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.357 vs .45 ACP for Self Defense | Which Is Better?

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When it comes to choosing the best defensive cartridge, there are quite a few choices. Two of the more popular ones are the .357 and .45. There’s no doubt that both are powerful options, but which is best?

For self-defense, the .357 penetrates and immobilizes distant targets better than the .45 ACP. However, the .45 ACP better immobilizes closer targets. Both the .357 Magnum and 4.5 ACP have good magazine capacities and can accommodate at least 8 rounds in the magazine.

Many factors determine which handgun caliber will be the best for your needs. In this article, I’ll break down all of these factors and help you decide which is best for your purposes. 

What to Consider Between .357 vs 45 ACP for Self Defense

Several factors determine which handgun is the best for you, such as power, penetration, muzzle velocity, and recoil. Although either pistol cartridge has its benefits, each one is also limited in some way. 

Let’s look at these in detail: 

Power

The .357 Magnum is more powerful since it has more powder. However, this doesn’t mean the .45 ACP isn’t reliable for self-defense. In fact, it’s a great round as well. 

The .357 Magnum outguns other rounds such as the 9mm and 10mm in muzzle energy. This higher muzzle velocity means the .357 Magnum is more likely to knock down or immobilize your target. 

On the contrary, the .45 ACP isn’t as powerful as other rounds, but it’s still strong enough for self-defense purposes. The .45 ACP offers good penetration since it carries a larger mass compared to other handgun cartridges. 

Target Penetration

The .357 Magnum can penetrate distant targets better. It’s also lighter and faster because it doesn’t have a metal exterior to hold its shape after firing since it’s a magnum round. On the contrary, the 45 ACP penetrates nearby targets better because it’s heavier and larger. 

In general, the .45 ACP’s larger diameter and higher kinetic energy ensures it penetrates targets effectively. 

Speed

The .357 Magnum is lighter and faster, with a muzzle velocity of 1080-1450 ft/s (329 – 442 m/s). On the contrary, the .45 ACP is heavier and slower. However, the .45 ACP still has a decent muzzle velocity of 835- 2036 ft/s (255 – 621 m/s). 

This means that the .45 ACP’s lower muzzle velocity is a disadvantage. However, its muzzle velocity is still good enough to carry a large mass and create massive wounds. 

In terms of recoil, the .357 has a sharper recoil velocity than other handgun rounds. Although it’s not unmanageable, it’s noticeable. In general, the .45 ACP has a more manageable recoil. 

Here’s a Table comparison of the ballistic performance of the .357 Magnum and the 45 ACP: 

.357 .45 ACP
Mass8-12g (0.28-0.42oz)12-15g (0.42-0.53oz)
Velocity1080-1450ft/s (329 – 442 m/s)835-2036ft/s (255-621m/s)
Energy460 – 583ft⋅lbf  (632-793J)356-829 ft⋅lbf (484-1,127J)

Pros of the .357

  • Wide variety of cartridge loads 
  • Can shoot a .38 
  • Good grips on revolver and 4 in (10.16 cm) make shooting pleasant 
  • More powerful than a .45 ACP 

Cons of the .357

  • Too loud 
  • Has a blinding muzzle flash 
  • Heavy revolvers 

Pros of the .45 ACP

  • Variety of ammo available 
  • More manageable recoil 
  • Wider variety of pistol models 

Cons of the .45 ACP  

  • Less powerful than a .357  
  • Uses heavier cartridges 

To learn more about the differences between the .357 and the .45 ACP, check out this video: 

Is .357 Too Much for Home Defense?

Due to the .357 Magnum’s high power, some people may think it’s too much for home defense. But that simply isn’t true.

The .357 isn’t too much for home defense, rather, it’s quite a suitable cartridge for the task. It’s more potent than a 9mm or a .45 ACP, which can produce a lot less force. Also, it’s the best option when you need to stop intruders while they’re still far away. 

However, you’ll need to practice shooting the .357 to get used to its recoil and muzzle flash. 

Also, it would be best to use a shorter barrel in case of an emergency and make handling easy.

What Has More Stopping Power: .357 or .45 ACP?

M1911 with 45ACP Ammo
M1911 with .45 ACP
357 Magnum Handgun With Ammo Lying Next to It
.357 Magnum

The .357 has more stopping power when aiming at targets further away, while the .45 ACP provides higher stopping power when shooting targets at shorter ranges. The stopping powers of the .357 and .45 ACP vary with the distance between the shooter and the target.  

That said, it’s worth nothing that stopping power isn’t the only thing to consider when choosing a home defense weapon. The .357 may have higher stopping power, but it comes with disadvantages such as muzzle flash and recoil. 

In this situation, it’s best to shoot for what works for you most comfortably and ensures you’re safe at all times. 

Although both cartridges are great for self-defense, your skills and physical capabilities also matter. For example, if you’re professionally trained in a specific type of shooting, your skills and experience may trump any other factor. 

Here are some tips to improve your marksmanship skills: 

  • Train regularly. I recommend using a shooting target like this Splatterburst Targets Silhouette Shooting Target from Amazon.com. It has impressive visibility so you can see your shorts clearly, and is suitable for all firearm calibers, making it a worthwhile bargain. 
  • Practice at a range. Do this until you can shoot reliably and accurately under pressure. 
  • Use shooting techniques that minimize muzzle flash and recoil. This makes shooting more manageable, which helps for higher accuracy. However, bear in mind that the .357 has sharper recoil than other cartridges. In this case, make sure to use a shorter barrel. 

Other Self Defense Weapons To Consider

Besides the .357 Magnum and the .45 ACP, there are several options to consider when looking for a self-defense firearm. 

They range from beginner-friendly ones to weapons designed for experts. 

Here are two other self-defense weapons to consider besides the .357 and the .45 ACP: 

9mm

9mm has a good balance in force, stopping power, and cartridge weight. It’s also easier to shoot with less recoil which means little practice is needed for accuracy. The cartridge also produces less noise than the .357 Magnum. 

If you’re more of a beginner, 9mm is definitely better for its lower recoil and ease of use. It’s also probably the most popular cartridge for self-defense, due to its ease of use and wide variety of ammunition available on the market. 

However, the 9mm has low stopping power compared to larger rounds like .357 Magnum or .45 ACP. At close range, this round works well enough to disable an attacker. 

.40 S&W

The .40 S&W is somewhere in between the 9mm and .45 ACP when it comes to stopping power, recoil, and the weight of the cartridge. It’s larger than 9mm rounds but not as large as .45 ACP rounds. 

If you are considering a self-defense weapon for a beginner, or if you want more stopping power while maintaining good control over your weapon, the .40 S&W may be the best option for you. 

Bottom Line

Overall, neither the .357 nor the .45 ACP are “better” or “worse.” They’re both great for protection; it’s all about which one suits your needs the best. If you are looking to use your handgun for self-defense in close range, you might want to go with the .45 ACP. On the other hand, if you’re going to use your pistol for protection against distant threats, then the .357 Magnum is best. 

Still, both offer incredible accuracy, good magazine capacity, and high muzzle energy. These factors make them great for self-defense. 

For more, check out How to Safely Store a Gun for Home Defense | Best Practices.

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