When it comes to handguns…nothing is more of an American classic than the .45 ACP.
It’s big, powerful, and packs a mean punch that can stop nearly anything that comes in its way.
The .45 ACP has been an American icon since Colt released the M1911 in 1911.
This pistol was the official sidearm of the United States military for the longest time and saw most of its action between World War I and the Vietnam War.
But now it’s not only the 1911s that have the fun…
We’ve gathered a handful of .45 ACP models that don’t fall into the 1911 category that we think are some of the best in the biz.
We’ll walk you through the pros/cons of the models, why we think they’re cool, and hopefully set you on the path to grab one of your very own.
Summary of Our Top Picks
Table of Contents
If you’re a firearms enthusiast, you already know that the .45 ACP brings a little bit of recoil.
In fact, one of the reasons that the 9mm has experienced recent popularity among law enforcement is because it’s easier to control than the .45 ACP.
Plus, hollow point ammo advancements have given the 9mm some added performance.
However, once you learn how to accurately shoot the .45 ACP, you’ll appreciate that raw power.
Pros/Cons of the .45 ACP
So we’ve established that one of the biggest advantages of having a .45 ACP pistol is power.
What’s another? The ammo variety.
There’s so much out there because of its popularity. We help you narrow it down in our Best. 45 ACP ammo article, so head there to see what we recommend.
The downside of buying a .45 pistol is that they’re usually more expensive than other handgun models.
Also, the ammo can cost a bit more. Also worth noting, most .45 ACPs don’t carry as many rounds as their 9mm counterparts.
However, if you’re looking for a reliable gun with a lot of oomph, nothing beats the .45 ACP.
Big Bullet, Big Hands
While .45 ACPs are a bit bulkier than some of the other handguns on the market, they’re still a very popular handgun for conceal carry.
If you’re considering purchasing your very first .45 ACP, make sure that you do some testing before you make a purchase.
Comfort is part of what makes some guns better than others.
Take some time to see how the gun feels in your hand. Pay attention to how much it weighs, if the grips are slippery or not, and if you can easily reach all the levers with your hand.
With that all out of the way….let’s get to the guns (in no particular order)!
Best .45 ACP Pistols
1. Smith and Wesson M&P 45 Shield M2.0
The .45 M&P Shield M2.0 is a stellar little carry gun that doesn’t get nearly enough props.
If you’re after a not-a-1911 .45 ACP for use as an EDC this gun is well worth it.
It can be had with or without an external thumb safety (mine doesn’t have a thumb safety).
It’s a single-stack, striker-fired polymer pistol designed to withstand daily carry and frequent use, and it gets the job done.
This pistol has an aggressively textured grip, so aggressive you can hold on even when your hands are dripping with sweat or water (I may have poured water all over it).
The polymer frame is embedded with a stainless steel rigid chassis for durability, and the stainless steel slide has a tough Armornite finish.
Capacity is a little limited; the 45 Shield ships with one 6-round magazine and one 7-round magazine.
Factory white 3-dot sights are standard. The barrel is 3.3 inches long, the gun’s overall weight is 20.5 ounces, and it can be field-stripped without pulling the trigger.
As for accuracy, this is a precise pistol. Granted, it has a shorter barrel, so it’s better for distances under 15 yards, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be used at greater distances.
If you want an upgrade version right out of the box, Smith & Wesson also has the Shield 45 available from their Performance Center with a load of upgrades already made.
2. Sig Sauer P220 Legion
Right off, I’m referring specifically to the Legion. There’s nothing wrong with the original P220, it’s a perfectly solid gun…but the Legion is better.
Aesthetically it’s a good-looking gun thanks to its Cerakote Elite Legion Gray-finished slide and frame, black G10 grips, and the Legion medallion embedded in said grips.
There’s more to the Legion line than looking pretty, though. The P220 Legion’s greatest feature just might be its P-SAIT trigger — smooth and consistent, crisp break, short reset.
Yes, this is a hammer-fired, DA/SA gun. It is available as SAO, but I admit to preferring the DA/SA model. The P220 has a thumb safety, too, something a lot of gun owners prefer.
Oh, and it ships with Sig Sauer Electro-Optics X-RAY hi-vis day/night sights, and they are fantastic.
It’s a somewhat bulky gun thanks to its alloy frame and stainless-steel slide and carbon steel barrel.
The P220 Legion weighs in at 30.4 ounces, empty, with an overall length of 7.7-inches and 8+1 capacity.
Bottom line? This is a well-made, reliable pistol capable of stellar performance.
3. Walther PPQ .45 ACP
Walther manufactures some stellar handguns, and the PPQ is among the models I favor.
Like its Glock brethren, it doesn’t have the aesthetic appeal of guns like the Legion, but man does it work!
The Walther PPQ 45 is another full-size gun, with an overall length of 7.4-inches.
While a lot of these models feature similar measurements, it’s the details that set them apart.
For example, the PPQ 45 opts for a curved grip with wide, sloping finger grooves that encourage a firm grip.
The grip sports what Walther calls a “non-slip, cross-direction grip surface” and ships with a set of back straps so you can adjust as needed.
You’ll find the magazine release is ambidextrous, and the 5.6-pound trigger is surprisingly good — smooth pull, crisp break, and easily operational for rapid-fire.
The trigger reset on the PPQ 45 is 0.1-inches so you could say it’s short.
This gun has a 12-round capacity and eats everything it’s fed.
4. Glock 21, Gen 4
You knew I couldn’t write a .45 ACP roundup without throwing the Glock 21 in here.
The G21 might not be a pretty face like the Legion, but it’s a workhouse…meant to do a particular job, and it does it well.
The Gen 4 G21 is a full-size, striker-fired handgun.
It’s a double-stack with a capacity of 13+1.
The barrel measures 4.61-inches and the G21 offers a total length of 8.07-inches with a weight of 26.28-ounces, unloaded.
The G21 ships with a modular back strap system so shooters can customize the grip to their hand sizes.
Other features include a reversible magazine release – a great addition for southpaws – a dual recoil spring, and rough grip texturing.
As you’d expect there is an integral accessory rail ahead of the trigger guard and drift-adjustable, dovetailed rear sights.
Since this is a larger gun to start with, a larger and higher power light is nice. Our pick is the Streamlight TLR-1 HL.
This gun has the expected factory trigger, meaning you might not love it, but I have good news: you can easily go wild on aftermarket parts for your Glock.
I’ve abused my Glocks at length, and they keep going. If you want a .45 ACP that’s solid and task-specific, you want the Gen 4 G21.
One of our favorites…what’s your take? Give it a rating below.
5. CZ 97 B
This is one of my editor’s personal guns, and he LOVES it.
Effectively, this is the CZ 75 B scaled up to .45 ACP. In every way, it’s the same gun…just bigger and more American.
But, this was designed during the American Assault Weapons ban from 1994 to 2004, part of that ban included magazines over 10 rounds.
To comply with that, the CZ 97 B only holds a max of 10+1 rounds.
That is disappointing from a double-stack .45 ACP, but it’s what it is.
Other than that, this is one of the softest shooting, nicest to handle .45 ACP guns ever made.
The 97 B features fiber optic sights that are super fast and easy to pick up, a thick grip, and a safety with no decocker. It’s also DA/SA, just like the smaller 75 B.
In double-action, the trigger is LONG and HEAVY, but in single-action, it’s very crisp with a fairly short reset.
Overall, I strongly recommend it. If you like CZ guns, you’ll love this one.
6. H&K 45 USP Tactical
What would a .45 ACP roundup be without Heckler and Koch?
The HK 45 USP Tactical is similar to the HK Mark 23 only a bit more compact.
The HK 45 USP Tactical features an overall length of 8.64-inches and an empty weight of 32.8 ounces.
It offers a host of features like a 5.09-inch threaded, polygonal bore barrel that is wickedly precise. You’ll get your sub-2-inch groups at 25-yards with this one if you do your part.
This DA/SA, hammer-fired gun brings a left-side decocking lever, so if you like having the use of a decocker, here you go.
The trigger is match-grade with an adjustable trigger stop. And the trigger guard is oversized to facilitate use with gloves.
It seems HKs can be a matter of personal taste, but what gun isn’t? This one is a well-designed, reliable gun that fits my hands nicely and runs beautifully out of the box.
I’m a fan of the suppressor-height factory sights. They have micrometer adjustments for windage and elevation and also because, well, they work if you want to run the gun suppressed as God intended.
Then there’s the extended slide release and ambidextrous magazine release.
It ships with two mags – one 10-rounder, one 12-rounder.
7. Ruger Redhawk .45 ACP/.45 Colt
No list is complete without revolvers.
In this case, the available pool of newer-model, quality wheel guns is a little shallow, but we do have the Ruger Redhawk .45 ACP…and it’s awesome.
The Redhawk uses a stainless-steel frame and ships with lasered hardwood grips.
It’s a large frame revolver with a rounded butt that I prefer over some of the other grip frames out there.
Oh, and the grip panels are checkered on the sides but smooth at the back and upper edges.
Even if you are not a revolver aficionado, the Redhawk in .45 ACP is probably going to appeal to you.
The Ruger Redhawk .45 ACP has a 4.20-inch, six-groove barrel, ramped front sight, and adjustable rear sight. It’s on the hefty side, with an overall length of 9.50-inches and an empty weight of 44 ounces.
This gun was built to be tough with a triple-locking cylinder and no side plates.
Why does it matter there are no side plates?
Since you access this revolver’s working parts from the bottom of the frame instead of the side, it’s more capable of handling recoil and extensive use. You can thank the extra metal in the top strap and sidewalls.
The 6-round capacity might be seen as lacking to some, but with a speed loader is manageable.
One of my favorite things about this gun is its trigger. It was designed with a single spring and has a smooth, even pull, and clean break.
This is a DA/SA gun, so take the time to learn to run it double-action.
This is also an accurate gun capable of reaching out and touching targets at longer distances than many of its shorter-barreled, smaller-caliber friends.
8. FN FNX-45 Tactical
Everything about the FNX-45 Tactical screams tacticool…from the coyote coloring to the controls.
If you want to shoot .45 ACP and look cool doing it, this is your gun.
It offers a stainless-steel slide assembly and measures 8.6-inches in total length with a weight sitting at 33 ounces unloaded.
As far as features, it brings an aggressive grip texture, interchangeable backstraps, and a threaded 5.3-inch barrel. So add that suppressor…you know you want to!
Additionally, you get suppressor-height Trijicon sights which are a nice addition.
Best of all, the FNx-45 shoots like a dream. Seriously, it feels so good in the hand.
But a drawback of the design is its trigger. It’s a little lacking and not as smooth as some of the other models on the list.
That said, this gun is a workhorse, reliable, and a model you should definitely take a look at.
And if you want to learn more about this, check out our full review here!
9. Springfield Armory XD-M
The Springfield Armory XD-M rounds out this list.
It brings an overall length of 7.7-inches and a weight of 31 ounces.
This gun is a popular model, namely for its unique safety features like the grip safety. It’s like the benefit of a safety without it being a traditional thumb style.
The XD-M boasts an accessory rail for lights or lasers as well as a 4.5-inch match-grade barrel and interchangeable backstraps.
It ships alongside two 13-round mags, so you got plenty of ammo to spare.
10. Hi-Point .45 ACP
Whoa, whoa…put down your pitchforks!
Okay, we know, it’s a Hi-Point, but it’s built like a truck, and it’s cheap. So, if you’re looking for something, anything in .45 ACP…give it a shot.
If you’re not familiar, the Hi-Point is budget-friendly and goes bang every time.
That’s the good news, the bad news is everything else.
Trigger, mushy, and ew. Sights, you can see them — ish. It feels like a brick but is less ergonomic in your hands.
And disassembly? Good luck. Honestly, you might just want to get a new one rather than fight with taking the one you have apart.
All of that said…I mean, it still shoots…like, surprisingly well.
Johnny has taken his out to the range for a lot of plinking and never had a failure, and Hi-Point has a great reputation for amazing customer service also.
No one would call this the nicest or smoothest shooting .45 ACP pistol, but if all you have is $200 and a dream of owning something in .45 ACP…it’s your best option.
As you can see, there are a number of excellent .45 caliber pistols available on the market.
Each one has its own benefits and drawbacks, so finding the right one for you depends on what you’re looking for.
If you’re buying a gun for home defense, I’d recommend a .45 pistol with low recoil or higher magazine capacity.
You’ll be thankful that you have that extra round or two if you are in a situation where you need it.
Best .45 ACP Self-Defense
Also, make sure that you spend enough time at the range getting used to your gun.
Even if you have experience shooting .45 caliber pistols in the past, every .45 ACP model shoots a little differently.
The .45 ACP is a great gun to have. Not only will it be an excellent home-defense tool, but it’ll also provide you with hours of enjoyment at the shooting range!