CZ 97 BD: A double-action/single-action (DA/SA) design, the hammer-fired CZ 97 BD is a full-sized duty gun that is considered by many to be one of the better .45 ACP pistols on the market. Although heavier than some polymer-framed pistols, this gun soaks up recoil and allows for fast shooting under pressure. Out of the box, the gun comes with tritium night sights for low-light encounters. The leading edge of the rear sight is flat, allowing for one-handed cycling of the slide should one of your limbs be injured in a fight. The 4.65-inch, cold-hammer-forged barrel is accurate and allows for maximum velocity development with your duty ammunition.
FNX-45: From pistols to machine guns, FN makes some of the world’s most effective combat small arms. One of the company’s premier pistol lines is the FNX. Chambered in .45 ACP, the FNX-45 is built on a polymer shell that uses a steel frame and slide rails. This gives the gun a good balance of weight and durability. These hammer-fired pistols use a DA/SA system with a frame-mounted decocker that doubles as a manual safety. The stainless steel barrel is cold-hammer forged with a polished chamber and feed ramp for optimal reliability. All of the controls are fully ambidextrous to match the needs of a variety of officers. The FNX-45 also has a Picatinny accessory rail.
Glock 21 Gen4: Fans of the .45 ACP have long liked the original Glock 21 for its reliability and straightforward design. In recent times, the original gun has been updated and given the Gen4 treatment. This means the gun now has a larger magazine release, interchangeable backstraps and a dual recoil spring assembly. A department issuing the G21 Gen4 can expect fewer complaints about grip size, since it is adjustable to the officer. According to Glock, the dual recoil spring assembly helps improve the service life of the guns substantially, meaning the cost of new guns can be amortized across a longer period of time. Since Glock pistols are very popular with the law enforcement community, getting the right duty holster fit should not be a problem.
Heckler & Koch USP: The USP, or Universal Self-loading Pistol, is extremely popular with modern .45 ACP shooters. This gun has a reputation for a long service life and reliability that is tough to beat. The polymer frame is reinforced with stainless steel, and the one-piece steel slide is nitrocarburized and finished with the company’s Hostile Environment bluing for excellent corrosion resistance. Instead of a push-button magazine release, HK uses a lever-style unit that is ambidextrous. While the vast majority of my training has been with a button-style release, I’ve found the HK system is fast and instinctive with little training needed to adapt to it. HK accommodates the specific needs of different agencies by offering nine different firing modes that include DAO and DA/SA with a combination safety and decocking lever.
Ruger American Pistol: The relatively new Ruger American Pistol is a duty-sized pistol chambered in the iconic American cartridge—the .45 ACP. Officers will appreciate the gun’s light and smooth trigger pull, recoil-reducing cam and the ease with which the grip size can be adjusted to fit different hand sizes. Ruger has a reputation for building rugged guns, and the American Pistol is no different. The company extensively tested the gun with high-pressure ammunition and states the gun is suitable for sustained use of +P ammunition. With a beefy stainless steel slide and a full-length stainless steel chassis, I have no doubt that these guns will easily handle years of use. The company also offers the gun with or without a thumb safety.
Heckler & Koch HK45: An evolution of the USP design, the HK45 incorporates additional features that may appeal to officers and departments alike. One of the most obvious changes is the ergonomic grip, which comes with interchangeable grip panels. Your agency likely has men and women of all different sizes. The HK45 allows you to fit the gun to each individual officer’s hand so that he or she is a more competent, accurate shooter. This hammer-fired pistol has an accessory rail for the addition of a white light, and the grip angle closely matches that of the venerable 1911 pistol. Like the USP, the HK45 uses a paddle-type magazine release, which makes it easier to run for left-handed shooters. Likewise, the gun has an ambidextrous slide release. As with all of HK’s products, the HK45 enjoys a reputation of reliability in even the harshest of conditions.
Ruger SR45: The SR45 is a reliable performer that has been in the Ruger catalog long enough to prove its usefulness as both a duty gun and self-defense weapon. The handgun uses a unique slide design that is engineered to reduce its velocity and felt recoil when shooting. For new officers without a lot of shooting experience, this can help them acclimate to firing the gun more quickly. Up front, Ruger uses an integral accessory rail for the addition of a white light. As for the grip, the company uses a reversible backstrap that allows the officer to easily change the size of the grip without the need for any tools. Left-handed shooters will also probably appreciate the SR45’s ambidextrous magazine release and manual safety.
Sig Sauer P220 Nitron Full-Size: I’ve carried several Sig Sauer pistols as a law enforcement officer, but my clear favorite was my first: the Sig P220. I found the gun to be as reliable as any I’ve carried and dead-on accurate. This DA/SA .45 is an easy-shooting handgun. Hammer-fired, the gun has a frame-mounted decocker that keep things simple when running the pistol. Current production pistols have a one-piece grip that improves ergonomics and reduces the trigger reach to improve its shootability. The current guns also have an accessory rail for a white light, which is something my old German-made P220 did not have. Speaking of low-light shooting, SIGLITE night sights are now standard on these pistols.
Sig Sauer P320 Nitron Full-Size: A relative newcomer to the duty pistol market, the P320 from Sig Sauer is quickly gaining the respect and admiration of police officers from coast to coast. Like the hammer-fired P250 before it, the P320 is a modular design that allows the serial-numbered chassis to move to different-sized grip frames to meet the needs of each officer, from duty to plainclothes to backup carry. Many consider the striker-fired trigger on the P320 to be one of the smoothest duty triggers available. The gun holds 10+1 rounds of .45 ACP ammo and has a 4.7-inch barrel in its Full-Size format for optimum velocity. While Sig is well known for building top-notch guns, its sub-$600 price tag means that every department can make room in its budget for this handgun.
Springfield Armory XD 4″: Proof that reliability is not proportional to price, this XD pistol in .45 ACP is an excellent performer that will not break the department budget. It uses a grip angle that mimics that of the aging 1911, a pistol that many considered to be the top combat handgun of its time. When I first shot an XD, the way it sat in my hand and seemingly pointed itself was what first impressed me about the gun. Also like the 1911, the XD has a grip safety to help prevent unintentional discharges, though no one should use it as an excuse to ignore your own responsibility in safe gun handling. Unlike “old slabsides,” these polymer-framed pistols hold 13+1 rounds, giving them a significant firepower advantage that prior generations of soldiers could only wish for.
Springfield Armory XDM 4.5″: Building on the success of the original XD line, Springfield Armory introduced the XDM with a host of additional features that make this pistol a great choice for duty work. This XDM in .45 ACP offers the same grip angle as the original XD but incorporates multiple backstraps to fit the hands of a wide range of officers. More aggressive serrations on the slide and texturing on the grip further improve an officer’s ability to run the gun under stress. This XDM has a fiber-optic front sight and a 4.5-inch barrel, which gives it a slightly longer sight radius. These two features combine to help improve your ability to put rounds on target at all distances and in varying lighting conditions. This gun also has an accessory rail for the addition of a white light.
Smith & Wesson M&P45: Smith & Wesson handguns have been the constant companion of cops for more than a century, and one could reasonably argue that the company began the law enforcement transition to semi-automatic pistols with the original Model 39. That pistol was adopted by the Illinois State Police in the late ’60s, starting a trend away from revolvers. Now, over 50 years later, S&W is still making duty guns. With a stainless steel chassis and polymer grip frame, these striker-fired pistols are dead simple to operate and are constantly proving themselves in the holsters of thousands of cops across the United States. S&W designed this pistol with interchangeable backstraps so they can be fit to any officer. Models are available with and without thumb safeties.
Walther PPQ 45: One of the better-shooting duty pistols on the market comes from Walther in the form of the PPQ 45. This pistol has great ergonomics, an excellent trigger pull and all of the features you would expect in a top-tier handgun. For me, the shape of the grip is excellent, and the surface texturing really locks the gun into my hand without being abrasive to a uniform shirt. The PPQ 45 has a Picatinny-type accessory rail, interchangeable backstraps and an ambidextrous slide stop. The reversible magazine release is a push-button-style unit, and each magazine holds 12 rounds. Many people rave about the gun’s short trigger travel, smooth pull and very short reset for fast and accurate shooting.
Other than the badge, possibly the most obvious symbol of authority carried by a law enforcement officer is his or her duty pistol. Every call a police officer responds to has the potential to turn into a life-or-death fight. The duty gun can be the one thing that protects an innocent life or ensures the officer will return home to his or her family at the end of the shift.
Political and fiduciary realities have a large influence on the selection of a police officer’s handgun. Many, if not most, agencies now issue service weapons, putting the burden of the gun’s cost on the agency. Consequently, the cost of the gun will likely be a significant factor in the selection process.
Most important—though sometimes considered only after cost—is the reliability of the firearm. Other points of serious consideration should include the ease of use and how well the gun fits in the hands of the officers expected to employ it. If the gun isn’t reliable or its size prohibits some officers from effectively using it under stress, it isn’t a bargain, no matter the price.
The .45 ACP is a capable cartridge with a track record of effectiveness that stretches back more than 100 years. While there is much debate regarding which handgun cartridge is the most effective, there are few people who would take the position that the .45 ACP isn’t effective, especially with modern hollow-point ammunition. With that in mind, here’s a group of modern service-style handguns that offer reliable service and ease of use without crushing a department’s budget.
For more information on the .45 ACP pistols featured in the gallery above, please visit the following sites.
CZ 97 BD
Glock 21 Gen4
Heckler & Koch USP
Ruger American Pistol
Heckler & Koch HK45
Sig Sauer P220 Nitron Full-Size
Sig Sauer P320 Nitron Full-Size
Springfield Armory XD 4″
Springfield Armory XDM 4.5″
Smith & Wesson M&P45
Walther PPQ 45
This article was originally published in ‘Guns & Weapons for Law Enforcement’ February/March 2017. For information on how to subscribe, visit outdoorgroupstore.com
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