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Survival Ammunition: .45 Super

by Paul-Martin Foss

Unlike many other cartridges, the .45 Super doesn’t differ in dimensions from another popular handgun cartridge, the .45 ACP. But just because it’s identical dimensionally to the .45 ACP, it isn’t based on the .45 ACP.

The .45 Super is developed from the .451 Detonics Magnum, itself a derivative of the .45 Winchester Magnum. The brass therefore features thicker case walls and a thicker case head than the .45 ACP, enabling it to withstand higher pressures. The .45 Super runs at 28,000 PSI, versus the 21,000 PSI of the .45 ACP. And that allows it to offer significantly increased velocity and energy.

The .45 Super can push a 185-grain bullet at 1,300 feet per second, a 200-grain bullet at 1,200 feet per second, a 230-grain bullet at 1,100 feet per second, and a 255-grain hardcast bullet at 1,090 feet per second. Muzzle energy is around 700 foot-pounds, well above that of the .45 ACP.

That makes the .45 Super a potentially far more effective self defense cartridge, and also allows it to work as an effective handgun hunting cartridge, as long as you use the right kind of bullets. And the fact that the .45 Super fits in the same footprint as the .45 ACP makes it a popular choice for those using .45 ACP handguns.

A word of caution, however. You can’t just start using the .45 Super in a handgun chambered for .45 ACP. Some handguns are already certified to use the .45 Super out of the box, such as the Heckler & Koch USP. Others may be able to use the .45 Super out of the box, but it would be best to use fully supported barrels and stronger recoil springs and recoil spring guide rods.

For instance, the Glock 21 is a popular platform for the .45 Super, but you would ideally want to use an aftermarket barrel that offers more case support, a stronger recoil spring, and a steel guide rod. Once those modifications are made, the pistols should still be able to fire standard .45 ACP ammunition.

The knock on the .45 Super, as with many more obscure cartridges, is ammunition cost. Ammo will cost you at least $1.50 to $2 a round, which is going to cost you. That makes the .45 Super a good candidate for handloading. Brass is available from Starline, bullets are normally the same ones you would use for .45 ACP or possibly .45 Colt, and reloading data should be able to be found online. The only thing you would need to do is make sure that you don’t accidentally load .45 Super loads into .45 ACP brass, or shoot .45 Super ammo in firearms that haven’t been prepared to fire .45 Super.

Is .45 Super worth it as a survival cartridge? If you’re willing to make the minor modifications to your pistol that are necessary to run it, it could be very useful, especially if you’re able and willing to handload your own ammunition. And .45 Super could also prove useful in a .45 ACP-chambered pistol-caliber carbine such as an AR-15 pistol. But due to the difficulty in finding brass and ammunition right now, it’s probably best to treat the .45 Super as something that complements your .45 ACP ammo and firearms, and not something that will supplant them.

Image: The Truth About Guns

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