Why Choose A High Quality .45 Gun?
You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig. As a gunsmith, I’m often given low-quality products with the request to “fix it on the cheap”. Many of these handguns are returned to working order with just a clean and a lube.
Unfortunately, more often than not, fixing the larger problems cost more than the purchase price of a new handgun. While you shouldn’t put yourself in debt for a new pistol, firearms are a certainly a buy once cry once scenario.
When I first obtained my concealed handgun license, I purchased an H&K USP-C in .45 ACP. I Initially lamented over the expensive pistol and gawked at the $50-60 magazines. I considered that to be a large chunk of change for a self-defense tool!
The day I hit the range with that gun for the first time was absolutely delightful. My friend and I ran over 500 rounds of hand loads and factory rounds through the gun without a single hiccup or jam. Gongs were gonged, paddles were smacked, bowling pins were annihilated. It was a blast, and to this day remains one of my most memorable shooting experiences.
How To Choose?
My first question for a potential handgun buyer is always, what will the pistol be used for? Different tools do different jobs. A handgun used for competitive target shooting might not be the best choice for a daily concealed carry pistol.
The feel of a handgun is important and extremely personal. While it can be tempting to choose the gun with the most features for the money, it is important to like the way it feels. If the gun doesn’t feel comfortable or intuitive, it can destroy your enthusiasm for practice. Fortunately, many gun ranges offer rental services so customers can try it before they buy it!
After a real live test, I found many shooters end up choosing a different handgun than they thought they would. It is also crucial to note that a comfortable handgun for a male might not translate as well to female hands. This is particularly the case of the .45 ACP. Since the pistol has a double stacked magazine, it can create a grip frame that is far too large and unwieldy for smaller hands.
Make a list of what features are important to you and ones you can live without. This can be tricky as you argue with your inner logic about whether you really need a handgun with a suppressor-ready threaded barrel, or that slick looking competition magazine well.
Practical features to consider are the top priorities. These include night sights, magazine capacity, how the safety is engaged, and overall weight and length. A heavier steel framed pistol will soak up more recoil than a polymer framed gun, making it more pleasant for longer sessions. A light polymer frame might be more appropriate for slipping into your waist for all day concealed carry.
Aftermarket support, the ability to upgrade and customize, and choice of accessories can make or break a gun for some shooters. Overall, a more popular handgun like the 1911 style pistols will often have an enormous selection of off-brand magazines, holsters, illuminated sights or even aftermarket match grade barrels.
Often times, your pistol comes with a sub-par holster or one that doesn’t fit your carry style. When researching a potential handgun, definitely spend a few minutes checking holster availability. If you don’t, you could get stuck with a handgun that requires an expensive custom holster. Ask me how I know!
Also check our picks of best range bags for your pistol to make your trips to shooting range more convenient!
Finally, establishing a budget for your purchase is vital. For many folks, it’s a top priority. While your budget is important, I recommend giving yourself some wiggle room. That goes double for a first time purchase.
In the long run, it’s beneficial to save up and purchase the handgun that fulfills all your needs. If not, you may resent the purchase you settled for. Also, keep in mind the secondary and tertiary expenses that inevitably come with the purchase. These include extra magazines, ammunition, and must have accessories.
Top .45 Caliber Pistol Brands
Springfield Armory is a name synonymous with quality. This company has a variable product line ranging from their famous M1A battle rifle to the compact striker-fired XD series handguns.
For years, Springfield has been best known for their incredible line of 1911 pistols. Boasting 11 different models in .45 ACP alone, Springfield Armory has set an incredibly high bar for other manufacturers of 1911 style handguns to match.
In 2001, Springfield introduced the XD series of handguns for their own piece of the striker-fired pie. In 2007, XDM was brought to market and further cemented Springfield as a serious contender in the polymer framed handgun market.
This series was strengthened even further by the addition of a single stack frame (which hold 6 rounds in .45) and an exposed hammer XD-E. In 2019, Springfield Armory created a small pocket .380 ACP dubbed the 911 series. It was marketed to female shooters looking for a self-defense weapon.
If you’re looking for control, Springfield Armory offers a full custom shop for both their 1911 and XD series handguns. The service list includes installation of a variety of sights, a plethora of finish options, and performance enhancements like a competition trigger job.
Any of the standard models are a great place to start. I have bought two of their Range Officers in .45 ACP. I gave one to my wife and one to my father. They are regular shooters and were both blown away by the quality and tight fit of the pistol.
Sig Sauer is a company at the head of innovation! Not to mention they boast a wide range of products used by military and law enforcement. While Sig Sauer does offer a small range of tactical rifles and carbines, they are mostly known for their wide range of handguns. For every need, Sig Sauer has a gun.
The manufacturer offers three original models as well as a wide gamut of 1911 models. However, the original line of pistols remains the most popular. These are models P220, P227, and the new P320. The US Army recently adopted this as the M17 in 9mm.
The long-lived P220 from 1975 is the company’s flagship single stack .45 ACP. On the other hand, the P227 is a wider gripped double-stacked handgun. Both models are well known for their accurate DA/SA trigger and external decockers.
The P320 is a full-sized striker-fired pistol available in most calibers as a modular change caliber style pistol. The P320 replaced the aging Beretta M9 and has been well received by the Army. They report the handgun being easy to train and qualify with.
Sig Sauer also offers what they call their Legion Series. These guns are made from their standard models but include upgrades to the coating, grips, sites, and magazines. Purchasing a Legion Series product also grants membership benefits such as special access to gear, merchandise, and signature case and coin.
To top it all off, the manufacturer offers a training academy with courses in armorer, competition shooting, tactical shooting, and more! The model numbers are a bit of a mess to keep straight in your mind, but Sig Sauer is a great brand to look at.
Heckler and Koch
A manufacturer that needs no introduction is Heckler and Koch, commonly referred to as HK. This German company is the most famous for perhaps the most popular sub-machine gun ever made: the MP5. However, the HK name is also steeped in rich handgun history with models like the retired fixed barrel P7, the workhorse USP, and the daunting special operations MK23.
HK offers three different pistols in .45 ACP, and each model is available as a standard full-size, compact, or tactical (includes a threaded barrel and raised sights). These are the USP, HK45, and the MK23.
The USP is HK’s flagship model. It features an accurate polygonal rifled barrel, SA/DA trigger, and external hammer decocker. The HK45 is a newer model and was built to replace the Beretta M9. Most shooters agree the differences between the USP and HK45 are negligible and really come down to ergonomics.
The MK23 is a novel handgun. It was originally designed to be an offensive handgun and is most popular for use by special operators. This pistol is huge. You won’t really believe me until you hold one, and believe me when I say it will take both hands! However, most civilian shooters will find just as much utility in a more practically sized USP Tactical.
A list of top firearm manufacturers wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Glock. Glock handguns are the original polymer framed striker-fired pistol on which so many other handguns are based. The real beauty of the design is its simplicity. Additionally, they are reliable. The handguns work whenever you need them to in almost any condition.
These handguns are available in most common calibers with three models specifically for .45 ACP. The primary differences between these models are frame variations with a subcompact, full-size, competition, and slimline models.
Glock guns have gained popularity particularly as handguns that are easier to shoot in high-stress situations. They accomplish this by doing away with a traditional thumb safety and relying on a safety built into the trigger blade.
This manufacturer’s handgun has become a favorite among police and military for its reliability and simplicity. The pistols are so popular that an almost cult-like aftermarket community exists. They tend to specialize in offering mind-boggling holster and magazine choices!
Glock’s models have gone through a few changes over the years, and these are often referred to as “generations”. It is extremely important to research the differences between the generations because they aren’t usually apparent. I would also recommend trying a couple in your hands first. Some folks, including myself, don’t find the grip angle to be comfortable.
One Last Word About the .45 Pistol
Whether you need a full-sized pistol for work on the range or a handgun that’s easily concealed, the choices are almost endless. The .45 ACP cartridge has captured the hearts of many shooters as they feel the 230-grain bullet snap out of the barrel for the first time.
This list is by no means comprehensive, and there are many pistols I would have loved to include. A few are the M&P 45, Ruger SR45, or Beretta PX4 Storm. Do diligent research, but don’t get too caught up in comparing guns on paper. The feel and fit should have the most influence over the final decision.
Many shooters choose to carry full-sized handguns as their concealed carry tool because it works for them! If you’re not sure what works for you, just reach out to gun shops or other gun owners in your area. I have never met a shooter who wasn’t thrilled to be asked about their gun. In fact, they will almost always allow you to shoot a magazine or two through it to “see what you think”.