10mm vs 45 acp
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In my State Your Case article on the 9mm vs. .40 S&W the .40 got a raw deal in that discussion, but I did my best to defend it and make it as equal a comparison as possible. Today we’re looking at two other titans of the automatic pistol world: the 10mm Auto and .45 ACP. These two rounds occupy the upper portion of the auto pistol market and often vie for popularity in the field, but rarely on the competition line.

The .45 ACP has been around for well over a century. Very few cartridges make it that long and this old soldier has seen it all. In fact, it is still in active military service today in platforms little different from those of the First World War. The .45 ACP is a round that is deeply engrained in American culture and is often considered to be one of the greatest handgun rounds ever made.

10mm vs 45 acp

Greatness is a matter of perspective, as many consider the round to be underpowered and inadequate in terms of capacity and utility. Some today even say that it is completely inferior to the 10mm Auto, which is often compared to the .357 Magnum. These points against the .45 ACP are valid, but the 10mm Auto is far from perfect and has had a much, much spottier past than the .45 ACP.

The old standard for .45 ACP is a 230gr bullet at 850fps. 10mm fans love to use this as a point of comparison, as the pre-FBI 10mm loads were hot, launching 200gr bullets about 1,200fps, which was a significant gain over the old .45. What 10mm fans hate to talk about is the neutering and subsequent abandonment of their favorite cartridge and the improvements across the board in ammunition technology that have seen the .45 ACP make up lost ground against smaller, more popular rounds like 9mm.

10mm vs 45 acp

Unlike the .45 ACP, the 10mm gained a reputation as a wrist-wrencher, with the FBI, after testing and briefly adopting it, rejecting the wonder cartridge for the less powerful ‘10mm Lite’ variant, which was loaded at about 1,050fps. This round was later reduced in length and became the .40 S&W. For a great many years, the 10mm was loaded light, and it eventually lost relevance because the .40 S&W did everything it did, but could fit in a smaller gun.

The .40 S&W/FBI scandal nearly ended the 10mm’s run on the commercial market and it would have likely died right then and there if not for a TV show. The only well-known film character to carry a 10mm Auto was Sonny Crockett on Miami Vice. Just like today’s The Walking Dead-motivated Colt Python craze, Sonny’s Bren Ten caused a spike in the price of the iffy-quality pistol and did more to save the reputation of the 10mm than any gun marketing company ever could’ve managed.

Unlike the 10mm, the .45 ACP has never struggled in pop culture representation. The big .45 is usually the gun of the hero, and is more often than not a 1911. This combination of gun and ammo is usually in the hands of the aged veteran like Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino, where it shows grit and determination, but it also had a starring role in Keanu Reeve’s recent action extravaganza John Wick 2, where an entire scene was devoted to the .45 and the 1911. The .45 caliber pistol, be it an old Colt or a modern 1911, is an integral part of the American soul.

On the technical side of things, the 10mm Auto beats the .45 ACP in just about every way. In two nearly identical guns, such as the GLOCK 20 and GLOCK 21, the 10mm has greater capacity, higher velocity, flatter trajectory, and weighs basically the same loaded as the .45 version, if not less. These same things carry over to virtually every platform that is available in these chamberings.

In terms of ammunition, the 10mm easily runs circles around the .45 ACP. Not only is it more powerful, but it also has bullets with much higher sectional density that are able to penetrate better than most magnum revolver rounds less than .41 Magnum. This makes the 10mm a great choice for the woods and many large bears have been put down by it.

10mm vs 45 acp

By comparison, the .45 ACP has a large bullet, but it is fairly stout and isn’t great at deep penetration on game animals. Pistol hunting has become very popular in the last few years and the 10mm has benefitted over the .45 ACP because of this. Pistol hunting happens at bow hunting distances in most cases, and the 10mm simply delivers better performance on animals given identical platforms and range.

Where the 10mm suffers compared to the .45 ACP is on the competition line. Many types of competition specify the .45 ACP, but don’t necessarily ban the 10mm. The reason the 10mm isn’t popular in matches is because it isn’t a very friendly round in volume. Granted, there will be the He-Man out there that laughs it off, but the 10mm in its full-power form produces far greater recoil than a .45 ACP does, which slows follow-up shots and can reduce scores over time. Reduced power loads can be used, but then again, that’s why the .40 S&W exists. If you shoot a lot, the .45 is a cheaper and more plentiful option that will do well across the board.

So what do I pick as the winner here? It may seem odd, but I have to go with .45 ACP. Yes, I can see the comments in my head right now. “B…but Josh, you’re a know-nothing hipster who doesn’t get guns and tactical response…and foot pounds… and… retained energy…” Well, the thing is, I do understand all of that, and I still picked the .45 ACP as the winner here and I’m happy to explain.

The .45 ACP round is an American staple. All the things that make it lag behind 10mm also make it lag behind .357 Mag, .44 Mag, .460 S&W, and many others when power is the only thing considered and behind 9mm when capacity is the only thing looked at.

The .45 is commonly carried and is well understood by the general public, which regards it as a magical manstopper. The thing is, they aren’t wrong for thinking that way because it is, for the most part, true. If the 10mm was all that and a bag of chips, it would never have been cut down to .40 S&W in the first place. Superior ballistics pale in comparison to tradition, and there is hardly a bore more significant to the American tradition than .45.

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83 COMMENTS

    • Breaking: Mass shooting at Buffalo,NY supermarket. At least 8 dead. I was thinking “the dims need a distraction”. Or defection. And I sighted in my new LPVO…

  1. Ruger GP100 rechambered to 10mm Magnum vs comped Tanfoglio sprung for 45 Super… comes up as a draw for me. Still waiting on S&W to make a threaded 5 1/2inch M&P 2.0 with suppressor height sights in 10mm

    • And either of the above can take loads comparable to a Honda Civic with a million horsepower muffler, a Scoobie STI wrx, or the big block Vega you built back in the 80s.

      • Back in the eighties, like the last time Automag made 10 magnum cartridge cases?… good luck with that

        • Both 10 mag and 45 Super come from Starline at around $200 / 1000 last I bought it. Also, dacian’s mom only pays you to play with him, not to actually listen to shit he says – remember you’ll be going to high school next year and you’re expected to act like the much older person you are.

      • No it’s in between 45acp and 460 and 45 super “should” only require a heavier spring (model depending) to fire out of a 45 that can handle it. 460 has a longer case and “should” require a new barrel as well as a heavier spring. Not sure on magazines off hand. For either one be ready to reload or get friendly with buffalo bore/underwood

  2. Seriously, we’re doing caliber wars? Do striker vs Hammer, that’s my favorite and really gets me going.

  3. I carry a Glock 20 in 10mm auto in the woods because Bears and hiking and saltwater.

    But it can’t approach a 1911 in .45 for raw emotional appeal. I’m constantly trying to rationalize away the weight and capacity and maintenance and penetration to focus on beauty and lore. Alas, maybe some day.

        • I wouldn’t be carrying anything in 10mm in those areas either, nor a semi auto. Big bears are mighty tough beasts and your fourth or fifth shot might very well be from underneath nearly a half ton of hair, teeth, claws and destruction.

  4. I was always a .45 ACP guy, especially because I grew up on the the 1911 and shoot it very well.

    But, I picked up a Glock 29 with some pinky extensions for the mags and I surprised myself with how well I shoot the stupid thing and how hard it whacks targets over my full size .45’s.

    It’s completely replaced my .45’s for open carry hunting/fishing/woods bumming. Still too chunky for concealed carry though, a P365 or a J-frame tends to win there.

  5. I like 10 for select uses but for most applications .45ACP wins simply for ease of availability.

    Yeah, I can sit around and stuff some 10’s but IMHO, the ability to have it generally be on the shelf when I want something quick is preferable.

    IMHO, it’s basically the same as getting an unmolested Star B. 9mm Largo isn’t impossible to deal with but as a general rule it’s more of a PITA so it’s not like you’re very likely to shoot something like the B a lot in such a chambering unless you’re dedicated to doing it.

    • Must vary by area, finding 45 acp or 357 mag up here is mail order only (with 45 gap and 357 sig on the shelves) and 10mm has a limited but available selection. Reloading either is fun but 45 shell holders usually go with the 308 family as well.

    • I agree that availability is huge. In edge cases the only factor that matters. Weirdly enough in my town there wasn’t any .30-06 or .45 ACP available at retail locations for months (finally saw some yesterday), but there are, no fooling, about 1000 boxes of 10mm and probably 100 of 6.5 Creedmoor.

      Weird times

      • Ocean, that’s because, despite all the hype that can be mustered, other, older cartridges are still the most popular. Fudds rule.

        • I hope you’re right, and that more 30 and 45 are available cheaper, but I’m not so sure. There is plenty of 556 and 9 around. In the mean time plenty of sad box-a-year Fudds who have nothing tucked away at home and only 150 grain ‘06 on the shelves.

      • During the recent ammo shortage, there were a few times I saw 10mm and .357 Sig on the shelves when everything else was sold out.

  6. .45 ACP. Every concession to full house 10mm. I’m finally thinking of buying one myself, but day to day, no bears or hogs? .45.

    • Strong case for 45 when magazines are limited to 10 as well. Availability for it sucks up this way and few large pistol primers to be found so leaning towards 10 with a strong appreciation for all 45acp and it’s variants can do.

  7. Target round .45 acp

    Defense round 10mm.

    Firearm longevity .45 acp will last longer before major rebuild is necessary.

    Accuracy: 45 ACP. Less recoil means better average accuracy

    Cost: .45 acp. Way cheaper to find used brass.

    Flattery trajectory: 10mm. Hits at longer ranges more likely.

    Expansion: 10mm higher velocity equals better bullet expansion.

      • Accuracy is directly correlated to recoil, not everyone knows that. The less the gunm kicks the more accurate it is. Even if you dont flinch the most accurate riffles or handgunms are chambered in .22short.

    • On these specific points I have to agree with dacian the otherwise stupid and ignorant.
      I have a Witness 10mm, 15 rd capacity, that I love, and 6 45’s, 5 19111 types, 2 of them hi-cap , and 1 ruger I’m thinking of letting go.
      I don’t feel ill equipped with any of them

  8. “The .45 ACP has been around for well over a century.”

    That’s pretty much the whole case right there. It’s easy to find guns that shoot it and a wide variety of ammo to feed those guns. 10mm is objectively more powerful, but that can be a pro or a con.

  9. ‘…bullets with much higher sectional density that are able to penetrate better than most magnum revolver rounds less than .41 Magnum.’

    Huh?!? A 200gr 10mm bullet has a sectional density of .179, comparable to a 158gr. .357 slug at .177. A 180gr. .357 bullet has an SD of .202.

  10. America. Freedom. Independence. Liberty. Two time world war champs. Soul stealing. Total domination.

    All words that come to mind with mere thought of .45. The answer is clear.

  11. .45 every time. It wasn’t the first handgun I ever handled, but nearly so. And, it’s what I carried on duty in the military. I don’t carry a sidearm to hunt with. Or for competition shooting. Or for show. It’s a self defense weapon, and I mean for the target to go down, and to go down hard. The .45 has a long history of doing exactly that. I see no reason to experiment with something different, just because someone, somewhere, thinks it’s better.

  12. .45 was good enough to stop the Moro’s so it should fare well for less determined limp wristed socialists.

  13. I’ve used the 10mm several times. A friend owns a couple and loves it. Myself, the recoil is no problem. I can shoot it well enough. But I do have a preference for large caliber revolvers when hunting or as a back up weapon with a bow or rifle. My big S&W 500 is what I usually carry in that capacity. Or an old S&W 25 in .45LC. For carry around the homestead, or a quick run into the local small town for feed etc. I have either the S&W 25 or a Ruger Blackhawk. If driving down to my property close the the beach, or driving into the city, my CC weapon is still going to be my ancient Colt 1911 Officers Model.
    Again, nothing against the 10mm, just going with the firearms I am most comfortable with and already have in the safe. I don’t really need another caliber of firearm or another size/type/load of ammunition to stock.

    • True. Some people don’t consider the cost of adding another caliber… it can get expensive fast, even if you load your own, it’s instantly a few hundred dollars extra for dies, shellholders, brass, bullets, etc, and even more than that if using a progressive press. And add price of holster… or however many holsters you have to buy to find one you can live with. And if it’s a semi auto, an assortment of magazines… it all adds up to a mallrat starter kit.

  14. My go to guns are Ruger Blackhawks and a Ruger Redhawk, all in .45 Colt. I’d also grab a S&W 625 Mountain Gun in .45 Colt if I found a good one at a good price. My only semi auto pistols these days are a pair of 10mm Gen4 Glock 20’s.

    10mm is a pipsqueak too. It’s just less of a pipsqueak than other semi auto pistola cartridges. Anyone who has trouble with the recoil of a 10 really needs to consult with a phrenologist or something because it isn’t that much.

    • I’ve got a really big lump on the side of my noggin, do you think I need to get a 460 S&W because of that? Are you really sure that you know what phrenology is ?

  15. For me personally the 45ACP is completely relevant. Endless articles all conclude the 9mm is fine because pistol ammo doesn’t generate enough energy for “power” to matter provided adequate penetration. I accept this which is why I like the 45. Given velocity makes little difference until you get to rifle power cartridges, I’ll take a 20-25% larger wound channel which the 45 gives you over the 9mm. As an added bonus, you don’t need ultra expensive state of the art ammo in a 45, 230 gr hardball is fine.

    The 40 SW splits the difference and the 10mm doesnt seem to add much unless in hunting applications.

  16. My two most readily available home defense guns are 2 .45 Colt 1873s handloaded with hollow points over 9 grains of Unique. Back ups are 9 mm. I’ve shot the .40 in a full size Glock–I found it hard to distinguish it from a 9 mm out of a compact handgun. I almost bought a .40 during the Obama drought, as it was typically the only thing on the shelf besides shotgun rounds. I have never seen 10 mm on the shelf, and as I don’t find myself hiking in the woods ever (too steep, too hot, too many timber rattlers), I won’t start now.
    I will never forget the first time I shot a .45. It was a full size Kimber range gun. It was so so smooth, so satisfying. I was completely sold and just HAD to buy a .45.

  17. What about .45ACP hand loads? Why just limit ourselves to the old 230grn ball ammo?
    I shoot 200grn semi-wadcutters at 950fps over Vit 6.8grns of N340 out of a HK USP.

  18. 10mm and .40 S&W are not good choices for home defense. Too snappy for good shootability. Lets say the ideal cartridge for home defense would be one that goes to 15″ in gel with two layers of denim, expands to 1″, at the lowest muzzle energy. Using a full size hand gun as you are not carrying this gun.

    You don’t want a high velocity long range flat shooting cartridge.

  19. I have seen and heard 10mm users brag on the “power” but their honest answer is they DON’T exclusively shoot full power loads! This isn’t any different than when the FBI found “magic beans” and switched AGAIN to 9mm. A very large portion of “followers” bailed on the FBI’s former darling 40S&W for the born again 9mm BUT they don’t all use the FBI’s magic beans and most of them couldn’t tell you what that Load is. Toss the ammo shortages on top of that for a mixed feed bag.

    It’s always wise to consider what round nose “ball” ammo will do when choosing a handgun caliber, when the magic beans fail or aren’t available, you will be left with ball ammo equivalent. Your choice.

  20. Sounds like the .45 won on popularity, but I have several .45’s and recently purchased a Gen 4 Glock 40. I sold my Gen 3 Glock 20 several years ago because the grip was too big to allow me to shoot it comfortably, and I have fairly large hands. The Gen 4 G40 has a slimmer grip and I love it! I agree, in the woods I would carry either the G40 or my DE in .44 magnum. For self defense, I would comfortably carry either. My main carry though is a G27 or G23. All of them give me confidence in their stopping ability (with the right ammo of course). Need to find the 8mm/.40 comparison.

  21. I can see keeping my .45 for in the city protection and the 10mm for in the woods protection. Most two legged critters stay in the city, while Cougars and Bears, for the most part keep to the woods!

  22. The most important use for a handgun is saving your own life, and to do that you have to stop them from getting to you. I’ve only had to do this once, but it taught me a lot. Heavy and slow is what stops their forward momentum. I don’t care if they die, but they must not be able to get close to you. My fast powerful bullets went right through my assailant as he continued getting closer. Only the head shot stopped him.
    I believe a heavier bullet moving slower will leave all of it’s energy in the target thus stopping him. Fast stuff will kill him better (disrupting vital organs it gets close to), but most of the energy goes right out his back. 45acp in anything or .410 in a S&W Governor.

  23. I’m late to the party but it’s a 1911 .45 for me… I love shooting the thing! And when people see it they KNOW what it is… Cool story: I used to do armed security in bad neighborhoods for a large bank. One day during the summer I was outside having a smoke and there was a liquor/convenience store half a block away. The 1911 was just a plain blue military model with nice wooden grips in a OWB holster. A community member walked up to me just to ask about the gun. Him and his buddies saw and recognized it from half a block away… We both started laughing… That’s when I realized the 1911 stands out from the “black guns” as he described it… Commands respect…

    • Completely agree. I have two with wood grips (although one came with black rubber grips. I switched them for rosewood). Someday I will have to get a couple more.

  24. I had a yummy burger the other night and loved every greasy drop. I read that this is actually Rounded Pi Day – this year only! Since the number is 3.14159 etc., if you round that you get 3.1416. But as I’m writing this the day is already finished in Britain. Only a century to wait for the next one.

  25. I would like to see a pro / con discussion comparing single action auto ( 1911 ) to double action auto.
    Advantages / disadvantages.

    Do many people feel single action is too much disadvantage ?

  26. What an insightful breakdown of the perennial debate between 10mm Auto and .45 ACP! As a firearms enthusiast, I’ve often found myself caught in the crossfire of discussions surrounding these two iconic calibers. Your article eloquently dissects the strengths and nuances of each, shedding light on the factors that influence the choice between them.

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