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5 Best .45 Colt AKA “.45 Long Colt” Handguns

Super Redhawk Alaskan edition. Image Credit: Creative Commons.
Super Redhawk Alaskan. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

The term “Colt .45” is so famous, even among non-gun types, that it has practically become a generic label. Indeed, it even became the brand name of a malt liquor immortalized by Billy Dee Williams (you know, Lando Calrissian) in some memorable 1980s TV adverts, as well as part of the title of a raunchy 2001 rap song by artist and Grammy nominee Afroman. 

But for those of us who are gun-savvy, if you’re going to talk about “Colt .45,” we’re going to ask that you please be more specific. Are you talking about the .45 ACP (Automatic Colt Pistol) cartridge, which debuted in 1905? Or are you talking about the .45 Colt, often incorrectly referred to as “.45 Long Colt” — a revolver cartridge that debuted in 1872, back when bullets were still using black powder as opposed to “smokeless” powder? 

Well, seeing how this writer already did writeups on the 5 Best Guns in the former caliber, it’s now time to give the 5 Best Guns in .45 Colt their due.

Colt Single Action Army (SAA) “Peacemaker” 

Might as well start the original gun in the caliber. Known as “The Gun That Won the West,” it officially served as the standard issue sidearm of the U.S. Army from 1873 to 1892. Unofficially it stuck around even longer than that, as late as the Spanish-American War. 

(Ironically, the handgun caliber that the Army chose to replace it was a bona fide “Long Colt,” namely the ill-regarded .38 Long Colt.)

As if all that weren’t enough to earn the gun its place in history, the “Peacemaker” gained even more immortality when it was selected by General George S. Patton as one of his two ivory-handled revolvers. He first used the gun in combat as a young lieutenant on General John “Black Jack” Pershing’s Pancho Villa Expedition of 1916. (The grips were in fact ivory and not pearl. As “Old Blood and Guts” himself clarified, ““Son, only a pimp in a Louisiana whorehouse carries pearl-handled revolvers. These are ivory.”

Thankfully for collectors and weapons history buffs, Colt is still producing the SAA in the present day. MSRP is $1,799.00, and it is currently offered in barrel lengths of 7.5”, 5.5”, 4.75”. 

Colt New Service

One good Colt wheelgun deserves another, and this time we’re going with a double-action (DA). 

Our readers may recall me listing this gun in my September article “Ready, Aim And Fire! 5 Best Colt Handguns On Earth,” at the adamant insistence of my Facebook Friend and fellow gun enthusiast who uses the pseudonym “Winston Wolfe.” The gun was produced in multiple calibers, with .45 Colt being just one, and while Winston’s comments are specifically on the .38 and .44 Special chamberings, you can be confident they carry over to the .45 Colt versions as well:

“The gun is built like a tank.  You can barely see the lines where parts fit together.   Very versatile for military, defensive and hunting uses.  Firing it feels like Airsoft especially with a long 7.5” barrel…Recoil is easily manageable with all calibers it was chambered in.  Excellent accuracy out to 40-50 yards even in stock models. Early on Colt realized it’s a great target platform too.  … Also, New Service was the first large frame to be made into a snubnose.  I own the first one made in 1924… It was also the model that [famed gun writer J. Henry] Fitzgerald himself preferred.  I also own #1 of that…There is really nothing like a New Service.”

The Colt New Service was produced from 1898 until 1941. It’s right up there with other extremely popular Colt firearms like the Woodsman .22 LR autopistol and Detective Special .38 caliber snubnose DA revolver, whose discontinuation makes old-school gun enthusiasts engage in collective head-scratching to this day. 

Colt Anaconda

The DA Anaconda is known first and foremost for its .44 Magnum chambering — Colt’s first such gun in the caliber. It arrived in 1990, was discontinued in 2003, and returned in 2021. However, the gun is also available in .45 Colt. Highly respected largebore revolver guru John Taffin of American Handgunner Magazine states that “The Anaconda is the largest, and probably the best, .45 Colt DA ever produced by Colt.”

Colt Anaconda .44 Magnum. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Yours Truly hasn’t yet fired the .45 Colt Anaconda but did finally get to fire six rounds through the .44 Mag version last week. It was a smooth operator. 

Smith & Wesson Model 25

Since Smith, and not Colt, is actually the oldest of America’s “Big Three” handgun manufacturers, you know they had to get in on the .45 Colt gravy train. Part of the same N-frame (large-frame) series as the famed Model 29 .44 Magnum, Mr. Taffin calls it “as fine a shooting DA .45 Colt as can be found.”

Smith & Wesson Model 25. Image: Creative Commons.

Ruger Redhawk

Y’all knew a certified Ruger fanboy like me would have to include at least one offering of theirs. As with the competing brand Anaconda, the Redhawk is mainly known as a .44 Magnum — and I’m very fond of mine — but their .45 Colt version is also excellent. To quote John Taffin one more time, “If I ever found myself, which at my age isn’t very likely, being outside in all kinds of weather and rough terrain, again, the choice would be easy. I would reach for the 4″ Ruger Redhawk.” 

Christian D. Orr is a Senior Defense Editor for 19FortyFive. He has 34 years of shooting experience, starting at the tender age of 14. His marksmanship accomplishments include: the Air Force Small Arms Ribbon w/one device (for M16A2 rifle and M9 pistol); Pistol Expert Ratings from U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) Criminal Investigator Training Program (CITP); multiple medals and trophies via the Glock Sport Shooting Foundation (GSSF) and the Nevada Police & Fires Games (NPAF). Chris has been an NRA Certified Basic Pistol Instructor since 2011.  In his spare time, he enjoys (besides shooting, obviously) dining out, cigars, Irish and British pubs, travel, USC Trojans college football, and Washington DC professional sports. If you’d like to pick his brain in-person about his writings, chances are you’ll be able to find him at the Green Turtle Pasadena in Maryland on Friday nights, singing his favorite karaoke tunes.

Written By

Christian D. Orr is a former Air Force officer, Federal law enforcement officer, and private military contractor (with assignments worked in Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Kosovo, Japan, Germany, and the Pentagon).