.45 ACP Lightweight Field Pistol

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When browsing a forum I frequently go to I noticed a post from someone asking about a lightweight 1911 trail gun for hiking. The saying goes, “ounces equal pounds and pounds equal pain”. That may be a bit of a bold statement but it’s not an unusual idea when roaming around in the forest whether that be camping, hiking, hunting, or just getting lost.

A full size 1911 with a steel frame can weigh up to 40 ounces. with an aluminum frame, you can subtract about 8 or 9 ounces. A half a pound may not seem like a lot but to some, it may make the difference they are looking for.

In the end, you will still have a full-size 5-inch barreled pistol that just went through a weight-loss plan. The performance is going to essentially be the same as the heavy steel-framed brother. Recoil and muzzle flip are going to be more but the bullet’s performance is going to remain the same.

But what if we go even shorter. We can save even more weight going to a lightweight Commander size and loose and inch of barrel length and drop a few more ounces. Naturally we are going to lose some bullet performance also but probably still at an acceptable level.

But me being me, and having just acquired a 3 inch 1911 in .45, the thought came to me. How would a short-barreled lightweight perform as a field pistol?

By going to a small Defender size pistol you drop about a pound of weight from the full-size offering. You also lose two inches off the slide and about 3/4 of an inch at the grip. No question a pistol like this is going to carry better and in that respect, it wins.

But can you have your cake and eat it too? When going to a small platform you give up a lot. One is reliability. It’s been my experience that once you go to the small, Officer and Defender size, the less reliable they are. When you add to that higher pressure and heavier bullets the reliably suffers even more. Also, recoil and muzzle jump is magnified greatly. Then the question of terminal performance comes into question. When knocking off two inches of barrel how much velocity will we lose and how much penetration?

To find out I gathered together a variety of leftover ACP ammo I had from past testing. For factory ammo, I still had some Double Tap 255gr Hardcast +p, and some Underwood 255gr hardcast +p. Unfortunately, I ran out of my 250gr handload using the Montana Bullet Works but I still had plenty of the 230gr version available. I also loaded up some of the 200gr Cutting Edge and the 200gr Lehigh Xtreme Penetrator to try out.

To start I decided to get a baseline between the full size and the subcompact pistols using some Winchester white box 230 ball. Shooting five rounds out of each pistol I got an average velocity of 761fps with the Defender and 847fps for the Government model. The Defender gave 86fps less average velocity or about a 10% drop. I also compared the difference in the Montana Bullet Works 230gr hardcast. The Defender lost 12% of the velocity with an average of 833fps compared to the Government’s average of 953fps. Then I shot five rounds of the Double Tap’s 255gr load and came up with an average of 861fps. In the test I did in May of 2018, the average velocity was 915fps for a difference of 54fps. This was only a 5% loss compared to the full-size pistol. With the 200gr Cutting Edge bullet I got an average velocity was 893fps. In my previous test, I got an average of 1024fps. That represents a 12% decrease. With the Underwood I will use the the velocity I got for the shot in the block and it was 840fps. In my previous test I got an average of 891fps for a 6% or so decrease. And then the Lehigh Xtreme Penetrator the average velocity from the 3 inch barrel was 971fps. Comparing that to the 5 inch GM at 1000fps, that’s only a 3% loss. 

With that out of the way, it was time to see if how much the drop in velocity would affect its performance in gel. For this test like the others, I set up four blocks of Clear Ballistics gel.

I started with the 200gr Cutting Edge load and got an impact velocity of 877fps. This bullet penetrated to 35.5 inches. The full-size Government model pushed to the 52.75 inches for a 32% loss in penetration.

Shooting the Underwood 255gr load gave a velocity of 840fps and the depth of penetration was 44.25 inches. In my previous test, this load hit the 53.5-inch mark.  This resulted in a loss of 17%.

The Montana 230gr hard cast penetrated to 45.5 inches and had a velocity of 842fps. Its past test gave us up to 50 inches.  A 9% loss.

Turning to the Lehigh 200gr Xtreme Penetrator hit the block at 898fps and penetrated to 23 inches. Its past performance gave us 23 inches of penetration Its loss in velocity did not decrease the penetration of this bullet.

Up to this point, all the bullets performed more or less what I expected. Almost all penetrated less then they did when shot through the five inches 1911. The Lehigh tied at 23 inches, not what I expected but not really surprising considering it didn’t suffer much in velocity.

But the Double Tap actually penetrated deeper by about 16 inches. Its velocity was 844fps and this load penetrated to 46.5 inches. That was an increase of 52%. This load penetrated 30.5 inches when tested in the Government model. 

I remember being surprised by the lack of penetration in the last test and contributed it to the large meplat making it harder to push it’s way through. So it would appear we have an anomaly. But which one? The fact I was expecting more in the last test I’m leaning on this test is more representative of how this bullet should perform. The only way to find out is to test it one more. I have three rounds left and I plan to try then at some point and see.

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