10mm vs 45 ACP Cartridge: Which is the better option?

by Travis Pike

March 29, 2024



While the 9mm is still the most popular handgun cartridge, many still prefer the power of ‘big’ bore options. Among automatic handguns, the 10mm and .45 ACP stand out as the most popular choices, embodying American strength. Now, you may ask “Which is better?” Let’s find out in our comparison review of the 10mm vs .45 ACP.

10mm vs 45 ACP – Spec Comparison

Spec10mm45 ACP
Bullet Diameter.4".451"
Case Length0.992"0.898"
Overall Length1.26"1.275"
Max Pressure33,000 PSI19,000 PSI

Why 10mm vs 45 ACP?

The main reason is that these are the two big-bore American semi-auto pistol cartridges. They contend with each other and are even the same length. Jeff Cooper was famously a massive fan of the 45 ACP but also helped develop the 10mm. Colonel Cooper intrinsically linked the two rounds together.

Both rounds are popular with cult-like followings. The 10mm especially has tons of dedicated fans who love the ‘Centimeter.’ The 45 ACP is clearly a favored pistol cartridge, especially when stuck in weapons like the 1911, which itself has a cult-like following.

Speaking of 1911s, the 45 ACP is without a doubt the dutiful son of the platform. However, the 10mm is the prodigal son. The 10mm finds itself in more 1911s than any other platform these days.

Heck, when you fast forward 70 years and some change, we get the famed Glock series, and the 45 ACP Glock and 10mm Glock are the same size weapon and are identical until you read the model numbers. The Glock 20 is the 10mm, and the 21 is the 45 ACP.

These two rounds seem to follow each other from one platform to another, intertwined and beloved by their respective cults. Now you may be on the precipice of joining one cult or the other, and if you need help making the decision, you’ve come to the right place.

45 ACP Review

Let us start off with the 45 ACP review. Below, I’ll be taking to look into the history and purpose of this cartridge and the best ammunition for every situation.

History and Purpose 

The 45 ACP was born by the patron saint of American firearms design, John Moses Browning. He designed the cartridge in 1904, and it began production in 1905. The round was intended to replace the 38 Long Colt the Army had found to be lacking. The Army, specifically the cavalry, wanted a 45-caliber weapon.

Their desire came from the Thomspon-Legarde tests of 1904. These tests involved two officers from the Medical Corps shooting various animal cadavers with a multitude of different handgun calibers. Their testing found the 45 to be the most effective option. However, even they noted proper training and shot placement was critical.

This led to John Browning and Colt developing the 45 ACP and the Colt 1905. The Colt 1905 was then modified, upgraded, and eventually evolved into the 1911. As we all know the 1911 was the winner of the Army’s handgun test and became the standard sidearm of the United States military.

The little round proved itself time and time again to be an effective fighting cartridge. The 45 ACP found its way into revolvers and submachine guns with the United Military and saw combat in both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, dozens of Cold War skirmishes, and even after being replaced by a 9mm handgun, the cartridge continued to be used by elite units in the Global War on Terror.

The 45 ACP also served with numerous police forces, including the FBI Hostage Rescue Team and LAPD SWAT. Although the .45 caliber has been used by law enforcement, its main popularity comes from military and civilian shooters. The 45 ACP continues to serve police and military units, albeit in smaller numbers these days. Even as 9mm reigns supreme, the 45 ACP hasn’t faltered or been regulated to the back of the safe, so to say.

If a significant gun company makes a 9mm, they likely make a 45 ACP version too. The 45 ACP has seen life in numerous PCCs and subguns from companies like LWRC and CMMG. Americans love the 45 ACP cartridge, and it’s doubtful the round will just fade away anytime soon.

45 ACP Cartridges

45 ACP Ammo for Self Defence

Speer Gold Dot 45 ACP
Cost Per Round
Palmetto State Armory $1.46

45 ACP Ammo for the Range

Federal American Eagle 45 ACP 230gr
Cost Per Round
Primary Arms $0.79

10mm Review

Continuing on, now let us dive into the 10mm cartridge review. I will be looking into the history and purpose of this cartridge and the best 10mm ammunition.

10mm History and Purpose

The 10mm came to be at a perfect time in 1983. Any later or any earlier, and I may have never seen it take off at any rate. The 10mm was developed by Jeff Cooper and cartridge manufacturer Norma based on what Cooper thought would be the perfect fighting cartridge. The idea was simple, let’s create a round that has better external ballistics than the 45 ACP, with more power than the 9mm.

The 10mm was released with the Bren Ten automatic pistol. However, the fellas behind the Bren Ten weren’t very good at their job. The guns took forever to produce, had issues, and some even shipped without magazines. However, ole Sonny Crockett had one on Miami Vice, and that helped the 10mm gain significant popularity. Alongside Miami Vice was the famous 1986 Miami Shootout in which FBI agents armed with 38 Specials and 9mms were outgunned by a smaller two-man team.

The FBI wanted a better cartridge, and the 10mm was fortuitous enough to exist right around the same time. The FBI adopted the 10mm along with the Smith and Wesson 1076 pistol. The original 10mm load was a 170-grain cartridge moving at 1,300 feet per second, and it hit with a whopping 600-foot pounds of energy. It’s not a big surprise the FBI found the cartridge to be effective.

However, such an effective and powerful cartridge tends to be recoil-inducing. FBI agents complained and failed quals, and instead of training their Agents better, the FBI downloaded the cartridge. The FBI load was a 180 grain round traveling at 980 feet per second.

The genius at S&W figured out you need such a lengthy case for such a weak load, so the 40 S&W was created and soon conquered the Law Enforcement industry. The 10mm clung to life for years and recently has experienced a rather remarkable resurgence among handgunners with new guns and loads being developed yearly.

Great 10mm Cartridges

Sellier & Bellot 10mm Ammo
Cost Per Round
Sportsman’s Guide $0.52
Federal American Eagle 10mm 180gr
Cost Per Round
Sportsman’s Guide $0.71

10mm vs 45 ACP Ballistic Comparison

The 10mm got almost 80 more years of development than the 45 ACP, and it shows. The 10mm’s initial load is still impressive to this day, and the 45 ACP can’t touch it without some wildcat loads. The closest you can get is a factory 180-grain JHP +P load that generates about 550 foot-pounds of energy.

A 200 grain 10mm at 1,200 feet per second can strike with over 700 foot-pounds of energy. That kind of load comes with some punishing recoil, but it’s still an option. The 45 ACP simply can’t touch that kind of power. That being said, there is a line of diminishing returns, and at average self-defense distances, the 45 ACP is more than capable of being a man stopper. At these average distances, shot placement is much more important with either round than the numbers attached to it.

The one advantage of using a larger projectile is a larger hole, especially with modern defensive loads. Lucky Gunner has done some outstanding work categorizing and testing the expansion of defensive ammunition. 45 ACP JHP loads can expand up to an inch in diameter. This type of expansion typically results in more stopping power and does more damage to a threat as it passes through the body.

There doesn’t seem to be a 10mm load capable of expanding up to an inch, with most coming in around .68 inches in expansion with a high of .81 inches in diameter.

When you move beyond standard defensive ranges, that’s when you see the 10mm’s superior performance. The 10mm has higher muzzle energy at 100 yards compared to the muzzle energy of a .45 ACP. Plus, the 10mm is a relatively flat shooting cartridge, so you don’t have to worry much about the bullet dropping too much at 100 yards. With a good 180-grain load moving at 1,275 feet per second, the drop is minimal.

With a Springfield TRP Operator long slide 10mm, one of my favorite things to do is make a steel target ring at 100 yards in a sitting position.

The 45 ACP does decently well at long range with hot 180-grain loads. You’ll see seven to eight inches of drop at 100 yards. With a standard 230 grain ball, you are looking at it more drop, up to a foot or so. The issue is at these ranges, the 45 ACP loses a good bit of energy and, therefore, effectiveness.

Recoil and Muzzle Rise

A true 10mm load is rather beastly. Enough so that the guys with history degrees at the FBI couldn’t handle it. I joke and tease, but objectively the 10mm has harsher recoil and muzzle rise than the 45 ACP. The 10mm’s recoil is akin to a 357 Magnum with a good deal of flash, noise, recoil, and muzzle associated with true 10mm loads.

The argument that you can download 10mm doesn’t hold water. If that’s the case, then we are arguing 40 S&W versus 45 ACP, not 10mm versus 45 ACP. 10mm is a powerful round that requires the shooter to train hard and often in how to control it. It’s a lot less friendly in compact weapons like the Glock 29. The 45 ACP Glock 30 is much more comfortable and easy to shoot.

The 45 ACP has that slow-rolling recoil, whereas the 10mm has that snap and fury. The 45 ACP allows for faster follow-up shots and at average self-defense ranges, follow up shots are important. The 45 ACP tends to be less flashy in shorter barrels as well.

Suppressed Use

If you love suppressors, then you likely already love the 45 ACP. Stock standard 45 ACP loads are subsonic by nature and suppress very easily. When it comes to suppressing a gunshot, there are two things to worry about. The first is the normal, good ole muzzle =blast. A suppressor’s task is to silence that part. The second part is the crack created by supersonic rounds.

Supersonic rounds are rather loud, and even with a suppressor, they may still pose a risk to hearing safety. Subsonic loads have no such crack, so they are often much quieter and easier to suppress. The 45 ACP’s stock standard 230-grain FMJ loads are subsonic and super quiet when suppressed. These loads are common, affordable, and work with any 45 ACP weapon.

The 10mm is not naturally subsonic but can be made to be. Plenty of ammo manufacturers create a 220 grain suppressed load that can be nice and quiet from a suppressed 10mm. However, it’s not common, and it’s not necessarily cheap either.

When it comes to suppressed use, the 45 ACP wins hands down.

Weapon Selection

So the 45 ACP has been around for over a century at this point. The 10mm is still a spring chicken by comparison. The Gen-X 10mm has nowhere near as many firearms available for it as the 45 ACP. Heck, there are more 1911 variants in 45 ACP and then, there are 10mm guns. The 45 ACP comes in various platforms, both new and old. The 10mm has also entrenched itself in the 1911 platform, as well as modern polymer frame platforms.

Both are in oddball choices like revolvers and PCCs and have been popular in various shooting sports. However, on pistol selection alone, the 45 ACP is the dominant choice. You’ll find many more weapons in 45 ACP than 10mm, including the always awesome MK23 from HK. That being said, the 10mm is no slouch, and you’ll likely be able to choose nearly any type of firearm you could conceivably want, except for the Mk23.

10mm vs 45 ACP – Which Is Best

10mm vs 45 ACP Showdown

Nothing with firearms and cartridges exists in a vacuum, and there is no X is just plain better than Y. It’s all situational. If I tried, I could find reasons why 22 LR is better than 9mm, and I would do it by placing the rounds in a situational context.

The simple fact is there is no best round, but there can be the best round for a particular situation.

When To Choose 45 ACP

Price and Availability Matters

If you never want to search high and low for ammunition, go with 45 ACP. The big three pistol rounds are 9mm, 40 S&W, and 45 ACP. 45 ACP is sold anywhere handguns are sold often in various qualities, quantities, and different loads. 45 ACP is extremely common in both standard target loads and specialized defense loads.

45 ACP ammo also tends to be cheaper when you compare like with like in regards to projectile type and ammunition quality. 45 ACP tends to be prioritized for production during ammunition droughts as well.

Suppressor Use

As mentioned previously, 45 ACP is the better round for suppression. In fact, the 45 ACP is easily the best common handgun round for suppressed use. It’s not just better than the 10mm, but better than most handgun cartridges through a suppressor.

You Hate Recoil

The 45 ACP is a softer shooting caliber with less snap and pop to it. Admittedly, if recoil is an issue, 9mm might be the better option than either. However, between 45 ACP and 10mm, the 45 ACP is the easier to handle round.

When To Choose 10mm

Power and Range

Want to reach out and touch your target with superior power and a flat shooting cartridge? Then 10mm is the round for you, from either a handgun, a subgun, or a PCC the 10mm rocks. The power and range it offers are unbeatable for a handgun cartridge.

Hunting and Field Work

Handgun hunting can be a challenging and rather thrilling affair. This is commonly the realm of revolvers, but the 10mm offers an automatic option. If you are a hiker, hunter, or camper, then a 10mm defensive pistol might be an option for you as well. It’s capable of dealing with predators and vermins on both two legs and four. 

Capacity Matters

If you are of the mind that more bullets are better than fewer bullets, then 10mm is for you. On average, the 10mm can squeeze in anywhere from two to three extra rounds. Also, the 10mm is more commonly available in a double-stack platform.

What About Defensive Shooting

The 10mm and 45 ACP both perform well as defensive cartridges. Does one have the edge over the other? Likely so, but the real edge comes from the guy or gal behind the gun. Shot placement matters more so than the difference in the foot-pounds of energy and size of the projectile either weapon fires.

Ping, Cling, and Pow

I love being an American. I love cultural dominance, the 2nd Amendment, and I love the 10mm and 45 ACP. I keep 1911s in both calibers and in numerous configurations because they just rule. Both calibers are impressive, and personally, I won’t shy away from my fandom of the 10mm. However, I can admit the 45 ACP does some things better, and I like the option of owning both.

What’s your choice? Let us know below.

10mm vs 45 ACP Cartridge – FAQs

Can you shoot multiple shots faster with either the 10mm or .45 ACP?

Absolutely! When it comes to shooting multiple shots quickly, both the 10mm and .45 ACP offer their unique advantages. The .45 ACP tends to provide a smoother shooting experience, allowing you to maintain better control and fire follow-up shots with ease. However, with practice and dedication, you can develop the skills needed to achieve rapid and accurate shooting with either cartridge.

What is the difference in recoil impulse between 10mm and .45 ACP?

The difference in recoil between the 10mm and .45 ACP is something you’ll notice immediately. The 10mm tends to have a sharper, snappier recoil, while the .45 ACP delivers a more gentle, rolling sensation. Mastering the recoil of each cartridge requires practice and patience, but you certainly achieve it with time.

Are bullets ranging in both 10mm and .45 ACP suitable for civilian shooters?

10mm and .45 ACP have lots of ammo for civilian shooters. You can use them for self-defense, target practice, or hunting. Some good choices are Federal Premium HST and Hornady Critical Duty for self-defense, and Remington UMC and Winchester White Box for target practice. If you’re hunting, try Underwood Ammo Xtreme Penetrator and DoubleTap Hunter.

Which cartridge offers more kinetic energy, 10mm or .45 ACP?

When it comes to kinetic energy, the 10mm has the edge over the .45 ACP. The 10mm’s higher velocity and bullet weight options result in greater muzzle energy, providing you with added stopping power and effectiveness. However, don’t underestimate the .45 ACP – it still packs a punch and is a reliable choice for personal defense and shooting sports.

How can you achieve fast and accurate shots with both 10mm and .45 ACP?

Achieving fast and accurate shots with either the 10mm or .45 ACP requires dedication and practice. Focus on developing a comfortable grip, maintaining a stable stance, and mastering sight alignment and trigger control. By incorporating regular training drills into your routine and selecting ammunition that suits your shooting style, you’ll be able to improve your skills and shoot with confidence.

What are the differences between the 10mm and .45 ACP in terminal performance?

The 10mm performs slightly better than the .45 ACP due to its higher speed and density. However, both tend to penetrate about the same depth with quality defensive ammo. Despite the .45 ACP’s wider bullet and the 10mm’s faster one, they end up having similar wound effects.


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About Travis Pike

Travis is a former United States Marine Corps Infantryman and currently a firearms writer, instructor, and works in Emergency Management.

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  1. I am an avid collector here in central Europe (believe it or not, we can actually get permits for firearms here!) and I got a thing for niche USA guns lately. Both .40s&w and 10mm are consideres as such. The problem is that the loads offered here are among the weakest. 10mm packs a lot more wallop than my .40sw, but only because they are both on low specs, and dissapointing compared to 357 and 45 (which are avaliable as full loads). So I’ll pass for now…

  2. I fail to understand the appeal and excitement over the 10mm handgun, especially from those who already own a 45-acp. I have nothing against the 10mm auto, however, some of the claims about its power compared to other established cartridges are largely overstated IMO.

    For example, your comment that ….”A 200 grain 10mm at 1,200 feet per second can strike with over 700 foot-pounds of energy. That kind of load comes with some punishing recoil, but it’s still an option. The 45 ACP simply can’t touch that kind of power….”, is simply not true. A 45-acp +P 185-gr. bullet is available at just under 1200fps, and with about 10,000 less psi than the 10mm (Shooters Reference.com reload data). The difference in energy level is small, while the .45 creates a larger wound channel.

    The idea that a 10mm, or any handgun for that matter, is a logical choice for bear or other large game protection, which you hear quite often, is laughable, given that a rifle or shotgun is available.

  3. Enjoyed reading this article. Like the author I am hooked on 1911s, and I appreciate both calibers. I currently own six 1911s in 45acp, and have bought and sold many more over the years. I also have one 1911 in 10mm, a Colt Delta Elite. And a Smith & Wesson Model 2.0 in 10mm, which is better suited to the heavy loads than the Delta Elite. Definitely favor the 45 acp above all others, but the 10mm is a lot of fun. And if headed to the woods where bears may be about (black bear), I am told the 10mm heavy loads are a pretty good choice. I have tried hard to take to the 9 mm, reading a lot of articles about how shooters have moved to 9 mm as ballistics have improved, and as they get older and strength fades. And of course its quite a bit cheaper. But right now I am sticking with the bigger bores. If you are going to blast, blast.

  4. Great article! I am an ‘Old Guy” type. Started my hand gun odyssey in 1952 with a Colt 1911 .45 ACP. Went several years (wife and kids so no guns in the house or my life). Kids grew up, wife kicked me to the curb. So I started to look for a new (old) hobby Shooting came to mind. I looked at new 1911s too expensive at the time. Still recovering from the financial disaster of the divorce. Looked around and settled on a Glock 21 in .45 ACP. Went CCW so I downsized to a Glock 30. Read some stuff for a couple of years and heard about 10mm. Did a self conversion on m21 to 10mm (slide and magazine is all you need.) Just took it out and it is awesome! All the horror stories about recoil, muzzle flip and so on did not seem to be there for me. (I am 6 ft 2in and 201 pounds with medium sized hands. Still carry the G30 out in the real world. When I get ready to go to bed I just swap slides and mages. Perfect home defense weapon!

  5. I purchased 500 rounds of 10mm ammo on a friends recommendation. This is before I did any research on the subject. Well now that I am into 10mm for $425.00
    I went and purchased a Glock G20, 10mm
    Now that I am into this weapon for $1210.
    I am considering the purchase of the .22 conversion kit for another $289.00
    Damn I hope I like this gun.

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