I’ve been a fan of compact .45 Automatics for decades, ever since I traded my .380 Walther PPKS for a Star PD .45 from a fellow deputy. It was 1982, and I had just started in the Licking County Sheriff’s undercover narcotics unit. I needed something with a bit more oomph due to the clientele I would be interacting with. A .45 caliber pistol was more likely to deter a suspect without me having to fire a shot.

The Star PD: A Game Changer

Made in Spain, the Star PD was the first compact 1911-style .45 to hit the market—a decade before Colt introduced their Officer’s Model .45 series. The Star PD was innovative in size and weight, featuring a 3.92-inch barrel and weighing only 25 ounces thanks to its aluminum frame. With a height of 4.9 inches and a width of 1.2 inches, it was easily concealed and carried.

The Star PD, along with the 9mm Star BM and others in the series, lacked a grip safety. Instead, it had a sturdy Colt-style thumb safety that locked the slide in place. My PD had a nicely blued finish with checkered walnut grips, plain black rear and front sights, and six-round magazines. Back in the days when .38 Special Smith & Wesson and Colt revolvers reigned, the Star PD wouldn’t out me as a cop if spotted by the average dealer. And with 12+1 rounds of Winchester Silvertip 185-grain .45 ACP ammo, I felt confidently armed.

Why Choose .45 ACP for Concealed Carry?

While many prefer the 9mm Luger cartridge for its mild recoil and high magazine capacity, plenty of others feel the best concealed carry caliber is the .45 ACP should things take a serious turn. It has a proven track record of effectiveness, from the Meuse-Argonne Offensive of WWI to the fetid tunnels of the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War and beyond. The .45 ACP’s large diameter and heavy bullet offer immediate stopping power as compared to the 9mm Luger, regardless of what FBI testing has claimed. And when you can pack that large caliber in a small, easy to carry handgun, you know you truly have a winner. The right .45 ACP can be extremely accurate and capable of performing tasks, from target shooting and competition to defense to medium-sized game hunting, all without punishing recoil.

Best Concealed Carry .45 Handguns

I prefer compact .45s for concealed carry. Models with 3- to 3.5-inch barrels are about as good as it gets. This is only a short list of guns I’ve liked, tried or am in the process of trying. I can’t list them all as the .45 ACP is more popular than ever, and so are 1911-style pistols to launch it.

Colt Defender Series

The Colt Defender series has replaced the Colt Officer’s series that is no longer in production. The compact, 1911-style .45 ACP Defenders feature undercut trigger guards for superior grip, Novak front and rear combat sights, and upswept Beavertail grip safeties. Colt also offers a stainless steel .45 ACP Defender with aluminum frame and a Combat Elite Defender with finer finishing and additional checkering fore and aft on the grip frame.

Colt DefenderPrimary Features

  • Renowned Colt ruggedness and reliability
  • 7+1 magazine capacity in .45 ACP
  • Ambidextrous thumb safety
  • 3-inch barrel length for excellent concealment
  • Legendary Novak front and rear sights

Prices range from $999 to $1,399. Colt quality has really improved in terms of fit and finish on the current production guns I have been testing, and manufacturing innovation has kept costs down. Colt.com

Glock 36

For those of you who aren’t fans of 1911 single-action pistols and manual safeties, there is the Glock 36. The Glock 36 is one of the very best compact .45s available on the market today.

Primary Features

  • Familiar Glock operating system
  • Weighs a mere 22.4 ounces, making it a great daily carry gun
  • Comfortable to shoot, especially with standard pressure loads
  • 78-inch barrel and 1-inch slide width create low profile
  • Known for high accuracy

The one downside of the Glock 36 is its six-round magazine capacity. Fortunately, ProMag has extended 10-round magazines for the Glock 36. MSRP of the Glock 36 is approximately $480. US.Glock.com

Smith & Wesson Micro-Compact M&P 45 Shield M2.0

Smith & Wesson’s M&P 45 Shield is a micro-compact .45 that is available with or without a 1911-style thumb safety. The Shield’s thumb safety does not lock the slide when engaged, thereby allowing the user to load and clear their pistol with the safety in place as additional protection from accidental discharge. Both the basic model and the thumb safety model come standard with S&W’s traditional articulating trigger safety.

Primary Features

  • Easily managed trigger pull
  • Polymer frame and 3.3-inch barrel, weighing 23 ounces
  • Disassembly without pulling the trigger
  • 10-round aftermarket magazines available

I highly recommend the manual safety version of the M&P 45 Shield M2.0 as it makes loading, charging, unloading and clearing safer. MSRP ranges from $519-$599. Tritium or Hi-Viz sights are also available on certain models as an option. Smith-Wesson.com

Cosaint Arms COS21 Compact .45 ACP

Cosaint Arms is a custom 1911 manufacturer that specializes in modular, double-stack 1911s … or as they tend to be called today “2021s.” Located in East Flat Rock, North Carolina, Cosaint Arms designs all its 1911s for self-defense, even those designated as competition pistols. None of their pistols are so overdone that they aren’t also practical for self-defense.

Primary Features

  • 12+1 rounds in double-stack magazine
  • 3.5-inch ported bull barrel
  • Optics ready slide
  • Weights 31 ounces
  • Ideal for self-defense

I just received my sample for evaluation and have not yet had time to shoot it. I will be providing a full review at a later date. The price for the COS21 is in the $3,000 range. CosaintArms.com

Springfield Armory .45 Concealed Carry Guns

Springfield Armory offers a wide range of excellent concealed carry .45 ACP pistols. Every time I turn around it seems like they are adding another new model or new series. Springfield Armory products range from models derived from the original 1911 platform to more modern striker-fired versions with polymer frames. Springfield-Armory.com

Tactical Response 1911

One of four new pistols in the Tactical Response lineup, the Carry Contour (CC) model features an angled contoured backstrap to provide a more comfortable fit in the hand. This backstrap also serves to reduce printing when under a cover garment.

Primary Features

  • Forged aluminum alloy frame with front rail
  • Frontstrap and backstrap checkering
  • 25-inch forged stainless steel match-grade barrel
  • 3-ounce weight
  • Tactical rack 3-dot Tritium sights
  • Ambidextrous thumb safeties
  • Cerakote finish
  • 7+1 magazine capacity

The TRP 1911 CC carries easily, is very accurate and handles recoil with aplomb. Watch for a review of all four new TRP pistols in an upcoming issue of Concealed Carry Magazine.

Springfield Armory XDXD-S Mod.2 OSP

If you are looking for the ultimate easy-to-conceal, striker-fired, polymer-framed .45 ACP, look no further than the Springfield XD-S Mod.2 OSP. Like other pistols in the XD series, the XD-S Mod.2 OSP features the standard XD trigger safety lever as well as the XD grip safety. The grip safety, like that on a 1911, deactivates when the pistol is gripped in a normal shooting position.

Primary Features

  • Accepts popular micro-optics; one model includes Crimson Trace red dot
  • Polymer frame with molded-in accessory rail
  • Ambidextrous magazine release
  • Loaded chamber indicator
  • 3-inch hammer-forged Melonite coated barrel
  • Weights 21.5 ounces
  • 7-round flush fit magazine capacity, 9-round extended magazine
  • Grip width of .9 inches

I would have loved to carry this pistol while working on the narcotics unit as it is easy to carry and nearly invisible to outside observers. MSRP of $465 for the basic model.

XD 4-Inch Compact .45

Labeled a low-capacity model, the XD 4-inch Compact is a cut-down version of the original full-sized XD. It is sized roughly like a Colt Commander 1911.

Primary Features

  • 4-inch hammer-forged steel, Melonite-coated barrel and slide
  • Polymer frame with molded in rail
  • Weights 29 ounces, measures 5 inches tall
  • 10-round magazine capacity; extended magazines available
  • Steel white-dot front and rear sights

The standard XD series, made in Croatia, was Springfield’s first foray not only into pistols other than 1911s but into the world of polymer-framed pistols as well. It has a solid history of reliable service and is available in a wide range of models. MSRP for the XD 4-inch Compact .45 is $592.

.45 Handguns Are Still a Top Choice for Concealed Carry

While the 9mm dominates the market today, the .45 ACP isn’t going anywhere. It remains a formidable choice for concealed carry. Its proven stopping power and versatility make it an excellent option for those who prioritize performance and effectiveness. Whether you’re a seasoned shooter or new to firearms, owning both a .45 ACP and a 9mm is a good bet in case of ammo shortages arising again.

If you have never shot a .45 ACP pistol before, head down to your local range and rent one Starting with a full-size 1911 can give you a true appreciation for the caliber’s capabilities. You may find that the .45 ACP not only provides a sense of confidence but also brings a certain satisfaction that lighter calibers might not offer. Embrace the legacy and power of the .45 ACP It might just put a smile on your face.