Modern ballistics and bullet construction make a case for the idea that the .45 ACP’s glory days are long gone, in favor of the 9mm Luger. But, market conditions say otherwise. Never before have shooters had such a broad selection of handguns chambered in the big .45, ranging from inexpensive polymer-framed guns to stainless steel marvels of engineering.
However, not everybody can afford a high-end custom 1911. I’ve picked out the top five sub-$500, full-size handguns in .45 ACP, based on value and performance.
Here they are, ranked from least expensive to most expensive:
Hi Point .45 ACP
Turn up your nose, if you will, at the homely Hi Point .45 ACP, but you can’t deny there’s a certain level of appeal to a big-bore semiautomatic that retails for less than $150. It won’t win any beauty contests, but it’s 100% American made and covered by a lifetime warranty.
Boring reliability is just one side benefit to the bulky blowback action that can only adequately be described as “industrial.” The soft shooting experience can also be attributed to a hefty 35-ounce weight. I wouldn’t recommend carrying it inside-the-waistband on a daily basis. These guns are really meant to be stashed until needed.
It’s also rated for potent +P ammo. Stoke it with some wickedly fast 185-grain loads, and dedicate it to your ATV or truck toolbox. Because for certain problems, a supersonic .45 bullet is the only fix.
This slim CT45 has purebred DNA and possesses a level of quality inherited from Kahr pistols priced hundreds of dollars higher. Kahr streamlined the production process and reduced some slide machining operations to pass the savings to the consumer.
Other features, such as a pinned-on front sight instead of the dovetail-attached version on higher-end pistols, further reduce costs. Additionally, standard rifling was chosen instead of polygonal, and the model number was stamped into the slide instead of machined with a fancy font.
Springfield XD45 Service Model
This is the “best of the worst.” We all know there are good and not-so-good guns. The Springfield XD holds the distinction of being at the top end of the not-so-good list. But that doesn’t make it a bad choice. Far from it.
These plastic pistols hail from Croatia, and are imported with excellent ergonomics and a surprisingly skinny grip and short trigger reach for a duty-sized .45 ACP. Three redundant, passive safeties prevent most potential mishaps while carrying concealed, and features such as a loaded chamber indicator and striker status button round out the package.
The hallmark of the Springfield XD-45 series on the whole is its fabulous accuracy. With match-grade ammo, it will easily hold within the headbox of a standard IDPA competition target at 25 yards—as long as you’re up to the task.
SIG Sauer P250 Compact .45 ACP
Normally, SIG Sauer firearms aren’t put into the “inexpensive” category. SIG’s finely-tuned construction and impeccable accuracy are more akin to a Swiss watch than a cheap handgun. However, the P250 is an exception to these high prices.
When a company like SIG Sauer goes polymer, you can rest assured of two things—lower prices and high quality. And it doesn’t hurt that this double-action .45 ACP retains the buttery-smooth double-action-only trigger feel of its metal framed brethren.
Most of the controls—with the exception of the magazine release, which can be swapped to the opposite side—are fully ambidextrous right out of the box. The thick dust cover offers an obligatory Picatinny rail for your favorite white light or green laser.
EAA Witness 4.5″ .45 ACP
If you want a single, inexpensive .45 ACP that’s capable of tackling just about any task, this would be the pick of the litter. Whether you’re in the market for personal protection, home defense, range duty, or competition, EAA has made a name for itself in the versatility department. Specifically, this .45 ACP model features a heavy metal frame to keep follow-up shots fast and accurate for your local USPSA match’s production division. Yet, it also includes a tactical rail for affixing a white light when it comes time to pull nightstand duty. Add in the low recoil from a slide that rides deep inside the frame rails, a set of easy-to-see sights and crisp double/single action trigger, and you’ll find yourself leaving your other handguns in the safe more often than not.
The .45 ACP still gets the job done!
Sometimes, you just need to go with what you know. Many of our readers grew up shooting “old slabsides,” and are dyed-in-the-wool fans of the .45 ACP cartridge. Thankfully, manufacturers typically take note of what’s selling well, and produce products (such as the above pistols) accordingly.
As long as there are guns, there will be the .45 ACP. And I couldn’t be happier about it.