The lure of the .45

We love our .45 ACP pistols in this country. 1911s are always going to sell, and it seems like at one juncture or another everyone buys a 1911. But it’s not just 1911s that sell, because any .45 ACP pistol seems to sell. We had an FNX-45 in the shop that sold in a matter of hours; Springfield XDs 45s sell out instantly while 9mm pistols languish on the shelves.

Photo by Yamil Sued
Photo by Yamil Sued

According to various non-statistical sources, when Springfield introduced the XD 45, it immediately became the hottest selling XD, and for a period the M&P45 was also the hottest selling M&P. But there’s also something interesting about the .45 – it’s not nearly as popular with serious shooters as 9mm.

Take a look at USPSA or IDPA and you’ll see that Production and Stock/Enhanced Service Pistol outnumber the volume of CDP/Single Stack shooters by a pretty considerable margin. Sure, there are some Production/Stock/Enhanced shooters that are using downloaded .40s, but those guys are pretty clearly in the minority. We do need to exclude Limited and Open from this discussion, because by focusing on Prod/SSP/ESP and Single Stack/CDP it also allows us to focus on guns that relatively unmodified when compared to a bespoke Limited gun.

The professional training community also seems to be finally moving away from recommending the .45 as top tier trainers focus on getting rapid accurate hits. But despite all that, we still love our .45s. I’m certainly not innocent in this myself, with a pair of 1911s, previously owned Glock 21s, and all sorts of silly .45 ACP nonsense in my gun history. So what is it that drives us to the .45 as opposed to other calibers?

I think it’s a combination of issues, the first being tradition. This is America, and we do things bigger and better than any other country. We invented muscle cars, The Super Bowl, and the Double-Double. We also invented the .45 ACP, and as the largest generally standardized service cartridge, it has a certain American flavor to it, regardless of whether it’s being launched from a 1911 or an Austrian flat black people-popper. I do feel a certain amount of ‘Merica when I’m driving a Dodge Charger and carrying a 1911 in .45 ACP. It makes me want to indulge in some traditionally American hobbies like watching baseball or dropping bombs on Germany. Tradition is a great thing, because all too frequently we tend to forget where we’ve come from.

But tradition isn’t the only reason people love the .45, the other reason that’s frequently cited stems from ignorance. You’ve probably seen it in some form. Sometimes it’s expressed as “I carry a .45 because they don’t make a .46” or something like that. It’s because people still believe in the myth of handgun stopping power, and buy .45s because they have more knockdown power or something silly like that. There’s a path though that a lot of these shooters chart – buy a .45, shoot it, find out it’s not as pleasant to shoot as a 9mm, buy a 9mm and start shooting/carrying that. Sure, some people get stuck on .45s forever, and there’s really nothing wrong with that.

At the end of the day, the .45 ACP will be with us as long as we’re using brass cased ammo with a metal bullet. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a good thing, because I like shooting .45s, and I’ll probably never be without one. It is traditional, it is uniquely American…it’s just not better than a 9mm. But that’s okay with me.