Which is better – the .44 Magnum or the .45 ACP? How you answer that question comes down to how you use the rounds. They are close but not at all the same. Those of you who need to put a lot of power and impact on a target will reach for the .44 Magnum. Those of you who can do with less impact and less power but want to put many rounds into or around a target will reach for the .45 ACP.
Why? The .45 ACP round was made for semiautomatic shooting where you need to fill a space with rounds in a small amount of time. The .44 Magnum round is made to deliver a single shot or several shots that have a massive impact, such as a home defense situation or a single-shot hunting scenario. The .45 ACP round is for the rapid deployment of bullets into a smaller targeted area. One may require more precise shooting while the other may rely on many points of impact to take down a target.
The .44 Magnum is a higher velocity round out of a magnum revolver with more muzzle velocity and higher muzzle energy. It is a round that has a higher capacity in terms of grains due to its slightly larger casing. As far as revolver cartridges go, whether you are talking about a long colt handgun or a semi-automatic pistol, the higher speed and greater impact goes to the .44 Magnum.
That award does not necessarily mean that the .44 Magnum is the better round. As we said, the best round is the one that does the job you need completing and that can very easily be a semi-automatic pistol round rather than the brute force of a big load round. There is also the quality of your shooting and how bullet performance influences shot accuracy. Included in that is how the gun fits in your hand versus the amount of recoil from the round. If you have smaller hands and gripping the gun is a challenge, heavier recoil can be a problem. The same is true if you have hands that are too large for the gun and you have to hold the grips lower to fit your finger on the trigger. Here’s a closer look at round performance and bullet selection.
Factors that Influence Bullet Performance
How you set up your gun can impact bullet performance. The barrel length and handgun caliber plus bullet weight and bullet diameter are all factors that can influence bullet performance.
You want the most stopping power, but you have to marry that with accuracy; otherwise, you run the risk of shooting an innocent bystander or in home defense situations, you may miss your target and go through the wall and take out someone you love.
Accuracy becomes a critical factor and one that you should pay close attention to when you choose the type of gun you carry and the ammo you load into that gun. A better choice is always going to be the round and gun combo that gives you the best accuracy. Many of the above factors that influence round accuracy are solved when you choose the type of gun you carry. Other factors are also important and include:
Trajectory – The flight path of a bullet and the relationship between velocity and power as it applies to trajectory.
Accuracy vs. distance – Shorter distances to the target are easier while longer distance to the target has more challenges such as gravity.
Semi-Automatic Shot vs. Multi-shot accuracy – recoil on a semi-automatic can diminish accuracy. Multi-shot situations from a non-semi gun can also be impacted by recoil.
Shooter Technique – Trigger squeeze, how the gun fits into your hand, fear of recoil, care, and cleaning of the gun, etc., are all factors that determine shooter technique. Some of these can be improved through practice and learning. Others will be improved upon when you choose the best round for your purposes.
Grain and Bullet Rating
Grain is a unit of measurement for the weight of a round. Bullets are the tip of the round – the part that launches from the round and hits the target. Grain impacts how a bullet shoots. More grain means that there is more weight, whether you are talking about a Winchester Magnum .44 round, a Remington Magnum round, or the .45 ACP round for an automatic colt pistol. The grain of a round is one of the biggest differences between a .44 Magnum round and a .45 ACP round. That is because the .44 Mag rounds are larger and can hold more powder.
In terms of power – heavier bullets – in this case, the .44 Magnum rounds – fly slower due to the effects of gravity on the round. However, heavier rounds tend to do the most damage. Compare the damage of a semi-truck hitting a car versus the damage of a full-size pickup truck hitting the same car where all variables are the same. Which does the most damage? The higher the grain rating of a round, the heavier the round is and the more power it will produce, which impacts velocity and energy.
Velocity is the speed at which a bullet flies. Energy is the amount of force that the bullet has when it hits the target. Grain plus bullet style – flat tip, hollow point, rounded tip, etc., – impact the performance of both velocity and energy. That is true whether you are hunting a dangerous game animal or using a Ruger Blackhawk for home defense.
.44 Mag vs .45 ACP: A Breakdown
.44 Mag size
- Overall Case Length – 1.285 inches.
- Diameter – .429 inches
- Total Capacity – 37.9 gr+h2O
- Primer Type – Large Pistol
.45 ACP size
- Overall Case Length – 1.275 inches
- Diameter – .452 inches
- Total Capacity – 26.7 gr+h2o
- Primer Type – Large Pistol – though small can be available.
Large Pistol groups include the Ruger Blackhawk, Ruger Redhawk, Colt .44, etc.
Both rounds come in a variety of grain sizes including:
.44 Magnum – 220-grain Flat Point, 240-grain Flat Point, 240-grain Target Hollow Point
.45 ACP – 185-grain Flat Point, 200-grain Hybrid Hollow Point, 230-grain Round Nose
- 220-grain Flat Point: 839 – 1850 ft/s
- 240-grain Flat Point: 839 – 1850 ft/s
- 240-grain Target Hollow Point: 839 – 1850 ft/s
- 185-grain Flat Point: 770 – 1250 ft/s
- 200-grain Hybrid Hollow Point: 925-1075 ft/s
- 230-grain Round Nose: 730 – 1250 ft/s
Much of the difference here is shown in speed vs. impact. Do you need more impact but less speed or more speed and less impact? The .44 Magnum is perhaps the world’s most powerful handgun – at least it was for many decades. The magnum cartridge is slightly larger giving it more room to hold more powder – depending on the grain size of the powder – These rounds tend to fly slower but do more damage making them a favorite of police officers who are looking for handgun ammo with plenty of stopping power. They are also fun for target shooting or hunting, especially when hunting dangerous game animals, such as big Elk or Bear.
The .44 magnum was designed for hunters. It can be loaded into a handgun or a rifle. Its massive power will take down big game animals such as buffalo, bear, elk, and smaller game such as deer. It comes from a philosophy of one shot is all that you need.
You could use the .44 magnum in a home defense or self-defense situation, but it is likely overkill. The overly powerful rounds have greater penetration and can go through walls which could endanger bystanders. There is also a high recoil because it is a heavy bullet and that can make the .44 magnum a bad choice for those who have shooting fear due to recoil.
For home defense, the .45 round is a better option. It has a faster speed from gun to target and does less damage. It will still stop an intruder, but you are less likely to deal with unintentional damage from wall penetration. The smaller energy of the .45 ACP also means that damage can be less than the .44 Magnum.
Because the .45 ACP is more of a semi-automatic round, you do not need to be as accurate since you would put more rounds into an area in a shorter period than you would with the one-shot .44 Magnum.
You can use both for target shooting and competition, though the .45 ACP probably has the upper hand for long-distance shots since the rounds are lighter and can have a higher velocity.
For those who prefer to load their own rounds, Berry’s offers a large range of bullets for the .44 or .45 ACP casings. Learn more by visiting our store and shopping the options for reloading.