What You Need to Know About the .45 ACP & the 15 Best .45 Pistols

A .45 pistol is a popular sidearm around the globe for its combination of power and mobility. In this article, we’ll detail a brief history of the .45, talk about the advantages and disadvantages of the round, and finally, give you the 15 best .45 pistols available today. Whether you’re looking for a .45 for self-defense, hunting, or just using on the range, this article will help you choose.

 

A Brief History

The .45 or .45 ACP (Auto Colt Pistol) handgun cartridge was designed in 1904 by John Browning. Browning developed the round for use in his Colt semi-automatic pistol. Following military trials, it became widely adopted as the standard Colt’s M1911 pistol.

The U.S. military first used the round in combat, during the Moro Rebellion (1899-1913) in the Philippines. The Army and Calvary were experiencing a lack of stopping power from their .38 Long Colts. So, following successful testing, they made .45 caliber the minimum requirement for all new handguns.

What separates the .45 ACP from the .9mm, is its ability to operate at a relatively low maximum chamber pressure rating of 21,000 psi. A .9mm, on the other hand, operates at 35,000 psi. This lower psi allows your weapon to use a lower bolt thrust, which helps extend its life.

 

Advantages

  • Power

A .45’s first, and arguably most significant advantage, is the round’s increased power. And it makes sense. As previously discussed, the genesis behind the creation of the .45 was a need for increased power. Any center-of-mass hit from a .45 handgun can halt an attacker.

 

  • Variety

One of the other pros to a .45 handgun is the variety of .45 ammunition available. This variety gives consumers the ability to choose an ammo type to fit almost any given scenario.

 

  • Reliability

Another primary advantage of a .45 is the reliability of the gun. The .45 round has been a staple in the U.S. and beyond, due to this reliability.

 

  • Gun Maintenance

As previously state, the .45 uses less psi than smaller caliber rounds, like the 9mm. This lower psi reduces the necessary impact of the gun’s bolt thrust, which helps extend your gun’s life.

 

Disadvantages

  • Recoil

The first downside to a .45 over a lower caliber round is the kickback from that extra power. If you’re a first-time gun owner or a smaller person, this recoil may not be optimal.

 

  • Size

Another potential con to a .45 handgun is the weapon’s size. These pistols usually are bulkier in physical size than their smaller round counterparts. This size may make your .45 challenging to conceal and carry if that’s something that’s important to you.

 

  • Price

Because .45 handguns are typically larger than smaller caliber compatible competitors, they generally cost more. The same holds true for .45 ammunition. The rounds themselves are physically larger smaller caliber rounds, and therefore typically a bit more expensive.

 

  • Ammo Capacity

Because .45 ammunition is physically bigger, .45 pistols tend to carry fewer rounds per magazine than their counterparts. So, if you want to maximize your chances of hitting your target a .45 may not be your first choice.

 

The 15 Best .45 Pistols

1. Colt – 1911 Classic

colt 1911 .45

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No proper list of top .45 handguns starts without a Colt 1911. The Colt 1911 was the first handgun designed for the .45 round. And, to this day, it remains one of the best .45 sidearms available. Colt 1911s are easy-to-use and perfect for any individual regardless of firearms experience.

The 1911’s sights are as straightforward as the rest of the weapon. Standard three white dots, two on the rear and one on the front, comprise the gun’s sights. And, at over two pounds empty, the Colt 1911 is a quality sidearm. Plus, its solid design ensures the weapon’s durability and reliability.

Specs:

  • Magazine Capacity: 7 rounds
  • Height: 5.25 inches
  • Weight: 35 ounces
  • Barrel Length: 5 inches
  • Grip: Double-Diamond Wood Grips
  • Action: Single-Action

 

2. Colt — SA Army

Colst SA Army

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The Colt Single Action Army revolver has long been another .45 standard-bearer. Also known as The Peacemaker, the Colt Single Action Army, like it’s brother the 1911, is a performance-tested .45 handgun. Plus, it’s available in multiple barrel lengths and finishes.

As a single-action revolver, you must manually cock The Peacemaker’s hammer back before it can be fired. This single-action may reduce your ability to fire multiple rounds quickly. This slower rate of fire, combined with the gun’s weight, give it reduced maneuverability.

Still, despite these nitpicks, the Colt Single Action Army is a highly accurate, powerful, and reliable revolver. And while it’s more appropriate for hunting or the range, rather than home defense, it’s certainly effective in almost all scenarios.

Specs:

  • Magazine Capacity: 6 rounds
  • Weight: 32 – 47.99 ounces
  • Barrel Length: 4.75 – 7.5 inches
  • Grip: Double Eagle Composite
  • Action: Single-Action (Duh)

 

3. Ruger — Redhawk

Ruger Redhawk

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Ruger’s Redhawk is another classic .45 revolver. The Redhawk differs from the Colt SA Army, primarily because it’s a double-action revolver. A double-action revolver is cocked when the user pulls the gun’s trigger. The trigger action rotates the cylinder and brings the chamber and its round into the axis of the barrel.

Being double-action allows Redhawk owners to both reload and fire quicker than they’d likely be able to with a single-action revolver. Additionally, this revolver is small enough to excel at both concealability and handling. With the hammer cocked, the trigger-pull clocks in around 6 lbs. 14 ounces.  Double-action mode calls for a trigger-pull of 11 lbs. 10 ounces.

Plus, the gun’s stainless-steel frame ensures its durability and reliability. These features, combined with its accuracy and power, make the Redhawk a perfect .45 handgun for self-defense.

Specs:

  • Magazine Capacity: 6 rounds
  • Weight: 44 ounces
  • Width: 1.77 inches
  • Barrel Length: 4.2 inches
  • Grip: Lasered Hardwood
  • Action: Double-Action

 

4. Ruger — SR45

Ruger SR45

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Ruger’s SR45 is a quality .45 pistol. Its design is sleek, with a slender handle perfect for those with smaller hands.  The pistol’s sights are standard, three white dots that are all dovetailed. The white front dot is larger than the two rear dots, making it easier to focus on the front sight when speed is necessary.

The SR45 has a rubberized backstrap that’s both removable and reversible. This reversible backstrap gives SR45 users a choice between a more traditional straight backstrap, or more palm swell. Its grip glass-filled nylon grip really differentiates itself from others on this list. This quality, ergonomic grip helps you handle whether on the range or out in the real world.

The SR45’s striker-fired trigger action gives it a lighter trigger pull than most of the handguns on this list. Its trigger-pull weighs in at 6 lbs. 8 ounces. This lighter pull gives the SR45 a shorter trigger stroke. A lighter trigger gives the SR45 better accuracy at the range but should be treated as a light single-action trigger during any real action.

Specs:

  • Magazine Capacity: 10 rounds
  • Height: 5.75 inches
  • Weight: 30.1 ounces
  • Width: 1.27 inches
  • Barrel Length: 4.5 inches
  • Grip: Glass-filled Nylon
  • Action: Striker-fired double-action-only

 

5. Sig Sauer — P220

Sig Sauer P220

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One of the Swiss-German conglomerate’s crown jewels is the P220. This classic .45 pistol has been popular in the states since its introduction in the 1970s. While it’s known for its looks, the P220 has gained popularity through its extreme reliability. The P220’s alloy body makes for a reliable but light gun, which improves handling, especially compared to most polymer-based weapons.

The P220’s grip is comprised of G10 material. G10 is a high-pressure thermoset plastic laminate. This composite material aims to meet the lightness of polymer with improved grip. Many users prefer G10 handles to polymer for its “grippier” feel.

Sig’s P220 trigger pull weighs in at 4 lbs. and 5 oz. when firing single-action. The Sig’s double-action clocks in around an even 10 lbs. These pull weights have given the P220 a solid reputation as an accurate sidearm with a crisp trigger. Especially when operating as a single-action only pistol.

Specs:

  • Magazine Capacity: 8 rounds
  • Height: 5.5 inches
  • Weight: 30.4 ounces
  • Width: 1.3 inches
  • Barrel Length: 4.4 inches
  • Grip: G10
  • Action: Double-Action or Single-Action Only (SAO)

 

6. Glock — G21

Glock G21

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Glock’s G21 has long been a popular .45 handgun due to its polymer body. This lighter build allows Glock to produce G21’s at a lower average cost than most alloy-built .45 pistols. So, for those on a budget, a G21 is a great choice.

Still, make no mistake, just because it’s cheaper doesn’t mean its performance suffers. The most recent Gen4 G21s added a dual recoil spring assembly to the weapon. This system helps reduce recoil and can add significant life to your gun’s springs. The G21 has a white-dot front sight and a white-outlined U-notch rear sight. The G21’s trigger-pull weighs in at a nice 5 lbs. and 5 ounces.

Glock’s G21 is known for its accuracy. And, it receives high marks for its accuracy while on the move. Most of this is owed to the gun’s combination of the dual recoil spring system and lightweight, polymer frame. The only issue some users may face is the combination of length and handle size. This combination may make it difficult for those with smaller hands to control the weapon.

  • Magazine Capacity: 13 rounds
  • Height: 5.51 inches
  • Weight: 29.28 ounces
  • Width: 1.34 inches
  • Barrel Length: 4.61 inches
  • Grip: Polymer
  • Action: Safe Action

7. Glock — G41

Glock G41

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Like the G21, the Glock G41 is a lightweight but powerful sidearm. They both share the same grip frame, interchangeable backstraps, and reversible magazine catch. But here’s where the similarities end. The primary difference between the G21 and the G41 is its size and length of the barrel. Glock’s G41 has a longer barrel than the G21 but overall is a smaller and lighter handgun.

Like the G21 and all newly built Glocks, the G41 works on a Safe Action System. The Safe Action System works to provide users with a consistent trigger pull throughout the life of your weapon. Three automatic, independently-operating mechanical safeties are built into the gun’s fire control system.

These features combine to give the G41 an even softer recoil than the G21. Plus, they serve to improve the weapon’s accuracy and reliability, especially at longer distances. As with the G21, Glock’s G41 is an excellent sidearm that mixes lightweight maneuverability with the power of a pure .45.

Specs:

  • Magazine Capacity: 13 rounds
  • Height: 5.47 inches
  • Weight: 26.81 ounces
  • Width: 1.34 inches
  • Barrel Length: 5.31 inches
  • Grip: Polymer
  • Action: Safe Action

 

8. Smith & Wesson — M&P45 Shield

Smith and Wesson M&P45 Shield

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The Smith & Wesson M&P45 Shield is another high quality, semi-auto .45 handgun. It has standard, three white dot sights. This handgun is one of the lighter weapons on this list, which makes it perfect for a concealed carry. Still, its shorter barrel may affect accuracy, especially at longer distances.

The M&P45 owes its lightness to the gun’s polymer frame. Still, the Shield feels more durable than your average polymer-based handgun due to its embedded stainless-steel chassis. Another characteristic that sets the Shield apart from other guns on this list is its trigger. Like the two Glocks, the .45 Shield features a lighter trigger that works with a striker-firing system, which makes for a quicker trigger reset.

Specs:

  • Magazine Capacity: 6 or 7 rounds
  • Height: 4.88 inches
  • Weight: 20.5 ounces
  • Width: 1.05 inches
  • Barrel Length: 3.3 inches
  • Grip: Polymer
  • Action: Striker-Fired

 

9. FN — FNX-45

FNX45

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FN’s FNX45 is a durable and customizable .45 pistol. The FNX45, like Sig’s P220, can operate as both a single-action or double-action pistol. During single-action, the FNX45 features a trigger pull between 3.96 – 5.06 pounds. At double-action, the FNX45 has a pull between 8.8 and 12.1 pounds.

This Belgian-made handgun is one of the bigger .45 handguns, especially considering its polymer frame. Its high round capacity, combined with its size, makes it an ideal fit for hunting or home defense. Still, these positives also make the FNX45 less than ideal for a concealed carry choice.

But the FNX45 is one of the best choices for consumers looking for the stopping power of a .45 handgun, but don’t want to sacrifice ammo capacity. And as with all the .45s on this list, the FNX45 is a great choice for those looking for a reliable, durable, and powerful sidearm.

Specs:

  • Magazine Capacity: 10 or 15 rounds
  • Height: 6.3 inches
  • Weight: 33.2 ounces
  • Width: 1.58 inches
  • Barrel Length: 4.5 inches
  • Grip: Polymer
  • Action: Double-Action/Single-Action

 

10. HK — HK45

HK45Photo Courtesy

The HK45 is another quality .45 handgun. It’s more expensive than your average polymer-framed pistol but makes up for it with a unique internal recoil reduction system. The internal system reduces the recoil forces to the weapon and shooter by as much as 30 percent, according to HK. This recoil reduction system gives you more control during use and can increase component service life.

Each HK45 comes with two extra, interchangeable backstraps. But the HK45’s customizability doesn’t end there. Any HK45 owner can convert their sidearm to use ten different trigger firing modes, including double-action-only. This double-action-only model uses H&K’s LEM (Law Enforcement Modification), firing system, which allows for improved double-action trigger pull.

Specs:

  • Magazine Capacity: 10 rounds
  • Height: 5.91 inches
  • Weight: 31.2 ounces
  • Width: 1.54 inches
  • Barrel Length: 4.46 inches
  • Grip: Polymer
  • Action: Double-Action/Single-Action and Double-Action Only

 

11. Taurus — Judge

Taurus Judge

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And we’re back to revolvers! The Taurus Judge is a compact .45 revolver that combines maneuverability with the stopping power you expect from a .45 handgun. But Taurus’ Judge can shoot both .410 shotshells and .45 ACP rounds. This versatility makes the Judge a perfect hunting or camping sidearm.

The revolver’s stainless-steel frame makes it one of the most durable on this list. Its red, fiber-optic front sight works together with the white, fixed back sights to give the gun a terrific sightline. Plus, its blend of stopping power and shorter, 3-inch, barrel make it an ideal fit for both home defense and a concealed carry.

Specs:

  • Magazine Capacity: 5 rounds
  • Height: 5.10 inches
  • Weight: 29 ounces
  • Width: 1.5 inches
  • Barrel Length: 3 inches
  • Grip: Rubber
  • Action: Double-Action/Single-Action

 

12. Taurus — Raging Judge 513

Taurus 513 Raging Judge

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If you like the look, feel, and versatility of the Judge, check out the Raging Judge 513. The Raging Judge 513 is very similar to the Judge. It has a stainless-steel frame and can load either .454 Casuall, .45 ACP, or .410 shotshell. Where the 513 separates itself from the standard Judge, is in its sheer size.

With a 6.5-inch barrel, weighing 73 ounces, the Raging Judge 513 is a beast of a handgun. The size of the gun, combined with higher-caliber ammunition, can make for an intense recoil Still, for experienced users, the 513’s rubber grip and patented Raging Bull backstrap help mitigate this recoil.

Specs:

  • Magazine Capacity: 6 rounds
  • Height: 6.5 inches
  • Weight: 73 ounces
  • Width: 1.9 inches
  • Barrel Length: 6.5 inches
  • Grip: Rubber with added Raging Bull backstrap
  • Action: Double-Action/Single-Action

 

13. Walther — PPQ45

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Walther’s PPQ45 is the German gun manufacturer’s first foray into the world of .45 handguns. PPQ45s, like their sister, the regular 9mm PPQ, are known for their light, striker-fired trigger. The PPQ45 requires only a light, 5.6-pound trigger pull. Still, this trigger differs from other striker-fired handguns on this list.

When you pull the PPQ45’s trigger, the trigger system releases the fully pre-loaded striker assembly, which fires the pistol. Other striker springs, such as those in Glocks, only partially load when you pull their trigger.

This light trigger is great for accuracy. But, if you’re a new gun-owner, the PPQ45s lighter trigger may be a bit of a safety concern. Another plus for the PPQ45 is the pistol’s grip. Like the 9mm PPQ, the PPQ45 is renowned for its ergonomic grip. While the PPQ45’s grip is slightly wider and longer than its 9mm counterpart, it still gets high praise for its comfort.

The PPQ45 also features standard three-dot, adjustable sights. Though these sights distinguish themselves from other guns on this list because of their low-profile, snag-free design. This design allows PPQ45 users a potentially faster draw.

Specs:

  • Magazine Capacity: 12 rounds
  • Height: 5.8 inches
  • Weight: 28.2 ounces
  • Width: 1.3 inches
  • Barrel Length: 4.25 inches
  • Grip: Polymer
  • Action: Striker-Fired

 

14. CZ-USA — CZ 97B

CZ 97B

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The CZ 97B is a well-performing and good looking .45 pistol. Thin aluminum slims the pistol’s grip and makes it easy to handle for those of all hand sizes. Similarly, its fiber optic front sight combines with its standard two-dot rear to make it an ideal fit for the range.

Still, the CZ 97B is one of the larger pistols on this list. The Czech designed gun owes its bulk to its steel frame. This heavier frame helps balance the weapon while firing. CZ 97B’s trigger in single-action averages a pull of 5.85 pounds. In double-action mode, the CZ 97B averages around 8.95 pounds.

These features combine to make the CZ 97B one of the most accurate .45 ACP handguns available. Its combination of size, accuracy, and power makes it a necessary addition to this list.

Specs:

  • Magazine Capacity: 10 rounds
  • Height: 5.9 inches
  • Weight: 41.3 ounces
  • Width: 1.4 inches
  • Barrel Length: 4.65 inches
  • Grip: Aluminum
  • Action: Double-Action/Single-Action

 

15. Springfield Armory — XD-M

XD-M

The final entry on this list is Springfield Armory’s XD-M. Its polymer frame makes the gun lightweight considering it’s 13 round magazine capacity, one of the highest limits on this list. But there are several features that make the XD-M a quality .45 handgun.

First, the XD-M comes with three interchangeable backstraps. These different backstraps allow you to make an already manageable grip, fit to your specifications. The grip also features unique stippling that makes the weapon more comfortable to handle. Plus, its fiber optic front sight helps improve accuracy and target acquisition, especially at a distance.

Like the Walther PPQ45, the XD-M’s strikers are 100-percent cocked when the slide is manipulated. This mechanism helps give the XD-M both a smooth and crisp trigger pull. In action, the XD-M is like the other .45 handguns on this list. It delivers an excellent combination of both accuracy, reliability, and power.

Specs:

  • Magazine Capacity: 13 rounds
  • Height: 5.75 inches
  • Weight: 31 ounces
  • Width: 1.2 inches
  • Barrel Length: 4.5 inches
  • Grip: Polymer
  • Action: Striker-Fired

 

To Summarize:

No matter which .45 ACP handgun you choose, from this list or another, you’re likely to get a quality sidearm. These guns give you a unique combination of quality, reliability, accuracy, and power. You can’t go wrong if you go with any of the best .45 pistols.

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