If there’s a popular cartridge subject to consistent and largely unwarranted derision it’s the .45 ACP. Naysayers claim it’s too heavy, too slow, and lacks in penetration. Fans cite its long history and feel its weight and diameter more than make up for it being slower. Of course, there’s the .45 Super, Dean Grennell’s creation, but it isn’t technically the same.
Whether you’re a fan of the .45 ACP or not there are quite a few semi-automatic handguns chambered for the round that are worth a closer look (you might be surprised what you end up enjoying). Here’s a look at a few possibilities along with shiny manufacturer images rather than the battered, dirty guns residing in my safe.
The Smith & Wesson M&P45 Shield was launched back in 2016 at the NRA Annual Meeting in Louisville, Kentucky. Although it’s a larger-bore pistol, the dimensions remain fairly close to those of its smaller Shield relatives. The barrel is 3.3-inches long, overall length is 6.45-inches, and it has an empty weight of 20.5 ounces.
It has a 6 +1 capacity with the flush magazine and a 7 +1 capacity with the extended magazine. Yes, it’s a single-stack .45 ACP pistol, and it fulfills a particular niche for concealed carriers.
At the ranges the concealable .45 Shield carry pistol is designed for, it’s an accurate gun especially considering its barrel length. Firing from the bench at 25 yards using Creedmoor .45 ACP 230 grain FMJs it had an average five-shot group of 1.87 inches. Using American Eagle Syntech .45 ACP 230 grain FMJs the average group size was 2.38 inches.
The pistol has aggressive texturing on the grip – aggressive beyond my personal preferences, but at least it ensures a firm grip even if your hands are wet or sweaty – and is a well-balanced gun. It’s a reliable pistol and has cycled a variety of range and defense ammunition without failures. Oh, and it’s compact enough to easily conceal.
So here’s the thing about Remington pistols: the one model to truly win me over has been the R1 10mm Hunter, a gun modeled closely after the PARA LS Elite Hunter. You should be able to trust your carry gun – and your hunting handgun – so any gun you consider should be capable of hard use. Preferably capable of hard, dirty use.
As a result I’m quite specific about this selection: not the single-stack R1, the double-stack. And not the Limited, the Enhanced.
I’ve run all of the Remington handguns from recent years – yes, really – and when it comes to .45 ACP this is the Big Green pistol I’d suggest. If you don’t want a Remington gun, scroll on by.
The Remington R1 Enhanced Double-Stack chambered in .45 ACP has a skeletonized trigger with a crisp, clean break and short rest and has a measured trigger pull weight of 3 pounds, 8 ounces.
Shooting the single action only 1911 from the bench at 25 yards, it consistently delivered five-shot groups with an average of two inches with a wide variety of ammo. Firing off-hand at ten yards it nailed five-shot, one-inch groups (there were also some half-inch groups in there). Yes, it’s an accurate gun.
I’ve also taken it hunting – a lot – and it’s kept cycling even when grimy with dirt and mud. I’ve dropped hogs of varying weights with it, but no, .45 ACP is not a hunting round I recommend.
My favorite thing about this handgun is its capacity. It holds 15 +1 rounds and manages to only be fractionally wider than its single-stack counterpart. Yes, it’s a heavier gun to carry, but I’ve had it since before it launched and it’s proven itself as a very solid pistol. As I said, I’m picky regarding which handguns I recommend, so make sure you specifically choose the R1 Enhanced Double-Stack.
Although I have a few Rugers – okay, more than a few – the classic SR1911 chambered in .45 ACP wasn’t one I’d spent a lot of time shooting until a couple years ago. Sure, I ran the SR1911 in 9mm and 10mm, but not .45 ACP. So the first time one was handed to me during a shoothouse exercise, I figured it would be reliable, as SR1911s tend to be, but I didn’t expect to want one. And now, here I am.
The Ruger SR1911 in .45 ACP is a single-stack, just as John Browning intended and is also a Series 70. Since it’s a Government model it has a five-inch barrel. If you’re thinking you can’t conceal a full-size 1911, guess again. It has a height of 5.45-inches, a 1.34-inch width, and an overall length of 8.67-inches. The gun’s empty weight is 39 ounces and it can be used for open carry or concealed carry.
On the range and in classes this gun consistently nails targets precisely. In fact, it has beat out most .45 ACPs I’ve reviewed, run, or owned. Best five-shot group from the bench at 25 yards using Sinterfire Greenline .45 ACP 155 grain HPs – which are frangibles – was 1.76-inches.
The SR1911 consistently rings steel at 50 yards and even hammers steel Frankenstein targets at 100 yards (some of my favorite Ruger memories). Granted, you won’t be using a .45 ACP at 100 yards for self-defense, but it’s fun.
A sub-$1000 1911 that’s reliable and accurate? Yes, please. The Ruger SR1911 delivers in ways many 1911s of the same price point do not. No, it isn’t perfect; for example, the bushing fitment isn’t as precise as higher-priced 1911s. But it outperforms its price point. It’s just a good gun, end of story.
Because it’s both a 1911 and has polymer parts, I was interested in this one long before it finally entered production. No, I don’t particularly care about old politics. The guys at RRA are doing their jobs designing pistols, not playing politics, and it’s the guns I care about.
Say what you want (and I’m sure you will). I’ll always fight for our Second Amendment rights…logically and rationally.
The Rock River Armory polymer frame 1911 had to be included here because it’s an interesting gun based on a slightly different concept. Yes, it’s reliable. It eats everything from Hornady Critical Defense 185 grain FTX to SIG Elite V-Crown 230 grain JHP to Inceptor 118 grain ARX.
It weighs in at thirty-two ounces, empty, making it a little lighter than its counterparts, but still solid. Part of the weight is due to its steel frame insert which is designed for the slide to cycle on. In fact, the safety, hammer, and sear pins are all mounted to the steel insert.
It ships with black-on-black Bomar-style sights. Some shooters prefer tritium night sights on their handguns but black sights are fine, even at night. I would go so far as saying the use of black sights is a valuable skill to hone. Regardless of your sight preference the Rock River Arms Polymer 1911 is a 1911 worth a closer look.
This is a Government 1911 (although there’s a Commander model in the works). That means the usual five-inch barrel – this one is chrome moly with a 1:16 LH twist – and a 7 +1 magazine capacity. It has a skeletonized trigger with a clean break, short reset, and a measured pull weight of three pounds, seven ounces.
So, range time. Firing from the bench at 25 yards five-shot groups hover around two inches, depending on the ammo. In addition, I’ve run the Bill Drill and MAG-40 quals with this pistol and it’s performed well. The RRA Poly 1911 also nails timed six-shot drills on eight-inch steel plates – that trigger runs nicely.
This gun is well worth a mention in a .45 ACP roundup. Why? Well, the polymer edge makes it interesting and it cycles reliably, the latter feature not all 1911s can do. It performs as expected for its price point and fulfills a particular niche.
TL,DR: All of these guns reside in my home and have had not dozens, not hundreds, but thousands of rounds through them. And while it isn’t my preferred chambering for self-defense – or hunting – .45 ACP definitely has uses. In the realm of newer .45 ACPs these guns have proven themselves to be very reliable and accurate. YMMV.