Why a 45?

The 11.4mm autoloading, single-action handgun design is more than 102 years old.

Law enforcement should stick to full-sized grips, even with a shorter slide, unless it's going to be a non-conventional carry. The officer-sized grips tend to leave the little finger hanging. The web of the hand steers the gun while the little finger controls the recoil.

The .45 is safer
The modern .45 has three safeties: grip, thumb and firing pin. The trigger cannot be depressed unless the grip safety is squeezed. The hammer cannot fall unless the thumb safety is pushed down in the "fire" position. The thumb safety also locks the slide in battery. On most .45s, the firing pin cannot contact the primer unless the trigger is all the way to the rear, which actuates a plunger. This safety combination is perfect for high stress, gross motor skill combat.

The thumb safety locks the slide, hammer and sear, preventing the hammer from falling. Because the slide is locked when the thumb safety is activated (up), the officer can reholster with confidence. The gun will not fire unless all three safety events coincide.

In 1983, Colt added a feature to its Government Model line that prevented the firing pin from moving forward unless the trigger was pulled. When considering a law enforcement .45, dismiss any firearm that does not have this feature. Many manufacturers have recognized the liability of inertial firing and use a firing pin block.

Agencies should require additional training for officers who carry .45s. Officers need to train the motor skill of sweeping the safety before firing. The .45's safety should be on until the moment an officer fires. Having a manual safety engaged is additional protection from tragic circumstances. The general rule: Eyes on target — safety off; Check for additional targets — safety on.

Officers should select a gun whose safety has a positive click, one that takes a deliberate action to disengage and instinctively engage it. When shopping, stick to low profile safety styles. Major manufacturers like Smith & Wesson and Springfield have done the homework for you. Law enforcement firearms have low-profile, positive click safeties.

The cartridge
The .45 cartridge was designed for maximum effectiveness of the sidearm. The original military specifications called for a cartridge that fired a 230-grain .45-caliber bullet 800 feet per second (fps).

This standard doesn't approach current law enforcement cartridges. For example, Hornady's 230-grain +P TAP-FPD has a muzzle velocity of 950 fps and muzzle energy of 461 foot-pounds. When fired into ballistic gelatin, they create huge cavities and long trenches.

The .45 has earned its place in history and respect in the police armory. It is an outstanding choice for the officer seeking a versatile and reliable tool.

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