Concealed Carry

Best .45 Pistols for Concealed Carry

Best .45 Pistols for Concealed Carry

In 2020, we have a plethora of options in .45 ACP carry-sized guns.  This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it does highlight many of the best options for .45 pistols.

We’ll separate our picks by three categories: single-stack pistols, stagger-stack pistols and revolvers.

Single-Stack .45 Pistols

As you will see in the chart below, from a size perspective there is not a lot of difference between the five options I have chosen to highlight.  The barrels all run from 3” to 3.3”.

The overall lengths range from a hair under 6.5” to just a bit over.  The weights range from 19 to 25.6 ounces.  The capacity does vary a bit, in that it runs from 5+1 to 7+1.

In absolute numbers, that is not a lot, but a 25% increase is significant.  With that being said, people routinely carry five and six-shot revolvers.

The biggest differences are going to be user ergonomics, 1911 (pattern) or not, and price.  There is no way to really discuss ergonomics, as everyone feels them differently.

For some, all of these guns are just too small for their hands.  For others, one will fit them quite well.  The Colt Defender and the Kimber Ultra CDP are 1911-style guns.

This means that despite their diminutive size, they have the grip angle and manual of arms of a 1911.  For those who are comfortable with that, it will go a long way towards working for them.

The XD-S is sort of a hybrid, in that it has some of the attributes of a 1911 married to a plastic-fantastic package.  The other choices are very much not 1911’s in any way.

As far as price goes, really all you can say is the 1911-style guns tend to be much higher.  However, retail prices are quite varied, so no attempt to compare by price will be done.

Not to mention, paying a bit higher price for a gun that WORKS for you is money well spent in comparison to one that does not.

Firearm Barrel Length Overall Length Capacity Weight
S&W Shield 45 3.3″ 6.5″ 6+1 20.8 oz
Kahr CW45 3.64″ 6.32″ 5+1 19 oz
Springfield XD-S 45 3.3″ 6.5″ 6+1 23 oz
Kimber Ultra CDP 3″ 6.5″ 5+1 25.6 oz
Colt Defender 3″ 6.75″ 7+1 24 oz

Stagger-Stack .45 Pistols:

There are fewer options in what I call the “stagger-stack” mags.  These guns do not have single-stack mags, but in an attempt to reduce width, they are certainly not double-stacked either.

By widening the magazine a bit, a few more cartridges can be stuffed in without changing the height of the gun much.

The differences here are a bit more pronounced, but just barely.  The barrels are all fairly close to 3.75” long.  The overall lengths are pretty close to 7.25”.

The GLOCK is quite a bit lighter, at just over 20 ounces, while the other two are very close to six ounces heavier.  This is slightly odd, as the GLOCK has the larger capacity at 10+1, but it does have a thicker grip and polymer magazines.

Again, just like with the single-stack options, the real determinants will be the things that do not show up on the spec sheet.  Is the GLOCK too chunky to hide easily or is extra width of the grip less comfortable?

Does the weight of the other two make you less likely to carry them?  Does one of them fit your hand and shoot really well?  Is price a large consideration?

Only you can tell, and it really takes shooting guns like this to know what works for you, or more importantly what doesn’t.

Firearm Barrel Length Overall Length Capacity Weight
GLOCK 30S 3.78″ 6.97″ 10+1 22.75 oz
Tanfoglio Witness Polymer 3.6″ 7.3″ 8+1 28 oz
H&K 45C 3.94″ 7.24″ 8+1 28.5 oz

There is one other option that is in a class by itself, or at least I can’t find any other .45 pistols with a similarly small footprint.

.45 ACP Revolver:

This may be a great choice for those who want to avoid having to deal with the manual of arms of a semi-auto carry gun and also want a .45 ACP.

I am not sure how large that demographic is, but it seems large enough for this option to have some staying power in the market.  Compared to the lowest capacity of the single-stack options, it is only down one round.

The weight is right in the sweet spot of the middle.  Additionally, this .45 ACP revolver does not require the use of moon clips.

Reloading is a lot slower and a speedloader is much bulkier than a spare magazine, but according to the FBI, the average defensive shooting is over after 1.8 rounds are fired.

That number is certainly HIGH, as they are not counting all the firearm uses when zero rounds are fired.

The great news for those who must have the .45 ACP as their defensive round, there are literally dozens of options.  I have shown a few quality representatives to start your pondering.

Firearm Barrel Length Overall Length Capacity Weight
Charter Arms Pitbull 2.5″ 7.38″ 5 22 oz

What firearms do you actually carry concealed? What makes them work for you? Let us know in the comments section below!

About the Author:

John Bibby

John Bibby is an American gun writer who had the misfortune of being born in the occupied territory of New Jersey. His parents moved to the much freer state of Florida when he was 3. This allowed his father start teaching him about shooting prior to age 6. By age 8, he was regularly shooting with his father and parents of his friends. At age 12, despite the strong suggestions that he shouldn’t, he shot a neighbor’s “elephant rifle."

The rifle was a .375 H&H Magnum and, as such, precautions were taken. He had to shoot from prone. The recoil-induced, grass-stained shirt was a badge of honor. Shooting has been a constant in his life, as has cooking.

He is an (early) retired Executive Chef. Food is his other great passion. Currently, he is a semi-frequent 3-Gun competitor, with a solid weak spot on shotgun stages. When his business and travel schedule allow, you will often find him, ringing steel out well past 600 yards. In order to be consistent while going long, reloading is fairly mandatory. The 3-Gun matches work his progressive presses with volume work. Precision loading for long-range shooting and whitetail hunting keeps the single-stage presses from getting dusty.
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (31)

  1. Doc, I’m surprised to hear you had a poor experience with Springfield customer service. I’ve had quite the opposite. They even sent me five magazines for my XDs I purchased one day after the promotion ended.

  2. I am a certified 1911 lover, will never leave home without 1….but to CCDW they aren’t ideal…even though w single stack mags they are thin enough to conceal, they are heavy. I prefer a polymer frame for CCDW. Even my Kimber Ultra Carry II (a fantastic pistol) just doesn’t get the nod very often. Fortunately we live in a state where Open Carry is legal, so I wear a 1911 and conceal a Hellcat 9×19 14 capacity…..bottom line is: Your CCDW pistol must be one you’re both comfortable and proficient with. IF you ever need it for personal defense I hope if fits both categories. “Why do you carry a .45”? Because you can’t hide a .46!

  3. I am a 1911 fan and my EDC is a .40 S&W 411 DA/SA. I like the .45ACP but found the .40 S&W comparable and the 10MM overkill For me a 9mm is useless (just my opinion) my wife prefers her S&W .357 wheel gun over any autoloader

  4. Nothing about the Springfield XD-e????
    I specifically sought out a 45acp handgun.
    Went first for the XD-s.
    I personally feel better with a sa/da gun so when the XD-e came out I jumped on it.
    Also it is surprisingly easy to rack.
    Been very happy with the XD-e.

  5. Sorry, the idea that some pistols are to big or heavy amazes me. I regularly carry a Kimber ProCarry in .45acp. with a capacity is 8+1or a S&W M&Pc 15+1these capacity. I an 5’9″ and 190 lbs. I am 70 years old.
    I have absolutely no problems concealing these pistols and they shoot better for me that the smaller pistols mentioned in this article. I think it was Clint Smith that said something to the effect that defensive pistols should be comforting, not necessarily comfortable. Mind are comforting to me and comfortable to carry.

  6. All of the mentioned handguns are superb. For me, however, the S/W Shield 45acp is a standout. This gun conceals well, shoots accurately with minimal recoil, and is reliable! The purchase price is not bad, either.

    I have loaded this pistol with every type of bullet: hp’s, 185 to 230 gr’s, reloads that fly at a blistering pace, and it always fires on command. Plus, it feels good in the hand.

    Check one out and I believe you, too, will be impressed.

  7. Carried a Charter Arms 44 special Bulldog for many years until use broke the defective top strap. Loved that gun but went to a S&W 357 360PD that at 11oz is now impossible to shoot from 81 year old hands. Going back to a stainless Bulldog in my favorite 44 Special caliber.

  8. If I CC a .45, it is my colt officers in an owb holster in colder months to conceal. My EDC is a PT709 slim. I love it due to the feather weight, under 1″ width 7+1 capacity and fantastic reliability. I’d love to carry .40 or .45 more often, but have yet to find an option with the ease of concealment and carry.

  9. I have a first generation Taurus PT145 that I have had since they first came out. it is small and easy to carry. carries 10 (11 with one in the spout) and has always hit point of aim out to 30+ feet. I haven’t had any frame cracking issues and never feed it +p.

  10. I shoot a lot and when I was looking for a newer design for a carry pistol I had the following criteria 1. Reliability in a defense situation is the highest and greatest need. So it needed to shoot and shoot and shoot I also test my self defense ammo as well with the gun after it is broken in and used FBI tests on penetration and expansion to get ammo that was at the top for both. 2. Ease of use and concealability, I live in Texas and it is now open carry, fine for some people frankly I don’t want to be the first person targeted because it is obvious that I am carrying, I have bought three different light weight jackets make for carry with concealment pads in them and they work great even in the Texas heat. 3. My carry pistol spends a lot of time in the concealed holster installed in my locking center console even then it needs to be something that if stolen doesn’t break the bank a lesson taught to me at a much earlier age when I wasn’t able to replace guns as easily. I have carried a SW 4506 and still have it, the gun is comfortable and puts rounds through the middle of targets time after time. I then was given by my wife a Springfield XD, nice but the 4506 is a better fit with me and I have huge hands so it is still around in the safe. I went out and shot the Colt Defender with a friend of mine who has owned it for two years and has had to send it back in multiple times (note we shot my guns and his gun and range guns) the Colt was the only one that had feed and and misfire issues and from what I can see there is a firing pin issue as well. Having shot with him he is an experienced shooter and the comments from the Colt customer service were frankly insulting so I added comments to his for the latest return to them and he is sending it in again. What I wound up having in my car and on my person (note said person is 6’4″ with a 52″ chest) is a SAR K2 in .45. It was inexpensive at right at $525, the mags are very expensive and hard to find. The beast hits the target every time and I have run thousands of rounds through it and it keeps on shooting through ball and HP. Finally it has a safety and it has 14 rounds in the magazine, even then I carry a second magazine yes I know some may call me paranoid but who knows when you will tick off a full van load of jerk gangbangers or a motorcycle club in a bad mood on the freeway.

  11. Not to be too picky, but going from 6 rounds to 8 is a 33% increase not 25.
    I am very happy with my Springfield sub-compact 45.

  12. I carry a S&W model 25 revolver in .45 ACP with a 3” barrel without any concealment problems. A full moon clip in a belt pouch is the original speed loader (since1917).

  13. Glock 30 gen 4 is one of the softest shooting .45’s out there. It is more accurate than I am and when you include the after market support it’s width is a small price to pay.

  14. I have owned 4 of the guns listed above and shot all of them at one time. One of the most significant factors in a CCW is the users body type, shorter person = shorter barrel, and how it is carried (which is not discussed). My experience: I gave a Defender away because even after much work it would not feed hollow points reliably. I love my Kimber, and with many years of 1911 experience it is perfect for me. I own and carry the XDS as well. I am shorter, and carry in a pancake holster for both, always with an extra magazine weak side. I do not like the thickness of the Glock for carry so it is the truck gun (carried in a vault). The Charter Arms selection is heavy, bulky and if I am feeling nostalgic and want to carry a revolver my S&W 340pd is much lighter and packs a bigger wallop. I carried SOB for years and put up with the discomfort. These new slimmer, lighter guns make strong side pancake a much more pleasant experience. Final note – if a shooter does not have many many hours of experience with 1911 models, the mini 1911s are not a good choice. The XDS is a pull and shoot option which is easier for most shooters, the process for the 1911 takes at least one extra step depending on “safety” choices.

  15. Nice article.
    I love my Springfield XD-S, still carry it often if ultimate small size most important for concealment.
    However, since I purchased the Springfield XD-E model, with the hammer and manual safety, I carry the “E” model much more frequently. It is only slightly larger, and carries another round in the flush magazine.
    The XD-E model is also easier to shoot, the redesigned grip works well.
    I also like the safety options of double action/safety off vs cocked & locked.
    When I carry IWB it’s just like my double action revolvers, and when carrying OWB just like a standard 1911 .45 ACP.
    I have two LEO friends who have suffered “Glock Leg Syndrome” from accidental discharges, and I’m a little cautious because of their experience.

  16. This article left out some the most important dimensions for concealment… width of the gun (ie: XD-S = only 2.2mm, compared to an XD-M at 2.9mm).

    In my experience I’ve found that the extra 0.7mm (30%) width of an XD-M makes a huge difference in draw & grip stability & accuracy under stress… well worth the added effort in concealment since life or death will ultimately depend on it)

  17. Glock 30S for me. Right out of the box I was dinging 10 inch steel targets unsupported at 50 yards at our law enforcement academy. The weapon is a tack-driver and is probably one the most accurate pistols that I have short of my EAA Witness in 38 super. Easy to carry and conceal. Coupled with Federal Premium HST 230 grain it leaves a devastating wound cavity equating to a 94%-96% one shot stop rating.

  18. As an “Old Timer”, found that the easiest way to rack the slide on a pistol is to grasp the slide in one hand, and hold it tight to your body. Holding the grip in the other hand, (FIGER OFF THE TRIGGER!) push on the grip while holding onto the slide in a fixed position. Also works for people with lower hand strength.

    Too bad the ACTION JACK is only made for 9mm. Drop the ACTION JACK into the bore, and then push it against any hard surface.

  19. For .45ACP I carry the Springfield XD Compact, the FNH/FNX 45, and a Taurus 1911 full size. However I am a larger person so carrying these larger pistols is not an issue for me. I use the Alien Gear IWB holster for all three as that has become my holster of choice for CCW. I find that the pistol I carry more often than the others is the XD. It is just a bit more comfortable for me so it has won out for my purposes.

  20. I own a S&W Shield .45 and this pistol fits my hand like a glove,eats any kind of ammo you feed it and is dead ass accurate.I sold my Glock 30sf and never looked back!!!

  21. I have always carried a 1911. Starting with a Colt Series 70, next an Officer’s Model, (with a short visit with the Glock 21 for the extra capacity), Para-Ordance -14, back to Kimber Custom II, then Springfield Armory Range Officer.

    When I turned 55 I began to experience painful swelling in my shooting hand and briefly moved to a 9mm 1911. The problems I experienced with feeding turned me back to the old reliable “slab sides” in .45 acp.

    Now at 62, I have returned to my youthful way, just with a change in recoil springs in a SA Loaded 1911.

    While customer service with SA leaves much to be desired, I cannot argue with the quality of their weapons.

    While the 9mm is pleasant to shoot and certainly can have very large capacity, being able to put 240 grain .45acp rounds in the same hole shot after shot more than makes up for carrying a box of ammo on my hip.

    The 1911 conceals extremely well, no matter the length of the barrel.

    Mated to a sturdy gun belt and parked in a Galco Yaqui Slide, it disappears easily under my Hawian shirts. Supported by Wilson Combat mags with two spares safely tucked away in Blue Force holders, I am more than adequately “healed.”

    If I feel it necessary, the Glock 30SF makes a fine backup piece. It is much more comfortable to shoot than the Charter Arms .38 spc. snubby.

  22. Grumpy 49

    How long and how hard is the spring to compress? I had a Kahr .40 that I really liked but the damn spring felt like is was 5 ft long!! Really, I have arthritis and it was too hard to compress the spring, so I had to sell it.

  23. Yes to the CW45. Bonus is that some of my 1911 magazines also work in my CW45. I have both the 1911 and WITNESS .45, and everyone I let try them likes the CW45. Target/Hunting goes to the 1911, Target to the WITNESS, but CW45 for self defense.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit exceeded. Please click the reload button and complete the captcha once again.

Your discussions, feedback and comments are welcome here as long as they are relevant and insightful. Please be respectful of others. We reserve the right to edit as appropriate, delete profane, harassing, abusive and spam comments or posts, and block repeat offenders. All comments are held for moderation and will appear after approval.