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Gold Medal .45 ACP Ammo

The Gold Medal brand edged out Winchester and Remington in a head-to-head test of factory 185-grain target ammunition.

We recently tested three lots of .45 ACP semi-wadcutter 185-grain target loads from Federal, Remington, and Winchester.

The NRA Pistol Bullseye competitor who doesn’t reload must shoot factory .45 ACP ammo, which means the shooter must lot-test rounds in his semiauto gun—an expensive proposition when you must buy several brands and lots to find what your gun likes. We recently tested three lots of .45 ACP semi-wadcutter 185-grain target loads from the major manufacturers in a variety of guns, trying to find a brand and lot that shot well across the board. In our opinion, we were successful.

Though there’s no guarantee your guns will like what our guns preferred—Federal semi-wadcutters—we believe good ammo tends to shoot well in most guns, and bad ammo doesn’t shoot well in any. We got the best results with Federal Gold Medal 185-grain FMJ-SWC Match GM45B Lot No. 380130Y251. By shooting the best in three different .45s, it was a clear winner over Remington’s 185-grain Metal Case Wadcutter Match R45AP1 Lot No. C08SB5601 and Winchester Super-Match 185-grain Full Metal Case X45AWCP Lot No. 07KF10 96.

We believe some lots of ammo are simply better than others, and they will tend to perform well in many different firearms. Still, all three brands shot 10-ring groups. The NRA 50-yard B-6 bullseye target has a 1.6-inch X ring, a 3.3-inch 10 ring, and a 5.5-inch 9 ring. All three of our test ammunitions produced 10-ring accuracy overall.

Based on the data we collected, picking the Federal lot was a no-brainer. What will be interesting to us will be how Gold Medal Match Lot No. 380130Y251 fares in additional comparisons we plan to run as updates. Because of the expense of this ammo, we plan to revisit this category often and continue to test currently shipping lots. If you buy our recommended ammo lots, we would like to know how they performed in your guns—so we can get as broad a cross section of gun/ammo combinations as possible.

How We Tested
Our test guns were a Colt Series 80 Combat Target Model ($768), a Briley Versatility carry conversion, ($850), and a Colt Series 70 Gold Cup National Match ($937). We used a Ransom Pistol Rest with windage base mounted on a 24-inch-square plywood base that was 1.4 inches thick. This platform was C-clamped to a 1-inch-thick steel sheet attached to a steel pipe concreted in the ground. We shot all our test groups outdoors at 25 yards. We fired 10 five-shot groups to collect our accuracy data, spotting the rounds with a Nikon 20- to 60-power Field Spotting Scope. Using a Parker-Hale cleaning rod and jag, we cleaned the guns with Pro-Shot lead and powder solvent between lots and then fouled each gun before shooting the next test lot. We measured all the groups to the nearest tenth of an inch using a Neal Jones benchrest-scoring device. To collect the 10-shot chronograph data, we used an Oehler Research 35P chronograph.

The Results
Federal’s Gold Medal 185-grain FMJ-SWC Match GM45B Lot No. 380130Y251 ammo has a flat-based bullet with a 1.165-inch OAL and a taper crimp. This was very clean ammunition. We noticed only minor firstround feeding problems in the new guns, all of which needed a little breaking in and a lighter recoil spring for the less powerful target loads. The Federal Gold Medal shot the best in the Colt National Match, shooting a tight 1.32-inch average over 10 five-shot groups. The best group we shot measured 0.81 inches, and the worst group was 1.71 inches.It opened up slightly in the Briley Versatility .45 ACP semiauto with a 1.66-inch average. In the Versatility, our best group measured 1.23 inches, and our worst group climbed to 2.13 inches. In the Colt Combat Target .45 ACP, it didn’t do as well, notching 1.89-inch groups on average, a best group of 1.10 inches, and a worst group of 2.52 inches.

Our test lot of Winchester’s Super-Match 185-grain Full Metal Case X45AWCP Lot No. 07KF10 96 measured 1.155 inches in overall length. Its bullets had a very slight hollow-based bullet and taper crimp. The SuperMatch shot the best in the Colt National Match, shooting a 1.45-inch average over 10 five-shot groups. The best group we shot measured 0.93 inches. The worst group was 1.98 inches. In the Briley Versatility semiauto, the Winchester ammunition shot nearly as well as the Federal fodder, recording a 1.70-inch average. The Winchester’s best Versatility group measured 0.87 inches, and its worst group climbed to 2.32 inches. In the Colt Combat Target .45 ACP, it didn’t do as well, notching 2.13-inch groups on average, a best group of 1.17 inches, and a worst group of 2.80 inches.

Remington High Velocity 185-grain Metal Case Wadcutter Match R45AP1 Lot No. C08SB5601 also uses a flat-based bullet taper-crimped into the case. The round’s overall length measured 1.165 inches. This was the cleanest-shooting ammunition in our test, we thought. The High Velocity shot consistently across our test-gun trio, varying only 0.16 inch in group average over the set. By a narrow margin, it did the best in the Colt National Match, shooting a 1.74-inch average over 10 five-shot groups. The best National Match group we shot measured 1.06 inches. The worst group was 2.97 inches. In the Briley Versatility semiauto, the Winchester ammunition shot nearly as well as the Federal fodder, recording a 1.78inch average. The Winchester’s best Versatility group measured 1.31 inches, and its worst group climbed to 2.43 inches. In the Colt Combat Target .45 ACP, it produced 1.90-inch groups on average, a best group of 1.51 inches, and a worst group of 2.47 inches.

Performance Shooter Recommends
In this test, Federal Gold Medal 185-grain FMJ-SWC Match GM45B Lot No. 380130Y251 ammo clearly outshot the other brands. Also, in the retail sources we checked, it tended to sell for about $1 less a box than the Winchester (around $17) and $2 to $3 less than the Remington. We recognize, however, that those prices don’t necessarily hold in every store.

Remington’s 185-grain Metal Case Wadcutter Match R45AP1 Lot No. C08SB5601 and the Winchester Super-Match 185-grain Full Metal Case X45AWCP Lot No. 07KF10 96 both shot 10-ring-size groups, so we can’t say they didn’t perform to our satisfaction. However, with these guns, these lots just didn’t do as well as the Federal Gold Medal Match Lot No. 380130Y251. If we were buying competition ammunition today, we would shop around for the Federal, and pass on the other two.

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