This is an article that will help you to decide which of the options is the best .45 ACP carbine for you.
The .45 ACP carbine has been a historically significant firearm throughout the world but particularly in the United States. It has deep roots in Mafia and crime syndicates, but also in the law enforcement circles that investigated them. It has been utilized by American heroes in wars including the Second World War.
From very popular 45 ACP submachine guns to consumer-friendly versions that allow you to use the popular cartridge for anything from the range to home defense, the .45 ACP carbine has been a part of the firearms landscape for longer than most people currently living have been alive.
The fascination with the platform hit a peak in the 1930’s and 1940’s, but has steadily been increasing again as new options have hit the market in recent years and the price of bulk .45 ammunition has stayed relatively low, compared to newer caliber options.
It’s interesting to note that one of the perennial favorites is one of the oldest production models of the .45 Carbine, the infamous Thompson “Sub Machine Gun” though, today’s most popular variant are semi-auto versions of the beloved 1927 or 1928 models. It easily makes our list as one of the best .45 ACP Carbines. In fact, you’ll see two Thompsons on the list.
Newer, tech heavy models have also hit the market, and there are even a few new versions that are made for the budget conscious shooter. This budget offering has always been a spot in the market that the .45 ACP Carbine has fit well, with many of the famous versions of the platform that were simply-made and priced inexpensively (notably the M3 and the M50 Reising).
These models have a robust following today even. They did not make our list because of practical reasons, and because there are no commercially viable, fully functional versions exist on the mainstream market for purchase by an average consumer.
So, without too much more introduction, here are our picks for the best .45 ACP Carbines on the market and why each of them makes sense for you.
The best carbines available in .45 Auto caliber
HECKLER & KOCH - USC RIFLE
Even though Glock gets the lion’s share of publicity for the polymer revolution, HK was doing polymer guns in the 1970’s and has continued to be a pioneer in the field. The USC .45 ACP Carbine is a newer entry into the polymer gun landscape and was initially designed as a contract style carbine for law enforcement entry teams (as the UMP45). It has since become something of a coveted consumer option.
They are hard to get, fairly expensive, and they aren’t perfect from a quality control perspective, but for all the bad press some corners of the internet have heaped upon the USC 45 Carbine, it is still an excellent option in the carbine field for the .45 ACP.
The simple, ambidextrous styling and the easy maintenance and gun breakdown make this an easy to care for option, despite the sometimes awkward polymer shell. The accuracy is above average for a small, lightweight polymer gun in .45. The weight is minimal, at just slightly over 6 lbs. and the recoil is helped by the polymer’s responsive flex.
Heckler & Koch is famous for their innovative solutions, and the looks of their firearms. This carbine is no stranger to the HK legacy. It’s simple but innovative (mono-hull frame design; polygonal rifling for the .45 ACP; novel sights and sling points, etc.). The design is exactly what the market was looking for, and in HK fashion, the reduced quantity available has stoked demand. You can find these carbines available, but you have to be diligent and ready to pull the trigger when they are available.
- Lightweight design
- HK legacy
- Accurate for the platform (better than average accuracy for a .45 ACP carbine)
- It’s expensive
- It’s hard to find
This is best for:Heckler & Koch fanboys. Those who realize that the standard mainstream .45 carbines are a bit dated and want something a bit more modern looking. Those who want a system that is completely proprietary and has its own magazine.
AUTO ORDNANCE - AUTO ORDNANCESILENCERCO TOMMY GUN SUMMIT
The 1928 replica is made to hype up the unique history of the firearm (one involving gangsters and violin cases), as well as utilizing a suppressor that is mated perfectly to the gun. This is the original 45 Carbine that had mainstream appeal. Originally, it was thanks to the easy maneuverability and the high capacity drum magazine as well as the accessories available for it (including a suppressor and recoil compensator).
The amount of ammunition that could be carried and shot quickly made this an ideal firearm for the 1920’s and 1930’s gangsters that wanted a way to keep agents and law enforcement at bay while retreating or finishing heists, etc. It still holds its own now, albeit at a slight weight disadvantage.
The use of this gun as a law enforcement and military firearm made it a historical figure and it has been in production with Thompson/Auto Ordnance ever since. It is among the most recognizable firearms in American history, though there are many variants available.
This is a particularly expensive and all-inclusive variant, and it represents the flagship version of the model. The fact that it includes a suppressor makes it a bit more difficult to obtain (you need a tax stamp and an additional waiting period), but it makes it a special addition to your collection. The parts and accessories included in this package means you are getting the complete story of the 1928 “Tommy Gun”.
- Excellent Silencerco suppressor
- Tons of history and nostalgia in the package
- History and reliability
- It’s an extremely expensive package
- It weighs 12.5 lbs. for the firearm; more with accessories
This is best for:The nostalgia seeker or dedicated collector of American firearms. The user who wants something truly unique and limited in quantity. Users who prefer the drum magazine and live in a state where this would be easily used (suppressor and drum magazine; 10.5” barrel length).
CMMG - MKG-45T RIFLE
The lightweight, “familiar” .45 carbine that gives the user all the same ergonomics of the AR15 styling and the proven reliability of the Glock Magazine. This is the gun you choose when you want seamless integration into your other firearms and when you appreciate the AR styling. It is obviously not exactly like the standard 223/5.56, but it is enough like it to make adoption of the carbine easy.
The Glock Magazine is exceptionally reliable and easy to find, even though it is widely adopted for the .45 carbine field. The accessorizing of the AR platform and styling makes this easy to customize, and the low weight means you won’t get tired carrying it (it’s under 6 lbs.).
A threaded barrel makes it easy to put a suppressor you might already own, onto the end of the barrel, and the slower moving .45 ACP cartridge is ideal for suppression because of the subsonic velocity and the high bullet mass. It is a proven reliable cartridge for suppressed fire.
CMMG is famous for making AR15 based; one-off production models and they are adopted in large quantities because of the attention to detail and good reliability of the designs. It’s unlikely you will have concerns with this carbine because CMMG is very good at putting out polished AR platform carbines.
- Very lightweight
- Easy to accessorize
- It’s not as “specialized” as some would like it to be, even if it does tick most of the boxes on the .45 ACP checklist
- Still on the upper end of the price range for a mainstream variant
This is best for:The user who wants to get into the .45 ACP Carbine game without having to learn a new model, or someone who already uses the AR style rifles/carbines and wants easy learning curve. Those who already have a suppressor in .45 ACP and want the AR styling.
AUTO-ORDNANCE - THOMPSON - 1924A-1 COMMANDO
Still kind of pricey, this is the cheaper, more market-friendly variant of the Thompson (it is a 1924 style), with a barebones build and is parkerized for weather and rust resistance.
While it isn’t the flagship model, it is a very approachable version and will give you a similar feel for the Thomson carbine. It is still ridiculously, almost laughably heavy with a 13 lb. build. The recoil, however, partially due to the heft of the design is extremely low and the shooting experience, especially for short trips to the range, is exceptional.
Auto Ordnance/Thompson has been producing this model for a very long time and reliability and design flaws are simply not an issue. Shooting it is a very good experience and the gun will last more than a few generations if cared for properly. This carbine, however, is too heavy for legitimate tactical use and is genuinely a range gun.
You buy this gun because you love the design or want to collect the bare bones version of the Thompson. You don’t buy this as a cheap, quick to action gun that will give you tactical advantage, though in the right hands it does offer some great tactical benefits, namely easy swing, good control, low recoil and good reliability.
- Simple, and exceptionally well-built
- Low recoil
- It’s still expensive
- It’s a spartan design
- Almost unbelievably heavy (13 lbs.)
This is best for:
Collectors or those who love the design but don’t want to spend more than $1800 to get a Thompson copy. Those who like the simplicity of the Thompson 1924 design. Those looking for a proven design that don’t mind the heavy weight of the model.
Hi Point 4595 Carbine
For the money you cannot find a better .45 carbine, as this is a carbine that fits all the specific criteria of what any .45 carbine enthusiast would be after. The price is incredibly low relative to the broader market (it costs under $400), and as such it has been very popular. Even to the point of being hard to track down.
While Hi-Point gets a bad reputation for its ugly duckling looks, the firearms are surprisingly durable, considering the traditionally despised material compositions of its most popular guns (sintered or casted metal parts in most of the gun outside of the polymer frames). That said, this is a design that doesn’t have some of the same bad reputation, and this is a very durable, well respected entry into the market.
The polymer casing is durable and flexible, allowing for a good recoil profile. The 7 lbs. weight and the short 32” overall length makes this a great home defense weapon or easily transportable tactical carbine. The well-appointed outer shell offers a ton of placement points in the form of rails, for accessory attachment.
Hi-Point has made a ton of money off of the balance of a good price point and a reliable design, and it will surely be manufactured for many years into the future.
The balance of this carbine is exceptional even if it isn’t the most lightweight carbine on the platform. It more than makes up for the small weight increase over the lightest versions, by having a swing and comfort level that is hard to equal.
- Tons of accessorizing available via the rail systems (several points to attach optics, etc.)
- Lightweight and durable
- Very inexpensive (generally priced between $300-425 USD)
- It’s still not super-attractive in the looks department, though it is much more reminiscent of traditional simple .45 Carbines
- The brand doesn’t have the best reputation
This is best for:The user who wants into the .45 carbine game at a small price point. Those who have actually used Hi-Points and can handle the trade off between unconventional looks and excellent durability. Those who want to dabble, instead of being ready to invest thousands into the platform.
Alex Pro Firearms .45 ACP Pistol-Caliber Carbine
A very mainstream look and exceptionally well-entrenched in the AR15 world, this is the .45 Carbine of choice for the hardcore AR fans. It will easily allow you to transition into the platform because of the similar ergonomics, looks and features. It’s good looking and reliable; easy to understand and infinitely customizable with add-ons.
The Magpul furniture makes it a very comfortable, easily implementable carbine and the use of a Glock Magazine makes it easy to find extra mags for. The reliability of the component parts is exceptional, and the price point is realistic.
A weight of just under 6.5 lbs. makes it a nice compromise between too lightweight to effectively manage muzzle rise and recoil; and too heavy to be comfortable during long shoots.
- Obvious benefits of utilizing the AR platform
- Great magazines
- Very good component part selection (including Magpul furniture)
- Not priced horribly, considering the value you are getting
- Relies on the popularity of the AR platform rather than anything super innovative
This is best for:Shooters of the AR guns that want easy integration into the .45 carbine platform via the ergonomics route. Those who know the reliability of the Glock magazine and want good, cheap access to mags. Shooters who love the accessorizing of the multiple rails layout.
Kriss USA Vector CRB Centerfire Rifle
At its release it was the first truly innovative carbine in more than a decade, the Kriss is a very cool example of what a complete, “from scratch” firearm design can do to help with innovation and technology.
The list of interesting design nuances and potential innovations is extensive with the Kriss, and it also has instant credibility in the form of the angular looks and excellent caliber choices (it’s also available in 9mm and 10mm as well as .45 ACP).
The real story of the Kriss models however is the interesting recoil reduction technology and the chambering mechanism that uses a swinging movement to pull the spent casing and the resulting blowback as well as the inertia that is created to pull recoil into a specific area. This combined with the heavier core weight and low bore axis means that muzzle rise and recoil profile are seemingly much reduced.
This balanced-core approach and the very specific inertia response makes the gun great for CQB and fast fire needs. The caliber is also a slow rolling recoil, rather than a snappy cartridge and therefore, the second shot and third shot capabilities of this carbine are excellent.
It goes without saying that the accuracy will be enhanced in a multi-shot scenario; but it is also quite accurate on a per shot basis already. The weight is well-balanced and the size is manageable, making this an excellent home defense and tactical carbine option. Yes, it’s pricey, but if you are looking for something that stands out from the pack, then the Kriss is the obvious choice.
As a company, Kriss has put a lot of effort into working with the shooting community to be proactive about designing weapons that makes sense to the demographic they cater to. They also listen to their customers and respond well to criticism. This has led to hardcore fans of the brand and its portfolio of guns.
- Legitimately innovative, and yet, proven after several years on the market
- Great agility by the company and great response to customer service needs
- A very manageable gun
- Variants that fit in with the regulatory environments of the different states, including California and other difficult states to operate in
- Very reliable
- Good looking and easily customizable
- It’s expensive
- Since their original innovation, their products haven’t been groundbreaking. They’re due for another groundbreaking concept soon
This is best for:
Shooters who have legitimate tactical needs or who want to really utilize the .45 ACP for defensive use. Shooters who want something very suppressible, and easy to handle. Shooters who want a truly unique product.
Other options for the Kriss .45 ACP Carbine
CA Compliant Kriss Vector Gen II CRB
Why this is interesting?
California has a lot of very esoteric laws regarding detachable magazines, barrel lengths, semi-automatic actions and overall length. This model works within the framework of California legalities, and still looks good, functions well and offers a substantially similar performance basis. It’s not as good as the other variants from a holistic performance perspective, and it is more of a rifle than a carine, but it is serviceable.
Kriss Vector Gen II CRB Alpine
Why this is interesting?
The KRISS is already unique. For the generation that grew up in first person shooter video games or have a penchant for the ultra-tactical options, the Alpine White color scheme allows a bit more of the customizability or one-off feeling to the platform. It makes a gun that is rare and super custom for the most part. Very few other shooters will have something as worthy of looks, touches and questions. This is a true conversation piece.Its not applicable for all scenarios, but this kind of factory centric customization gives the customer a notion that the company actually cares about their ability to customize their firearms.
Finding the best .45 ACP Carbine used to be limited to only a couple options, and ultimately consumers felt like they were dealt a specific play in the platform. Now, the field is a robust offering of different guns that allows you to go super traditional, or ultra-modern and both ends of the spectrum contains variants that are reliable, good looking, fun to use and offer the benefits that the .45 carbine has historically offered.
If you want tactical advantage, great on-target capabilities and shoulder-fired control over a potent handgun caliber, the best .45 Carbine is a fantastic choice. So, which one will it be?