stay on topic, probably few if any of them had occasion to use a 1911 against other humans, and those who might have, never shared those stories with me while I was a boy.
In my youth I shot a variety of small game and pests with various RN bullets, and they were almost always shockingly ineffective. Large caliber and small, entry and exit wounds were normally tiny, and often muscle and skin would shift so that bleeding was minimal. I've seen very small critters run off with .44 and .45 bullet holes in them. (I have not used a .50 RN on living animals, but Hamilton Bowen wrote of hitting a "beer can sized" rodent with one and having to perform a "dogged foot chase" before being able to finish it off - and by that point in my experience, I was not surprised by the report.)

Of course, sometimes RNs worked. I am sure that sometimes .45 ACP ball works on people. I just wouldn't stake my life on it, had I any real choice.

Similar experience
From World War I up into the middle 1990s, the U.S. military saw few complaints about the .45 ACP 230 grain FMJ round. I was issued a 1911 through Operations DESERT SHIELD/DESERT STORM and never lost confidence in the round.
My unit tried to issue me a Beretta M9 when I first got to Saudi in late 90, I went and scrounged a 1911A1 instead. It was a secondary weapon most of the time since I was the squad's M60 gunner. I did use the 1911 when I had to clear bunkers after the cease fire. I never felt under gunned with the 1911A1 and 230Gr Ball ammunition.
I would prefer a 200 or 185gr HP for a 45ACP handgun. Depends on what feeds reliably, accurately etc. But if my only ammo choice was 230gr ball, I'd carry it without a second thought.
I figure a 45 goes in about the size an expanded 38 or 9mm goes out. There may be better choices, but its not undergunned. Is def better to load fmj that function then hp that dont.
It has stopped a lot of fights, and killed a lot of bad guys, and unfortunately some good guys in the last 112 yrs.
No such Era ever existed

The US population in 1945 was 140 million, so roughly 11% of all Americans fought in World War II.

Lets say half the population was women, so they were not going to be infantry. And then, of the other half, how many 18 to 21 year olds were there?

The book Hell to Pay: Operation Downfall and the Invasion of Japan, 1945-1947 is full of population statistics. As a fact of the matter was, the US was running out of nice young male bodies. Sammy, the Gun Club's last WW2 veteran, who was second wave on Iwo Jima and Okinawa, called the men he went to basic with "cannon fodder". By 1943 the USA was experiencing 60,000 casualties a month, of which 20,000 are dead, and the reminder in various states of disassembly. Some, like Senator Bob Dole, he could never use his right arm again, and he knew he was lucky to got out alive.

The book was all about the decision to use the nuclear bomb. The best estimates of American losses in a land war on Japan were 1 million dead American's. The Japanese were willing to have 60 million dead Japanese, as a reference point. Our leaders did not believe the American public would support a war with such losses. And they might have been right.

A College room mate, I talked to his father about the war. This man, decades later, was still mad that he was drafted into WW2 and he was 37 years old and had young children at the time.

Basically if you were a young male, and not 4F, you were in the military during WW2. It was not like Vietnam where the children of rich liberal elites got to stay in college till the war ended. The Army, USMC, only allowed their men two years of College before sending them out to the front lines. My Dad was lucky, he was in the Navy and he was able to go for four years. When he graduated in May 1945, the war had not ended, but it had after he finished Midshipmen school. He still sailed over to Japan in early 1946. Dad remembered class mates who were activated after two years, and died overseas.

Moderns fail to understand what meat grinders the Industrial Wars of the 20 th Century were. WW1 was a bad one, and as an example, last week I was reading about a British unit that experienced combat on the Somme, and I got to the part where they were at this insignificant town named Cherisy, Hauts-de-France. The only real importance of this town is that it is near the Hindenburg line. The British buried their dead near the battlefields where they died, and the Somme is filled with British military cemeteries. I was curious to see, in Google Maps, how many military cemeteries were around Cherisy. Make sure the map is in satellite view, and zoom down till you see the shadows of the tombstones and shadows of 100 foot tall crosses. Even in this insignificant area, the war dead are every where.

Cemeteries near Cherisy

By the way, JRR Tolkein was serving as a Signals Officer, in the front lines, at the Somme, and at Passchendaele. And if you think about it, that's the inspiration for the dead, under the water, in the Dead Marshes. He saw pale British dead, in water filled shell holes, at the front, and used that in his Trilogy.

WW2 was about the same.

Of the men in the famous flag raising picture on Iwo Jima, how many made if off the island alive?

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They were pretty fussy even in WWII. Noted weightlifting and bodybuilding champion Dan Lurye went for his pre-induction physical in 1943-4-F. Heart murmurs. Marlon Brando, trick knee. Lots of others. Eddie Slovik was originally classified as 4-F due to his criminal record, but as the DI tells him and his fellow draftees "You guys are the bottom of the barrel. But the heat's on, Uncle Sam needs warm bodies, and now the bottom of that barrel is starting to kook mighty good." was in the Army 1967-1971, carried the M1911A1 -received ZERO training, never went to the range, taught myself disassembly/reassembly using my copy of Small Arms of the World. Bill Jordan said the 38 Special was the most powerful round the average man (i.e., most of us) could expect to master.
Jeff Cooper said a 9MM may expand, a 45 will never shrink. He also emphasized the combat mindset, and technology never makes up for lack of training.
.45 ACP was designed by John M Browning because that's what the Ordnance Bureau specified they wanted. This was all based on the Thompson-Legarde Tests done after the Army figured out that the .38 Long Colt wasn't cutting it. They shot a couple of horses, but they also shot cattle and cadavers too.

Ah! Very good! Based on the link, those tests indicated that the .45 caliber wasn't a very good performer for a hand fired weapon against livestock. They suggested well-directed rapid fire from nothing less than a .45-caliber weapon to be effective. Shooting horses seems to have been more of an afterthought as they shot a lot more cattle (13 or 16) than they did horses (2). As you note, JMB had nothing to do with the tests.

As for JMB designing the .45 acp for the military to shoot through horses, the external ballistic performance of the .45 acp was already present in the .45 S&W of the day, getting roughly 830 fps from a 230 gr. bullet. Anything JMB would have done would be to simply verify performance. In other words, there wasn't anything particularly new or special about the .45 acp in terms of external ballistic parameters and once up to speed, terminal ballistic would be the same with the same bullets. JMB just go them going out of an auto-loading gun is all. Given that the external ballistics were the same, it would be a huge stretch to say JBM designed the .45 acp to shoot through horses, particularly given that these tests revealed the need for more rounds than what the 1911 carried.

Quoting from the Wiki link, the results were not impressive.
"We are not acquainted with any bullet fired from a hand weapon that will stop a determined enemy when the projectile traverses soft parts alone. The requirements of such a bullet would need to have a sectional area like that of a 3-inch solid shot the recoil from which when used in hand weapons would be prohibitive."

As for the .45 acp being what the board wanted, you can see the parameters of what JMB produced fitting the recommendations of the Ordnance Board after the Thompson-LaGarde testing.

For those that want to read it, here is the Thompson-LaGarde report.

It seems they were fans more of expanding bullets...
"The object of this is, of course, to secure-mushrooming" of bullet, with its attendant great shock effect and stopping power."

Basically if you were a young male, and not 4F, you were in the military during WW2.

Yes, but there weren't that many young males compared to the overall population. So at no time did the Veteran population end up at such a number that most of the adults or adult males were veterans. We only put 16,500,000 people (male and female), of which 10,100,000 were male (less, as the numbers indicate draft from 1940-1947) into the military (according to different sites than Slamfire, so more people, but still not enough to make it most males,, with a starting population of 133,000,000 in 1941 (before the war) and by 1945, we had grown in population to right at 140,000,000. It is hard to get (original premise pondered) a whole generation of adults that were veterans when a generation is roughly 20 years long and for the US, the war was less than 4 years and and roughly 1/4 (400K) of those that served were killed or died in service.
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Jeff Cooper and his acolytes maintained it was THE round for self defense, he wrote he had little experience with the 41 Magnum but recommend it for those still wedded to the revolver.

I am sure Col. Cooper shot a lot of hardball, just for the convenience, but he wrote of the advantages of the semiwadcutter and liked the .45 version of the USAF/Hornady 9mm trials truncated cone bullet. He was not impressed by "frangible" bullets by which he meant expanding bullets, not the powder metal practice stuff.
Long before the .41 Magnum came out, he and his cronies furnished a lawman who would only carry a revolver a .44 Special and a case of 900 fps SWCs.

So at no time did the Veteran population end up at such a number that most of the adults or adult males were veterans

My Dad spent the war years driving the bus taking defense workers to places like the aircraft plant... where my Mother worked. And others, too, of course. Public transportation is valuable when gasoline and tires are rationed.
So, if all you have in your 45 acp is ball ammo, are you at a disadvantage? So what’s the consensus? Is 45 ball as useless as some folks claim it to be?
You're at a disadvantage with ball vs. hollowpoints. You're at a disadvantage with fewer rounds of 45 vs. smaller calibers. Everything is advantages and disadvantages.
My father was an officer in the Navy in WWII, as a junior officer on destroyers and finally as Skipper of a Destroyer Escort in the last months of the war and through 1946 when he de-mobbed. Went into the drink, sunk, in early 1942 in the Solomons campaign, lost his side-arm. I still have his second 1911 of the War. Only feeds hardball reliably btw.