If you’re deciding on a type of handgun, you’ll first want to know which round you’re going to use. If 9mm isn’t enough stopping power for you, you’ll need something that’s a bit heavier. The question is: do you want a round that’s in the middle of the pack or among the heaviest on the market?
This line of questioning will undoubtedly bring you to the 10mm vs. 45 ACP debate. The heavier of the two - the .45 ACP - is fantastic for home defense and target shooting, while the 10mm provides more versatility when it comes to firing your gun.
Ahead, we’ll lay out some of the specifics for the debate.
History of the 10mm vs. 45 ACP
Handguns have been a staple of personal protection, law enforcement, and military uses for over 100 years. Rounds have gone through countless iterations and improvements, and we now have multiple calibers from which we can choose.
The 10mm round falls in the middle of the caliber spectrum when looking at handgun rounds. It’s not as light as the 9mm round, but it doesn’t have the weight of the .45 ACP either. The result is a relatively small bullet that travels faster and straighter than heavier bullets, with a similar amount of stopping power.
Jeff Cooper first designed the 10mm round in the 1980’s, and it started to gain popularity. Since it was middle of the pack in weight, the 10mm provided many of the benefits of the 9mm and .45 ACP without the drawbacks.
After initial development, there were a few problems with the 10mm round that needed to be ironed out. Before the FBI was able to adopt the round as their standard, manufacturers had to cut down on the round’s extreme recoil drastically. The department deemed the round unmanageable from a shooting perspective at the time.
After a few tweaks, the new and improved 10mm round hit the market. The FBI got specialized rounds that were a bit lighter and smoother. In fact, many gun owners prefer this iteration of the 10mm round because they’re far easier to control. Firing successive accurate shots is now much easier than it was when the 10mm round first came onto the market.
While the 10mm is a relatively new cartridge, the .45 ACP has been around for a long time. John Browning first developed the bullet in 1905, and it’s been a hallmark of the shooting world ever since.
The .45 ACP is one of the most famous rounds in the country. In fact, it's downright iconic. The weapon most associated with the .45 ACP round is the legendary Colt .45 1911 semiautomatic handgun, which had been the standard issue sidearm of the United States military in World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War. It's still even used today by some units of the Army and Navy special forces.
The gun is so beloved that other companies make derivative 1911-style .45 ACP handguns and they are one of the most sought after by consumers. And, why shouldn't it be? After all, it made the .45 ACP round even more popular and proved its effectiveness on the battlefield as a round with serious stopping power and lethality.
Now, the .45 ACP is one of the rounds-of-choice when it comes to home defense. The bullet is one of the heaviest that fits a handgun, and the combination of weight and low trajectory makes for larger bullet wounds in the target. The recoil, noise, and muzzle flash are all relatively tame as opposed to other high-caliber bullets, and the .45 ACP remains a popular cartridge choice to this day.
Applications of the Two
When deciding between the 10mm and the .45 ACP, you have to consider the reason you’re purchasing a firearm. If you always want the higher caliber, then you can purchase a handgun that takes .45 ACP rounds. If you want something that can protect your family and net you a few kills while hunting, you’ll want to go with another.
Self-defense is all about stopping power. If you’ve spent time at the range and are comfortable firing a weapon, the .45 ACP will be enough to stop someone in their tracks. You don’t need the few extra bullets that 10mm handguns provide since one well-fired shot will stop whoever is coming at you.
For that reason, the better self-defense round goes to the .45 ACP. Most self-defense situations take place at close range, so you don’t need a bullet that can travel a considerable distance while retaining its power and accuracy. Most of the time, the assailant is going to be right in front of you. The .45 ACP is larger and will do a better job protecting you and your family.
Having the best possible caliber for a home invasion isn’t always necessary, though. It’s not as if a shot or two from a 10mm handgun won’t stop an intruder in their tracks. This round might not be the optimal choice for a self-defense scenario, but it will still perform as you need it to most of the time.
If you’re looking for a weapon to take with you on a hunting trip, the .45 ACP probably won’t do the job. Heavier, larger bullets mean that the drop is substantial. You won’t be able to hit your target from very far away, indicating the .45 ACP is useless in most hunting situations. However, carrying a .45 ACP on the hunt can provide a means of close range self defense if you are hunting game that has the capability of turning you into the prey. If it's good enough to stop an enemy soldier or a home intruder, it can make a carnivorous animal back off from the attack. There are several documented cases of hikers, hunters and homeowners successfully using .45 ACP to defend themselves against aggressive bears, which are notoriously hard to stop with any handgun.
The 10 mm, on the other hand, can travel further and maintains its velocity. You can hunt small to medium sized game with these rounds and protect yourself against predators much more effectively. If you find yourself in a defensive situation in the woods, you need a cartridge that allows you to hit consecutive, accurate shots. The .45 ACP isn’t as reliable in these situations, meaning your best choice for hunting is the 10mm round.
It’s generally true that .45 ACP handguns are better for close-quarters shooting and self-defense, while the 10mm rounds give you more versatility on the range and while you’re hunting.
These general statements aren’t the only elements people consider while buying a gun. Though. You often need to go to the range and fire the weapon before you know which one you’ll like better.
Most people will want to consider the noise that comes off of their handgun before buying. The majority of the time, a handgun that uses 10mm rounds is going to be far louder than one that uses .45 ACP rounds.
The same is true for the muzzle flash, as it’s much more prominent on most 10mm handguns. If you’re spending a day at the range, you’ll need some ear protection during a session shooting 10mm rounds. It’s possible to get through a session without it, but you’re risking leaving with some long-term damage to your hearing.
The .45 ACP rounds, on the other hand, are far quieter than their 10mm counterpart. You can fire off multiple shots without losing your hearing for a few seconds - which is usually the case when you fire multiple 10mm bullets.
It’s hard to say whether the recoil is better with 10mm rounds or .45 ACP rounds. The recoil is evident in both guns, and you’ll have to decide which one feels more natural for you.
The 10mm rounds provide more of a jerk than the .45 ACP rounds. The higher-caliber round is a bit more fluid, and in-line with what you’d expect from a high-caliber cartridge. The 10mm allows you to fire more successive bullets, but the kick can be a bit much for some shooters.
Price and Availability
The 10mm rounds are a bit cheaper than the .45 ACP rounds, but that shouldn’t make much of a difference in your decision making. The price difference was considerable in the past, but ammunition is more expensive than ever, making the price difference between the two rounds minimal.
As far as variety in guns is concerned, the .45 ACP comes out ahead. You’ll have more opportunities to use this ammunition in multiple different guns, while the 10mm requires you to use only a few in your arsenal.
If variety in weapons is something you look for, the .45 ACP is the obvious choice here. You’ll also have the added benefit of saving a few bucks when you need to buy more ammo.
If you want to carry a handgun without being obvious about it, smaller is always better. Contrary to what you might think, the smaller 10mm round usually fits with bigger guns than the .45 ACP round.
To make concealment easier, choose the higher-caliber .45 ACP round. The handguns are almost always smaller for these rounds, and it will provide adequate protection in a self-defense situation. Concealed carry is usually a matter of personal protection, and the .45 ACP shines in this department.
The Best Round for Your Needs
Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference when deciding the winner of the 10mm vs. 45 ACP. The best way to find out which one is best for you will be to get in the range and start firing.
If the only use of your gun will be home defense, then you’ll probably want to stick with the.45 ACP. There’s no need to fire multiple successive shots in most defense situations, and the stopping power of the heavier, slower bullet will stop any intruder in their tracks.
If you want to take a handgun with you on a hunting trip, though, the 10mm round is the best choice. You can fire more accurately with using 10mm rounds and will have a few more bullets in the magazine in case you need them.
At the end of the day, the decision is yours. Determine the primary reasons you want a handgun, then decide accordingly.