The top three calibers that you should consider for an STHF sidearm are 9mm, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP simply because they are the most popular and easiest to find. If you decide that .45 ACP is the caliber you would like in your sidearm, it’s time to do your research on the best specific .45 pistol for you.
While the most famous .45 pistol of all is undoubtedly the 1911, it’s also an older design and has a limited magazine capacity of just seven to eight rounds.
These days, there are double stacked .45 pistols that are simpler and hold more rounds. Let’s find out about the advantages to owning such a pistol and then discuss the top five best double stack .45 pistols on the market.
ADVANTAGES TO OWNING A DOUBLE STACK .45
While a double stack .45 pistol is easily going to be bigger than its 9mm counterparts, a .45 round on its own also creates a substantially bigger hole than a 9mm does.
The tradeoff you get with a larger and heavier double stack .45 is an overall increase in firepower, which can be a big plus in a home defense or any self-defense scenario.
Double stack .45 pistols are admittedly not the best for concealed carry, especially for people who are shorter or smaller in overall stature. A .45 double stack pistol will instead be best suited to resting on your nightstand for home defense or in an OWB holster on your side as an SHTF sidearm.
All in all, the biggest advantage to owning a double stacked .45 pistol is how it offers greater stopping power than a 9mm or .40 caliber version of the same gun while coming close in overall round count. As an SHTF sidearm, a dependable .45 double stack pistol represents a solid choice.
Aren’t Double Stack .45’s Too Big?
There is no amount of sugar-coating or listing other positive attributes that will cover the fact that double-stack .45’s in any category are just plain old freaking big!
Though modern designs have slimmed these guns down considerably from their earlier iterations, you’re almost always going to be packing around more pistol then you would if you were hauling a 9mm or a .40.
Whether or not this is a big deal is largely dependent upon your environment, your preferences and your objective for the gun.
If you are the kind of person that is planning on concealed-carrying most of the time, you might have a decision to make based on your typical environment.
After all, context is everything: If you are carrying in a generally permissive environment where the consequences for discovery or detection are most likely to be the equivalent of a “wink and a nod” the concealability (or rather lack thereof) inherent to a double stack .45 is not much of a flaw.
On the other hand, if you carry in an environment where discovery could lead to severe social and job consequences, or potentially even lethal consequences, the sheer bulk of these pistols mean they are unsuited for carry in those environments.
On the other, other hand, if you are carrying openly these guns scarcely have a larger practical footprint than any other comparable semi-auto. For duty, competition or open carry on your property or in your locale where it is permitted these guns will work splendidly.
Don’t Skimp on a Good Holster!
No matter how you have decided to carry one of these big double-stack guns, make sure you secure it in a high-quality holster.
No, they are not as massive as the largest hunting revolvers or some comically huge pistol like a Desert Eagle, but these are still beefy guns made all the heavier by the substantial payload they carry in each magazine.
That means safety, security and strength are all important factors in holster selection.
You should not even consider carrying a pistol like this in a cheap holster, especially if it is going to be carried outside-the-waistband because the pistol has less stability then it would compared to carrying it inside-the-waistband.
No matter which mode of carry you have settled on, you can be assured of greater comfort by picking a higher-quality holster. Don’t be fooled into thinking those soft, neoprene holsters are worth a damn!
You can get quality holsters made from kydex, injection-molded plastic or leather and all of them have advantages and disadvantages.
The favorite material of our day is probably kydex, as its combination of stiffness, durability and longevity make it hard to beat, and once fitted to a pistol they will work pretty much perfectly unless they break.
Injection-molded plastic holsters have many of the same advantages kydex does at a lower price point, but lacks the stiffness and rigidity that kydex has.
And last but not least, leather is traditional, long wearing and durable but requires more upkeep and is considerably more expensive for a high-quality example. Sometimes that softness against your skin cannot be beat though!
Next, here are seven of the top double stack .45 pistols currently available on the market…
One of the only striker-fired pistol lines to truly challenge the supremacy and ubiquity of the Glock going into the second decade of the 21st century,
Smith & Wesson’s M&P pistols are generally loved and well received by all shooters, even more so because they are an All-American brand.
Much like Glock’s wonder pistol, as soon as the 9mm attained widespread acceptance with American shooters there was a vocal and continual clamor for a big bore version in that most American of calibers, .45 ACP.
Smith & Wesson wasted no time in delivering that gun compared to Glock, and the finished product has all the features that made the M&P such a standout when it was introduced.
A comparatively slim frame, optional compact version, interchangeable grip shells and a reversible magazine release to compliment full-time ambidextrous slide releases make this an ergonomic and lefty-friendly pistol.
Capacity is a modest 10 rounds, far from the record-holder on this list as far as capacity is concerned, but shooters with average-size hands will appreciate the significantly more forgiving dimensions of the frame compared to its chunkier stablemates.
The M&P 45 also benefits from excellent factory sights, and its optional thumb safety, that lever in the same place as the legendary 1911’s, making this an excellent transitional platform or striker-fired handgun for those that just like a manual safety.
- ✅ The M&P 45 Factory sights are steel and a big step up from the dinky, plastic Glock factory sights.
- ✅ It’s all about the options! The M&P 45 can be had with or without a manual safety and in various factory trims from compact carry gun all the way up to enhanced competition pistol.
- ✅ This gun feels great in the hand as it is, and the ability to tweak it with wraparound grip shells only shows off how much S&W invested into ergonomics.
- ❌ Sad to say these guns in their factory configuration are known for middling accuracy, especially when compared to the tack-driving H&K and Beretta options below.
Beretta PX4 Storm SD
The sleeper gun on this list is the big-bore version of Beretta’s unique PX4 line of pistols, only in the past few years starting to gain widespread acceptance and admiration in America.
These pistols are largely unique because of their employment of the rare rotary breech type of action, an action famed for smoothness and mild recoil when executed well, and Beretta has definitely executed it well on these pistols!
Borrowing heavily from their earlier and commercially unsuccessful Model 8000 Cougar guns, the PX4 stands on its own, especially in .45 where it packs 10 rounds within its obviously Italian contours.
While these guns don’t quite offer as much in the way of customization as Glock’s or Smith & Wesson’s entries, they still allow you to swap slide releases, safeties and triggers to your heart’s content.
The real advantage of these guns lies in their handling characteristics, with the aforementioned rotary breech, extended barrel and nearly in line feeding contributing to excellent reliability and mild felt recoil.
Also particularly noteworthy is that these guns have among the best factory triggers on a DA/SA gun to be had anywhere by any maker.
Combined with an overall excellent standard in construction and execution, along with its unique characteristic the PX4 SD is a sure sleeper in our running!
- ✅ A stupendous factory trigger on a DA/SA pistol. These guns are definitely shooters in the right hands!
- ✅ Generous factory support means parts for customization and enhancement are fairly easy to get, somewhat surprising for a gun that is not that popular.
- ✅ The rotary breech really feels unique to fire and recoil is surprisingly mild.
- ❌ This gun is very slippery out of the box, and the factory checkering might as well not even be there. Consider a grip sleeve, deck tape, or a stipple job mandatory for secure purchase.
Do fifteen rounds of .45 ACP sound appealing in a single magazine? If it does, then you should point yourself in the direction of the FN FNX-45. With the highest standard magazine round count of any of the pistols on this list, the FNX should already be one of the .45 double stack pistols you consider.
The more rounds in the pistol, the less frequent reloading needed, a major benefit if you have to defend your property or family against multiple attackers.
The FNX-45 is a hammer fired polymer-framed pistol that sports all the features you would expect on a pistol these days. The gun is double action, or single action fired.
The first shot is double, and subsequent shots are in single, while you can flip down the decocking lever to return it to double action (which is safer for carrying).
The FNX-45 also comes equipped with a loaded chamber indicator, night sights, an accessory rail, and four separate backstraps of different sizes.
As a whole, the FNX-45 is a large pistol, but also one that’s high-quality and loaded with a lot of firepower.
- ✅ The FNX-45 is completely ambidextrous all the time. Magazine releases, slide releases and decocker are found on both sides of the pistol.
- ✅ This pistol has the greatest capacity out of any on our list, a whopping 15+1, quite a payload for a .45 and its still manages to feel fairly normal in the hand. Quite a feat!
- ❌ Apparently FN got tired of listening to people griping about slippery factory pistols and decided to make the factory checkering so aggressive, so needle-sharp that it feels like it is chewing through your hand in a practice session.
You probably expected to see a Glock on this list, and you were right. The Glock 21 has long been a mainstay in the .45 ACP world because it combines Glock’s simplicity and reliability with 13 rounds of .45 ACP in the magazine.
There are many reasons to own a Glock regardless of the model or caliber. Glock is currently the most popular gun manufacturer in the United States, meaning that spare magazines and accessories are virtually everywhere.
The customization options are also endless. Also, Glock pistols are extraordinarily simple and reliable. It is for these reasons that their design has been copied by many other pistol manufacturers.
While the Glock 21 is big and bulky, it’s also not a pistol that’s going to fail you anytime soon.
The third and fourth-generation models, which are both available, offers an accessory rail for adding lights or lasers, while the fourth generation gives you the option of replaceable back straps.
For many, the Glock 21 represents the gold standard of .45 double stack pistols, and that alone secures it on an automatic place in this list.
- ✅ It is all about those custom mods, baby! As another inheritor to the Glock legacy, no matter what kind of part, modification or special add-on you are shopping for you can rest assured somebody makes it for the Glock 21.
- ✅ In keeping with Glock’s custom, the Model 21 is an exceptionally durable and reliable pistol, capable of eating abuse by the bowlful and asking for seconds.
- ❌ The stock, fixed sights are typical soft Glock plastic and that means they totally suck. These things will get knocked off your gun in fairly short order if you use it in any kind of hard way, so consider a sight upgrade a mandatory enhancement for self-defense or duty use.
- ❌ Another Glock hallmark, the stock controls no longer cut it, and I don’t care that the vast majority of users replace them with more ergonomic upgrades. The barely-there slide release and mushy magazine release feel all the worse compared to its competitors.
HECKLER & KOCH HK45
Just like the USP pistol (still in production) that was made before it, the Heckler & Koch HK45 is a double action single action hammer fired pistol with a polymer frame.
However, the HK45 also offers improved ergonomics over the USP. This combined with the fact that the USP-series may be discontinued should HK’s new pistols prove popular, is why the HK45 comes recommended first.
The HK45 has a ten-round magazine, which admittedly is lower than some of the other pistols on this list. Nonetheless, the HK45 is also the issued sidearm for many military and special forces units across the world, and that says a lot.
The ergonomics of the HK45 are like what they offer on their P30 and VP series of pistols. There’s an accessory rail on the front of the frame for adding lights and lasers, while the external frame mounted safety also acts as a decocker to make the weapon safe for carry after firing.
Heckler & Koch is known for making reliable and innovative firearms, and the HK45 is no exception. While accessories may not be nearly as common as Glock, the quality is equal if not even a little superior.
- ✅ The HK45 shares several design innovations and engineering lessons learned from the gargantuan but stupendously accurate and durable Mark 23 SOCOM pistol, meaning it offers a combination of reliability and accuracy that is tough to beat.
- ✅ Like its USP predecessors, the HK45 series handguns have a replaceable fire control that is easily converted to one of many variants in order to suit a shooter that is right or left-handed, prefers a consistent action trigger, a DA/SA trigger, a safety, a decocker (or both) or even single action cocked-n-locked carry.
- ❌ Like all H&K products, this is a pricey gun!
SIG SAUER P227
The SIG Sauer P227 is the only steel-framed .45 pistol on this list. For many years, its ancestor the P220 was the most successful DA .45 pistol on the market, and it remains popular today.
But if there’s one thing that people complained about the P220, it’s that the magazine was single stack and only held eight rounds like a 1911. People had long been craving a double stacked version of the P220, and SIG Sauer responded with the P227.
While the P227 is wider than the P220, the standard magazine capacity holds ten rounds of .45 ACP instead of the P220’s eight rounds.
A longer magazine with an extended base plate is also available for the P227 and increases the capacity to fourteen rounds. SIG also has installed the P227 with their new and improved E2 grips, which offer far better ergonomics over the grips they used on their previous models.
SIG Sauer is widely regarded as a premium gun manufacturer, and thus the P227 does not come cheap.
You’ll have to plan on saving up nearly a grand to purchase a new P227, and while that may sound like a lot for a pistol, it’s an excellent value when you consider the superb craftsmanship that SIG Sauer provides.
Plus, if you prefer to have a steel-framed pistol like a 1911 over a polymer-framed one, the P227 is easily going to be your best choice for a double stacked .45.
- ✅ For lovers of classic P-Series SIG pistols, the P227 is a straight-across upgrade for P220 fans who want a little extra capacity.
- ✅ “E2” ergonomic upgrades go a long way towards slimming down this widebody gun.
- ❌ Compared to its brethren, something has been lost in the translation and the P227 is not quite as legendarily reliable as the P220 or P226.
- ❌ Another expensive pistol, tipping the scales at nearly $1,000 on the street.
WALTHER PPQ 45
Last but certainly not least, we come to the newest pistol on this list, the Walther PPQ 45. The PPQ 45 holds the distinction as being the very first .45 pistol that Walther has ever produced.
The story behind the PPQ 45 is also simple: Walther released the PPQ in 9mm and .40 S&W in 2011 and updated them with the M2 model (with an American-style push button magazine release) in 2013. A .22 LR version of the PPQ followed soon after, but for two years a .45 version was missing.
Finally, in late 2015, Walther released the PPQ 45 to the masses. You’ll notice right away that it’s bigger than its 9mm and .40 S&W brothers, but this is because the magazine must accommodate twelve rounds of .45 ACP.
While the PPQ 45 is young, reviews have still been overwhelmingly positive as it maintains the excellent ergonomics and superb trigger of its previous incarnations.
The PPQ is marketed by Walther as having the smoothest and lightest trigger pull of any striker-fired pistol on the market. It’s up to you to decide if you agree with that, just know that the PPQ 45 has the same light trigger pull as the 9mm and .40 versions do.
Magazines and accessories can be difficult to find for the PPQ 45 since it’s so young, but as it becomes more popular this is likely to change. As it stands, Walther has had difficulty keeping the PPQ 45 on the shelves, which says a lot about it.
- ✅ A knockout, awesome trigger! An excellent achievement for any factory production pistol, especially a striker-fired one! Bravo, Walther!
- ✅ The frame is almost perfectly textured for typical use; not too aggressive, but not slick!
- ❌ Walther is coming on strong in the past few years but parts and magazines are tough to find over the counter, and pricey.
A double stack .45 pistol offers you a lot of firepower, but it’s also important that you make sure your money is spent wisely by purchasing a pistol that is reliable, accurate, and comes from a reputable manufacturer.
Each of the seven .45 pistols that we have gone over in this article fulfill that criterion perfectly, so any one of them represents a solid choice.
last update: Sept 10th 2020