Last updated September 10th 2023
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Winners at a Glance
The Glock 30s is the best 45 Subcompact pistol, but we have other options and guns you might like more.
Springfield Armory XDM Elite Compact
S&W M&P Shield
Rock Island BBR 3.1
Charter Arms Pitbull
The good old 230gr hollow point. For some it’s the only logical last line of defense and the best pistol is always .45 ACP.
Despite 9mm making massive ground in recent years, a bigger and heavier bullet is just a better starting point for some. And 45 ACP pistol ballistics tech hasn’t exactly stood still in the last 50 years.
The 9mm vs 45 ACP handguns stopping power debate will rage on forever, but if you’re in the 45 ACP camp then you don’t want to hear that now. You just want the best 45 ACP handguns.
What is a subcompact handgun? The Definition…
Now we have to lay down some markers, because subcompact is a vague term. So more or less a 3.5 inch barrel or less and a total length of 7 inches allows for a variety of options.
What is the best subcompact 45 ACP handgun out there? We think it’s the S&W M&P Shield, but it’s a close call.
Read the scientific process of how we review and compare guns here.
1. Glock 30s
- Price: $545.99
- Caliber: 45 Auto (ACP)
- Total length: 6.97 inch
- Barrel length: 3.78
- Slide width: 1.38
- Magazine Capacity: 10+1
- Weight: 1.43lb
Price: 4/5 Concealability: 5/5 Capacity: 3/5 Accuracy: 4/5 Recoil: 4/5
- As reliable as death and takes
- Lots of aftermarket parts
- Gen 4 finger grooves suck
- Gen 4 trigger is bad
- No MOS for red dots
Glock is a popular handgun in any caliber because it’s a safe option. But this is still the Gen 4, and that isn’t a perfect gun.
If you want a super reliable 45 ACP Sub-compact pistol that goes bang every time you pull the trigger, requires zero maintenance and can survive a nuclear winter, then just save time and buy this Glock now.
These are the
Traditional Glock Handguns Strengths Work Here
We are not big Glock fans here, but this is a specific task. Reliability, accuracy
The overall length of the Glock 30s semiautomatic handgun means the barrel isn’t a major issue. In fact it can help with recoil reduction, muzzle flip, a proper accessory rail and that other small detail – hitting the target.
And the G30 Gen5 MOS with a red dot sight on the stainless steel slide should put the debate to bed. That will be the next best 45 ACP pistol and one of the great pistols for CCW in this price range.
2. Springfield Armory XD-M Elite Compact
- Price: $613.99
- Caliber: .45 ACP Pistol
- Barrel length: 3.8 inch
- Slide Width: 1.2″
- Total Length: 7 inch
- Weight: 1.5lb
- Magazine Capacity: 10+1
A Close Second
Price: 3/5 Concealability: 3/5 Capacity: 5/5 Accuracy: 5/5 Recoil: 4/5
- Match grade barrel
- Fiber optics & optics plate for red dots
- Multiple safeties
- Early issues with jamming
- Not everybody wants grip safety
This is the 45 subcompact you’ve been waiting for with the full 10+1 rounds. So even though the match grade barrel is a fraction too long for this class, this is the best gun here if you like a striker fired pistol and we decided to bend the rules.
It isn’t quite a true sub compact, but the Springfield XDM Elite is still the best subcompact pistol chambered in 45 ACP pistol out there right now. Confusing, but true.
The slightly larger size gives this black polymer frame pistol brilliant ergonomics and makes for a better home defense weapon.
The high-quality metal slide gets a h
Some people scoff at two safety levers. But they are supremely popular with Law Enforcement military, private security and more, precisely because of them.
A 1911-style grip and trigger blade safety were unique. Now others have started to copy this innovation, but this semi-auto pistol was and is one of the best 45 ACP concealed carry handguns on sale.
3. Colt Defender
- Price: $1,092.99
- Caliber: 45 ACP Auto
- Barrel length: 3 inch
- Total: 6.75 inch
- Weight: 1.5lb
- Capacity: 7+1
Best 1911 Pistol
Price: 2/5 Concealability: 3/5 Capacity: 3/5 Accuracy: 5/5 Recoil: 5/5
- Classic design
- Weight squashes recoil
- Reliability proven over decades
- Weight makes carrying concealed awkward
- Low capacity
If you want a subcompact 1911 45 ACP carry pistol, you really should take a look at the Colt Defender and the even more extravagant Colt Defender Combat Elite.
This isn’t a cheap handgun, but then you have to be really careful with 1911 style subcompact 45 ACP pistols for CCW. Don’t cheap out, only a few of them have a stellar reputation for reliability and contained muzzle flip.
Colt struggled when it chopped down the 5 inch cold hammer forged barrel to 4 inches, so we didn’t even get the Defender until 2000. Now this high quality semi automatic pistol is perhaps the finest of the breed and the best concealed carry 1911.
4. Smith & Wesson M&P Shield
- Price: $479.99
- Caliber: .45 ACP
- Barrel length: 3.3 inch
- Overall Length: 6.5
- Weight: 1.29lb
- Capacity: 7+1
Price: 5/5 Concealability: 5/5 Capacity: 3/5 Accuracy: 4/5 Recoil: 3/5
- Great price
- Great capacity
- Easy to conceal
- Feels slightly dated
- Slide is not optics ready
The S&W M&P Shield is another multi-caliber star and this personal defense legend is one of the most compelling pistols in 45 ACP.
In fact in this company this black polymer framed special might be the micro compact 45 pistol that at least some of you are still looking for.
The Smith & Wesson M&P is a slim, lightweight handgun that is easy to conceal without printing. It has just enough detail on the slide to make it easy to work with at the shooting range.
It also has just enough bullets to send most intruders on their way. The safety on this version of the S&W M&P Shield subcompact pistol is a nice touch. And there’s a loaded chamber indicator too.
The full size gun is a great service pistol and works better for a home defense weapon, recreational shooting and range shooting. Especially with upgraded S&W Performance Center fiber optic front sight and rear sight, and a Picatinny rail under the cold hammer forged barrel.
S&W Makes one of the best 10mm pistols, too, and we love these 45 ACP handguns despite the age of the basic design.
5. Kimber Ultra Carry II – Custom Defense Package
- Price: $1,205.99
- Caliber: .45 ACP Auto
- Barrel length: 3 inch
- Slide Width: 1.3″
- Total Length: 6.8
- Weight: 1.6lb
Jewelry in Handgun Form
Price: 2/5 Concealability: 3/5 Capacity: 3/5 Accuracy: 5/5 Recoil: 4/5
- Iconic 1911 style
- Weight beats recoil
- Custom is perfectly finished and reliable
- Again, harder to conceal than plastic
Kimber’s makes boutique guns that could easily qualify as jewelry, as well as personal defense. I mean the Kimber Ultra CDP II is definitely
It certainly feels like one of the more exclusive options for a steel frame backup gun.
Kimber starts with a KimPro II aluminum frame, marries that to a stainless steel slide and straps some low profile sights up top.
A full length guide rod and recoil spring,
Under the skin, it’s a
Read about the Kimber Rapide and the best Kimber 1911 pistols here.
6. Rock Island Armory BBR 3.1
- Price: $599.99
- Barrel: 3.1 inch
- Cal: 45 ACP
- Total: 7
- Weight: 2lb
- Capacity: 10+1
Best Double Stack 45
Price: 4/5 Concealability: 4/5 Capacity: 5/5 Accuracy: 3.5/5 Recoil: 3/5
- Only double stack 1911 this size
- Fiber night sights
- Bargain for the tech
- Not 100% reliable
- Weight and size for CCW
This is the Holy Grail: the 10-round subcompact 1911 45 with a double stack magazine. It’s also a Rock Island Armory, and that’s a bold strategy.
RIA has taken some massive steps of late and this is the first genuine Officer size 1911 that gives you a full 10 rounds. It’s a cool gun and if we had more balls, it might be number 1.
Now this hammer-fired BBR 3.1 is an all-metal handgun that still weighs in at just 2lb, even with the additional girth to accommodate the fatter staggered mags. With a flush fit magazine it’s easy to conceal too and a great backup gun.
We like the single stack magazine RIA GI Standard too. But this is kinda quirky and different, so if you get the best deals then why not, right?
7. Glock G36
- Price: $545.99
- Caliber: 45 ACP
- Barrel Length: 3.8
- Slide width: 1.18
- Total: 6.75
- Weight: 1.3lb
- Capacity: 6+1
Smaller hands might gel with slimline gun
Price: 3/5 Concealability: 4/5 Capacity: 2/5 Accuracy: 3.5/5 Recoil: 3/5
- Super reliable
- Ease of deep concealment
- Great for smaller hands
- Gen 4 trigger and grip
Only a true Glock guy can tell you the difference between the Glock 30s and the Glock G36 chambered in 45 ACP. Basically the G36 is 4 ounces lighter and 0.1 inches thinner and carries less ammo.
The end result is a gun that carries one less round and produces more recoil. It is also harder to find and tends to be more expensive as a result.
Except for those small issues, it’s all win. We’d get the G30, every time. The extra ammo is worth the weight and marginal extra on the hips and an extended mag and high capacity is an easy add-on.
Aside from that they’re almost indistinguishable. 2 blocky handguns with a melonite finish slide. All the major stuff is the same.
8. Kahr PM45
- Price: $421.99
- Barrel: 3.64 inch
- Cal: 45 ACP
- Overall: 6.32 inch
- Weight: 1.19lb
- Small footprint
- Good grip
- Beavertail reduces slide bite
- Basic sights
- Brand lacks a little gravitas
Kahr Arms has plugged away at the
The slim line single stack Kahr PM45 is a double action only pistol with a locking breech. Some people will love the accessibility and user friendly feel that goes with that. This is a point and shoot polymer framed pistol with a soft, none threatening trigger action, and recoil is damped too.
Packaging wise, this polymer frame pistol is a minor miracle. We had to give it a pass on the length of the barrel, because this is actually 3.64 inches. But the whole gun is just 6.32 inches long, so this is a lot of gun in a relatively small footprint. We’re impressed, even though it means the design is a little square.
9. Magnum Research Desert Eagle 1911 Undercover
- Price: $929.99
- Cal: 45 ACP
- Barrel: 3 inch
- Total: 6.85 inch
- Weight: 1.61lb
- Capacity: 6+1
- Designer looks
- Solid reliability
- Checkered front strap
- Basic sights
- It’s no Colt or Kimber in terms of prestige
Magnum Research, the company behind the infamous full-sized Desert Eagle .50, also does a rather splendid line of 1911 handguns. This subcompact 1911 CCW is absolute gun porn, and the finishing touches hint at a custom gun.
The adjustable rear sights, checkered front and back straps, flared magwell and high-ride grip safety and square notch rear sights really do look the part on this sub compact handgun.
The frame is machined from billet aluminum and the stainless steel slide is carbon-infused steel. The aluminum trigger, skeleton hammer and G10 grips are all quality items and this gun stacks up pretty well against the Colt in the looks department.
This subcompact 1911 combat pistol has a lot going for it and, like the Desert Eagle .50, we think it’s going to be a sales sensation. And we like the full size 1911 too.
10. Charter Arms Pitbull
- Price: $454.99
- Caliber: .45 Cal ACP Auto
- Barrel: 2.5 inch
- Total : 6.5 inch
- Weight: 1.38lb
- Quirky and fun concept
- Basically foolproof operation
- Good price
- 45 ACP revolvers are illogical
- It isn’t a pretty wheelgun
A carry revolver is an interesting choice of compact handgun to begin with. If you then opt for a 45 ACP revolver in your carry holsters, you’re surely just messing with people…
44 Magnum rules the roost when it comes to revolvers, with 357 Magnum a close second for stopping power. A double action/single action 45 ACP subcompact pistol is not even on the radar of most serious revolver shooters. It really is a round that was designed for semi auto handguns.
But it works here and it works well in the multi-caliber revolver that is the Charter Arms Pitbull. You can find this handgun in the usual calibers, and oddities like this one and a 9mm pistol. Why? Because people buy them and seem to like them.
It’s an oddity, a curiosity and yet it’s certainly an option if you’re looking for an alternative carry gun and the usual Glock rival pistols just don’t do it for you.
What about the most famous guns that just aren’t here?
Most of the best 45 ACP pistols & carry guns are too big for the subcompact class and even we were surprised by just how few of the established 45 ACP subcompact pistols from the likes of Sig Sauer, the Beretta PX4 Storm hammer fired pistol and the likes of the H&K USP Compact came even close to the self-imposed size limit here.
They’d be much better for shooting sports and some of them are better guns. But, well, they don’t fit.
We could have included the old Springfield Armory XD Mod 2 semi automatic pistol, but we’ve got its successor. So the XD Mod 2 s just a footnote now. Along with the Ruger SR45.
And we really did want HK represented here. We like Heckler & Koch, but the USP compact has a 4.4 inch barrel. So yeah, there’s that…
The FN FNX Tactical is another sensational pistol. But it’s 4.4 inches with a threaded barrel. So again, that steps well beyond the realm of a sub-compact, even if the FN FNX Tactical is one of the best 45 ACP pistols.
If you want the Sig P320, the H&K USP Compact and the legendary conceal carry, or even a Beretta PX4 Storm in your Alien Gear holster, check out our list of the 25 best compact 45 ACP pistol reviews here.
Consider the 9mm Alternative
If you’re totally in love with 230gr hollow points for your home defense weapon, well we understand. But if you just haven’t looked too hard in recent times, well 9mm Luger has come a long way. And the likes of the best subcompact 9mm Sig P365 and Springfield Hellcat have changed the game.
The Sig P365 was the first best-selling micro-compact pistol that slotted in beneath the subcompact pistols we all thought were as small as we ever dared go. A slimline slide width, small footprint and solid capacity mean this is the firearm most people buy these days.
Now the Springfield Hellcat has gone to war with the Sig Sauer P365, the Kimber R7 Mako, Beretta APX, Heckler & Koch VP9SK and lots more. They are State compliant by design, most are ready for red dot sights, and are perfect for slipping unnoticed into a IWB, purse or pocket holster. A polymer grip works in all seasons too.
So before you buy your cannon, consider a Sig P365 and the competition. But also check if your local gun laws help you exploit the additional capacity.
And Don’t Forget 30 Super Carry
We say don’t forget 30 Super Carry because we do forget about it. A lot.
30 Super Carry is a new defensive round introduced in 2022, and it’s easy to shoot, but honestly it’s not getting near the traction it needs. 9mm and 380 ACP pistols are outselling it by orders of magnitude and it looks like 30 Super Carry really isn’t the smash hit we hoped it might be. The best 45 ACP pistols are still ahead too.
Parts and Accessories
You might want to enjoy shooting sports, or you might just have worn out your magazine release at the range, need a new flush fit magazine or need the best selling red dot sights. So you want gun parts & accessories. Our favorite gun parts suppliers are here:
Get the Best Carry Holsters at the Best Price
Don’t do all this research and spend the money on the right pistol, and then cheap out on your carry holsters. Get the best you can afford from the likes of Alien Gear, Crossbreed Holsters and more.
Try these live links for the best carry holsters in stock right now from the likes of Palmetto State Armory:
- Palmetto State Armory – Massive range of holsters and pouches. As well as rifles, shotguns, pistols.
- Sportsman’s Guide: Alien Gear, Crossbreed Holsters and many more IWB and OWB holsters.
- Sportsman’s Warehouse – IWB Holsters from the big names, and OWB holsters too.
And if you’ve made it this far maybe you want a little extra reading? Try these.
What Else Can We Sell You?
We basically want to sell you pistols, rifles, shotguns, ammo and accessories. Sounds simple right? But you wouldn’t not believe how many pistols ^ rifles we have had to accrue on this page. It’s massive now, like 20 novels, just to sell you pistols/rifles.
So you I hope you appreciate the effort!
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