best .45 acp pistols
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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.

Smith & Wesson M&P45 Shield M2.0

best .45 acp pistols
courtesy Smith & Wesson

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.

MSRP $479.

Remington R1 Enhanced Double Stack

best .45 acp pistols
courtesy Remington

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.

MSRP $999.

Ruger SR1911

best .45 acp pistols
courtesy Ruger

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.

MSRP $939.00

Rock River Arms Polymer 1911

best .45 acp pistols
courtesy Rock River Arms

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.

MSRP $1025

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.


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  1. Feral hogs.
    There, I said it. Someone tell us again that 9mm is sufficient for personal defense.

  2. I just happen to have a few 45’s, my carry weapon is a Para Ordinance P-12, love it… My #2 fav is a Para expert long slide, both made before they sold to Remington,,, great pieces.. as far as people who say the 45 is too slow, I can tell you that I’ve never seen any one outrun one, it’s all about knock down power, I carried one in Viat Nam also, no problem…

  3. Ive tried the S&W 2.0 the FNC. And currently the PPQ-SC. All in the last 6 months.
    What gun do I carry??
    The 1911.
    No matter what the latest fantastic plastic gun out there.
    Its still to me the King of guns . The 1911 in 45apc. I keep going back too.

  4. Kat, you forgot one one of my favorite .45 ACP handguns…the S&W M625…glass smooth DA/SA and the added benefit of full-moon clips…and no slide bite.

    …and there is always the venerable Sig Sauer P-220…probably the single best .45 ACP shooter I’ve ever owned, carried or shot.

    • Were you the one shooting that 625 at the NEMLEPS shoot back in about 1985? If that was you, thanks for shooting me down a place. 🙂
      You might remember me as the one shooting a 6″ Python with 158 grain SPs over 12.8 grains of Blue Dot. Nasty hot loads that would rip a bowling pin right in half, but both halves would hit the dirt?

  5. Glock 21 is low on recoil despite what I’ve read online. It is a glock so there is the meh that comes with it, but it is nice IMHO.

  6. I have shot that Ruger and the Shield. The Ruger almost tempted me to buy it…..the Shield, not so much.

    • I used to have a ex-cop USP45 SS with the old school insight utl weapon light, I liked the gun but the grip was too big for my medium sized hands.
      Traded it in for a german made P226 with the internal extractor.
      Wouldn’t mind a HK45 to go along with my P30

  7. No love for the Sig P220? That’s my fave 45, but I am an admitted sig fanboi. I love shooting my SS Match.

  8. Kat, just read the comments because there’s always somebody to tell you your opinion, preference, taste is wrong. As if!

      • Rule 97 of the (gun) internet.

        “Any comment string over 35 entries will include at least one positive post about CZ 75 “family” of pistols.

      • I wish CZ made a version of the CZ 97BD, with higher capacity magazines and an accessory rail. I like ergonomics of the CZ 97 better than the 1911; it feels like my P-01, only more of everything. Just wish that it was designed to make use of the space in the grip for more than 10-round magazines (the limitation of the Assault Weapon Ban in place when it was released.)

  9. My daughter LOVES her FNX 45 and she is quite accurate with it. (Me, not so much love. Not a big fan of the DA/SA trigger. In SA, it is pretty sloppy.) I have a 4″ Kimber Pro Carry II that I like but don’t love, even though it is, believe it or not, reliable.
    But I do love .45 from the first full size 1911 I ever shot. My current fave is an 1873 clone in .45 Colt.

    • About 6 months ago I acquired a Ruger Redhawk in .45 Colt which also had the moon clips so that .45 ACP could be fired from it. Interestingly, and I don’t know why, I hit the targets better with the .45 ACP than the .45 Colt. I can attest, though, that both rounds were a hoot to shoot. Big honkin’ boo-lits.

  10. PARA USA Expert, single stack Govt model from just before they got sucked into Remington’s sphere of management. Was the one time I did a Black Friday shopping trip, $299 and I bought six different boxes of .45 ammo to try on it at the same time.

    Enjoy the heck out of shooting that gun. Never a hiccup, good shooter.

    My hands are not big enough for a double stack .45 or I’d be looking for one of PARA’s to buy.

    1911’s are great guns, everyone knows that. Even those who do not want to admit it. If I could afford it I’d start with Colt and own one of each generation or important model change from the original build year forward.

    Not being rich, I make do with what I got.

    • My Para Elite Commander has been excellent since day one. Zero failures of any kind through the first 1200 rds. Features include Nitrided stainless slide and frame, supported “match” barrel and F/O front sight. It shipped with a FLGR I could probably do without, and a pair of quality 8-rd mags. It locks up tight, with just a tiny bit of clearance at the slide. This is a last-production pistol purchased at a remarkably low closeout price. I consider it quite a bargain, certainly a basis for some mild customization

  11. The shield 45 is great for its size and weight. Mine had the follower issue that would make it lose the mag during firing, but S&W made that right and it’s been fine ever since. Outside of a 1911, though, the FNP 45 is probably my favorite. Enormous, but easy to control and very accurate.

  12. Honestly, if you’re doing a top 4 handguns in .45ACP, you should limit 1911 to one of the 4. Two if you want to list double-stacks. Everyone is going to make their 1911 their own in some way, so the box-stock configuration isn’t extremely important.

  13. All this talk of .45 1911’s, has got me headed out the door to play. Model of 1911, Norinco( China brand) one of the best.

  14. I’m still trying to figure out who things 45acp lacks penetration? A 230 grain ball at 830fps is likely going to make a total of .90 inches of hole in a person….numerous ballistic tests prove this.

  15. Loved variety of opinions and gun models. Have a compact. .45 made in croatia., marketed by Springfield armory named the 3.3.
    Fits my pocket and has never been sight detected by anyone including policemen or other shooters. Not an elephant gun but I never feel unprotected,in any of the diciest locations. For price and concealability, I believe it is a great option. Chet the jet.

  16. There are a crap load of people who could attest to the effectiveness of the fat, slow, .45 ACP slug because they have been shot with it, but few are alive to testify.

  17. My colt 45 is tops as fair as I AM CONCERNED but as far as I am so concerned my Smith M/P 380 is easier to conceal and will drop empty just as fsat and with plenty of damage and with quicker retargeting time

    • I love old Colts. Just not enough room for all of them so I went for unique features and new models. But I agree, Colt has made some awesome handguns.

      • Thanks! Colt 1911 is my favorite 45acp. I’m still shooting my grandfather’s modified for competition Colt 1911 with 6 inch barrel, extra long sights and heavy slide.

  18. Of those on the list the Shield is the only one I’ve fired. I have to say though I was amazed at how easy it was to shoot and how quickly I could be back on target and fire off another round. I expected something that small in a .45 to be a bit if a handful but I found it VERY easy to control. I kinda want one now. Lol!

    That being said, I’ve fired a few different 1911 variants in .45acp and they always just feel “right” in my hands. LOVE them and definitely WILL have one before long!

  19. I always liked the 1st S&W 645.
    Kinda goofy looking but it shot well,and was reliable.
    It was a big deal that it would feed hollowpoints of all sorts.
    Most 1911s of the day needed a lot of dremel work to do that.
    The trigger not nearlymas crisp as most 1911s but very good by today’s standard.
    I never cared for shooting the more modern versions. Didn’t like the grip panels as well as the original.

  20. I find it hard to believe that the Springfield Amory TRP operator & FNX-45 didn’t make the cut. I do realise that there are many other great .45s on the market & too many to all review. Great review & I look forward to seeing more reviews.

  21. I’ll put in the Metro Arms products. Easier on the wallet, close your eyes (not while shooting) and I’d bet you can’t tell the difference between a Metro and an SA Range Officer.
    Philippines pricing, no Rock Island slide rattle.

    /ducks before the anti SA flamethrowers load up for bear

    • +1 Metros American classic is a really good 1911, especially for the price. Yes (Philippines) I know, but some of us can front $1000 on a gun. If you’re looking for a 1911 and on a budget, it’s definitely worth checking out. Had mine a few years now, going on 1500(ish)rds and been 100% problem free since day one.

  22. I had a crappy 1911 and it was a phenomenal gun. Theres something to their popularity, when it comes down to it they really are great guns.

  23. Dan Wesson, best build,fit, and bang for the buck … against the high end,or something more pedestrian firearms

    • Can’t believe I had to come down this far in comments to find some DW love.

      My PM 7 is the best.
      The rest are heathens.

  24. Just guessing you haven’t shot that many 45 handguns. ‘agressive beyond my personal preferences’ yet it’s one of the four best? Is there a sideways looking, suspicious emoji because it goes here.

  25. You forgot one of the best small .45s: XDs Mod 2. Most 9mm this size carry 6+1 as does this one in .45. Entirely controllable while firing 230 gr slugs that don’t need to expand to work. Where 9mm has over penetration issues the ,45acp doesn’t. It’s a proven stopper through the decades.

  26. So I say this.. but wonder.. At the price of around $500, the reliability and accuracy.. Why not the Para Ordnance GI Expert 1911?
    And now I say… Thank you for this. Very nice thread on very good self defense guns.

    • PARA doesn’t exist anymore outside used guns. Freedom Group bought them and although they are making some of the same models under the Remington name they are not the same.

      My PARA LS Elite Hunter in 10mm is a fantastic hunting gun. I do love some of the old PARA guns.

  27. 3 of the 4 are 1911’s so only two guns are listed. I’m not a Glock fanboy, but my 30SF is probably the only Glock I feel is worth mentioning.

  28. My highly customized Auto Ordinance 1911 used to be able to put 5 rounds in an inch and a half at 50 yards, bench resting. Still wish I had it, but it was stolen from my house 3 years ago. Really miss it.

  29. You have not had kinetic fun with an old Ruger P90 or better yet, the P97.
    Either of those pistols would’ve made this list or expanded it to “The 5 Best…”

  30. 4 best?
    Ok, let me try
    #1 A buddies Les Baer. I actually thought I was missing. Put the first magazine I shot through it in one quarter sized group. 8 shots in one small hole. I tried for a long time to get him to sell it to me. He traded it for a Sig…
    #2 My old Kimber TLE. Went 50 thousand rounds with only one problem before being stolen. The rear sight broke in the middle of a stage at an IDPA match. Sent the slide back to Kimber. They put new front and rear sights on it, and had it back to me in 3 days. Whenever someone bad mouths KImber, I think of how they did a great job for me.
    #3 A CZ 97. Only had it for a few months, and had to sell due to money issues. Big, heavy, and very pretty. A great shooter.
    #4 Grandpa’s old Colt. Brought back from World War 2. Which was odd, as he was a Naval electrician. Probably won in a card game. He had it with him the rest of his life. Then my dad kept it in the closet. Not touching it. Then I turned 21, and told my dad “I am taking this”. I pull it out of the safe once a year or so. Fire off one or two magazines. Then take it home and clean it.

  31. Star PD…..anyone?… anyone?……No?

    The were the original baby EDC 45 auto.

    Had to replace springs fairly often and the build quality wasnt that good (Star).

    But they were small and pumped out hardball. Easy to conceal.

    And then the Officers ACP came along……

  32. Unless I missed it, IMI Jericho 45 sold in this country as Baby Desert Eagle needs a mention. I’m just an old retired Ordnance Corps Colonel and I freely admit I haven’t shot every 45 out there. I would like to meet the person who can make that claim. Same goes for the 9mm. Recently I’ve become interested in the 22TCM for c&c. Basically a 5.56 NATO case cut in half and then necked back down to a 22. Limited recoil compared to 45 or 9mm but muzzle velocity out of a 3.75 inch barrel exceeds 2000 FPS. I can get off 3 rounds quicker and with less dispersion than with either a 45 or 9mm. Terminal ballistics in the 7 yard range will tell you that you never want to be shot with this round. Think about it and read about it before you comment. Then I’d like to see some thoughtful comments.

  33. Out of all the guns in the world, you could only thing of one gun that WASN’T a 1911 pattern? No SIGs? No Glocks? No HKs?

    Don’t get me wrong, I like 1911’s but holy FUCK this is some lazy writing.

  34. I like my Series 70 Gold Cups a lot. Thousands of rounds through them, no hitches, clean breaking trigger, always use easy ammo in them. I also have an old STI double stacker in Commander configuration I really wanted to carry but too bulky for me. It’s also a full custom and a pleasure. Did carry my Officer’s ACP (steel frame) and Detonics stainless but also more weight than I want on me. The republic Forge Patriot my wife won last April is the nicest of the bunch and a dream to shoot but again, way too heavy to carry. It handles full power loads very well, as does the STI. And I will agree that for $279, that Shield .45 was a steal and is something that is an easy carry. I still EDC a G43, though.

  35. The best 45 I ever shot is my Les Baer PII with 1.5″grp at 50yd guarantee. With the right ammo it will do it. The 2nd best 45 I ever shot is my Les Baer PII std package that I picked up 2nd hand and is still just as tight as a tick and shoots Fed 230 HST scary accurate. I didnt know I could shoot a 1911 that well. It’s the gun and the ammo, not me. The Shield is a great little gun. I shot a buds and have one on the way. The SA XDS is another great little 45. I have a PARA from way back. It was a competition gun back when everybody had one. I would not bet my life on it. The Ruger 5″ 1911 I had was unremarkable. It’s gone.

  36. H&K USP45?

    I guess it probably ISN’T a great pistol for most women because the grip is too large.

    H&K HK45 maybe?

  37. I really enjoy my Walther PPQ in .45 Have the same PPQ’s in .22 and 9mm. Feel great in my hands and haven’t had any performance issues in either of the three

  38. How’s the recoil on the polymer Shield and the RRA?

    I know a few guys with the Rugers and they have nothing but positive reviews.

  39. Believe it or not, there is at least one truly wonderful sub-$500 .45 ACP option out there. If you have not yet handled and fired a SAR K2 45 (either standard or compact), you really ought give it a… Um,.. shot. Should the K2 be compared to handguns at higher price points – it can be, but should it? Sure, if you must.
    Although I tend to be eager to try new things, I can be a bit of a brat and the you-get-what-you-pay-for adage is kind of my credo. With respect to inexpensive firearms, I feel that there is, generally, no exception to this “rule,” but a friend at a local gun shop kept pushing me to try SAR, so I finally gave in and took a couple to the range. I found that their all-steel offerings are each worth far more than their respective (low) street costs and, as far as .45 acp handguns go, I cannot think of one that I like to shoot more than the K2 45, considering all factors. It is a CZ97 licensed “clone,” but differs in the most valuable ways for me. I feel that CZ are too bulky – the palms of my hands and finger lengths are middle-average sized and the difference between a CZ and SAR in my hand is much like the disparity between an R8 and a 30/60 neck to me. Ergonomics matter and it isn’t all about girth – the SAR grip just fits my hand as though I molded it, personally (much like an EBMM Silhouette neck) . CZs seem to be best fit for a “taller” hand as well as longer fingers. Perceived recoil? Not much to speak of, honestly. All-steel helps with that, but so does the slide-in-frame construction (a la CZ) / low bore axis. It eats everything I’ve fed it and consistently nails < 2" groups with factory-set iron sights at 7, 15 and 25 yards (spreads expectedly as the distance grows). If you have played with a K2 45, share your thoughts. If you haven't, go do it.

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