Best Non-1911 .45s

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The 1911 has been a staple of American gun culture since it was first used by American GIs over 100 years ago.

A century later, the 1911 is still going strong, with modern takes on the classic design serving as everything from competition guns to carry guns.  

You could even find the 1911 serving on the battlefield in the hands of American service people as late as 2016 when the United States Marine Corps Special Operations Command (MARSOC) finally initiated the switchover to the Glock 19 carried by many other SF groups.

Wilson Combat CQB Tactical LE
Wilson Combat CQB Tactical LE – MSRP $3100

Of course, time marches on, and while the 1911 design might seem outdated to many, there’s no denying the effectiveness and battle-proven reputation of the round it (usually) fires: the venerable .45 ACP.

While many will acknowledge the inherent problems with the 1911 design, such as the limited capacity, and the fact that many need some measure of hand-fitting to perform as reliably as modern firearms, there is still an abiding interest in the .45 ACP.

Fortunately, there are a number of modern .45 ACP options out there for those who want to take advantage of this legendary round’s upsides, without the downsides of a traditional 1911.

Here are the best modern .45 ACP options that aren’t 1911s.  These are the guns that fire the venerable .45, but take advantage of advances and improvements in firearms design over the past 100 or so years.

  • HK45
  • Taurus OSS 24/7
  • Glock 21
  • SIG P320 .45 ACP
  • Smith and Wesson M&P 2.0 .45 ACP

These are all excellent pistols that would make fine additions to your carry rotation and will do just as nicely for home defense as well.

.45 ACP Pros and Cons

There’s a lot of conflicting information out there about the .45  ACP, so it’s important to understand the facts, and not to be taken in by the “knockdown power” hype, or the “it kicks like a mule” negativity.

(Left to Right) .45 ACP, .38 Special, .38 Super, 9mm
(Left to Right) .45 ACP, .38 Special, .38 Super, 9mm

Pros of the .45 ACP

First and foremost, the .45 ACP is a big round.  While bigger isn’t always better, in some cases it’s hard to deny the effectiveness of a larger caliber, such as for self-defense.

Second, .45 ACP is available from any store that sells ammo in America and is typically easily found abroad as well.  This is partly because of its enduring legacy and effectiveness, but also because of the sheer amount of firearms chambered in .45.

Finally, because of it’s widespread use, manufacturers produce a wide variety of loads for .45 ACP guns, including rapidly expanding hollowpoints, soft-recoiling target rounds, and even frangible rounds designed to be used in a competition setting so that the shooter can engage steel targets from very close range.

Cons of the .45 ACP

Of course, there’s a reason 9mm has dethroned .45 ACP as the most popular handgun round in the world.  Well, there’s actually a few reasons.

First, recoil.  The recoil of the .45 ACP, while generally slow and firm instead of the crisp and snappy like the 9mm, is significant.  The main problem is the increased muzzle flip or rise, which makes follow-up shots slower and less accurate under pressure.

Second, because .45 rounds are bigger than 9mm, or .380, you have a capacity issue, with most .45-caliber weapons having 5-7 fewer rounds than a similarly sized 9mm firearm.  This becomes an issue when you are engaging multiple targets in either a serious defensive scenario or competition.

Last but not least, there’s the issue of price. The larger .45 ACP is a good bit more expensive than 9mm, which is the final straw for many shooters, especially competitors that don’t reload.

Choosing The Best .45 Pistol For You

If you’ve weighed the pros and cons of the .45 ACP and decided you still want one, you’re in luck.  There are a number of excellent .45 ACP options out there, and not that the 1911 doesn’t have its place, but there are several options that specifically address some of the inherent issues the .45 ACP has.

Heckler and Koch HK45

The legendary HK45 is one of the most popular .45 ACP duty guns currently serving in the world’s militaries and commonly wielded by law-enforcement agencies.  It is available in a number of configurations optimized for concealed carry, competition, and duty use.

Heckler & Koch HK45

Heckler & Koch HK45

Pros

  • Top-notch craftsmanship
  • Excellent durability
  • Ambidextrous safety feature

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Only 10 round capacity

The HK45 is an incredibly accurate and ergonomic pistol.  

You can swap grips to find something that perfectly fits your hand, and the factory trigger is one of the best in any duty gun, making it perfect out of the box for everything from tac-ops class 3-Gun to carry to home defense.

In fact, the gun was originally created to replace the M9 as the most common service weapon issued to US troops.  

While the Joint Combat Pistol program that sought to replace the M9 was shelved, the weapon became incredibly popular with certain niche military units, and several LE agencies in the US and abroad

The only real drawbacks to the weapon are the relatively limited capacity (though it still holds more than most a standard 1911) and the undercut of the trigger guard which some shooters find uncomfortable, but rarely to such a degree as to degrade accuracy.

Springfield XD(M)

One of the great American producers of firearms, Springfield has made a name for themselves in the .45 ACP world with their outstanding 1911s offerings.

But holding to that long tradition hasn’t kept them from innovating also.

The Springfield XD(M) comes in many flavors, from compact to full-sized and in 9mm, 40S&W, and of course – .45ACP.

Springfield XD(M)

Springfield XD(M)

Pros

  • Very affordable
  • Railed for weapon light mounting

Cons

Glock G21

It should come as no surprise to find the Glock 21 on this list.  The legendary Austrian gun maker owns a significant portion of not only the civilian sidearm market but also the military and law enforcement market.

Glock 21

Glock 21

Pros

  • Polymer is lighter than other steel .45ACP guns
  • Stricker-fired
  • Bomb proof reliability and safety

Cons

  • Glock trigger
  • Less aesthetic appeal to some

The G21 is Glock’s full-size, double-stack .45 ACP offering, and it is widely considered the standard by which other defensive, polymer-framed .45s are measured.

No one would accuse Glock of making terribly pretty guns, or even feature-rich guns, but they still make some of the most accurate and reliable firearms on the planet, and the G21 is no exception.

The new Gen 5 Glocks provide an update to the older models and add a slightly beveled magazine well, and do away with the controversial and little-loved finger grooves of previous models.

Overall, if you shoot well with Glocks and like the trigger, the G21 is the best .45 ACP duty/carry option.  Smaller Glock options exist in .45, but recoil is going to be more of an issue there.

A full-size option like the G21, although lighter than other steel-framed guns in a similar size, is still heavy enough to make controlling recoil a breeze, making follow-up shots much easier.

The G21 is also one of the most common .45 ACP duty guns in the law-enforcement world, due mostly to  Glock’s legendary and industry-standard record of reliability and the G21’s excellent handling and shooting characteristics.

The only real downsides are the looks and the trigger.  Many dislike the Glock’s boxy, polymer styling. Also, if you dislike the Glock trigger found on other offerings, you’ll probably dislike this one as well as it is virtually identical to every other trigger Glock makes.

However, there are many who either don’t mind or actively enjoy the look of Glock handguns, and there are literally dozens of aftermarket parts manufacturers that offer everything from drop-in trigger replacements to completely new slides, so if you don’t like something about a Glock, chances are you can replace it and will have a huge variety of options to choose from.

Smith and Wesson M45 M2.0

The Smith and Wesson M&P 2.0 series updates the M&P handgun line’s worst feature (the trigger) and adds a number of improvements to boot.

Smith & Wesson M45 M2.0

Smith & Wesson M45 M2.0

Pros

  • Stock trigger is crisp
  • Available with and without a manual safety
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • Less aftermarket support than Glock

The M45 is the full-size version chambered in .45 ACP and is the nearest competitor to the G21 in terms of function, reliability, and aftermarket support.  

It absolutely trounces the Glock in the design department, however, as you can clearly see the time S&W spent on aesthetics (perhaps to ensure their polymer pistol stood out from the Glock design?).

It features a rail under the muzzle, and its 10+1 capacity gives it an edge over single-stack 1911’s.

The M45 2.0 is an excellent carry choice, and it even rivals the G21 in terms of reliability and shootability in adverse conditions.  It also challenges Glock for the crown as “King of the .45 ACP Duty Guns” with many police and private security agencies choosing the Smith and Wesson option over the Glock.

If you’re looking for a full-size, striker-fired gun that has a large amount of aftermarket support, is available at a reasonable price, and doesn’t compromise on accuracy or reliability but aren’t taken with the looks of the G21, this may very well be your best option.

Conclusion

The 1911 is still a popular gun, but the truth is there are a number of excellent, modern options available for those who want the power of the .45 ACP in an updated and contemporary design.

These guns are all commonly found protecting life and limb at home and abroad, and they make frequent appearances in High-power and Heavy Metal competitions that require something beefier than 9mm.  

Once you get one, you’ll get more…

If you like big bullets, and you want a gun that spits them out reliably, accurately, and from a bigger magazine than a 1911, these are the ones you should look at first, especially if you’re choosing something you might have to defend yourself with.

While there are a number of other excellent options out there, especially in smaller form-factors if you’re looking for something suited to deeper concealment like th M&P Shield in .45, these are the easiest to shoot, and will never, ever let you down.  

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