The Best .45 ACP Ammo for Self Defense

.45 ACP cartridges

The .45 Automatic Colt Pistol (ACP) is one of the most iconic and sought after handguns in history. You should do your homework before shooting, however, to ensure that you are using the right round for the right job. Seasoned shooters have strong opinions about which is the “right ammunition.” That debate has been going on ever since the gun was created by John Moses Browning in 1905. Experts say the right answer depends solely on how you are going to use the ammo. Hobbyists want to hit the range while others plan to use their gun for self-defense or home protection. Therefore, the question remains – what is your perfect .45 ammo? There may not be one particular brand or type that will fulfill all your needs. They will work well all around but can’t be considered ideal. For example, self-defense rounds must have ultimate stopping power. That can be found in a hollow point round.

What’s Your Purpose?

First, you must decide on how the ammo will be used. Second, pick the ammo that will work best for that specific application. .45 ammo comes in two styles: Full Metal Jacket (FMJ) and Jacketed Hollow Points (JHP).

Full Metal Jacket

Full Metal Jacket (FMJ) ammunition has a soft lead core that sits in a copper jacket. It offers decent penetration, but there is no expansion, so it is best used at the range or for target shooting. FMJ is not ideal for self-defense because it could over-penetrate. The ammo could go astray or run through the target and cause collateral damage.

Jacketed Hollow Point

Jacketed Hollow Point (JHP) is the top choice for a self-defense round. It has a lead core that sits inside in a copper jacket; but unlike FMJ, it has expansion. The core of the round will expand upon impact, creating a wider channel than the FMJ. However, the copper jackets slow down the ammo so over penetration is unlikely.


You should read reviews and test the ammo before buying a large amount. Find out what others use and test the rounds for yourself. Never take the word of someone without doing your own tests. Lucky Gunner has an excellent reputation of conducting thorough tests on ammunition, much like the field tests used by the FBI.

Experts use various tests to determine the ballistics of ammunition. Testers use a compact pistol, which is considered an ideal weapon for self-defense and concealed carry.

To perform your own tests:

  • Fire 5 shots of each type of ammo to establish an average.
  • Shots should be fired from 10 feet away. This is the average distance in most self-defense situations.
  • To mimic heavy clothing, place 4 layers of fabric in front of ballistics gel. This will mirror real life situations.
  • Ideal penetration for ammo is 12 to 18 inches. Test results will show the ammo’s stopping power without over-penetration.

Selecting the Right Ammunition

What is a good self-defense load? The best answer to that question is an ammunition that passes the FBI’s strict testing protocol. The agency requires that ammo penetrate ballistics gelatin 12-18 inches while meeting the following requirements:

  • Penetrate unaltered ballistic gelatin 12-18 inches
  • Penetrate gelatin 12-18 inches covered in layers of heavy denim
  • Penetrate gelatin 12-18 inches behind a sheet of steel
  • Penetrate gelatin 12-18 inches behind wall board
  • Penetrate gelatin 12-18 inches behind plywood
  • Penetrate gelatin 12-18 inches behind safety glass

Test the ammunition at various distances to determine quality. Fire 100-200 rounds to check the reliability of the rounds.

Top Picks

Here are the top ten picks for .45 ACP cartridges. Down below are the top choices for self-defense.

Name of Product Bullet Weight   Rounds Muzzle Energy Muzzle Velocity  
Speer Gold Dot JHP 230-grain 20 405 ft-lbs 890 fps
Federal LE Tactical Bonded HP 230-grain 50 460 ft-lbs 950 fps
Blazer Brass FMJ 230-grain 50 365 ft-lbs 845 fps
Federal Classic Personal Defense JHP Hi-Shok 230-grain 50 370 ft-lbs 900 fps
Federal American Eagle FMJ 230-grain 50 405 ft-lbs 890 fps
Hornady Critical Defense FTX 185-grain 20 333 ft-lbs 900 fps
Magtech FMC 230-grain 1000 358 ft-lbs 837 fps
Remington Golden Saber JHP 230-grain 500 391 ft-lbs 875 fps
Winchester Supreme Elite JHP 230-grain 20 432 ft-lbs 882 fps
Hornady Custom XTP JHP 200-grain 20 494 ft-lbs 1055 fps

The Best .45 ACP for Self-Defense

Self-defense requires fast thinking and skill. Therefore, it’s imperative to know your weapon and to choose the right ammo. You may only get one chance. Self-defense doesn’t always mean killing the target, but rather, scaring away an intruder to keep yourself safe. You must handle each situation with efficiency and accuracy.

Magtech FMC

Magtech belongs to CBC Global Ammunition, an international ammunition manufacturing consortium. The company operates factories in Czech Republic, Brazil and Germany. It produces 1.5 billion centerfire rounds per year. Much of that ammunition is earmarked for NATO and its allied military forces. This 230-grain cartridge has a muzzle velocity of about 840 fps, which is comparable to the original .45 ACP FMJ round. The cartridges are known for reliability and accuracy. Shooters like its affordability.

Blazer Brass

Blazer Brass .45 ACP ammunition is manufactured by CCI/ATK. This reloadable round has decent ballistics with a muzzle velocity of 845 fps. The price is reasonable, especially if you are a reloader. Note: this round uses small pistol primers.

Federal American Eagle

Federal’s American Eagle line has a solid reputation for manufacturing quality ammo at a reasonable price. This 230-grain FMJ has a muzzle velocity of 890 fps, which is comparable to their 230-grain JHP loads. It’s a great product to carry in your range bag.

Federal Classic Hydra–Shok Personal Defense

This 230-grain round has been on the market for a long time. The bullet is made with a central lead post to aid in jacket expansion while keeping the bullet intact. This allows the bullet to give consistent performance and is preferred by agencies like the FBI.

Federal Ammunition Personal Defense

Federal Ammunition Company produces a 230 grain jacketed hollow point (JHP). It is often called the best large caliber for self-defense regarding to accuracy, precision, and penetration while maintaining close to 100% weight retention.

Hornady Ammunition Duty Defense JHP

Hornady manufactures this 220-grain, .45 ACP. +P ammo is an FTX that offers ultimate stopping power. It has similar characteristics of Hornady’s cartridges, offering accuracy, precision, and penetration with maximum expansion.

Speer Ammunition Gold Dot JHP

Speer’s Gold Dot has a longstanding reputation for delivering a clean product. This 230-grain jacketed hollow point is an accurate round that fires controlled penetration powerful enough to stop any threat.


The .45 ACP cartridge is a strong contender for a trustworthy self defense tool. Test several manufacturers to determine which works best for you. Shooters like the .45 ACP because it is affordable and can be bought in bulk online or at retail stores. For more information on the .45 ACP check out this guide on The Best .45 ACP Ammo For Self-Defense, Target Shooting, and More.

Your choice should be based on performance and comfort. Regardless of which ammunition you choose, there is never a substitute for practice. Never wait until a situation calls for action to learn how the ammunition will perform.