Most shooters I’ve met adore John Browning’s original 1911 .45 ACP pistol, and many aspire to carry one every day for personal protection. I actually admire those who manage to pull it off. After all, the .45 ACP is still regarded as the ‘gold standard’ for personal defense in knowledgeable circles. It is used by elite special forces units all over the world, and maintains its fearsome reputation as a man stopper even in this day and age.
For me, the 1911 is simply too big a gun to easily conceal. I own both the full-size and the Commander versions, and find that by current standards, they are both too large and heavy for the number of shots that they can bring to a fight.
This dissatisfaction set me on the quest to find a smaller, lighter, more concealable pistol that fired the .45 ACP cartridge, and I am satisfied that I have been successful in that quest.
Before I go into further detail, let me just say that the choice I made was based on my personal selection criteria, and reflect the things I consider to be of paramount importance when choosing a sidearm for everyday carry.
The Taurus Millenium Pro PT-145 was something I acquired after a very careful selection process, a process during which I considered quite a few compact .45 ACP pistols that were available on the market at the time.
My objective was to acquire the best compact .45 ACP that I could find for concealed carry, and the following handguns ended up on my list:
Glock’s Model 30
Para Ordnance’s Covert Black Carry
Para Ordnance’s Lite Hawg
Heckler and Koch’s HK45 Compact
Smith and Wesson’s CS45 Chief’s Special
Springfield Armory’s 1911 A1 Loaded Micro
Bersa’s Thunder 45,
Taurus’ Millennium Pro PT-145.
Ten guns to choose from. All of these handguns (except the Heckler and Koch) were under 7 inches long, and were considered very “carry friendly” because of their relatively small dimensions.
Comparing Magazine Capacities
What I discovered was a wide variation between the cartridge capacities of these guns, as you will see below:
Kahr’s PM45- 5+1 shots
Colt’s Defender- 7+1 shots
Glock’s Model 30- 10+1 shots
Para Ordnance’s Covert Black Carry- 6+1 shots
Para Ordnance’s Lite Hawg- 10+1 shots
Heckler and Koch’s HK45 Compact- 10+1 shots
Smith and Wesson’s CS45 Chief’s Special- 6+1 shots
Springfield Armory’s 1911 A1 Loaded Micro- 6+1 shots
Bersa’s Thunder 45- 7+1 shots
Taurus’ Millennium Pro PT145- 10+1 shots.
The Kahr carried the lowest number of .45 ACP rounds (5+1 shots). The Glock, Heckler and Koch, Para Ordnance Lite Hawg, and the Taurus had the most, and were all tied with a capacity of 10+1.
Comparing Carry Weight
There was also a big variation in the guns’ empty weights:
Kahr’s PM45- 19.3 ounces
Colt’s Defender- 22.5 ounces
Glock’s Model 30- 24 ounces
Para Ordnance’s Covert Black Carry- 30 ounces
Para Ordnance’s Lite Hawg- 31.5 ounces
Heckler and Koch’s HK45 Compact- 28.5 ounces
Smith and Wesson’s CS45 Chief’s Special- 23.9 ounces
Springfield Armory’s 1911 A1 Loaded Micro- 24 ounces
Bersa’s Thunder 45- 27 ounces
Taurus’ Millennium Pro PT145- 23 ounces.
If you carry regularly, on an all-day basis, you know how the weight of your equipment plays a major role in carrying comfort. The Kahr, with a base weight of 22.5 ounces and only 5+1 rounds in the gun, was the clear winner here. The two heaviest contenders were the Para Ordnance Lite Hawg (base weight 31.5 plus the weight of 10+1 rounds) and the Heckler and Koch HK45 Compact (base weight 28.5 ounces plus the weight of 10+1 rounds).
Single-action Versus Double-action
Finally, there was the issue of operating systems:
Kahr’s PM45- double action only
Colt’s Defender- single action
Glock’s Model 30- single action
Para Ordnance’s Covert Black Carry- double action
Para Ordnance’s Lite Hawg- single action
Heckler and Koch’s HK45 Compact- double action
Smith and Wesson’s CS45 Chief’s Special- double action
Springfield Armory’s 1911 A1 Loaded Micro- single action
Bersa’s Thunder 45- double action
Taurus’ Millennium Pro Pt145- double action.
To carry a single-action pistol in a state of readiness and at full capacity (with a full magazine and a cartridge in the chamber) the gun’s hammer needs to be fully cocked, as with a 1911 pistol. Carried this way, experienced users also consider it prudent to engage the gun’s manual safety, to prevent any inadvertent discharge.
To fire the gun, you need to disengage the manual safety before squeezing the trigger. The trade off here is that you get to fire your first shot with a relatively light trigger pull.
A double-action pistol, on the other hand, can be carried in the same state of readiness and at full capacity with the hammer down. It can be safely carried with or without a manual safety.
If you choose not to engage the gun’s safety (or if it doesn’t have one to begin with, like on the Smith and Wesson), you can fire the gun by simply squeezing the trigger. The penalty for this convenience is that the trigger pull for your first shot is going to be heavy.
Towards the very end, it came down to a choice between the Glock 30 (no safety) and the Taurus Millennium Pro PT145 (with a manual safety).
The Glock weighed 24 ounces; the Taurus weighed 23.
Both had the optimum 10+1 shot capacity that I wanted.
The Glock was almost a full inch longer (6.96 inches long compared to the Taurus’ 6.0-inch length). The Glock, however, did not have a manual safety, which I liked. The Taurus had one, which I believed was unnecessary on this type of defensive sidearm.
The Taurus Millennium Pro PT145 had a full-size grip, whereas the Glock Model 30 did not. Instead of having a full-length grip, the Glock relied on an extended magazine that protruded beyond the bottom of the grip to support the pinkie finger. Not really kosher, as far as I was concerned—you lost part of your grip on the gun whenever the magazine came out for reloading. You also risked slamming your pinkie finger into the magazine well when you inserted the reload during a magazine change.
I also tended to favor double-action operation in my small carry guns. Call it paranoia if you will, but I still worried about coming across ammunition with hard primers. A double-action pistol provides second-strike capability. What this means is that if the cartridge doesn’t go off when you first squeeze the trigger, you can squeeze the trigger again to try and fire the round. On a single-action pistol like the Glock, you have to pull the slide back before you can squeeze the trigger again.
Double-striking cartridges has worked for me in practice, when using less-than-top-drawer ammunition. When the chambered round doesn’t go off, I simply squeeze the trigger a second time to try and fire it, and it works about 50% of the time. When it doesn’t, I go through the standard clearance drill (tapping the bottom of the magazine to make sure it’s properly seated, racking the slide to eject the defective round and chamber a fresh cartridge, before attempting to fire the gun again).
Considering Practice Cost
I suppose the clincher was that the Taurus Millennium Pro PT145 could fire lead bullets, whereas the Glock’s manufacturers specifically caution against using unjacketed lead projectiles in their handguns (ostensibly because of the type of rifling used in Glock barrels).
At the shooting club where I order my reloads, .45 ACP cartridges loaded with jacketed lead (hardball) are almost 20% more expensive than reloads using moly-coated lead bullets. Since the Taurus could fire lead bullets in addition to regular jacketed ammunition, I expected this to give me significant savings over the lifetime of the gun.
So in the end, the Taurus Millennium Pro PT145 won over the Glock Model 30 and over every other gun in the contest. It had met my personal criteria almost perfectly, and the Taurus Millennium Pro PT145 was duly purchased.
It was one of the shortest in overall length—6 inches—trumped only by Kahr’s PM45 (which was 5.8 inches long). It was among those with the highest carrying capacities, with 10+1 rounds when fully loaded.
It had double-action operation, second-strike capability, and its unloaded weight (23 ounces) wasn’t bad to begin with.
It was also one of the few handguns I had considered that had a picattiny rail. I thought this might prove useful at some future time, for mounting accessories like tactical lights or laser sights.
Debunking the Taurus Stigma
After everything has been said and done, the true test of a carry gun’s mettle is its reliability. I have always refused to keep (much less carry!) unreliable firearms, believing that doing so poses an unacceptable risk to my safety and the safety of those I am committed to protect.
Unfortunately, it was impossible to test the reliability of any of my shortlisted contenders prior to purchase. No gun dealer I knew would let me fire 200 rounds through any brand-new gun that I was only thinking of buying (!)
The gun forums weren’t much help, either.
There was a lot of Taurus-bashing going on at the time which, to me, seemed a bit too enthusiastic to be entirely credible. Because some of the handguns on my shortlist were of fairly recent manufacture at the time, information regarding their reliability was unavailable. Reviews regarding the others were sketchy, at best.
In the end, I actually had to buy the Taurus Millennium Pro PT145, and take it to the firing range to determine how reliable it actually was.
If I had to go by the brouhaha surrounding the Taurus brand at that time, I should consider myself “lucky”. My Taurus PT145 sailed through the requisite 200-round break-in without a hiccup. I used factory-loaded .45 ACP hardball, and the gun ran like a champion. No failures to fire or failures to eject whatsoever.
The only real problem I encountered had to do with the gun’s sights.
It appeared that my particular example of the gun had not been zeroed at the factory. The front sight was too tall, causing the gun to shoot almost 3 inches low at 10 meters (in my hands, at least). I had to file the front sight one third of the way down, which was almost halfway through the white dot that adorned the front sight.
(I discovered that the white dot on the front sight was actually a small plastic insert. Since filing into the plastic had made the white dot useless, I simply removed what remained of the insert and filled in the recess that remained after taking it out. The front sight was then given a coat of matte black lacquer.)
The Taurus was then zeroed in at 15 meters, and it has shot to its point of aim from that time onward.
My PT145’s only other fault is that it likes one particular brand of hollow-point ammunition, and no other. It gets fussy when I run a different brand of hollow-point .45 ACP through it. Which is fine with me—I either load it with the brand it prefers, it I simply feed it hardball, with which it works 100% of the time.
It’s not a perfect gun, but it’s difficult not to appreciate.
The Taurus Millennium Pro PT145 is a marvel of .45 ACP miniaturization. It delivers the ‘gold standard’ for personal defense in a contemporary package.
It conceals well, retains good ergonomics in spite of its smallish size, packs more rounds than a full-size 1911, fires double-action, and functions reliably with the correct ammunition. The recoil impulse it generates is relatively soft, considering its weight and size. The recoil is actually easier to handle than that of a .40 S&W Glock 23.
Right now it’s the .45 ACP handgun that I carry the most, so I’d say that the rather tedious selection process was worth it!