Ruger American Compact .45 ACP , by Pat Cascio

I’m a big fan of the .45 ACP cartridge. The “official” FBI tests show that there isn’t a lick of difference between the 9mm, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP rounds – when loaded with high-performance JHP ammo, when it comes to stopping power. But I refuse to believe that those three rounds are all pretty much the same when it comes to stopping a deadly encounter. I do a lot of shooting, and I mean a lot of shooting for my articles, as well as for target practice, tactical shooting and just plain ol’ fun shooting. If there is one thing I’ve noticed when shooting different calibers of handguns, its that some calibers hit a whole lot harder than others. Whenever there are some targets of opportunity, like fist-sized rocks, I’ll focus on them. The 9mm will chip away at these rocks and eventually break them. The .40 S&W hits a lot harder and gets the job done faster. However, when we use a .45 ACP round on similar-sized rocks, it will break them – quite often with just one hit.

Now, this isn’t scientific testing, however, with the same aforementioned calibers, the 9mm when it hits a big rock, makes it move ever so slightly. The .40 S&W moves those rocks a bit more. However, when hit with a .45 ACP round – the rocks will move quite a bit. So, I’m not sure how this relates to real-world stopping power, or “knock-down” power, but it tells me that, the .45 ACP is hitting a lot harder than the other two rounds are.

The 9mm caliber, even with +P ammo is real easy gun to shoot for most people while the .40 S&W can be a handful with different ammo, and this is why many police departments, and the FBI and other Federal agencies have gone back to the 9mm, over the .40S&W. The .45 ACP isn’t all that hard to handle in the recoil department. Sure, it “kicks” a little more than the 9mm does, however, the felt “kick” is a lot less than the .40 S&W round does. Police qualification scores have gone way up, since many of them have gone back to the 9mm over the .40 S&W. Quite frankly, many in law enforcement simply aren’t “into” guns and don’t do a lot of shooting – so the hard-kicking .40 S&W round made it more difficult for them to qualify on the range – and it was even worse on the streets, when they had to deploy their firearms. Of course, then we have the fact that handguns can hold more 9mm rounds compared to .40 S&W or .45 ACP rounds – and that never hurts to have more ammo in your gun in a gunfight.

Not too long ago, I tested the Ruger American Compact 9mm pistol, their hot-selling LEO model. The “LEO”  stands for Law Enforcement Only – model. And, I don’t believe this LEO gun is only sold to law enforcement, but it had some really nice features that the other American Compact 9mm didn’t have. My review article on the 9mm model is the SurvivalBlog archives. Shortly after testing and reporting on the 9mm American Compact, I received the new American Compact .45 ACP model with a gray Cerakote finish on the slide and a matching color frame – very handsome, indeed.

The 9mm version holds either 10 or 12 rounds – the LEO version came with three 12-round magazines, while the  other models only come with a 10-round magazine. The new .45 ACP American Compact comes standard with three 7-round magazines, and these mags are Teflon coated, and make for easy insertion into the gun and even easier to load them to full capacity – an excellent design touch.

Bigger Frame and Slide

If you simply look at the 9mm and .45 ACP version side-by-side, at first glance they appear to the eye to be just about the same size, but they are not! The .45 ACP model is bigger all the way around, but you don’t recognize it. You have to hold the guns in your hands and then you can feel the difference. Now, the .45 ACP American Compact isn’t’ really all “that” much bigger, but it is big enough that you can tell between the two guns. The .45 variant has a 3.75-inch barrel length and the slide is 1.25-inches wide. It is ever so slightly taller as well, compared to the 9mm model. This little forty-five is only 28.6-ounces in weight, so it is fairly light, compared to a full-sized or even a Commander-sized 1911. One thing that is worth mentioning is that the .45 model seems to balance a whole lot better in my hand, than the 9mm model did. This is hard to explain, but if you try holding both, in succession, I think you’ll agree that the .45 balances a little bit better.

Of course, the Ruger American line of handguns are all striker-fired, and I’ve sure grown to love this type of trigger pull. The striker pre-tensioned system features a strong striker spring, for very positive ignition and it was done by creating a heavier trigger pull. On this pistol the trigger pull is very sweet. It breaks right at 5-pounds. The barrel cam distributes the recoil over a longer period of time and this really does reduce felt recoil. I’m not sure how this was done, but I like it.

You do not need any tools to take-down the American line of handguns, and no preliminary (Glock style) trigger pull is required before stripping — a great safety arrangement. Starting on the top of the slide, we find the ever-popular sights, the front sight has a white dot – a large white dot, and the rear sights is the best rear sight in the business if you as me…it has two white dots and is snag-free and easy and fast to pick up under most lighting conditions – I love this sight set-up a whole lot.

There are grasping grooves on the rear of the slide – on both sides – as well as a long, massive extractor – and it will sure get the job done if you have to extract an empty shell or even a loaded round. As we look at the frame, there is no external safety on it – and I don’t think it is needed, either. There is a trigger safety bar in the center of the trigger and several internal safeties to be certain that the gun won’t go off, if dropped. The forward portion of the frame has three grooves for attaching a light or a laser to the gun – some makers only offer one groove or none at all. The frame, as already mentioned, has a matching gray color and is made out of polymer. However, there is a rigid one-piece, precision machined stainless steel chassis within the integral frame rails and fire control housing.

We have a full-time ambidextrous magazine release that works very smoothly. Plus, the gun comes with two modular wrap-around grips for the back of the grip frame – mine came with the smaller one installed and I tried the larger one, but the smaller one fit my hand perfectly. But it is there if you have very large hands.

Adaptable Magazines

Another nice touch is that the three magazines that come with the gun have both the flat floor plate installed on the magazine, or you can swap it out, only take a minute – to the mag floor plates that have a pinky catcher. The latter are the ones that I installed.  Just that little magazine extension makes the gun more controllable in every respect. There are also areas on the grip that are “textured” for a sure hold under the most demanding weather conditions and they are perfectly placed on the grip frame.

My Shooting Tests

During my testing, I was on my own. We still have the Wuhan coronavirus going around, and I didn’t ask any of my usual volunteer testers to help me with my shooting. But I’m sure they would have jumped on it, if they had the chance. From Black Hills Ammunition I had their 230-grain FMJ round, their 185-grain Barnes TAC-XP all-copper hollow point +P, 230-grain JHP +P, 230-grain Match lead SWC and lastly, the 135-grain HoneyBadger all-copper round, that uses a fluted bullet that will get the job done. There were no malfunctions of any kind during my testing and I fired a little more than 300 rounds in my testing. The gun is a fun gun to shoot. And with the easy-loading magazines, it wasn’t a big chore to keep loading those 7-round magazines for several hours.

Accuracy testing was done at 25 yards, over a rolled-up sleeping bag, that I keep in my pick-up, inside my emergency box, and it was placed over the hood of my truck. I found that the best accuracy was from the 230-grain FMJ load, and this one is always a great performer. I could easily keep all the rounds inside of 3.25-inches so long as I did my part – some of the groups were a little bigger, but not by much. As usual, I shot more than one target with each type of ammo I had. The HoneyBadger and Match SWC load yielded ever so slightly bigger groups at 3.5-inches on average and the other ammo was still well under 4-inches without even trying. I’m sure I could have done better, with more trigger time with all the loads.

This American Compact .45 ACP is a real shooter, and I wouldn’t hesitate to take it into a hostage rescue mission – really! The gun grew on me, in very short order. I tested the full-sized American .45 ACP a few years ago, and it just didn’t ring my bell like the compact version does.

Full-retail on the American Compact .45 ACP model is $579 and it would be a fantastic deal at that price. However, if you shop around then you can usually find Ruger firearms at a discounted price. That’s what I like about Ruger – they are building some of the best and strongest guns, and selling them to match the budgets of working-class shooters. Check out your local gun shop, and hopefully, they will have one of these fine guns in-stock.

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