April 2005

Full-Size Double-Action .45s: Taurus, Ruger Go Head To Head

The new Taurus 24/7 is a great combat gun, and we liked Ruger’s P345, but the person shooting the Taurus PT 945 must have big hands to get the right shooting grip.

Slick and smooth were the words most used to describe the new .45 ACP Taurus 24/7. Note the smooth-fronted, clean sights. These could be changed by the owner, but we’re not sure at this writing of the sight options. The slide front, top, and all sides were properly rounded for easy holstering and blood-free clearance drills.

Those in need of a full-size double-action .45 auto pistol have many from which to choose. However, the reason for shooting, after all, is hitting, and this is most easily done with a firearm that has an excellent trigger. No double-action (DA) trigger is going to be as good as the best single-action triggers. However, we realize many police departments and other agencies mandate such pistols, for whatever reasons, and so we examine such handicapped pistols from time to time.

While the DA/SA pistol makes it tough to place two quick shots where you want them, it can be done with lots of practice. One way around this problem is to get a DAO pistol, which gives a stiff pull for each shot. These also require practice for best use, but we believe a good one of these will ultimately be a better combat gun than any DA/SA pistol.

In this test we look at three of today’s full-size .45 DA autos. These are the Ruger P345 ($548), the brand-new Taurus 24/7 ($578), and the Taurus PT 945 ($563). Our shooters already looked at the Ruger P345 in the February 2005 issue and found slight problems. But in light of the popularity of this new offering from Ruger, we decided to test it against different pistols.

Ruger P345 KP345PR, $548


This was one sharp-looking pistol, and fit and finish were well done, we thought. The frame was black polymer and the slide was stainless steel. Both components had sculptured panels and functional cutouts, giving the gun a modern look. Ruger has several versions of the P345. One has a blued slide; another has a spring-loaded decocker instead of our version’s non-rebounding, hammer-dropping, ambidextrous safety; yet another is DAO. Our test gun cannot be carried cocked and locked. Your first shot must be double action, unless you take time to manually cock the gun, nothing you’d want to try in a hurry. This P345 had a decent single-action trigger.

The P345’s two magazines each held eight rounds. The fixed, white-dotted sights were bold, and easily seen. The rear was driftable and locked with a set screw. The front was also set into a dovetail. To our joy, the top of the slide was smooth enough that it would not gouge the hand during clearance drills. To our sorrow, the gun could not be fired with the magazine removed, a tactical blunder that many won’t like.

As noted in our previous report, takedown is a bit unusual, though easily done. The odd part is having to reach inside the gun to tip the ejector forward. Inside we found much innovation, from the clever self-retained spring (held within the slide-spring guide) that holds the main cross pin in place; to the flat-wound buffer spring wrapped beneath the slide spring. The guide rod also contained the barrel lockup, and eliminated a lot of the tricky machining of other designs.

Some shooters prefer steel frames on full-size autos. However, a well-designed and constructed polymer frame has advantages, including lower cost to the buyer, inclusion of checkering, weight reduction, and more. The complaints are that plastic frames cannot easily be changed if you don’t like the shape, and often the gun has a top-heavy feel. This latter did not apply to the Ruger P345, which we thought balanced well even when unloaded.

One of the oddest items we found was the fact that there is no steel within the polymer frame where it touches the stainless slide. The slide runs in plastic. Damnably strong plastic, however, and the system seems to work well.

The P345 tended to shoot high for some of us, especially when in a hurry. We believe the high shots experienced by both test teams came from the shape of the trigger guard, which forced a large gap between the index and second finger. This could be improved if the guard were undercut, so the gun would sit lower in the hand, but that may not be possible. We thought the P345’s grip was nothing like that of a 1911, though they are similar in size.

We

shot the three guns

with Hungarian 230-grain ball by MFS, PMC’s 185-grain JHP, and with a handload consisting of a 200-grain SWC cast lead bullet traveling at just under 800 fps. The Ruger functioned perfectly with everything. The magazines were easy to load, and we liked the magazine release. We liked the finger cutouts in the polymer frame, and had complete control of our trigger finger. But we didn’t like the Ruger’s DA trigger pull. Just under 12 pounds, it stacked just before the break. The two-stage, single-action trigger required a take-up of 2.3 pounds, and finally broke at 4.8 pounds. Creep was minimal.

Taurus 24/7-45B .45 ACP, $578


Taurus has expanded its 24/7 line to include .45 ACP as well as 9mm and .40 S&W. We liked this version a lot, and there’s also a stainless-slide version (24/7-45SS). Despite its holding 12+1 rounds, the grip was smaller than that of a 1911. Taurus managed to create a grip that accommodated a dozen .45s without penalties. With such a design, we can’t see much need for the short Glock version of the .45 cartridge.

The gun was clean and smooth, with a slick top that allowed blood-free clearance drills. The three-dot, non-adjustable but user-replaceable sights were easily seen. The sights were screwed to the slide. The sight picture was outstanding, and the gun hit plenty close enough to aim point for us. There was also a manual safety, which worked positively and in a normal manner.

All the gun’s controls were laid out for easiest use by right-handers. The magazine release was right behind the trigger, and was protected by the grip shape from accidental release. We particularly liked the way the magazine blended into the overall grip shape, giving the gun an integrated look.

Takedown was easy, once learned. Clear the gun, lock back the slide, turn the takedown lever downward and pull it out. You’ll need to pry it out, despite what the manual says. The slide didn’t want to come off at first, but the manual explained how to fix that. Inside the 24/7 we found an aluminum chassis set into the poly receiver. The aluminum formed the rails along which the slide cycled. Some of the internal parts, notably the ejector, looked a bit small, but did their job perfectly for us. The only trick to reassembly was to make sure the barrel was fully forward before inserting the takedown pin.

The 24/7 was striker fired. The trigger pull was long and smooth, and broke at 7.5 pounds consistently. We thought this trigger was the best combat trigger of the three guns tested. Not only was it the lightest for the first shot, it was always the same. It was not so light that the gun could be inadvertently fired with ease. It didn’t make accurate shooting easy, though this gun had outstanding accuracy. We shot our best groups after we’d been shooting the 24/7 exclusively for a while, and had become used to its trigger. The 24/7 would fire with the magazine removed. The gun came with only one 12-round magazine, which was beautifully made and easy to load. The gun had an integral light-mounting rail beneath the muzzle.

Our only complaint about this gun was that some of our shooters didn’t like the shape of the backstrap, feeling that it bulged at not quite the right place. On the range we had one failure to feed during the second magazine-full, but all the rest fed, fired, and ejected perfectly. We were able to shoot the 24/7 notably faster than the others. It wouldn’t be our first choice for a plinker, but we believe the 24/7 is a superior combat gun to either of the other two test guns, and better balanced also.

Taurus PT 945 .45 ACP, $563


There are various versions of this gun, including one with night sights for $641, and stainless instead of blued finish for $578. See them on the company’s website.

Our first impression was that the grip was mighty big compared with the other two. Schwarzenegger would love it. The grip was also slab-sided, with useless checkering on the hard-rubber panels. (The hands don’t touch the checkering.) Like its 24/7 brother, the backstrap seemed to have its bulge a bit too far down. The frontstrap and backstrap had vertical serrations to help keep the gun in place during firing, and they worked well.

Perhaps the best feature of the PT 945 was that it could be carried cocked and locked. That didn’t make it all good, however. The SA pull had a long take-up and finally broke at 5.3 pounds after what seemed like endless travel. The pull was so long we found ourselves waiting for the break, and this slowed down our fast DA/SA pairs.

The frame was aluminum. The safety was ambidextrous, and was also a decocker. This means you don’t want to ride your thumb on the safety as you shoot. You might press too hard and end up decocking the gun just when you want to shoot it. The hammer will fall, but the gun won’t fire. However, the safety was small enough that the thumb wanted to slide past it as the safety was pressed downward to the firing position. We weren’t entirely happy with the idea of carrying this gun cocked and locked, but it could be done.

We found the edges of the ejection port sharp enough that we’d take a file to them before we tried failure drills. The DA pull measured 8.9 pounds. Like the SA pull, it was endlessly long, though smooth. The magazine release could be altered to suit lefties. Takedown was extremely easy, one of the best we’ve seen. Press a button, then rotate the takedown lever and pull off the slide. We found the slide spring to be extremely strong, way more than on the other two guns.

The slide was somewhat loose on the rails. The sights were set in dovetails fore and aft, allowing windage drifting. The slide was well finished with matte bluing except for shiny side panels that held the gun’s name and logo. The slide top had serrations that dulled glare. We thought the sharp edges at the front of the gun needed serious rounding before we’d put it into any holster. Like the Ruger P345 the bottom curve of the trigger guard forced our first and second fingers apart more than we liked.

On the range the PT 945 was comfortable and thoroughly reliable, but didn’t really show us the accuracy we had hoped for. The PT 945 hit well centered, though. The gun functioned perfectly, and seemed to be a workmanlike system, but one which didn’t particularly endear itself to our shooters. We didn’t like the huge grips compared with the other two guns, nor the over-long trigger pull, but if you have big hands, this one may be for you. Workmanship inside and out was very good, and the parts seemed to all be stout. We expect this gun would last a long time.

Gun Tests Recommends
• Ruger P345 Model KP345PR .45 ACP, $548. Buy It. Compared head-to-head with a used Sig P220 in the February issue, this model got a Conditional Buy rating, though we noted at the time that many shooters might consider the gun because of its reliability and snag-free exterior. Pitted against the Taurus guns with different ammo, it did better. Still, we have reservations about its trigger pull weight, and for about the same money, the 24/7 is a better gun, in our estimation.

• Taurus 24/7 .45 ACP, $578. Our Pick. We immediately liked this gun once we learned its trigger. The 24/7 pointed well, felt good, and worked perfectly. It also rewarded us with outstanding groups when we worked at it.

We believe this handgun would find a home with anyone who needs a good DAO combat pistol and who would diligently work at learning its trigger pull (very much like that of a Kahr, but with multi-hit capability). The ideal owner would be someone who would not swap guns often, to avoid confusion with trigger pulls. In other words, beware the person with only one gun, because he probably knows how to use it.

• Taurus PT 945B .45 ACP, $563. Conditional Buy. We thought this was a big, solid handgun that required big hands to do it justice, so it may not be for everyone. The grip circumference at its smallest point was 0.4-inch longer than a 1911. Not everyone will be happy with it for that reason, but all in all it was an interesting and potentially useful gun.

But we felt the other two test guns in this comparison offered more, despite the potential here for cocked-and-locked carry. The 24/7 was, we thought, a better combat design, but the PT 945 might be your ideal plinker.

 

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