There’s a pretty well known debate about the best caliber for self defense with a lot of people firmly supporting .45 ACP for that title. Now I’m not going to go into that here, but if that’s you and you’re looking for a .45 ACP that won’t drain your bank account, then you’ve come to the right place. We’ve tested all of the cheap .45 ACP handguns on the market to find the ones that don’t suck and are actually worth the money.
I’m going to tell you about a few of the best budget-friendly .45s that shoot well, and also won’t cost you an arm and a leg.
I’ll be going roughly from least expensive to most expensive, but that varies a bit based on where you’re shopping.
There’s not much else to say, so let’s dive right in.
First up is the Ruger American Pistol which, even when not on sale, typically clocks in well under $400. I got mine for $350.
Despite having the same barrel and overall length as the Ruger SR45, the Ruger American Pistol is a bit heftier, weighing just shy of two pounds.
It has a one-piece stainless steel slide with a corrosion resistant black nitride finish and integral frame rails and fire control housing. It also has a one-piece, high performance, glass filled nylon grip with a modular, wrap-around grip system that allows you to adjust the palm swell and trigger reach for your hand size by switching out the grip module. The slide and grip are textured to prevent hand slippage and make chambering your first round easy.
Speaking of which, the Ruger American Pistol has a 10+1 round capacity and ships with two nickel-Teflon plated steel magazines.
The slide stop and magazine release are both ambidextrous. Beneath the barrel is a MIL-STD-1913 Picatinny rail with four slots for mounting your preferred Picatinny compatible accessories.
The guns sights are Novak LoMount Carry 3-dot sights.
The pre-tensioned striker system has a powerful striker string to lighten trigger pull and the barrel cam slows the distribution of forces for less felt recoil.
The gun’s Pro Model safety system includes an integrated trigger safety and an automatic sear block system, as well as a chamber inspection port so you can confirm whether or not it’s loaded.
Oh, and there’s also a compact version.
Next up is the Smith & Wesson M&P45 Shield 2.0, which goes for about $400.
But don’t let the low price tag fool you, this gun may be affordable, but it’s by no means low quality. The M&P Shield has been making a splash since it was first introduced, only for 9mm. The 2.0 version only improves on that original design, now, obviously, available for .45 ACP as well.
In fact, it rivals Glock in popularity which means it also benefits from similar aftermarket availability for parts and accessories.
It’s a subcompact, so it’s very slim and easy to conceal with a 3.3 inch barrel, an overall length of 6.5 inches, and a weight of just 1.29 pounds. The small stature limits the gun’s capacity, but it ships with two magazines, one with a six round capacity that fits flush to the bottom of the grip and one extended mag that fits an additional round.
The M&P Shield has a black polymer frame with a textured grip and grooves in the slide for easier manipulation.
The trigger pull is light and consistent, but with longer travel than some other subcompacts.
It’s available with and without a thumb safety, though I personally prefer the extra security of having it.
Overall, the quality compared to the affordable price makes the value of this gun hard to beat.
The 1911 is the quintessential .45, so of course I had to be sure to include at least one on this list.
Rock Island Armory is known for their excellent but reasonably priced 1911s, including the GI Series. The series includes a few different budget-friendly sizes, all share a similar price range from about $415 to $450 depending on the size and where you shop.
The GI Standard FS, or full size, is the largest and also tends to be the most affordable.
It has a traditional 1911 feel and is well balanced with a 5 inch barrel. It’s 8.84 inches long overall and 5.51 inches tall, making it the largest of the bunch. Between that and the steel frame and slide, it’s a hefty 2.47 pounds unloaded.
The frame and slide have a parkerized finish to make them smooth, durable, and non-reflective, while the grips are smooth and wooden.
The gun has a mounted on slot front sight and a mounted on dovetail cut rear sight, both low profile, and a four to six pound adjustable trigger.
Despite the larger size, the GI Standard FS has an 8+1 round capacity, which certainly isn’t shabby, but isn’t as impressive as many of the other guns that made this list.
There’s also a version of the full-size with a threaded, suppressor ready barrel and a higher capacity version of the full-size for just a little more, as well as a nickel-plated version of the full-size for those willing to shell out an extra $100 or so. Overall, a very solid gun for a very affordable price.
A little bit pricier is the Ruger SR45, which typically goes for about $450 to $500, but savvy shoppers can often find it for a good bit less.
The gun’s stainless steel slide and black high performance, glass-filled nylon grip and frame make it more interesting to look at than a lot of the solid black plastic frame guns out there.
It has a 10+1 round capacity and ships with two magazines. That’s not as much as some other guns listed here, but also keeps the frame nice and slender.
The gun is comfortable to hold with a beavertail extension that protects your hand from slide bite. It also has a reversible backstrap that allows you to alter the size and feel of the grip without having to switch out for a totally different backstrap.
It has a 4.5 inch barrel and is 8 inches overall, weighing 1.88 pounds.
The SR45 also has a Blued steel Novak three dot sight system with an adjustable rear sight and a raked-forward front sight to make unholstering easier.
The manual thumb safety and mag release are both ambidextrous and made of nylon. The gun also has a trigger safety and loaded chamber indicator.
Finally, there’s a single Picatinny slot under the barrel for accessories.
Glocks are famously reliable and durable, with an excellent reputation, so heading into our final three is the Glock 21, the company’s standard size .45, which rings up at about $580.
It’s very similarly sized to the Ruger SR45, with a 4.6 inch barrel and an overall length of 8.07 inches. However, the capacity is significantly better, with 13 rounds in the magazine and another in the chamber. The magazine catch is reversible for either left or right handed shooters.
It’s also pretty lightweight for its size, weighing 1.83 pounds with an empty mag, but also has rather light recoil, especially for its weight, thanks to the dual recoil spring assembly.
The G21 will feel very familiar to those already used to Glocks, but it does feel boxy, which can take some getting used to for people who are experienced with Glocks. The G21 SF has a slimmer frame that may be more comfortable for people with smaller hands or who just don’t love the feel of the traditional Glock frame. The G21’s interchangeable backstrap system can also shorten the trigger reach and make the grip more comfortable.
Like all other Glocks, the G21 has the Glock Safe Action System, which includes a trigger safety, firing pin safety, and drop safety.
It also has that Glock trigger that’s not bad, per say, but is often described with words like “spongy.” You can see how you like it, but it’s easy to switch out if you don’t, and fortunately the popularity of Glocks means there’s a huge availability of aftermarket parts and accessories, so it’s easy to find one.
For the same benefits in a smaller size, the Glock 30 is another great, affordable .45 ACP option.
Of course, the gun is a little bit more expensive and we’re starting to get out of the “budget” category, but the best thing about this particularly Glock is that many, many, many law enforcement agencies have used it. Shop around police auctions and trade-in sites and you can easily find older Glock 21’s, particularly Gen 3s and 4s, for around $400.
Around the same price point as a (new) Glock 21 is the Beretta PX 4 Storm, a neat gun loaded with cool features.
With a 4.1 inch barrel and an overall length of 7.68 inches, this double action/single action, hammer fired pistol is a bit smaller than the Ruger SR45 and Glock 21 and weighs 1.76 pounds.
That also means a lower capacity: it comes with a flush magazine that provides 9+1 round capacity and an extended 10 round magazine.
The gun’s ambidextrous and reversible features, like the slide-mounted flip-up manual thumb safety, make the PX4 Storm fully compatible with both right handed and left handed shooting. Interchangeable backstraps allow for further customization to the shooter, but all provide a very comfortable, secure grip.
In addition to the manual thumb safety, the PX4 Storm also has an automatic firing pin block safety. The thumb safety decocks the gun when it’s flipped up, so the pistol can’t be carried cocked with the safety on. Some shooters also report that the thumb safety’s position can make it feel a bit unnatural until you get used to it.
Despite its smaller size, it has a low recoil compared to other .45 ACP handguns due to its rotary barrel which turns 45 degrees after each shot, moving the energy away from your hand to reduce recoil and minimize muzzle rise for better accuracy. The gun’s strong action reduces recoil even more. This all makes the PX4 Storm a great option for shooters who are just getting introduced to the power .45 ACP cartridge.
And all of this functions highly reliably, so you know that the gun will go bang every time you pull the PX4 Storm’s smooth trigger.
To top it all off, the PX4 Storm has a windage-adjustable three dot sight system and a single slot built-in picatinny rail underneath the barrel for a flashlight, laser, or other accessory. Overall, not bad for a relatively affordable .45.
Finally, at the end of our list is the Walther PPQ M2, which sells for about $600.
Walther is another brand with an excellent reputation for making quality firearms. The PPQ is certainly no exception. In fact, it was named “Handgun of the Year” by Guns & Ammo and awarded the “Golden Bullseye” by American Rifleman. It’s also a very popular choice among law enforcement all around the world, but especially in Germany, Walther’s home country.
It has a good sized grip, which gives you plenty of surface area to get a strong grip, but the replaceable backstraps mean smaller handed shooters don’t have to worry about the grip being too large or the trigger reach too long. The grip feels very natural and is textured to help keep your grip secure.
It has one of the cripest triggers to be found on a striker fired .45 ACP with a 5.6 pound trigger pull weight and a very short reset with just 0.4 inches of trigger travel.
With a 4.25 inch barrel, the Walther PPQ M2 has a similar barrel length to the Ruger SR45 and Glock 21, but with a 7.4 inch overall length, the overall size of the frame is closer to the Beretta PX4 Storm. The .45 ACP PPQ M2 is also a bit larger than other calibers of the PPQ.
It’s also a bit tall for its length to make room for its 12+1 round capacity. (It comes with two mags.)
Though the gun is certainly not compact, it’s definitely not too big for concealed carry on most people’s frames. At 1.52 pounds empty, it’s also pretty light for a gun of its size.
In addition, the PPQ M2 is accurate and reliable. While no pistol can truly be said to be totally jam free, the PPQ M2 is just about as close as you can get. In a similar vein, the gun has three automatic safeties to help prevent accidental discharge.
The slide stop and push-button mag release are both ambidextrous and the gun features an oversized trigger guard to make shooting with gloves much easier.
Finally, the Walther PPQ M2 also has a picatinny accessory rail along the bottom of the barrel, but with three slots, more than any other gun on this list except the Ruger American Pistol. If you want a cheap .45 ACP handgun that absolutely competes with more expensive models, this is the one to go with.
There are tons of cheap .45 ACPs out there which can make it hard to find one that’s both high-quality and affordable, but hopefully this round-up helped the budget-conscious among you narrow down your options.
But remember, this is by no means a complete list of all of the budget-friendly .45 ACPs on the market. Let me know your thoughts on these and any others you think I should have included on this list. I love a cheap handgun, and a cheap .45 is hard to find, so give me a shout if you know of anything we left out, and let us know if you decided to make a purchase based on any of this info!