Home Culture Best 45 ACP for Bear Defense: When You Have to Smoke Smokey

Best 45 ACP for Bear Defense: When You Have to Smoke Smokey

Best 45 ACP for Bear Defense

So, you’ve decided you want to go bear hunting? If you’re considering using a .45 ACP to bag a big bear, please rethink your life choices…Because that’s a terrible idea!

The .45 ACP is great for self-defense; it’s a hard-hitting caliber that will easily protect you from two-legged varmints. Unfortunately, bears have a much thicker hide, bones, fur, and body mass than the .45 ACP can comfortably handle. It just doesn’t have adequate stopping power or deep penetration needed for taking down big game animals.

If I were heading into bear country, I’d much rather carry a Ruger Redhawk or Smith & Wesson Model 629 Classic with a 6.5 inch barrel chambered in 44 Magnum to protect myself against Smokey.

However, if you’re generally curious whether the .45 ACP has the power, muzzle velocity, and penetration to effectively and ethically work in a bear defense situation, we are here to tell you it’s possible but not practical.

BUT! If you’re an avid hiker and you love the two-time World War champion 1911, then you can increase your odds in a battle of man vs bear if you choose the best .45 ACP ammunition to get the job done.

For those of you ready to order a box of ammo and hit the woods, pick up the affordably-priced high-velocity Federal American Eagle 230gr FMJ. But if you’re interested in exploring our top picks for bear defense, keep reading the next section.

If you want to explore more viable bear defense sidearms, click HERE to review our Buyer’s Guide. Otherwise, keep scrolling for the best .45 ACP bear defense ammo.

Best .45 ACP for Bear Defense

The Best .45 ACP for Bear Defense

Federal American Eagle 230gr FMJ

Specs:

  • Casing: Brass
  • Bullet Type: Full Metal Jacket
  • Bullet Weight: 230 gr
  • Muzzle Velocity: 890 fps
  • Muzzle Energy: 404 ft-lbs

Pros:

  • High-quality
  • High velocity
  • Adequate weight
  • Won’t expand or deform on impact

Cons:

  • It’s a .45 caliber round

Why We Chose It

Ok, so clearly, I wouldn’t pick a .45 ACP over another more practical caliber like a 454 Casull or 44 Magnum when a charging bear is heading straight towards me. But if I had no other choice, I’d pick the ammo that gives me the greatest odds of living to see another day. And that ammo would definitely be Federal American Eagle FMJ in 230 Grain.

A bear’s hide is much thicker than other creatures, and they’re more muscular too. Whereas I’d usually recommend polymer-tipped ammo or a PSP (Plated Soft Point) for big game like bears, the .45 ACP doesn’t have the velocity needed to take one down effectively or ethically (it’s slow and heavy). The ammo that gives us better odds is one that will penetrate well, has a higher muzzle velocity, and won’t deform on impact.

Fortunately, the Federal American Eagle FMJ meets all of those requirements. The lead core is encased in a copper-alloy jacket which will minimize impact deformation (here’s hoping we get the deep penetration needed to damage the bear’s vital organs).

It’s also one of the faster FMJ .45 ACP bullets around, upping our odds of surviving a bear attack. On top of everything we love about this ammo, the brass casing also makes it perfect for reloading (if you’re into that sort of thing).

Fiocchi 230gr FMJ

Specs:

  • Casing: Brass
  • Bullet Type: FMJ
  • Bullet Weight: 230 Grain
  • Muzzle Velocity: 860 fps
  • Muzzle Energy: 378 ft-lbs

Pros:

  • Excellent quality
  • Affordable
  • High availability

Cons:

  • A bit slower than our overall top pick

Why We Chose It

If you’ve ever used Fiocchi ammo, you know they produce high-quality rounds that feed well and are fairly priced. Coming in at just over $0.50/round at the time of writing, you won’t break the bank when filling up extra magazines. Trust us, you might need more than one to stop a real-life and incredibly ornery, Teddy B. from Doc McStuffins.

Similar to the Federal ammo listed above, the Fiocchi 230 Grain FMJ (Full Metal Jacket) has a higher velocity than most .45 ACP ammo. While the .45 ACP typically lacks the deep penetration need to take on big game animals like bears, we’re increasing our survival odds with a higher velocity.

In addition to that, FMJ bullets shouldn’t expand and this aids in penetration. And when looking at .45 ACP ammo for bear defense, that’s a good thing. The lead core is encased in a copper jacket, meaning the bullet won’t fragment or deform upon impact. If you were to use a JHP (Jacketed Hollow Point), the bullet would expand on impact and reduce the amount of penetration the bullet would experience.

The Fiocchi 230 Grain FMJ is an affordably-priced and fast round that, at least, increases your odds of fighting off an angry bear.

Honorable Mention

Federal Champion 230gr FMJ FN is another hard-hitting .45 ACP FMJ with a higher muzzle velocity that may increase your odds of fending off a hungry bear. This .45 ACP round has the same high-quality standards as the Federal American Eagle listed above. However, it’s a little more budget-friendly and performs similarly to the Fiocchi. If you’d like a good backup option, the Federal Champion will serve you well.

Winchester USA 230gr FMJ

Specs:

  • Casing: Brass
  • Bullet Type: FMJ
  • Bullet Weight: 230 Grain
  • Muzzle Velocity: 835 fps
  • Muzzle Energy: 356 ft-lbs

Pros:

  • Great for stockpiling
  • Affordable
  • Available
  • Reliability

Cons:

  • Lower muzzle velocity

Why We Chose It

You know we love a good Winchester round; it’s an iconic brand that generations of Americans rely on for hunting and personal defense. Although the Winchester USA is a 230 Grain FMJ, it isn’t designed with terminal ballistics in mind and is better suited for target practice and stockpiling.

But, of course, there are exceptions to every rule. Under the right circumstances, one could use it for bear defense.

The 230 Grain bullet is pretty heavy, so that in and of itself is going to maximize penetration and transfer a great deal of kinetic energy. The Winchester USA .45 ACP FMJ has a muzzle velocity of 835 feet per second, so it’s a bit slower than some of our top choices. But it’s a reliable and affordable round that meets our bear-defense specifications.

Like those before and some after it on our list, we chose an FMJ because it won’t fragment on impact. Remember, the goal here is to penetrate deep enough to reach the bear’s vital organs. So, we’re focused on bullets that will reliably remain intact while punching through thick bear hide and bone.

While it isn’t our top choice for bear defense (of course, the .45 ACP isn’t our top choice either), Winchester is one round that you can utilize for bear protection in a pinch.

Remington UMC 230gr FMJ

Specs:

  • Casing: Brass
  • Bullet Type: FMJ
  • Bullet Weight: 230 Grain
  • Muzzle Velocity: 835 fps
  • Muzzle Energy: 356 ft-lbs

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Available
  • High-Quality

Cons:

  • Low muzzle velocity

Why We Chose It

Remington is another superb ammo manufacturer that won’t let you down. The Remington UMC 230 Grain FMJ is another plausible option for the .45 ACP in bear defense situations. Although the specs are identical to those of the Winchester listed above, some firearms may feed better with Remington than with Winchester (and vice versa).

Like the previous rounds we’ve recommended, this Remington ammo utilizes a 230 grain full metal jacket bullet (FMJ). These projectiles are good for penetration and target practice.

Of course, we’re only getting a muzzle velocity of 835 feet per second with the Remington UMC, but each round is priced well enough that you can expend more of them. This, of course, increases your odds of survival when you stumble upon a 600-pound boopable beast with razor-sharp teeth and a serious dislike for your presence.

Black Hills Ammunition 230 Grain FMJ

Specs:

  • Casing: Brass
  • Bullet Type: FMJ
  • Bullet Weight: 230 Grain
  • Muzzle Velocity: 850 fps
  • Muzzle Energy: 369 ft-lbs

Pros:

  • High velocity
  • High quality
  • Reliable
  • Accurate

Cons:

  • Availability

Why We Chose It

Black Hills Ammunition is well-known in the shooting community for its high-quality and extremely reliable ammo. Fortunately for us, they make a .45 ACP round with the exact specs we’re looking at to increase your odds of surviving a bear attack.

We love it because it has one of the highest muzzle velocities available in the .45 ACP FMJ line. As stated previously, the higher the muzzle velocity, the better the penetration. When a Grizzly or Black Bear decides to attempt to recreate the bear attack scene from The Revenant with you in the starring role, you’re going to want all the penetration you can get your hands on!

Because it’s an FMJ, it won’t defragment on impact, which also increases our odds of getting the best outcome possible. However, Black Hills ammo isn’t the easiest to find these days, so if you see a box or ten, snatch them up. It’s a great round that will serve you well for target practice and, possibly, bear defense.

Underwood Xtreme Penetrator 200 Grain +P

Specs:

  • Casing: Nickel Plated
  • Bullet Type: Lehigh Defense Xtreme Penetrator
  • Bullet Weight: 200 Grain
  • Muzzle Velocity: 1,000 fps
  • Muzzle Energy: 444 ft-lbs

Pros:

  • Designed for four-legged threats
  • High muzzle velocity
  • Solid-Copper Monolithic design for penetration

Cons:

  • Availability
  • A little pricey

Why We Chose It

On the exterior, the Underwood Xtreme Penetrator appears to be the best .45 ACP for big bear defense…And it is! It’s an exceptional round with a brilliant design and high muzzle velocity, and its solid copper bullet is great for hugging trees.

As a matter of fact, the 200-grain Xtreme Penetrator bullet certainly has the highest muzzle velocity, and the monolithic design (the bullet is all one piece) is precisely what we’re looking for when it comes to bear defense.

The lead-free composite is an excellent benefit for those in states where the element’s legality is murky, but the solid-copper makeup of this bullet adds to the functionality. Like Lead, the all-copper round will penetrate deeply. And while we lose expansion, the higher velocity helps our odds of getting effective shots.

Essentially, the only reason this round didn’t make it to the top of our list is that it’s more difficult to get ahold of, and it’s a bit pricey (but as the adage goes, you get what you pay for).

Parting Shots

Of all the questions I’ve been asked about ammo, the effectiveness of the .45 ACP for bear defense is by far the most intriguing.

Although I don’t plan on packing my Glock 21 or trusty 1911 for bear defense, it’s A LOT better than a pointy stick and having the right ammo will drastically increase your chances of survival.

For those of you who are ready to learn more about more appropriate bear defense options or the .45 ACP, scroll down to our Buyer’s Guide. But if you want to test our methodology, click HERE to go back up to our top .45 ACP ammo for bear defense.

Buyer’s Guide

Welcome to our buyer’s guide! If you’re still here, it’s likely because you opted out of playing a woodsier version of John Wick with a precarious defense option and a Grizzly bear. For that, we commend you.

In all seriousness though, it is possible to take down a bear with the .45 ACP. But it’s also incredibly risky (and not something we’d regularly carry in bear territory like Alaska); we’d prefer you know exactly what types of ammo and which calibers are best for bear defense.

Because bears (black bears, polar bears, grizzlies, Kodiaks, etc.) typically weigh over 300 pounds, we classify them as big game animals. But that isn’t the only reason we stray from choosing a .45 ACP as our top choice for bear defense (even using Buffalo Bore or Xtreme Penetrator rounds). The large creatures also have a thicker hide and denser muscle tissue than deer or two-legged threats.

It’s for this reason that we recommend taking another caliber to areas where you may encounter a bear. Some forums will tell you the Glock 21 will work just fine for bears, but not every .45 ACP factory load is going to deal the stopping power necessary to easily stop a charging bear.

So, let’s talk about some other, more practical bear gun options.

Best Bear Defense Handguns of All Time

If you ask an Alaskan outdoorsman how to survive a bear attack, they’ll likely tell you that you’re better off with some bear spray and a broad knowledge of how to avoid bear encounters in the first place. However, as an avid hiker who often gallivants through the woods, I prefer to carry my 1911 because it’s an excellent personal defense sidearm.

But naturally, I also don’t encounter many black bears on the well-traveled trails of the Appalachians. If I did, however, I’d carry something that packs a little more punch. Carrying something like a 30-06 Springfield, 12 gauge shotgun, or something beefier would get a little tiresome when climbing to the tops of waterfalls.

Fortunately, there are some viable bear-defense handguns that won’t feel like a boat anchor on your hip.

10mm Auto

If you prefer semi-automatic firearms, we wouldn’t discount a 10mm. Did you know the Glock 20 is the most popular semi-auto sold in Alaska? Ever wonder why that is? Well it’s for bears, as the mighty 10mm has the power needed to take on some of the largest bears in North America. The past few years have welcomed more 10mm semi-auto handguns to the backcountry for bear protection. Using hard-cast bullets, you’ll get adequate penetration. But also, what we lose in power (compared to the .44 Magnum revolver), we gain in magazine capacity.

.357 Magnum

Another viable handgun caliber is the .357 Mag (I like the Colt Python for all my Walking Dead fans). Using hard cast ammo (bullets made of lead alloys that are stronger than standard soft lead projectiles), you can reach practical levels of penetration, effectively stopping a bear in its tracks.

.44 Magnum

The .44 Magnum is the gold standard of bear defense handguns. It’s a hard-hitting caliber that packs a punch and has a history of being the go-to equalizer between man and bear. Choosing a firearm like the Smith & Wesson 629 or the Ruger Super Blackhawk can give you an excellent advantage over other firearms. It has the speed to maximize penetration for more effective shots.

But remember, you only have 5 shots to make it count. You can pick up some great-priced .44 Magnum practice ammo here and start target practicing. The better your shot placement, the better your odds.

454 Casull

If you like a good 45-caliber revolver that has the power to take on Yogi, then make sure you check out the 454 Casull. Released in 1997, the 454 Casull is considered one of the most powerful revolver cartridges on the market and is often used for big game hunting and bear defense. Using an elongated 45 Colt case, the 454 Casull has nearly 75% more recoil energy than the 44 Magnum and can deliver over 1,900 ft-lbs of muzzle energy into its target. Capable of taking down even a polar bear, the 454 Casull is not for the feint of heart as it packs a ton of power and recoil.

How to Choose Bear Defense Ammo

I’ll make no references to looking like a snack, but if a bear is hungry enough, you never know. Before hitting the woods with any bear defense firearm, you should probably know a thing or two about selecting appropriate bear defense ammo.

While we don’t recommend using the .45 ACP as your go-to bear defense cartridge, it may be all you have at the moment. If so, we specifically chose ammo that won’t deform on impact and has a higher velocity. We did this because you’re going to need to maximize penetration. So, the ammo we listed above will increase your odds of winning a bear fight (add a few prayers and some net positive karma, and you should be good).

However, if you have another option, choosing the wrong ammo may have you worse off than choosing the best .45 ACP option listed above. For example, even with the S&W .44, you don’t want to use expanding bullets like a JHP, polymer tip, or other soft points.

Keep your focus on ammo that maximizes penetration with a higher velocity and won’t deform like FMJs, FMJ-TCs, and even FMJ flat-nose rounds. Any hard-cast bullet or lead core bullet that won’t deform on impact is going to increase your survival odds of a close-range bear attack.

Back to the Best .45 ACP Ammo for Bear Defense

As you can see, even if you hit a charging bear right on target, you’ll need the right velocity and ammo to drop it. Click HERE to go back to our best bear defense ammo section.

Best 45 ACP for Bear Defense: When You Have to Smoke Smokey originally appeared in The Resistance Library at Ammo.com.

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Sam Jacobs
Sam Jacobs grew up in Southern New England, probably the part of the country with the weakest gun culture. However, from a young age he believed firmly in the right of self defense and the right to keep and bear arms. This, coupled with 12 years of education in public schools and an argumentative nature, meant that he was frequently getting into debates with his teachers about the virtue of the Second Amendment. A precocious student of history and the Constitution, Jacobs became interested in both the practice of armed self defense throughout history as well as the philosophical underpinnings of the Second Amendment. Jacobs has an affinity for the individual and the common man against centralized forms of power and elites, whether they be in the government or the private sector. In particular, he is interested in the ways in which private companies work to subvert the legislative process and to undermine American freedoms outside of normal legal channels. He considers the resolution of how corporate power can hem in Constitutional freedoms to be the most pressing political question of our age. The private sector and the public sector are increasingly indistinguishable from one another, both because of behind-the-scenes corporate chicanery that undermines the legislative process and because private companies are rapidly becoming far more powerful than the federal government. Thus, it is more important than ever to both fight the incursion of private companies into our government and to become independent and self-reliant enough to make it difficult for private companies to hem in your rights. So Sam believes. Jacobs is the lead writer and chief historian with Ammo.com, and is the driving intellectual force behind the content in the Resistance Library. He is proud to see his work name-checked in places like Bloomberg, USA Today and National Review, but he is far more proud to see his work republished on websites like ZeroHedge, Lew Rockwell and Sons of Liberty Media. You can catch him on Quora and Parler as well as on our very own Resistance Library podcast. How many firearms does Sam own and what’s his everyday carry? That’s between him and the NSA.