The .45 ACP pistol cartridge is popular in the United States. So popular, it could wear the title “America’s Cartridge.” It is synonymous with power and the all-American philosophy, “More is Better.” Like our muscle cars, it is big, hard to handle, and unapologetic. It’s reputation as the “best” pistol cartridge ever made is based in large part on anecdotes from four wars. Famous lawmen such as Melvin Purvis and the Texas Rangers carried .45’s, and in the early 20th century before expanding handgun bullets became common place, it did have some advantage over smaller calibers.
The .45’s popularity continues today. A good many civilians carry a .45 not just for defense from criminals but also in the wilderness for defense against both two-legged and four-legged predators. In North America the two most feared critters are bears and mountain lions (cougars or pumas for our readers back East). Those who carry a .45 in the backcountry are, for the most part, confident it is fit for man or beast. After all, if it was good enough for Sargent York in World War One, it’s good enough for them.
Is it a good choice for this role, though? Study after study, both in the ballistics lab and based on real world shootout data, show the .45 is not statistically better than any other common self-defense round (9mm, .40 S&W, 10mm, .357 Magnum, etc.). Is it reasonable to expect it to stop a bear or lion charge? (We call ’em lions around these parts given male mountain lions can rival their female African cousins in size.) Then there are the bears–griz in particular.
Mature bears weigh anywhere from 150 pounds to over 1000 based on species and geographical location. These are big beasts, and ornery, too. While not bullet proof, bears can take enormous punishment and still live long enough to end you. Handguns, in general, are poor tools for stopping a bear charge. The proper device is a big-bore dangerous game rifle chambered in .375H&H, on up. Yet, numerous people still carry .45s in bear country. Are they on solid ground or delusional?
To help answer this question is firearms expert and YouTube celebrity, Paul Harrell. As our readers know, we like Paul’s videos. They are well produced, entertaining, and enlightening. Paul puts America’s Cartridge to the test. While it’s not perhaps the most scientific, it does shed some light on what is realistic to expect from a .45 ACP when used against a large, well-built critter such as a bear.