.45 Long Colt Vs. .45 ACP Review: A Complete Comparison on Features, Use, and Suitability

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Getting to understand firearms and their best calibers can be challenging to beginners who have just secured their guns. The names can be similar, yet they fire different rounds or on different guns. For example, the .45 Automatic Colt Pistol and the .45 Long Colt may sound similar, but they don’t fire the same rounds. 

The reason is simple. The .45 LC is a revolver, and the .45 ACP is a semi-automatic pistol. 

A Brief History of the .45 Colt and .45 ACP

While the name Colt appears in both firearms, the ACP and the LC are miles apart in every possible way. The story started in 1872 when the Union Metallic Cartridge Company partnered with Colt to create the first .45 Long Colt. The result is that in 1873 the U.S army adopted the .45 LC as their official military handgun. 

After years of the U.S military using the .45 LC, it was time to abandon it and move forward to the semi-auto pistols. It means that there was a demand for a new military round and firearm. 

This need led to the invention of the .45 ACP in 1904 by John Browning. Even though Colt’s name exists in the .45 ACP, it’s probably because Browning worked for Colt during this period. 

The U.S. Army and the Transition from .45 LC to .45 Auto

The U.S Army liked the accuracy and power of the .45 LC revolver but in a semi-auto pistol. Following the tests from Tompson—LaGarde, Browning’s .45 ACP proved to be the most effective replacement. In 1911, the U.S Army replaced the .45 LC with the .45 ACP as the standard military handgun. 

About the .45 Long Colt

Under the .45 Long Colt debate, people often wonder if the .45 Colt is the same round or firearm as the .45 Long Colt. Yes, it’s the same round; however, the .45 Long Colt is just a nickname that stuck. Most ammunition and firearm manufacturers always stamp their brand as .45 Colt. 

The controversy in naming comes from the squabbling of the early manufacturers and military logistics. However, regardless of what you want to call it today, it’s acceptable to call it either .45 Colt or .45 Long Colt. 

But if you must refer to it by its actual name, you can always use the official name registered by the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers Institute—SAAMI. The.45 Colt. 

The partnership between Union Metallic Company and Colt is the reason for the revered western round .45 LC. The first concept was a black powder revolver that Americans instantly fell in love with. The .45 LC is a predecessor to Colt’s Single Action revolver that eventually became popular as the “Peacemaker.” 

The .45 LC revolver and the cartridge became popular and fueled immeasurable success, becoming popular as a private and military sidearm. 

Today, the .45 LC is still favored among sport shooters and hunters as its reliable stopping power can drop big game animals like bears and wild hogs. Also, most homes in the U.S use it as a conceal and carry—weapon for personal protection. 

About the .45 Automatic Colt Pistol 

John Browning is the designer/creator of the .45 ACP in 1904, back when the army wanted to replace the .45 LC revolver with a semi-auto pistol. The idea was to get something as powerful and accurate yet modern. 

In 1911, Browning first released the .45 ACP to replace the .38 Long Colt. Here the military was looking to retain the ballistic performance of the impressive .45 LC but be able to carry a higher capacity for law enforcement and the military. 

As a result, the .45 ACP was used in the First World war and became common for private users. 

The 1911 Browning pistol was the official sidearm of the U.S Military until 1985, when it was replaced with the Beretta M9. In 2017 to date, the official sidearm of the U.S military was changed to the 9mm SIG Sauer P320. 

For a cartridge to become legendary, it must be fired from a legendary firearm. As such, the .45 ACP cartridge is successful because of the M1911 semi-auto pistol. Since then, there have been many replications of this model to date. 

The .45 ACP is legendary because it offers you consistent performance over multiple shots, accuracy, and stopping power. It’s the ideal handgun for almost all situations, including shooting for sport, hunting, and personal protection. 

Differences Between the .45 ACP and .45 Colt

The primary difference is that the .45 ACP is a semi-auto pistol while the .45 LC is a revolver. It means that the .45 Colt round has a rim that makes it fit tightly on a cylinder. 

Many semi-auto pistols can also fire rimmed cartridges, but they will not have a smooth extraction or feeding. Even though both the .45 ACP and .45 Colt are rimmed cartridges, the .45 ACP rim protrusion is eight times smaller.

Extractor Groove

The .45 ACP features an extractor groove to help you with a platform during extraction. On the other hand, no revolver cartridge features an extractor groove. 

Length

If you want, you can tell the difference between a .45 ACP cartridge from a .45 Colt cartridge by looking at their lengths. The .45 Long Colt is longer by 0.325—inches.  

Comparing the .45 Long Colt and the .45 Automatic Colt Pistol

Price

Even the wealthiest gun enthusiasts consider the price of ammunition. However, in this instance, both the .45 ACP and the .45 Colt are affordable cartridges. But if you must find the cheaper ammo, then it’s the .45 ACP that carries the day. Coincidentally, the .45 ACP also fires the most expensive round compared to the choices available for the .45 Colt. 

The only reason why the .45 ACP is both expensive and cheap at the same time is that it has a variety of ammunition. Currently, there are 30 different cartridge options for the 45 ACP compared to the 15 available for the .45 Colt rounds. 

Because there are many .45 ACP ammunition, online shops and gun stores will offer affordable prices. However, the .45 Colt from Hornady may have an advantage over almost all .45 ACP rounds. While Hornady features the best defend ammo for both the .45 ACP and .45 Colt, it’s the latter that is cheaper. 

But if you are looking for affordability to decide on the kind of ammo, you are better off settling for the .45 ACP because it has a wide variety. 

Velocity

Determining a clear winner between the .45 ACP and .45 LC is a challenge. Typically, velocity is an essential aspect of ammo because it determines accuracy, terminal performance, and energy. Unfortunately, both these cartridges are quite alike in velocity stats. 

To get a fair velocity comparison, it’s only fitting that we match cartridges that appear similar. In this instance, we compare Hornady’s defensive rounds of both the .45 ACP and .45 Colt. 

Both are 185—grain projectiles with great consistency and from the same manufacturer. The .45 Colt has a muzzle velocity of 920 feet-per-second compared to 1000 fps of the .45 ACP. 

Therefore, the .45 ACP is the faster round among comparable products. On another test, the federal premium round and the American Eagle ammo are also similar products. 

The soft point 225 jacketed .45 LC has a muzzle velocity of 860 fps, while the full metal jacket of the .45 ACP has a velocity of 890 fps. 

Again the .45 ACP is the faster round even though the difference is negligible. 

Energy

When comparing the energy between the .45 ACP and .45 Colt, we must consider comparable ammunition. Generally, the .45 ACP delivers high energy numbers compared to the .45 Colt, but the result isn’t that overwhelming. 

In this test, we also feature the defensive rounds from Hornady between the .45 ACP and .45 Colt (185 grain). Here the muzzle energy of the .45 ACP is 411 ft-lbs, while the .45 Colt muzzle energy is 348 ft-lbs. 

The same applies when comparing the full metal jacket .45 ACP (230 grain) with a muzzle energy of 404 ft-lbs to the .45 Colt (225 grain) with 369 ft-lbs. 

Again, while there is only a slight difference in muzzle energy, the .45 ACP is higher than the .45 Colt. 

Carrying Capacity

Here the difference is significant depending on your preference. Some people prefer carrying more ammo on a single load, while others prefer small cartridge capacity. 

If you fall into the former category, you will fancy the .45 ACP than the .45 Colt. While the firearm model determines the carrying capacity between different handguns, the .45 ACP can carry as many as ten rounds, including the chambered round. However, the most the 45 Colt can take is only six rounds. 

Which is More Powerful Between the .45 Long Colt and the .45 ACP?

It’s apparent that the .45 ACP emerges as the winner in almost all tests. But does this make it the superior handgun and cartridge?

The answer is that different handguns serve different purposes. While the .45 ACP is a suitable automatic firearm, most people buy it for personal protection, hunting, and target practice. On the other hand, the .45 Colt is a historical piece that passes as a nostalgia firearm. 

Despite the .45 Colt being mainly a replica piece and not a modern firearm, it’s still effective and suitable for personal protection and firing at the range for recreational shooting. 

The .45 Long Colt has outstanding capabilities in a few words, and some even see it as more powerful than the .45 ACP. But shooters will often go for the .45 ACP because it’s easier to shoot multiple loads when rushed than shooting a revolver. 

Comparatively, shooting a semi-auto pistol has many advantages over a revolver in all situations.

Can You Shoot .45 Auto and .45 Colt Using the Same Firearm?

The most important lesson you need to know is that the .45 ACP round is not interchangeable with the .45 LC. It’s clear that the .45 LC is fired through a revolver and that the .45 Auto through a semi-automatic pistol. 

It’s never a brilliant idea to fire ammo through a firearm that it was never designated for. The consequences are always dire, either injuring yourself or damaging your gun in the process. 

An example is when you try to fire a .44 Magnum in your .45 Colt. You might end up blowing your gun. 

Also Read: .44 Magnum Vs. .45 ACP: Which is Better and Why?

Conclusion

It’s easy to mistake rounds that share the same names or even have identical features and fire them in handguns with varying chamber pressures. In the same way, people mistake the .45 ACP handgun with the .45 Long Colt. 

Fortunately, the .45 ACP and the .45 Colt handgun hardly look the same, and you can easily tell them apart. All they have in common is slightly identical names. 

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