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Old March 16, 2011, 08:08 PM   #1
CK I
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185gr. vs 230gr. HP

I am looking to buy some defensive rounds for my .45ACP and am debating between 185 and 230 rounds. I know with most defensive rounds lighter, faster rounds are favored for most calibers, does this hold true for .45 as well? I really want to get the most out of having the large caliber weapon, why I question only carrying a 185gr round when 230 is available.

Thanks.
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Old March 16, 2011, 08:12 PM   #2
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I shoot a heck of a lot of 45 ACPs, not for defense for for target shooting of one sort or other.

I've found with the 45 loadings, OAL has a lot to do with reliability. In my 45s I have a heck of a lot less malfunctions with ammo that has a longer OAL yet fits well in the magazine. The heavier bullets allow for that.

Other guns may be set up differently.
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Old March 16, 2011, 08:24 PM   #3
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You can't go wrong with 230 grain bullets; they seem to work best in most situations and mediums. They also seem to expand better and go deeper in ballistic gel and clay tests. When used for SD, I want something that can punch through fat, muscle, and bone, and 230 gr loads have always performed well in this regard.
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Old March 16, 2011, 08:37 PM   #4
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Strictly on ballistics, if you have a short barrel, in the 3.5 inch or less range, 185's perform better. Anything longer than that, I will use a 230. The .45 Auto was designed around a 230 gr bullet moving approximately 850 fps.

Every gun is different, yours may like one or the other better. Test out both weights if you can.
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Old March 16, 2011, 09:07 PM   #5
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Bingo. The .45 acp round with a 230 gr bullet was designed for the 5" 1911. With that barrel length, it will acheive the design velocity of ~830 fps.
With a shorter barrel, you get less velocity and the likelihood of expansion drops.
Two ways to regain the lost velocity. Either use a lighter bullet (200 or 185gr) or keep the 230 gra bullet and bump up the powder charge (+p loading) which increases the recoil, making follow up shots more difficult.
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Old March 16, 2011, 09:15 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by orionengnr
With a shorter barrel, you get less velocity and the likelihood of expansion drops.
Two ways to regain the lost velocity. Either use a lighter bullet (200 or 185gr) or keep the 230 gra bullet and bump up the powder charge (+p loading) which increases the recoil, making follow up shots more difficult.
Or stop worrying about the velocity and buy one of the new, short-barrel rounds that are specifically designed for optimal penetration and expansion out of 3 to 3-1/2 inch barrels.
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Old March 16, 2011, 09:24 PM   #7
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Quote:
Strictly on ballistics, if you have a short barrel, in the 3.5 inch or less range, 185's perform better. Anything longer than that, I will use a 230. The .45 Auto was designed around a 230 gr bullet moving approximately 850 fps.

Every gun is different, yours may like one or the other better. Test out both weights if you can.
+1
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Old March 16, 2011, 09:38 PM   #8
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IIRC, JM Browning actually designed the 1911 for a 200gr bullet, prior to the Army specifying the 230gr.
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Old March 16, 2011, 09:49 PM   #9
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The 230 grain JHP is, without doubt a good bullet and good performer in the .45, but I've settled on loading the 185 grain JHP's pretty much exclusively. 185 grains is not a light bullet (compared to other calibers), and when they're moving at about 1100fps out of a 5" barrel, that's worthy of some serious consideration. I've never had a problem with any of them feeding in my 1911's.
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Old March 17, 2011, 06:10 AM   #10
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I notice that those issued the 45 ACP get issued 230g bullets.
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Old March 17, 2011, 06:54 AM   #11
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I'm a firm believer in mass over speed and it's hard to argue against a 230gr .45.

If you are really interested in the 185gr, buy a couple of boxes of each and fire both through your gun. Check for reliability and make your call from there. In a real life situation you might not notice any difference between the two rounds so can put them where they need to be.
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Old March 17, 2011, 11:09 AM   #12
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+1 on barrel length. In my PT145, I use 185 Golden Sabres. In my 1911, I use 230 Hydros.
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Old March 17, 2011, 12:11 PM   #13
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Short barrel 230, longer barrel, who cares, dead is dead.
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Old March 17, 2011, 03:32 PM   #14
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I think that a lot of people (not necessarily posters in this thread, just in general) are very concerned about having reliable expansion and avoiding overpenetration, so they tend to favor lighter, faster bullets in any service caliber. This is somewhat less true for .45 ACP given the relatively large bullet diameter and the strong tradition of using 230 grain bullets, but the same concerns are still expressed by some.

My take on this issue is that based on everything I've seen, heard, and read about in reference to real shootings (even given modern ammo), I'm more concerned about avoiding underpenetration when using hollow-points than anything else. That's why I'll usually (I qualify nearly everything because we live in a complex world ) recommend using heavy-for-caliber bullets, including 230 grain loads in .45 ACP.

As for short barrels (which for .45 ACP is anything shorter than 5"), the tendency is usually toward similar penetration but less expansion due to the reduced velocity of the bullet. From previous discussions, many of those who support using lighter bullets specifically with short barrels are most concerned with maintaining a high absolute velocity because it aids expansion (at the cost of penetration), even though heavy bullets tend to suffer less from short barrels in general (since they require less gas and dwell time). Once again, because my main concern is achieving adequate penetration, my recommendation for short barrels--perhaps even more so than for longer barrels--is generally heavy-for-caliber bullets.

Last edited by Manco; March 17, 2011 at 03:45 PM.
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Old March 17, 2011, 05:00 PM   #15
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A 1911 has to be set up to feed 185's properly. Applies to SWC's too. Some pistols come ready to shoot 'em, some do not.
In any case, being able to hit what you shoot at is more important than the bullet weight.
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Old March 17, 2011, 07:13 PM   #16
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I would try a variety of ammo and see what works best. My Springfield XD is a great gun, but picky about ammo. The Hornady 200 grain xtp rounds would not feed at all, but the 185 grain CD rounds work okay. My best groups are with the Winchester 230 grain PDX1 rounds, so that's what I load it with. Golden Sabers shoot a bit off in my gun, so don't use those.
The gun is also finicky about reloads and sometimes works great, then sometimes jams with 200 grain SWC rounds with every shot. That is why I'm saving my nickels and dimes to get a .45 acp revolver.
See what the gun likes best.
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Old March 17, 2011, 07:19 PM   #17
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I generally prefer heavy-for-caliber bullets...

... but it depends on the bullet, and the cartridge maker.

Cor-Bon DPX bullets tend to be light (even though they have comparable OAL to regular 230), because they are made from bonded copper. They expand reliably, and they penetrate well - primarily because they tend not to fragment on impact.

A 185gr bullet that expands reliably, doesn't disintegrate despite 1075fps velocity, and will reliably penetrate glass on cars is not exactly a bad thing.

So I guess I'm saying that bullet construction matters at least as much as weight.
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Old March 17, 2011, 10:48 PM   #18
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Heavy for caliber?

I suppose that depends on what your standard is. I'm an old timer, and I use old time standards. Heavy for caliber means heavier than standard, to me.

230gr is standard for the .45ACP. Due to the nature of the autopistol (notably the 1911) one seldom sees heavier bullets loaded in the .45acp, but it can be done. A 250 or 260gr bullet would be "heavy for caliber". A 230gr is standard.

When JHP bullets began to show up on the market as factory loaded ammo, technology didn't exist to create reliably expanding 230gr bullets in the .45acp. That's why the 185s and 200gr JHPs got so popular. They could be driven fast enough to expand with the bullet designs of the times.

Now here we are, a couple decades and more later, and we have reliable expanding 230gr bullets.

To me, the primary advantage to the 230gr JHP is that it will shoot to the same sights as 230gr ball ammo. 185gr often will not. It all depends on what your fixed sight gun is regulated for at the factory, but I do believe most are set for the "standard" 230gr bullet weight.

At across the room distance it doesn't matter so much, but at 25yds, it makes a difference.
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Old March 17, 2011, 11:01 PM   #19
Andy Taylor
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While I prefer 230 grains, in .45 ACP either will work fine, if you do your part. Try them both, see what your gun likes.
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Old March 18, 2011, 02:31 AM   #20
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I'm starting the switch back from 185 gr. to 230 gr., I'm think'n that's what the 1911 was designed to carry and I want the best bullet the gun can handle. I've ordered ammo from Wilson Combat that seems to have plenty of energy and should allow the 230 gr. JHP to do its job as designed.
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Old March 18, 2011, 06:12 AM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MLeake
I generally prefer heavy-for-caliber bullets...
... but it depends on the bullet, and the cartridge maker.
That is true, as it is possible to design a relatively lightweight bullet that limits or delays expansion so that it achieves good penetration. It just runs counter to the general trend, and probably has less potential in some ways because a bullet's inertia must count for something (I would think).

Quote:
Originally Posted by MLeake
Cor-Bon DPX bullets tend to be light (even though they have comparable OAL to regular 230), because they are made from bonded copper.
As an aside, they're not bonded bullets (as in the copper jacket being bonded to the lead underneath), they're simply all-copper bullets (hence the lower density and higher cost).

Quote:
Originally Posted by MLeake
A 185gr bullet that expands reliably, doesn't disintegrate despite 1075fps velocity, and will reliably penetrate glass on cars is not exactly a bad thing.

So I guess I'm saying that bullet construction matters at least as much as weight.
Yes, and it can matter more than caliber, as well.

Quote:
Originally Posted by 44 AMP
Heavy for caliber?
I suppose that depends on what your standard is. I'm an old timer, and I use old time standards. Heavy for caliber means heavier than standard, to me.
I see your point, but to clarify, in this context I mean the heaviest commonly available bullet weight these days, which for .45 ACP is the longtime and still standard (to me) 230 grains. I suppose that I would have said something like "extra-heavy-for-caliber" for higher weights.
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Old March 18, 2011, 08:32 AM   #22
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Originally the two standard weights were 200 civilian and 230 military .But that was before your time .
Lots of choices out there just make sure the ammo you choose is ammo that your gun is happy with !!
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Old March 18, 2011, 03:25 PM   #23
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Personally, I prefer bullets no lighter than 200grn in .45 ACP with 230grn being preferable. To me, the whole point of using a .45 ACP is to use heavy bullets, so if I want to use <200grn bullets I'll pick a smaller cartridge like 10mm, .40 S&W, or .357 Magnum. Also, I prefer the extra penetration that heavier bullets afford, 230grn bullets will shoot to the sights of most so-chambered guns, and lighter bullets never seem to feed as reliably in my experience. My loading of choice is Federal HST 230grn +P although that is certainly not the only good loading in .45 ACP.
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Old March 18, 2011, 04:45 PM   #24
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I prefer 230gr in general, but I really like the Barnes bullet in the Cor-Bon DPX. Since that only comes in 185gr, I'm using 185gr.

For some reason, the DPX 185 hit closer to POA with my DW CBOB than do most of the 230's, although none are far off the mark. This was also a factor, when I ran a side-by-side comparison between DPX 185 and Gold Dot 230.

The 185's cycle my CBOB without problem, too. (So do the 230's; the CBOB isn't fussy.)
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Old March 18, 2011, 05:05 PM   #25
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I wish I could find the data but it seems to me that I read somewhere that the 230 gr JHP (I load up with Hydroshoks) is not prone to overpenetration which to me, makes it the ideal SD round. A big, slow round like that is going to carry plenty of energy without a huge amount of velocity and will deliver all of it's energy into the target and stop there.

Just a thought.

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