Three Winners in .45 ACP: H&K, Springfield, and Para Ordnance
Springfield Armory’s Loaded Champion stainless gun was the fastest, Heckler & Koch’s USP45CT was the most versatile, but the Para Ordnance Tac S was the easiest to learn.
The term "single-stack" is a popular nickname for the Browning 1911 pistol that feeds from a magazine, wherein the loaded rounds are stored directly one on top of the other. This vertical column is one of the elements that give the 1911 its narrow grip profile, a key element for stealth carry and a natural index. The flat grip provides instant feedback, telling the operator where the gun is pointing. The 1911 has been chambered for other cartridges, but the .45 ACP is by far the most popular choice. In this test we will evaluate three single-stack 45s that differ significantly from each other and in varying degrees from the original Browning design.
Of our three test guns, the $1011 Springfield Armory Loaded Champion Stainless Steel PX9142LP was the closest to the original 1911 design. But it operated with a plunger-type recoil system that, according to Dave Skinner of STI, was adapted from the patent that was used in the tiny Seecamp pistols. (Our first experience with this recoil system was our test of the STI VIP pistol in the March 2003 issue.)
The Para Ordnance Tac S DCX745E, $969, was designed in response to the perception that double-action pistols are safer than cocked-and-locked single actions. The Tac S featured the Para Ordnance LDA (light double action) trigger but still offered the advantages of 1911-style ergonomics, including a thumb-operated safety. Both the Springfield Armory and Para Ordnance pistols featured all-steel construction.
Our third gun was the Heckler & Koch USP Compact Tactical, $1179. This is an upgraded version of the $919 USP Compact that is now available to civilian as well as law enforcement personnel. Also referred to as the USP45CT, this gun may be carried as a traditional double-action pistol, wherein the first shot is double action, and subsequent shots are single action, or it can be carried cocked and locked for single-action operation. The HK USP45CT pistol was the only gun shipped with an eight-round magazine.