CCW Ammo Showdown: Battle of the .45ACP

.45 ACP

The Black Hills .45 ACP takes on the Hornady .45 ACP in this head-to-head. (Photo: Josh Wayner/

The .45 ACP is one of the most popular and storied cartridges in American history. While other calibers have come and gone, the .45 ACP has remained, never losing relevance. It boasts a very high bullet mass and has a reputation as a fight-stopper. Today, two popular .45 ACP loads go head-to-head. The Black Hills 230-grain JHP takes on the Hornady 230-grain XTP.


.45 ACP

The ammunition was tested alongside a Glock 21. (Photo: Josh Wayner/

Some say the .45 ACP has seen its day. This school of thought comes as the result of the skyrocketing popularity of 9mm in modern semi-automatic pistols. Jacketed hollow points are what makes the modern 9mm very effective and the adage “9mm can get bigger, but a .45 never gets smaller” has persuaded some concealed carriers to make the jump from .45 ACP to its smaller 9mm counterpart.

While the sentiment does carry some weight, what cannot be denied is the lasting cultural and practical significance of the .45 ACP. The .45 bore has a significant following all across America and there are many fine guns chambered in it. Not to mention, today’s .45 ACP jacketed hollow points are probably some of the most versatile bullets available.

For this match-up between Black Hills and Hornady, we used a Glock 21 to test the capabilities each round had to offer. The Glock is stock except for upgraded sights and Taran Tactical magazine extensions. These extensions only add a bit of length but increase the capacity to 16+1 rounds of .45 ACP — nothing to sneeze at.


.45 ACP

(Photo: Josh Wayner/

Accuracy was tested from a bean bag bench rest at 15-yards. Five, five-shot groups were fired from the Glock 21 and were averaged.

Both loads performed very well here. In a first for the author, there was no real discernible difference in on-paper accuracy. Both loads had a consistent average of 2.5-inches at 15-yards. The extreme variations were also identical, with the smallest groups coming in at 2-inches and the largest coming in at just under 3-inches. The point of aim was also the same. There is no significant difference.

Winner: Tie


.45 ACP

Black Hills, left, vs. Hornady, right. (Photo: Josh Wayner/

Again, there was no detectable difference between the loads. The Black Hills variant averaged 801 feet-per-second while Hornady came in at 821 feet-per-second – not a significant difference at least in terms of declaring a winner. 20 feet-per-second is about as close as you can get statistically for two different brands of ammo.

Winner: Tie


When it came to recoil, again, there was no real difference. The Glock 21 is an easy gun to shoot and neither of these loads had particularly fearsome recoil. The author mixed a magazine indiscriminately with both types of ammo and could not tell a difference as far as recoil impulse or blast. There was a minor difference in terms of slide cycling velocity, which brings us to….

Winner: Tie

.45 ACP

(Photo: Josh Wayner/

Handling Characteristics

This was the only part of the testing where Black Hills pulled slightly ahead. While the recoil was the same in the hand, the Black Hills load had a smoother cycling impulse.

It was minor, but Black Hills produced slightly less muzzle flip making for faster follow-up shots. The Hornady load was just a little snappy in terms of handling.

Winner: Black Hills

Gel Performance

.45 ACP

Hornady brought the best expansion. (Photo: Josh Wayner/

Both of these brands were fired into bare gelatin from Clear Ballistics at a distance of 5-yards to simulate a self-defense situation. The performance here, unlike in the other metrics of the testing, showed an advantage towards Hornady in reliable expansion. All of the XTP bullets fired into the gel expanded in a very uniform way and had a very consistent penetration depth of 14-inches.

The Black Hills JHP’s expansion was somewhat less consistent than Hornaday. Penetration also varied slightly, but the depth of penetration was much deeper at an average of 17-inches. While all of the XTP bullets expanded uniformly, the Black Hills bullets behaved like a combination of a full metal jacket and jacketed hollow point. The jackets and cores of these bullets are very hard, which means that they’re going to get much deeper into the target with less resistance.

Winner: Hornady



.45 ACP

The Black Hills load won but ever so slightly. (Photo: Josh Wayner/

Black Hills wins….but barely. This was a pretty tough call. Overall, everything about these two loads was basically the same; however, Black Hills edged out the competition due to its smooth handling and greater penetration depth.

That being said, the Hornady XTP is a fantastic bullet and it only lost because we were forced to declare a winner. It should be noted that if this competition was out of 100, Hornady would’ve come in at 99/100. It was so close that it could’ve gone either way.

In short, both of these loads are excellent choices for .45 ACP shooters.

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