The debate over which handgun cartridge is superior between the .44 Magnum and .45 ACP has raged on for decades. Both cartridges have their unique characteristics and are popular choices among firearm enthusiasts.
In this article, I will compare these two cartridges across various aspects, providing a detailed analysis of their specs, ballistics, recoil, trajectory, accuracy, stopping power, suitability for hunting and self-defense, as well as cost and availability.
A Little about .44 Magnum and .45 ACP
Quick .44 Magnum and .45 ACP Comparison Table
|Cartridge||.44 Magnum||.45 ACP (Automatic Colt Pistol)|
|Origin||United States||United States|
|Bullet Diameter||0.429 inches (10.9 mm)||0.452 inches (11.5 mm)|
|Case Length||1.285 inches (32.6 mm)||0.898 inches (22.8 mm)|
|Overall Length||1.61 inches (40.9 mm)||1.275 inches (32.4 mm)|
|Common Use||Revolvers, hunting, self-defense||Semi-automatic pistols, self-defense|
|Bullet Weight Range||180-300 grains||185-230 grains|
|Muzzle Velocity Range||1,200-1,600 fps||750-1,200 fps|
|Muzzle Energy Range||700-1,200 ft-lbs||200-600 ft-lbs|
|Recoil||Significant recoil||Moderate recoil|
|Capacity (Standard)||6-8 rounds||7-10 rounds|
|Popular Firearms||Smith & Wesson Model 29, Ruger Redhawk||Colt 1911, Glock 21, SIG Sauer P220|
|Purpose||Hunting, target shooting, personal defense||Personal defense, law enforcement, target shooting|
Compare the Differences Between .44 Magnum and .45 ACP
The .44 Magnum is notorious for its heavy recoil. The combination of larger bullets and higher velocities results in substantial kickback. This can be challenging for novice or smaller-framed shooters to manage. The recoil of a .44 Magnum can be quite punishing, potentially affecting follow-up shots and overall accuracy.
In contrast, the .45 ACP offers a milder recoil experience. This characteristic makes it an ideal choice for shooters who are sensitive to recoil, as well as those who want to maintain better control of their firearm.
Reduced recoil contributes to quicker target reacquisition and more accurate follow-up shots, which can be especially critical in self-defense scenarios.
The .44 Magnum, with its higher velocities and flatter trajectory, is better suited for long-range shooting. Shooters can make use of the relatively flat trajectory to engage targets at greater distances accurately. This is particularly important for hunting applications where the need for precision over distance is essential.
On the other hand, the .45 ACP, with its lower velocities, exhibits a more curved trajectory. It is better suited for close to medium-range engagements, such as self-defense scenarios or combat situations where targets are typically encountered at shorter distances.
While this trajectory may be limiting for long-range shooting, it is well-matched to the intended uses of the .45 ACP.
However, the .44 Magnum’s higher velocities and flatter trajectory give it an edge when it comes to precision shooting at longer distances. Shooters can more easily adjust for bullet drop, and the increased velocity can help mitigate the effects of wind on the bullet’s path.
The .45 ACP, while perfectly capable of delivering accurate shots, excels in close-quarters accuracy. It’s often chosen for self-defense applications, where engagements are typically at shorter distances.
Its reliability and ease of use make it a popular choice for those who value close-quarters accuracy and rapid target acquisition.
The .44 Magnum is renowned for its exceptional stopping power. Its larger, heavier bullets, combined with the higher muzzle energies, make it highly effective in dropping targets quickly. This makes it a preferred choice for handgun hunting and as a backup firearm in bear country, where a potent cartridge is necessary for personal safety.
While the .45 ACP possesses good stopping power, especially in the context of self-defense against human threats, it may not be as effective against larger, more robust animals.
It is often recommended to use expanding hollow-point ammunition for self-defense, as it maximizes the cartridge’s stopping power against human assailants.
The .44 Magnum is widely recognized as one of the best handgun cartridges for hunting. It can take down medium to large game, including deer and hogs, at reasonable distances. The cartridge’s combination of larger bullets, high muzzle energy, and relatively flat trajectory makes it a versatile choice for handgun hunters.
The .45 ACP, while not as suitable for hunting large game, can still be used effectively for smaller animals, such as varmints or small game, at closer ranges.
It’s less common for hunting purposes due to its lower bullet weight and energy compared to the .44 Magnum.
For self-defense purposes, the .45 ACP is often favored due to its manageable recoil, proven stopping power against human threats, and practicality for close-quarters engagements.
Its reliability and the availability of various ammunition options, including expanding hollow points, make it a compelling choice for those seeking personal protection.
The .44 Magnum, with its high recoil and over-penetration risks, may be less practical for self-defense, especially in residential or urban settings.
It can be used effectively in self-defense situations, but it’s typically chosen by experienced shooters who are comfortable handling the recoil.
Cost & Availability
A significant factor to consider is the cost and availability of ammunition. .45 ACP ammunition is generally more affordable and widely available than .44 Magnum rounds.
This affordability makes the .45 ACP a more budget-friendly option for practice, training, and general use.
The .44 Magnum ammunition, being larger and more specialized, tends to be more expensive and can be less accessible in some regions.
Common firearms chambered in .44 Magnum include the Smith & Wesson Model 29, Ruger Redhawk, and the Desert Eagle.
For the .45 ACP, popular choices include the Colt 1911, Glock 21, Smith & Wesson M&P45, and Springfield Armory XD(M).
Q. Is the .45 ACP the same as a 44 Magnum?
No, the .45 ACP is not the same as a .44 Magnum. They are two different cartridges with different bullet diameters and power levels. The .45 ACP has a bullet diameter of .452 inches, while the .44 Magnum has a bullet diameter of .429 inches. The .44 Magnum is also a more powerful cartridge, with a higher muzzle velocity and more kinetic energy.
Q. Is a 45 ACP more powerful than a 44 Magnum?
No, a 45 ACP is not more powerful than a 44 Magnum. As mentioned above, the .44 Magnum is the more powerful cartridge.
Q. Can a 44 Magnum shoot 45 ACP?
No, a .44 Magnum cannot shoot .45 ACP ammunition. The .44 Magnum has a larger bullet diameter, and .45 ACP ammunition would not fit in the chamber of a .44 Magnum firearm.
Q. Is 44 mag better than 45?
It is difficult to say definitively whether .44 Magnum is better than .45 ACP, as both cartridges have their own advantages and disadvantages. The .44 Magnum is more powerful and has better penetration, making it a better choice for hunting large game or self-defense against dangerous animals.
However, the .45 ACP has less recoil and is more affordable, making it a better choice for new shooters or those who are looking for a more versatile cartridge.
In summary, the .44 Magnum and .45 ACP cartridges offer distinct advantages and disadvantages, and the choice between them should depend on individual needs and preferences.
The .44 Magnum excels in long-range shooting, hunting, and offers unmatched stopping power. Meanwhile, the .45 ACP is highly practical for self-defense, offers manageable recoil, and is more cost-effective for general use.
Shelly Jark Drakny is a retired SF weapons sergeant (E-5 or above) with a military occupational specialty (MOS) code 18B. He served 24 years in the military, including assignments in SF, Infantry, and Special Forces.