Last June when the Evil Princess and I got back from our favorite shootin’ match, the Pin Shoot in Michigan (www.pinshoot.com, hope to see you there next year) and unpacked, there were more .45s to put back in the safe than anything else.

My lovely bride is five feet tall with proportional size hands, and is partial to the .45 GAP (Glock Auto Pistol) cartridge introduced a score of years ago because it gives her .45 power in a shorter cartridge, which makes for a pistol with less girth to wrap her little digits around. She had brought two of them: a Springfield Armory LE model, and a Glock 37.

Mine were all in the ancient .45 ACP (Automatic Colt Pistol) caliber. A Springfield Armory 1911A1 customized by Mike Plaxco with a recoil compensator was what I used in Pin Gun, Space Gun, and Team events. A more conventionally configured Springfield TGO-II was what I vied with in the Stock Gun division. I used a more modern Springfield XD45 Compact in the Concealed Carry division, and for spare in that event had along the Smith & Wesson Shield .45 I had used for that event the year before. For spares I had a Springfield Mil-Spec 1911A1 that never did get used, and a Smith & Wesson SW1911 that I taught my next class with, a MAG-40 at the excellent Illinois State Rifle and Pistol Association range in Kankakee.  That one stayed on my hip until well into July.

That was, what, eight “.45 automatics?”

Yup. We also had a couple of smaller guns along, her Glock 43 subcompact 9mm and my S&W Model 340 M&P snub revolver that I like for backup; never had to fire a shot from either of those. There was also a 20-shot Springfield Armory XDM for the one event that was friendly to its 9mm chambering.

The Pin Match requires you to blast heavy bowling pins as far as three feet back from a table while the clock is ticking. That requires power, and momentum.  230 grain +P loads sending the bullet at 950 feet per second are what I like for that, and Gail’s 200 grain GAP loads did it for her.

Yes, .45s kick harder than the currently trending 9mm. Yes, guns the same size hold more narrow cartridges than fat ones.  But watching little 9mm bullets merely tip things over and big .45 ones blasting the same heavy things completely away is kind of a confidence builder.

Forests have been sacrificed for the paper that made gun magazine articles debating large caliber versus medium caliber bullets, and I’ll waste no more here.  By the time you read this, I’ll be carrying a 9mm myself, partly because I’ll be travelling by air to teach…it’s harder than ever to buy ammo at remote teaching venues, so it’s best to bring your own…and with the airlines limiting ammunition in checked baggage to eleven pounds, one can bring twice as many 115-grain 9mm bullets as 230 grain .45 bullets.  And, of course, in guns of the same size 9mm gives you more shots than .45 before you have to reload, with the clock running.

You pays your money – and, don’t forget, you assess your particular immediate needs! – and you takes your choice. Advances in modern ammunition have allowed the 9mm to perform better than ever…but those same advances have improved .45 ammo, too. 

Your comments are welcome. Let the floodgates open.

44 COMMENTS

  1. If one has a steady supply of heavy weight, suped-up, trick bullets, 9mm and 5.56 are great. But if all you can find is hardball/FMJ, make it .45 and .308, for my money.

  2. Standard NATO 9×19 and USGI .45 ACP have virtually identical muzzle energy. And shooting similar 1911s chambered in each, one in each hand, swapping hands occasionally, I can’t tell any difference in recoil.

    What happens at the target, of course, is a different matter.

    In the 1920s the British evaluated the .38 S&W for military use, and, since they had various conflicts in progress across the Empire, they tested it, not against wet newspaper or pigs, but against live enemies who could shoot back. The arsenal went through several iterations of the cartridge, playing with the ballistics, and finally settled on a 200 grain bullet ambling along at a leisurely 620 fps. In actual combat, it was more effective than lighter bullets and higher velocities. Wrong, wrong, wrong! by modern ideas, but that was by actual body count, not theory. (this was also in line with their experience evaluating loads for the .455 Webley and some earlier rounds; it wasn’t the arsenal’s first rodeo)

  3. I’m partial to my Smith & Wesson M&P 2.0 .45. Factory night sights, an improved trigger, 14 round magazine & Streamlight light make for a comforting house pistol when loaded with Hornady Plus-P Critical Duty, and all in fashionable FDE.

  4. Thanks to Massad, I had an amazing opportunity to speak with the late great Elden Carl in a phone call after a question I submitted on his web page Recollections of a Combat Master which appears down, but still linked from Elden’s other site Top Gun Motorcycles.

    I asked Elden about his experiences with the .45 in the leather slaps and it was inspiring to say the least. I am an IPSC competitor and frequently shoot matches with an eight shot S&W 627 revolver, but told Elden I still like to shoot my 1911 in .45ACP with recently reloaded 200 grn LSWC also per his inspiration. I enjoy the challenge of the .45 (and the nice clean holes LSWCs produce on target). It was an amazing conversation and will always be grateful to have been given a chance to speak to a source of where practical shooting all started.

    Thank you Massad. Indeed, there is something about a .45.

  5. It’s hard to not love the 45 for it’s predictable recoil and consistency. For target shooting I still shot a 1911 profile better than anything. I have dove into the 10mm but not tried it on on pins. Seems like it might the the ticket.

  6. I too often read articles that point to advances in 9mm ammo but yours is the first to mention that “those same advances have improved .45 ammo, too.” THANK YOU!!!

    That said, I only shoot 9mm. Still, I wish other writers didn’t neglect simple facts as though we’re all stupid.

  7. The 45 is definitely the superior round and I love mine dearly. Would rather have it than any of my other sidearms if I knew I had to stop something big. But the price of those rounds to shoot competition…

    • Oh I dunno….. my personal suspicion is that ANY size hole more or less focussed upon the cranium of one of evil intent will be of sufficient import to gain the undivided attention of said putative perp. Even a hole of a paltry .22″ diameter will give most such creatures pause.

      If only we could somehow count, ahead of time, which adversaries would be sufficiently “informed” my those point two two holes and which would not, our lives would be simplified somewhat.
      When I consider that the hole in the barking end of a nine mm handgun is about 1.75 times larger in the nines, and that the forty five is only 1.22 or so times larger diameter than the nine, it would seem rational that the nine would be a statistically significant upgrade when compared to the .22, but there is not that much discernible difference between the nine and the forty five.

      But, as is famously said by our host, “any gun will do IF you will do”. Stories abound of victories deploying the lowly .22 WRF. But the nine is, statistically, far more effective than the .22, and not that much less so than the forty five.
      I am convinced that, in most cases ANY hole presented to the evildoer will have a significant effect. Still, the minimum I am comfortable carrying is the venerable nine. So ol’ John Moses is a very common companion when I am out and about.

  8. I have over a dozen pistols in 9X19, .40 S&W, and 10mm and enjoy shooting all of them. Under ideal conditions, the 9X19 with expanding bullets would stop bad a guy/gal/trans but one should not depend on luck when lives are at stake. The old .45 ACP has greater recoil, is larger so magazine capacity is less (depending on the pistol), and ammo (of the same type) is more expensive. However, it’s performance is more consistent and less affected by the projectile’s expansion. I’ll be packing a 1911 in .45 ACP until my appointment with the Grim Reaper, and maybe that gun will postpone that meeting if it’s a result of human evil.

  9. Mass, I’d like to ask you for a recommendation. I would like to put my Kimber Custom Classic II back into EDC rotation. To do that, I need to get the front strap stippled (I’ve been using skateboard tape) and I would like to swap out the traditional black front site for something I can pick up easier. I welcome your thoughts on shops that can do the stippling and front site options. Thank you.

  10. Mass,
    Good to visit with you at the Pin-Match, Richard hasn’t change, after all the years.
    I am a 45/1911 guy, still best on the pins. Except my S&W 41/Mag.
    8″ & 8 3/8″ dose a good job.

    Stay well.

  11. As much as I like Glock, Sig, CZ – a 1911 Gov’t model has the great trigger and 5″ sight radius… .45 is still so much fun to shoot, as your article captures… and when hiking out in the woods, 10mm on the 1911 platform is fantastic too. We are blessed that we don’t live in a country like Germany that limits their citizens 2 pistols to choose from – we can have our 9mm, .40, .45, 10mm cakes and enjoy them all…

  12. My duty ammo was .357 Sig for years and it is a hard hitter, and certainly put the bad guys down with authority. Then because of procurement issues my agency switched to nines. I switched to 45 acp upon shooting hundreds of steel plates. The 45 puts them down with so much speed and authority, compared to the 9 that I am almost a complete 45 acp edc guy.

  13. Thank you. Great article as always.

    I wonder if the 45 ACP feels so comfortable because we grew up with it and carried it for so many miles.

  14. .45 because having to shoot twice with a 9mm is just silly.

    And my daughter will shoot my 1911 .45 as long as I will stuff magazines for her. Recoil doesn’t seem to bother her a bit.

  15. That’s right, a real caliber for a real man. So, I was told by an undercover or plain clothes officer. Just so, I don’t get flamed to badly.

  16. As for ammo, I’m sure one of us locals can accept delivery of a case or two of JM Browning’s famous man stopper cartridges for you to get around the airline’s arbitrary weight limitations. 😁😁. CU in class next week with notebook and power tools in hand.

  17. Mas, thanks for your summary of the shoot. I think your classic Sig P220 with European mag release is feeling neglected:). How do .40 S&Ws do at the shoot and what loads do the shooters typically use? Thanks.

    • The .40 is kind of on the light side in terms of momentum and is rarely used by the winners. .45 and 10mm autos (and also the .50 GI caliber) do better. In .45, you want a very heavy bullet or +P velocity, one or the other.

  18. I’m just amazed that you can fly with guns and ammunition. I figured you would probably ship the stuff by UPS or something.

    • Federal Air Regulation 108.11, bro — respected by TSA, works for us all. Stay out of New York state with handguns, though…

    • Private parties cannot shio weapons via UPS because of laws, and even between FFL’s their policy is via overnight air only, very dear. So no Mas cannot ship his handguns via UPS even to his own self, without being middled by a pair of FFL’s. Stupid, but they never asked (nor do they care) us.

  19. I’ve always loved the 45 ACP, but in my declining years (76) with arthritis and bad shoulders, the light recoil of the little 9mm has won me over. Same story with my sporting clays guns. My beloved Beretta EELL Diamond 12 ga stays in the safe now while I break clays with my Krieghoff K-20 28 ga. Old age isn’t kind, but shooting is still a joy!

  20. My favorite pistol is my Springfield Armory Mil-Spec 1911A1 in .45 ACP, very similar to what we carried in the Army in the ‘70’s but with much better sights.

    That being said, ammo to feed the beast is prohibitively expensive now. I generally carry a Glock in 9mm, they are excellent pistols but don’t quite have the same panache.

    PS Belated Happy Birthday Mas.

  21. Let me start by saying that with high quality hollowpoint ammunition, I feel well armed with 9mm, .40 S&W, & .45 ACP, as well as with 10mm, .357 SIG, .38 Special, .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum, .44 Special, & .45 Long Colt. .380 ACP is as light as I will go for self-defense, but it is not my preference.

    I was surprised when the FBI decided to go back to 9mm duty guns for their agents & even more surprised when several other law enforcement agencies quickly followed suit since the FBI has a spotty, at best, history of poor decision making with regard to their choices of weapons & ammunition. However, in this case, I can certainly understand their reasoning. 9mm handguns, for most people, are easier to shoot well due to lighter recoil & smaller grips. In addition, they are capable of carrying more rounds of ammunition than larger caliber guns of the same size & 9mm has proved that it is more than adequate for most situations. Assuming that accurate shot placement is more important than caliber size, 9mm is a logical choice for an agency whose agents/officers have a wide range of shooting abilities, although I would prefer to let each agent/officer choose his/her own duty weapon & caliber.

    I disagree with the FBI, though, when they or others state that larger calibers such as .40 S&W & .45 ACP are no more effective than 9mm & therefore need not be considered. As Mas wrote, it is true that “Advances in modern ammunition have allowed the 9mm to perform better than ever…but those same advances have improved .45 ammo, too.”

    It occurred to me back when the FBI last standardized their ammunition testing protocols, that if the ammunition manufacturers all load their defensive handgun ammunition so that the bullets penetrate no more than 18″ in ballistic gelatin regardless of their caliber, then 9mm ammunition will produce almost the same wounding capability in real life as the larger calibers do. However, such appearances can be deceiving. Although I’m not a professional ballistician, as an avid reloader with over 50 years of experience, I know that when all calibers are loaded to their MAXIMUM capabilities, the larger calibers show very noticeable advantages over 9mm. While it may be true that one doesn’t need all of those advantages for self-defense purposes, it is not true to state that 9mm is just as powerful or as effective as other larger calibers. It only appears that way because of the way the ammunition is being designed to perform to meet a precise testing standard. The fact is that most factory loaded defensive cartridges in every caliber are not being loaded to their maximum power levels in favor of other considerations, including not only desired penetration, but also accuracy, muzzle flash, recoil, & chamber pressure.

    This brings me to a pet peeve of mine that has annoyed me for years. The FBI & numerous other law enforcement agencies seem to me to be far too concerned with over penetration of an intended target, despite the fact that statistically most shots fired by law enforcement officers miss their intended targets completely! Furthermore, it ignores the possibility that more penetration may be necessary in some situations, as was the case during the infamous FBI Miami Shootout in 1986 which initially caused the FBI to stop using 9mm handguns.

    In my life, I have carried a variety of handgun models & calibers depending on my situation, but in my heart I’m still an old fashioned Big Bore devotee along the lines of Elmer Keith & Jeff Cooper. If someone or something is trying to KILL me, I would much rather hit it with a BIG hammer than with a little hammer.

    • I often carry a compact 8-shot 9mm for concealment, with two spare magazines. Generally I have light Hornady hollow points in the gun, heavier Remington Golden Sabers in the #2 mag, and either ball or more Hornady in #3, depending on what kind of predators or game that I am likely to meet during a given day, and where. I do beware of overpenetration or missing. I may have a total of four mags, depending on premonitions or omens! My mind-set is that I may need to make some quick, precise shots at armored, moving criminals to hit outside of their vests. In some venues I will carry very powerful loads in .357 or .45 Colt revolvers.

    • It’s a good thing so many law enforcement agencies, especially the FBI, use the 9X19 caliber as the vast majority of their employees are very bad markspersons and tend to miss a lot. That means more bullets will not connect with their intended targets and some may strike uninvolved people in the area. In that case, it generally would be better if those innocents were hit with 9X19 projectiles than taking .357, 10mm, or .45 ACP bullets in their bodies.

      It would be interesting to compare the shots fired to hit ratio between the FBI and big city police departments vs the street thugs in Chicago and other large cities. The ghetto gangsters may actually score higher than the cops.

  22. I love .45’s, but like you said a 9 holds more, and I love the 9 too! I want/ need a 1911, but funds are lacking, so …. Some day….ahh….some day…

    • Gun shops in my area have used pistols in .45 ACP caliber, especially 1911 models at lower prices than many of those in 9X19. Most buyers want 9X19 pistols and many have drunk the FBI Kool-Aid and switched to the smaller NATO caliber, selling or trading in their .40 S&W and .45 pistols. If you want a 1911 in .45 ACP, now is the time to get one, because when the 9X19 fails in the next big police shootout, there will be a mad rush to buy larger caliber pistols.

  23. I shoot my .45’s about as well as any handguns that I own. There is no doubt that, when engaging targets that need momentum to knock down (steel plates, bowling pins, etc.), a .45 offers an edge. I suspect that it also offers an advantage for defense against animals larger than humans (bears, wild cattle, etc.).

    Nevertheless, for defensive use against human aggressors, the 9mm has these advantages:

    1) lower recoil and faster shot recovery-time given weapons of similar size and mass.
    2) greater magazine capacity.
    3) less expensive ammo for practice.
    4) greater range of available handgun designs from which to choose which leads to,
    5) greater selection of economical models on the market.
    6) a better ability to be reduced to compact size and weight for concealed carry.
    7) generally, a more ballistically efficient design.

    With modern defensive ammo, the stopping power advantage of the .45’s has been reduced to a negligible difference when used against human aggressors. No handgun is an absolute “stopper” against a determined human aggressor but, with modern defensive ammo, the 9mm works about a well as anything else.

    I cannot evade the above logic. There is a reason why 9mm handguns dominate the American and World Markets. it is not just a fad.

    I currently own three (3) .45 caliber handguns. Two semi-automatics in .45 ACP and one revolver in .45 Colt. All three are full-size handguns.

    I also currently own six (6) handguns and one (1) carbine chambered in 9mm Luger. The handguns range from sub-compact, to compact, to full size designs.

    From the numbers owned, you can see how my wallet has voted on the 9mm versus .45 question! 🙂

    • Of course the 9X19mm is better than the .45 ACP because unlike the larger calibers, the deadly 9mm Luger can easily blow the lungs out of a person, at least according to Crooked Joe.

      I wish my .45 is as powerful, but it can only blow out one lung occasionally.

  24. This is completely off-topic, but I am wondering what the readers of this blog make of this news report?

    https://www.abc27.com/news/us-world/maxwells-new-digs-fla-prison-known-for-yoga-music-abuse/

    I have a couple of thoughts myself:

    1) This is a pay-off. She is being moved to a low-security prison as a bribe to be a good girl and keep her mouth shut. She can serve out her time in a Federal “Country-Club” prison so long as she does not name names.

    2) She is being moved to a low-security prison due to her increasing risk of committing suicide in the same unfortunate manner of her late Partner-in-Crime.

    Wonder if she will actually serve out her 20 years? Or will “something” suddenly occur to cut her sentence short?

    I guess that time will tell!

    • TN_MAN, a Multiple Choice Test with more than one correct answer. IMHO, Mizz Maxwell is the perfect example of someone “living comfortably on borrowed time.”

      • – “on borrowed time.”

        Perhaps. However, consider the details in the linked news report. This paragraph for example:

        “Maxwell and her lawyers complained that jail officers were flashing a light into her cell every 15 minutes, interrupting her sleep, and subjecting her to hundreds of searches and pat downs. She also claimed that a guard at the Brooklyn facility physically abused her and that she was punished for complaining about it.”

        It seems clear that they used the standard techniques (sleep deprivation, constant harassment, physical abuse, etc.) to break Maxwell down.

        Then, after she had been “softened up”, they must have proposed a deal. Play ball with us and the abuse will stop, and we will send you to a Federal “Country Club” facility. Refuse and the abuse will continue, and we will make each day a living hell.

        Maxwell must have “broken” and took the deal. However, the deal is both “a carrot and a stick”. The “Country Club” is the bribe to be a good girl and play ball. However, it is a “low security” institution.

        Their “arm is long”. Anything can happen in a low security prison. That threat is the “stick”.

        Who knows? If she “plays ball” and serves enough time to satisfy public demand, she might be “paroled” and get out on an early release.

        I would guess her options are to cooperate and walk out on her two legs or, else, get carried out in the body bag.

        As I said, time will tell.

    • Maxwell’s future is in the hands of HillBilly. She has dirt on them and they can have her terminated at any time. Look at what happened to HillBilly’s former Whitewater associates. James and Susan McDougal went to the big house. Jimmy couldn’t stand being locked up and wanted to squeal, and supposedly died from a heart attack. Susie kept her mouth shut and was released from prison after awhile and cleared of all other charges. But she better watch her six as HillBilly may still consider her a loose end.

  25. I think that the .45 cal. especially the 45 ACP was the answer to Military and Police service duty but back in the late 60’s the AF felt it was necessary to go to the S&W M-15 38 cal. The AF wanted to ease of women into the Security Police ranks, which was a good thing in the way of man power, but definitely a lesser caliber, and stopping power. Until I made a few gun purchases from military buddies, like my 1st pistol, the Llama Comanche 357, we live for those moments 😁✔🤞. Life was good, but the old moldy ammo we handled everyday at Guard mount, [G.I. ball 38] had a slight greenish tinge in color. I left before the Berretta 92F was issued. The 9mm is a good round but the politics of the Berretta over the other options must have been someone’s slush fund behind the back. Theres always a senator in the wood pile somewhere.

    • Jim B, David Hackworth mentioned one time that some of the Army Beretta frames had cracked. If so, very likely the early Beretta prototypes had not been thoroughly torture-tested, and had been somewhat rushed into duty. I remember standing in line in the early 1970’s at an excellent USAF chow hall waiting for breakfast with some Security Police who were wearing blued-steel 38 revolvers. About every day some other SP’s would come in and stack M16 rifles near their table. The whole stack usually clattered to the polished floor before long. Never was there an accidental shot fired, but maybe we were just lucky that none of the rifles had a “hair trigger,” and were fully loaded with safety unlocked? I remember a Colonel showing me a hand one day that had been chewed up when a faulty 1911 .45 went full auto on him at a range.

  26. I generally carry a 9mm but as I’ve gotten older the multitude of .45s available has moved me more in that direction. For the most part if it shoots I like it but .45s are winning me over.

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