The Pinnacle of Polymer Pistols: The HK45 Review with HD Video
Pinnacle of Polymer Pistols?
A Review with Video of the Heckler & Koch HK45
I have a man-crush on the .45ACP. What red-blooded American male wouldn’t? I mean, come on. It is the epitome of handgun cartridges that has seen America through two World Wars, one “police action” and … whatever the Vietnam Conflict was. Designed by the Über-Mensch of all gun designers: St. John Moses Browning, specifically for his iconic 1911 handgun, the .45ACP has been the “go to” round in the American handgun arsenal for over 100 years and it is still going strong.
When you start looking into polymer-framed .45ACP semi-autos you have a lot of choices. I have personally owned and used/reviewed and fired Sigs, Glocks, FNs, Berettas, but none of them, in my opinion, rises to the level of design and function that the HK 45 offers. And then, of course, you have Springfield’s line of imported Euro-handguns, S&W, Ruger, etc. etc.
Here are some thoughts about what I’ve shot so far, compared to the HK.
I do not like the fact that the Sig offers no external safety, thus giving you no option but to fire it from DA before you get to SA, if you choose to carry a round in the chamber. The SIG P220 has a very limited capacity, and you can get 10 rounds if you are ok carrying a gangly extended magazine with it. The SIG P227 has certainly caught my eye though, SIG’s first double-stack .45ACP. And, of course, SIG gives you an all metal construction. But, with it’s lack of external safety you therefore must master two trigger pulls, rather than one.
The FN .45 ACP DA/SA semi-autos (FNP and FNX) are fine pistols and have the distinct advantage of the largest stock capacity out there 15+1. That’s a whole lot of .45ACP love right there. I’ve owned them and used them. Great handguns, but the “feel” compare to the HK is very clear, well, almost kind of “cheap” in comparison to the HK. The HK is much tighter, and feels stronger. The trigger group in the FNX feels almost toy like. The HK is much more rugged and obviously built to tighter tolerances. The Glock 21 is a terrific handgun and is clearly the winner in striker-fire actions. Chamber a round into a Glock and it is “always on” … you supply the safety: trigger finger discipline and proper mental discipline. The Beretta PX Storm comes in .45ACP but the “backward” safety on the Berettas drives me nuts, though the build quality and ergonomics are great. And, hey, it’s a Beretta, very well built, just nothing for me other than a range gun.
The HK however offers the best of all worlds, in my view. You have a great external safety that has the best decocking mechanism I’ve run across yet. When you decock there is a clear “click” feel as you move it into decocking, something I have not found on anything else with a decocker. That tactical feedback is totally lacking on the FNX, etc. The trigger on the HK is nice and wide, offering the chance to get more of the tip of your finger on it, and making it easier to press the trigger back cleaning. The reset point on the HK trigger, stock, is not short enough, to my liking. The HK sights are crisp and visible, yellow in daylight, and glowing at night. The HK’s o-ring on the barrel allows for greater accuracy. It’s recoil spring is a monster. Clear the HK 45 has the best of the build features in its granddaddy, the HK MK23 or as I call it, “The Beast.”
Shooting it is very comfortable, the grip is nicely ergonomically formed and with adjustable backstraps you are able to get what suits you best. I found shooting it to be very easy. The recoil is very manageable. I’d have to give the nod to the SIG P220 for comfort in shooting the .45ACP though.
The major down-side of the HK 45 is its capacity: 10+1. Period. No extended magazines available. No base plates allowing more rounds. It is what it is, a 11 round capacity .45ACP. That alone may be the deciding factor for people wanting to have more rounds in the pistol: Glock offers more, and so does the FN platform, as previously mentioned.
But, arguably, you have the higest quality build out of the box from the H&K, hands down better than anything I’ve ever used. I have not tried out Springfields or S&W’s or Ruger’s line of .45ACP polymer handguns. Hope to some day. I may be blown away by them, but I highly doubt it.
The HK 45 is a great handgun and if you have a chance to shoot one, I think you’ll see what I’m talking about.
Here is the video:
Member of the National Rifle Association (Life/Endowment); Gun Owners of America (Life); Garand Collectors Association; National Shooting Sports Foundation. CCW License Holder in MO. FFL 03 License Holder.
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I've had my HK (in .40) for nearly 15 years. DA/SA with decocker. It now sits in a special place at home as a go-to home defense pistol for that part of the house.
I must disagree with it being the "pinnacle" of pistol quality. I became a little disillusioned with HK after dealing with this pistol. Factory trigger was NOT good. Surprised it left their QC as it was. Had to get a trigger job done on it to make it work correctly. By that I mean it was VERY rough and you couldn't double-action it on target. WAY too heavy of a slide, and the double-action springs require Bionic Man finger strength to pull. Teutonic over-engineering at its finest.
The only reason I got mine was, frankly, that was "the only" brand to get. It was one of the few with the external safety, which at that time I deemed important. The decocker is nice but not a must-have. The problem with the hammer is that it is a "half hammer" in that you can't manually cock it back without pressing the trigger to pull it back enough to gain purchase with your thumb. I understand why they made it the shape they did, but it needs refinement.
Trigger pull on mine is a bear - you can't make that first shot accurately due to the double-action spring. The single-action (aka fully cocked hammer) is crisp and clean. But that first round is going to go wide unless you have those aforementioned Bionic Fingers. My retired LE buddy and I discussed that one to death. We agree this double-action first shot is there to help LE in stressful situations to prevent accidental discharges. But for the non-LE person who isn't shooting it weekly, and for those without Bionic Fingers, you should store it with the hammer cocked and the safety on. Which leads to a plethora of 1911-style discussions about spring weakening, safety concerns, loaded rounds, etc. etc. ad nauseum... I store mine in the safe place with a full magazine and nothing in the chamber. I must slide the action to load a round.
The Euro-pattern safety on other pistols (aka the "backward" safety) just takes practice to get used to. My Walther's that way... not too hard, just takes some practice
Loaded round indicator is "iffy" at best. Simply isn't up to the same quick check-by-feel shape and operation of other brands' loaded round indicators. Requires removal of your trigger finger to check unless you break your grip, which is fine at the range but in a stress situation is not a good thing.
I agree with the magazine observations. They simply suck. They apparently make magazines to ATF specifications. Full-capacity mags for HK pistols are something of a fairy tale.
Prices for new magazines have kept me from replacing the crappy ones with increased capacity ones. There's lots of plastic in them that doesn't need to be there (to serve as shims to block full capacity?) Mine, now being nearly 15 years old, are starting to show weak magazine springs. I suppose they are taking a set, but one would think that HK, of all companies, would have springs with a duty cycle of more than 10 years. I have put perhaps 1000? 1500? round through it over the course of the last decade. Maybe more... haven't kept up with pistol shooting lately. So 10 years / 1500 rounds and she needs new mag springs. In my mind, that spells S-U-C-K. None of my other weapons, with older springs, have shown such low performance on the mag springs. Maybe mine were made on the Friday before Octoberfest? I have nothing to compare them to and I'm unsure for example how long 1911 springs will last. However compared to my Para 1911 I bought at roughly the same time, those Para mag springs are fine and I keep them loaded for the OTHER go-to in the house. Overall I suppose 10 years isn't too bad for a spring... or perhaps Canadian springs are better than German ones?
They aren't bad pistols, but you are paying for the BMW name brand with them, and personally with so many other GOOD competing brands out there on the landscape, you'll be hard pressed to justify owning that BMW when a Toyota or Chevy will get you there just as well. Unless like me at the time you simply had to have a BMW.
Thanks very much for the review.