.45 Colt Vs .357 Magnum [Which Ammo Is Better?]

The .45 Colt and .357 Magnum are classic cartridges with distinct histories and applications. The .45 Colt, rooted in the Wild West, offers versatility across various shooting disciplines. In contrast, the .357 magnum, born for increased power, gained popularity among law enforcement, self-defense, and hunting enthusiasts. This article explores their differences and uses, helping you choose the correct cartridge for your
shooting needs.

.45 Colt

The .45 Colt cartridge, also known as the .45 Long Colt, is a venerable and iconic ammunition type with a rich history. Developed in the late 1800s for use in Colt’s Single Action Army revolver, it symbolizes the American West.

This powerful-rimmed cartridge, known for its distinctive, large, and heavy bullets, has found its place in cowboy action shooting, hunting, and even self-defense applications. Its enduring popularity can be attributed to its versatility and timeless appeal, making it a beloved choice among firearms enthusiasts.

.357 magnum

The .357 Magnum cartridge is a legendary and versatile ammunition round that has left an indelible mark on the firearms world since its introduction in the 1930s. Renowned for its exceptional power and versatility, the .357 magnum is a rimmed, centerfire cartridge known for its ability to deliver potent performance in handguns and lever-action rifles.

Its high velocity and substantial stopping power have made it popular among law enforcement, hunters, and sport shooters. The .357 magnum’s enduring reputation as a reliable and effective round cements its status as a classic in ammunition.

.45 Colt Vs .357 Magnum – Key Differences

A few key differences exist between the .45 Colt and the .357 Magnum. The .45 Colt is a much older cartridge. The .357 magnum, on the other hand, was created in 1934. The .45 Colt is a larger cartridge, measuring 11.43x33mm compared to the .357 magnum’s 9x33mm.

The .45 Colt also has a significantly lower muzzle velocity, with a maximum of about 1,200 feet per second compared to the .357 magnum’s 1,500 feet per second. Finally, the .45 Colt has a much higher bullet weight, with a typical load being around 225 grains, compared to the .357 magnum’s 158-grain bag.

There are also many differences:


The ballistics of the .45 Colt and .357 Magnum cartridges exhibit notable differences, impacting their velocity, energy, and overall performance. Let’s examine these distinctions in more detail:

.45 Colt:

  • Velocity: This magnum is generally loaded at moderate speeds, mainly using traditional black powder loads. However, modern loads can vary significantly in terms of acceleration. Standard loads tend to have rates of 750 to 1,000 feet per second (fps), while hotter loads can exceed 1,200 fps.
  • Energy: Due to its larger bullet size and slower velocities, the .45 Colt produces substantial power. Depending on the specific load, energy levels typically range from 450 to 1200 foot pounds (ft-lbf).
  • Trajectory: The trajectory of the .45 Colt tends to be more pronounced due to its heavier bullet and comparatively slower velocity. It can result in slightly more pronounced bullet drops at longer distances.
  • Stopping Power: It’s more significant; heavier bullets contribute to its potential for excellent stopping power and penetration. It suits it for self-defense and hunting scenarios, especially with modern, high-performance ammunition.

.357 Magnum:

  • Velocity: The .357 magnum is known for its high speed, a defining characteristic of this cartridge. Standard loads can achieve 1,200 to 1,600 fps and even higher in some specialized loads.
  • Energy: Its combination of high velocity and bullet weight results in impressive energy levels. Power typically ranges from 500 to 800 ft-lbf or more, depending on the load.
  • Trajectory: This Magnum generally exhibits a flatter trajectory than the .45 Colt, thanks to its lighter bullets and higher velocities. This flatter trajectory can be advantageous for accuracy at longer distances.
  • Stopping Power: Its high velocity and energy contribute to its renowned stopping power. It offers excellent performance for self-defense and is also popular among hunters due to its effective expansion and penetration of game animals.

Performance Difference Based On Barrel Length

The barrel length of a gun can have an influential impact on the performance of the weapon. The .45 Colt and .357 Magnum are popular handgun cartridges with different barrel lengths. It is a large caliber handgun cartridge. It is a rimmed, straight-walled cartridge that is generally used in revolvers.

The standard barrel length for a .45 Colt is 5 inches, although some revolvers may have barrels as short as 3 inches or as long as 8 inches. The .357 magnum is a medium-bore handgun cartridge. It is a rimless, bottlenecked cartridge that is generally used in revolvers.

The standard barrel length for a .357 magnum is 4 inches, although some revolvers may have barrels as short as 2 inches or as long as 6 inches. The longer the barrel length, the more velocity and accuracy the cartridge will have.The faster the barrel length, the more concealable the weapon will be.

Therefore, it is essential to consider the barrel length when selecting a handgun cartridge.


The .45 Colt is a large caliber revolver cartridge developed 1873 for the Colt Single Action Army revolver. It is a rimmed, straight-walled, centerfire cartridge still widely used for hunting and target shooting.

The .357 magnum is a shorter, more powerful version of the .38 Special developed in 1935. It is a rimmed, tapered, centerfire cartridge popular for self-defense and hunting.

Both calibers are available in various handguns and revolvers, making them popular for many shooters. Both cartridges offer excellent accuracy and stopping power.

Typical Magazine Capacity Of The Rifles That Utilizes Them

Both cartridges are widely used for self-defense, hunting, and target shooting. Regarding magazine capacity, the .45 Colt has a higher ability than the .357 magnum.

The .45 Colt can typically hold between 6 and 8 rounds, while the .357 Magnum carries between 5 and 7 rounds.

The larger size of the .45 Colt allows more rounds to fit in the magazine. However, the .357 magnum is more potent than the .45 Colt and maybe a better choice for those who need more stopping power.

Recoil Management

Both cartridges are renowned for their power and accuracy but have different recoil characteristics. Understanding how to manage the recoil of each cartridge is essential for accurate shooting.

For the .45 Colt, the key to managing recoil is ensuring that the shooter is adequately braced. It has many muzzle flips, so keeping the gun firmly in the shooter’s hand is essential. A firm grip and a proper stance will help reduce the amount of muzzle flip and allow for better accuracy.

On the other hand,

The .357 magnum has a much higher muzzle velocity than the .45 Colt and, as such, has a much more significant amount of recoil. To manage the recoil, the shooter must use a two-handed grip.

The shooter should also use a stance that allows the shooter to absorb the recoil and maintain control of the gun. A firm grip and proper perspective will help reduce the muzzle flip amount and allow for more accurate shooting.

Is The .45 Colt More Accurate Than The .357 Magnum At Long Range?

No, the .45 Colt is not more accurate than the .357 magnum at long range. The .357 magnum is a much more powerful round with a longer effective content than the .45 Colt. The .357 magnum is also accurate due to its flatter trajectory and higher velocity. The .45 Colt is more suitable for close-range shooting, while the .357 magnum is better suited for longer-range shooting.

Final Words

The .45 Colt and .357 Magnum are the most popular handgun cartridges today. Both are powerful and accurate and can be used for self-defense, hunting, or target shooting. While the .45 Colt is slightly more powerful, the .357 magnum is more versatile and can be used in a broader range of firearms. Ultimately, choosing which cartridge to use is a matter of personal preference.

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