best 45 to conceal carry

The Best Concealed Carry .45 Is Out There

There are some who insist that there is no such thing as a good concealed carry .45. It's just too big a cartridge, they say, and a concealable .45 ACP handgun involves a certain amount compromise - namely shootability.


There are a number of decent .45 pistols out there for concealed carry that don't sacrifice shootability for the sake of concealability nor vice versa. Which one is perfect for you is of course difficult to predict, but here are 7 fantastic CCW-ready .45 ACP pistols. If you're looking for a small big-bore for daily carry in a concealed holster and gun belt, these are about as good as it gets.

Choosing A Compact .45 ACP

45 acp compact

The right compact .45 ACP pistol is a great addition to either a collection or as a primary concealed carry gun. The round is a proven performer with accurate fire and good ammunition. However, what some people get concerned about - and rightly - is the recoil. The greater the mass of the bullet going out of the barrel, the greater the recoil going into the shooter.

Choosing the right compact .45 ACP for concealed carry, therefore, should involve a bit of care. Pick the right one, and shooting that big bullet becomes not such a big deal. Pick one that maybe isn't the best-suited to you...and you might not enjoy shooting and training with it as much, which is a problem.

Most importantly, pick the gun that feels best to the hand. The better and more comfortable it feels, the more naturally it fits the hand, the better it will feel shooting. Pistols lauded for their ergonomics (CZ, Walther, 1911s) will usually be more comfortable to shoot, including big-bore guns.

Also, some might recommend selecting a lighter bullet for a compact .45 ACP pistol. While the standard bullet size is 230 grains, the 200 grain and 185 grain loadings are also popular and with good bullet selection, very effective as self-defense rounds as well.

That said, here are 7 outstanding candidates.

S&W M&P45C

smith and wesson 45 gun

The Smith and Wesson M&P45C is the larger brother to the Shield .45, and there are a lot of similarities. The .45 Shield is slightly wider, slightly longer and slightly taller than the 9mm and .40 S&W Shield pistols. The M&P45C is slightly longer, slightly taller (half an inch on both scores) and tiny bit (0.2 inches) wider than the M&P9C/M&P40C, to accommodate the larger round.

What does that get you? Slightly more real estate on the accessory rail and 8+1 rounds of .45 ACP, in a more compact and lighter package than the standard Commander 1911. The 4-inch barrel (7.6 inches in length overall) puts it on the long side for a concealed carry pistol, but the width and height are both purely in the compact class. Choose with or without the manual safety, and with or without the optional Crimson Trace accessories. Smith and Wesson will put them on in the factory for you if you want.

If you're willing to put up with a slightly less compact compact .45 (compact-ish is an apt description) there aren't many better.

Charter Arms Pitbull

pitbull 45 gun

Normally, revolvers don't chamber autoloading cartridges because of the recessed rim without at least a set of moonclips...except for the Charter Arms Pitbull. Charter Arms engineered a dual-spring ejector that can handle rimless cartridges and therefore can chamber autoloading rounds. The pistol is also offered in 9mm and .40 S&W. So yes, this is a .45 ACP concealed carry revolver.

The Pitbull .45 is slightly larger than the 9mm/.40 S&W Pitbull, adding roughly 0.2 inches to the cylinder's diameter. However, it's still a 5-shot snubbie and easily concealed just like other snub-nose revolvers such as Smith and Wesson's venerable J-frame revolvers.

There aren't too many guns that let you use the same cartridge in your wheel gun as in your auto...but Charter Arms does.

Para Ordnance Elite Officer

elite officer 45 gun

The Para Ordnance Elite Officer Officer-frame 1911. However, it also has all the bells and whistles but comes in with a more modest price tag than many other Officer 1911s on the market from companies that specialize in 1911 pistols.

The 3.5-inch barrel takes the overall length to 7.1 inches, which is a touch on the long side for a concealed carry gun but not unmanageable. The Elite series, though, comes with a number of high-end accoutrements that make them very attractive pistols for the price point. Cocobolo wood grips, Novak-style ramp rear sights and green fiber optic front sights for low-light conditions, skeletonized bob hammer and trigger and an extended beavertail grip safety are standard. A larger ejection port and a match-grade barrel round things out.

It comes with a pair of 7-round magazines, so capacity isn't lost, either.

There are plenty of Officer frame 1911s on the market, to be sure, but with an MSRP of less than $1,000 (expect to pay less in-store) there aren't too many that offer as much on a per-dollar basis.

Kahr CM45

kahr 45 gun

Kahr pistols are known for function first and everything else second, and the Kahr CM45 delivers exactly that. It's a compact DAO auto in .45 ACP and there's really not much more to it. The frame is polymer, with a stainless steel slide and there isn't any equipment on it besides a magazine release and take-down lever/slide stop.

The CM45 is a dedicated concealed carry gun, coming in at less than 6.5 inches long, just under 4.5 inches tall and just over 1.0 inches wide. Capacity is 6+1 and you get traditional white-dot sights. There isn't a manual safety; the long double action trigger pull is about all the safety device you get...and if you follow the rules of gun safety, will be all you ever need.

If you want something a bit more nice, get the PM45 for about twice the price. However, if you want a no-nonsense compact big-bore...the CM45 ticks just about every box for less than $500 MSRP. The trigger pull is noted for being long and somewhat stiff, but smooth and manageable for most shooters. Many reviewers have found recoil is more than bearable.

S&W M&P Shield 45

shield 45 gun

We already mentioned that the M&P45C was a bit different from the Shield 45...but the Shield 45 is still a very attractive option for a compact .45. Just like it's bigger brother, it's slightly larger than the 9mm/40 Shield (less than half an inch longer, slightly taller and wider but not by much) but all the same strengths are retained.

You get the same striker-fired operation, light trigger pull, and ease of shooting. You get the same easy concealment. You can choose it with or without a manual safety. You get the same reasonable price point (less than $500 in most instances) and the wealth of aftermarket accessories.

A lot of people reckon it's one of the best of the small big-bores on the market.

Glock 36 and Glock 30

glock 36 and 30 45 gun

There are two compact Glock .45 ACP pistols, namely the Glock 36 and the Glock 30. They merit inclusive mention because there isn't much difference between them save that the Glock 30 uses a double stack magazine and is slightly taller (by 0.4 inches) and wider (by 0.17 inches) and carries 10 rounds instead of 6. It will also accept a 13-round extended magazine. Both happen to be among the most popular concealed carry .45 pistols, so they are certainly a viable option.

Both are everything you can expect from a big-bore Glock. They're easily concealable and carryable. Aftermarket support is ridiculous. They're reliable and will feed almost any ammunition with aplomb, and the price is pretty nice - unaffordability is not an attribute Glock is known for.

You just need to choose the slightly bigger one with more bullets or the slimmer one.

Armscor Rock Island Armory GI Standard CS: Affordable Officer 1911

officer 1911 45 gun

Armscor's Rock Island Armory line of 1911 pistols has a reputation for delivering reliable and very good shooting pistols for much less than other producers. Some people grouse about the guns being made in the Phillipines, some people just like being able to get a decent 1911 for an affordable price.

The base GI series have little adornment, as they have wood grips, blue steel finish, iron sights and that's about it. The CS is the Officer-frame variant, with a 3.5-inch barrel but carries a 7-round magazine. As enhancements for this carry model, the barrel bushing is omitted and a bobbed hammer and beavertail grip safety are added instead of the GI standard grip and spur hammer.

The MSRP is just under $550, but you can expect to find it for less in stores. However, if you don't mind splurging for a bit more in terms of extras, there are other Rock Island Armory Officer 1911s (the CS model designation across all lines is the Officer frame) with much more in appointments for not much more in sticker, depending on the model.

Sam Hoober 

About The Author

Born in southeastern Washington State, Sam Hoober graduated in 2011 from Eastern Washington University. He resides in the great Inland Northwest, with his wife and child. His varied interests and hobbies include camping, fishing, hunting, and spending time at the gun range as often as possible.

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