10mm vs 45 ACP: Stopping Power, Ballistics Chart and All!
Doubtlessly, the 10mm and 45 ACP are the two top cartridges for semi-auto handguns.
They’ve been around for a pretty long time. Both have proved to be top performers. And they’ve been widely used in hunting and home defense situations, where they’ve excelled.
One thing I’ve seen folks (mostly hunters) asking on multiple forums and platforms for some advice on what cartridges they should pick.
As much as I want to offer my advice on such questions, I have always restricted myself from doing so.
That’s because I believe the right choice for you should depend on a number of factors (as well as your intended use of the cartridges).
With that said, I’ve crafted this exhaustive 10mm vs 45 ACP guide to answer the many questions you might have been asking yourself about the two cartridges.
And by the time we’re done with the guide, you’ll have made up your mind which cartridge is right for your needs.
Let’s dig into more details…
Before we can get into more details, let’s first go through the comparison chart below indicating the specifications of each cartridge:
|Origin & Year of Design||United states 1983||United states 1904|
|Designer||Jeff Cooper||John Browning|
Pistol / Revolver / Carbine /
SMG / Derringer
|Variants||.40 S&W||.45 ACP +P, .45 Auto Rim, .45 Super|
|Bullet Diameter||10.16 mm (0.400 in)||.452 in (11.5 mm)|
|Overall Length||32.00 mm (1.260 in)||1.275 in (32.4 mm)|
|Case Length||25.20 mm (0.992 in)||.898 in (22.8 mm)|
|Case Type||Rimless, Straight||Rimless, straight|
|Case Capacity||1.56 cm³ (24 gr H2O)||25 gr H2O (1.625 cm³)|
|Primer Type||Large Pistol||large pistol (small pistol too in some brass)|
|Rim Thickness||1.40 mm (0.055 in)||.049 in (1.2 mm)|
|Rifling Twist||381 mm (1 in 15 inches)||1 in 16 in (406 mm)|
|Maximum Pressure||258.55 MPa (37,500 psi)||21,000 psi (140 MPa)|
10mm vs 45 ACP—A Brief Background
The 10mm was designed and produced by Jeff Cooper in 1983.
He was looking for a cartridge that could outperform the .45 ACP using a 200gr., 400” bullet that could be shot from a 5” gun barrel at velocities of up to 1200 feet per second.
However, he’d need a new handgun for this type of cartridge, so he visited Dornaus & Dixon Enterprises to see how they could design the new gun.
There, he met 2 businessmen, and together they began building the new weapon later in the same year. The new gun was called Bren Ten.
Next, they contacted Sierra to help them get the 40” diameter, 200gr. bullets for the gun. They then contacted John Donnelly, a friend of Cooper, to hand load for them the first 100 cartridges the firearm would chamber.
The hand loaded cartridge was named 10mm Bren.
Later on, the trio approached a Swedish ammo manufacturer, Norma Precision AB, to do mass production of the new cartridge.
Amazingly the company did a better job and came up with powerful, hotter cartridge than Cooper’s initial concept. It used a .40” diameter 200gr. bullet with 1260 velocity to shoot out of 5” barrel.
Michael Dixon termed it as the 10mm Auto (the name it’s known as today).
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The cartridge performed pretty well and was even adopted by the FBI in 1986 due to its power. However, they later dropped (in favor of the .40 S&W) it due to its “unmanageable recoil” by the average FBI agents.
Though its popularity isn’t as high as that of the .45 ACP or 9mm, or even its front rival (the .40 S&W), it’s still widely used today. And the two popular companies- Glock and Colt- manufacture handguns chambered for the 10mm Auto.
The .45 ACP, on the other hand, was designed by John Browning in around 1905.
It was designed following the need to provide the US Calvary with a pistol round with higher stopping power.
Before being adopted for military use, this cartridge was chambered for the Colt model 1905 (an improvement of model 1900, a semi-automatic handgun also made by Browning and chambered in .38 ACP).
The initial .45 ACP was — 4.51” diameter, weight 200gr. and could be shot from the model 1905 at 900 feet per second velocity. The model 1905 showed many reliability issues, however, raising the need for new, stronger gun. And this prompted the new .45 ACP to be changed to improve its ballistic performance.
The final (and the current) .45 ACP cartridge that was adopted by the military had the same 4.51” bullet, weighed 30gr. more, and moved at a slower velocity of 850 ft./sec.
The cartridge is still popular today, and you can easily find these loads on the stress of many ammo dealers in the world over.
In the rest of this post, we’ll do a side by side comparison of the two cartridges along the following factors:
To compare the ballistic performance of the two rounds, we’ll look at different factors that make up the ballistics of a cartridge as outlined below:
Velocity matters in a handgun cartridge because it leads to proper expansion as well as massive tissue damage when the bullet hits your target. Depending on what you’re shooting at, you might choose high velocity or low velocity.
That said, the average velocity of the 10mm rounds lies around 12353fps while that of .45 ACP rounds lies around 941fps.
If you take a look at the individual rounds of each cartridge, you’ll also note that there are some cases where the 10mm round travels at a higher velocity (up to 400 fps faster) than the .45 ACP round. Still, you’ll find a difference of 100fps in some cases.
It’s also worth noting that the 10mm round tends to stay above 1000fps until they hit 75 to 100-yard mark, while the .45 ACP rounds leave the gun muzzle under 1000fps (except the Speer Gold Dot round).
When it comes to trajectory, we’re looking at how flat a given round shoots and how it interacts with gravity along the way. The range you’ve in mind when firing your handgun determines if trajectory will affect your shooting.
Let’s say you intend to use your handgun for self-defense. In that case, the velocity will be around 15 yards, and trajectory won’t be quite an issue.
What if you plan to go to the range and do some tactical drills? Well, in that case, you’ll need to shoot a couple of dozen yards, and bullet drop factor can make a huge difference.
From the data I obtained, the 10mm rounds display a flatter trajectory with 1.12” average bullet drop at 50-yard mark and 4.06” at 100-yard mark. As for the .45 ACP round, it exhibits an average bullet drop of 2.2” at 50 yards and 6.86” at 100 yards.
If we were to look at the individual rounds, we’d note that the difference between the two bullets is way too little (approx. 0.3”) at 50 yards and 1.1” at 100 yards.
(iii). Ballistic Coefficient
For those who don’t know what ballistics coefficient (BC) is, it refers to the measure of the bullets ability to overcome the air resistance when in flight.
The higher the BC of a given bullet, the less drag, and wind resistance it will experience. In other words, all the bullets indicating a better BC should show higher accuracy as they’re easier to stay in the target after firing.
The .45 ACP rounds I used for comparison purposes showed slightly higher BC compared to the 10mm rounds. This can be attributed to the somewhat heavier 230gr. rounds. If you compare the .45 ACP rounds with 200-grain 10mm rounds, you’ll get near-identical ballistic coefficients.
We can’t fail to mention the recoil factor when comparing a handgun ammo as it determines how effectively you can get with your weapon.
That said, the graph below shows the recoil energy of rounds of each cartridge as obtained using a ballistic calculator:
When calculating the recoil energy, constant gun weight, muzzle velocity, and constant powder charge for each cartridge were used.
If we could interpret the above graph, we’d say that the recoil energy of 10mm and .45 ACP are almost similar. All the rounds fall below the 10ft.lb mark, with the 10mm Auto having two rounds pretty close and above the .9 mark. Several .45 ACP rounds are below the 7ft.lb mark, though the +p round records 8.86 recoil energy (this is similar to the 10mm rounds).
Overall, the two cartridges show quite an intense recoil compared to the other handgun rounds. Despite this, the energy isn’t too much for an adult to handle with some bit of practice.
The stopping power of a handgun cartridge is a crucial factor, no doubt! But it’s important to note that this factor is influenced by various aspects which we’re going to discuss separately below:
(i). Energy (Kinetic Energy)
The mass and velocity of a given bullet heavily influence the amount of energy a bullet carries. And the amount of energy a bullet carries directly impact the level of damage it causes to the tissue.
Don’t get me wrong, though. 100% of the energy (KE) carried by a bullet will not be used to cause tissue damage. Most of it will go to its terminal performance — influencing how it expands as well as how deep it penetrates.
With that said, let me take you through some crucial data comparing the KE of the two handgun rounds:
Remember we said that the 10mm rounds come out of the muzzle at higher velocities, which increases their KE. The average muzzle velocity of 10mm rounds is 580ft.lb at 600-650 range while that if .45 ACP rounds is 417ft.lb. It’s, therefore, safe to say that the 10mm rounds have higher KE than the .45 ACP rounds.
Note that this trend will continue all the way to 75-yard mark.
On hitting the 75 and 100-yard mark, however, the average difference between the two cartridges will start shrinking. At 100 yard mark, the average KE of 10mm Auto will be approx. 377ft.lb while that of .45 ACP will be 355 ft.lb. At this range, the .45 ACP rounds tend to outperform several 10mm rounds.
The next factor that influences the stopping power of a bullet involves the penetration. When looking at the penetration, we need to look at the sectional density (derived from calculating the weight and diameter of a bullet). Bullets with higher sectional density (SD) usually have higher penetration.
But the SD isn’t the only factor that determines the penetration of a bullet. Additional factors such as velocity and bullet design also come into play higher velocities lead to increased penetration as does the highly bonded bullets that don’t fragment on impact.
If you’d compare the SD of various rounds of each cartridge, you won’t see much difference. Most of the shots actually fall within the .13 to .16 range. From the bullets I used for comparison, I noted that the 10mm Auto shows a slightly higher average SD (by up to 0.5). Though the .45 ACP rounds tend to indicate a higher bullet weight, the 10mm rounds aren’t far off, plus they’ve got a smaller diameter.
NOTE: Better penetration does not indicate a better round. It should simply tell you if the round will suit what you intend to use it for.
In this context, the momentum refers to the ability of a bullet in motion to remain in motion. The more momentum your bullet has, the less resistance it’ll face when in flight.
The table below indicates the momentum (lb/ft.s) of the rounds a different yard marks:
One thing we can all agree on from the above data is that the two cartridges have massive momentums compared to the other handgun rounds.
At the muzzle (0), we can see that the 10mm has a slight advantage over the .45 ACP. The difference tends to shrink as we approach the 25-yard mark.
At the 50-yard mark (which you’ll certainly use for most shooting situations), the momentum is at 26 — that’s quite high for a handgun round at 50 yards!
Let me be frank with you; you won’t notice any significant difference in accuracy of the two cartridges if you shoot them in a 50-yard range.
We discussed earlier that the trajectory of the two rounds starts differing on hitting the 75 or 100 yards. But if we’d be realistic, you’ll be using the handguns to hunt, and you’ll rarely get to such ranges.
If the trajectory is identical, you don’t expect any accuracy difference between the two cartridges.
You might also argue that the recoil factor affects accuracy. Yes, that’s certain. But one thing I can assure is that the factory loads of both cartridges will not show any significant differences concerning recoil energy. If the 10mm rounds are loaded hot, they might produce a bit more recoil energy.
Most of the recoil, however, will depend on the model of pistol you’re using.
Talking about availability, the rising popularity of the 10mm Auto has made its ammo more available. This is good news given the fact that not too many years ago, its availability was limited.
As for the .45 ACP, it still has a wide range of options. And you’ll easily find it in the retail stores.
The main difference between the two cartridges, of course regarding availability, is that you’ll not find a vast selection for the 10mm Auto as you’d for the .45 ACP.
Both cartridges have highly priced and cheaper options. If we were to go by the averages, the 10mm ammo would be around $50 more expensive.
However, I don’t think that this is a big gap to make you conclude that one cartridge is more expensive than the other.
Conclusion — 10mm vs 45 ACP
Both the 10mm Auto and .45 ACP handgun cartridges are suitable for putting down the large games as well as self-defense. This is exactly what they’re designed to do, and they do it excellently.
From our discussion above, however, we can see that the two rounds in how they perform.
I suggest that you pick the .45 ACP for home defense purposes. Keep in mind that the cartridge has a lower velocity. And one pro to this factor is the reduced muzzle flash which can significantly improve your target acquisition on follow-up shots.
For hunting purposes, I’d recommend you to go with the 10mm Auto. This is because it won’t limit your shooting range, unlike the .45 ACP which showed a decrease in performance (trajectory & kinetic energy) at the 75 and 100-yard marks.
Overall, I believe you’re in a better situation to determine which cartridge is best for you. You’ve all the information you need in this post, so you’ll be able to make a more informed decision on which round would meet your specific needs and expectations.