Not too long ago, I offered up my Top 5 .45’s for concealed carry. Not everyone agreed with my choices, and there were a lot of great comments and reader suggestions. That got me thinking about concealed carry being only one of the purposes for a good .45 ACP handgun, and how different uses can often mean different choices. If you follow my YouTube channel, you probably know that I have an affinity for the John Moses Browning cartridge. So, if you’re interested in using this superior ballistic wonder to defend your home and family, I offer my Top Five. One more note before I start – just to be considered for this list, I had to feel the gun was 110% reliable with proper maintenance and good ammo. So that’s a given for all of them.
#1 – Glock 21
Here’s why: Reliable, simple to operate, high round capacity, and well supported in aftermarket options. When the glass breaks at 2 AM and your reach for something to keep you and your family safe from a threat – this polymer 2×4 might be the nicest thing you’ve ever felt in your life.
It has only one control that you need to think about – the trigger. Plenty of rail space for a mounted light and/or laser sight. Can be equipped easily (or purchased with the optional) night sights. With 13+1 rounds of .45 ACP and the reliable simplicity of a Glock, it’s my opinion that this pistol is the benchmark of a home defense handgun.
MSRP: $600 and up.
#2 – Smith & Wesson M&P 45
Just about everything I said about the Glock 21 applies to the M&P 45 – except round count. With a max of 10+1, it loses points. It can also lose a few points if equipped with additional safeties such as the external manual safety and magazine disconnect safety. Mine has neither, for which I am quite grateful.
The M&P 45 is an ergonomic masterpiece, though still a handful of gun. Few guns feel as comfortable in the hand as the M&P line, and the controls are well placed and easy to use. The recoil management of the M&P 45 is good, as is its reliability and simplicity. I’ve never had a failure of any kind with it. It is also one of the most accurate .45’s I own. It can be purchased with night sights (or have them easily added), and the front rail provides ample space for that mounted light/laser.
MSRP: $600 and up.
#3 – SIG Sauer P227 Nitron
Recently adopted by more than one U.S. State Police agency as the new sidearm, and built on the time and battle proven P226 platform, the SIG P227 is as fine a .45 as I’ve ever shot. Well, the standard trigger could use a little improvement, but otherwise it’s awesome. This pistol feels more like you’re holding a baseball bat than a 2×4, as SIG opted for a rounded approach to the grip, but left it at a 10-round capacity (though the promised 14 round extended mags should be showing up in stores now). The polymer E2 grip provides excellent ergonomics and hold, and the controls are very well placed. Think of it like a P226 that has put on a few pounds over the holidays.
Reliability, accuracy, and craftsmanship are all there and all pure SIG. Unlike those above, this is a hammer fired double-action / single-action (DA/SA) pistol that might take some getting used to for some. The upside is that heavy first pull acts as a safeguard against the adrenaline rush of an emergency. The P227 has no external safety, but does have a de-cocking lever to safely drop the hammer after firing. Front end rail space on the aluminum frame is adequate for lights and lasers, and it can be purchased with night sights.
MSRP: $1,108 w/Night Sights.
#4 – Heckler & Koch HK45
Like the SIG, this gun is DA/SA operation and hammer fired. The major differences are a polymer frame construction, a thinner but taller grip design, and an external safety. The external safety on the HK45 also doubles as a de-cocker for the hammer. Also a maximum of 10 rounds in the magazine, there is no extended option available as of yet. H&K was the innovator in polymer framed handguns and still produces what I feel is the flagship example of them.
This pistol is the sidearm of choice for many elite fighting units worldwide. Ergonomics, function, and control placement are all excellent. Night sights are harder to find on stock models, but do exist. The base sights are “glow in the dark” that have to be charged with light and only glow for a while – I don’t consider those of any value when the gun is kept hidden away until needed. Front rail space is very good – plenty of room for lights, lasers, or a toaster-oven. The one control that some folks might not like is the magazine release.
The HK45 features the European-style paddle release incorporated into the rear of the trigger guard. It is by nature ambidextrous, so that’s a plus. But if you’ve not used that style before, it will take a little getting used to.
MSRP: $1,200 and up.
#5 – The 1911
For starters, over 100 years of providing home defense does count for something. The 1911 was the gun for which the marvelous .45 ACP cartridge was created and vice versa (chicken / egg). Both designed by John Moses Browning (queue heavenly choir and sunbeam), both were the very state of the art over a century ago, and damn few guns or cartridges can claim equality even today. Yes, the 1911 is indeed worthy of consideration for a home defense handgun. Much thinner, with a shorter grip/trigger radius than everything listed above, it is the one most likely to fit every hand that might need to use it. The light and crisp single-action only trigger makes it easier to hit the target with the first shot.
I don’t recommend anything shorter than the commander length (4 ¼” barrel) for a house gun, and you should ensure it has the full 8 round capacity with a flush magazine. Extended mags are available, but one should test thoroughly because magazines are biggest reason for 1911 stoppages. This is no place to save $5. The 1911 design is as accurate and reliable as the day is long, and Crimson Trace makes an excellent laser sight grip.
Downside – SA only and external safety requires more training/experience for safe and proficient use.
There you have it – my Top 5. If you’re upset because your favorite wasn’t on the list, that’s probably because it’s not a Top 6 or a Top 8 list. What would you change and why?