Winchester .45 ACP 185gr Silvertip JHP in Clear Ballistics Gel.

Test Gun: Colt 1911 Government, Defender.
Barrel length: 5 and 3 inches.
Ammunition: Winchester .45 ACP 185gr Silvertip JHP .
Test media: 10% Clear Ballistics Gel.
Distance: 10 feet.
Chronograph: Caldwell Ballistic Precision Chronograph G2.
Five shot velocity average: 993, 902fps
Gel Temperature 70 degrees.

*Note* This test was conducted with Clear Ballistics Gel. Clear Ballistics is a synthetic gel and does not correlate with Organic gelatin like Vyse Ballistics gelatin.

The Silvertip round has been around for some time and gone through at least a few changes. I remember buying some in .45 ACP back in the ’80s and at that time the jackets were made out of aluminum. I think the idea was that aluminum would allow better expansion than the traditional copper jacket. Now the jackets are made out of nickel-coated copper.

Something new in this test is the addition of a short-barreled Colt Defender. The 3-inch barrel should make for some interesting comparisons to the longer 5-inch Government model.

With the Government model I got a five-shot average velocity of 993fps with a high of 1002fps and a low of 988fps. From the Defender I got a four shot avrage of 902fps with a high of 919fps and a low of 884fps.

Five shot at 10 yards offhand

When shooting in the bare gel the first round had a velocity of 1005fps and penetrated to 14.25 inches. The recovered weight was 181.2 grains and the final expansion was .73 inches. The second round had a velocity of 989fps and expanded to .71 inches. The recovered weight was 182.3 grains and it penetrated to 13.5 inches.

The first round in the clothing covered gel was not recorded. The bullet penetrated to 14.5 inches and expanded to .70 inches and had a weight of 183.6 grains. The second round had a velocity of 1003fps and penetrated to 13.5 inches. The recovered weight was 183.1 grains and expanded to .72 inches.

Out of the short-barreled Defender the first round’s velocity of 900fps and penetrated to 12 inches. The recovered weight was 179.4 grains and expanded to .69 inches. Round two’s velocity was 913fps and penetrated to 14 inches. It’s recovered expansion was .67 inches and its weight was 182.5 grains.

When pulling the second bullet, from the gel block, a small disk fell on top of the block. If you look closely at the pictures of the expanded bullets you can make out a star-shaped impression in the face of the bullets. You can also see the disk tangled up in the clothing material on the first bullet recovered from the clothing covered gel.

My guess is Winchester is using a method similar to how Speer makes their Gold Dot. The method involves punching a hole at the top of the bullet forming the hollow point. This process is what leaves the “gold dot” in the on the face of the expanded bullet. Since the Gold Dot is a plated bullet the gold dot remains attached to the lead portion of the bullet. With the Silvertip bullet, it’s a conventional style jacket and not bonded to the core the disk separates from the bullet upon expansion.

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  1. This test shows the 45 ACP silvertip hollow point to be quite the good performer in both long and compact barrels. In experience it has always been a soft shooter comparatively speaking, however the price makes it a bit cost prohibitive for many shooters.

    Thank you for another great review!


  2. Silvertips in .45 ACP are an old, old favorite defensive and carry load of mine and I am happy to see them still available.

    I’d like to see additional short barrel tests against gelatin with four layers of denim, though, to see how reliable expansion is at the lower velocity.

    Another test I’d like to see: 185gr Hornady XTP in a true +P load, loaded to do around 1150 ft/sec from a 5″ gun, tested in both bare gelatin and gelatin covered with four layers of denim.


  3. Your guess on the punch is probably 100% correct…………..My old early 2000’s era Silvertip 45 ACP 185’s have that same star pattern in the Lead at the bottom but it’s in the Lead, no disc of copper or more correctly Winchester is not plating the jackets………they use a different type of Cartridge Brass for the jacket called German Brass or Nickle Silver or Musical Brass. It’s color is naturally silver chrome and it does not tarnish at all. That is actually a trade secret kept by Winchester, they say it’s thin copper that get’s nickle plated but that’s to expensive a process and as far as I know they used to use Aluminum for all Silvertip projectile jackets except high velocity 9mm and .357 which got the German Brass jackets.
    Over the years they have changed the jacket materials and styles. 45 ACP 185’s used to have downward turned jacket tips that locked onto the Lead core similar to Black Talon but much smaller and weaker little tiny talons or hooks if you like that term. This changed and the .38 SPL and 45 ACP and .380 ACP all got the more open tip area near the HP cavity with exposed Lead showing between the jacket notches, it’s not even notched now, simply Lead showing. Basically a very thin jacket soft Lead core bullet that gets work hardened with the HP cavity punch process. So Silvertips expansion characteristics and performance have more to do with it’s materials or metals then it’s bullet design where as SXT or PDX-1 bullets expansion is more due to design of the jacket and HP cavity then the metals used in the design. I think it’s one of the reason Silvertip is still fairly costly or expensive 1$ per shot compared to White Box HP ammo made by Winchester…………….White box uses plain Copper Jacket alloy where as Silvertips use the German Brass alloy which is heavy in Tin and Copper but also contains zinc. Sometimes called Cupro-Nickle alloy material.
    Over the years they did change some of the smaller slower aluminum jacketed Silvertip ammo to the new jacket materials which for many people was a downside. .32 ACP and .25 ACP shooters often used the Silvertip because it would expand well even in those slow calibers from pocket rockets. Now the smaller calibers don’t expand as well and they even discontinued the 95 grain .38 SPL Silvertip. Winchester tried to make a 230 grain 45 ACP version called 1911 Specific in 50 count boxes………….it was and is basically the same thing as a 230 grain Silvertip but it’s designed more like the 230 grain White Box HP of the same caliber. The notched jacket remains and the 230 grain 1911 Specific load is slightly hotter then white box HP 230 grain. It’s made for long barrels 5″ inch or 4 1/2″ inch and it expands similar to 185 grain Silvertip in most respects.


  4. Nice to know the ol’ Silvertips are still alive & kicking.
    I carried them in my duty weapon and speed loaders throughout the 80s.
    Probably still have some +P .38s around somewhere !!


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