Nosler .45 ACP 230-Grain
JHP Match Ammo
A while back, through the good offices of editor Jeff, I got some Nosler 230-grain JHP Match ammo for testing with the new SIG P227 .45 ACP. In 25-yard accuracy testing, the pistol was delivering +/- 2-inch groups, which were perfectly adequate, but then the Nosler stuff trumped everything with two tight doubles connected by one more shot. All five bullet holes were 0.80-inch apart center-to-center, and the best three of those would have hit a .45 casing nose-on, as they measured 0.40-inch center-to-center. Intrigued, I ordered more of this ammo.
Because I’d been testing the SIG, I hand-cycled the first round into the chamber. This was to check for “4+1 syndrome,” in which the first round goes somewhere other than where the mechanically-cycled rounds print. Needless to say, that P227 had no 4+1 to it. In fact, I liked it so much that I purchased it. But now, testing the ammo, I began each string with one round at adjacent steel targets. Now, all shots would cycle the same way to better insulate the ammo we were testing from vagaries of the pistols. Shooting was done handheld from a Caldwell Matrix rest on a concrete bench at 25 yards.
Measurements were taken to the nearest 0.05-inch for all 5-shot groups, and a second measurement of each group measured the best three hits. This seems to factor out unnoticed human error and approximate what the same combination would do for all five shots from a machine rest. Called flyers were disqualified. Shooters included firearms instructor and ex-SWAT cop Steve Denney and myself.
SIG: An all-stainless P220 ST placed a quintet of Noslers in 1.30 inches. I suspect unnoticed human error here, because the other four hits were in 0.60-inch. You see why I do that “best three” measurement, which in this case was 0.40-inch.
There’s fire at the muzzle as Mas shoots the Nosler .45 ACP
from the bench over the Shooting Chrony.
1911’s: For a custom target pistol I chose my best “pin gun,” the Colt Government custom-built by D.R. Middlebrooks of Virginia, which had extended sight radius due to its highly effective JetComp recoil compensator. It kept all five Noslers under an inch, at 0.95-inch, and the best three in 0.60-inch. “Factory custom” 1911’s were tried in the two most popular barrel lengths. A Legend-series Springfield Armory TGO-II with 5-inch barrel had a 5-shot group of 2.90 inches, due to one shot (not the first) that I suspect was unnoticed human error because the other four were just under an inch, with the best three in 0.95-inch. A Signature Model Ed Brown Custom with a 4.25-inch barrel put five of the Noslers into 1.30 inches, and the best three in 0.70-inch.
Representing the sub-$1,000 price margin 1911s was Springfield Armory’s Range Officer with a 5-inch barrel. It pumped five of the Noslers into 1.25 inches, the best three in 0.80-inch.
Polymer pistols: The oft-quoted standard for “acceptable service pistol accuracy” is five shots in 4.0 inches at 25 yards, presumably from a machine rest. A bonestock Gen4 Glock 21 printed five hand-fired Nosler 230’s into 2.15 inches, with the best three in 1-inch even. The compact version, a Gen3 Glock 30 with 3.8-inch barrel, went 2.05 inches for all five shots, with a best three of 1.20 inches. A midsize (4-inch barrel) Smith & Wesson Military & Police grouped five hits in 2.95 inches, but the tightest trio in 0.85-inch.
The group that started the idea of this article was 5 shots in 0.80 inch
center-to-center at 25 yards from the SIG P227, our April cover gun.
Upper and lower holes are tight doubles.
Accuracy was impressive at 25 yards from a 4.25-inch
barreled Ed Brown Commander-size 1911 .45.
Revolver: A moon-clipped quintet of Nosler Match loads went through a factory-condition S&W Model 25-2 with a 1950 Target-marked barrel, with all five holes exactly 1.5 inches apart center-to-center. The best three formed a group of 0.70-inch.
Velocity: Nosler specs this load for a muzzle velocity of 830 fps, presumably from a 5-inch barrel. It showed consistency worthy of its name with a spread from a low of 810.9 fps to a high of 818.2, averaging 813.3 from the 4.4-inch barrel of a SIG. The 4-inch M&P ran 813.9. From a 5-inch 1911, average velocity was 841.8 fps on the Shooting Chrony.
Would this ammo be good enough to cure “sick guns” of poor accuracy? Only partially, it turned out. We rounded up three .45’s whose owners had noticed subpar accuracy: a work-in-progress Colt Combat Commander, a 5-inch Colt Government with badly worn barrel, and a SIG with an aftermarket barrel that didn’t live up to expectations. With 230-grain Nosler Match, we got 3.15 inches for five and 1.35 inches for best three; 3.65 inches (5) and 1.55 inches (3); and 2.60 inches (5) and 1.20 inches (3) respectively. Better than what they did with factory ball, for sure, but Nosler still couldn’t turn pistols of mediocre accuracy into precision tack-drivers.
One of the better 25-yard, 5-shot groups was delivered from Nosler and a
1911 Springfield Range Officer. The upper left hole is a tight double.
Nosler Match Grade 230-grain JHP .45 ACP delivered superb
accuracy from a wide variety of pistols and revolvers.
Purpose: The 185-grain loads are generally a tad more accurate than 230-grainers in many (but not all) .45 ACP’s. I’ve shot more than one state or county police championship match where the department-issue pistol had to be used, and fixed-sight .45 autos are generally sighted for standard pressure 230-grain rounds like this. Nosler makes it tacitly clear that this particular ammo isn’t designed for expansion and duty use: it’s built for accuracy, pure and simple.
Value: Nosler’s suggested retail is $55 per box of 50. That sounds high, but in perspective, it’s just a little higher than my local Walmart is charging for 50 rounds of Winchester Silvertip .40 S&W carry loads. Nosler Match ammo ain’t cheap, but when pride and performance are on the line, it’s worth the money. It’s what I want in my gun—at least at the 25-yard line and farther—the next time I have to use my department-issue .45 in competition. In fact, I’m thinking of taking some 230-grain Nosler Match and the Springfield Range Officer to a certain Police Service Pistol match…
By Massad Ayoob
P.O. Box 671
Bend, OR 97709
3840 East Robinson Rd.
Amherst, NY 14228