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Your Guide to .45 caliber

The Alien Gear Guide To .45 Caliber

Decided to go up to a big bore with a .45 pistol? Excellent idea! Many, many people before you have done the same and rejoiced in their smart decision making. Not that other calibers like 9mm or .40 S&W are less worthy (at least that's what we tell people who carry them!) but .45 ACP pistols are their own breed.

For those desiring a bigger round, a .45 is definitely one of the best routes to the bigger bores. You get a bigger bullet but without nearly as much in terms of recoil - or for that matter, expense - as other big-bore handguns. In a lot of respects, it's ideal for personal defense and that has kept it one of the most popular rounds for that purpose for more than a century.

the .45 caliber round

Here's what you need to know about .45 ACP and all the wonderful guns that fire it.

Origins Of The .45 Caliber

While the first .45 caliber pistol was probably some no-name muzzleloader, the first of the modern .45 caliber rounds was the .45 Colt, a.k.a .45 Long Colt, introduced in 1872. Originally a blackpowder round developed for use in the Colt Single Action Army revolver. In it's day, .45 Colt was a very popular round with military personnel, law enforcement and civilians alike due to being one of the most powerful available.

the colt black powder round ffor revolvers

However, by the dawn of the 20th Century, the semi-auto was first coming into being. The US Army famously requested a semi-auto in .45 caliber. John Moses Browning, then a Colt employee, rechambered the Model 1900 to accept a bullet with a diameter of .451", and set about creating a casing that would work in a semi-auto as .45 Colt case length (at nearly 1.3 inches) is just too big.

Case length was shortened to 0.89 inches, and the bullet was seated over smokeless powder instead of black - which was cutting-edge at the time.

Pressure in the chamber of a firearm

Chamber pressure increased from the rather pedestrian 14,000 PSI of the .45 Colt to about 20,000 PSI and velocity decreased from about 1000 feet per second to around 830 fps for a 230-grain jacketed bullet. However, it met Army standards and the round was designated .45 Automatic Colt Pistol or .45 ACP.

It was first offered commercially in the Colt Model 1905, but what made the round famous was - of course - the M1911, which would remain the standard issue sidearm to America's armed forces for more than 70 years. The .45 ACP's performance established it as a very capable round for personal defense.

What Makes A .45 Caliber Pistol Good For Self-Defense?

What makes a .45 caliber pistol good for self-defense is a combination of factors.

First, the standard bullet (230 grains) is rather large. While it doesn't travel at fast speeds, it carries a bit of a wallop at nearly 500 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle, hitting harder than the smaller non-magnum rounds. This gives very good penetration, especially with full metal jacket ammunition.

entry and exit wounds by caliber size

The bullet poking bigger holes in things and doing so more reliably made it a very good pistol round on the battlefield.

The .45 caliber round really came into its own once quality hollowpoints starting becoming available. With the heavier mass and larger size of the .45 ACP compared to other rounds, the hydraulic shock of the impact causes .45 ACP hollowpoints to mushroom beautifully well. While poor quality hollowpoints don't work well regardless of caliber, good quality .45 JHP rounds can mushroom to almost an inch in diameter for some rounds, many expanding to .75 to .8 inches inside the target.

The slower velocity of .45 ACP compared to 9mm and other rounds complements the ballistic performance, allowing a .45 ACP of good construction to come to a stop a bit more quickly, reducing the risk of over penetration, or at least that's what most ballistic gelatin tests (including those conducted by the FBI in the late 80's) indicate.

In other words, good initial penetration and good expansion, but less over penetration. Combined with moderate recoil for size and relative low cost (compared to 9mm it's expensive; compared to .44 Special it's a bargain) make the .45 ACP one of the best self-defense rounds available.

Initial penetration of a bullet

Picking A .45 Handgun

Selecting a 45 handgun for home defense or for daily carry (or both!) is the devil's own job, because there are a LOT to choose from. While 9x19mm is certainly the dominant pistol caliber of the day, a great deal of pistols offered in that chambering are also offered in .45 ACP.

You name it, it's out there. You have a huge amount of choice. Single- or double-stack magazines, poly strikers or double-actions, single-action autos and even a snubbie revolver or two.

There are tactical pistols ready for suppressors and deployment with SWAT teams or military units. There are sub-compacts perfectly suited for concealed carry, and many a concealed carry .45 is bought by the gun-toting public.

What sort are you looking for? It's really all up to you.

Compacts and subcompacts are the most popular for concealed carry, and there are plenty of concealed carry .45 pistols out there, ranging from Officer and Commander frame 1911s, to poly striker pistols of varying sizes, compact double/single actions, even a few Double Action Only semi-autos.

snubbie revolver in .45 caliber

There's also at least one snubbie revolver chambered for .45 ACP, the Charter Arms Pitbull. The Pitbull series - which is also offered in 9mm and .40 S&W - has a special cylinder and ejector that allow for rimless cases to be used without needing moon clips, which would otherwise be necessary.

As to full-size .45 pistols, the shopper would be likewise spoiled for choice. It's really all up to the person buying.

As far as compacts go, there are plenty that are known for being easier to shoot than you might think. However, a subcompact .45 is not necessarily a great beginner's gun, as the recoil can be substantial.

The heavier a bullet is fired, the greater the recoil will be as recoil is a function of Newton's Third Law. (For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.) However, it can be mitigated in a few ways. Sheer mass and bore axis are two aspects of gun design that can mitigate recoil; felt recoil diminishes as a heavier pistol moves less under recoil, and a lower bore axis reduces muzzle flip, which produces torque on the wrists.

A smaller, lighter pistol firing a heavier round will therefore kick a bit more. Subcompact .45 pistols can therefore produce a bit more kick than some people are used to. However, .45 ACP is far from a magnum round; a compact firing this round is far easier to tame than, say, a .454 Casull revolver.

A List Of .45 Pistol Models

Here is a list of popular and/or well-known .45 pistol models by various manufacturers. If you're looking to shop for a .45 ACP handgun, this is where you start.

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Beretta PX4 Storm .45 ACP
A double-action semi-auto with a polymer frame and carry-friendly contoured slide, is available in .45 ACP, with a 4.1-inch barrel and 10+1 double-stack capacity. Though some CCW a Storm, it's firmly a service pistol.

the beretta px4 storm

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Bersa Thunder Pro Ultra Compact
Bersa makes more than just the Thunder .380 PPK clone; they also make a double-action compact in .45 ACP, the Thunder Pro Ultra Compact. While a bit chunky (1.5 inches wide) it's still small enough in terms of length, width and weight to be a viable carry pistol. In the .45 ACP chambering, it holds 7+1 rounds. Controls are reminiscent of H&K, with a frame-mounted decocking safety. While rare in stores, it's worth a look.

the bersa thunder .45 pro ultra compact

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Charter Arms Pitbull
The Pitbull series by Charter Arms uses a special cylinder ejector which allows the revolver to fire rimless cartridges such as .45 ACP. Though available in 9mm and .40 S&W, the Pit Bull in .45 ACP is every bit the equal of the infamous Bulldog in .44 Special...except you can actually find ammunition for it.

the charter arms pitbull in .45 caliber
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Colt M1917
The Colt M1917 was a stop-gap gun, a service revolver chambered in .45 ACP so the army didn't have to issue a different cartridge before sufficient M1911 pistols were available around World War I. Moon clips are/were required. While these guns will be very old, the chamber pressure of .45 ACP is low enough to ensure that they'll still be working if well cared for. A solid nightstand gun or collectible.

the colt m1917

Colt 1911
The first M1911 was a Colt, and it's still their dominant handgun offering. The current base model is the 1991 Series, a GI-spec Government frame.

the colt m1911

Colt Series 70
The Series 70 was a tuned-up M1911A1, with the curved backstrap being retained but with an accurizer for the barrel: a collette bushing that allowed the barrel to float. They're still being made today, a testament to the design.

the colt series 70

Colt Commander
The original Commander frame, with barrel length reduced to 4.25 inches and the dust cover trimmed back to accommodate...but still holding 7+1.

the colt commander

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Colt Defender
Colt's Officer frame 1911.

colt defender in 45 acp

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Colt Gold Cup and Competition
Two classes of competition 1911 are offered by Colt, the Competition models and then the Gold Cup, the match grade variant.

Colt Gold Cup Trophy edition

Colt Rail Gun, M45A1 and Combat Unit Rail Gun
Government frames with a half-railed dust cover. The base model is the Rail Gun, the Combat Unit Rail Gun is the match-grade varient and the M45A1 is the civilian version of the Close Quarter Battle Pistol, the Colt 1911 issued to select units of the United States Marine Corps.

colt combat rail gun

Colt Combat Elite and Special Combat Government
These pistols are optimized Government frames, replete with National Match barrels, extended beavertail safeties, Commander hammers and Novak sights. The Special Combat Government has even more bells and whistles and comes from Colt's Custom Shop though with a price to match. The Combat Elite is the entry level model in this series.

colt xse combat elite

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CZ 97B
The venerable CZ 75B platform redesigned for the .45 ACP cartridge with a full-length railed dustcover. Not a concealed carry gun, but a whole lot of firepower for sure.

.45 caliber cz97b
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Dan Wesson 1911s
Dan Wesson, a handgun company started by the grandson of the Daniel Wesson that started Smith and Wesson, started turning out high-end 1911s in the late 1990s. Currently owned by CZ, Dan Wesson offers custom-quality 1911 pistols at less than custom shop prices. A great many options are available, from near GI Spec models to competition guns and a number of carry models as well. You'll pay for the quality, but not as much as you might from more famous names.

dan wesson 1911

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FN's double-action platform in .45 ACP, holding 10 to 15 rounds, depending on the magazine. Definitely not a concealed carry gun, but a fantastic service pistol. Excellent as a home defense gun.

fnx 45 standard

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FNH FNX 45 Tactical
The same as above, but with the addition of a threaded barrel for use with a suppressor.

fnh fnx 45 tactical with threaded barrel

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Glock 21
Glock's large-frame full-size in .45 ACP, carrying up to 13 rounds in a double-stack magazine. This is the favored Glock of police departments issuing duty guns in .45. Definitely a service gun, though somewhat slimmer than many other double-stack service pistols on this list.

Glock 21 in 45 caliber

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Glock 30
The Glock 30 is the compact .45 ACP double-stack Glock. Very popular for concealed carry, the Glock 30 also has a "slim" model (the Glock 30S) that's even further optimized for concealment. It holds 10 in the normal magazine, but can use Glock 21 magazines for an additional 3 rounds.

Glock 30 .45 caliber

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Glock 36
A single stack take on the 30, the Glock 36 has the same height and barrel length, but is reduced from 1.26 inches in width to 1.1 inches. Capacity is reduced to 6+1. However, the 36 is a very popular CCW pistol in .45 ACP.


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Glock 41
A competition variant of the 21, with a 5.3-inch barrel and and longer slide to match. It can be had in MOS configuration, ready for deployment with red dot optics.

glock 41 in .45 caliber

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Heckler and Koch HK45
HK's double-action platform pistol chambered in .45 ACP. It's similar conceptually to the FNX 45, with a polymer frame and frame-mounted controls. Definitely a service gun with a 4.4-inch barrel and 10 round capacity.

H&K's HK45

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Heckler and Koch HK45 Compact
A compact variant optimized for easier carry. Though large for a compact, standing 7.2 inches long, 1.4 inches wide and 5.1 inches tall and weighing in at 25 ounces unloaded, the HK45 Compact is small enough to be a daily carry for some.

H&K's HK45 Compact

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Heckler and Koch HK45 Tactical and HK45C Tactical with night sights and threaded barrels being added.

Tactical version of the HK45 in .45 caliber
Full Size
Tactical version of the HK45 Compact in .45 caliber

Heckler & Koch Mark 23
The Mark 23 is basically the hammer of Thor. 12+1 rounds of .45 ACP in a double-action platform, though with a 5.87-inch threaded barrel ready for use with a suppressor. This is a tactical pistol par excellence, used worldwide by special forces and tactical police units.

HK Mark 23, Gun of Thor

Keckler and Koch USP 45
The USP is a budget-friendlier take on the HK series (which has made them popular with law enforcement) with H&K's double-action mechanism. There are fewer overall refinements, but it's still an outstanding pistol. That said, the USP45 is slightly narrower (1.26 inches vs 1.54 inches for the HK series) and holds 2 additional rounds. Getting upward of $300 shaved off the bottom line is also a bonus. Just like the HK45, the USP45 comes in compact and tactical variants. The USP Compact 45 is a very capable CCW pistol.

H&K USP in .45 caliber
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High Point JHP
It's a High Point, in .45 ACP. It will shoot, no doubt about that, and you can even get it in camo or with a laser. But...High Point.

High Point JHP in .45 caliber

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Iver Johnson 1911s
Iver Johnson, formerly a large domestic producer of handguns in the early 20th century, was resurrected some time ago and offers 1911 pistols manufactured in the Philippines. Good shooters, and a lot of choices in terms of options for very reasonable prices including all frame sizes and optional extras.

Iver Johnson 1911's in .45 caliber

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Les Baer 1911s
Les Baer is a 1911 custom shop, turning out some of the finest examples of the breed available. Government and Commander frames are both available, but like other high-end 1911 shops, Baer pistols are a Rolls Royce amid the Hondas and Fords. If you can afford the price of admission, you get a bespoke, custom-made work of functional art.

Les Baer custom 1911 in .45 caliber

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Kahr CM45
Kahr offers "Value" and "Premium" versions of various sizes of pistol. However, some things are completely common to all of them. Kahr pistols have single-stack magazines, double-action only triggers, polymer frames and that's about it. Everything you need, nothing you don't. The CM45 is the value subcompact in .45 ACP, with a 3.24-inch barrel and 5+1 capacity. Not the most widely-known .45 subcompact, but certainly not one to overlook.

Kahr CM45 in .45 caliber

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Kahr PM45
The "Premium" variant of the CM45, with upgraded slide, frame, barrel and sights. Barrel length, capacity, and all other aspects remain the same, though there's about a $400 premium in MSRP.

Kahr PM45 in 45 caliber

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Kahr CW45
Kahr's value compact. Barrel length goes up to 3.64 inches and capacity to 6+1.

Khar CW45 in 45 caliber

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Kahr P45
The premium counterpart to the CW45, but with a slightly shorter barrel at 3.54 inches.

Kahr P45 in 45 caliber

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Kahr CT45 and TP45
Kahr's full-size .45 pistols. Both have 4.04-inch barrels and carry 7+1, though the TP45 - being the premium edition - comes with the refined features.

Kahr CT45 .45 Caliber
Kahr TP45 in .45 Caliber

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Kimber 1911s
Kimber is one of the largest makers of 1911 platform pistols, offering Government, Commander and Officer frame pistols. Though other calibers are available - 9mm is quite common, and they have the odd .38 Super and 10mm - the .45 ACP is the dominant chambering. There some variations in Kimber's nomenclature, but for the most part there are three variations of any product line.

Kimber Eclipse 1911 in .45 caliber

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Kimber Ultra
The Kimber Ultra is the Officer frame, with a 3-inch barrel and a grip shortened to 4.75 inches instead of the typical 5.5 inches, though carrying capacity is 7+1. The trim package is up to you, but all trim levels get Kimber's refinements such as beavertail grip safeties and upgraded sights compared to most other 1911 producers.

Kimber Ultra Carry Onyx Edition in .45 caliber

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Kimber Pro
Kimber's Commander frame, with a 4-inch barrel. Again, trim package is at the buyer's discretion but Kimber's refinements are available on all. Capacity remains at 7+1.

Kimber Pro Series in .45 caliber

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Kimber Custom and ther models
Kimber Custom and other designations are the Government frame, with a 5-inch barrel and 5.5-inch height and the classic 7+1 carrying capacity. What you want in terms of features is the buyer's choice. These are widely held to be some of the best 1911s you can get at the price point.

Kimber Custom in .45 caliber

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Magnum Research Baby Desert Eagle
The Baby Desert Eagle, a service pistol developed in Israel from the CZ-75 platform (actually from the Tanfoglio Witness, itself a '75 clone) is offered in .45 ACP in full-size and compact guise. The new edition, the Baby Desert Eagle III, has a Beretta-style decocking safety mounted on the slide. Choose a 4.43-inch or 3.85-inch barrel; capacity is 10+1 for either.

Magnum Research Baby Desert Eagle in .45 caliber

Magnum Research Desert Eagle 1911
MR does 1911s? You bet they do, and a number of different models including all three frame sizes. However, they do come well-appointed, so don't necessarily look askance at them. You get a lot of features for the asking price.

Magnum Research Desert Eagle 1911 in .45

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Metro Arms Corporation 1911s
Metro Arms Corporation is located in the Phillipines, and imported to the United States by Eagle Arms, the same guys who import Bersa among other brands. MAC also makes 1911 pistols under the American Classic and Llama names as well.

MAC pistols are the better finished examples, though are mostly target pistols with the exception of the MAC 1911 Bobcut, a bobcut Commander frame. American Classic and Llama pistols range from refined to utilitarian, with Commander and Officer frames available in the American Classic product lineup.

Some models lack refinements, though all are considered solid shooters at reasonable price points.

Metro Arms Corp. 1911's in .45 caliber

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Nighthawk Custom 1911
Nighthawk Custom is a 1911 custom shop, turning out some incredible custom pistols second to none. Officer, Commander and Government frames are all available, with many different trim levels and features available. Price of admission is steep, but so are the quality standards.

Nighthawk Custom 1911 in .45 Caliber

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Para Ordnance USA
Para Ordnance specializes in the 1911 platform, with some incredible innovations on the theme. Light double-action triggers and double-stack models were both made by Para. They have Officer frames up to double-stack Government models. Unfortunately, Para has entered something of a holding pattern. The brand was bought by Remington and is allegedly being totally absorbed by Big Green, so nothing new has appeared from them in some time.

Para Ordnance 1911 in .45 caliber

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Rock Island Armory 1911s
Rock Island Armory 1911s, made by Armscor (who also make 1911 pistols for Taylor's Tactical, Citadel and a few other brands) in the Phillipines, are widely though of as THE budget import 1911 to get. Some models may lack polish, but they aren't beatable in terms of value for money. What you can get depends on what you're willing to spend, but there are Officer, Commander and Government frames ranging from GI Spec to tactically optimized to the gills.

Rock Island 1911 in .45 caliber

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Remington 1911 R1 Series
Remington made a limited run of 1911 pistols around World War I, and partly to commemorate that (but mostly to get themselves back in the handgun game) Big Green came out with the R1 1911 back in the early 2000s. The line has since expanded, but the base model R1 is one of the best budget 1911 pistols available. Other models have come out since then, including Commander frames (R1 Commander, Carry Commander and Enhanced Commander models) and heavily-tuned and upgraded Government frames.

Remington R1 1911 in .45 caliber

MSRP starts at $774, but almost all can be had in-store for drastically less.

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Remington RP45
Remington's RP9 poly-striker pistol is due to be joined by a .45 ACP version, the RP45. While still in development at the time of this writing, it's set to hit store shelves sometime in the near future.

Remington RP45 in .45 caliber
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Ruger 1911s
Even Ruger has gotten into the 1911 game, though theirs are generally held to be of high quality. Commander and Government frames are available.

Ruger SR1911 in .45 caliber

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RUGER SR1911 5"
RUGER SR1911CMD 4.25"

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Ruger P90
The Ruger P series of semi-automatic handguns was rolling out of the Ruger factory from the 1980s to the early 2000s, during which time the P90 was offered in .45 ACP. The P90 is a double-single action with a frame-mounted decocking safety, holding 7 or 8 rounds depending on the magazine. While it went out of production in 2010, Ruger's build quality is second to none and used examples are perfectly viable nightstand guns.

Ruger P90 in .45 caliber

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Ruger SR45
Ruger's SR series of poly-framed striker-fired pistols got the big bore treatment. While a bit big for concealed carry, it isn't completely impossible. Though 5.75 inches tall and 8 inches long, it's only 1.27 inches wide and weighs 30 ounces unloaded. That's the same size - though less weight - as a Government frame 1911, which a lot of people carry daily, though it holds 10+1 instead of 7+1. You can get it with or without manual safeties.

Ruger SR45 in .45 caliber

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Ruger American and Ruger American Compact
Ruger decided to improve on the SR series with the Ruger American series, which is available in .45 ACP. The American is likewise a poly striker pistol, with exchangeable backstraps and a more aggressive rail. Capacity is 10+1 in either configuration, despite the Compact being shorter in height and length. Like the SR45, the Ruger American Compact or full-size can be had with or without a manual safety.

Ruger American in .45 caliber
Ruger American Compact in .4 caliber

Ruger Redhawk and Blackhawk Convertible Revolvers
The Ruger Redhawk and Blackhawk revolvers are both available with convertible cylinders that allow the shooter to load .45 ACP with moon clips, which the cylinder is machined to accept. Both are large-frame revolvers, so concealed carry is out. Both are also fully rated to accept "Ruger handloads" of .45 Colt, so shooting even the stoutest of .45 ACP +P loads will be no sweat.

Ruger Redhawk revolver in .45 caliber
Ruger Redhawk
Ruger Blackhawk revolver in .45 caliber
Ruger Blackhawk
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Sig Sauer P220
Sig Sauer's first duty pistol and the beginning of the legendary Sig Sauer operating system. Double/single action with a decocker only, keeping the pistol combat ready with the safety of the double-action trigger pull. Used by military and police forces worldwide, it's tough to improve on the P220. It holds 8+1 of .45 ACP, with either a 4.4- or 3.9-inch barrel length. Though a service pistol in every sense, the Carry models - with a 3.9-inch barrel - could be carried...if you have a strong gun belt and a good holster. However, you won't be able to afford a good belt or holster because the P220 starts at $1087 MSRP.

Sig P220 in .45 caliber

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Sig Sauer P227
Literally a Sig P220 with a double-stack magazine, holding 10+1 instead of 8+1. The only difference is the full-size version is 2 ounces heavier. Even the MSRP is the same. The same gun, but 2 more rounds for the same money. It's up to you which you prefer.

Sig P227 in .45 caliber

Sig 1911
Never ones to miss out, Sig Sauer also offers a line of 1911 pistols, though they are noted for having slides machined to mimic the slides on their other pistols, requiring specific Sig 1911 holsters. That said, Sig 1911s are widely considered some of the best factory 1911s available. Government frames abound, along with Commander frames in their Compact and Carry lines, and the Ultra Compact Officer frames. Expect the Sig premium, but quality to match.

Sig 1911 in .45 caliber

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Springfield Armory XD
The full-size model in Springfield's XD line of poly-striker guns is offered in .45 ACP, with a double-stack magazine holding 13+1. Barrel length is 4 inches, length is 7.3 inches and height is 5.75 inches, putting it clearly in service pistol territory. Unlike make other striker guns, the XD series has a grip safety for an extra failsafe. However, it's a very popular model and at $530 MSRP, is definitely a worthy model for consideration.

Springfield XD in .45 caliber

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Springfield Armory XD Mod 2
The Mod 2, an improved version of the XD with textured grips, upgraded sights and ergonomic enhancements, is available in .45 ACP in the 3.3-inch subcompact, 4-inch service model and the 5-inch tactical model. The former is the CCW gun, the latter two are...well, service and tactical pistols. The subcompact holds 9+1, but accepts the 13+1 round magazines of the 4-inch and 5-inch model. Like the XD, just with attention to more details.

Springfield XD Mod.2 Subcompact in .45 caliber

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Springfield Armory XD(M)
The XD(M) is the XD series with all the bells and whistles. Match-grade barrel, upgraded sights and better appointments than the XD or Mod 2 series. The 3.8-inch compact, 4.5-inch full-size with threaded or normal barrel, and the 5.25-inch Competition pistol all come in .45 ACP. Capacity is the same - 9 for the compact, 13 for the others - and MSRP rises a bit to match the appointments (the compact lists at $659 MSRP) but like leather seats and sat nav making a car a bit better to be in, the upgrades are worth it.

Springfield XDM in .45 caliber

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Springfield Armory XD-S
The single-stack range of XD pistols. Both the 3.3-inch and 4-inch barrel models are available in .45 ACP. With the bigger round, capacity is 5+1 or 6+1, depending on the magazine. Don't let the slim proportions and light weight put you off; the XD-S is very easy to shoot even with a larger caliber.

Springfield XDs in .45 caliber

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Springfield Armory 1911 Pistols
Springfield has been in the 1911 business since the 1980s, and theirs are some of the best in terms of the bang you get for your buck. However, what sort of buck you want to spend determines what you'll get. The Mil-Spec model - an excellent GI spec Gov't frame - is the entry level gun. It all goes up from there.

Springfield Armory 1911 in .45 caliber

The Range Officer series has a bit to offer anyone, with upgraded sights and features but not priced to the stratosphere. Government, Commander and CCO frames - an Officer frame but Commander barrel and slide - are all available, as are railed models as well.

The railed Loaded models and TRP series are the top of the range, though Springfield also has a custom shop (Les Baer used to work there) that does some serious work. The FBI's Hostage Rescue Team reportedly gets their 1911 pistols from the Springfield custom shop.

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Smith and Wesson M&P45
Smith and Wesson's M&P line includes the M&P45, the slightly bigger brother to the highly-regarded M&P9 and M&P40. Barrel length in the full-size platform is 4 or 4.6-inches, depending on the model. Capacity is 10+1, and numerous features are available from the factory such as ambidextrous manual safeties . A serious pistol that's deployed across the country in law enforcement, concealment isn't necessarily a breeze but you could trust your life to it without issue.

S&W M&P .45 caliber

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S&W M&P45C
The compact variant, likewise a little bigger than the 9 and .40 compacts. Barrel length remains at 4 inches, and capacity is reduced to 8+1, but the same wealth of factory options remains the same, including Crimson Trace lasers, manual safeties and so on. A touch on the larger size for a CCW pistol - roughly the size of a Commander frame - but small enough to work well in the role.

S&W M&P 45 Compact in .45 caliber

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S&W Shield 45
The big-bore Shield, like the Compact, is slightly larger than the base model, with a 3.5-inch barrel compared to the base model's 3-inch. It's slightly taller and slightly wider, but is still a slim, single-stack compact perfect for concealed carry. It's widely acknowledged as one of the better compact striker-fired .45s, so definitely don't overlook it if seeking a compact big gun.

S&W M&P Shield .45 caliber

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SW1911 Series
Smith and Wesson's Performance Center turns out a series of 1911s, which are quietly held as some of the best for the price range. You can choose Government, Commander or Officer frame lengths. Though not fully custom guns like some the Performance Center is capable of, they have all the bells and whistles and are incredible shooters. Some believe it's criminal how little attention the SW1911 series gets. Granted, you'll pay for the quality but will also get your money's worth.

SW1911 .45 caliber

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S&W Governor
Smith and Wesson's answer to the Taurus Judge, it's a .45 Colt/.410 Gauge revolver, though S&W machine the cylinder to take .45 ACP with moon clips. You could conceal it if you don't mind a boat anchor on your belt.

S&W Governor in .45 caliber

S&W Model 625 and Thunder Ranch Model 325
The Model 625 is an N-frame (that's S&W's large frame size) in .45 ACP, holding 6. Currently, one model is a PC model and the other is the Jerry Miculek signature model. A tactical model, the Thunder Ranch Model 325, is also available. Be prepared to shell out, but a large revolver shooting .45 ACP will still be shooting when you will it to your grandchildren.

S&W Model 625 in .45 caliber
S&W Model 625
S&W Thunder Ranch 325 .45 claiber
S&W Thunder Ranch 325

S&W M1917 and Model 22
Smith and Wesson made M1917 pistols as well for the US military, and even offered a civilian edition, the Model 22. Both are N-frames, like the 625. The Model 22 is a bit better appointed, with target rear sights, and a larger cylinder lug. Otherwise, blue steel and walnut is your lot - though that's hardly keeping bad company, as both are classy and classic big bores. Moon clips are a must or you can try to find .45 Auto Rim (emphasis on try) but there are plenty of both around. The Model 22 wasn't phased out until 2007, so some fresher examples are available of that model.

S&W Model 22 Thunder Ranch in .45 caliber
S&W Model 22
S&W M1917 in .45 caliber
S&W M1917
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STI 1911 and 2011
STI is another 1911 custom shop, though their claim to fame is the 2011, a double-stack 1911 system. Every possible need is catered to - home defense, everyday carry, tactical and sport shooters; almost anyone can find an STI to fit their needs. However, fitting the budget is another matter...but this is a custom shop. Anyone can buy a Mercedes at a dealership, but you have to order a Bentley. An STI is the latter.

STI 1911 .45 caliber
STI 1911
STI 2011 .45 caliber
STI 2011

Check our "Search by Gun" page under 1911 to find your STI 1911 holster!

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EAA Tanfoglio Witness
The Tanfoglio Witness is arguably the most famous CZ-75 clone, and like CZ the breed has evolved considerably. Like the CZ it's based on, it's a double-single action with a frame mounted safety. The slide rides inside the rails for impossibly tight lockup and fantastic shooting dynamics. Like the CZ there's also a Witness for nearly anyone, with lightweight compacts for carry, full-size guns for nightstand duty, hunting handguns and competition pistols as well. Not all are, but most models are offered in .45 ACP.

EAA Tanfoglip Witness in .45 caliber

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Tanfgolio Witness 1911
Tanfoglio also offers a 1911, the aptly named Witness 1911. You can select the Steel model in...well, steel, as a 1911 is usually made...with nice appointments or, and this is where the Witness diverges from the pack, a polymer frame. Commander and Officer frames are pending on the latter.

EAA Tanfoglio Witness 1911 in 45 caliber

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Tisas 1911
A Turkish 1911. A budget import, with a few different models to choose from including a few Commander-frame models for carry. They're said to be very good, despite the lack of fanfare.

Tisas 1911-A2 in .45 caliber

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Taurus PT1911
Even Taurus is in on the 1911 action (anyone actually can make one, since the specs are public domain) with the Taurus PT 1911 series. Typical of Taurus, you get more features for less than what the premier names in the business ask - with beavertail grips, ambi safeties and Novak-style sights on the base models; even railed models are available - but they are better shooters than some gun snobs want to admit.

Taurus PT1911 in .45 caliber

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Taurus Judge and Raging Judge
Yeah, yeah, here comes the Judge...and just like the S&W Governor, they'll take .45 ACP with moon clips. The Raging Judge, which will also fire the uber-potent .454 Casull, will barely hiccup with .ACP. Perfect for practice.

The Taurus Judge in .410/.45 caliber
The Taurus Raging Judge in .410/.45 caliber
Taurus Raging Judge
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Walther PPQ .45
Walther, the famous German arms maker, finally made a .45, offering the big bore in the PPQ service pistol. It's definitely a service gun, but if you're looking at poly-striker pistols there aren't too many options better, as you get Walther's renowned ergonomics and even more renowned striker trigger, which is widely held to be the best available.

Walther PPQ in .45 caliber
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Wilson Combat 1911s
Wilson Combat is a custom 1911 maker, with everything that goes with it including prohibitive price tags. However, Wilson is also widely held as the standard by which 1911s are judged. These 1911s are handmade in Wilson's shop, with every single detail painstakingly scrutinized over. For those who love 1911s, and can afford the price of entry, there is surely a Wilson for them. All frame sizes are available, and nearly every bell or whistle you could wish for is as well. Few 1911s are said to shoot more reliably, easily or as accurately as a Wilson.

Wilsom Combat 1911 in .45 caliber

Though not everyone likes a Wilson Combat, nearly every 1911 guy out there appreciates Wilson Combat 1911 magazines. Most consider them the best available.

Check our "Search by Gun" page under Wilson to find your Wilson Combat holster!

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Sam Hoober

About The Author

Born in southeastern Washington State, Sam Hoober graduated in 2011 from Eastern Washington University. He resides in the great Inland Northwest, with his wife and child. His varied interests and hobbies include camping, fishing, hunting, and spending time at the gun range as often as possible.