There have always been subjects that not only endear themselves…

There have always been subjects that not only endear themselves to us all, but actually flourish from generation after generation. Indeed, we can all remember discussions—sometimes heated, sometimes amusing—wherein the participants espouse their views on any number of things.

Perhaps foremost of the list of the topics discussed is which “something” is “the best.” Indeed, there is no limitation to that particular subject and thus more often than not, it enjoys precedence over nearly any other.

And as we all know, in the firearms world, this premise holds especially true. Putting aside for a moment the idea that we all have a right to an opinion, or that having that right doesn’t make one’s opinion legitimate, I think such discussions constitute a healthy dialogue. After all, previously unknown information and/or perspectives often surface.

So, it is in the spirit of healthy dialogue that I attempt to answer a question I’m asked on nearly a daily basis—which .45 ACP pistol is the best? And, as a longtime professional weapons and tactics instructor and writer who has directly trained thousands of students from all walks of life, I should naturally be expected to have a definitive opinion on this subject.

Basis for Judgment

First, though, I think we should define the criteria involved in making such a judgment. In order for a given pistol to be considered as being the “best,” it must obviously exhibit unique, superior or otherwise outstanding characteristics. The most common of these are: (1) accuracy (intrinsic & practical), (2) functional reliability and (3) ease of maintenance.


Intrinsic accuracy is that of which the pistol is capable and can only be examined via a machine rest. Practical accuracy is that which the shooter can produce. In many instances with virtually all firearms, intrinsic accuracy is far better than can produced by even the most skilled operator, even from a manual rest. Which is most important? Practical accuracy, of course. After all, what does it matter if, for example, the pistol is phenomenally accurate, but is so clumsy as to make practical operation and thus useable accuracy, impossible?

Next we have functional reliability, which defines how well the pistol functions. Does it feed properly with typical bullet types and configurations? Will it operate within the usual power spectrum of ammunition currently available in the widest-possible variety of environmental conditions?

Third, within reason, is the pistol easy to maintain? How quickly can it be field-stripped and how easy or difficult is the process by which it’s accomplished. Does it require extraordinary cleaning and/or lubrication or special lubricants to operate reliably?

Clearly, all three of these criteria are critical, and any pistol being considered to the honor of being the best would obviously be superior in all of them. However, there are also many pistols that satisfy these 3 criteria, but in the end fail to earn the coveted title of being the best.

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  • Mac

    Good article Chuck. I am a long time proponent of the .45 ACP and I have owned more than a few 1911 pistols.
    After 29 years in uniform [and not as a Wallyworld greeter by the way], the old .45, 230 grain hardball simply does what it was designed to do. It reliably stops two legged predators providing the guy on the handle does his part.
    There is too much of the “spray and pray” attitude in law enforcement these days.
    The Earps and Holliday got it done in Tombstone with under eighteen rounds of .45 Colt and two rounds of 12 gauge and permanently stopped three bad guys.
    By any calculation ,under significant stress, in a thick mist of black powder smoke and under fire, they managed a hit ratio of about 80%.
    The best that the NYPD could do in 2011 was an overall hit ratio of 7%. That’s 7 shots out of 100 fired that actually hit the intended target. The best accuracy was dispatching domestic pets.
    What I’m getting at here is that, regardless of the gun or caliber, the final denominators in a gun fight, are skill with ones firearm, courage and deliberation.
    Selecting a superior, firearm / cartridge combination will increase your odds of prevailing, should Mr. Murphy extend his wishes to you.

  • William

    What about the FN 45. ? Single action with 14 rounds and the ability to come from the factory with a red dot. Its unique, reliable, extremely accurate only exception is its pricy but a kimber or any quality 1911 will cost more then it. Seems three guns that are all mainstream only made this cut.

  • Matt in Oklahoma

    There is no way a 1911 can compare to the others in reliabilty. I shoot waaayyyy to much with others to believe that garbage.
    Sounds like someone was scared and didnt wanna leave the favorite child out of the running even though it truely is out of the running by todays standards.
    Glock and Springfeild are both great choices

  • NJ

    Agreed with Jon. Give me a P220 any day. I love my 1911 but if SHTF I would definitely grab my P220 first.

  • Jon

    Give me my Sig P220, you can keep the rest. The DA/SA action means I don’t have to think about or fumble with a safety. This one feature alone puts it at the top of my list but It’s also by far and away the best handling, easiest to shoot and most accurate handgun I’ve ever fired. Not one failure to feed in the three years I’ve owned it and it’s certainly not any more difficult to clean than any of the guns mentioned in the article.