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Prepping & Survival

The Best .45 ACP Pistols of 2024

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Developed shortly before the first world war, the .45 ACP rapidly became one of the most popular pistol cartridges in the world. It was the longest serving sidearm cartridge the United States has ever fielded, and only topped worldwide by the 9mm. Shooters have long been drawn to the .45 ACP for its power, performance, and nostalgia. Though the classic auto cartridge has seen its day in the sun, it’s history and the diverse spectrum of the best .45 ACP pistols that are still going strong will keep its legacy alive for many years to come 

Picking the Best .45 ACP Pistol for You

There is a big market of .45 ACP pistols out there, but what’s “best” all depends on the criteria. Based on the pistols we’ve had in previous gun tests or used ourselves, I selected an excellent field to highlight great options for different tastes and applications. If the best .45 for you isn’t on this list, it’s likely going to be similar to one of these pistols.

Best .45 ACP Pistols: Reviews and Recommendations

Best Classic: The GI-issue 1911 A1

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Specs

  • Action: Single action, hammer fired
  • Barrel Length: 5.03 inches
  • Capacity: 7+1
  • Finish: Parkerized
  • Sights: GI, steel, low profile
  • Price: Varies

Pros

  • Classic original design
  • Combat proven
  • Lots of aftermarket parts and upgrades available
  • Good originals are collectible

Cons

  • GI sights aren’t great for low-light use

If there is a .45 of all .45s, it’s the GI-issue 1911 A1. This is the original platform that the cartridge was designed for, and was standard-issue from 1911 to 1985. It remained in some form of active military service for nearly a hundred years. That testament alone speaks to the platform’s effectiveness. 

The 1911-A1 and the .45 ACP cartridge were born out of a desire for a more powerful and effective handgun cartridge. It was a beloved sidearm and spawned a plethora of 1911 variants that are still going strong today. The 1911 is certainly one of the most influential handgun designs in history. We tested a World War II vintage Remington Rand 1911 A1 in our 2023 1911 test, and it was both charming and effective.

Some original 1911 pistols can still be purchased through the CMP as lots become available, and these collectibles can fetch a hefty price. Fortunately, modern replicas of the original design are still available — usually ranging from $500 to $900. The original 1911 A1 design was a bit crude by modern standards, but it was effective. Most pistols featured a parkerized finish, wood or synthetic grips, and a single-stack, 7-round magazine. These pistols were touted for their reliability, and accuracy, but have since been updated parts that offer better ergonomics, and more visible sights.

Best Modern 1911: Nighthawk Custom Fire Hawk

 Nighthawk Custom Fire Hawk .45 ACP Pistol

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Specs

  • Action: Single action, hammer fired
  • Barrel Length: 4.5 inches
  • Capacity: 8+1
  • Sights: Serrated notch rear, gold dot front
  • Price: $4,519

Pros

  • Excellent ergonomics
  • Best-in-class fit and reliability
  • Great Accuracy
  • Compensator greatly reduces muzzle flip

Cons

  • Very Expensive
  • No optic cut

If money is no issue, the Nighthawk Custom Fire Hawk is one of the nicest 1911 pistols that you could possibly buy. It’s a pistol that looks flawless and performs just as well. Every detail built into this pistol has a purpose. Its scalloped grip panels provide superb traction for a repeatable grip and the muzzle compensator blends perfectly with the lines of the frame and slide. 

The Fire Hawk isn’t cut for an optic, but features a serrated black rear sight that’s adjustable for windage, and a 14K gold bead front post. At first glance, this seems like nothing more than an affluent flex, but we shot the hell out of this gun and that gold bead is shockingly sharp and visible in a variety of light conditions. Fellow tester and USPSA GM, Sean Murphy, and I could hardly put this gun down, and whether burning through Bill Drills or plinking vital zone plates at 50 yards, our appetite was insatiable. 

This was another entry to our 1911 test, and we all questioned if a 1911 could really be worth the hefty asking price for this pistol. Objectively, you’re getting something for that money. The Fire Hawk stood out above all other competitors and that extra cost and labor is in the details. The gun is almost entirely hand-fit and tuned, and there isn’t a sharp edge or corner to be found. If you’re looking for the ultimate .45 ACP pistol, this will be right at the top.

Best Semi-Custom 1911: Wilson Combat ACP

 Wilson Combat ACP .45 ACP Pistol

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Specs

  • Action: Single action, hammer fired
  • Barrel Length: 5 inches
  • Capacity: 8+1
  • Sights: Serrated notch rear, fiber-optic front
  • Price: $3,285

Pros

  • Classic 1911 feel
  • Wonderful reliability
  • Excellent Accuracy
  • Excellent iron sights

Cons

  • No front slide serrations
  • No optic cut

Another favorite .45 ACP pistol from our 1911 test was Wilson Combat’s ACP, which stands for “American Combat Pistol.” We categorize this as a semi-custom pistol because the customer does have a menu of options to choose from, but it’s still a production gun. In our 1911 test, the ACP was one of our favorites. 

It sports a subtly improved classic 1911 look with excellent modern sights: a serrated rear notch and fiber-optic front post and standard profile slide and frame. Ours had a 5-inch barrel with a barrel bushing and no-snag grip scales. The stainless barrel contrasts with the black finish, adding to its utilitarian aesthetics.

For handling characteristics, some of our test team would have liked to see front cocking serrations on the slide, but it wasn’t a point of contention for anyone. This pistol shoots great, and turned in the best groups of our 1911 test, averaging 1.193 inches for 10 5-shot groups at 15 yards. If you’re looking for a finely-crafted 1911 that is just as well-suited for being a day-to-day workhorse, you’ll have a hard time beating a Wilson Combat. 

Best Concealed-Carry 1911: Springfield Armory TRP CC

 Springfield 1911 TRP CC .45 ACP Pistol

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Specs

  • Action: Single action, hammer fired
  • Barrel Length: 4.25 inches
  • Capacity: 7+1
  • Sights: U-notch rear, tritium front
  • Price: $1,900

Pros

  • Good ergonomics
  • Bobbed Frame
  • Durable Finish
  • Accessory rail

Cons

If you’re looking at the 1911 platform as an everyday concealed-carry gun, models such as Springfield’s new TRP Carry Contour. These single-stack compact 1911s have a 4.25-inch barrel, forged slide and a lightweight aluminum frame. The most notable feature of this pistol is the bobbed frame, eliminating the portion of the frame that is likely to print on clothing or jab into your soft underbelly — well, mine anyways. Despite the bobbed frame, the pistol still offers plenty of real estate to establish a firm, recoil-controlling grip.

The TRP CC comes with a Cerakote finish, excellent VZ grip scales, and U-notch rear and tritium front post iron sights. The front strap of the grip has an aggressive fine checkering to aid your grip, and the rear has a nice beavertail grip safety. One nice feature of the TRP CC is the accessory rail that many 1911 pistols still lack. It comes with three seven-round magazines and is an excellent concealed-carry option.  

Best .45 ACP Pistol for Gamers: H&K USP Tactical 

 H&K USP Tactical .45 ACP Pistol

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Specs

  • Action: Single/double action, hammer fired
  • Barrel Length: 5 inches, threaded
  • Capacity: 12+1
  • Sights: Adjustable notch/post
  • Price: $1,440

Pros

  • Classic 1990’s .45 ACP pistol
  • Good reliability
  • Suppressor ready
  • More compact than the Mark 23

Cons

  • No optic cut
  • Primitive accessory rail

Sometimes nostalgia is a factor when we pick guns we like (just look at the 1911), and for any shooter who grew up in the 90s, the H&K Mark 23 and USP Tactical are probably on your radar. The Mark 23 was famous for being issued to Navy Seals during that time period — at least that’s what we believed as kids — and the USP was introduced as a slightly more compact, lighter pistol that is still very similar. 

The USP Tactical is a .45 ACP pistol that sports clean German lines and simple-but-effective function. They are accurate and reliable, and the threaded muzzle is just begging for your favorite pistol suppressor. The USP pre-dates the optic craze, so there’s no optic cut, and the accessory rail is primitive by today’s standards. It does feature standard iron sights that are adjustable for windage and elevation, and the pistol can fit 12 girthy .45 ACP cartridges in the magazine. This was a significant bump compared to the 1911, which was wrapping up its service life when the Mark 23 and USP came on scene.

The USP Tactical isn’t an entirely relevant pistol anymore, but it’s one that many shooters still seek out. Though smaller than the Mark 23, it’s still beefy and not a great fit for shooters with smaller hands. 

Best Workhorse .45 ACP Pistol: Glock G21 Gen 5 MOS

 Glock G21 Gen 5 MOS .45 ACP Pistol

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Specs

  • Action: Single-action, striker-fired
  • Barrel Length: 4.6 inches 
  • Capacity: 13+1
  • Sights: Standard Glock square-notch rear, white dot front
  • Price: $621

Pros

  • Simple, rugged, and reliable
  • Modular backstrap
  • High-traction frame texture
  • Optic-ready

Cons

  • Triggers are relatively stiff

When talking about the best .45 ACP pistols, the Glock G21 is an obvious torchbearer in the striker-fired category. Originally introduced in 1990, following the 10mm Glock G20 (in Glock’s order of succession), the G21 has a history of proven service with many law enforcement agencies. In 2023, the platform got some much needed upgrades with the Gen 5 MOS edition.

This full-sized striker-fired .45 ACP pistol uses the same frame as the 10mm G20 and has a magazine capacity of 13 rounds. Its feature sets are consistent with basically every other Gen 5 MOS Glock pistol and include removal of the finger grooves, updated recoil spring, and modular backstraps. Many shooters will appreciate the addition of front cocking serrations and the integration of Glock’s MOS optic mounting system, which uses a series of plates to allow the slide to house different red dot optics. Along with the accessory rail, it keeps this pistol relevant and makes it more effective than ever. You won’t see some of the refinement of the high-end 1911 pistols, but that was never the intent for this, or any Glock.

Other Great .45 ACP Pistols

Springfield XD-S Mod 2 OSP

 Springfield XD-S Mod.2 OSP 3.3-inch .45 ACP Pistol

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Specs

  • Action: Single-action, striker-fired
  • Barrel Length: 3.3 inches 
  • Capacity: 5+1, 6+1
  • Sights: U-Notch Rear, white-dot front
  • Price: $392

Pros

  • Slender and compact
  • Reliable
  • Low cut for micro red dot optics
  • Affordable

Cons

Springfield’s Croatian-made XD series has been a steady presence on the market for many years, and their single-stack XD-S Mod 2 OSP is an excellent option for someone looking for a striker-fired concealed-carry .45 ACP pistol. This XD-S comes with two magazines, one holding five rounds that features a small pinkie extension on the base plate, and another with an extended base plate that holds 6 rounds. Controls are the same as you’ll find on larger XD-series pistols, and both the slide stop lever and magazine catch button are slightly recessed and protected from accidental activation.

This XD-S features a grip safety, trigger bar safety, and a drop safety in the striker block itself. It’s also optimized for the modern shooter with an optic cut that accepts micro red dot sights and allows them to sit low enough to co-witness the factory iron sights, which consist of a black serrated rear U-notch and a white-dot front post. Capacity is this pistol’s greatest weakness, but that’s the price you pay for a sub-compact .45. Available at under $400, it’s a great budget option.

Sig Sauer P320 Compact .45 ACP

 Sig P320 Compact .45 ACP Pistol

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Specs

  • Action: Single-action, striker-fired
  • Barrel Length: 3.9 inches 
  • Capacity: 9+1
  • Sights: Siglite three-dot night sights
  • Price: $650

Pros

  • Great ergonomics
  • Good sights
  • Lots of aftermarket mods

Cons

If you’re a fan of Sig’s P320 platform but want a .45-caliber option, the P320 Compact is for you. This pistol features the same great ergonomics and grip angle as the 9mm models, but in .45 ACP. Like the 10mm models, the nice thing is that the overall grip dimensions aren’t fatter or more bulky than 9mm models like those we see in Glock’s lineup. This is great for shooting and handling, but it does cut down on capacity. Still, at 9+1 rounds, the pistol is a formidable tool and great option for concealed carry. 

There is no optic cut on this P320 model, but it has excellent three-dot night sights and an accessory rail for a tactical light. This is a pretty basic P320, but due to the platform’s design, you can easily upgrade parts with a trigger from KGM technologies, and a GoGun gas pedal to help you flatten out muzzle flip. 

FN FNX-45 Tactical


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Specs

  • Action: Double-action/single-action, hammer fired
  • Barrel Length: 5.3 inches 
  • Capacity: 15+1
  • Sights: Three-dot tall night sights
  • Price: $1,200

Pros

  • Good ergonomics
  • Excellent capacity
  • Optic ready
  • Suppressor ready

Cons

One of the best .45 ACP pistols today is the full-sized FN FNX-45 Tactical. This isn’t a gun you’ll probably be holstering in your waistband, but it boasts an excellent capacity of 15+1, and a full-sized feature set. The FNX-45 Tactical has a threaded 5.3-inch barrel that’s ready to accept a suppressor, and fitted with accompanying tall three-dot night sights. It has a low bore axis to help the shooter combat recoil and features a minimally angled grip with interchangeable backstraps.

The FNX-45 is a double/single-action pistol that, when de-cocked, has a double-action first trigger pull. The hammer is rounded and serrated, and both the front and rear of the slide have cocking serrations. The slide is cut for an optic but, like most other pistols, comes with a cover plate installed. Some optics will allow the shooter to co-witness the tall iron sights through the optic, an added windfall in case the optic does go down.

What to Consider When Choosing a .45 ACP Pistol

The biggest thing to consider when shopping for a .45 ACP pistol (or any gun) is your intended application or purpose. You want to find a gun that is within your budget, fulfills its purpose, and that satisfies your personal taste. Do you want a pistol that’s good for self defense, a casual plinker, or a collectible? 

If you’re looking for a self-defense gun, will it be to carry concealed or stay at home or in a vehicle? Larger pistols are generally easier to shoot well, but if it’s a gun you’re going to carry every day, you probably want one of the compact options. Your purpose will also affect what accessories you might want (like a light or laser). 

The best thing you can do is visit an indoor range that has pistol rentals available for you to try. You won’t really know how well you like a gun until you get to actually shoot it, and some range time with a specific pistol can help you make a much more informed decision. Next best is visiting a gun shop and seeing how each different pistol feels in your hand and how easily you can operate the controls. 

Recap of Our Picks for The Best .45 ACP Pistols

FAQ

What is the highest mag capacity of a .45 pistol?

With standard factory magazines, the highest magazine capacity of a .45 pistol is generally 15 rounds. Most 1911s can hold 9 rounds, and double-stack .45 pistols usually hold between 10 and 15 rounds.

How much does a .45 cal pistol cost?

Prices of 45 ACP pistols can be as little as $350 and more than $7,000. Most prices range between $600 and $1,500.

What is the effective range of a .45 ACP pistol?

The .45 ACP fires a large heavy bullet at low velocity. Effective range is generally 50 yards and under.

What are the disadvantages of the .45 ACP

The two disadvantages of the .45 ACP are recoil and low capacity compared to the smaller-but-effective 9mm

Final Thoughts on The Best .45 ACP Pistols

The .45 ACP is a feather in America’s cap that will never totally wither, but the 9mm has decisively overtaken it as the cartridge of choice. There are still lots of good pistols being chambered in .45 Auto, but options are generally becoming more limited. Ultimately, I think that some of the best .45 ACP pistols, and the ones that will carry the cartridge into the future are the 1911s — and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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