July 2011

Aluminum, Polymer, and Steel 45 ACP Semiautos Square Off

Coltís Defender gets a split decision because of its grooved grips. The Glock 36 always goes bang, but less accurately than the Colt. Springfieldís Micro Compact disappoints.

There is something reassuring about a big-bore pistol in the pocket or on the belt in a holster. Professionals going in harmís way appreciate the design and power of a big-bore autoloader. So do armed citizens. These handguns are not for everyone, but for the shooter willing to practice and learn to control their recoil, these guns represent unprecedented levels of protection ounce for ounce. Those who purchase a light 32 ACP, 380 ACP, or 9mm often fire a magazine or two and slip the pistol in their pocket. Those who purchase the 45-caliber compacts are often serious shooters who practice diligently. For this reason, the shortcomings of the type are recognized and any problems come to light quickly.

Big-bore handgunners demand reliability and a certain amount of accuracy from their choices. The most reliable are the compact handguns that had their origins in military designs. These include the Glock and the 1911. While considerable engineering was undertaken to modify the locking and unlocking sequence and spring technology is very important, in the end these handguns in all frame sizes rely upon the original design for much of their reliability and handling. The good features of the parent pistols, the Glock Model 21 and the Colt 1911, survive.

We began this shootout with the premise of firing the Glock 36, the archetypical slim-frame single-column-magazine Glock against the Colt Defender, Coltís smallest 1911. The matchup was deemed a classic, pitting the greatest example of downsized technology from both the blue-steel-and-walnut camp and the polymer-frame camp. However, we added a third pistol almost at the last moment because the Springfield Micro is in line with the others, but in terms of price it competes with the Glockóthe Defender is by far the most expensive of the three. The new owner of the Springfield Micro protested that while he wanted a good small 45, he could not take a beating, meaning he could not take a hit to his wallet. He owns several other Springfield pistols, including a TRP, three Loaded Models, a GI, a LW Operator and a Champion Super Tuned. He knows the difference in performance between GI sights and Novak sights, but he needed a compact carry gun and Springfield quality appealed to him. The addition of the Springfield gave us another interesting dimension in comparison. We now had three compact pistols with polymer, aluminum, and steel frames. We can only say the shootout was interesting, and even our most experienced raters could not call this one until the last shots were fired.

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