I’m a big fan of the .45 ACP cartridge. The “official” FBI tests show that there isn’t a lick of difference between the 9mm, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP rounds – when loaded with high-performance JHP ammo, when it comes to stopping power. But I refuse to believe that those three rounds are all pretty much the same when it comes to stopping a deadly encounter. I do a lot of shooting, and I mean a lot of shooting for my articles, as well as for target practice, tactical shooting and just plain ol’ fun shooting. If there is one thing I’ve noticed when shooting different calibers of handguns, its that some calibers hit a whole lot harder than others. Whenever there are some targets of opportunity, like fist-sized rocks, I’ll focus on them. The 9mm will chip away at these rocks and eventually break them. The .40 S&W hits a lot harder and gets the job done faster. However, when we use a .45 ACP round on similar-sized rocks, it will break them – quite often with just one hit.
Now, this isn’t scientific testing, however, with the same aforementioned calibers, the 9mm when it hits a big rock, makes it move ever so slightly. The .40 S&W moves those rocks a bit more. However, when hit with a .45 ACP round – the rocks will move quite a bit. So, I’m not sure how this relates to real-world stopping power, or “knock-down” power, but it tells me that, the .45 ACP is hitting a lot harder than the other two rounds are.
The 9mm caliber, even with +P ammo is real easy gun to shoot for most people while the .40 S&W can be a handful with different ammo, and this is why many police departments, and the FBI and other Federal agencies have gone back to the 9mm, over the .40S&W. The .45 ACP isn’t all that hard to handle in the recoil department. Sure, it “kicks” a little more than the 9mm does, however, the felt “kick” is a lot less than the .40 S&W round does. Police qualification scores have gone way up, since many of them have gone back to the 9mm over the .40 S&W. Quite frankly, many in law enforcement simply aren’t “into” guns and don’t do a lot of shooting – so the hard-kicking .40 S&W round made it more difficult for them to qualify on the range – and it was even worse on the streets, when they had to deploy their firearms. Of course, then we have the fact that handguns can hold more 9mm rounds compared to .40 S&W or .45 ACP rounds – and that never hurts to have more ammo in your gun in a gunfight.
Not too long ago, I tested the Ruger American Compact 9mm pistol, their hot-selling LEO model. The “LEO” stands for Law Enforcement Only – model. And, I don’t believe this LEO gun is only sold to law enforcement, but it had some really nice features that the other American Compact 9mm didn’t have. My review article on the 9mm model is the SurvivalBlog archives. Shortly after testing and reporting on the 9mm American Compact, I received the new American Compact .45 ACP model with a gray Cerakote finish on the slide and a matching color frame – very handsome, indeed.
The 9mm version holds either 10 or 12 rounds – the LEO version came with three 12-round magazines, while the other models only come with a 10-round magazine. The new .45 ACP American Compact comes standard with three 7-round magazines, and these mags are Teflon coated, and make for easy insertion into the gun and even easier to load them to full capacity – an excellent design touch.
Bigger Frame and Slide
If you simply look at the 9mm and .45 ACP version side-by-side, at first glance they appear to the eye to be just about the same size, but they are not! The .45 ACP model is bigger all the way around, but you don’t recognize it. You have to hold the guns in your hands and then you can feel the difference. Now, the .45 ACP American Compact isn’t’ really all “that” much bigger, but it is big enough that you can tell between the two guns. The .45 variant has a 3.75-inch barrel length and the slide is 1.25-inches wide. It is ever so slightly taller as well, compared to the 9mm model. This little forty-five is only 28.6-ounces in weight, so it is fairly light, compared to a full-sized or even a Commander-sized 1911. One thing that is worth mentioning is that the .45 model seems to balance a whole lot better in my hand, than the 9mm model did. This is hard to explain, but if you try holding both, in succession, I think you’ll agree that the .45 balances a little bit better.
Of course, the Ruger American line of handguns are all striker-fired, and I’ve sure grown to love this type of trigger pull. The striker pre-tensioned system features a strong striker spring, for very positive ignition and it was done by creating a heavier trigger pull. On this pistol the trigger pull is very sweet. It breaks right at 5-pounds. The barrel cam distributes the recoil over a longer period of time and this really does reduce felt recoil. I’m not sure how this was done, but I like it.
You do not need any tools to take-down the American line of handguns, and no preliminary (Glock style) trigger pull is required before stripping — a great safety arrangement. Starting on the top of the slide, we find the ever-popular sights, the front sight has a white dot – a large white dot, and the rear sights is the best rear sight in the business if you as me…it has two white dots and is snag-free and easy and fast to pick up under most lighting conditions – I love this sight set-up a whole lot.
There are grasping grooves on the rear of the slide – on both sides – as well as a long, massive extractor – and it will sure get the job done if you have to extract an empty shell or even a loaded round. As we look at the frame, there is no external safety on it – and I don’t think it is needed, either. There is a trigger safety bar in the center of the trigger and several internal safeties to be certain that the gun won’t go off, if dropped. The forward portion of the frame has three grooves for attaching a light or a laser to the gun – some makers only offer one groove or none at all. The frame, as already mentioned, has a matching gray color and is made out of polymer. However, there is a rigid one-piece, precision machined stainless steel chassis within the integral frame rails and fire control housing.
We have a full-time ambidextrous magazine release that works very smoothly. Plus, the gun comes with two modular wrap-around grips for the back of the grip frame – mine came with the smaller one installed and I tried the larger one, but the smaller one fit my hand perfectly. But it is there if you have very large hands.
Another nice touch is that the three magazines that come with the gun have both the flat floor plate installed on the magazine, or you can swap it out, only take a minute – to the mag floor plates that have a pinky catcher. The latter are the ones that I installed. Just that little magazine extension makes the gun more controllable in every respect. There are also areas on the grip that are “textured” for a sure hold under the most demanding weather conditions and they are perfectly placed on the grip frame.
My Shooting Tests
During my testing, I was on my own. We still have the Wuhan coronavirus going around, and I didn’t ask any of my usual volunteer testers to help me with my shooting. But I’m sure they would have jumped on it, if they had the chance. From Black Hills Ammunition I had their 230-grain FMJ round, their 185-grain Barnes TAC-XP all-copper hollow point +P, 230-grain JHP +P, 230-grain Match lead SWC and lastly, the 135-grain HoneyBadger all-copper round, that uses a fluted bullet that will get the job done. There were no malfunctions of any kind during my testing and I fired a little more than 300 rounds in my testing. The gun is a fun gun to shoot. And with the easy-loading magazines, it wasn’t a big chore to keep loading those 7-round magazines for several hours.
Accuracy testing was done at 25 yards, over a rolled-up sleeping bag, that I keep in my pick-up, inside my emergency box, and it was placed over the hood of my truck. I found that the best accuracy was from the 230-grain FMJ load, and this one is always a great performer. I could easily keep all the rounds inside of 3.25-inches so long as I did my part – some of the groups were a little bigger, but not by much. As usual, I shot more than one target with each type of ammo I had. The HoneyBadger and Match SWC load in my hands yielded ever so slightly bigger groups at 3.5-inches on average and the other ammo was still well under 4-inches without even trying. I’m sure I could have done better, with more trigger time with all the loads.
This American Compact .45 ACP is a real shooter, and I wouldn’t hesitate to take it into a hostage rescue mission – really! The gun grew on me, in very short order. I tested the full-sized American .45 ACP a few years ago, and it just didn’t ring my bell like the compact version does.
Full-retail on the American Compact .45 ACP model is $579 and it would be a fantastic deal at that price. However, if you shop around then you can usually find Ruger firearms at a discounted price. That’s what I like about Ruger – they are building some of the best and strongest guns, and selling them to match the budgets of working-class shooters. Check out your local gun shop, and hopefully, they will have one of these fine guns in-stock.
I appreciate your product reviews, but as to what ya said about 9mm, 40 S&W, and 45 ACP – “So, I’m not sure how this relates to real-world stopping power, or “knock-down” power, but it tells me that, the .45 ACP is hitting a lot harder than the other two rounds are.”. For self defense use, the perception of “hitting (a rock) harder” is one thing, but the main thing is how a given self defense round penetrates and damages human flesh, muscles, vital organs, and bone – and clothing – I’ll go with the FBI’s testing results for that.
The internet myths need to stop if your to be taken seriously.
You don’t have to kill humans necessarily but you can handgun hunt critters and you’ll see there’s very little difference and that “stopping power” is kinda wrong.
Your gonna tell me that your 45 ACP 185gr HP is supposed to make a man do a backflip like Chuck Norris kicked him but the 06 180gr round with 3 times the energy that split the heart of a deer and it still ran 100 yds before dumping over aren’t the same.
Stopping Power has too many other factors than a fat bullet to even really start this conversation.
Accept the fact that all those cartridges and others are unpowered and convenient more so than anything.
Regarding the relative merits of 9mm versus .45 ACP, I have had similar experiences to the author. When shooting steel targets, whether a dueling tree, plate rack, or pepper poppers, there is a massive difference in how hard the .45 hits. It just puts more energy on the target. It also makes a bigger hole in stuff.
I have never been too impressed with the idea of using a government procurement process to determine which gun or ammo I should use. I have different requirements from the government, and quite frankly, their procurement decisions are often motivated by factors other than choosing the best product at the best price.
The FBI and other LE agencies are under pressure to make sure everybody qualifies–including the diversity hires. Their test results and procurement decisions are suspect as a result.
The 9mm has the advantage of being able to hold more rounds in a similarly sized pistol, and it is easier for smaller shooters to shoot well. The .45 hits harder. I own and carry both, but if I had to deal with a single assailant using a handgun, I would much rather have a .45 in my hand. YMMV.
Soli Deo Gloria.
Aside from the eternal “which is better” battle… I also enjoy your reviews AND wish you a belated happy birthday Chi~town brother.
Some departments actually discourage cops from practice beyond annual qualifications. Apparently they are afraid of getting a ‘Dirty Harry’ image.
Add more rounds to lack of confidence in marksmanship and you get spray and pray. Look at the number of shots fired in typical encounters.
Only hits count. Skill is more important than mag capacity. More is only better if you use each cartridge as if it were your last.
The FBI couldn’t find Hillary’s email or election fraud. They believed their own trash in the early 1980s with their hype on the 9mm, then got mauled in the Miami-Dade disaster after mortally wounding Platt, an AWOL paratrooper with a 9mm Winchester Silver Tip. Expanded perfectly, however after penetrating the upper arm first and then the lung, it ran out of gas and only bumped into the heart and stopped. Suspect fought for four more minutes using a Mini 14 to kill or wound 7 agents.
A heavy-for-caliber .40 or .45 ACP slug probably would have provided several more inches of penetration and vastly shortened Platt’s rampage. Suture self.
Federal’s 147 grain HST, or their 124 grain HST would be my selection if I was restricted to a Nine.
All this wonderful tech in duty ammo that’s supposed to get the Nine up off its knees will also make the .40 and .45 ACP better, TOO.
Had dinner with a state trooper recently. He revealed that the UHP has seven documented cases of 9mm duty ammunition failing to get inside the chest cavity due to screwy deviations from initial trajectory. Ribs, items in shirt pockets, what have you.
While I no longer carry my beloved 1911s, it’s like coming home when I pick one up. Forty is my friend right now, and it is also preferred by all the girls in my house.
There are new pistols coming out all the time and Pat has a fun job trying them out!
I wonder how much forty or fifty Ruger American .45 magazines are…and how available holsters are. That’s a big problem on new models….getting a good selection of holsters.
With Glocks, it’s an “OMG!” dilemma, with hundreds to choose from. But I can find a left-hand, forward rake rig to carry my spare without much fuss.
The new female students I had in a recent class all ditched their teeny-tiny pistols that kicked harder than a plain vanilla .40S&W of practical size by noon on the first day. Soon, all had purchased full-size pistols in 9mm or .40 S&W, but the Ruger would certainly be a candidate for the person who just can’t go with the flow.
Thanks, Pat, for the variety of product you test for us.
Pat,,, my first kill was at the age of 18 in the mil ,45 at 7feet he managed to cut my shirt with a knife ,i would not be here if it would have been a 9 ,or been older and slower ,i loved the way a mod 39 Smith shoots ,carried one off and on in nam and used it in the shit with ball it will do the job but ! ,,, i hit a man that should have stayed down ,,, he was able to put a 9 round in me ,,yes I’m here ,he’s not ,,have never carried a 9 after that ,except for dogs ,don’t get me wrong a 9 is better than a22 or sharp stick or a empty pocket ,
Just my experience , been there done that ,
Tea and chocolate
I agree with Joe and Matt: the anecdotal “expertise” has got to stop. Assuming the bullet enters your target and does not exit (which is the point of hollow ammo, pun intended), the relevant measurement is energy, all of which is transferred to the target. Simple physics shows that energy is directly proportional to the weight (technically, mass) of the bullet but proportional to the square of the velocity of the bullet. Keep the bullet speed the same but increase the weight of the bullet 20% and you increase the energy 20%. Keep the bullet weight the same but increase the speed 20% and you increase the energy 44%. That is why the large but slow .45 ACP only has a small increase in energy over the small but fast 9 mm and the large AND fast .40 S&W has substantially more energy than both.
If you like and are proficient with your 8-9 round 1911 knock yourself out, but don`t dismiss the guy with 17 rounds of 9 mm in his Glock. Not being an experienced gunfighter, I would rather have more bullets.
Old, Viet Nam Army vet, I’m sorry, I’m knot known for being ‘politically correct’, give me a 45 and an M14 and don’t get in range of either! Well, I use to be that good (;
eam, good line: Well, I use to be that good (;
Yeah, the older I get, the better I was. All in the rearview mirror.
I echo your endorsement of the M14. Best ever…
Oops, I mean NOT not KNOT. Well a little levity in times of stress can be a good thing.
.45 acp is the preferred round at bowling pin shoots for a reason. They knock the pins off when others dont
As to the idea of more rounds in the firearm ( 9mm ) , there was an incident that happened outside the Empire state building a number yrs ago where there was guy with gun and 4 NYC police officers. If I remember right, there were something in area of 90 plus shots fired by the police officers and they brought him down because one shot / round had hit the prep in the leg. But there about 4 to 6 bystanders that were shot, two were in critical condition. And the bullets that hit the bystanders were all fired by the NYC police.
Three and a quarter inches at 25 yards was the very best it could do and this is a “good shooter”? Wow. That’s terrible in my book.
But then, Ruger isn’t sending me free guns either, so there’s that.
If I’m out of the house I’m carrying, I stay prepared for 2 legged and 4 legged creatures, when the Griz are out of hibernation I carry a 45, when they’re sleeping, I carry a 9mm because it is lighter to pack around, but believe me, it doesn’t give me the confidence that my 45 does. You can read all the gun rags you want and the ballistic charts and believe the FBI’s bs, but when I go to the range and shoot steel plates at 10 and 20 yards and the 45 lays them down with aplomb and the 9 tips them over, don’t try and tell me that the 9 is equal. All I hear, is about how much the 9 improved with new powder and such, I guess there has been no improvement in the 45. You take your 17rd 9 and I’ll take my 13rd 45 and I guess we will both be happy, and what ever is on the receiving end will be in a heap of trouble. Trekker Out
Enough of my Bullet is bigger than yours. If they are wearing a vest because they are so plentiful, I will be aiming at head or hips. Whatever you prefer will hurt a perp. Practice if you can.
The majority of comments are spot on, for myself and background are very similar to yours, 20 years being a dealer with gun shows and shooting events, along with 60 years of hunting, shooting, for fun and in events sports. I followed the “advance in new caliber introductions” and my own testing criteria……like to add one thing, for me it’s not only the caliber, it’s the gun itself that one that just shoots and hits the sweet spot. One example was ( please don’t giggle ) a star firestar in 45acp that I bought new at a Dallas gun show for125 bucks in the 80s. Star firearms were in my mind a bottom tier manufacturer no longer in business. This gun has had around 3 maybe 4 thousand rounds run through it and is one a tack driver, two very dependable. The gun has a fluted tapered barrel like the old detonics, and it may be a big factor for it accuracy. Friends that have shot it are amazed at its ability to put bullets on target even shooting at targets out to 50 yards or beyond. I can shoot my sigs and glocks in 45 cap……but my go to carry gun is the firestar 45acp. My point being find what works for you………and stay with it, read all you want, but when you are out in the world, what’s going to get the job done is your confidence, your ability, your weapon of choice….period. On the receiving end I would have to speculate getting hit with a 9 mil in one shoulder and a 45 cap in the other…….you are not really going to be in a state of mind to know the difference……just saying
I just love Merica. We have to freedom to argue about which caliber is the best cuz we can own all the guns we can afford (even more than we can afford thanks to credit).
I’m fine with the 9mm. But I’m definitely biased in favor of the 45 ACP. I’ve got 3 Glock 45s, a Kimber 1911 and a Ruger Vaquero 45 Colt with a 45 ACP cylinder.
Maybe it’s just psychological, but I’d prefer to greet an intruder with my Glock 21 rather than my G19.
And the fact that one guy refused to die when shot with a 45 ACP doesn’t change my attitude. https://youtu.be/pdjcYjSsIok