Range Reports

Range Report: HK45 Tactical

HK45 pistol in desert tan with boxes of ammunition

A few years ago, Heckler and Koch introduced a new handgun design in hopes of achieving a military contract. The HK45 is a viable pistol for use by the Special Operation Command (SOCOM) or any military entity. The HK45 builds upon HK’s slide-to-frame design that features more contact between the frame and slide than most polymer frame pistols resulting in greater rigidity and greater accuracy potential. The single greatest advantage of the HK45 over the HK USP is the slimmed grip.

HK45 pistol right
This is one, big, rugged, likeable handgun.

For many of us, the USP pistol’s grip, particularly in .45 caliber, was too large. The HK45 grip is more similar to the VP9 and P30 grip—although sized up for the .45 ACP cartridge. Since the grip is thinner magazine capacity is limited. The HK45 magazine holds 10 rounds of ammunition. The pistol reviewed is the HK45T, the Tactical model of the HK45. This pistol features a threaded barrel and night sights as well as the popular dark earth finish.

The slide and frame—which is nicely stippled for good abrasion—manage to eliminate some of the slide-heavy feel of many polymer frame handguns. This is a big gun, but it feels lively in the hand, more so than a Glock 21, and the grip frame is more ergonomic.

The pistol features MeproLight Tru Dot night sights. The front of the slide features cocking serrations. This is a must have for tactical handguns. The ejection port is generous for administrative handling.

The pistol features the Browning locked breech design. Practically every modern self loader, save the Beretta with its oscillating wedge, uses this lock up. The barrel and slide remain locked together in recoil and separate when the bullet exits the barrel. The pistol features the requisite frame rail for mounting combat lights. I used several lights during the evaluation, notably the LaserMax Spartan laser.

Nights sights on the slide of a HK45 pistol
Night sights are a good choice for this tactical handgun.

The barrel features an O-ring to enhance lockup. It is intended to increase accuracy potential by tight slide barrel fit. The difference is probably much smaller than I can hold, but it seems worthwhile with no down side. The recoil guide and buffer spring is well designed with a polymer buffer added to increase weapons life and limit battering. The recoil spring and buffer system added to the pistol’s light felt recoil. HK claims significant recoil reduction. The HK45 doesn’t recoil more than the Glock 21 .45, which I consider one of the most comfortable of .45s to fire.

HK offers a number of different actions, including double action first shot and LEM or DAO. The pistol as supplied with a selective double action. Most police agencies use a double action only-type and this is the preferred action for institutional issue. Using the single action option, a trained individual will be able to connect with a man-sized target at a 100 yards. This may be important for the military or for special team use.

The pistol is loaded, and the safety lever is pressed downward to safely lower the hammer. With the hammer at rest, the safety may be pressed into the on position. Despite the size of the pistol it isn’t difficult to thumb the safety lever off as the pistol is drawn. The long double-action trigger press is heavy at an estimated 14 pounds. It is usable, but exhibits stacking at the end of its travel. An alternative is to carry the pistol cocked and locked, hammer to the rear, and safety on. The most likely carry mode for military users is, in my opinion, ideal.

Recoil guide and spring on HK45 pistol
The recoil spring and guide are well designed. Note pistol is sopping wet with lube.

The pistol would be carried holstered and safety on with the hammer down. Unlike pistols with a slide-mounted safety, there is no speed penalty with the frame-mounted safety of the HK45. The advantage of the selective double action system is that once the pistol has fired, you may engage in tactical movement by simply applying the safety—you need not decock the pistol. When properly understood, this system is ideal for all around tactical use, especially when coupled with the decocker.

A Question of Caliber

The HK45 is chambered for the .45 ACP cartridge. The advantage of the .45 has been enumerated many times. The only thing that really matters in wound potential is actual damage. Given adequate penetration, the mass and diameter of the bullet means the most. There just are not many men in history with greater experience that Col. Thompson and Dr. LaGarde. They determined over 100 years ago that the military handgun should be a .45 caliber weapon. Nothing has changed. There have been irrelevant so called studies that have come to different conclusions in this age of junk science. The validity of secret sources and non repeatable tests is zero. The .45 makes a larger wound with more total volume, period. The cartridge also operates at relatively low pressure that should ensure long weapon life.


I have fired this handgun with a wide variety of ammunition and enjoyed each range session. The pistol is pleasant to fire, accurate, and rated for +P loads. I am not certain we need the +P in the .45, but it may be good to have. Most of my practice has been with handloads and generic 230-grain ball. Fiocchi 230-grain ball is affordable and offers good accuracy. I have also tested the pistol with the sledgehammer Hornady 220-grain +P with good results. As the accompanying table shows, the pistol is clearly accurate enough for personal defense or military use.

Accuracy testing, solid bench rest, 25 yards

Load Group
Hornady 185-grain XTP 2.0 inches
Hornady 200-grain XTP +P 2.15 inches
Hornady 220-grain Critical Duty +P 2.4 inches
Fiocchi 230-grain FMJ 2.65 inches
Fiocchi 230-grain EXTREMA JHP 2.0 inches
Wolf 230-grain FMJ 3.6 inches
Handload Group
Sierra 230-grain FMJ/Titegroup/820 fps 2.5 inches
Sierra 230-grain MATCH JHP/844 fps 1.9 inches

When conducting range drills, I carried the pistol in a Galco JAK belt slide holster. This is a custom quality holster that fits the HK well, offers good retention, and excellent draw speed.

The HK45T is a great handgun, and well suited to field use or home defense. It would take a big man and intelligent holster selection to conceal this pistol and there are better choices for concealed carry but none that are tactically superior to the HK45T.

Are you ready to pick up the HK45T? What’s your favorite HK pistol? Share your answers in the comment section.


About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.

Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Rifle Magazine
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns

Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
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 (13)

  1. “They determined over 100 years ago that the military handgun should be a .45 caliber weapon. Nothing has changed.”

    Other than a century of advancements in metallurgy and ammunition design.

    “There have been irrelevant so called studies that have come to different conclusions in this age of junk science.”

    Are you speaking out of your usual hubris, or have you recently performed controlled tests on ballistics gel and/or cadavers using modern ammunition and just haven’t published your results yet?

    1. Thanks for reading. And thanks for asking. I am currently on contract doing university level work on ballistics and criminal justice. Very challenging and allows me access to much interesting data. Including a southern university’s cadaver/LE program.
      Worked closely on the new book 21st Century Stopping Power, Paladin Press, which has many experiments and while the comparisons must be done by the reader they are very interesting. The author is a military intelligence officer with much experience. He holds a Master’s Degree. It is an interesting read.
      Also– much research into the work of Colonel Thompson, a very intelligent individual that did much to win the war in Europe as a director of war production. The human body has not changed since his time. The basic power of a cartridge of a certain size has not. How that power is used has. Physic do not change.


      Bob Campbell

    2. Oh SNAP! Excellent response!!

      Well done Bob….all around. I picked-up one of these about a year ago and couldn’t be happier. I also then bought a Galco (SUM292B) holster and….my god, what a great holster!…coincidentally fits my M&P 40 quite nicely. The family didn’t know I had bought the holster and they were not used to me carrying, so I decided to do a test, and for about 4 solid months, I carried concealed IWB – spring time – 3-4 times a week, most of the day each time. They never once knew I was carrying the HK45. I’m average at 5’10” / 195 lbs and usually just had a loose shirt or light jacket over a tucked shirt. Based on my experience and despite this being a large frame full-sized weapon, I would debate it’s reasonably concealable. I would not debate, however, that there are far smaller and more convenient concealable firearms out there. The HK45 is now my primary home defense weapon with a TLR-3 mounted. I’ve decided, after mounting an x400u to my M&P 40, and getting a custom holster, that clip volume feels more comforting out and about. It’s all about placement though, isn’t it. Thanks again.


    3. Discussing sources is a welcome departure from your usual rhetoric of “I know I’m right, and anyone who disagrees is ______”. It will be interesting to see the research in the book you collaborated to produce, especially if it addresses the proverbial “elephant in the room” regarding handgun cartridge power.

      Specifically, any handgun cartridge convenient enough for daily carry and regular practice is an unreliable “man stopper”. You can debate 9mm Luger vs 40 S&W vs 45 ACP ad infinitum, but none of those are competitive in power to even an intermediate rifle caliber like 223 Remington/5.56 NATO (itself considered under-powered by some).

      This was the main conclusion of the FBI’s recent research efforts, which lead to the agency’s return to the 9mm Luger cartridge using modern hollow point ammunition (which Thompson/LaGarde, Cooper, etc did not have for their testing).

    4. Colonel Thompson was an early proponent of automatic weapons. He had much the same opinion of the pistol, stating that training troops in rapid fire with a big bore self loader was the only means of achieving reliable results. He stated that unless every solider were armed with a 75mm field piece stopping the enemy would remain problematical. He concluded that many calibers were useless and the big bores best. LaGarde was decorated for gallantry during the Indian Wars and saw a lot of bloodshed. The FBI probably had their best cartridge in the 1930s, the .38 ACP Super. Controllable and accurate it was eclipsed by the .357 Magnum. The Magnum is hell on light cover and will even sink an average fishing boat. But that is another day and time.

  2. I own the standard HK45. I must say it’s the most comfortable handgun I’ve ever shot. Recoil is equivalent to a 9mm. I own many other hand guns and the HK45 is my favorite. To big to carry but had been and always will be my home defense gun. In double action with hammer cocked the trigger pull is very little and smooth. The low profile lazermax compliments the gun very well.

  3. A stacking, 14 lb trigger pull??!! Not for me. Also, I would not be comfortable with an O-ring around the barrel without EXTENSIVE testing. I can just imagine that coming apart during a fight & tying up the gun.

    1. As the article mentions, there are many different trigger configurations for this handgun. You might like the “Light LEM” version if you prefer not to learn proper trigger techniques independent of a pretty, manucured, girly-trigger. 😉

      Also, the o-ring has been extensively tested. Look into the torture tests people have put the HKs through. 90,000 rounds with no cleaning and only a few springs that broke. No problem with the o-ring in the tests, and 10,000+ rounds through mine without an issue.

  4. Out of my colkection of shotguns, ARs, an M1A, XDm, P30s, and various bolts, the HK 45T is my favorite to shoot.

    It shoots softly, is deadly accurate, and fits my hand well.

    I don’t recall the article mentioning the threaded barrel, but attaching a TiRant 45 suppressor makes this “mouse-fart” quiet!

    I love the paddle magazine release, and have come to dislike any other style, hence why I now own a P30. As the article hinted, magazine capacity is limited due to the slim, comfortable grip, but how many rounds of 45 do you really need? 10+1 and an extra mag of 10 is more than enough rounds to fight your way back to your rifle.

    Wish I could own two… or three…

  5. Good article on what appears to be a good firearm. One minor quibble, Bob: Meprolight was misspelled “MepoLight.”
    FIxed. Good catch. ~Dave Dolbee

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