Friday, May 13, 2005

The SECOND best .45 auto???

I'll wager at least half the people reading this will agree with me when I say that the Browning designed Colt model of 1911 (and it's variants and clones) is the greatest handgun of all time. I'll go one better and say that 75% of you would agree with me if I limited it to pistols only.

But what's the second best? Specifically what's the second best in the 1911s main caliber, .45acp?

I mean it's a pretty limited field; there aren't really all that many truly spectacular pistols out there to choose from; and there are even fewer in .45 (at least excluding all the many 1911's).

On my best list would be the following

H&K USP (and derivatives)
SIG P220
Glock 21, 30, 36
CZ75 derivatives in .45 (CZ97, Tanfoglio, Baby eagle/Jericho)

Honestly... I think that's about it. Sure there are some GOOD .45's (Taurus, Ruger, Smith) but GREAT ones (and no "another 1911" doesn't count, and yes Detonics, ParaOrds, Kimbers, 1991s, Springfields, and even the argentine phillipine et al clones count as 1911s) ?

If they made a BHP (Browning HiPower/P35) in .45 ACP it would certainly be on that list, but they don't (at least not as far as I know, and if they do someone point me to one so I can buy it now before some idiot decides to take it out of production. Oh and make sure you tell Kim DuToit so he can grab one too).

I suspect that when Kahr makes the Target/Tactical version of the P45, the T45 (some time next year most likely) it will end up on that list as well; but again, it's not here yet. Oh and yes, when they release it I will be buying one immediately.

I'm willing to listen to other suggestions, but that's really all that come sto mind for the great ones.

Of course that still leaves a list of four guns; which is the second best? Or which is the best of the second best or... ahhh fuckit.

Lets talk about each one.

CZ and Variants in .45 (I'm using a baby eagle here as the prototype, but any of the others will do).

Summary: The CZ and variants are great guns. Inspired by the Browning Hi-Power, in the late 60's into early 70's designers at Czecka Zabrovka (CZ) created an excellent double action high capacity stagger stack frame; releasing it in 1975 as the 9mm CZ75.

It took 22 years for a .45 version to appear (other than from Tanfoglio, who has had spotty quality, but who now manufactures frames for IMI's jericho); but when it did as the CZ97 it was an instant hit.

In the late 80's Israel was moving away from the Browning Hi Powers (and a hodgepodge of other weapons) they had been using as sidearms; and in israeli fashion wanted to build their own. They chose the CZ75 for inspiration, and created the "Jericho" line of pistols for use as issue sidearms for police and military. Initially available in 9MM, and .41AE (a propietary caliber which failed); in 2002 they added .45 to the lineup and they have seen sales in the U.S. explode, imported by Magnum Research under the name "Baby Eagle", a reference to the IMI/Magnum research Desert Eagle.

The pictures don't do the pistol justice; looking somewhat ungainly. In person, though it is a somewhat thick pistol (as are all doublestacks - this one is a compact 10rd); it is well balanced, and feel good and solid in the hand. It is also quite attractive; and it conceals well; though it is actually the same length and height as a compact 1911, and somewhat thicker.

Pros: Well made, accurate, reliable, low cost and very good value for the money at $499

Cons: Poor finish, heavy (almsot 40 oz unloaded), somewhat bulky.

Rating: Fifth - It's a great gun, and a great value; in fact I want one; but it just doesn't measure up to the others.

Glocks in .45 (including the 21, 30, and 36)

I went into Glocks extensively (and the G21 specifically) in my post "How to make a Glock not suck". but lets talk in more general terms here.

Glocks are the most popular single brand of pistol in America. Certainly 1911's are the most popular TYPE of pistol by an order of magnitude, but they are made by dozens of manufacturers, and there are several major competitors in every segment so it's certain that Glock is the single best selling brand.

Like all the other pistols here, all Glocks use essentially the same design, with some reinforcements for the larger and/or higher pressure calibers.

Up until a few weeks ago I owned a G21, and a G19 and both were excellent pistols; currently being enjoyed by two of my readers. When the cashflow returns, I will purchase another Glock (most likely a G32 or G23, though possibly a G19; as an alternative concealment piece to my Kahr K9), if for no other reason then if I ever have to give somebody a gun in an emergency, chances are they'll know how to operate a Glock.

The only problems I really have with Glocks are their bulk, and their triggers. I talk about fixing the Glock trigger in the article linked above, so that no problem; but the G21 is a VERY bulky gun, and the G30 is no better. Recently glock introduced the single stack subcompact G36, which is an excellent pistol, but it is far too small for anything other than a backup piece.

In "Getting down to specifics" I had this to say about Glocks:
...if Glock made a single stack (or narrow double stack), commander sized .45, capable of handling .45 super, with an 8-10 round capacity (like the USP compact), I would say it was a great choice as a new military sidearm, and I'd buy it for myself in a heartbeat.
My opinion hasn't changed. I still want them to make a G21, and a G23 sized single stack .45; and I'd buy both in a second. I think theres a LOT of folks out there who'd line up for the same.

Oh and if they did one in 10mm I'd buy that one too, and I know a guy in Alaska who'd be fighting me for the right to be first in line.

Pros: Well made (though often rough always functional), accurate, EXTREMELY reliable, 10rd capacity (in the G21)

Cons: Rough finish (but tough), heavy, VERY bulky, and slightly unweildy, plastic, ugly, beloved by scumbags.

Rating: Fourth - They are great guns, which I wouldn't hesitate to buy. They are still the among lowest cost of the great guns, but but they have been getting more and more expensive for the past few years relative to other options; even when used. Combine that with the trigger, and the bulkiness, and I just think the others are better guns. Of course if they made that single stack commander sized, it might be a different story.

SIGs in .45 (including the 220, and 245)

I must confess, I love SIGs. I just sold my P229 in .357SIG a few months ago, and I miss it every time I go to shoot. They feel good in the hand, they are reliable, and they are VERY accurate. Of course they are also somewhat expensive, and somewhat thick in the grip so....

The SIG p220 is one of the best balanced .45's there is. It is a stagger stack design (like the HK USP Compact which has the same capacity) -correction, it is a pure single stack, but the magazine is still quite thick - with an 8 round capacity; and it is available in half a dozen configurations. There is also a compact version, the P245; which I find uncomfortable (the grip is too short for me), but that is well liked for concealed carry. Of course 245 length, with a 229 size grip... well that would be nice. I think I'd end up carrying it every day.

Pick up a P220, with the stock hard plastic panels replaced with hogues; and see how it points.
Present it from the holster, and see how it moves.
Shoot it, at any range up to 25 yards, with any ammo.

Trust me, you'll buy it.

Pros: Extremely well made, great fit and finish, great balance, very accurate, very reliable

Cons: Very expensive (USED examples can run $700), slightly thick with some snagging edges.

Rating: Third - This was a tough decision. I would never feel inadequately armed with a large caliber SIG; I think for me it really comes down to carryability. The P220 is jsut a little bit more bulk than I want to carry concealed. The P229 is almost prefect sized (though still a bit thick), and I carried mine regularly, but there is no SIG .45 in that size. If there were I think I would rate it highest of this group.

HK USP series in .45 (including variants and Compact)

I own one, I love it, it's the best non-custom gun I've ever owned, and that's really saying something.

The HK USP series is possibly the ultimate evolution of the Browning tilting linkless barrel design (which began with the BHP); and is available in every size and configuration from the 9mm compact, all the way up to the USP Expert .45 and Mk23; which are competition ready out of the box.

Since I've used more compact examples of the other guns in this series as examples when possible; and since I actually OWN one, I'm going to talk about the USP compact.

The first time I fired my USP compact; I was prepared to be disapointed. I had fired the Mk23 before and found it do be an excellent pistol, but very bulky, and ridiculously expensive (at $2500).

My mind started being changed the second I picked it up. You see an unloaded aluminum framed commander length 1911 (the closest comparable variant) weighs 34 oz, the USP compact weighs 24.

The USP compact has a very comfortable grip, surprisingly thin in width and circumference, and with VERY comfortable and accessible controls; which can be made fully ambidextrous. To my hand, with the hooked floorplate mag in place, the formation of a shooting grip and natural point is completely automatic. There doesnt seem to be any other way to hold the gun.

The gun is quite thin, but still somewhat bulkier than a 1911, with a taller and slightly thicker slide. It is also shorter than a commander, in both length, and height.

Finally, just fire the gun and you'll see why I love it.

This gun is INCREDIBLY accurate out of the box; completely reliable (I have never once had a misfire that wasn't from bad ammo, even during the break-in), and completely PACKABLE.

I have three daily carry guns, my Kahr K9, my USP compact, and my Yost custom Sprinfield Champion. The K9 is basically invisible with almost any clothing; and in fact is even difficult to see when carried openly unless you know what you're looking for. The 1911 requires very deliberate clothing selection to conceal properly; though this isn't difficult at all. The USP compact fits nicely in between the two, with only the sharp edge of the mag floorplate, or butt providing a slight printing tendency; and at 10oz lighter than the champion, it is far more handy to carry all the time.

I have only three issues with the gun: First, it's a plastic frame. I generally prefer steel or aluminum frames; and a compact plastic frame makes recoil control with the +p's I shoot a bit more difficult.

Second, they are INCREDIBLY expensive ($900-2500 depending on model and options).

Finally, I have a problem with HK themselves.

Although all HK firearms have a lifetime warranty, HK has the WORST customer service of any reputable company in this business. Their service and warranty are the absolute best... if you are a law enforcement, military, or large corporate customer; everyone else gets screwed over.

Pros: Incredibly accurate, very well made, very reliable, very comfortable, light and concealable, can handle .45 super, lifetime warranty

Cons: INCREDIBLY expensive, HK customer dis-service

Rating: Second - This result may have been different if SIG or Glock made single stack commander length .45s; but as it is, the HK is the best gun. Now if it were just made by a company that didnt hate their civilian customers, and for a few hundred dollars less...