The 9mm may be the current “ideal” cartridge for self-defense, but that fact counts for very little with a contingent of American shooters. For them, the premier cartridge the reigning champ and undisputed king of calibers for semi-auto pistols is the venerable, legendary .45 ACP.
If there is one quintessentially American pistol cartridge, it is this one. It’s more American than two bald eagles out on a date on the 4th of July.
Now well over 100 years old, this classic round employed then and employs now a recipe for effectiveness and success that has changed little since firearms were young: hurl a big chunk of lead at the recipient. The .45 ACP still delivers on this classic doctrine today.
The .45 ACP is a solid defensive cartridge in all regards, and has an edge over many of its smaller competitors when deep penetration and maximizing a wound channel irrespective of a failure to expand is desired.
Whatever new advancements in bullet technology have taken place, none of them have made the .45 truly obsolete.
But if there is one flaw you could lay at the feet of this beloved elder statesman of pistol rounds, it would be the same thing that has provided much of its strength: it is very big! And this means that magazine capacity in guns chambered for it has always taken a hit.
At least, it took a hit if you did not want to be coping with a comically oversized grip resulting from a big double stack magazine stuffed to bursting with .45 goodness.
Capacity is an important consideration for a defensive gun, considering multiple attackers is an increasingly common reality for citizens today.
That and the fact that misses will likely occur and multiple follow-up shots will be necessary and suddenly the historical standard of 7 or 8 rounds may seem inadequate.
All that has changed now with the latest generation double stack .45 ACP pistols today, which can combine more than ample capacity and modestly sized grips, making them more than suitable for defensive use, even concealed carry.
In this article, I’ll be providing my list of what I believe to be the top tier double-stack .45 pistols on the market today.
Table of Contents
Why a .45 at All?
That’s a fair question, especially in light of my preference for the 9mm which I have been vocal about in person and all over the internet, and considering that all recent studies point toward terminal performance between pistol rounds being damn near neck and neck when modern expanding ammo is used.
If you want to talk pure numbers, it looks like the 9mm has the most advantages all the way around, at least with technology where it is at today.
But simply stated, to adherents of the Path of the .45, this does not matter much. It simply does not matter: the .45 ACP is their cartridge of choice, and damn the torpedoes
I could argue the merits of the 9mm over the .45 ACP, but aside from being done to death, it is useless, and not what I would consider productive or instructive: whatever users think about it, or the 9mm, they have made their choice, and furthermore the .45 ACP is entirely adequate as a defensive round. Why throw the baby out with the bath water?
All I care about as a trainer and consultant, as far as weapon and ammo selection by a client is concerned, is that it is reliable, of adequate ballistic performance and helps them shoot their best.
The End. All of the guns on this list will do all off the above in spades and then some.
So as far as I am concerned, if you absolutely must have a .45, go with my blessing, so long as you get a good one.
You’ll notice I did not feature any 1911 style pistols: that is deliberate, as with few (expensive) exceptions I have not encountered any reliable enough over the long run to declare them worthy of anything but competition use.
All of the .45s on this list do suffer from a couple of inescapable drawbacks compared to smaller calibers, though. One, among guns of the same model, the .45 versions are often more expensive, easily explained by their typically larger dimensions and greater mass.
Second, .45 ACP ammo is expensive, significantly more than 9mm. This makes training and practice more expensive, often for little practical benefit.
Another issue is that even the slimmest of these guns may be a bit too big for those with small hands to easily operate; there are only so many ways around the simple physics problem of packing big bullets into confined spaces before you leave human ergonomics completely behind.
Elephant in the Waistband, er, Room: The Comfort Issue
You cannot honestly assess any of these guns, or even double stack .45’s as a category, without bringing up their most obvious issue for prospective users: These are bulky, chunky, thick and heavy pistols. Is that a disadvantage?
Depends on your perspective and your purpose. If you’re running a gun openly, in competition or just as a nightstand piece for home or self-defense it probably does not matter one iota.
If you were going to try to conceal the thing, especially inside the waistband, double-especially if you have to really conceal it to prevent serious social, legal or potentially lethal consequences, it is a really big deal.
There is just no other way around it, these guns are big, and when more and more people are carrying concealed and the pendulum on best practices is swinging back from emphasizing raw shooting, or combative performance to emphasizing comfort, 24/7 availability and true concealment these guns can feel like dinosaurs, or at least as big as one!
That does not mean you should disqualify them, but it also doesn’t mean you should pick one as a de facto choice just because it launches big pills in abundance. As always, context is everything.
Regarding carry comfort, most of the guns you see on this list are about equal, not counting differences in weight or payload.
Everybody’s body is a little bit different, so when you take that into account along with a drastic variety and holsters, carry positions and other minutiae it is impossible for me to say if one is going to literally rub you the wrong way or not.
But no matter how you feel about it, I can assure you with the right gear, the right clothing and proper training it is entirely possible to conceal virtually any pistol with an extremely high degree of efficiency.
No, it will never be as convenient or as easy as tossing a little mouse gun in your pocket, but when you find yourself in a really nasty situation and need more than just a “break contact” gun you’ll be glad you have a legitimate fighting pistol.
One thing you can do to ensure you have an easier and more comfortable time carrying your pistol, any pistol for that matter, not just a double stack 45, is to invest in a high-quality holster.
The guns you will see on the list below are all fairly popular offerings from major manufacturers, with some of them being the archetype or current paradigm of their category.
You might not be able to find a holster for them at your local gun shop, but a little searching online from any of the usual suspects should turn up several satisfactory options.
Definitely consider a kydex holster for such a large pistol, no matter how you feel about the material.
Kydex is stronger and thinner than leather, and modern holster designers take maximum advantage of this material’s unique characteristics for holster making to crank out some incredibly comfortable and ergonomic designs.
Blade Tech, JM Custom Kydex, PHLster, Dark Star Gear, and others offer good selections and a few of them can even craft a holster to order for an oddball gun.
But, if you are a die-hard leather aficionado they are still viable though they take more upkeep and maintenance.
Also, leather can wear out far faster than kydex. Galco, DeSantis and Milt Sparks are popular, big-name brands and it is a relatively simple affair for a skilled leather worker to turn out a pretty serviceable holster for nearly any pistol.
No matter which holster you choose and what it is made from, make sure you keep an eye on it if you carry it regularly. Screws back out or fall off and require thread locker to stay secure. Kydex may crack or break if it takes a particularly harsh impact.
Leather loses tension or suppleness and when it wears out can deform dangerously, potentially impinging upon the trigger of the pistol. Your holster is part of a system, not just something to carry the pistol in, and you will neglect it at your own peril.
Those quibbles aside, though, let no man say he feels under-armed when he is packing a pistol chambering America’s fighting handgun cartridge, especially if it is one of the ones on this list.
That’s enough preamble; presented in no particular order, let’s check out the guns!
Glock Model 21
- Excellent aftermarket support. No matter what you need or what you want to do to a Glock, there will be an OEM or third party part that will suit you.
- Durability. Glock as a company built its reputation on their pistols’ incredible durability. The Model 21 is no exception.
- Reliability. Like most Glock offerings, the Model 21 is an extremely reliable handgun in all conditions. Though not quite as impossibly-hard-running as the Model 17 and Model 19, it nonetheless delivers when the chips are down.
- Trigger. Like all Glock Factory triggers the trigger on the model 21 is only so-so. It is entirely usable, but it is generally mushy with a fairly indistinct wall and a middling reset.
- Sights. Stock Glock sights are notoriously terrible. Too big and made of soft plastic there are vulnerable to being knocked off the gun entirely. If you do not spring for a set of factory night sights on your purchase consider a sight upgrade mandatory for a defensive gun.
- Controls. The controls on a Glock 21 as with all other Glocks delivered straight from the factory leave much to be desired. A flat and virtually unusable slide release and a small, sharp magazine release do not contribute to swift and sure function. Both of these are among the first two parts that most Glock owners will replace.
When Glock started to secure their reputation as the premier provider of borderline invincible pistols in the U.S., with LE and civilian markets clambering for more, it was only a matter of time before they turned out the pistol that many of their American converts were already slavering for: the Glock 21, an upsized Glock that packed 13 rounds of hard-hitting .45 into a frame not much bigger than a 17.
The gun was an instant hit, despite its large frame dimensions, and inherited the lightweight, sheer durability and reliability that made the original Glock such a breakout and paradigm-shifting success.
The Glock 21 is now on its 4th generation, benefitting from improved frame texturing and controls like the rest of its stablemates.
As this article goes to press, there is currently no 5th Gen. Glock 21, but you can rest assured that is only a matter of time till that particular variant starts rolling out of the factory.
The Glock 21 is the perfect pistol for big-bore Glock fans, or anyone who wants a base to build out their own customized widebody .45 with little fuss and fretting over the procurement and fitting of parts.
OEM and aftermarket support for this pistol, while not as huge as the Glocks chambered in smaller calibers is still ample.
If the 21 is a hair too much hog leg for you to carry, you can enjoy much of what makes this pistol so great in a more compact form factor in the Model 30, a compact double stack .45.
- Adaptable. The FNX 45 comes from the factory with an MRDS direct mounted to the slide and a threaded barrel ready to accept a silencer or compensator. This was one of the first factory guns to embrace the mini read dot revolution.
- Ambidextrous. The FNX 45 has ambidextrous controls; all of them, all the time. This makes it just as at home for lefties as it does for righties who occasionally need to shoot switch handed.
- Texture. This pistol features some of the most aggressive texturing I have ever seen on a factory gun, comprised of acute, needle-sharp checkering. Wet, oily, or bloody, you can definitely keep a grip on this pistol.
- Capacity. 15+1 capacity is an enormous payload of 45, and made it even more impressive that this is one of the more ergonomic pistols on this list. It doesn’t feel like a huge brick.
- Cost. Even without the red dot sight as a factory install, this is one of the spendier guns on this list. Fabrique Nationale makes great stuff, but you are going to pay for it.
- Texture. Wait, didn’t I just say the texture was a positive? Yes, I did, but there is no free lunch: sharp, aggressive texturing that will bite into your hand is sharp, aggressive texturing that will bite into your hand. Long practice sessions without gloves will see this pistol drawing blood.
The FNX-45 is a direct successor to F.N.’s earlier FNP-45, which is noteworthy for being one of the very first factory complete handguns to come kitted out with an MRDS direct mounted to the slide.
This was in 2007 before all of this was widespread, and the niche success of the Roland Special made MRDS’d and comped handguns cool for the masses.
The FNX-45is a DA/SA handgun with fully ambidextrous controls: safety/decockers, slide releases, and mag releases. It is also highly notable for cramming a whopping 15 rounds of .45 into a frame that, somehow, does not feel like you are holding a fence post with a trigger stuck on it.
This FNX, like many of F.N.’s products, are supremely well thought-out and tested, and this intelligent design shows big time when you pick this gun up to fire it, with all controls being generous enough for sure activation, even under stress, but also placed in such a way that inadvertent activation is unlikely, with either hand.
The FNX-45 can be had in black or tan, with an optional Tactical trim that adds a threaded barrel with thread protector, suppressor height night sights, and a slide milled for direct mounting of an MRDS.
A cold hammer-forged barrel in all variants guarantees a long-lived barrel with plenty of accuracy potential.
If you prefer a highly modern DA/SA gun with ammo capacity rivaling a 9mm, the FNX-45 is the gun for you.
Smith & Wesson M&P45
- Ergonomics. When Smith & Wesson set out to make the M&P series of pistols they did so with the mind to correct the Glocks perceived shortcomings. By all accounts, they succeeded, and aside from excellent human engineering the M&P includes three sizes of wraparound grip shell.
- Sights. The M&P 45 Factory sights are excellent, made from steel, correctly shaped, and proportioned. They are durable, eminently usable and made even better, but they do not inflict a significant premium on the price.
- Options. The M&P 45 can be had with or without a manual thumb safety in the same location and same style as a 1911, and the user can also reverse the magazine release to the opposite side to accommodate users of different handedness.
- Finish. I am not sure what it is about the M&P45’s melonited finish, but it just does not hold up to the other hostile environment finishes found on this list. Sometimes it seems like it holds up great, on other examples it will rust at the drop of a hat. Perhaps quality control in the finishing department is to blame.
- Accuracy. The .45 ACP is an inherently accurate cartridge, and many guns that chamber it place an emphasis on accuracy. The accuracy produced by the M&P 45 is mediocre to acceptable. It has stiff competition on this list in that regard.
Like the Glock above, S&W’s M&P’s need almost no introduction for shooters. And like the Glock, the American shooting public was crying out for a .45 version before the first of the 9mm’s and .40’s had even hit store shelves.
Smith & Wesson delivered in a big way with the M&P 45, pistol only slightly larger in proportion than its older siblings.
The M&P45 includes all of the features that make the M&P line so good and simply does so chambered in our favorite round, the .45 ACP. Ten of them, to be precise.
The M&P45 still features the ambidextrous slide releases and reversible mag release found on other M&P’s and also has as an option a manual thumb safety in an ideal location, much the same in size, shape and feel as a 1911’s.
The M&P is one of the slimmer pistols on this list, making it and its smaller M&P45C compact variant ideal for concealed carry among big-bore fans.
It also features three interchangeable grip inserts that wrap around on to the sides of the frame, allowing the user to tailor the grip for their hand.
All in all, a fine American-made .45 semi-auto, from one of the oldest and most cherished of American gun makers. A winning combination if there ever was one.
- Trigger. The PPQ has probably the best out of the box trigger of any striker-fired gun on the market.
- Ergonomics. Walther has hit a sweetspot on ergos and texture; not too rough and definitely not slick.
- Parts availability. Walther has come on strong in the past decade, but the availability of parts and magazines is still not on par with S&W or Glock.
Lean, accurate, and possessed of an excellent trigger for a striker-fired pistol, Walther’s PPQ 45 builds on the growing enthusiasm the company has earned in recent years with their superb PPQ line of pistols.
Walther is an old firearms company with a distinguished history, a history built on the excellent quality and accuracy of their firearms. Coming into the 21st century, Walther was struggling to keep pace with other foreign and domestic giants in firearms production, but a string of recent innovations and successes has seen them climbing the ladder back into the public consciousness.
If you’re familiar with the PPQ, there is not much here that will surprise you, but that is honestly a good thing; these guns are already such great performers simply having one in .45 is boon enough!
The PPQ 45 is possessed of all the qualities that make its smaller siblings so nice, including a superbly well-textured grip, phenomenal factory trigger, excellent accuracy, ambidextrous slide releases and the new M2 type button magazine release, one that is most familiar to American shooters and in this guy’s opinion an improvement over the Euro lever style release.
But most noteworthy of all on our list is the fact that Walther achieved a grip circumference that is identical to the 9mm version even though it packs in an astonishing 12+1 rounds of .45 ACP.
Truly if the only thing keeping you from owning a modern, double-stack .45 pistol is the size of the grip you will have that excuse no longer!
Probably the only thing I can take away from these guns is that, owing to their “second line” status, parts and magazines are not quite as plentiful or widely available as the current industry leaders, but frankly that can be said any runner-up pistol that isn’t a Glock or M&P.
Heckler & Koch HK45 Compact Tactical
- Modular Fire Control. Far more than any other pistol in its category, the HK45 Compact Tactical can be set up in nearly a dozen different variants to accommodate any shooting style or preference, from DA/SA with a safety or without, to SA cocked-and-locked.
- Adaptable. A factory threaded barrel and suppressor height night sights belie, this pistol origins as an entrant intended for military service.
- Accuracy. This is an accurate little pistol, period. With DNA from the Mark23 SOCOM pistol it is no surprise.
- Capacity. Compared to the other guns on this list the H&K carries only a sedate eight rounds with a standard flush-fit magazine or ten rounds with a noticeably bulky magazine extension.
- Cost. You buy H&K because you know you suck and they hate you for it; this is one expensive little gun, routinely selling for about $1,000. That is a chunk of change for a compact handgun!
Designed to meet the stringent requirements of the U.S. Military’s Joint Combat Pistol program, the HK45 has endured whereas that program went defunct in 2006.
The HK45 and its variants, including the one on this list, the HK45 Compact, have benefitted from a mind-boggling amount of refinements and input from some of the biggest names in pistolcraft, Larry Vickers and Ken Hackathorn foremost and most instrumental among them.
If you don’t know who either of those two gentlemen are, stop reading and go look both of them up.
The HK45 is the successor to H&K’s earlier and much beloved USP45 series of pistols. Those .45’s arguably culminated in the monstrously huge but much beloved (among civilians, anyway) USSOCOM pistol, the Mk23.
While gargantuan, the Mk23 was a technical achievement without peer as far as handguns go, capable of superior accuracy and extraordinary reliability and service life.
But even its smaller USP 45 cousins were known as somewhat clunky, bulky pistols for all their other attributes. So for their next generation of handguns, H&K took what worked well and was liked from the USP’s and scrapped what was poorly received.
The result was the HK45 and HK45C, or Compact, pistols which are leaner, easier to conceal, and more accurate but lose nothing in terms of reliability or durability.
An 8- or 10-shot hammer-fired gun available stock with 9 different control variants allowing traditional DA/SA operation with a decocker, consistent light DAO operation, or cocked-and-locked single action the HK45CT, or Compact Tactical, also features a threaded barrel for suppressor mounting, tall adjustable night sights and ambidextrous mag and slide releases.
The HK45CT is one of the smallest and yet most capable double stack .45’s in the world, offering an ideal blend of performance, shootability, and ruggedness that hardly any other handguns in its category can match.
While the Joint Combat Pistol program is history, the HK45 Compact Tactical was adopted by one branch of the U.S. Military, specifically the U.S. Navy seals as their Mk 24 Mod 0 pistol.
H&K has for a while been highly respected as providers of military-grade firearms, and that reputation precedes them with the HK45CT.
Springfield Armory XD 45
- Trigger. The XD 45 has a decidedly nice usable trigger for its price category. Clean takeup, a pretty distinct wall and a decent release means shooting accurately should be a cinch.
- Safeties. One of the feature sets that helped to popularize the XD pistols is their external safeties, consisting of a grip safety and a trigger safety. This provides multiple layers of protection against inadvertent discharge if the gun is dropped or bumped.
- Reliability. The XD Series of pistols are not terrible guns, but they definitely lag behind in terms of malfunctions and parts breakages compared to Glock, H&K, Smith & Wesson and other manufacturers.
- Safeties. The safety systems that helped to popularize the XD’s are also something of an Achilles’ heel, specifically the grip safety which is notorious for not being fully actuated when the shooter is under stress, resulting in a failure to fire.
Springfield Armory’s breakout handgun was a radical departure from the 1911s they are best known for, but turned out to be a minor phenomenon on the U.S. handgun market, offering a viable 3rd way besides the Smith & Wesson M&P series and the dominant-as-always Glock.
The XD pistols have grown into several sub families, each offering a different spin on these wildly popular handguns. The model we are talking about is the classic, striker-fired XD, chambered in .45 ACP.
The XD hit so big with American shooters because it offered a feature set that no other striker-fired pistol did for a modest price, and remained a pretty nice shooting gun.
The XD formula is based on passive safeties galore: a trigger safety ala the Glock, a grip safety that harkens to the 1911 and also locks the slide, and passive drop safeties provide plenty of assurance that this is one pistol that will not go bang unless the trigger is pulled while in the user’s hand.
Ambidextrous magazine releases and both striker and chamber status indicators round out the package containing a generous 13 rounds of .45 within the ergonomic grip.
The XD is a chunky pistol, wide, blocky, and possessing all the aesthetic of Soviet-era mass housing, much like the Glock it strives so hard to beat.
The XD is not my favorite of the striker fired guns, as I have found their durability and reliability to be a little lacking compared to its two biggest competitors, but many people like them and they are pretty solid guns, with little doubt.
If you are already an XD fan looking to go big bore or are just shopping for a striker fired .45, the XD 45 is worth a look.
- Trigger. This gun has a good double action and excellent single-action trigger. A joy to shoot.
- Recoil. This is the only big and beefy all steel gun on the list, and it feels like it, but that steel construction contributes to less recoil and quicker settling in the hand.
- Weight. Once again, this is a massive steel pistol and you will know it as soon as you pick it up. Try to carry this thing on an inadequate belt in a cheap holster and you will regret it.-Uncommon. You don’t find these guns or their parts just everywhere, to say nothing of expertise to work on them. CZ is a company that has been around a long time and has made great strides in the past couple of decades, but if you aren’t willing to work with the factory to get what you need, you might have a hard time getting it.
- No Decocker. A DA/SA handgun should always have a dedicated decocker in my opinion. Carrying this guy safely in DA mode will require obsessive attention to safe handling practices.
The big bruiser on this list, CZ’s 97B is an all steel heavyweight that is operationally identical to the renowned CZ 75. While it is an older design and lacks some of the modern conveniences we have come to expect from newer handguns, it is nonetheless an excellent pistol.
The 97B holds 10 rounds of .45 within its elegantly sculpted frame. The magazine is enclosed by thin aluminum grip panels in an effort to make the grip as small as possible.
A cold hammer forged barrel delivers accuracy in abundance, and this accuracy is easy to achieve thanks to a very good DA/SA trigger, with a particularly sweet single action pull.
My readers know I am a fan of DA/SA guns, and here the CZ gives you that option, but with a few caveats: the 97B is DA/SA, but lacks decocker, instead having a manual safety lever that allows you to safely carry the pistol in single action mode if you desire.
You can carry the 97B safely with the hammer down, safely, thanks to a safety stop on the hammer, but lowering the hammer on a loaded chamber means you’ll need to do so by first restraining the hammer and then depressing the trigger to allow the hammer to descend under control to the stop.
While this may give less experienced pistoleros the willies (with cause) it can be safely done so long as the correct procedure is followed.
The 97B’s only other quirk is its weight: hailing from an era before polymer completely took over the pistol world, the all-steel construction of the 97B makes it very heavy, although its overall lines are somewhat more slender than its appearance would suggest.
This may make carrying the pistol aggravating for some depending on holster, location, and so on.
All that aside, the 97B is an excellent handgun and almost criminally underrated, like many of CZ’s firearms.
Accurate, and very soft shooting, the CZ 97B is a throwback to a time when steel ruled the roost and big bullets were the choice for serious shooters, and it still acquits itself with distinction today.
Beretta PX4 Storm
- Recoil. There is definitely some secret sauce to a rotary breech pistol, and the PX4 Storm is a mild shooter because of it.
- Trigger. These guns have among the nicest factory triggers I have ever felt on a DA/SA gun.
- Slippery. To quote the great Ernest Langdon, Beretta connoisseur extraordinaire, Beretta chose to make this gun slipperier than a bar of soap from the factory. Consider new grips or texturing mandatory.
- Safety Placement. In keeping with Beretta’s tradition of locating the safety decocker on the slide, that’s where you’ll find it on the Storm. Also, the stock lever shape is fairly pokey when carried against the body. Consider swapping it out for a lower-profile carry version.
Beretta’s rotary barreled PX4 series are excellent pistols that are a love letter of sorts to Beretta’s earlier designs.
Featuring a safety and trigger system more or less lifted from the legendary 92/M9 series pistols mated to the rotary action of the ill-fated 8000 Cougar series guns, the result is far more than the sum of its parts…
A flat shooting, accurate DA/SA gun with a very good trigger, and one that features more modularity and easier servicing than its better known 92 series cousins, with triggers, mag and slide releases, safeties and more all being easily swapped out for different components.
Aside from its great handling characteristics, the PX4 series guns make use of clever engineering to enhance functionality.
The rotary breech is assisted in unlocking via the torque generated by the fired bullet. This is achieved by way of counterclockwise rifling in the barrel.
Additionally, the rotary action means that no tilting of the barrel need occur, and so the top round in a magazine is very nearly in line with the breech, mandating only the slightest of feed ramps for reliability.
This design does much to help assure feeding reliability, especially with big bullets like our favorite .45 ACP.
The .45 Storm was born from the previously mentioned Joint Combat Pistol trials. While that version of the Storm as spec’d can be had in the SD (special duty variant) can be had with a tan frame and extended barrel, the normal versions feature a flush barrel and black frame.
The PX4 series as a whole is a minor oddity in the U.S., where it is typically greeted with a “huh” more than anything.
This is curious as the gun has found widespread success and adoption for its greater qualities worldwide, and only recently thanks to the efforts of Ernest Langdon is the platform starting to garner recognition.
Here is hoping that continues, as American shooters, especially lovers of double stack .45s, have missed out for too long on this one! Mild recoiling, a great trigger, and plenty of room for customization, the PX4 in .45 ACP is a pistol you should not write off!
Magnum Research Baby Eagle
- Ergos. The Baby Eagle’s lineage is on proud display here. The gun feels great in the hand and all controls are easy to reach.
- Soft shooting. This is another all-steel handgun on our list, and the Baby Eagle is noticeably tamer than some of the comparatively light polymer pistols elsewhere.
- Heavy. You take the good and the bad. A big steel gun like this is quite a chunk to haul around.
- Trigger. The SA pull is decent, the DA pull is merely serviceable, being stacky with a noticeable wall.
Magnum Research is best known for cranking out ridiculously huge handguns chambering equally huge cartridges, most infamous among them being their Desert Eagle and BFR lines.
But lesser-known among their product line is a series of CZ-75 derivative pistols that they have imported or manufactured over the years, sometimes called confusingly the Desert Eagle and sometimes called the Baby Eagle or Jericho.
Most U.S. shooters know these handguns as the Baby Eagle, so named because its profile, especially the vaguely trapezoid-shaped muzzle, hearkens to its larger sibling the Desert Eagle.
Don’t be fooled into passing this one up just because it is named similarly to its jumbo-sized and ostentatious stablemate; as befits a gun derived from the legendarily awesome CZ-75 the Baby Eagle is a nice pistol, reliable and a good shooter, and it is made even better by modern enhancements like re-profiled safety levers and improved ergonomics.
Capacity is 10 rounds, and the revised grip is a big improvement over past iterations.
Compared to its mechanical progenitor the CZ-75, the baby eagle features a slide mounted safety-decocker that is more at home on a Beretta M9 or 92 than a pistol of this type.
Considering that just like a CZ-75 the slide runs inside the rails on the frame it does sit a little lower to the hand, making actuation somewhat easier.
Whether or not this is a help or a hindrance is probably based on how much time you have with other, similar guns. Despite the somewhat awkward location all controls are well shaped, smooth, and operate with distinct positivity.
This is the other reliable heavyweight gun on our list, and is a great choice for those who want a DA/SA pistol, especially one with a CZ-75 pedigree!
Ruger SR 45
- Slim. The SR 45 is a surprisingly slim gun for a double stack 45. If on body, inside-the-waistband carry is a mandate this will definitely come in handy.
- Controls. The SR 45 shows Ruger’s commitment to improving the human engineering going into their guns, and all the controls on this pistol are well located, properly shaped and crisp to actuate.
- Trigger. Long, indistinct and too heavy. A nasty combination for a striker-fired pistol.
- Magazine Disconnector. You might say Ruger is a safety paranoid company, and their inclusion of a magazine disconnector is just another symptom. If the magazine is removed or not locked into place the gun will not fire. Perk or liability? That’s for you to decide.
The largest in Ruger’s new flagship series of polymer striker-fired of semi-auto pistols, the SR 45 is still one of the slimmest double stack .45’s around, and one that is a worthy heir to the example set by the now-retired P97.
Not just a budget offering, the SR 45 was designed from the ground up to compete head-to-head with any modern polymer .45.
Featuring all the features discerning shooters expect like an accessory rail, slide top loaded chamber indicator, reversible grip insert for a flat or arched backstrap, and an ambidextrous manual safety, this is a thoroughly modern design.
Of some contention, the gun also has a magazine disconnector, meaning that it will not fire without a magazine inserted fully into the mag well.
A very low bore axis helps tame the stout recoil of high-performance .45 loads. Capacity is 10 rounds.
Ever a safety conscious company, even with the passing of notoriously liability conscious founder Bill Ruger, the SR 45’s trigger is a little longer and little heavier than most of its competitors.
This is not necessarily a bad thing when you consider guns used for self defense will be used in very stressful conditions, and contrary to the prognostications and oaths of tactical fanboys, fingers often end up on triggers even when they are not supposed to be.
The performance offered by the SR 45 is quite good, in its price range, and it offers all the capability and conveniences that modern shooters expect with an additional heavy emphasis on safety and prevention of accidental discharges.
If you are a Ruger fan or just looking for a solid widebody .45 on a budget, the SR 45 has you covered.
The .45 ACP is not dead! Long live the .45! For some shooters, there is just no other choice to make besides the .45.
Now big bore aficionados no longer have to choose between the ominous maw of a big .45 caliber muzzle and the capacity they may need to get lots of work done.
The modern breed of semi-auto .45’s feature double stack magazines in any shape, form, or fashion you may desire: polymer, steel, double-action, single action, or striker-fired, you are sure to find a trusty pistol to meet your requirements.
Charles Yor is an advocate of low-profile preparation, readiness as a virtue and avoiding trouble before it starts. He has enjoyed a long career in personal security implementation throughout the lower 48 of the United States.