Fast Loads For The .45 ACP
January 02, 2018
As many Shooting Times readers know, the .45 ACP is the All-American pistol cartridge. It was the creation of John M. Browning, one of America's most prolific and talented gun and cartridge designers. When he created the .45 ACP in 1904-05, it pushed a 200-grain bullet to 900 fps. That load evolved into a 230-grain bullet moving at 850 fps.
Today's .45 ACP factory loads push 230-grain bullets at velocities ranging from the low 800s to the high 800s in fps. Several manufacturers offer +P loads that push 230-grain bullets over 900 fps, and some boutique ammo manufacturers (Buffalo Bore, DoubleTap, Underwood) claim to push 230-grain bullets up to around 1,000 fps at standard or +P pressures.
The usual way to get more speed is to add more powder. This also means more pressure. At some point you reach the pressure limit, and that's where +P comes to the rescue. It raises the pressure limit, allowing more speed. The .45 ACP has a SAAMI pressure limit of 21,000 psi; the +P version raises the limit to 23,000 psi.
If you want more speed than what the .45 ACP offers, you might have to look to a different cartridge. The .45 Super is the next step up, and it raises the pressure limit to 28,000 psi. It will push a 230-grain bullet to 1,100 fps. Externally, the .45 Super is the same as the .45 ACP, so the Super can be fired in a .45 ACP chamber, but guns generally need some modifications to handle the increased recoil.
Even farther up the scale is the .45-caliber .460 Rowland. It drives a 230-grain bullet to 1,400 fps . But the Rowland case is longer than the .45 ACP case and requires a longer chamber, although the cartridge overall length is the same.
That's the factory-loaded ammunition situation. Handloaders generally have a distinct advantage because they can carefully select different powders to reach their desired speed at pressures that might be lower than those generated by factory ammo.
Handloaders can find several loads that duplicate factory velocities of the .45 ACP and +P versions. The Western Powders reloading manual shows that Silhouette, True Blue, Accurate No. 5, and Accurate No. 7 can push 230-grain bullets close to or over the 1,000-fps mark when loaded to +P pressures.
There is one powder that will push 230-grain bullets to near .45 Super velocities yet remain within standard .45 ACP pressure limits. That powder is Ramshot Enforcer. Ramshot used to publish this data in its reloading manual, but it is not included in the current Western Powders load manual, which combines data from Ramshot and Accurate Powders.
I asked Western Powders if there was a reason why the Enforcer data was not in the current manual, such as whether it was no longer considered appropriate or safe. A company spokesman replied that the data was still valid, and the reason it was not included was because they felt it was not a very efficient powder for the .45. They thought faster-burning powders would give better results.
Efficient is a relative term. It depends on what you want to achieve. If it's high velocity, we handloaders use whichever powder will produce it and stay within safe pressure limits. It might require a lot of a certain powder to deliver those speeds.
Enforcer pushes 230-grain bullets fast, by which I mean 1,078 fps kind of fast, and that's at a pressure of 19,636 psi, which is below the maximum standard (not +P) pressure limit. What's not to love about those numbers?
Putting Enforcer to the Test
Naturally, I had to try Enforcer to see if it really delivers that kind of velocity. The old Enforcer data used a variety of bullets, including Star bullets, which are no longer made, so I had to make some substitutions. The Ramshot data used Magnum primers. That's no surprise, since Enforcer is spherical and considered a slow-burning pistol powder, and sometimes that type of powder burns best with a Magnum primer.
I also loaded some rounds with other powders that produce high velocities with 230-grain bullets, though these loads were rated +P in their respective loading manuals. They included Alliant BE-86, Ramshot Silhouette, Accurate No. 5, and Accurate No. 7. I wanted to see how the standard-pressure Enforcer loads stacked up to the +P loads of the other powders. I followed the load data closely to avoid exceeding +P pressures.