Big Blue's Model 645 & Model 745 .45 ACP Automatics.
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Believe it or not, back in the day Smith & Wesson made guns that weren’t 1911s or striker fired M&Ps. Big Blue was actually pretty innovative in their designs and they had a hell of a 9mm DA/SA design that was picked up back in 1968 by the Illinois State Police.

Illinois State Police checking out the S&W Model 39 in 9mm.

Smith even dabbled in the .45 ACP cartridge too, going all the way back with their Hand Ejector M1917 double action .45 back during the Great War.

My WWI Vintage S&W Model 1917 in .45 ACP.

But they didn’t have an automatic and that angered Tom Campbell. He was an engineer and competitive shooter for Big Blue. Back then, the competitive shooting scene had everyone using a Colt 1911.

Smith & Wesson wasn’t happy that their guy was using a competitor’s design. So S&W let him design a .45 auto pistol. He came up with five-inch DA/SA upsized version of the Model 439 chambered in .45 ACP. Campbell call his prototype the Supergun.

Tom Campbell shooting the prototype Supergun around 1983 at a competition.

As Campbell kept winning matches, the number crunchers in accounting and sales started to figure out that they could market the design and make some money. Thus was born the Smith & Wesson Model 645 in 1985.

American Handgunner July/August 1986 issue where Col. Jeff Cooper reviews the gun.
Big Blue’s first .45 Automatic oozed 100% Americana. This gun was stainless steel and chambered in .45 ACP.

This gun screamed 1980s Reaganomics. Stainless steel, chambered in big boy .45 ACP and so rad it starred in Miami Vice as Crockett’s main gun for two seasons.

Crockett aiming his S&W 645 alongside Tubbs with his S&W Model 36 in the season four episode titled “Contempt of Court”.

Even Smith pushed the pistol’s cool factor in their advertisements for the gun.

The ad speaks for itself in what S&W was trying to cash in on.

The Model 645 was an eight-round DA/SA semi built along the then-traditional layout of the S&W Automatic. It’s field stripped in a similar fashion to the 1911.

The controls were the traditional layout of the S&W Automatic with a slide-mounted safety/decocker, 1911 inspired slide stop lever and magazine release button.

The safety lever was ambidextrous and you can see the overall Browning inspired layout of the gun.

So while the Smith & Wesson had a hit on their hands for a duty gun, they still needed to compete in the professional shooting leagues and that DA/SA trigger didn’t lend itself to the shooting styles of the time. So, in 1986 the Model 745 was born.

The 745 was a single action only variant of the Model 645. The gun was made before the creation of the Smith Performance Center but the gun was still something different than a bog standard Model 645.

You can see the biggest different is the blued carbon steel slide.

The most notable cosmetic change from the 645 was the blued side for that classic two-tone look. The oversized magazine release and the longer safety lever were more competition-friendly.

The gun is taken down exactly the same way as the Model 645.

Both guns use the same barrel, magazine, slide stop lever, and numerous other parts. One other difference is the prototype Novak rear sight. The enlarged safety lever is only a safety, it isn’t a decocker.

The 745 can be carried cocked and locked. Since the safety lever is longer, the left grip panel has a relief cut to allow the longer lever to move unhindered.

The right side of the slide has a gold filled engraving marking the 10th anniversary of the founding of IPSC.

They later made a batch without the engraving, but the first year production guns were made this way.

You can also see that the safety is only on the left side of the slide and the 745 has a trigger overtravel screw, too.

Overall, the Model 745 has a slick handling SAO trigger. But for folks who are 1911 shooters, the safety is counterintuitive since it’s down for safe and up to fire.

The sights on both guns are adequate for the era. You can see how the prototype Novak sight was later downsized and improved.

745 on the left, 645 on the right.

You can also see the difference between the trigger assembly for DA/SA and SAO.

745 on top, 645 on the bottom.

Another big difference is the fact that there is no magazine disconnect safety on the 745. You can drop the hammer with the magazine removed.

The Model 645 was produced from 1985 to 1988 and the Model 745 from 1986 to 1990. Less than 8,000 Model 745s were ever made. They’re not exactly common, even amongst S&W collectors.

So if you want to recreate that Miami Vice feel, you’ll want to snag a Model 645.

If you want something a little more exotic, get the Model 745.


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  1. Nice article – I appreciate the compare-and-contrast approach on the details, it helps put things in context.

    Still dislike the new site format, though.

  2. There are 2 model 745’s on gunbroker currently.
    One looks NIB.

    I had a 745 back in the day. The grip angle was just off for me so I didn’t have it for long.

  3. Did not know about this particular gun. Good article. I did own a 5904 that I really wish I still had.

  4. Love it!

    I carried a model 59 (9mm) for over 20 years, always wished I could afford the 645.

    I see the Buy It Now prices on GunBroker are not for the faint of wallet!

  5. Carried one back in the day, on patrol, was carrying it when I went to a shooting class in San Diego. As I was going tgrough a series of shooting exercises, I was reloading magazines between stages. As I recall, two incidents happened. I failed to seat the magazine firmly once, and somehow depressed the magazine release button while exitting a vehicle. The “magazine disconnect” feature left me twice with a nice, expensive, useless, club when I drew to fire. Went back to a reliable 1911!

  6. Carried one back in the day, a 645, on patrol, was carrying it when I went to a shooting class in San Diego. As I was going through a series of shooting exercises, I was reloading magazines between stages. As I recall, two incidents happened. I failed to seat the magazine firmly once, and somehow depressed the magazine release button while exitting a vehicle. The “magazine disconnect” feature left me twice with a nice, expensive, useless, club when I drew to fire. Went back to a reliable 1911!

  7. Nice review! Learned something new about S&W today.

    Now if you could hunt down one of those ‘free’ jackets from that advertisement…then you have a true collector’s item! 😀

  8. I inherited a 4506 and it is quite a gun. I heard the nickname for it was “the brick” as it weighs a ton.

  9. I have a 1006. A heavyweight cannon that just oozes “overbuilt”. The trigger is predictably service sidearm stiff, especially the DA, but you just know the gun is going to do what you expect it to do. Glad to see the recent resurgence of the 10mm auto ctg. It’s a great round and the full size S&W auto is a great platform for it.

  10. The 645 was a great gun.

    Kinda dorky looking at first glance, but it worked well in the hand.

    The thing that gets lost now is that it was very reliable out of the box.

    And it fed hollowpoints without the need of a dremel tool.

    Trigger was not as crisp as a 1911 but it filled the roll of big bore boomer pretty well.

    Great gun

  11. In 1987 a 645 came into the family and we have never let it go. My first real pistol. The out of the box quality was/is one of greatest qualities. In about 2003 I used it for a CCL course and key holed enough shots for the instructor to want to see my pistol. It is still in stock condition and fires great. You could drop it out of a tree and it would be fine. Solid gun in every way and fires anything you feed it.

  12. I’m rather fond of the old school Smiths and have several. The only .45 is the compact 457. While nice enough, I’d really like a 645 or 745. Perhaps someday.

  13. Wow, free Member’s Only jacket. With that you could slay some serious poon. Just don’t use your S&W.

  14. I carried a Smith 686 when I started in law enforcement in 1991. At the time our sheriff felt that semi-autos were “too complicated” for reserve officers. When that sheriff was voted out in 92 I bought a 4006 because I felt that the ballistics of a good .40 load were pretty similar to the .357 I’d been carrying. I always felt that the Smiths of that generation were sort of big and clunky but they were solid guns that always went bang. My off duty was an old 9mm Model 39 and that’s one of the pistols I’m sorry I let get away. It only held eight rounds but it fit my hand very well.

  15. Don’t mean to pee in anyone’s cornflakes … but I had a 645 that I bought new back in the day and it was a terrible shooter. 10″ at 15yds was about the norm. Even after 2-300 break in rounds it was still all over the place. The Colt Commander I had at the time would put seven rounds in a quarter size group at that range, 645 wouldn’t stay on a dinner plate. After about three range trips I was happy to trade it off.

  16. Those old Smith’s were the $&!@ in their day. They’re still pretty sweet today in my opinion. The first pistol I ever bought was when I first became a police officer. It was a used S&W 59 and I loved it. Mine wasn’t nickel plated or blued and I’m not sure what was done to it to make it look that way before I bought it. It had a very flat steel finish and I’ve only ever seen one other like it. The Pachmyer grips were fantastic. My gun was extremely reliable and while it wasn’t match grade accurate it was definitely accurate. I foolishly sold it not realizing the sentimental value it would have later in life. It still makes me sick to think of it. NEVER sell your first handgun, rifle or shotgun! Try not to sell any of your guns but definitely not your first!

    Yes, they are a bit big and bulky by today’s standards but they are workhorses and strong as tanks. You can definitely consider yourself well armed with one of these old workhorses.


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