Right now one of the most popular choices in personal-defense firearms is the polymer-framed, striker-fired semi-auto pistol. Modern designs of this handgun type have proven to be lightweight, easy to operate and reliable. Introduced in 2007, Ruger's line of SR semi-autos, such as the SR9 and SR40, has become a popular choice for modern pistol owners. This year the company is adding an eagerly anticipated version of this pistol chambered in the all-American .45 ACP, aptly named the SR45.
One trait that makes the SR pistol series likable right out of the box is the styling. I heard one shooting expert call a particularly famous line of striker-fired pistols "soul-less guns." Needless to say, plenty of plastic pistols, while reliable, aren't exactly easy on the eyes. The SR45, on the other hand, is a two-tone semi-auto showing sleek lines with some thoughtful touches.
Like the other SR pistols I've handled, the fit and finish of the SR45 was top notch. The slide is rounded (not square) with polished flats and a satin top. The muzzle end of the slide is nicely curved and cut. A loaded chamber indicator on the top of the slide provides both visual and tactile indicators when a cartridge is in the pipe. The blued-steel Novak sights are of the three-dot variety with an adjustable rear sight. The stainless-steel barrel is 4.5-inches, with traditional six land-and-groove rifling that will work with all bullet types, including cast lead.
Removing the slide reveals a recoil assembly consisting of a flat-wire spring captured on a polymer guide rod by a metallic rod base. The slide rides on aluminum rail support blocks molded into the high-performance, glass-filled nylon grip frame. The trigger and ambidextrous magazine release are also nylon. The external safeties of the SR45 include a trigger safety and an ambidextrous thumb safety. The thumb safety blocks both the slide and trigger from cycling.
Translating a successful pistol design to accommodate a larger caliber is not always a successful process when it comes to handling qualities. For those with smaller hands, holding a double-stack .45 can feel like squeezing a 2x4. Although dimensional changes to the SR45 frame were necessary, Ruger did a good job of keeping the pistol's grip shape hand friendly.
Rather than fattening the grip to brick-like proportions to accommodate a 13- or 14-round magazine, this one was slimmed down to a comfortable 10-round capacity. The top of the grip frame is rounded with a generous beavertail extension to protect the shooting hand from slide bite. The grip is checkered on the front and sides for positive purchase. Half-moon dimples, extending from the magazine release to the opening of the magazine well on each side of the grip make it feel even slimmer. The back strap is a soft rubber strip that can be removed and flipped over to give the user a choice between a straight backstrap, similar to a 1911, or a bit of a palm swell.
At the shooting range, the SR45’s grip design, barrel length and 30.15 ounces of weight worked together to keep the muzzle flip controllable. The pistol reliably fed, fired and ejected a variety of practice- and defense-grade .45 ACP loads. The reliability needed for a defensive pistol was right where it needed to be. Formal accuracy testing, conducted from the bench at 25 yards, kept five-shot group sizes right at the 2.5- to 3-inch mark, demonstrating solid accuracy as well.
The ambidextrous magazine release is a good size and can be reliably operated from the right or left side with either a thumb or index finger. The slide stop and thumb safety are sleek and small, especially if you are used to the boat-paddle shaped safety of a modern 1911. Although the thumb safety was easy to disengage with a downward sweep of the shooting hand thumb, it was fairly tough to re-engage in the same manner. Again, 1911-ers may not like it much.
The trigger proved to be quite good, but a bit different from what might be expected in a striker-fired pistol. It was smooth and grit-free in its operation, tipping the digital trigger gauge at 6 pounds, 8 ounces. This would be a bit heavy for this kind of gun except for its relatively short travel distance and crisp break. What makes it unusual is the lack of play in the trigger. Many pistol triggers can be pulled part way through their arch of travel and then released without the gun firing. Some shooters prefer this freedom of movement in case a “shoot” scenario suddenly changes to a “no shoot” situation. With the SR45, the trigger starts right at the break point. This means that once the short trigger stroke begins, the gun goes off. This trigger design resulted in easier accuracy at the range, but it would need to be treated like a light single-action trigger in the field.
Since the SR45 is a duty-size pistol with more than an inch of tactical rail space, it provided a good opportunity to test drive the new TLR-2 HL laser/light module from Streamlight. The HL in the name stands for high lumen, and they're not kidding. The C4 LED technology combined with a TIR optic produces a concentrated 630 lumen beam. A toggle switch allows the user to switch quickly between this blinding light source, a bright 640-660nm red laser or to use both at the same time. Two 3-volt CR123 lithium batteries keep the light running for 1.25 hours, or the laser only for up to 45 hours.
As accurate and reliable as this pistol, caliber and laser/light combo proved to be, it may seem too big for concealed carry. The good news is that Springtac Holsters continues to expand its holster systems for accessorized handguns. Springtac recently released a modular shoulder holster harness that not only makes it possible to carry a full-size gun with a laser/light unit attached, but to do so painlessly as well. The harness supports Springtac’s 3 inch and 5 inch standard belt holsters. The holster just snaps into place. A stiff support arm located under the holster transmits much of the pistol's weight to the user’s belt, which significantly reduces the pressure on the neck and shoulders. This system is fully ambidextrous and can be configured to support one pistol, a pistol and spare magazines or two pistols. It was surprisingly comfortable to wear for extended periods of time.
Ever since the first SR 9 mm pistol hit the market a few years ago, customers have been asking for a version in .45 ACP. The SR45 does not disappoint. The accuracy is better than one would expect from an off-the-shelf polymer-frame pistol, and the SR45 proved to be reliable with a variety of ammunition. The attention to ergonomic and cosmetic details makes this a .45 that is merciful to aesthetic sensibilities as well as to shooter's hands and wrists. The SR45 is a solid defensive option for both seasoned shooters and those who are just getting started.