.45 ACP is the classic self defense round, well loved for its impressive stopping power. All that needs to be said is that there’s a reason it’s the OG round used by the M1911.
But full sized guns like the 1911 or even compact .45 ACP guns aren’t always viable. When you need the deepest concealment, you gotta go with a subcompact.
These miniaturized firearms may be small, but they shoot a bullet just as deadly as a large gun does and when you need a discrete firearm but a powerful round, there’s simply no substitute for a subcompact .45 ACP.
But these best subcompact .45 handguns have advantages beyond just use as a primary CCW.
For one, subcompacts of all types are a common choice as a backup gun since, while they don’t usually have the capacity of a compact or full sized firearm, their small size makes them easier to conceal in places other than the waist, like the ankle. They’re also good car guns since drawing from a traditional holster or even a designated car holster can be difficult in the seat of a car.
Convinced? Let’s talk about a few of your best options in this best subcompact .45 handguns list.
A Glock in some form seems to appear on most lists of best pistols, so let’s kick things off by getting it out of the way.
Glock has a few subcompact .45 ACP options. None of them are bad by any stretch of the imagination, but I generally prefer the Glock 30S over the others because it’s double stack, so it has a higher capacity (10+1) than the single stack G36. This makes it wider and heavier than the G36, but it has the same slimmer-than-the-G30 grip as the G30SF to compensate for that. It also has a thinner slide than the G30 or G30SF for reduced weight.
And it accepts G21 and G41 standard magazines for even higher capacity, which also makes it a great backup gun to go with them.
If you’re familiar with other Glocks, you’re already familiar with the Glock 30S. It has the same basic reliable, low maintenance, and easy to shoot black polymer design as the rest of them which helps it land a spot on this best subcompact .45 handguns list.
If you’re familiar with Glocks, you may also already know that the Glock 30S, like other Glock subcompacts, is a bit large for a subcompact. It’s actually the largest gun on this list, at 1.27 inches wide and just under 7 inches long. That polymer frame keeps it relatively lightweight, though, at 1.43 pounds, and the extra length allows for a longer 3.78 inch barrel, which helps minimize felt recoil and improve accuracy.
It’s also still plenty small enough for easy concealment.
It’s higher capacity, improved accuracy, and reduced felt recoil makes it better than some of the other guns on this list for use as a primary CCW. It’s also relatively budget friendly, though it’s not the most affordable gun listed here.
Now, since it is Gen 4, it has the same less than stellar factory trigger as other Gen 4s, but you can swap that out pretty easily if you’re so inclined. The Glock brand’s popularity guarantees an excellent selection of aftermarket parts and accessories.
The factory ball and bucket night sights are fine but not great, so many people like to switch them out as well.
The Smith & Wesson M&P45 Shield 2.0 is another black polymer option and is probably known most widely as one of the best subcompact .45 handguns not made by Glock and may actually be more widely recommended than any particular model of Glock subcompact.
M&P Shield from an online review.
Due to that popularity, it also has similar availability for parts and accessories.
The M&P Shield is smaller than the G30S, with a 3.3 inch barrel, overall length of 6.5 inches, and a weight of 1.29 pounds. That all puts it at a middle of the road size for a subcompact.
It’s slim and easy to conceal with a textured slide for easier manipulation and a textured grip to keep the gun firmly in your grasp.
It has a lower capacity than the Glock, but it ships with two magazines. One, the standard magazine that fits flush to the bottom of the grip, has a six round capacity and the other is an extended magazine that fits seven rounds.
It has a light and consistent trigger pull that many people prefer over the Glock, but it’s longer than some others.
It’s available with and without a thumb safety, though I happen to prefer the version with it.
Finally, the affordability of this subcompact is tough to beat, so if you’re just looking to test the waters of .45 ACPs and don’t want to make a huge financial commitment, this is the way to go.
The entire XD line-up, including the derived XD-S (single stack) and XD-E (ergonomic) series, is great and, like with Glock, any of the XD subcompacts could have made this best subcompact .45 handguns list.
XD Mod 2 from an online review.
It has the same barrel and overall length as the M&P Shield 2.0. It’s heavier though (1.62 pounds), but that just comes with the higher capacity. The XD Mod.2 comes with two magazines, a 9 round capacity one and an extended 13 round capacity one. With the extended mag, the capacity far exceeds even many larger guns.
The other primary advantage is all the safety features, including a grip safety and Springfield’s Ultra Safety Assurance Action Trigger System safety, plus a loaded chamber indicator and internal firing pin block. In short: there’s no way this gun is going off without you wanting it to.
Is all this stuff overkill? Maybe, but they don’t inhibit the ease of use of the firearm and these features make the XD Mod.2 a favorite among law enforcement and security officers, who I like to think know what they’re talking about.
Like the G30S and M&P45 Shield, the XD Mod.2 has a black polymer body. (I promise we’re diversifying with the next gun, though!) The slide is stainless steel with a Melonite finish and is topped with fiber optic night sights.
The entire XD line-up uses the same slide stop, magazine release, and external safeties across, so all of that will feel familiar if you’re already used to another XD pistol. If you already use a full size or compact XD pistol as part of your defense setup, like as a primary CCW or home defense weapon, the XD Mod.2 will compliment it nicely.
Next on the list is a classic .45, the 1911, from the classic 1911 manufacturer, Colt.
Colt Defender from an online review.
Of course, a full-size 1911 is anything but subcompact, but the Colt Defender is a shrunken down version of the original M1911 and is one of the best subcompact .45 handguns. As you might expect, it’s the priciest gun on this list, but if you know Colt, you know you’re getting a high quality firearm that will last for generations.
It has a 3 inch barrel, which is a pretty standard length for a subcompact, but it’s 6.75 inches overall, which puts it on the longer end of the subcompacts here. Only the Glock is longer. It’s relatively narrow for its length though: the slide is just under an inch wide. And again, we’re talking about subcompacts here, so even a “big” one is still a pretty tiny gun.
Since it’s a miniature 1911, it’s hammer fired, not striker fired like the guns I’ve told you about so far. It also has a metal frame, but to keep things light yet durable, it’s made from aluminum with either a matte or blued stainless steel finish. The three hole aluminum trigger also reduces weight without reducing quality.
Obviously it still weighs more than the polymer pistols, but at 1.5 pounds, it’s still plenty light enough for comfortable carry.
The grips are G10 partial checkered black cherry carry grip, but they don’t offer a lot of real estate for establishing a firm grip. Fortunately, the Dual Spring Recoil System reduces recoil to make up for this, plus it enhances reliability and extends the longevity of the Defender’s recoil springs.
The 7+1 capacity is decent, but nothing out of the ordinary.
Like the Springfield Armory XD Mod.2, however, it has an extensive safety system featuring a thumb safety, a passive firing pin safety, and a beavertail grip safety.
The slide is beveled to make racking easier and is topped with a fixed white three dot sight system from Novak.
The original Colt Defender is a quality piece as it is, but for something even more spectacular, check out the upgraded Colt Combat Elite Defender.
Both, but especially the Combat Elite iteration, are more expensive than other guns on this list, but it’s hard to beat the Defender in terms of reliability and durability — not to mention good looks. You definitely get what you pay for here.
These last two guns are a little bit different.
First, Bond Arms sets the industry standard for derringers, the Backup is one of their best selling products and deserves a spot on our best subcompact .45 handguns list.
Now, any derringer, even this one, probably isn’t going to be my first choice for a defensive weapon, whether home defense or a CCW, but the Bond Arms Backup is perfectly adequate as a backup gun and it’s definitely better than nothing at all for those times when carrying even a traditionally sized subcompact is impractical.
This gun is tiny. It has a just 2.5 inch barrel, is a mere 4.5 inches overall, weighs less than 1.19 pounds. Basically, it’s good for when you need the smallest gun possible. This isn’t a gun for the weak handed, though. Derringers, including this one, tend to be stiff in both the trigger and the hammer, and with a gun this tiny, there’s not a lot of mass to help handle the recoil.
On the flip side, you won’t have to re-aim immediately after you fire this thing off, since it has double barrels that fire simultaneously and only fits two rounds, one for each barrel. The short barrel means it’s not particularly accurate anyway, though, so this gun is really for shooting someone at very short range.
Granted, most self defense situations only require close range shooting anyway, but it also makes a great backup gun for when your primary CCW is empty or has gotten away from you and you need your attacker off right now.
For a little more accuracy, or even just to change up the caliber, you can switch the barrel out for a different Bond Arms accessory barrel.
The barrels and frame are stainless steel and it has rubber grips, which are also easy to switch out for any Bond Arms standard-size grips.
It has a cross bolt safety to prevent accidental discharges.
To cap off our list, let’s talk about a revolver.
Yes, there’s a .45 ACP revolver and it’s pretty great, bringing together all of the advantages of .45 ACP and revolvers into the same sidearm.
Typically a revolver needs moon clips to work with autoloading cartridges, but not the Charter Arms Pitbull. No moon clips are required thanks to the dual coil spring assembly in the extractor that allows for rimless cartridges, easy loading and ejecting, and improved retention make this one of the best subcompact .45 handguns.
It has a 2.5 inch barrel like the Bond Arms Backup and weighs only 1.38 pounds, but it’s 6.5 inches overall to make room behind the barrel for the cylinder and full rubber grip.
The cylinder fits five rounds, which is enough to make it a viable primary CCW and plenty for use as a backup gun. If you do use it as a backup, it’s a huge advantage to have your revolver be able to use the same round as your primary semi-automatic.
The barrel and frame are stainless steel with your choice of a stainless steel or black nitride finish.
Hopefully, this guide helped you narrow down your options for subcompact .45 ACPs, whether you’re in the market for your first .45 subcompact, are looking to replace an old favorite, or are adding to a collection.
These aren’t the only good options though, so let me know some of your other favorites and share your thoughts about these.