Handgun Hunting: The Best .45 ACP Ammo for Hunting

.45 ammunition

The .45 Automatic Colt Pistol (ACP) is one of the most iconic ammunition rounds in the U.S. John Moses Browning developed the round for the U.S. armed forces over a century ago. The military and law enforcement still use the ammo. Civilians give high marks to .45 ammo for hunting, self-defense, and practice shooting. Competitors and hobbyists like .45 ACP ammunition for its high level of accuracy and reliability.

Seasoned hunters argue the pros and cons of handgun hunting on a regular basis. Some say it is a fruitless endeavor while others will choose a handgun over any other weapon. Some say you shouldn’t use a handgun unless your main gun misfires. Others say it’s fine as long as you know what you’re doing.

Hunters do agree that handgun hunting is a special skill that requires specific knowledge. A handgun hunter must know the characteristics of the ammo and gun they intend to use in the field. The shooter must match those characteristics to the type of game they intend to hunt. Bullets meant for bear will not function as well for deer or other game.

One cannot expect a handgun to have the same characteristics and performance as a rifle. A handgun hunter must understand that and determine what ammunition will work best for their target. There is also a significant amount of practice to achieve the same accuracy, particularly at long range.

Uses of .45 ACP in Hunting

The .45 ACP is effective and easy to shoot. It was developed by John Moses Browning for the military forces. The military had complained that the .38 ammunition was no longer sufficient for their needs. Since that time, the .45 ACP has become one of the most iconic rounds in American history. It is known for maximum stopping power and terminal performance. Most .45 ACP rounds have 230-grains but there are other offerings, ranging from 150-grains to 255-grains. The lighter rounds offer a velocity of up to 1050 fps, which can be beneficial in handgun hunting. The heavier rounds have a lower velocity but offer terminal performance that could mean life or death in a hunting situation.

Deer Hunting

Hunters in North America have generations of experience in hunting whitetail deer. Deer are hunted with bow and arrow, handguns, rifles, muzzleloaders, and even cameras. People hunt deer for food and sport. Whitetails are the most common deer in the U.S., although their size can differ greatly by region.

The deer population was in danger in the early 20th century due to lenient regulations, but today they number about 30 million. Deer season starts in August and runs through January, depending on the location. They can be found throughout the eastern U.S. although they have been seen west of the Rockies, as well as throughout Canada and Mexico.

Deer can be difficult to kill with .45 ACP ammo unless you’re an excellent shot. They’re fast and require exact bullet placement before they’ll fall. The most sought after rounds include Browning BXR, Winchester Deer Season XP, Nosler Ballistic Tips, Hornady American Whitetail, Hornady SST, Browning BXR, and Federal Non-Typical ammo.

Hog Hunting

People often misunderstand the doggedness and strength of wild hogs – particularly if they are feral. Brought over from Spain in the 1500s, wild hogs escaped from their pens and ran rampant throughout the U.S. They became invasive and destructive animals that can be hard to kill. Their thick skins and bulk require ammo with deep penetration. Bonded rounds have the most effect against wild hogs. Top notch ammo includes Hornady Interbond, Nosler Accubond, Federal Trophy Bonded Tip, Hornady GMX, Browning BXC, and Federal Trophy Copper ammunition.

Bear Protection & Hunting

Most hunters say that hunting bear with a handgun is asking for trouble. Of course, it depends on the ammo and the size of the bear. Bear aren’t easy to kill with a handgun, but it can be done – if the placement is right. Experts say that you’d have to make a direct hit to the heart or through the eye. Perhaps that’s why most hunters opt for a more powerful weapon and keep the .45 ACP as a backup weapon. 

Bears don’t attack without reason but getting close enough to shoot his eye out is a dangerous proposition. Remember that a bear is a creature with thick skin, dense flesh and a great deal of fat. Stories of mama bears charging people on her turf are legendary. If that happens, any gun you choose may not be enough to save you. Arguments aside, most experts say that if you are going to hunt bear with a .45, your ammo should be at least 230-grains. Penetration is key.

The Best 45 ACP Ammo for Hunting

Hunters choose Federal, Hornady, Remington, Speer Gold Dot and Winchester ammo more than any other brands. Many buy ammo online to save money. You’ll be able to build up stock for every type of prey from whitetail to elk to bear.

Our Top Picks:

Federal Premium Trophy Bonded Tip Rifle Ammunition

Vital-Shok line was designed after the Trophy Bonded Bear Claw® cartridge. It has higher performance and downrange accuracy.

Hornady® Superformance™ Rifle Ammunition

Hornady uses a powder blend that gives an additional 200 fps. It reduces wind drift, has a flatter trajectory, and superior accuracy.

Nosler Partition

Nosler is a solid all-around bullet. It isn’t at the top for accuracy but gives good terminal performance.

Remington® Premier® Core-Lokt® Ultra Ammunition

Premier Core-Lokt ammunition does well against large game. It retains about 95 percent of its weight and has expansion twice the original diameter. Terminal performance up to 500 yards.

When Not to Hunt with a .45

There are times when hunting with a .45 ACP handgun isn’t advisable. Each state has specific laws about hunting, including when you can hunt and with what type of weapon. Game wardens protect certain areas of the land and also enforce the rules that should be observed by hunters. 

You should choose a location that suits your purpose while making sure it’s legal, whether it is on public or private land. Hunters planning to set up on private land must have the owner’s permission. The state must issue a license no matter what you hunt. Game Wardens also regulate the type of ammunition that can be used. Old-timers who already know the rules should brush up on any changes in the law.

Another time you should not hunt with a .45 is when you will not be within a reasonable range of your target. Otherwise, the target could end up being injured and left to die in agony.


.45 ACP ammunition has been sought after for more than 100 years. Seasoned shooters covet it for its power and versatility. In the right hands, it is an all-around cartridge that will serve you well in the woods.

To learn more about .45 ACP ammo, check out this guide on “The Best. 45 ACP Ammo For Self-Defense, Target Shooting, and More.”