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Reloading .45 ACP


Perhaps the most famous, and iconic, pistol, the .45 Automatic Colt Pistol, was designed by John Browning in 1905 for a prototype service pistol. After some extensive testing by the United States Army, the original intended user of the Colt, the Army requested some changes, including a heavier bullet (the original weight was 200 grains). Browning changed the bullet weight to 230 grains and the .45 ACP as we know and love it today was born. The Army adopted both the cartridge and the Browning designed Colt pistol in 1911 and both are still going strong today. Among civilian shooters, the .45 ACP is more popular today than it ever was.

Because of it’s popularity, reloading brass for the Colt .45 is also popular. The available components rival that of the 9mm. With so many options available for reloading brass, it’s hard to say one method or one sample of load data is the best. However, we will give you some pointers, especially for those just starting in reloading brass.

The typical factory load for the .45 ACP uses a 230 grain bullet (either FMJ or JHP) at a published muzzle velocity (in a 5" barrel) of 850 fps with 370 ft. lbs. of muzzle energy. This load has a mid-range trajectory of 0.4" over 25 yards, 1.6" over 50 yards and 3.7" over 75 yards. Beyond that the fat, slow bullet is falling pretty fast, but not many people can hit reliably at long range with a .45 auto, anyway. If you’re looking at a hunting pistol, it would be suggested to look for a different caliber.

Yet, the .45 is a popular carry cartridge for those that conceal-carry. The reason for this is evident; it’s hard to keep walking after you’re hit with a bullet from a .45. There’s not many calibers that can be concealed and carried that have more stopping power than a .45. Sure, there are bigger cartridges, but you trying hiding those guns in your pants and see how easy it is.

As I stated earlier, there are plenty of reloading components for the .45 ACP. The most popular bullet weights are 185, 200 and 230 grains. The correct jacketed bullet diameter is .451" (lead bullets are usually sized to .452"), maximum COL is 1.275" and the MAP limit is 21,000 psi. .45 ACP reloads must be taper crimped. Medium to fast burning pistol powders generally work best in the .45 Auto.

The Speer Reloading Manual Number 14 shows that their 185 grain Gold Dot JHP bullet can be driven at a MV of 837 fps by 6.6 grains of W231 powder, and at a MV of 954 fps by 7.4 grains of W231.

The impressive 200 grain Speer Gold Dot HP can be given a MV of 823 fps by 8.5 grains of HS-6 powder, and a MV of 956 fps by 9.5 grains of HS-6. A 200 grain bullet makes a pretty good civilian, general purpose load for the .45 ACP, just as John Browning originally envisioned.

The Speer 230 grain TMJ ("ball ammunition") bullet can be driven at a MV of 773 fps by 7.8 grains of HS-6 powder, and a MV of 863 fps by 8.5 grains of HS6. All of these Speer loads used Speer cases, CCI 300 primers and were tested in the 4.4" barrel of a SIG pistol.

Like we stated, this is just a small piece of information that is available for reloading brass in the .45 caliber. Take some time and read the reloading manuals for you selected manufacturer. Once you’ve got a good starter load, don’t be afraid to modify it to fit your shooting style and firearm of choice.