.40 SW VS .45 ACP

Choosing the right bullet type is just as important as choosing a rifle. But without the proper research, you might be compromising your skills and your safety. We tested the .40 vs. .45 Caliber bullets for that very reason—as well as help you see the advantages of one over the other.

40 SW

.40 SW Advantages

  • Better penetration
  • More aerodynamic
  • Gives more rounds
  • Less expensive
45 ACP

.45 ACP Advantages

  • Bigger and heavier
  • Less recoil for increased comfort
  • Accumulates more impact
  • More damage

Features of Both Ammo

Size

Bigger and heavier bullets equate to better performance when it comes to damage or hunting big game. In this case, the .45 ACP is the larger and fatter bullet that has more impact. But if you prioritize a faster bullet and a further range, then the .40 SW would be the better choice.

Specifically, the .40 has a bullet diameter of 10.2mm while a .45 has 11.5mm. The .40 has a neck diameter of 10.7mm while the .45 has 12.0mm. As for the base diameter, the .40 has it at 10.8mm while the .45 has it at 12.1mm. Finally, the rim diameter of the .40 is at 10.8mm while the .45 has it at 12.2mm.

In all aspects, the .45 is bigger and heavier. With this, the impact upon expansion is much larger compared to what the .40 can do.

But if you need to shoot something farther, the .40 is the better choice. It’s smaller and therefore, more aerodynamic. It goes faster and further than the .45, making your shots more accurate in a longer distance.

Usage

It has often been debated which is the better bullet when it comes to self-defense and invasion. Both the .40 and the .45 have been used by both cops and civilian people in their handguns, and there’s been a long argument about which one is superior.

For law enforcement agencies in the United States, Canada, and Australia, the .40 is more popular. They’ve actually referred to the .40 Caliber as “the ideal cartridge for personal defense and law enforcement”.

The fact that .40 Caliber bullets are primarily used by the government guys is no accident either. After all, they were initially made in response to the FBI’s desire of having greater ammunition capacity than the previous models they’ve used.

On the other hand, the .45 is the perfect bullet for protection against home invasion or for self-defense [1]. That’s not to say that it’s not for law enforcement though. However, the .45 is more for the defensive crowd. It feels more comfortable to shoot and it has a harder hit as well.

In the end, both the .40 SW and the .45 ACP can be used for law enforcement, self-defense, or home defense. There’s not much of a difference between the two, so it’s entirely up to you on which bullet feels better to shoot. 

man pointing gun and showing barrel

Caliber

An obvious difference between the two is the caliber. They’re just a few millimeters apart, but does that really make a difference when you’re on the field?

Well, the answer is yes and no. A larger caliber, to some extent, could make or break a shot. The bigger diameter gives a little edge because you might just hit something vital that you wouldn’t have hit with lower caliber bullets. Then again, the difference isn’t that significant considering that we’re comparing it to a .45.

In reality, all pistol bullets just poke a hole on the enemy. Logically, the .40 SW and the .45 ACP would poke holes that are almost the same size. With that in mind, they would both have the same effectiveness.

We put this theory to the test and the results were consistent with our expectations. Both the .40 and the .45 needed more than two shots on average to be able to stop someone. But, when we looked at the one-shot incapacitation rate, the .45 has a measly 4% advantage over the .40.

Technically, the .45 is the winner because it has a larger caliber. But in reality, this doesn’t carry that much weight considering the small difference between the two.

In a nutshell, a larger caliber has a little advantage, but it’s not so big as to leave the .40 in the dust.

Accuracy

Accuracy depends on much more than just your bullet choice. It’s subject to the competence of the shooter, the gun used, barrel length, and external situations like the range and wind velocity during firing.

But just to compare the two, both the .40 SW and the .45 ACP are excellent competitors at short-range shooting and they almost have equal accuracy.

Taking into account the velocity of the bullet, the .45 would require more focus on shooting because of its lower velocity. Since the .40 is smaller and thus more aerodynamic, it has a slight edge at longer ranges.

multiple gold-colored bullets

Recoil

Like accuracy, the recoil also depends on the shooter and the firearm. The .40 SW and .45 ACP have a minimal difference when it comes to recoil, but this factor must be considered because it affects ammo handling during target practice and real situations as well.

The .40 Cal is sharp and snappy, meaning it has a slower tendency to shoot follow-up shots compared to the .45 Cal. If you’re aiming at lower targets, the .40 is a more ideal bullet.

The .45, on the other hand, has less recoil than the .40, and it pushes the shooter’s hand backward instead of upward.  Depending on the shooter’s preference, the .45 gets extra points due to the higher accuracy brought about by the lower recoil.

Price

Shooting isn’t cheap, hence the reason why we always want to review a product first before we go out and buy it. We don’t want to get ripped off and we want our money to be well-spent.

In this case, the .45 costs 20% to 60% more than the .40 Cal. This is a general estimation because it still varies where you buy them, but it’s a number to keep in mind.

 

Conclusion: .40 SW or .45 ACP Caliber?

To sum up this .40 VS .45 Cal debate, both bullets don’t differ much from each other and they have their own essential advantages when it comes to firing.

The .40 SW Cal is best for shooters who prioritize aerodynamics, good price, and long-range shooting. Although this caliber is used more for law enforcement, it makes an excellent self-defense bullet as well.

40 SW

The .45 ACP Cal is best for those who want more damage, less recoil, and reliable home defense ammo. Despite being more expensive than the .40, the .45 is more comfortable to shoot and has the size advantage.

45 ACP

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