Low Recoil .45 ACP Loads Revisited

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While this column is mainly concerned with providing reloading information for handgunners, from time to time we have featured what we call Handloads For Non-Handloaders. There are several reasons we handload. One is definitely economics. However, there’s another reason, perhaps even more important, which is to tailor loads to our particular handgun or situation. These are often loads, which are difficult or impossible to find on dealer shelves.

In the Nov/Dec 2012 issue, we looked into the possibility of low recoil .45 ACP loads at the urging of a reader who had attained the age which made using standard loads in his Commander painful to shoot. He was at the threshold where 200-grain loads at 825 fps were just barely tolerable. I spent some time at the reloading table to come up with low recoil .45 ACP loads and also contacted two ammunition companies (Buffalo Bore and DoubleTap) who both did some experimenting and came up with some prototype loads.

Most current factory loads for the .45 ACP tend to the higher muzzle velocities, with many being in the +P category. Personally, I don’t want to shoot 300 +P loads in one session. Even standard .45 ACP loads are heavier than many folks can handle in lightweight .45s. Loads with 185-grain bullets at more than 1,000 fps, 200-grain bullets well over 900 fps and 230-grain bullets in the 850 fps range can be tough to shoot. Would it be possible to tone these down — and still have reliable loads?

The new .45 ACP load makes lightweight autos (like this Colt Commander)
downright enjoyable to shoot, says John.

In the same spirit: .44 Special and .45 Colt loads using a 255-grain
LSWC at 1,000 fps, makes for good every day loads.

Factory Loads

Icame up with handloads, however — although the argument has yet to be settled — some folks don’t feel comfortable carrying handloads in self-defense situations. So these two companies came up with three prototypes, which worked perfectly. After the article appeared in Handgunner, the phone started ringing and Buffalo Bore said, “The interest generated by your article was pretty high.” In fact it was so high they went to work to move from the prototype stage to the standard factory ammunition level. Here is a portion of their press release for Buffalo Bore .45 ACP Low Recoil Standard Pressure loads:

“Buffalo Bore is now making a couple very good ‘Low Recoil’ .45 ACP loads. This particular load is traveling roughly the same speed as the original 230-grain hardball load used by our military for decades, but this bullet is 185 grains, which is 45 grains lighter and hence the free-recoil generated is substantially less. The dynamics of pushing lead-based jacketed bullets at speeds this low does not promote reliable expansion, and even if it did, expanding a bullet moving this slow, this light for caliber, greatly reduces penetration, perhaps to the point the bullet becomes non-lethal on large humans, wearing heavy clothing and shot at bad angles. So we are utilizing a non-expanding solid bullet with a flat nose to promote maximum terminal damage. Additionally, one of the beauties of the .45 ACP cartridge is the bullet is .45 caliber and does not require expansion to be very lethal on humans. Also, while roundnosed bullets tend to slip through tissue doing little damage, flatnosed bullets crush their way through tissue and do considerably more damage. Expect this bullet to penetrate roughly 20″ in living mammalian tissues. This is sufficient penetration for stopping very large men wearing heavy winter clothing, even if they are shot from bad angles.” It all seems to make good sense.

Buffalo Bore uses a 185-grain FMJ flatpoint in their low-recoil load.
A FMJ standard “ball” load is on the right.


The 185-grain FMJ FN is rated at 825-850 fps, and by the time this appears there will be a 160-grain Barnes TAC-XP load at 950 fps. Buffalo Bore recommends factory-rated recoil springs to ensure reliable cycling. This should be coupled with a solid grip. Limp-resting can cause cycling problems with this or any other ammunition in a semi-auto pistol. This new load is especially desired for lightweight .45 ACPs such as the Springfield Armory XD-S, Wesson Firearms EOS Officers Model-sized .45 and of course the Colt Commander Lightweight or the relatively new Colt 1911 Lightweight as well as my alloy-framed Kimber. All of these become very tolerable for those who have trouble with recoil, and when used in standard weight .45s the shooting becomes down right pleasant. These low-recoil rounds also work well in .45 ACP-chambered sixguns.

Muzzle velocity should run around 825-850 fps in a full-sized, 5″ 1911 and around 100 fps less in a 3″ OM, with the 41/4″ Commander falling somewhere in between. I personally test-fired this new load in the four semi-autos mentioned, as well as two full-sized, standard-weight 1911s with no problems whatsoever.
By John Taffin

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