.45 ACP: Because Sometimes Old, Fat, And Slow Works Just Fine

.45 ACP

From left to right: 9mm; .45 ACP; .38 Special; .357 Magnum; .223 Rem; .308 Win

.45 ACP: Because sometimes old, fat, and slow get the job done. Period. And the caliber wars rage on and sound a little something like this: 9mm is best because you can literally plug more holes into your target at a faster rate. .40 S&W is best because it, well, starts with a “4.” .45 Auto is best because shooting twice is just silly. .357 Magnum is best because it's slinging a .357 caliber piece of lead at incredible speeds, and every so often you need to put a hole in an engine block.

Again, I say to you, the wars rage on.

Before we continue, let me say that when the stinky brown stuff hits that proverbial fan, I don't care if you're carrying a .22 LR revolver, or you've somehow stuffed a Desert Eagle into your trousers, you are now my backup and you'd better be both ready and able to use that firearm successfully in the fight for our lives.

You've heard this before, but it's important and bears repeating: What caliber of gun you carry isn't as important as what you can do with it. What matters is that you train with your chosen every day carry gun (EDC) and that you are proficient with it in self-defense.

.45 ACP History:

The .45 Auto got its start way back in the mid 1900s, and came about because the military required a cartridge with a caliber of no less than forty five to be effective on the battlefield. The 38s they were using proved to be inefficient in battle and were unable to stop the advancing enemy during the Moro Rebellion.

After testing various calibers of cartridges, they came to the conclusion that, at the time, .45 caliber was the best there was and had the potential to do the most amount of damage to an advancing enemy.

Brilliant firearms designer John Moses Browning stepped in and helped design the Auto Colt Pistol cartridge, and even concurrently designed a pistol to use it, which would be one of the longest running military pistols ever made–seeing more war-time than any other. Obviously, I'm talking about the M1911 which remained in service until it was replaced by the Beretta M9 in the 1980s, with only certain special forces units using the 1911 until very recently.

Another one of the most famous guns ever made was also chambered in .45 ACP, which is non other than the Thompson Sub Machine Gun, also lovingly known simply as the Tommy Gun. Used in war, by police, and certainly by prohibition era criminals, the Tommy Gun is one of the most recognizable guns in the world, and saw service up to the early parts of Vietnam, and some police units used them until the 1970s.

Modern day semi-auto tommy gun

.45 ACP has a violent history of use in war, criminal catching, and self-defense, and is still used today by folks believing bigger holes are better, even if they do come at the cost of speed and magazine capacity.

Stats of the .45 ACP:

The .45 Auto is available in many different forms from full metal jacket (FMJ, ball, target, etc.) to jacketed hollow point (JHP, self-defense, etc.) and everything in between like wad-cutters, special fragmenting bullets designed to utterly destroy the inside of a human enemy, and others.

The most common weight of the forty five's bullet is 230 grains, but there are plenty of different sizes available to your heart's content, and whatever you need. The bullet diameter is .451″ and the overall length of the cartridge from the top to the bottom is about 1.25 inches. Metric measurements are 11.43X23mm.

There are also plenty of +P cartridges available from different manufacturers, should you require a bit more speed from your slug, as the +P cartridges are loaded to higher pressures, and, thus, moving the bullet along at a faster speed.

Speeds for the .45 range from 830-900 fps for regular FMJ and JHP ammo, with decent +P .45 Auto cartridges getting north of 1,000 FPS giving it a nice energy boost.

Modern Uses Of .45 Auto:

Today, most gun manufacturers offer models chambered in .45 ACP, and it is easy to see why. While it certainly recoils more than, say, a similar sized pistol chambered in 9mm, felt recoil may not be as snappy as guns chambered in .40 S&W of the same size. (notice I used the term “may not be” because felt recoil is subjective from one shooter to the next)

Many folks describe shooting handguns in .45 as a shove in the hand, as opposed to being punched in the hand with a .40S&W. Therefore, and many people won't likely agree with me on this, .45 ACP is a good draw between the two for the recoil sensitive shooter who doesn't want a 9mm, for whatever reason.

My old XD Mod.2 in .45ACP, that I sadly had to sell due to financial issues. Loved those Talon Grips, too!

Truth be told, I carried a Springfield Armory XD Mod.2 sub-compact chambered in .45 ACP for a long time, and found it to be pleasant to shoot at the range, and to carry concealed. Today, my go-to guns tend to be in 9mm, but that's usually based on the cost of the ammunition, more than anything.

Special Scenarios Where .45 Shines:

When trained with, it remains an excellent option for self-defense, especially in places like New Jersey where hollow point ammunition is not easily attainable, and even illegal in some scenarios. And, if you can't use proper self-defense ammunition in your gun, being able to poke the biggest holes possible is likely the next best solution.

It also makes a lot of sense to use .45 Auto in your self-defense pistols if you live in a state where you have strict magazine capacity laws. In other words, the argument of putting more, smaller holes on an attacker, faster, goes out the window if you can only carry 10 rounds or less. While all rounds should count, bigger holes are better if you can only shoot so many times.

If that's your scenario, training with your Colt 1911 or Glock 30, both chambered in .45 ACP with limited magazine capacity is your best option.

Modern day 1911 frame


While being old, fat, and slow can be detrimental for some people, that rule doesn't apply to the .45 ACP self-defense cartridge. In fact, the opposite holds true. It doesn't seem to be going anywhere, any time soon, and modern ammunition technology keeps it in tip-top shape. It's great for concealed carry no matter where you live, and especially if you live in a state that's more restrictive on what you can and cannot do, when it comes to protecting yourself.

Tell me because I need to know, what's in your pistol?


About Joshua Gillem

Josh is a lifelong practitioner and student of the gun. He grew up shooting/hunting with his dad, and was given his first gun, a 12 gauge shotgun, when just a small boy. After high school, he joined the Marines where his love for firearms blossomed as he qualified with an M16A2, an M9, and a 240G. Josh has been writing about firearms and tactics for several years, owns the blog Gunners Den, is a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment, and believes that each individual person has the right to self-defense by any means necessary. Currently residing in gun-friendly NC, he carries a concealed gun on a daily basis, even in his own house.


  1. howell clark on July 7, 2017 at 5:23 pm

    opinions are well you know , and ours are about the same. enjoyed your take on the situation. i have xdms in all three calibers and they are truly a fine gun. i enjoy my 45 the most and absolutely love my old anaconda in 45 colt and my old argentine 45 acp which that i know of has had over 70k rounds thru her and i really should not shoot because no parts are available when she finally goes down. hope to never ever have to use any of them for anything but pleasure shooting.

  2. Drew McClure on July 11, 2017 at 10:59 am

    Excellent article ! Back in the day, I used to go into new IPSC Clubs after they’d all bought 9mm’s and demonstrate the ‘felt recoil’ difference and next match they’d all have .45’s . Yeah, I wouldn’t shoot a match with a .40, nerves in your hand only last so long.
    I’ve managed to obtain most things chambered for my beloved .45, an AMT ‘Longslide’, a S&W Model 25 .45 ACP NIB, a .45 JR Carbine, a 1928 Thompson, and even an uber rare Marlin Camp Carbine .45 .. Sweet shooting guns all , especially the 1955 S&W Mod. 25 .
    As age advances, and I AM “Old, Fat, and Slow”, it’s also nice to be able to SEE the holes in your target over a 9mm !
    Good job Joshua .

  3. Drew McClure on July 11, 2017 at 12:25 pm

    P.S. I’ve also got 4 Series 70 Colt 1911’s in various configurations, 3 bought new in the ’80’s @ $375 ea. and 1 I bought in ’78 for $250, that’s had THOUSANDS of rds. of H&G 68 lead rds. down it’s barrel and I use that one for IDPA now and it still shoots 1-hole groups 39 yrs. later. Try THAT with your Glock !

  4. Doug on July 11, 2017 at 12:28 pm

    This was a good article and glad to not focus on the caliber wars. I want to always have a gun in .45 ACP, even as I compete with and carry a 9mm. Shooting Steel or IDPA is fun with a .45 and sometimes gives you the advantage with hole diameters and dotted lines. Ye though I live in the real world and cost is always a factor, the bulk of my practice is still 9mm.

  5. Marcelino on July 11, 2017 at 1:16 pm

    At IDPA classifier Custom defense pistol (CDP) 1911 .45 is where I shine. For Bowling Pins and Steel matches; cheap 9mm with Glocks 34 & 19 are decent. On the night table 1911 .45 ACP.

  6. newnham on July 11, 2017 at 2:36 pm

    I shoot my M&P 9 a little better but I like the challenge of shooting my lightweight commander more. Just feels like I’ve accomplished more. And nothing drops those steel plates like a .45. With the 9mm producing ~383 ft-lbs and the .45 with ~416 ft-lbs only a 8.5% increase but the plates sure seem to drop faster. .45s are just more fun.

  7. tom on August 9, 2017 at 12:05 pm

    Arguing which caliber is the best is like arguing which political party is the best. It’s an argument that can’t be won. That said, I always here about “proper placement” and that a properly placed small round is as effective as a large round. Truth is, when it comes to an unexpected self defense encounter, there’s usually only 1 round shot. It’s not target practice at the range and we don’t have the leisure of firing multiple rounds at a target while taking the time to aim. A guy jumps out of the bushes and puts his arm around your neck and begins choking you to death. You manage to pull out your pistol and fire 1 shot before he runs off. In all that excitement, there was no multiple round properly placed shooting. We get 1 from the hip shot and that’s it. In my opinion, it’s better that one shot be able to do the most damage.

  8. John on August 10, 2017 at 10:55 am

    I just recently started shooting a pistol (within the last year). I started with a Beretta Model 92, 9mm and found that it was too big and bulky for me. I switched to the Springfield XD MOD 2 45 ACP and found it to be a great match for me. It was less bulky and had less recoil than the Beretta. I like it a lot.

  9. Rob on October 17, 2017 at 2:00 pm

    I shoot a Springfield Armory 1911A-1 that I bought as a kit gun and built myself. After a little over 30 years and New barrel and bushing kit, it’s back to being a rack driver . I have been using 185gn Federal hydro-shock rounds in it for years now and absolutely love it. Recently , because of medical issues, I bought and installed a muzzle break/compensator on it, and damn, it’s now a lot more fun to shoot than any of the 9’s or 380’s that I’ve had. Again age and medical issues are taking their toll on the eyes, so the next upgrade is either going to be a set of tritium sites or a holographic site. I just don’t want to screw up my ceracote job to cut down the slide for the holo site. Oh well, that’s a whole different story .

  10. Robert on October 17, 2017 at 3:53 pm

    Started with a Glock 21 too big to hide but 13+1 round capacity, Next, bought a Glock 30 10+1 round capacity (Glock 21 mags work), still a little bit too large. So, I went to a Glock 36 only 6+1 capacity single stack. Hides well, and I can shoot a palm sized group with it at 25 yards. All three are in .45. In my not so humble opinion bigger is better. I’m old school at 77 years young. I tried all of the other calibers and settled on the .45. Keep shooting!

  11. Miggy on October 19, 2017 at 12:26 am

    you carry a piece even in your own house? this article is well written so im assuming youre a pretty intelligent guy, but thats just a bit odd.

    • Jacob Paulsen on October 19, 2017 at 6:56 am

      Miggy, Statistically the home is the number 1 place you are likely to use a firearm in self-defense. The home is the most important place that you be armed and prepared. Here is additional information and insights: https://www.concealedcarry.com/safety/episode-144-home-carry-247-readiness/

    • Z on February 24, 2018 at 5:47 pm

      I carry at all times in my house. No home invader will be successful here. Sitting on the john? .45 is on the vanity. Cooking in the kitchen? .45 is on my hip. Sleeping in bed? 12ga is by my head, .45 is on the nightstand. I refuse to be a victim. Ever.

    • JackRitchie on March 17, 2019 at 8:15 pm

      Depending on where you live, no it’s justified. My 911 call could take 15-30 minutes because I live outside the city. On my own, whether robber or coyote.

  12. AK Johnny 1 on November 25, 2017 at 4:13 pm

    My carry round? 7.62×25. It’s fast and flat-shooting, giving you the advantage of anticipated accuracy at longer ranges while still maintaining power at same. The round was designed to stretch it’s legs a bit… lol
    Of course, the BEST round for folks to choose is the one you find preferable.

  13. BC on January 26, 2018 at 10:15 am

    Personally, I have to admit that I too am a die-hard .45 caliber man. I shoot a Kimber 1911. I realize that Kimber’s are known for their initial feed jamming issues, but after I had a gunsmith solve the stiff feeder spring issue by replacing it with a lighter feeder spring, it works like a charm. Normally, Kimber suggests firing twice as many rounds in the break-in process to soften the spring, but I’m just too impatient for that. Its my life-long carry gun. Anyway, being a retired LEO, I’ve found the .45 caliber to be the best possible caliber to use against a bad guy. Within the legally defensible 30′ self-defense range, it does the job with fewer rounds fired. And when we talk of “knock down power,” we are actually talking about the maximum amount of damage down per round. You can’t beat a .45 hallow-point. Even a drug addict who is high as a kite goes down easily.

  14. Joe Feenstra on May 13, 2018 at 6:37 pm

    Where can I get one of those window stickers?

  15. Doug on October 23, 2018 at 11:35 am

    I started out carrying a .40 S&W but when I began competing it just didn’t make sense financially so I went to a 9mm gun so now I carry and compete with 9mm solely due to cost for ammo and the amount of practice that savings allows me. When I get the chance I prefer shooting my .45’s and seem to do better with them in IDPA but then I have to limit my practice more. I’ve even shoot .22 LR in steel matches and rifle matches, just so I can shoot more.

  16. J C Cole on January 5, 2019 at 10:54 am

    The best caliber is the one you have on you when the SHTF! I have 9,10,22,38,40 and 45 cal. Pistols and revolvers but the 380 is always with me! The 380 pistol in my pocket is better than the 45 at home or in the car!! JS

  17. Jesse on March 18, 2019 at 7:00 am

    Both .45acp & 9mm… I carry a Colt 1911, with an XDs 9mm for backup… And train with both.

  18. Will Niles on September 10, 2019 at 8:20 pm

    I have two pistols in .45, a Rock Island Armory 1911 A1 and a S&W 45 Shield. I carry the Shield every day because it’s more concealable and it’s a sweet shooter. Love ’em both.

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