The iconic pistol cartridge, the .45 Automatic Colt Pistol (11.43×23mm), also known as the .45 Auto, was developed for the John Browning- designed M1911 pistol, the Old Faithful. The greatest tribute to John Moses Browning is that the .45 ACP caliber cartridge is still in use today and that most modern new generation pistols, from Glock to Springfield XD-m, are chambered in .45 ACP.
After the experience of the battlefields of the First World War, the pistol underwent some minor external modifications that were primarily ergonomic, and was finally given the designation M-1911A1. This new version first appeared in 1926, incorporating the lessons learned in the bloody trenches of the Western Front during the Great War. It served as the US service pistol for three-quarters of a century, and many people still feel its retirement was premature.
The .45 ACP is an efficient combat pistol round that combines accuracy and stopping power for use against human targets, giving it the well-known moniker “manstopper.” Despite its superlative performance, over the last few decades of the 20th century, the 9 mm cartridge and wondernines handguns have eclipsed the .45 ACP in worldwide popularity.
However, the .45 ACP has recently experienced a renaissance of sorts, having been chambered in a number of new handguns, and not all of them based on the venerable 1911. The main reason for the appearance of ultra-modern handgun designs in such a traditional caliber is the U.S. military contest that was announced in 2005. The program called the Joint Combat Pistol (JSP) invoked a nearly industry-wide move toward a .45 ACP, and a non-1911-style pistol at that. The reasons for its resurgence run much deeper, though, since the .45 ACP has many other positive characteristics, such as its massive stopping power, its ease of availability, and the wide range of loadings, all of which have played a role in carrying this cartridge well into the modern age.
The Top 5 Best .45 ACP Pistols
Since its inception in 1948, the German company from Oberndorf am Neckar, Heckler und Koch enjoys an enviable reputation as a manufacturer that insists on unparalleled and uncompromising quality.
In the early 1990s, H&K offered its own version of Generation 4 handguns known as the highly-regarded USP (Universelle Selbstladepistole or “Universal Self-Loading Pistol”), the main features of which were a low weight thanks to a high-resistance polymer frame, a high capacity magazine, and the possibility of mounting different accessories.
The only complaint was related to ergonomics, and the H&K design team made a significant effort towards a better layout, thus making the HK45 a more comfortable design than its predecessor the HK USP. The HK45 borrowed some of the details of the H&K P2000, P8, and P30 models, but incorporated a new polymer frame with a buffered Browning locking system. To permit easier handling, the gun is fitted with an extended ambidextrous slide release, an ergonomic textured grip with finger grooves commonly referred to as the “Spiderman” grip, and interchangeable grip panels (backstraps). The HK45 retains the grip angle of the M1911 models, which can be customized by changing S, M, and L size backstraps. The difference in grip volume between the smallest and largest set is almost 5/8 inches!
The HK 45 has additional grip serrations on the front end of the slide and an integral Picatinny MIL-STD-1913 accessory rail in front of the trigger guard for mounting a number of lights, lasers, and other accessories. That is a formidable enhancement over the proprietary rail system HK used on the previous USP Tactical.
HK45 represents an evolutionary advancement on the HK USP and its great predecessor the MARK 23. Heckler & Koch MK 23, MK 23 MOD or Mark 23 was the pistol HK created for SOCOM in the early 1990s. The HK45 also sports an HK proprietary O-ring polygonal barrel for precise barrel-to-slide lockup and increased conceived process which contributes to a longer firearm life and superior performance.
The completely ambidextrous design of this pistol includes a unique feature called the detent-plate system which enables the owner to set up the pistol in nine different fire-control settings ranging from double-action only to DA/SA to HK’s superb LEM (Law Enforcement Modification).
Basically, it is a DAO trigger, but with noticeably less force and shorter travel. Indeed, the triggering is unexpectedly comfortable for this “off-the-rack” service weapon.
Overall the HK45 is a light, well-made gun that is easy to manipulate with a semi-double-stack magazine capacity of 10 rounds, but without the excessive size or expense of its predecessors the USP Tactical or the Mark 23.
As a natural step in evolution, the German company Carl Walther GmbH Sportwaffen of Ulm developed the Walther PPQ (Polizei Pistole Quick Defense / Police Pistol Quick Defense) in 9mm and .40 S&W, as a successor and potential replacement for their highly successful model, the Walther P99QA, a variant of the P99 pistol. Furthermore, as an extension of their aesthetically pleasing PPQ line, Walther built a gun that is better suited for the commercial market. It was released in late 2015 as a new, big-bore handgun offering a 12+1-round .45 ACP capacity, and was quickly dubbed PPQ M2. In contrast to its smaller brothers, the PPQ M2 has a redesigned ejection port to fit .45 ACP cartridge cases and a barrel with polygonal six-groove rifling, right-hand twist.
Like many of the other higher-end polymer pistols, Walther PPQ 45 is a full-size serviceable pistol, but at the same time, it is intended for the highly competitive civilian market. To its fastidious customers, Walther offers an interchangeable backstrap system which they pioneered in the late 1990s with their first polymer pistol, the now legendary P99.
Speaking of the P99, yes, the PPQ is technically a polymer update of the P99 line of sideguns, but essentially it is more or less a Glock clone when it comes to function. The main feature shared with a Glock is the trigger center-style safety, called the “quick-defense trigger” by Walther. However, Walther has significantly improved upon the venerable Glock design and most users will admit that the PPQ 45 has a shorter and lighter trigger pull than most of its competitors and an exceptional trigger reset. Shooters can feel the three stages of the trigger pull melt into one when they are shooting fast with the PPQ .45.
Like most major firearm manufacturers, Walther has paid attention to the demands of the North American market. Hence, the Walther engineering team has equipped the PPQ 45 with a traditional American “button”, a 1911-style magazine release on the grip. This switch is protected by a molding to prevent accidental release. This feature is more popular in the U.S. than the truly ambidextrous European-style paddle magazine release levers built into the trigger guard. Additionally, since Walther pistols have always been known for their exceptional ergonomics, the double oversized slide stops are located on both sides of the frame and can be easily accessed by almost every hand.
The three-dot sights are pretty standard, while the rear is adjustable for windage via a screw on the right side. As a service pistol, the PPQ M2 offers excellent accuracy at 25 yards with approximately 2.80-inch groups with different types of ammunition.
Rails on pistols seem to be becoming obligatory, and the PPQ 45 is no exception, featuring one Picatinny rail on the dust cover to allow the mounting of plenty of accessories.
In a nutshell, Walther’s latest addition to its flagship line, the PPQ 45 with its M2 trigger and Mec-Gar’s metal magazines with excellent ergonomics is one of the best pistols amongst its polymer brethren.
Way back in 1982, when an Austrian engineer Gaston Glock, a thermoplastics expert, invented the first plastic pistol, he could not have imagined that his biggest and most direct competitor would come almost thirty years later from the small Ex-Yugoslavian state of the never-peaceful Balkans.
As many informed readers will correctly know, the word is out about the exceptional HS2000 models manufactured by HS Produkt in the picturesque town of Karlovac, Croatia. This model presents a smart mix of the many useful features found on Glocks and other modern polymer frame handguns now rebranded by the U.S. importer Springfield Armory as XD (short for X-Treme Duty) and XDm or “X-Treme Duty More.” In other words, the XDm .45 combines the innovations unleashed by Mr. Browning and Herr Glock by offering Browning-like ergonomics and Glock-like simplicity and reliability.
One of the newest members of XD line is the XDm, a polymer semi-automatic pistol chambered for 9×19mm Parabellum, .40 S&W and .45 ACP caliber with a striker fired action and a double stack, 13-rounds magazine.
Although it is an exceptional full-size frame service and carry gun, the XDm-45, equipped with a match grade 4.5” steel barrel, is intended for big-bore pistol competitions as well as for home defense. The pistol is designed with backstrap safety and the Ultra Safety Assurance (USA) Trigger System™ to guard against accidental discharge. It also features a corrosion-resistant Melonite finish and a forged steel slide.
Like most of the striker fired polymer type pistols nowadays, the XD(M) has superb ergonomics, owing to three interchangeable backstraps, an excellent grip angle, and texture to secure a grasp. Also, the XD/XDm series of pistols feature an MIL-STD 1913 rail for mounting lasers, lights, and other tactical equipment. The cherry on the cake is that the Springfield XDm pistol retail package includes an OWB holster, three magazines, a magazine holder, a loading assist tool, a cleaning brush, and the obligatory gun lock, while retailing for about the same price as a Glock.
With dovetail front and rear sights, the accuracy of the XDm ranges between 5 and 15 yards, which is certainly acceptable. However, at greater distances and especially at the 25-yard line, its accuracy drops off significantly. According to some gun enthusiasts, the fault lies with the trigger which is too stiff for a match gun and is more suited to a combat pistol.
With all these positive features, however, it is not surprising that the XD/XDm is taking away a large chunk of the market share from Glock and S&W.
This modern combat pistol is named by many gun magazines as the best non-1911 .45 you can buy for the money, a tad better than a Glock, but not as smooth looking as the Smith & Wesson M&P.
In the modern-day business world, design and marketing are responsible for the success of many a product. The Italian School of Industrial Design has a long and magnificent history of excellence in both art and design and is known and acknowledged as such around the world. So it is no wonder that the oldest gun maker in the world, Fabbrica d’Armi Pietro Beretta S.p.A. has employed the design studio of Giorgetto Giugiaro to create the shape of the handgun of the future. The result is the beautiful new best .45 ACP pistol Berretta handgun – the Storm Px4.
Interestingly, the figure ‘4’ in the name refers to the number of offered calibers since the Px4 Storm is available in four chamberings: 9x19mm, 9 x 21mm IMI, .40S&W, and .45 ACP. It also carries over to four different operating configurations of the trigger. Actually, the pistol is designed to be offered in four different firing systems, dubbed as types G, F, D, and C.
The first two types, the G and F type, work on a traditional double-action system of operation. The D variant performs as a double-action only and the C variant is a constant action trigger system that provides a lighter and shorter trigger pull than the more traditional D version. The .45 ACP variant of the Px4 is offered with the Type F trigger firing system.
In any case, the development of the PX4 Storm SD .45 ACP was based on the requirements of the US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) for the Joint Combat Pistol program that was initiated in 2002. It took more than two years of detailed tests and experiments before this pistol was presented as a replacement for the legendary Beretta Model 92. This modular polymer fourth-generation pistol finally appeared on the market at the end of 2004.
With its modern looks, the Px4 maintains Beretta’s lineage of aesthetic evolution. Modularity, ergonomics, and functionality qualify this gun at the top of the list of handguns intended for law enforcement agencies and civilian personal defense. The Px4 Storm is a distinctive pistol with marvelous features. It was manufactured with the concept that a pistol can be tailored to different needs and modes of operation without compromising on ergonomics or the renowned Beretta reliability and performance.
Under a distinctive and intriguing exterior hides an unusual and less used locked-breech with a rotating barrel principle. This is an older concept than the tilting barrel locked breech system. The rotating lockup design was patented at the end of the century by the prolific inventor, John Moses Browning. The rotary barrel system is an interesting and highly useful feature that enables laser sharp aiming, which in turn allows for the most accurate shooting in rapid-fire situations.
The 10-shot .45 ACP Px4 Storm is a duty size, big bore pistol made of techno polymer-reinforced fiberglass (polyamide 12) with steel inserts. The full-sized Px4 Storm is equipped with a 4-inch cold-hammer forged barrel which is chrome-lined, providing extreme corrosion resistance. Unlike most contemporary pistol designs with a block appearance, the slide of the Storm has a low-profile with a subtle contour, which combined with a snag-resistant profile makes this gun easy to draw and reholster. The final treatment is accomplished in the battle-proven Bruniton finish.
Today, STI International is widely known as a manufacturer with a complete line of serviceable competition models based on Browning’s system of the immortal M1911 model, but above all for their innovative series of 2011 – pistols with a modular polymer frame and increased magazine capacity. Unlike the high-capacity modern shooting machines, these guns, such as the Spartan and the Trojan, are only two of 18 different single stack designs in varying calibers belonging to the classic STI line. As budget guns, the Spartan models are built for STI in the Philippines by Armscor Company, while the Trojan is completely made in-house in the United States by STI in Georgetown, Texas.
With a better fit and finish, the Trojan is at a completely different quality end point, presenting a good looking handgun with extraordinary accuracy, giving it the feel of a much higher priced custom-built firearm. Basically, the STI Trojan 5.0 is a standard full-size 5″ or a 6” 1911 Government issue with the slide and frame milled from forged steel bar stock. This is in contrast to the lower level Spartan which features a cast frame. Besides the unique “STIppling”, the front strap texturing, and nice cocobolo grips, the Trojan also includes several custom-shop-type features such as single-sided extended safety for easy manipulation, speed bump grip safety, undercut trigger guard, dovetailed front sight, and a target-style adjustable rear sight.
Like all contemporary 1911s, the STI Trojan is fitted with a Commander style skeletonized hammer and a beavertail grip safety. However, it no longer uses the old Swartz safety which was designed to prevent accidental discharge.
What makes it different from most 45 ACP 1911s on the market is that the Trojan 5.0 features a 5″ stainless steel, fully supported unit with Wilson/Nowlin style lugs and a ramped barrel with standard rifling. Some gun experts feel the ramped design barrel is not really more reliable but offers a more supported chamber compared to the other “combat” style handguns.
STI uses nothing less than the highest grade materials for all its gun components (the excellent Trojan has a great factory trigger for a mass produced pistol), thus helping many shooters perform to their highest possible standard. Although chambered for the hard hitting .45 ACP, sporting the short, light trigger of the 1911, the Trojan offers an accuracy that is well above average. Despite the fact that STI avoids quoting figures when it comes to accuracy, user reports indicate that the Trojan shoots slightly less than 3” at 20 yards, which is more than acceptable.
The STI TROJAN 5.0 boasts modern high-end quality and 100% reliability. This pistol is consistently praised on various forums because for the price of a Trojan you get a whole lot of hand fitting and quality in the slide, barrel, and frame that you simply won’t get from any other mass produced gun.
Besides the various firing systems and calibers, the modular nature of the design means that the pistol’s removable hammer module is designed as an independent group. Furthermore, the PX4 is available with three sizes of grip inserts (backstraps) for different hand sizes and an interchangeable magazine-release button system. The other features include a slide catch located on the left side of the pistol and the ambidextrous safety/decocker lever located at the rear part of the slide.
The Storm uses an integral Picatinny MILSTD-1913 accessory rail located on the dust cover of the frame, enabling rapid mounting of tactical lights and laser-aiming devices. With a weight of only 29 ounces, the polymer-framed .45ACP Storm is considerably lighter than the Colt 1911 .45 or the Beretta 92F 9mm, but despite the noticeable muzzle flip, is comfortable to fire and control.
Like all Beretta American Pistol Shooter Lines, the PX4 comes with two 9 and 10-round extended magazines, speedloader, two additional interchangeable backstraps, and a lock and cleaning kit.
As a light frame handgun with a modular structure, the Storm Px4 is targeted at the lucrative polymer frame market, where this fascinating pistol with an intriguing design has rapidly gained acceptance amongst aficionados of high-quality .45 ACP pistols that offer the most advanced aesthetic features and technological innovations.