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.