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10mm Vs 45 ACP: Which Power House Round Is Right For You



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9mm has become the king of handgun rounds, but bigger, more powerful rounds like .45 ACP and 10mm Auto are far from dead. 

So if you need a bigger round for hunting, feel safer with a heavier self-defense round, or are a fan of hefty rounds, how do you choose between these two big boys? 

Let’s take a closer look at these two rounds to look at what each one is good for and which one is better for your needs. We’ll go over a little history, look at the dimensions and ballistics of these two rounds side-by-side, and make a head-to-head comparison to see where each round shines.

10mm Auto & .45 ACP: Where They Came From

.45 ACP is the older of these two rounds, so let’s start there.

This iconic round is a John Browning original that dates back about 120 years. If rounds were football players, .45 ACP would be a defensive lineman: big and slow. 

Browning wanted a full metal jacket round that would reliably put a man down, and he certainly accomplished that, creating a round that would help win back-to-back World Wars, then continue to persist as one of the most popular handgun rounds even into the 21st century.

Colt M1911 pistol, this one made by Remington.

If .45 ACP is a defensive lineman, .10mm Auto is a linebacker: still big, but a little bit faster. It’s also a young whippersnapper, at least compared to .45 ACP, since it was only introduced in 1983. It only really started getting attention in 1989, though, when the FBI adopted it in response to the 1986 Miami Shootout. 

While the FBI opted to replace 10mm Auto with .40 S&W just a few years later, the publicity was enough to get the round a following among civilians, which seems to have only grown in recent years. 

10mm Auto & .45 ACP Today

While .45 ACP has been usurped in popularity by 9mm Luger, it’s still very popular. 

Many law enforcement agencies have switched over to 9mm, but there are still several that have held on to .45 ACP, and it’s still used by some special members of the US military. Similarly, it’s no longer the most popular choice among civilians for self-defense but is still firmly holding on to second place. 

There’s certainly no risk of .45 fading into obscurity any time soon, and you can expect to find .45 ACP rounds pretty much anywhere that ammunition is sold. Self-defense is .45 ACP’s most common civilian use, but you do also see it in competitions.

10mm rifle review - Hi-Point.
10mm Hi-Point carbine

10mm isn’t as popular, but it does have a significant cult following that’s usually happy to tell you all about why they think it’s the superior handgun round. That’s not to say that 10mm isn’t an effective round, just that people who favor it tend to be very enthusiastic.

It’s a pretty versatile round, and you’ll find it used for self-defense, hunting medium to large game, and even in some competitions. However, it comes at the cost of some harsh recoil and, well, actual cost. 10mm rounds tend to be quite a bit pricier than .45 ACP.

10mm Auto vs .45 ACP Dimensions

10mm Vs. .45 ACP Dimensions

Cartridge10mm.45 ACP
Parent Case.30 RemingtonNone
Bullet Diameter.4005” (10.17mm).452” (11.5mm)
Case Length.992” (25.2mm).898” (22.8mm)
Overall Length1.26” (32.0mm)1.275” (32.4mm)
Rim Diameter.425” (10.8mm).48” (12.2mm)
Case Capacity24.1 gr H20 (1.56 cm3)26.7 gr H20 (1.73 cm3)
SAAMI Max Pressure37,500 psi (259 MPa)21,000 psi (140 MPa)

By The Numbers: Ballistic Comparison

10mm Vs. 45 ACP Ballistics

CartridgeMuzzle50 Yards100 Yards
VelocityEnergyVelocityEnergyTrajectoryVelocityEnergyTrajectory
10mm Auto, 180 gr1030 fps425 ft-lbs970 fps375 ft-lbs1.1”920 fps340 ft-lb4.7”
10mm Auto, 200 gr1160 fps495 ft-lbs1070 fps510 ft-lbs0.9”1010 fps430 ft-lb3.8”
.45 ACP, 185 gr1000 fps410 ft-lb940 fps360 ft-lb1.1”890 fps3256 ft-lb4.9”
.45 ACP, 230 gr830 fps355 ft-lbs800 fps325 ft-lbs1.6”675 fps300 ft-lbs6.8”

*All numbers assume a 5-inch barrel

Real-World Uses

Alright, so we’ve looked at a bunch of numbers, but what do those actually mean for you? Let’s go over how those numbers apply to the real-world situations you might want to use these rounds for. 

Hunting

I’m not a big fan of pistol hunting in general, but if I had to pick one or the other of these for hunting, it would definitely be 10mm. The round’s extra oomph makes it more reliable for taking down larger animals. 

In a situation where I have to hunt to eat, I’d certainly take .45 ACP over nothing, but given the choice between .45 and 10mm, I’ll choose the latter every time. 

Make sure you choose as spicy of a round as you can for this, you’ll want every foot per second and foot per square inch of power you can get when putting down game.

Target Shooting

Thanks to its flatter trajectory, 10mm gets the edge when it comes to target shooting, especially as you stretch out the range. That’s true even when compared to .45 ACP +P. The harder recoil does mean you’ll have a harder time with fast, accurate follow-up shots, but training will help.

If you plan on messing around in USPSA’s revolver division, then you may wish to relieve the GP100’s grips a little to make dumping cases easier. Note also offset bolt notches in cylinder, away from the thinnest part of the chamber walls.

Now, granted, most people don’t do a lot of target shooting with either of these rounds, but it can be done, and it’s a lot of fun. 

Self-Defense

Either of these rounds can be an effective self-defense round. 10mm has extra power, but that also comes as extra recoil to have to manage, and that overpenetration is more of a risk in home defense situations. 

For that reason, I’d choose the .45 ACP, but 10mm isn’t necessarily a bad option either. It predominately depends on your particular preferences and circumstances.

A .45 ACP EDC

If you’re more worried about 4-legged threats than you are 2-legged, the extra power of 10mm becomes a lot more attractive.

Available Pistols and Ammo

Sorry 10mm, .45 ACP is one of the most popular rounds on the market and is more than a century old. This naturally leads to a plethora of available pistols and ammo. Obviously, you have the venerable 1911 as the classic .45 ACP pistol, but there are plenty of .45-caliber polymer-framed pistols, too, including the Glock 21, Walther PPQ, and SIG Sauer P220.

On the ammo end of things, .45 ACP rounds are much easier to find and also are generally a good bit cheaper than 10mm rounds. Both are easy to get online and are probably in stock at your local gun shop, but you’re less likely to be able to get 10mm off the shelf of your local Walmart or sporting goods store. 

There are absolutely great 10mm pistols out there, like the Colt Delta Elite, Glock 20 and 29, and SIG P320-XTEN, but it’s not even close to the availability of .45 pistols.

Suppressed Shooting

Since .45 ACP is subsonic, it suppresses really well.  There’s no extra noise made from the round hitting supersonic speeds, so all the suppressor has to do is handle the initial muzzle blast. Plus, the popularity of .45 ACP means that the corresponding accessories, like threaded barrels, are pretty easy to find and with a pretty wide array of options.

Can never have too many cans!

10mm Auto isn’t always subsonic, but subsonic 10mm Auto rounds are definitely available. They can be a little hard to track down, and don’t come cheap. 

The good news is that if you have a .45 ACP can, it can probably work with 10mm just fine. Double-check with your manufacturer, but generally speaking, they should work. While 10mm dedicated cans exist, they’re hard to find. If you do have one – don’t use it with .45 ACP

LOOSE ROUNDS

Both of these calibers are awesome. Both have a lot of use in this modern world. Both have their die-hard following. 

There will always be something deeply American about the .45 ACP. Maybe deep down, it’s just in our blood to love it. And yet, modern pistols like the FN 510 Tactical come with a 22+1 10mm capacity. And there is nothing more American than having the most firepower.

What is right for you? You’ll need to make that call yourself, but if in doubt, might I recommend – both? Both is good.

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