Though some time back, we reviewed the Ruger American Compact 9mm pistol, today we are looking at the American Compact .45 ACP. The Compact 9mm was a winner in my book. Ruger hit it out of the ballpark. My oldest daughter fell in love with it and had to have one of her own, though she hasn’t bought a new gun in at least eight years. My name was on the list for the American Compact in .45 ACP. So not too long ago, I finally got my sample for testing.
The 9mm and .45 ACP compact models are very similar in size and most dimensions. However, here’s the .45 ACP specs, just the same. The sample I requested was the Pro model, which has no manual external safety lever. The frame is black polymer, and the slide is stainless steel. However, it is black in color (Nitride) and has a nice, tactical look to it. It comes with the combat three white dot sight set-up, which is very fast to pick up under stress. There is also a Picatinny rail on the dust cover for mounting lights or lasers. The barrel is 3.75 inches long, which is slightly longer than the 9mm barrel. The gun weighs only 28.6 ounces, so it’s easy to carry all day long. I carried it for two weeks in a Blackhawk Products leather holster. The fit was perfect.
Trigger and Feel
The trigger itself has a short take up before firing and positive reset, which you can feel. It also has that safety lever in the middle of the trigger. The gun won’t/can’t fire until you have your finger on the trigger applying pressure to that little lever. The gun also comes with three different back straps, so you can get the gun to fit you hand. I installed the small one and never thought about replacing it because it felt great in my hand. And, as expected, the gun is built for sustained firing of +P .45 ACP ammo.
Ruger has what they call a recoil reducing barrel cam, which is the same thing they have on the 9mm version. The low mass slide and low center of gravity supposedly help reduce felt recoil. As with the 9mm version, I didn’t actually notice if the recoil was reduced or not. Then again, I shoot handguns of all calibers every week, and I don’t find the 9mm or .45 ACP handguns punishing at all in the recoil department.
There is a full-time ambi slide and magazine release, so there’s no need to switch them from side-to-side on the gun. Two Teflon nickel coated magazines are included with each gun—one is the compact mag that holds seven rounds, and the other is the 10-rd mag that has a sleeve on it. This is the same mag that Ruger uses in the full-sized American .45 ACP handgun. I was hoping, really hoping, that Ruger could have found a way to make that compact magazine hold eight rounds instead of seven.
Speaking of the magazines, they have a stout spring. And with the Teflon-nickel coating, they are a little bit slick in the hand when loading them. The last round in the 7- and 10-round mags were a little tough to get into the magazines. The 7-rd mag has a pinky catcher floor plate, so your pinky finger isn’t left dangling under the magazine.
With the massive external extractor there are no worries about a shell getting stuck in the chamber. The rear sides of the slide have serrations, for a sure grip when chambering a round , which is very nice indeed. And the entire gun has what we used to call the melted treatment—no sharp edges or corners to catch on clothing or holsters. The top rear of the barrel has a hole in it, so you can visually look and see if there is a piece of brass in the chamber or not. It was too small for my old eyes to see if there was brass in the chamber or not. Still, it’s a nice touch and is required by some states, if you want to sell handguns in those states.
Easy Take Down for Cleaning and Maintenance
The take down, for cleaning and maintenance, is simple. Just remove the magazine. Make sure there isn’t a round in the chamber, lock the slide back, rotate the take-down lever, and grasp the slide and release it slowly. Then, when the slide is removed, you can take out the recoil spring, guide rod, and the barrel. It’s a piece of cake to do.
Built Strong and Priced Right
As I’ve stated many times, I’ve always considered Ruger firearms, at least most of them, to be for the blue collar worker. They are priced right, more than right. And best of all, they are built like a tank. Many say Ruger handguns are over-engineered. That might be, but I don’t have a problem with a strongly built handgun, even if I have to give up an ounce or two more in weight.
At times, I have more than a few friends who are willing to help me “test” some firearms. Who doesn’t like shooting new guns when the ammo is free? So, during my testing of the American Compact .45 ACP I had several helpers run this gun through its paces. Even my wife and oldest daughter were more than happy to help out. The wife enjoys it when I load magazines for her. Go figure.
Test Ammo Used
I had a great selection of .45 ACP ammo to run through the Ruger, too. From the nice folks at Black Hills Ammunition, I had the following: 200-gr Match Semi Wadcutter, 230-gr FMJ, 230-gr JHP, 230-gr JHP +P, and 185-gr Barnes TAC-XP all-copper hollow point +P. From the kind folks at Buffalo Bore Ammunition, I had their 160-gr Barnes TAC-XP all copper hollow point, low recoil standard pressure, 255-gr Outdoorsman Hard Cast FN +P, 230-gr FMJ FN +P, 200-gr JHP +P, 160-gr Barnes TAX-XP all-copper hollow point, low flash +P, and the same in 185-gr. So, there was an outstanding selection of .45 ACP ammo on hand for all to shoot.
In all my testing, I ran well over 500 rounds though the Ruger with zero malfunctions. There was not even a hint of a problem. And, it dawned on me that I didn’t lube the gun. It just had the oil that was on the gun from the factory. But, even with just that, the gun ran fine.
Accuracy Test Results
Accuracy testing was conducted using a rolled up sleeping bag that I keep in my emergency box. I placed it over the hood of my pickup truck. The target was at 25 yards. I was surprised by the little Ruger American Compact .45ACP. The best group of the day was 2½ inches with the Buffalo Bore 160-gr Barnes TAC-XP low recoil load. Keep in mind that this is a compact sized gun. Everything else, and I mean every round, was hovering right about three inches, if I did my part. I believe, with more practice and if I’m on my game 100%, I could get that group down to about two inches even. WOW!
Final Review Results
Everyone who shot the Ruger American absolutely loved it. And the accuracy was match-grade, if you ask me. The only complaint came from me. For some reason, the gun just didn’t seem to “balance” quite right in my hand. It’s hard to explain, but it’s one of those things that you have to experience yourself. However, the good news is, like I said, everyone else raved about the gun. And my minor complaint, well, it’s just that—very minor. And with more shooting, I might find that the gun balances better than I thought.
It’s hard to beat a compact .45 ACP pistol that has a full retail of only $579 and can be found discounted, if you shop around. This is a dandy pistol for self defense on the mean streets or out in the boonies. Stoke it with some of the Buffalo Bore 255-gr Outdoorsman +P loads and it will sure protect your bacon from some mean four-footed creatures. Load the gun with some good 185-200 grain JHP loads and it’ll take care of two-legged threats. You get this all in a nice, neat package. Plus, you can carry spare magazines with ten rounds in them. What’s not to like here?
– Senior Product Review Editor, Pat Cascio
I had a Ruger American .45 1 year ago. Felt great, accurate enough for me. In the first 200 rd there were 20 failures: magazine dropped out, failure to feed, stovepipes. Sent it back, they promptly fixed it. Next 200 rounds 8 failures. Sent it back, they fixed it again. Next 200 rounds, 8 failures. Got a refund. I’ve shot many other Rugers for 40 years without a problem but I would never depend on that pistol for self defence. I usually shoot one of several 1911 mods, a glock 21 or a sig 226.