Sunday, October 31, 2004

Ode to the .45

Lacking anything else substantive running through my brain, I'll comment on the .45 ACP, perhaps the ultimate combat handgun cartridge.

What's not to like? The round has mild recoil, superb accuracy, and tremendous kinetic energy at impact. The round has seen action in United States military engagements since 1911, and is still in use today. Though supplanted by the 9mm since the late 80's as the primary handgun round, several special forces units still favor the .45 ACP. I will not even comment on the decades of service provided by the .45 Long Colt prior to the ACP round.

The .45 in terms of recoil is pleasant to shoot. It does not seem to kick hard at all. I have shot many .40 caliber pistols which are unpleasant. The .40 caliber seems to have a weird upward kick in most handguns. The same goes for the .357 Sig, another caliber in vogue at the moment. That round really has a nasty crack to it.

I do seem to like the 9mm. The recoil is mild there as well. However, the round loses much in terms of stopping power. This is only what the ballistics data suggests. I pray I never have to observe or test out the relative stopping power of either round. The 9mm used to have the edge in terms of magazine capacity, but double-stacked magazines seem to have lessened the edge somewhat in the last few years. I digress. This was supposed to be about the .45 only.

Almost every major weapons manufacturer makes at least one .45 caliber pistol. Many of them even make a carbine in that caliber. If one favors a Glock, there are at least three models to choose from in .45. If one prefers a double action with a decoker, Sig Sauer makes at least 3 that I am aware of. Should one prefer the double action/single action type of pistol with a safety, H&K, Beretta, Smith and Wesson, Israeli Arms, and CZ make several versions of the .45.

Let us not forget the old warhorse, the Colt 1911. John Browning's design is still as functional as ever. Many police departments issue the 1911 for duty and tactical officers. Manufacturers such as Kimber, Springfield Armory, Colt, and even Smith and Wesson now make 1911's, which are not much different than a WWI-issue Colt. However, the new ones are tricked out. They come from the manufacturer with everything on them that used to be a custom option. This is a good thing. Nobody wants to spend extra money to make sure the gun feeds right, and they should not have to.

This brings me to an interesting point of contention. Most folks who carry the 1911 carry it in "condition one", which means the hammer is drawn back and the safety engaged. This means all one has to do to fire the gun is grip it and disengage the safety.

Some prefer "condition two", meaning a round is in the chamber, but the hammer has been lowered. Most instructors cringe when they hear a 1911 is carried in this style. They argue the potential for accidental discharges are higher lowering the hammer on a loaded chamber. They also argue that the 1911 is a very safe gun to carry "cocked and locked." They say the grip and thumb safeties should be sufficient, as long as one does not grab the gun and put their finger on the trigger, and the gun is kept in a well-designed holster.

I think it boils down to a matter of comfort. Perhaps it is all psychological, but seeing a 1911 with the hammer back strikes me as somewhat dangerous. Most 1911's I have shot have superb, light triggers. If the safety were to become disengaged, and one were to accidentally touch the trigger while holding the gun, it will definitely go boom.

I seem to favor a double-action/single action with a decocker and safety. I like the idea of having a safety that disengages easily. I also like the idea of having a double-action pull. It seems much safer.

I keep coming back to a Smith and Wesson 4513 Tactical. It has roughly the same dimensions as a 1911 in terms of width. It carries 7 rounds fully loaded with one in the chamber. It has the safety and decocker features that I like. Plus, it has a magazine disconnect, which renders the pistol unable to fire if the magazine is not in place.

Some argue that the magazine safety is just one more thing which could mechanically go wrong. There is an element of truth there. So far, the pistol has been 100% reliable on the range. It has never failed to feed, or fire. It is very accurate, seeming to shoot up with a friend's Kimber with no problems. It is easy to carry and conceal. It recoils very nicely, with no nasty kicking noticed. Cleaning and takedown are somewhat of a pain, since the gun has very tight tolerances. It is still easier than a 1911, however.

So I ask you, gentle reader: what is the ultimate .45 caliber handgun, and why?

This is really a test to see if I can get some comments. With three people reading this thing, at least one of you should have a comment about gun stuff.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I personally own 2 .45 caliber pistols and have shot many many more.

Everyone should own a 1911 variation just because it is a superb pistol. Mine has been worked on pretty extensively from when I used to shoot competitively, everything is smooth as glass. There is almost no uptake in the trigger and absolutely no creep, it is the trigger that I judge all other pistols against.

Now I personally chose an H&K USP for my second .45 and really love the way it shoots and operates. As a lefty the ability to send it to H&K and get the safety swapped was great.

If I were going to get another .45 I am pretty sure that it would also be an H&K. Probably an Expert or a MK23 (if I want a really big one).

I rate a Glock a close second but dislike the trigger safety.