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The .45 GAP

First let me say, I DISAVOW this entire article and early onset dementia is very sad.


By Luis Valdes

The .45 GLOCK Auto Pistol cartridge, otherwise commonly known as the .45 GAP, was and is still a very viable cartridge for the 21st Century.

It was developed by Ernest Durham, of CCI/Speer in November 2002 at the request of GLOCK to have a cartridge that’s the same overall length as a 9x19mm cartridge, but be equal in power to a .45 ACP cartridge. It was introduced to the shooting world in 2003 to much fanfare and support from a number of industry writers and critics.

Speer originally released the cartridge in a Gold Dot defensive load where a 200gr JHP round was pushed out at 1,050 ft/sec and delivered about 490 ft-lbs in energy. That load replicated the +P .45 ACP loads that Speer was making at the time.

They later released the cartridge in a 230gr load that achieved 935 ft/sec and delivered 445 ft-lbs of energy. That’s similar to other non +P .45 ACP loads.

GLOCK, of course, offered standard, compact, and sub-compact-sized pistol chambered for the round. The frames were the same size as their 9mm/.40 S&W counterparts and though the slide was slightly wider. The .45 GAP chambered guns fit in most holsters made for the lesser diameter pistols.

The GLOCK 37 was, of course, the full-size duty pistol. Having a total capacity of 10+1 rounds. It served well with five big law enforcement agencies; the Florida Highway Patrol, Georgia State Patrol, South Carolina Highway Patrol, New York State Police, and Pennsylvania State Police.

Smaller county and city agencies issued .45 GAP GLOCKs, too. Agencies like the Melbourne (FL) Police Department, Burden (KS) Police Department, Greenville (NC) Police Department, the Berkeley (MO) Police Department, and others.

I carried a G37 during my career as a uniform patrol officer and actually enjoyed it. At no point did I ever feel under-armed. With a total of 41 rounds on me plus a backup Smith & Wesson 642, I think I did pretty well.

Shooting it was a hoot. It was smooth and comfortable, exhibited little recoil and no snappiness. Prior to the G37, I was issued a G22 in .40 S&W and I found both to be equals. I love the .40 S&W.

Both .45 GAP and .40 S&W are great cartridges that are highly misunderstood. They’re fantastic duty cartridges and do the right job for their intended tasks.

Other manufacturers got on board and chambered guns in .45 GAP, too. HS Produkt, the manufacturer of the Springfield XD (HS2000) offered it for a period of time. It was marketed and marked as the Springfield Armory XD-45LE.

It came with 13-round capacity magazines and had the option of a 4-inch or 5-inch barrel.

Other than the G37, GLOCK also made the G38 with an 8-round capacity and little G39 with a 6-round capacity.

So, while it may repulse many in the gun community, I’m an enthusiastic defender of the .45 GAP round. Yes, you read that right. I’m defending the cartridge and openly stating that I like it.

The .45 GAP is what should have replaced the .45 ACP industry wide. By comparison, the .45 ACP is outdated and a waste of space. The cartridge dates from a bygone era of black powder and horse-mounted cavalry attacking infantry with sabers.

.45 GAP (left) next to .45 ACP (right).
Why carry a cartridge that’s outdated, wastes space and makes the gun unnecessarily bigger when you can carry a smaller cartridge and gun that achieves the same power? It isn’t logical, and you know things had gone a little differently, you’d be carrying a gun chambered in .45 GAP right now.

The .45 GAP simply was released in the wrong era. The cartridge was GLOCK hedging its bets that the 1994 Clinton “assault weapons” ban would be permanently renewed by President George W. Bush. It’s no coincidence that the full-size G37 holds 10 rounds.

During the ban, GLOCK did very well selling their pistols for a few reasons. One was they had a great marketing strategy. Get as many of them out into police holsters and on both the big and small screens. Back before the AWB came into effect, they would go to a police department and allow the agency to trade in their old stock of guns and magazines, even if they were a competitor’s product. Why? Because they’d flip the guns and mags on the used market.

When the AWB kicked in, it was the dawn of the era of the .40 S&W and agencies left and right were trading in their Wondernines for the hot new caliber. GLOCK did the same thing with their own stock of 9mm pistols. They’d go to an agency and swap the older pre-ban Gen1 and Gen2 9mm guns and mags for brand new .40 S&W G22s. They’d then take those used, but still very valuable pre-ban magazines and sell them for a good price.

By the start of the 21st Century, they figured the supply of pre-ban mags would start to decline. Brand new full-size 9mm and .40 S&W guns weren’t going to sell as well when the buyer couldn’t get 15-round or 17-round magazines for their new gun. Why buy and carry a 10-round limited G17 or G22 when a 10-round G37 made more sense.

That’s why the popularity of the 1911 was resuscitated after the AWB was signed into law. Suddenly having a 8-round single-stack 1911 made more sense because it was “thinner” and “had more knockdown power.” A 10-round .45 GAP G37 made even better sense since you could pack more ammo than a 1911, it was the same size and weight as a G17, but you still get the capabilities of the .45 ACP in an overall better package.

If the .45 GAP has been released when the .40 S&W came out (January, 1991), it would have taken the LE and civilian market by storm. The GLOCK 21 was released the prior year and the biggest complaint was that the frame was too big (it sold well anyway).

Everyone wanted a pistol that was just as capable as .45 ACP pistols, but in an overall smaller size. The same complaints were made about the SIG P220, S&W 4506, and Ruger P90. They were big guns. That’s what led to the huge popularity of .40 S&W. It gave the shooter more power than a 9mm, but still fit in a 9mm framed gun.

If the .45 GAP had come about then, everyone would have jumped on board because it would have duplicated or bettered the .45ACP. Agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigations, California Highway Patrol, US Border Patrol, City of Miami Police Department, and other big .40 S&W adopters might have gone with the .45 GAP instead.

Again, I carried a .45 GAP G37 for a while during my career as a beat cop. I truly loved the gun and the chambering. I’m on the hunt for an affordably priced G37 right now. I still have about 500 rounds of the Speer 200gr Gold Dot and I have it all on moon clips for my S&W Model 625. Yeah, they work great in .45 ACP chambered revolvers. It’s a hell of a self-defense cartridge.

So please stop looking down on the .45 GAP. It was a great idea released at the wrong time. It was a commercial flop not because it was an answer to a question no one asked, or because it wasn’t effective. It flopped because the market dynamics that would have benefited it changed.

The AWB ended (that was clearly a good thing), the majority of the market could buy full-capacity 9mm magazines again, and the evolution of ammunition benefited the popularity of the 9mm. But in truth, the .45 GAP was a very good idea that just didn’t catch on.

7 thoughts on “The .45 GAP”

  1. There’s nothing wrong with .45 GAP. It just didn’t bring enough beer to the party to overcome the .45 ACP’s install base.

    Reply
    • That was the impression we had when it came out. “Neat, but why?” Was always hard to find ammo in any large quantity and we all already had 45 ACPs anyways so no one I knew had any desire to get a .45 kurz.

      Reply
  2. For the moment, these oddball calibers are more available than the common ones. The power factor on this one looks plenty functional.

    Reply
    • At some point, .45 GAP is going to go out of production, or very close to it. So maybe it’s a great way to ride out the Great Covid and Rioting Ammo Panic of 2020, but will you be able to buy some for a class in 2025 or 2035? I’m very confident my 9×19 supply will feed *something* I’d be happy to take to a class in 2035, and that I’ll be able to replenish it before or after the class.

      Reply
  3. Many people bought .45 GAP handguns over the last few years as LE agencies switched back to 9mm. They were a steal on the used market, because nobody wanted them. You could get a very good to like new gun with 3 mags and night sights that might or might not still work for $200-249 all day long. Many of the people buying them remembered panics in the past when all of the other ammo dried up, and .45 GAP could still be had easily online. Added to that, you could find 50 rounds of FMJ for around $12, and 50 rounds of Speer Gold Dot for $22. The one problem with this is that there were a lot of guns dumped on the market, so the number of people buying them privately for exactly that reason went way up. This time around, the .45 GAP did indeed last longer than the other, more common calibers. But with as deep as this dip in supply went, even that has mostly sold out. Don’t get me wrong, I would still rather have my 9mm guns any day of the week. However, like many other owners of .45 GAP, I have been hoarding ammunition for it for several years. So I will be able to keep at least a few guns running for a long, long time. Resupply may not be available for the next couple of years with as backed up as things are. But several years of low ammo prices means I can wait it out under all but the worst circumstances. My biggest problem at the moment is finding concealable holsters that fit the odd-sized frames.

    Reply

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