Heckler & Koch HK45 Tactical

Our testers are very accustomed to operating thumb safeties on 1911s, but the HK was a bit big for us. We had to really stretch to reach the safety, and that slowed down some of the scores, with the HK coming in third on the speed tests.




Until the acceptance of the SIG Sauer P320 in 2017, the U.S. military had survived and thrived during most of the 20th century with only two primary handguns in its inventory. We recognize that other pistols were used at different times by different units, but the Colt 1911 and Beretta M9 served as our military’s standard sidearms for more than 100 years total. The Heckler & Koch 45 Tactical came to life during the Joint Combat Pistol Program, which was an attempt to upgrade from the Beretta in 2005. Administered by the USSOCOM, this program was a merger of two other projects, the Army’s Future Handgun System and the Special Operation Forces Combat Pistol. Requirements for all submissions included being chambered for the 45 ACP, highly visible day/night sights, an integrated Picatinny rail, and being suppressor capable. The Joint Combat Pistol program did not survive in whole, but the HK45 Tactical did and has provided excellent service to a number of Special Operations Groups.

Action TypeSemi-auto, hammer fired
Overall Length8.6 in.
Overall Height5.7 in.
Maximum Width1.54 in.
Weight Unloaded2.0 lbs.
Weight Loaded2.5 lbs. w/ 11 rounds 230-gr.
Slide MaterialSteel
Slide Retraction Effort16.9 lbs.
Receiver MaterialReinforced polymer
Front Strap Height2.8 in.
Back Strap Height3.6 in.
Barrel Length5.2 in.
Grip Thickness (Maximum)1.3 in.
Grip Circumference5.6 in.
MagazinesTwo 10-round
Rear SightTwo dots in dovetail
Front SightSingle dot in dovetail
Sight Radius6.6 in.
Trigger Pull Weight Single Action4.5 lbs.
Trigger Pull Weight Double Action11.0 lbs.
Trigger Span Single Action2.8 in.
Trigger Span Double Action3.1 in.
SafetyHammer drop, hammer block, manual thumb
WarrantyLimited lifetime
Telephone(706) 568-1906
Made InU.S.A. – Georgia

In much of the mechanical world, form follows function, and that is certainly the case with all three of our test pistols. When one desires a truly concealable everyday carry (EDC) pistol, the designs tend to be smallish, with lower round counts of medium-bore cartridges. If the need calls for a larger cartridge and the space limitations remain the same, onboard ammo capacity is generally sacrificed. The Joint Combat Pistol program called for none of the above. The military requirement was for a reasonable quantity of a full-sized cartridge. The resulting solutions to that request are all larger firearms. They have to be to successfully carry 10 or more rounds of 45 ACP. That punch and heft can also serve to make this genre of pistol very desirable as a home-defense choice. While most of this group of testers are life-long civilians and have, thus far, managed to avoid these kinds of situations, we have never heard of anyone coming out of a fight saying, “We wish we’d had a smaller gun,” or “We wish we’d had less ammo.”

The H&K uses a paddle-type mag release (arrow) that must be pressed down instead of in.

The H&K 45 Tactical is approximately 8.6 inches long and 6.2 inches tall with the mag inserted. Not exactly a pocket pistol, but it still packs a lot of features in a reasonably sized package. The barrel is about 0.5 inch longer than the standard model’s and, of course, comes threaded for a suppressor. A knurled nut is provided to protect the threads. Most pistols have some method of fitting the muzzle to the opening in the forward of the slide for same. Common solutions are some type of bushing fitted to the barrel or a built-up barrel fitted to the slide. The H&K goes a different route, using an O-ring set into a groove machined into the barrel near the muzzle.

The H&K uses an “O” ring (arrow) to help tighten barrel to slide fit and aid accuracy.

The action uses a standard tilting-barrel design, and lockup is very tight. Twin sets of wide angled cuts are available fore and aft as grasping grooves. The H&K employs an external, pivoting extractor that can also serve as a visual and tactile loaded-chamber indicator. The breech end of the extractor protrudes slightly when a round is in the chamber. The top edge of the extractor is painted red, and a small slice of that can be seen as well.

The H&K utilizes a flat recoil spring and a full-length guide rod. It also employs a buffer that rides over the spring and softens recoil somewhat. Two types of sights are offered, depending on whether the shooter wants to have them visible after installation of a suppressor. We used the bigger pair, with a 0.37-inch front sight and a tall rear to match. The front blade came with a tritium lamp installed, which was very visible through the large “U” in the rear sight. Both blades are mounted in dovetails and can be moved for windage. The rear unit was adjustable on the sight itself for elevation only.

The H&K’s extractor has a raised edge when a round is in the chamber, along with a red line to give visual and tactile indicators.

Disassembly is very simple. Remove the magazine and check that the pistol is unloaded. Then check again. Move the slide to the rear slightly until a notch in the side of the slide aligns with the through-post on the slide stop. Push the slide stop from the right side to the left, remove completely, and the top end slides off to the front. Lift out the recoil spring and guide. Remove the thread protector from the barrel, and the barrel lifts out. Reassemble in reverse order.

The frame on this hammer-fired pistol is modern reinforced polyamide — also known as polymer. The grip has three finger grooves and texturing that is not all that aggressive. The backstrap can be removed by pushing out a single roll pin. Our sample came with the small grip insert installed as well as a medium insert in the box. The box also contained replacement O-rings for the barrel. There is a four-slot Picatinny rail at the front and a slot for a lanyard on the bottom of the grip frame. This model comes with the old-style ambidextrous-paddle magazine release. Slightly awkward at first, it is easy to adapt to. The trigger is a piece of curved polymer, hinged at the top. Two 10-round magazines are supplied. They have a large front lip, allowing plenty of room for large hands. The magazine well is slightly beveled and easy to use.

Then there is the thumb safety. We have seen frame-mounted safeties, slide-mounted safeties, hammer-drop safeties, single-action safeties, and many more. H&K seems to have tried to make this safety do everything. You can carry this pistol cocked and locked with the hammer back and the safety on. You can carry the pistol hammer down with the safety on. You can cock the pistol with the safety applied. You can use the safety as a decocker, lowering the hammer and carrying the pistol as a true DA/SA. You can truly have it your way. However, the double-action trigger pull, at about 11 pounds, is long and somewhat heavy. But you can carry this piece single action all the way, and that cuts almost 60% off the compression effort needed. Total travel on the trigger in single-action mode is more than 0.25 inch, but movement required after reaching the pressure wall is short and predictable. Double-action trigger pulls require more than an inch of movement.

The H&K 45 is designed to serve in a big role and, it appears, would like the shooter to have a big hand to operate it correctly. Our testers are very accustomed to operating thumb safeties on 1911s, but the HK was a bit big for us. We had to really stretch to reach the safety, and that slowed down some of the scores, with the HK coming in third on the speed tests.

The HK tied with the Springfield XD-M in the accuracy department. It absolutely loved the Black Hills HoneyBadger ammo, with an average group size of only 0.90 inches. Assessing recoil is very subjective, but we felt the HK had the greatest muzzle flip of the three pistols in this test. That being said, we found that all three did a very good job of recoiling straight up and down, with no noticeable torque. Out of a couple of hundred rounds fired in the speed tests, we only had four rounds out of the A Zone on our USPSA target, and two of those were still in the center line. Feeding and function were perfect on everything tried.

Our Team Said: The HK Tactical is a very accurate pistol, but it is one that was designed for a large hand. We had some problems quickly disengaging the thumb safety reliably.

Range Data

Drill #1 Process: Fire five shots from low ready, USPSA target, 7 yards. Numbers are averages for three repetitions.
Drill #2 Process: From low ready, fire five shots into a 5-inch circle at 5 yards. Numbers are averages for three repetitions.
DRILL #1 Data
PistolTime to First Shot (seconds)Split Average (seconds)Total Time (seconds)
H&K 45 Tactical1.2430.2432.217
S&W M&P M2.00.9030.2081.737
Springfield Armory XD-M 450.8970.2541.913
DRILL #2 Data (5x5x5)
PistolTime to First Shot (seconds)Split Average (seconds)Total Time (seconds)
H&K H&K 45 Tactical1.2570.4363
S&W M&P M2.00.9430.3512.347
Springfield Armory XD-M 450.9430.3362.287


All our range shooting was done from a well-sandbagged Caldwell Pistol Rest and a mini DRC Fortune Cookie bag from Wiebad.com. We shot each pistol for accuracy using five-shot groups at 15 yards. Muzzle velocity was determined using a LabRadar chronograph ($559 at BuyMyLabradar.com). Test location was American Shooting Centers (AMShootCenters.com) in Houston.
Black Hills 135-grain Honey BadgerH&K HK 45TS&W M&P M2.0 45Springfield XD-M 45
Average Velocity1329 fps1314 fps1303 fps
Muzzle Energy530 ft.-lbs.517 ft.-lbs.509 ft.-lbs.
Average Group0.90 in.1.81 in.1.43 in.
Best Group0.70 in.1.46 in.1.16 in.
SIG Sauer 200-grain V-CrownH&K HK 45TS&W M&P M2.0 45Springfield XD-M 45
Average Velocity952 fps913 fps911 fps
Muzzle Energy403 ft.-lbs.371 ft.-lbs.369 ft.-lbs.
Average Group1.48 in.2.48 in.1.77 in.
Best Group1.30 in.2.18 in.1.31 in.
Remington 230-grain Golden SaberH&K HK 45TS&W M&P M2.0 45Springfield XD-M 45
Average Velocity857 fps836 fps843 fps
Muzzle Energy375 ft.-lbs.357 ft.-lbs.363 ft.-lbs.
Average Group1.61 in.1.17 in.1.34 in.
Best Group1.35 in.0.71 in.1.02 in.
Federal 230-grain HSTH&K HK 45TS&W M&P M2.0 45Springfield XD-M 45
Average Velocity940 fps918 fps915 fps
Muzzle Energy452 ft.-lbs.431 ft.-lbs.427 ft.-lbs.
Average Group1.79 in.1.53 in.1.27 in.
Best Group1.51 in.1.32 in.1.07 in.


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