Military and law enforcement personnel have gone through a series of changes in standard issue weapons over the past couple decades. At one time the .38 Special reigned supreme. Today 9mm is carried by 67 percent of law enforcement agents, but that by no means is their only choice.
Since the early 1900s, the .38 Special was standard issue for most police departments across the U.S. The 10mm was slated to take over the top spot but didn’t last long. In the 1980s, the FBI commissioned the manufacture of the .40, which some law enforcement officers still use. It was replaced by the 9mm in the 1990s.
Most officers see the 9mm as a “reasonable round” for a duty pistol. While it may be considered standard issue, there are many agencies that allow their officers to choose their weapon, either as a standard issue or as a backup piece. The variety comes from a number of reasons. Some police forces have different requirements for their weapons. There are some departments that simply cannot afford the latest and greatest handguns. Lastly, some departments require their officers to purchase their own weapons. In the latter case, it is not uncommon to see a wide variety of calibers including9mm, .40, .45, .357 SIG, and 10mm.
Currently, the most popular guns used by police departments are Glock, followed by SIG Sauer. Yet, there are still departments that swear by their .45 ACP.
History of the .45 ACP
The .45 ACP is the most “American” of all pistols on the market. Introduced in 1905 by Colt and designed by weapons legend John M. Browning, the .45 ACP was an instant hit with the U.S. military. After a series of field tests, the ammunition was adopted as the standard issue for Colt’s M1911. The ammo’s stopping power also made it a favorite of the U.S. Cavalry, and the U.S. Army followed suit. .45 ACP handguns were the official sidearms of the U.S. military throughout World War I and World War II, and up until they were replaced by the 9mm in 1985.
The .45 ACP was well matched to the 1911 handgun. In 1918, it was adapted to be used in John T. Thompson’s .45 machine gun. The “Tommy Gun” was invented to be used as a trench gun during WWI and perfected during WWII.
The .45 ACP has a long and storied history. It has been used in many conflicts including Anzio, Iwo Jima, Normandy, Korea, and the Tet Offensive. It was a favorite round at the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, and commonly used by Bonnie & Clyde and John Dillinger.
ACP for Self-Defense
Most people think of civilians when they think of “self-defense.” However, law enforcement officers have the ultimate job when it comes to defending themselves as well as others. When it comes to self-defense, how does one choose the perfect .45 ACP ammo? The uppermost factor is stopping power. Officers must be sure that their rounds are going to stop targets in their tracks. Other factors include accuracy and reliability.
The Best .45 ACP for Law Enforcement
These are the top choices for .45 ACP ammo for law enforcement as well as for personal protection. Each round on this list has been tested using stringent ballistics testing techniques.
Winchester 230-Grain Ranger T-Series
The Winchester T-Series features a hollow-point bullet in a reverse tapered jacket that has six “talons” designed to expand upon impact. It is designed to expand even after penetrating though tough barriers or heavy clothing. The round is also available in a +P load. The T-series is a top choice for American law enforcement officers.
Federal 230-Grain HST
The Federal HST is an extremely popular round for law enforcement and self-defense. It is one step up from Federal’s Hydra-Shok bullet which dominated the market for many years. The HST is used in many different calibers from the .380 Auto to the .45 ACP. Despite the fact that it is not a bonded bullet, it is currently one of the most popular rounds used by law enforcement agencies in the U.S.
Another Federal round worth mentioning is the Guard Dog line. While not as powerful as the HST, it is a solid choice for self-defense.
Remington 185-Grain Golden Saber +P
Remington Golden Saber +P uses a lighter bullet with 185 -grains. The light weight means that it has the highest muzzle velocity of the cartridges on the list. The Jacketed Hollow Point ammo hits the target hard. It offers deep penetration and reliable expansion without the danger of over-penetration. It’s a solid choice.
Magtech 230-Grain Bonded
Magtech First Defense Bonded ammunition uses a JHP bullet with a lead core bonded to the jacket. The bond means the bullet is less likely to separate from the jacket when striking a solid object. It is also likely to experience deeper penetration and expansion after impact.
Speer 185-Grain Gold Dot
The Speer Gold Dot line was specifically designed in the 1990s for law enforcement. Gold Dot bullets are bonded, which greatly reduces core-jacket separation. They also have an outstanding reputation for deep penetration, high weight retention, and reliable expansion. Speer Gold Dot is at the top of the list for many law enforcement agencies.
Speer 230-Grain Gold Dot Short Barrel
Similar to the 185-grain Gold Dot, Speer’s 230-grain Speer Gold Dot Short Barrel load uses a heaver-weight bullet. This design gives premium performance when used with shorter-barreled handguns. It is a top choice for concealed carry.
Federal Law Enforcement 45 ACP AUTO Ammo 230 Grain +P HST JHP
Federal is known for manufacturing quality ammunition with cutting edge technology. Federal’s LE line was designed specifically for law enforcement. The tip is designed not to plug upon impact with tough barriers or layers of heavy clothing. It offers deep penetration and terminal performance.
Hornady 200gr XTP
Hornady is known for its Critical Defense, often touted as an excellent self-defense round. That is true, however, the 200-grain XTP bullet is one step above due to its superior accuracy, reliable penetration, and expansion. The XTP features serrations in the bullet and a strategically weakened jacket that assists with expansion.
For more info about the .45 ACP and its other uses, check out The Best .45 ACP Ammo For Self-Defense, Target Shooting, and More.