Fighting Polymer .45s

Black GLOCK 21 barrel pointed to the left on a white background

Over at Gun Nuts, we’re talking about how the 1911 may not be the best choice for someone looking for a .45 ACP for serious carry or competition use.  Lately I’ve come to believe that most shooters would be better served by one of the many polymer alternatives out there to the 1911, so here at Cheaper Than Dirt! we’re going to take a look at your options for polymer .45s.

First and foremost on the list is the M&P45, probably my personal favorite gun on this list.  The price point on the M&P45 is very attractive, at less than $500 for a brand new gun.  Extended magazines that hold 14 rounds are available, doubling the firepower of the traditional 1911 pistol in a package that’s lighter and easier to carry.  The M&P even comes from the factory with good sights – while 3-dot combat sights aren’t my favorite, they’re a step up from a lot of the sights offered on many other pistols out there, especially the next gun that we’ve got on the list.

S&W M&P45
Glock 21

The Glock 21 would be my second recommendation to people looking for a “fighting .45”.  What keeps it from being number 1?  The sights.  Because of ATF import restrictions, Glocks are imported with plastic sights, which are not exactly the best sights on the market.  However, these sights are easily removed (with a pair of pliers) and can be replaced with significantly better parts from 10-8 Performance, Heinie, Warren Tactical, etc.  The Glock 21 does offer three more rounds than the M&P45 in its factory configuration, however I personally prefer the ergonomics on the M&P.

The M&P and the Glock are definitely at the top of the list of polymer .45s.  It’s an interesting side note that the of the last four National Custom Defensive Pistol IDPA champions (CDP being IDPA’s division specifically for .45s) 3 of them have been won by shooters with Glocks and M&Ps.

After Glocks and M&Ps, the sea becomes a bit murkier.  There are offerings from Springfield’s XD line, and Sig has the most attractive price point on their P250.  However, if you base your purchasing decisions off which guns win matches and are chosen by law enforcement for when their lives are on the line, the M&P and Glock win hands down.

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 (28)

  1. In response to comment #13: My experience has been that the Glock 21 is dead nuts accurate and amazingly soft shooting. I’d also rather have the capability to go 14 rds between reloads or going dry for good than have to make 7 do the job of 14 in a pinch. The 1911 is an awesome pistol with a tremendous history. But it’s not a polymer .45 and beyond the scope of this blog.

  2. Why must you choose?? I have a Taurus 24/7 pro with over 5k rounds and no malfuncions and a Kimber CDP II that has had a few minor hiccups but is by far a better made gun. I love them both. To each his own. We don’t all drive the same cars, do we??

  3. I read far too much on the stories that led to this article.

    Bottom line: The 1911 was designed when guns needed some fitting. Any 1911 will require some gunsmithing at some point in its life. Some modern 1911s are not manufactured to spec (cheaper materials, cheaper approaches to machining, unnecessary firing pin safeties, etc), and will require more work than they otherwise should.

    Also, the original 1911 was designed with looser tolerances than many gunsmiths are putting on them. Reliability was more important than accuracy.

    That said, the newer polymer .45s are designed with inexpensive manufacturing as an important design component. This is why they’re so inexpensive – they are designed to be.

    The 1911 is not a perfect gun, but it is one that requires some upkeep and maintenance. And rewards the shooter who treats it right.

  4. There are no superior alternatives to the 1911. People complain that most 1911s currently on the market are unreliable, need work out of the box, etc., but there’s an easy solution: Don’t buy a bad one. If the one you buy turns out to be bad, get it fixed, or buy another and get that fixed. It’s not rocket science. If somebody made Glock knockoffs that didn’t work, you wouldn’t blame Glock. A real Glock fan would buy one anyway, find a good gunsmith, and invest some money getting it to work most of the time. That is what this sport is all about. I know a guy who bought a CZ52 that didn’t work for a couple hundred bucks, and spent another $500 with his gunsmith, and let me tell you, now that thing runs like a top. On a warm day, if you hold it right, if you clean it every few rounds. But if you can’t keep a gun clean, you shouldn’t shoot! Now there’s a man I’m proud to call a friend, and even prouder to call a customer. It’s a fine gun now, but his 1911s run even better, with the right ammo, and believe me, it took years of work and a massive investment of time, effort, and money to get there. But it’s worth every penny.

    If you’re not willing to do your homework, invest a couple thousand bucks, develop a vertiginously expensive long-term personal relationship with your gunsmith, and then start over and do it all again, YOU are the hobbyist, YOU are the effeminate, mincing, lisping, limp-wristed, metal-injection-molded diletante. YOU are the one who is not serious about shooting, and frankly, I don’t care to have the likes of you on a range with me.

  5. Please explain to me the major differences in the firing operation between the Socom 16 and the M1 Garand, and then show me the superior alternatives to the 1911.

  6. @Jeremiah the Socom 16 is as close to the M1 Garad as the HK45 is to the 1911. And the fact the the Socom 16 adds a composite stock instead of the old fashioned wood seems to add support to the argument. It was used in many battle fronts but superior alternatives to the 1911 are availabe. Just like The Sherman at the M!A2 or the M1 Garand and the SOCOM 16.

  7. The 1911 is battle tested yes but more importantly battle PROVEN. The Sherman…eh…
    And for the record, Navy SEALs often DO carry the SOCOM 16, which is basically a stubby M14 with a composite stock,
    and the M14 is basically a Garand with a magazine and selector switch. So in a sense they do carry M1 Garands instead of M4s 😀

  8. @David
    I love the FN P45. Its large but if you have the hands for it I like having a “Glock with a hammer” as I call it. It works well with gloves as well. Its not the prettiest thing in the world but it is really reliable.

  9. I like the FN P45, 14 shot magazine, feels very good in my hand, much better the the PX4. Personally I like a external hammer rather than a striker fired handgun.

  10. I don’t understand the “battletested” 1911 argument. By the same theory The M4 Sherman tank was battle tested in WW2, does that mean the US should have used them in the gulf war? The M1 Garand was battle tested does that mean Navy SEALs should carry them instead of M4s?

  11. I’m going to quibble with the “portability” of double-stack .45s, especially regarding concealed carry. I carry a Kimber Ultra Carry with ‘Slim Line’ (low profile) Alumagrips, and aside from the thumb safety, it’s as thin as many 9mm single-stack pistols.

    And don’t get me started on the triggers. Nothing short of a rifle has the crisp trigger of a 1911.

    All that said, I’ve got over 50k rounds of .45 downrange. I’m not your average gun buyer, and I don’t have a problem with others choices; I just want to point out a few reasons for considering the 1911.

  12. When this said “Fighting Polymer .45s” I thought it meant fighting the recoil. Being that they decided to put a picture of a Glock up first I thought it made sense.
    Perhaps that’s because you have to fight the recoil on a Glock. If you don’t stiff wrist that bad boy into place you’re either going to get slide bite, a jam, or both.
    Maybe I’m partial to heavier non-plastic firearms when it comes to higher calibers like the .45, but I don’t believe you should ever have to change the way you fire a pistol (save for maybe a revolver) just to fit the pistol. 99 years (and counting) and two world wars stand behind the 1911. Not to mention to shootability and customization options. If having 7-8 rounds bothers you, learn to put those few rounds where they need to be on the first shot. There’s less collateral that way. Remember, you’re responsible for every single round you fire in self-defense.

  13. Another 45 that’s “battle proven” is the H&K USP. Owned one wasn’t crazy about it. If you like a Glock you are crazy for not going with an XDm. I’ve owned 3 45s in the XD and loved them. If I buy another 45 it’ll be an XDm. I too find it odd that all the 1911 owners rush to defend it against the polymers. It’s simular to comparing a Peacemaker to a 1911! IMHO. Great guns different eras. And as for CC I’ll take my Glock 33 in 357 sig all day. Love the caliber and a 45 is just too hard to CC for me.

  14. Two of my favorites not mentioned are the H&K USP .45 and the FN FNX .45. Both have better single-action triggers than either the Glock or the S&W, IMO.

  15. I just bought my first Kimber 1911 TEN II, It has the polymer grip and holds 13 rounds,, all i can say is (I LOVE THIS GUN), Shoots like a dream. So there are high capacity 45’s out there you just gotta look for them!!!!

  16. First, let me say that I’ve owned a 1911A1 in .45 for 25 years, and love it. BUT, I do find it remarkable that any objective or subjective assessment of ANY .45 that is NOT a 1911-based weapon, immediately generates a howling chorus of 1911 defenders. Anyone who is going to carry a sidearm when their life may depend upon it, is going to make darn sure that it functions reliably each time the trigger is pulled. If it is reliable and accurate, who wouldn’t be happy to have double the magazine capacity?! If you’re going to use the “nothing is proven like the 1911” argument, I would respond with, “of course not… it’s been around for 100 years”. In all likelihood, no sidearm will ever see the same level of action that the .45 has seen.

  17. I had a Glock 21 and had to give it up. The grip was just way too big. The M&P is very nice, but the gun that fits me best is the XDm. I think the XDm and the XD doesn’t see as much use in the IDPA because of the class that it is shunted into – ESP. I think that stigma carries over to CDP as well. But those three brands – Glock, M&P, and XD – will lead the way in polymer for years to come.

  18. If you are talking about mag capacity, I can see where you are coming from but let’s not forget the 1911 is battle tested and has saved plenty of people’s lives as a sidearm. I also think the 1911 is not a beginners pistol. If you purchase a 1911 for a ccw you most definitely need to practice and know your pistol more so than a glock or m&p. Not to say you don’t need to practice with the other pistols but the 1911 is, in my opinion, harder to master.

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