I was given the idea for the topic of “best hand gun”. My first question was, “best hand gun for what”? The best hand gun for self-defense? The best hand gun for hunting? The best hand gun for your Bug Out Bag?
I pondered over this question for a while. What is the best hand gun to cover all of these purposes? I decided that if I was given the choice of only one hand gun to cover all of these needs, it would be a .45 ACP. Is it coincidence that I already carry a .45 ACP pistol? Not really.
The .45 ACP pistol for EDC
I say not really because if I could choose only one hand gun, yes, it would be a .45 ACP caliber pistol, but it wouldn’t be the particular pistol I carry now for EDC. The reason why is because the pistol I carry now is fine for an Every Day Carry gun intended for self defense purposes, but it isn’t particularly suited for hunting.
Why? Well, it has a polymer frame to help cut weight, since it is a large frame pistol. Seeing also that it is a high capacity .45 ACP pistol, that makes it even larger than a standard 1911 style .45 ACP pistol (like the one to the right). So it would be even heavier than a standard 1911 if it had the steel frame.
My EDC gun, the Taurus 845, has tons of good reviews.
I do like the high capacity, 13+1 rounds of .45 ACP on tap (or should I say double tap?), to me that is comforting. I also like the double action and decocker because I like to carry it loaded with a mostly full magazine, a round in the chamber, safety off, hammer down.
I say mostly full magazine because I only keep 12 rounds in it. There are two reasons for that, the first is because since it stays loaded for prolonged periods I try to let the spring have that extra little bit of room. The other reason is, well, I’m superstitious and don’t want to keep 13 rounds in the magazine.
That way if I need the gun in a hurry it just needs to come up and squeeze the trigger. The first round is in double action since the hammer is down, so it has that long double action trigger, then successive shots are in easy single action mode.
And since it is in decock mode, it is safe to carry with the safety off because if it were to be dropped and landed on the hammer it won’t fire. The one thing about it that I don’t particularly like is that it is what I call it a “50 footer”. What I mean by that is it is fine for self defense purposes, when technically the bad guy will be within about 20 feet of me, but I wouldn’t exactly call it a target gun.
Don’t get me wrong, I can hit targets at far distances fairly well, but I wouldn’t call it a tight group. To be honest, I haven’t tried to hit anything farther than fifty feet or so with it, so I can’t really say how well it will do.
Just by judging it from how it hits at 50 feet I would put much into it at 100 feet, much less 100 yards. A .45 drops so bad at 100 yards (it drops about 3 feet) that combined with the sporadic hits my EDC pistol gives at fifty feet (about 12”), I just can’t see it doing much far out.
Even a couple of videos showing that 100 yard shot, if they did it I know I can…
As I said before, at the 20-foot defense range, I can pop heads all day. So consider situational stress, and return fire, I should be good for a torso hit with it because it does shoot quite well.
I have a beautiful 9mm made by the same company and I can seriously hit a human torso target at 100 yards equally as well as I can hit one with this .45 at 100 feet. Maybe even better. The company makes some damn fine firearms, but the .45 I carry for EDC defense is a lower priced gun that is intended to shoot a person at less than 20 feet. That doesn’t really take much accuracy to do that.
It’s lower priced, polymer framed and a little what I would call sloppy in the fit of the slide to the frame. It has a little wobble.
That’s fine because it gets beat up carrying it around (as you can see in the picture to the right, it gets beat up when you carry it every day) and with it costing only about $300 I don’t care if it gets beat up looking. It will still do it’s job effectively if the need should arise.
A .45 ACP Pistol of Hunting Quality
By no means would I ever take my current EDC pistol intentionally into the woods to try to hunt anything with it like deer or hogs. For that I would want a better quality, higher accuracy pistol. Don’t get me wrong, I would absolutely try if I had to, but it is not the ideal firearm for that.
That pistol could also be carried for EDC, but it would be heavier, and it would cost two to four times as much as my current EDC pistol so it would be a crying shame if it got as beat up as mine is.
If I had to choose only one handgun to cover all the bases I can’t get exactly what I want because, well, it just doesn’t exist. If it did it would be exactly like my Taurus PT92AFS but in .45 ACP caliber. I could come close in something like the Para ordinance, PARA USA EXPERT 14.45 stainless steel 45ACP with a five inch barrel. It is a beautifully crafted gun, very well made. All steel construction with a 14-round capacity.
See a para .45 eat one thousand rounds in under eleven minutes in this torture test:
Of course, with that pistol being a 1911 style pistol I lose my double action and decocker. To make up for that loss I would have carry the pistol in the less safe, condition 0, i.e. loaded magazine, round in the chamber, hammer cocked, safety off. Of course if I went inside a public place and more people were around I would go to condition 1 and put the safety on, but generally it would be in condition 0.
This pistol will do everything my current EDC pistol will do, but it is much more accurate. I would feel totally comfortable taking deer and hogs at reasonable pistol distances of 50 yards or so, maybe a little more. I would carry +P+ loads, where I only carry +P loads now.
My current EDC pistol is rated for +P, but the all steel construction of the Para would allow for the little extra whoomp you get from the +P+ rounds.
Of course with a 230 gr jacketed hollow point projectile made by a reputable company (Hornady currently makes my favorite 230 gr hollow point projectiles with their XTP, pictured right) and they were hand loaded to +P+ specs, this would be a very feasible hunting cartridge and would most definitely be an excellent self-defense round as well.
Also, being made from stainless steel there would be no concern for the finish coming off or for the pistol to rust. Stainless steel is much more durable that a blued or Parkerized gun.
These are my thoughts on the subject of the “best handgun”. I’m more than sure that many people will disagree with me, but these are my reasons. The .45 ACP cartridge has been around for over 100 years for a reason. Because it is awesome. It is also plentiful.
There is probably still ammo around from WWII, the Korea war, and Vietnam packed away somewhere. Not to mention all of the current production. I’d guess there are literally billions of rounds of it floating around the world. Not to mention that parts are plentiful. Factory parts and custom parts for the 1911 are everywhere.
I’d say you won’t likely run out of ammunition anytime soon. If you wanted to they even sell a .22 LR conversion for the 1911 pistols so you could use it for small game too. (However I’m not sure if it works on the double stack version that I like).
The long and short of it is to use a handgun that YOU are comfortable with. MOre likely it’s the one you already have, and the one you can hit the target with. I can’t honestly say there is a “best handgun”, but there are many very good handguns. These are just the one I currently carry literally every day, and the one I would choose if I had to pick only one.
Eric Eichenberger is an avid outdoorsman, skilled marksman, and former certified range officer and instructor with nearly 40 years experience handling and repairing firearms.
A skilled craftsman with a strong love for working with his hands, Eric spent 20 years as a carpenter and custom woodworker in high end homes. As a gold and silversmith he has created hundreds of pieces of jewelry over the years using the lost wax casting method.
The grandson of humble country folk, he was raised with the “do it yourself” mentality and so is accustomed to coming up with unique solutions to problems utilizing materials at hand.