Ammo Test: Barnes TAC-XP .45 ACP +P

As you can see, expansion was picture perfect, even when fired through four layers of fabric.

As you can see, expansion was picture perfect, even when fired through four layers of fabric.

Barnes has offered pretty amazing projectiles to other ammunition manufacturers and reloaders for some time. More recently, they’ve launched their own line of loaded self-defense handgun ammunition. Available in .380 ACP, 9mm +P, .40 S&W, .45 ACP +P and .357 Magnum, we’re going to be trying out most of them over the next couple of months. To start, we’re going to take a close look at the .45 ACP offering.

The Great GunsAmerica Ammo AdventureThe self-defense ammo line made and marketed by Barnes is distinctive as it uses the famous Barnes TAC-XP bullets. These all copper projectiles feature a giant hollow cavity up front. The hollow-point cavities are huge, like cereal bowls. I ate some Lucky Charms out of one of the .45 ACP bullets, but I wouldn’t recommend it as it makes the milk taste like old pennies.

There’s a good reason for the solid copper design, however. Weight retention during expansion becomes a non-issue as there is no jacket to shed from the inner core. In fact, there is no inner core – it’s just one solid hunk of metal shaped like a bullet. Unless the projectile hits something really, really hard and literally breaks, the post-fired projectile will weigh exactly the same as the pre-fired version. The other benefit is that the solid material design helps when bullets have to pass through tough barriers like auto glass. They’ll fly straighter and perform more consistently.

This particular load uses the 185-grain TAC-XP projectile. You’ll also notice the projectiles are black instead of the shiny copper color. That’s because they’re coated with black nickel. It looks cool, but also provides a slightly slicker surface for improved feeding.


I tested accuracy and velocity with a Springfield Armory 1911 TRP.

I tested accuracy and velocity with a Springfield Armory 1911 TRP.

I tested the .45 ACP TAC-XP rounds in three different 45 pistols – a Springfield Armory 1911 TRP government model, a Springfield Armory XD-S and an FNX 45 Tactical. In other words, a variety of platforms consisting of small, a little large and humungous. You might think that the cavernous hollow point that presents an optical illusion of being larger than .45 inches might cause feeding issues. On these three guns, it didn’t. Nor have I had feeding problems with other ammunition loads that make use of the TAC-XP projectiles.


Barnes is persnickety about the consistency of their projectiles, as I’ve noticed from previous accuracy tests, so I figured the rest of the loading components would be equally fussed over.

I set up a Shooting Chrony Beta Master Chronograph 15 feet downrange and proceeded to shoot to measure velocity. Doing ten-shot strings, I found velocity consistency to be amazing, about the best I’ve ever seen. Here’s a representative string:

Barnes TAC-XP 45 ACP velocity

The rated velocity printed on the box is 1,000 feet per second, so you might say the claim is dead on as I measured an overall average of 1,005.9 feet per second. I obtained these velocity numbers from a Springfield Armory 1911 TRP. It’s the full-size government model with a 5-inch barrel. As you can see from the raw numbers, velocities were very consistent, with an extreme spread of just 10 feet per second. Accordingly, the standard deviation, or measure of “closeness” to the mean of all shots, worked out to 3.63. Wow.


Knowing full well that accuracy is a function of ammo, gun, and shooter, I decided to shoot some groups to see what kind of results I could get using the Springfield Armory 1911 TRP. The TRP is a higher end production gun and has proven itself accurate over the couple of years.

Considering my not-so-hot eyesight, 25-yard accuracy was excellent.

Considering my not-so-hot eyesight, 25-yard accuracy was excellent.

With that said, I shot a number of 5-shot groups from a sandbag rest at 25 yards. For some, I used open sights and others I used the Crimson Trace Lasergrips installed on this gun to obtain a decently precise sight picture at that distance. 5-shot groups consistently came in at just over two inches. Looking at best three shots within those groups, to factor out some of the eyesight and trigger finger human error, I observed groups measuring just over one inch.

Shootin’ the Jello

I know something about how reliably these TAC-XP projectiles work as I’ve shot them in other makes of ammunition, so I went ahead and totally skipped the bare gelatin test. If you shoot 1,000 rounds into bare gelatin, every single one will expand into a perfect marketing photo opportunity.

Permanent wound cavities were, umm, dramatic.

Permanent wound cavities were, umm, dramatic.

I shot through the standard FBI heavy cloth that consists of four different types of fabric sewn together to simulate clothing layers. Results were impressive. Every single projectile expanded perfectly after passing through four layers of fabric into 16-inch long Clear Ballistics gelatin blocks. I put a second black behind the first and am glad I did, as all shots exited the back of the 16-inch block. Every single shot barely entered the second block, so penetration was between 16 and 17 inches for all projectiles. That’s about as close to perfect as you can get.

All projectiles penetrated the first block and lodged just barely into the second.

All projectiles penetrated the first block and lodged just barely into the second.

Part of the reason we’re doing this series looking at different type of ammo in depth is because, as the Barnes people say, “The bullet is what delivers your intentions to the target.” If you’re going to invest time and money in your gun, training and practice time, don’t forget to pay equal attention to what is arguably the most important part – the ammunition you carry.

About the author: Tom McHale Literary assault dude writing guns & shooting books and articles. Personal accountability rocks!

{ 7 comments… add one }
  • Fozzy September 25, 2016, 10:55 pm

    Just picked up a S&W M&P .45 Shield, looking forward to seeing how these cycle through it, as it only has a 3 inch bbl.

  • Eric May 26, 2015, 5:35 pm

    How was the performance out of the XD-S? I’ve got a Glock 36 and I’d love to hear details on the velocity, expansion, penetration and the recoil of these +P rounds from a sub-compact platform.

  • rabrooks May 26, 2015, 12:50 pm

    In 45+P…. Why for the extra wear-n-tear, I don’t see much gain over standard offerings. I still haven’t seen much that can out-do Win Rangers/PDX-1’s or Rem’s Golden Saber’s. The samples pictured, look like what I got when testing Bitterroot Valley XD’s when the jacket stays on…..
    I’m not a hater. I love their 223 62gr offerings. Solid copper/alloy is a fantastic development. Seems that the “mix” can “tuned” to specific performance measures.

  • DRAINO May 23, 2015, 7:06 pm

    Agreed. Good article. Would like to see how they shoot through tilted autoglass before going into that jello. But overall good review…..good product from a great company that isn’t feeding the socialist monster. Love Barnes! Looking forward to the 9mm, 38, 357 and 40 cal reviews.

    You may ask yourself (But then again, you may not )…..Why does this guy, DRAINO, make everything a political issue?…..Because we have WAY TOO much to loose by not being politically active/aware/involved. Get with the program, My American Brothers and Sisters! Or you are part of the problem.

  • Will Drider May 19, 2015, 9:20 pm

    A good review. I’ll pick some up and see how they feed in my 1911s. My eyes were better 30 years ago but it really doesn’t help the review to negate accuracy results with physical limits, lack of firearm familiarity and shot cherry picking. The use of a Ransom type rest would clear the fog. The chrono shows great shot to shot consistancy so the gun and shooter are the variables. Well written and fine photos.

    • Fields_mj January 1, 2017, 6:12 pm

      I will disagree with your first comment. It’s a good fluff piece, a good sales article, but that’s where it ends. The author selected a great sampling of firearms to test with, but then fails to provide any weapon specific results from his testing other than the TRP. If ammo won’t shoot well, or performed as advertised out of a higher end full size 1911, its pure crap. Also, I’m sorry but dropping your worse 2 shots from the group is also hog wash. If you shoot a 3 shot group and stop, then fine. If you shoot 5 shots, and call a shot that you know you pulled, then fine. If you have to drop 40% of your group to have something to brag about, then you’re not really bragging much. That’s not to say that this ammo doesn’t shoot well. It’s just to say that the Author completely fails to be able to substantiate the accuracy in any way shape or form out of the one pistol that he continually references in the article (TRP).

      How did the ammo perform out of the shorter barrels? We all need to shoot our carry ammo options to test for accuracy out of our own carry guns, but not everyone has a chronograph to tell how much velocity is lost when you give up 2″ of barrel length. Drop your velocity into the 850 fps range and most 45 cal hollow points have difficulty expanding and penetrating. Even fewer people have access to any kind of ballistic ordinance to test these things first hand. A good article would have given at least some information for accuracy, speed, and terminal performance relative to each weapon tested. An “in depth” review of the ammo would have had all the detailed information for each weapon so that the reader could formulate their own opinion. That would have been an article worth reading, especially since there’s so little information out there related to 45 ACP performance out of a 3″ barrel. I agree with the authors assessment of shooting bare gelatin, but the same analogy holds true when testing any caliber in a “full size” format, especially when you’re talking about a 45 ACP and a 5″ barrel. I love my 1911s, but of the 3 models listed, the TRP is the absolute LEAST representative of what someone is likely to carry for personal defense. The article would have been more relavent if the author had ONLY had the XDs.

      • Jim June 10, 2017, 5:01 am

        Thankfully, there are other websites and tests done with different guns/barrel lengths.
        I don’t think the author has an editor. There are errors in spelling, grammar, and missed words. All of the pertinent information is rarely included in any one of the tests. I appreciate the effort but like you said we need to know at least the barrel length used for the gel tests, the actual expansion and penetration numbers, distance from gel block etc etc. In this article, he says the gun make and model for velocity and accuracy testing but if there’s something indicating that the same gun was used for the gel testing I missed it.
        All that time, resources and effort to deliver so little information…it’s a shame but I still appreciate it (unless he’s getting compensated, then it’s just a waste).

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