September 2007

.45 ACP Single-Stack Pistols: S&W Pulls Out a Surprise Win

The $711 aluminum-frame Smith & Wesson Model 457 has been in the catalog since 1996, but we preferred it over two newer polymer guns, the $697 Kahr TP4543 and the $620 Glock G36.

Chances are that whenever a pistol is described as being a single-stack .45, it will automatically be assumed that the handgun in question is a Browning 1911. But that isnít always the case. Not every .45 semi-auto that feeds from a single-column magazine was meant to be carried cocked and locked. Nor does every single-stack .45 operate with a single-action trigger.

To wit: In this test we will evaluate three single-stack .45s that operate with a hinged trigger, with at least the first shot being fired double action. The $711 Smith & Wesson Model 457 has been in the catalog since 1996. The 457 is a traditional double action (TDA) pistol that once charged, can be "decocked" to both raise and drop the hammer on the first shot. Both the $697 Kahr TP4543 and the $620 Glock G36 are striker-fired pistols that define double action in a less traditional manner.

Nevertheless, the benefits of a single-stack pistol were in place throughout. All were narrow, making them easier to conceal, and their slim profiles offered a rectangular sensation to the hand. Our staff agreed that this helped them point the gun at the target more quickly. All three guns were snag free, and thanks to the use of polymer and aluminum alloy, each pistol was lighter in weight than most big-bore handguns. Please note that in regards to how we measured the front strap and the overall height of our test guns we chose a slight variation in protocol. Since each of our guns relied upon their magazines to either complete or extend their grips, we measured with the magazines in place.

In choosing our test ammunition we took a cue from the July 2007 test of the Sigarms P220 SAO. In that test we learned that our best choice for rapid fire was the 185-grain Hornady XTP/JHP round. Accordingly, we again chose these 185-grain Hornady rounds plus 185-grain silvertip hollowpoints from Winchester. With so much rain falling in Houston, we shot the guns indoors at Top Gun of Texas (topgunrange.com). So we packed some Winchester 185-grain BEB WinClean ammunition as well.

The pistols were tested from a distance of 15 yards. We used a sandbag rest to support each gun and reduce shooter error. In this way we could tell more about the machines themselves and determine the level of accuracy available from each gun.

We also let our staff shoot each pistol in what we call a 557 test. By 557, we mean five shots standing unsupported offhand, with a maximum time limit of five seconds from a distance of seven yards. The goal of the shooter was to land the tightest five-shot group in the given time period. Our point of aim was the 3-inch circles along the margins of the Hoffners ABC16 target (hoffners.com). In this way we were able to better ascertain what was required of the operator to shoot each gun effectively. Letís see which of our test guns did the most to help us get the job done.

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