Return Of The .45?

Return Of The .45?
Some police agencies are finding that bigger is better.

Last year, the Rainbow City Police Department in Alabama began the search for a new duty sidearm after its .40 caliber handguns experienced some reliability issues.

"We took advantage of that situation to look at different calibers," says Sgt. Chase Jenkins, the department's firearms training officer. "An underlying problem we had here was some officers just couldn't handle the .40 caliber recoil, which is significant. Our qualification scores often reflected the inability to handle that recoil."

Those low scores also meant additional training sessions on the range and extra ammunition expended, all of which cost the department funds it needed elsewhere. So the decision was made to examine various handguns with less felt recoil. Meaning smaller calibers, right?


Actually, the Rainbow PD focused on the .45 ACP and .45 GAP (Glock Automatic Pistol, for those unfamiliar with this round).


"What we saw as a training staff was that every single officer shot better groups with the .45s, and they were the overwhelming choice of each officer," says Jenkins. "Everyone remarked about the less perceived recoil as compared to the .40 caliber round they were accustomed to firing."

In the end, Rainbow City outfitted its 25 officers with the Glock 21SF in .45 ACP. Qualification scores jumped noticeably, with several officers scoring 100s for the first time in their careers.

"The officers seem happy with their .45s," Jenkins adds, "and have more confidence in themselves."

While the vast majority of officers carry 9mm and .40 caliber handguns, in recent years a number of enforcement agencies have made the switch to .45s. The list includes: Georgia State Patrol; Florida Highway Patrol; New York and Pennsylvania state police forces; Worcester, Massachusetts, and Hartford, Connecticut, police departments; Missouri's Buchanan County Sheriff's Department; and the Wisconsin Department of Criminal Investigations.


According to Len Lucas, Beretta's manager of law enforcement and defense markets, .45s are increasingly popular at many smaller departments where officers have to purchase their own firearms.

"The Chicago area, Wisconsin, outside of Minneapolis, upstate New York--those are big .45 areas," Lucas says.

Lucas notes that law enforcement agencies across the nation began phasing out revolvers in favor of semiautomatics in the 1980s, with most opting for 9mms over .45s. The latter were mostly 1911 variations with magazines holding seven or eight rounds of .45 ACP. While the 9mms had less stopping power, they also boasted essentially twice the magazine capacity, so many departments went the 9mm route. When these 9mms needed replacing years later, the .40 caliber was the hot choice.


"It seems like the wheel replaces itself," says Lucas. "It goes from .45 to 9mm, then to .40 caliber and back to .45. The circle keeps coming back."

One reason the circle's returned to the .45 is increased magazine capacity compared to two decades ago. The Glock SF21s that Jenkins' department purchased come with standard magazines holding 13 rounds, as do the Springfield XDs. Another popular choice among law enforcement, the Beretta Px4 Storm .45, holds nine or 10 rounds, while the even more popular Glock 37 holds 10 rounds of .45 GAP ammunition.

In July 2008, the Rochester New York Police Department replaced its aging 9mm Beretta Cougar with the Beretta Px4 Storm .45, purchasing 775 of the handguns. Robert Duffy is Rochester's current mayor, but at the time the decision was made to switch to a .45 caliber handgun, he was Rochester's chief of police. Duffy is also a former SWAT commander for the city.

"The police needed a more powerful round," says Duffy, "one appropriate for an urban environment."

The Rochester Metro Area logs in at just over 1 million people, so it has the crime and poverty found in larger urban areas. Still, police officer shootings here are pretty rare.

A more common scenario where officers have to draw and use their sidearms? Serving warrants on drug dealers with big, vicious guard dogs.

"We had cases where pit bulls were shot several times (with 9mm rounds), and they didn't even stop," says Duffy. "So we knew we needed something more."

The .40 caliber was also considered, but in the end Duffy and his fellow officers decided they wanted the heft and stopping power of the .45 ACP. Pit bulls beware.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Performance Center M&P Shield M2.0

Performance Center M&P Shield M2.0

From Smith & Wesson, the M&P Shield M2.0 is a great option for a carry gun with optics option.

The New Speer Gold Dot G2 Duty Handgun Load

The New Speer Gold Dot G2 Duty Handgun Load

Speer's Jared Hinton shows OSG's Lynn Burkhead the new Speer Gold Dot G2 Duty Handgun load.

Handgun Basics

Handgun Basics

SIG Academy's Hana Bilodeau joins Rich and Jim to discuss the essential skills all handgunners should master.

Going To The Range

Going To The Range

Jim and Scott show you how to make each trip to the shooting range a quality experience.

Trending Articles

Do you remember the first time you fired a gun? If you're like most, you were somewhat Training

Pro Tips For Controlling Recoil

Richard Nance - April 11, 2017

Do you remember the first time you fired a gun? If you're like most, you were somewhat

Kahr Arms officially broke ground on their new headquarters in Blooming Grove Township, in Pike Industry

Kahr Arms Breaks Ground on New Pennsylvania HQ

Handguns Online Staff - June 04, 2014

Kahr Arms officially broke ground on their new headquarters in Blooming Grove Township, in Pike

Guns are fun, and cheap guns are even more fun. Spend less on the firearm and more on ammo with these 10 low-priced pistols. Compact

10 Cheap Guns Under $250

Evan Brune - September 24, 2015

Guns are fun, and cheap guns are even more fun. Spend less on the firearm and more on ammo...

I don't have a distinct recollection of the first time I reloaded a cartridge – it's been a long Ammo

To Cast a Good Bullet

Bart Skelton - June 28, 2012

I don't have a distinct recollection of the first time I reloaded a cartridge — it's...

See More Trending Articles

More Semi-Auto

The SIG P365 is an excellent 9mm carry pistol—one that's rated for +P ammo—and it's now available with a manual thumb safety. Reviews

SIG Sauer P365 MS Review

J. Scott Rupp - July 25, 2019

The SIG P365 is an excellent 9mm carry pistol—one that's rated for +P ammo—and it's now...

The new Glock 48 has been specifically designed to be the “Canadian Glock 19,” but the end result is an interesting handgun that should be of great interest to Americans as well. Semi-Auto

Glock 48 Review

James Tarr - August 14, 2019

The new Glock 48 has been specifically designed to be the “Canadian Glock 19,” but the end...

Build the Desert Eagle pistol of your dreams, thanks to Magnum Research's new build website. Semi-Auto

Review: Magnum Research Custom Desert Eagle

J. Scott Rupp - June 03, 2019

Build the Desert Eagle pistol of your dreams, thanks to Magnum Research's new build website.

The latest in Ruger's LCP lineup is a small, easy to operate semiautomatic .22. Semi-Auto

First Look: Ruger Lite Rack LCP II

J. Scott Rupp - December 30, 2019

The latest in Ruger's LCP lineup is a small, easy to operate semiautomatic .22.

See More Semi-Auto

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.