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.
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.
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.
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
|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|
|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.