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Handgun Reviews

What’s the Best .45 Subcompact Pistol on the Market?

by Paul Scarlata   |  February 12th, 2013 38


Small .45s are nothing new. In fact several manufacturers—Glock and Taurus come to mind—have been offering such pistols for a number of years. But recently several new models have been introduced to appease demands from the “bigger bullets are better bullets” crowd.

And with the introduction of Springfield’s XD-S subcompact .45, it seemed it was high time to hit the range for a mini .45 shoot-off. We chose the aforementioned Springfield Armory XD-S, a Glock 36, Taurus PT 745 Pro and a Kahr PM45.

All are striker-fired pistols that use the same breech locking system, and all four are built on polymer frames with ergonomically shaped grips that feature aggressive checkering. The XD-S stands apart as the only one to have interchangeable palm swells so the shooter can fit the gun to his or her particular hand size. It was also the only one sporting a frame rail for tactical lights or lasers.

All of them have machined steel slides with sharp serrations for retracting the slide, and all four employ external extractors. The ejection ports of the PM45 and PT 745 have oval relief cuts at their fronts to ensure positive ejection and prevent loaded rounds from hanging up when being manually ejected.

The G36 features Glock’s Tenifer finish while the Springfield uses a Melonite finish on its XD-S. The PT 745 Pro and PM45 we received both had matte stainless steel slides, although the former is available with a blue steel slide and the latter also has the option of a black matte finish.

While they’re all striker-fired guns, they have different trigger systems. The G36 has Glock’s well-known Safe Action trigger with its relatively short stroke. The PM45 uses a traditional, long double-action-only trigger, and the Springfield’s XD-S featured the company’s new Short Reset Trigger with a relatively short take-up and, as the name implies, a short reset.

Almost none of these has second-strike capability, which allows you a second chance at a round that misfires, but the Taurus does. If a round doesn’t go off, simply pull the trigger again. When the PT 745 Pro is cocked, it has a long but light take-up before a single-action let off.

The flush-fit magazines on the PM45 and XD-S hold five rounds; those for the G36 and PT 745 hold six. The Glock’s mag is polymer while the rest are metal. The G36, PT 745 and PM45 magazines all have finger-rest extension base plates that provide a full three-finger grip on the pistol. The PM45 comes standard with an extended six-round magazine while Springfield offers a seven-rounder for the XD-S and as an option. We used both of these during our test firing.

All the guns had fixed sights. The G36’s sights are polymer and use the white outline/dot system while the PT 745 Pro features Heinie Straight-8 sights with white dot-above-dot sight picture. The PM45 has a white bar/dot arrangement, and the XD-S stands apart because it has a red fiber-optic front sight mated to a dual white-dot rear.

There was a fair bit of variety when it came to safeties. The XD-S and PT 745 sport manual safeties. The Springfield’s is a grip safety while the Taurus has a traditional thumb-operated lever. The XD-S and Glock both have safety levers on the face of their triggers that prevent movement unless depressed. The PM45 depends upon its long, revolver-like trigger stroke to provide safety.

All four have passive safeties that block the firing pin, and the Taurus also has a key-operated internal safety that locks the trigger and prevents the manual safety from being disengaged. The Glock, Taurus and Springfield have loaded-chamber indicators that offer a visual and/or tactical indication of the pistol’s condition.

All four pistols had their controls in the “proper” locations. They were positioned for easy access and positive manipulation, were flat in profile and located close to the frame so as not to hang up when the pistol is drawn from concealment.

Once the guns arrived, I rounded up the usual suspects—Dick Jones, Butch Simpson and Dick Cole—plus my friend Gary McDermott, who was visiting from Great Britain. While he’s an experienced shooter, his country’s draconian gun laws meant that he had never handled any of these pistols, and I felt his input would be interesting.

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