long ago I embarked upon an experiment that involved firing
several hundred +P cartridges in the .45 ACP. I did so both for
my own satisfaction and as an experiment to be included in an
upcoming book on the 1911 pistol. I have always felt that
standard 230 grain ball loads were just fine for personal
defense, but that if we could have a reliable hollow point
bullet we should go with it.
approached the +P with disdain. After all, how much could be
improved with the .45? Range and power are not the same. A
pistol is possessed of short range killing power. A +P load that
gives the cartridge an extra 100 fps in velocity may increase
the effective range 25 yards or so but do we really need this
edge? The value of a +P load may be that the velocity is
sufficiently increased that we
may enjoy good expansion from a jacketed hollow point bullet.
With this in mind, I collected several good hollow point loads
and proceeded to test them in various 1911 type handguns.
we proceed, let's consider recoil. Recoil is best expressed
using a power factor. The powder factor that governs pistol
competition is also useful in demonstrating handgun recoil.
Let’s look at the table below:
|Black Hills 230-grain Ball
|Black Hills 230-grain JHP
|Black Hills 230-grain JHP +P
|Winchester 185-grain Silvertip
|Cor-Bon 185-grain JHP +P
is worth increasing recoil in order to achieve greater velocity?
Apparently many believe so, as +P loads are very popular. I
conducted my own experiments, firing into wet newsprint, gelatin
and other material. The +P loads are indeed impressive. Some are
very reliable and accurate. They all kick more than standard
pressure loads. In a steel frame handgun a practiced shot may
handle the increased recoil, although we may ask why? Among the
great modifiers of recoil is the porting process known as Mag-Na-Port.
Often associated with Magnum handguns, I decided to have one of
my 1911 handguns Mag-Na-Ported. The pistol is a well proven
Series 80 Colt 1991 A1 pistol.
ports turned out very well. The physics are well known, but the
performance is another matter. Just what did the ports achieve?
In a word, a lot. I was prepared for a certain velocity loss
that did not materialize. Velocity loss was no more than 11 to
per second with a given load compared to previous test figures,
which is actually a standard of deviation between lots and
Unlike the oversize barrel ports popular a few years ago,
the Mag-Na-Port gets the job done without significant velocity
loss. As for control, the percentage of control gained is
another matter. I estimate the ports reduce muzzle flip by ten
to fifteen per cent when using +P ammunition. The increase in
control is less proportionately when using a mild load such as
the standard 230 gr./850 fps hardball load. If you are wishing
to use +P loads in the .45 ACP Mag-Na-Ports are an excellent
option. Accuracy was unaffected by the ports, although we did
see a slight long term improvement in accuracy. I will put this
down to greater control and less involuntary muscle contraction
during test firing. The Colt is not the most accurate of 1911
handguns, but a good solid product of Yankee manufacturing and a
pistol that you can bet the farm on. This is a good
Mag-Na-Ports, Colt quality, and a good +P load, the Colt is
ready to take on bad men and bad beasts without hesitation.
While we have not completed the test program, there are a number
of stand-out loads. The Cor Bon 185 grain +P is a good load,
accurate, reliable, and a worthy successor to the old Super Vel
load. Of course, Super Vel did not have the punch this one does.
They did set the pace, however. This load features a bullet that
expands or fragments in test media and offers a good choice at
Black Hills 230 grain +P would be the preferred load for animal
defense. This load was once advertised as the Mack Truck of .45
ACP loads. The comparison is an apt one. This load exhibits an
ideal balance between penetration and expansion.
final addition, we fitted the Colt with Herrett’s Oval grips.
These grips are smooth, allowing good hand fit and rapid
adjustment. The palm swell - the grips are not classic 1911 flat
- is a
good trick that allows the shooter to maintain good but
comfortable control in firing heavy loads. They are eye catching
and functional, all we may ask. During the test period all of
our raters commented on how well the grips fit their hand.
added Metalform magazines to ensure reliability. When using +P
loads, it is not uncommon for slide velocity to outstrip the
ability of the magazine to feed properly. Quality magazines are
a great aid in reliability.
the test program was illuminating. While we are still studying
+P loads, the two standout loads are set aside for specific use.
The Mag-Na-Port option is proven. Colt was proven long ago but
it is nice to reaffirm our beliefs. Herrett’s stocks are old
line reliable but the modern Oval grips a nice addition to the
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