Concealed Carry & Home Defense

CCW Weekend: Carrying The Compact .45

By Sam Hoober, Alien Gear Holsters

According to legend – and there are dozens of versions of this anecdote – some person at some point said to someone else that they carried a .45 “because they don’t make a .46.” Whether or not it’s true, the .45 caliber round and the pistols that fire them have been a mainstay for more than a century.

Granted, the .45 Colt eventually did give way to the .45 ACP. There’s also been the advent of .45 GAP but it hasn’t been widely adopted and the odds of finding rounds for it at your local gun store aren’t spectacular. In any case, the .45 caliber family is a fine defensive round. With a good hollowpoint, even standard-pressure rounds give more than adequate penetration and expansion up to nearly an inch in diameter.

You can still get a pistol in .45 Colt, of course, and the modern high-power loads are every bit the equal of the .44 Magnum.

This comes at a cost, though. In a full-size pistol, even in a heavy gun like a Government frame 1911, there’s a decent amount of recoil with .45 caliber rounds. Not nearly as bad as other rounds by far, as the .45 is more of a steady “push” rather than the jarring recoil of magnum revolvers, but still there. The seasoned shooter won’t balk much at .45, but a novice or person who is more recoil-sensitive than others may find it a bit much to handle.

Since more pistols than ever these days are for concealed carry, that means an increasing number of compact or even subcompact pistols are on the market. As good old ACP is one of the most popular calibers, a lot of them are chambered in .45. That makes them easy to find a concealed carry holster for, but they may not be the easiest to shoot.

With a smaller pistol, which isn’t going to soak up as much recoil (there’s no substitute for mass) does this relegate the compact .45 to being more of an expert’s gun? Some might think so, and there are folks out there who reckon that even a snub .38 requires a seasoned hand to shoot well.

It’s certainly true that compact .45s tend to kick a bit more. An Officer frame will kick a bit more than a Government frame, for instance, but not by too much. Most Officer 1911s are still all-steel and with a decent beavertail grip safety, doesn’t impose too much more in terms of recoil on the shooter. One of the compact poly striker guns in .45 may be a bit more than some shooters find comfortable.

Then again, the difference between the actual recoil force – the actual recoil force generated by a gunshot in accordance with the laws of physics – and felt recoil – what the shooter perceives – are two different things. Some people barely notice and then again, some people (allegedly) get PTSD after shooting a 5.56 mm.

Your mileage, of course, may vary. If you’re looking at possibly getting a compact big-bore and have never shot one, try a few out at a range that rents pistols. If you find it’s to your liking, then by all means take the plunge. I wrote an in depth 1911 pistol shopping guide that may help you out.

The truth is that any caliber you can shoot well is a good caliber to carry and 9mm has a more than sufficient track record as a defensive round, so if that’s what you prefer to carry, carry that. If you find you like a compact big-bore more, carry one. It really doesn’t matter so long as you can get rounds on target, but a good number of folks out there have found that once you go .45, you don’t want to go back.

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Sam Hoober is Contributing Editor for AlienGearHolsters.com, a subsidiary of Hayden, ID, based Tedder Industries, where he writes about gun accessories, gun safety, open and concealed carry tips. Click here to visit aliengearholsters.com.