7 Best 45 ACP Pistols

by Travis Pike

August 3, 2023

0 comments

5
(9)

The United States has contributed a lot to the world of firearms. Cartridges like the .30-06, the .30-30, and all our various .45 caliber cartridges have proven popular the world over. One of the most famous, if not the most famous, is the .45 ACP. The round is well over a century old but keeps on ticking around the world and especially at home with civilian shooters. It’s popular for self-defense, competition, and more. Today, we are going to look at the best .45 ACP handguns, and boy, are there plenty to discuss. 

The .45 ACP In Living Color 

John Moses Browning designed the .45 ACP way back in 1904 at the behest of the United States government. Testing by Thompson and LaGarde showed that the best round for a fighting force should be in .45 ACP. At this point, we didn’t have much knowledge of terminal ballistics. In their testing, big, heavy and slow rounds were more lethal to live animals than older, smaller caliber projectiles. 

A lot has changed since then, but the .45 ACP remains largely the same. It served in the M1911, as well as the Thompson and the M3 submachine guns. It lasted from 1911 to 1985 in general service, but still serves to this day in special roles. Stopping power might be a myth, but staying power isn’t, and the .45 ACP has some serious staying power. 

The .45 ACP is naturally subsonic in the 230-grain FMJ loadings, so it’s great for suppressors. The big, heavy bullet moves slowly, and recoil tends to be more of a push than a snap. Plus, we still love classic guns, and this classic caliber occupies plenty of them. 

Gun University’s Choices of the Best 45 ACP Handguns 

Best 45 ACP Pistol

Sig Sauer P220
  • DA/SA Design
  • De-cocker
  • Numerous Optics and Railed Models are Available
Check Price
M1911
  • Available At Every Price Point
  • Available in Any Configuration
  • Beyond proven
Check Price
Glock 21
  • Efficient Magazine Capacity
  • Optics Ready Options
  • Gen 5 Model Available
Check Price
FNX 45 Tactical
  • Optics Ready
  • Threaded Barrel
  • Suppressor Height Sights
Check Price
HK45
  • DA/SA Design
  • Recoil Reducing System
  • Used by the SEAL Teams
Check Price
CZ 97B
  • Uses the CZ 75 System
  • DA/SA Design With Safety
  • Ergonomic Grip
Check Price
Ruger Vaquero
  • Single Action Revolver
  • Available as Stand Alone or Conversion Cylinder
  • Built Like a Tank
Check Price

Best 45 ACP Handgun Specifications

Below is a table of the specs for each pistol. Click the name of the item to jump to that review.

HandgunBarrel Length (in)Overall Length (in)Weight (oz)CapacityAction
Sig Sauer P2204.47.730.48+1DA/SA
M19115.038.5397+1Single Action
Glock 21 Gen 5 MOS4.618.0729.1013+1Striker Fired
FNX 45 Tactical5.38.633.315+1DA/SA
HK 454.468.0331.210+1DA/SA
CZ 97 B4.658.341.310+1DA/SA
Ruger Vaquero3.759376Single Action Only

Best 45 ACP Pistol

Here is our list for the best 45 ACP pistol:

  1. Sig Sauer P220
  2. M1911
  3. Glock 21
  4. FNX 45 Tactical
  5. HK45
  6. CZ 97B
  7. Ruger Vaquero

Best 45 ACP Handgun Reviews 

1 SIG Sauer P220

Sig P220

SIG Sauer P220

With origins dating back to the late 1970s, the P220 is considered by many to be the one that started it all for SIG SAUER.

Check Latest Price

  • Shootability A
  • Reliability A
  • Ergonomics B
  • Accuracy A
  • Value C

Our Grade

B+

Reader’s Grade

A

Based on 36 Reviews

Your Grade

Do You Own This Handgun? Leave A Review

Success Your Grade Has Been
Added To Our Reader’s Score

Sig Sauer P220 Specs

  • Barrel Length 4.4 in
  • Overall Length 7.7 in
  • Weight 30.4 oz
  • Capacity 8+1
  • Action DA/SA

Sig Sauer P220 Review

The SIG Sauer P220 is a legendary firearm that hit the world in 1975 and helped prepare the world for what was to come in modern handguns. The P220 brought the SIG Sauer system to the United States and would help kick off the DA/SA generation of pistols. Their P220 series has remained in constant production since 1975, and standard models now come with a Nitron finish and rail for accessories. 

In this era, the double-stack 45 didn’t really exist, and SIG wisely chose to use a single-stack eight-round magazine to keep the grip from getting a little too wide. It’s remarkable that the P220 remains in production and has even outlasted the thicker P227. It’s one of the few .45 ACPs that has an easy-to-reach trigger, especially when the weapon is in single action. 

Speaking of the P220 series, SIG Sauer has always had a fantastic series of DA/SA triggers and one of the best placements of de-cockers out there. It’s a very ergonomic pistol overall and quite easy to handle. The thicker grip really helps dissipate recoil and makes the weapon comfortable to shoot. 

They have ushered the P220 series into 2023 with optics-ready variations, as well as Legion models with single-action-only triggers. It’s constantly expanded and kept up with most of the modern features of handguns. The one downside many will face is the rather low magazine capacity. Beyond that, this is a proven and fantastic pistol. Read our detailed review on the P220

Sig Sauer P220 Pros and Cons

  • Excellent Trigger
  • Super Reliable
  • Great Ergonomics
  • Low Magazine Capacity

Sig Sauer P220 Deals

2 M1911

M1911

The original 45 ACP semi auto handgun designed by John M. Browning.

Check Latest Price

  • Shootability A
  • Reliability A
  • Ergonomics A
  • Accuracy B
  • Value A

Our Grade

A-

Reader’s Grade

A-

Based on 5 Reviews

Your Grade

Do You Own This Gun? Leave A Review

Success Your Grade Has Been
Added To Our Reader’s Score

M1911 Specs

  • Barrel Length 5.03 in
  • Overall Length 8.5 in
  • Weight 39 oz
  • Capacity 7+1
  • Action Single Action

M1911 Review

Of course, the M1911 has to make the list. It’s the first .45 ACP pistol and remains one of the most popular. Over a century later, there are still dozens of companies pumping out 1911s in every configuration you could dream of. If you want a cheap 1911, that’s an option. If you want to spend thousands and thousands of dollars on a 1911, that’s also an option. The M1911 occupies pretty much all price points possible, but here are our favorites

The M1911 series is a single-action-only firearm that uses single-stack magazines. Magazine capacity varies from seven to 10 rounds, depending on how crazy you want to get. Here are our best 1911 magazines. The standard M1911 is a big pistol with a five-inch barrel and full grip frame, but the compact Commander and Officer sizes exist as well. The standard model tends to be the most reliable. 

Although it’s a .45 ACP, the M1911 is well-known for its lithe grip. It fits the hand just right and is one of the strongest arguments for the gun. Ergonomically it’s quite sound. While it’s adorned with safety devices, none of them are difficult to defeat on the fly. Recoil is a short push rather than a snap, and it’s quite fun to shoot. 

I can’t help but feel like a World War 2 GI hunting down the enemies of democracy with my .45 ACP. The charm of the M1911 is evident, and it’s easy to see why the gun has remained so popular. Even the cheaper models of the M1911 have awesome triggers and give you that GI experience. The downsides are the fact that it only has an eight-round magazine and is a pretty heavy and inefficient option compared to modern pistols. 

M1911 Pros and Cons

  • Great Trigger
  • Excellent Ergonomics
  • Proven Design
  • Low Capacity

M1911 Deals

3 Glock 21 Gen 5

Glock 21 Gen 5 Review

Glock 21 Gen 5

A full size Glock frame chambered in the venerable 45 ACP cartridge

Check Latest Price

  • Shootability B+
  • Reliability A
  • Ergonomics B
  • Accuracy B+
  • Value A-

Our Grade

B+

Reader’s Grade

B+

Based on 4 Reviews

Your Grade

Do You Own This Gun? Leave A Review

Success Your Grade Has Been
Added To Our Reader’s Score

Glock 21 Specs

  • Barrel Length 4.61 in
  • Overall Length 8.07 in
  • Weight 29.10 oz
  • Capacity 13+1
  • Action Striker Fired

Glock 21 Review

Let’s follow the M1911 with its arch-rival, the Glock. In reality, they aren’t rivals, but Glock owners and M1911 owners certainly like to argue about which is better. Glock has made many notable advancements in the fighting pistol marketplace, and those come home to the .45 ACP in the form of the Glock 21, full review here

What’s most notable about the Glock 21 is the fact it brought double-stack magic to the .45 ACP cartridge without an absurd-sized grip. It’s big but manageable. The Glock 21 holds 13 rounds in its flush-fitting magazine. The SF, or Short Frame, model trimmed the grip a bit from the original G21 to make it a little easier to reach the trigger for smaller hands. 

The Glock 21 is now in the 5th generation of Glocks, and it’s the one to purchase. These variants have ambidextrous slide stops, a redesigned, more ergonomic grip, a match-grade barrel, and more. Perhaps most important, there is a MOS variant that makes adding an optic easy. Add a light and red dot, and you have a very modern pistol for defensive purposes. 

If I had to go to war today and had to choose a .45 ACP pistol, it would be the Glock 21. The Glock series of pistols are incredibly reliable. They just don’t stop. They don’t require tons of maintenance, they don’t mind nonpermissive environments, and they are the preeminent choice of special operations troops.
One of the big downsides to the Glock 21 is going to be its crappy plastic sights. Why such a nice gun has such terrible sights is beyond me, but there is no shortage of great options to upgrade them. Both the Glock and M1911 have a vast aftermarket ready to upgrade your handgun as you see fit.

Glock 21 Pros and Cons

  • Excellent Capacity
  • Modern Features
  • Great Capacity
  • Crappy Sights

Glock 21 Deals

4 FNX 45 Tactical

FNX 45 Tactical

FNX 45 Tactical

One of the most battle-ready pistols ever made, the FNX 45 Tactical can do it all and then some.

Check Latest Price

  • Shootability A
  • Reliability A+
  • Ergonomics A
  • Accuracy A+
  • Value B

Our Grade

A

Reader’s Grade

B+

Based on 8 Reviews

Your Grade

Do You Own This Handgun? Leave A Review

Success Your Grade Has Been
Added To Our Reader’s Score

FNX 45 Tactical Specs

  • Barrel Length 5.3 in
  • Overall Length 8.6 in
  • Weight 33.3 oz
  • Capacity 15+1
  • Action DA/SA

FNX 45 Tactical Review

The modern handgun market has become dominated by pistols with rails, an optics-ready design, and a threaded barrel for suppressors and compensators. Before that, mainstream FN did it with the FNX 45 Tactical pistols. It’s nuts how far ahead of the curve they were and how little we recognize them for it. To this day, the FNX 45 Tactical is still a brilliant pistol and a very modern .45 ACP design. 

This polymer frame pistol has a 10-round flush-fitting magazine to give you a few extra rounds without creating a massive grip. However, if you want more, there is a 15-round magazine with an extended base pad. The gun uses a DA/SA system with a manual safety for cocked and locked carry. It’s one of the few guns that I consider truly optics-ready out of the box. 

What I mean is that FN includes suppressor height sights that allow for clean co-witnessing through the optic. This can be valuable when your optic breaks or the battery dies, and you need to revert to iron sights. Speaking of, the FNX 45 Tactical does come with two plates to fit a variety of optics, including options from Holosun and Trijicon. 

The gun is fairly soft shooting and easy to handle and delivers in the accuracy department. While the single action is quite crisp, the double action leaves something to be desired. It’s not terrible, but I’ve handled and experienced better options. 

FNX 45 Tactical Pros and Cons

  • Excellent Capacity
  • Tons of Modern Features
  • Great SA Trigger
  • DA Trigger Leaves Something to Be Desired
  • Expensive

FNX 45 Tactical Deals

5 HK 45

Check Latest Price

  • Shootability A+
  • Reliability A
  • Ergonomics A
  • Accuracy A
  • Value B

Our Grade

A

Reader’s Grade

A

Based on 7 Reviews

Your Grade

Do You Own This Gun? Leave A Review

Success Your Grade Has Been
Added To Our Reader’s Score

HK 45 Specs

  • Barrel Length 4.46 in
  • Overall Length 8.03 in
  • Weight 31.2 oz
  • Capacity 10+1
  • Action DA/SA

HK 45 Review

The HK45 series is a direct descendent of the HK Mark 23 and USP45 series of pistols. It’s the modern variation of these guns that’s optimized for the .45 ACP cartridge. It was initially designed for the failed Joint Pistol Program put on by the United States military and had input from Delta Force operator Larry Vickers and famed firearms instructor Ken Hackathorn. While the joint Pistol Program fell apart, the weapon was adopted as the MK 24 MOD 0 by the Navy SEALs. 

From the USP and MK23, it gets an absurd level of reliability. This is a handgun designed from the ground up to be abused and beaten. The best testament to this pistol is that they can issue it to a Private in a military force, and they won’t be able to break it without a sledgehammer. 

With the HK45, shooters get a very ergonomic grip design. It’s surprisingly nice and thin, especially compared to other double-stack .45s. This gun holds ten rounds in its flush-fitting magazine and uses a DA/SA system. HK makes many variants, including a DAO LEM, a de-cocker, a safety, and everything in between. 

HK uses the famed USP recoil-reducing system, which is a fancy way to describe a dual spring recoil guide rod. Even though it’s not quite a fancy system as HK describes it, it does reduce recoil and make the HK45 an easy-shooting handgun. There are two downsides. First, these are tough to find. Second, HK hasn’t kept the gun super modern and adopted optics support. 

HK 45 Pros and Cons

  • Easy Shooting
  • Amazing Ergonomics
  • Unbeatable Reliability
  • Hard to Find

HK 45 Deals

6 CZ 97 B

Check Latest Price

  • Shootability A
  • Reliability A
  • Ergonomics A+
  • Accuracy A+
  • Value B

Our Grade

A

Reader’s Grade

A-

Based on 2 Reviews

Your Grade

Do You Own This Gun? Leave A Review

Success Your Grade Has Been
Added To Our Reader’s Score

CZ 97B Specs

  • Barrel Length 4.65 in
  • Overall Length 8.3 in
  • Weight 41.3 oz
  • Capacity 10+1
  • Action DA/SA

CZ 97B Review

I’m a huge CZ fan, and the CZ 75B series are some of my favorite guns. It’s easy to see why the CZ 97B would make the list. The 97B uses the same system as the CZ 75B, and they are basically the same gun outside of caliber and frame size. Predictably the chunkier .45 ACP cartridge makes the 97B larger than the 9mm CZ 75. Interestingly enough, CZ designed the weapon in the middle of the Clinton Assault Weapons Ban, which banned magazines of more than ten rounds. 

It seems CZ figured if you can only carry ten rounds, they might as well be a big ten rounds. The 97B predictably holds ten rounds in its flush-fitting magazine. CZ still found a way to bring those CZ ergonomics to the .45 ACP platform. It doesn’t miss a beat in providing a grip nearly any hand can love. It encourages a nice high grip with a slight beavertail and trigger guard undercut. 

The smaller-than-average slide size reduces the bulk being thrown rearward at you, and this, in turn, reduces felt recoil and muzzle rise. This makes it one of the softer shooting platforms on the market and helps keep the big booming .45 ACP under control. The DA/SA trigger system is in play, and both the single action and double action are nice and crisp, with just a slightly longer reset than I’d prefer. 

The downside is that CZ recently discontinued the series. That being said, they still aren’t tough to find and will certainly be an awesome option if you snag one soon. 

CZ 97B Pros and Cons

  • Easy Shooting
  • Amazing Ergonomics
  • Great Trigger
  • Recently Discontinued

CZ 97B Deals

7 Ruger Vaquero

Check Latest Price

  • Shootability B
  • Reliability A+
  • Ergonomics A
  • Accuracy B
  • Value A

Our Grade

A-

Reader’s Grade

A+

Based on 1 Reviews

Your Grade

Do You Own This Gun? Leave A Review

Success Your Grade Has Been
Added To Our Reader’s Score

Ruger Vaquero Specs

  • Barrel Length 3.75 in
  • Overall Length 9 in
  • Weight 37 oz
  • Capacity 6
  • Action Single Action Only

Ruger Vaquero Review

I always love to toss in a bit of a wild card in the mix, and my wild card for .45 ACP handguns is the Ruger Vaquero. The Vaquero, if you don’t know, is a single-action revolver largely based on the Colt Single Action Army. It’s not a gun we see automatic cartridges in often. Ruger makes it available as just a .45 ACP option, or they have a convertible model with a .45 Long Colt cylinder and a .45 ACP cylinder. 

My favorite is the 3.75-inch Vaquero with its bird head’s grip and stainless finish. It’s a sweet, good looking gun that’s handy and balanced. However, longer barrels and standard grips are an option as well. The major benefit of a .45 ACP revolver is ammo prices. Have you shopped .45 Colt lately? It’s expensive! If you purchase a .45 ACP Vaquero, it’s much cheaper to shoot and enjoy.

You still get the cowboy design and the crisp and smooth single-action trigger. However, you get cheaper, more common ammo that’s arguably more versatile. There are tons of .45 ACP loadings, from the big 230-grain FMJs to lighter 180 JHPs. We can use it for predator defense or just having fun at the range. The .45 ACP doesn’t have a rim, but it headspaces on a small shoulder inside the cylinder, which makes it easy to load. Additionally, it has an ejection rod that enables quick unloading.. 

The Vaqueros in .45 ACP is tougher to find, but you can also purchase a .45 ACP conversion cylinder and make your .45 Colt a .45 ACP if you so choose. 

Ruger Vaquero Pros and Cons

  • Cheap Ammo
  • Cowboy Style Fun
  • Great Trigger
  • It’s tough to find

Ruger Vaquero Deals

Conlusion

The .45 ACP is creeping its way to retirement. Modern projectiles have gotten better, and it’s made .45 ACP less and less valid for defensive use. As we’ve discovered that things like stopping power are a myth, and that shot placement is what counts, the old warhorse is slowly marching her way to a nice restful place. 

Well, she would be if people still didn’t adore the .45 ACP. In the civilian market, it’s still one of the more popular rounds and continues to be a favorite of a great many shooters. There is something comforting about the .45 ACP. Much like the .30-06 and .30-30, it’s an American invention with a long history of success. As a young country, we tend to stick to our successes. 

Rate

Click on a star to rate it!

Average rating 5 / 5. Vote count: 9

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.

About Travis Pike

Travis is a former United States Marine Corps Infantryman and currently a firearms writer, instructor, and works in Emergency Management.

Recent Posts