The Battle of the American .45 ACP Pistols Part II – Mid to Late 90s edition.

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By Luis Valdes

Fire up your $5k Gateway Solo 2200 laptop and open up Netscape Navigator.

We’re going on another trip back through time!  

We originally looked at two .45 ACP battle it out, the Smith & Wesson Model 645 and the Colt 1991A1 Government Model. But those were two guns available in the early 90s.

Today, we’re going to look at two other guns that were more popular during the mid to late 90s. One is the a made by a self proclaimed champion of Working Class Americans and the other is a made by a company that has a long history and has been there from the start of cartridge firing firearms from the most part.

We’re going to look at the Ruger Model P90DC and the Smith & Wesson Model 4566. Both are single stack, DA/SA, hammer fired, metal framed handguns chambered in .45 ACP. Both are no longer produced and both have a loyal fan base. Lastly, both are in my safe. 

I covered the Ruger P90DC earlier in two articles already. So it shouldn’t be a new subject matter. I even covered how it was a favorite of gun writer Massad Ayoob. As previously mentioned, this gun was Ruger’s entry into the .45 ACP Semi-Auto Market. It was an affordable pistol made from castings instead of forgings. Some look negatively on such a method of manufacturing. The the reality is this. Ruger knows what they’re doing. Their Pine Tree casting facility is bar none one of the best in the industry. They’ve made frames, slides, and parts for a number of other big names in the industry. So the fact that the P90DC is made from casting in no way means it is a “weak gun”.

  The S&W Model 4566 is Big Blue’s answer to the Colt 1911 Commander Model. They took the streamlined Model 4506-1 and chopped a little bit off the barrel making it easier to carry everyday.

Here is my Model 4506-1 and Model 645. The guns that the Model 4566 traces its design from. The biggest issue both of those guns had was the 5″ barrel made sitting in a patrol car uncomfortable. The longer barrel would dig into the seat and lift the hip, causing discomfort and just tearing up vinyl car seats.

Both guns are solid hunks of American steel and chambered in .45 ACP of course. Both have similar mags too. 8rds in capacity, stainless steel mag bodies with plastic floor plates.

Both have fixed three dot sights, though the 4566’s sights are Novak low profile combat sights while the P90DC’s sights are more traditional.

The P90DC’s sight will allow you to do a “tactical slide rack”. Since the sights stand up vertically, they can be placed against a firm surface like the edge of a table and you can rack the slide if your weak hand was disabled. Is it really a nifty thing? Kinda I guess.

The front sights aren’t bad on either gun. In the end, I can see both pretty well. Both take apart in a similar fashion.

The 4566 breaks down into six parts plus the magazine. The recoil guide rod is very touchy and loves to eject itself into orbit. Also, you have to be careful putting the slide back onto the frame. The little control levers that work with the slide stick up and if you don’t lower them to allow the slide to pass over, you can actually damage them.

The P90DC breaks down into five main parts plus the magazine. The slide stop lever is captured and the recoil spring and guide rod aren’t like what you get in Big Blue’s 4566. The recoil guide rod does not get launch into outer space. So count that as a point for the Ruger.

The 4566 has a safety/decocker and it is ambidextrous. So you southpaws get something. Also, the 4566 has slide serrations, something Ruger decided not to do on the P90DC.

This particular P90DC is not ambidextrous. Ruger did make the regular P90 and the P90DC with a ambidextrous safety/decocker lever setup. But this one wasn’t. But it is a spring loaded decocker only. So you don’t have to worry about the safety being inadvertently engaged like what can happen with the 4566. So count that as a counter point for the Ruger. 

So we’re still tied at the moment. What’s going to break this stalemate? Worthless opinion from your truly, that’s what!

With the last comparison, I primarily looked at cost and the fact that the Model 645 was a DA/SA gun and in my opinion that is beneficial for police work. But since both guns are DA/SA. That isn’t as much of a factor to consider either. So in my opinion, what makes the Ruger or S&W the winner of this battle?

Since I mentioned cost; we know that the P90DC can mark off that check box. Also the fact that the P90DC is a decocker only model gives it another point. While the S&W is a more refined gun and I am honestly a HUGE FAN of them. Trust me… you’ll soon see. The Ruger as a police duty gun has all the right check boxes marked off.

  1. It is an affordable pistol. Even today, it is pretty damn cheap compared to a 4566. Back then, more so. The P90DC was must more affordable than the 4566. 
  2. Ruger had and has amazing factory support. Both guns were made around the same time but Big Blue doesn’t really support the entire 3rd Generation line anymore. Ruger will still support the P90. Back then, Ruger was on the ball with Customer Service. But S&W wasn’t a slouch either. For their LE Contracts, they rolled out the red carpet. 
  3. While this particular model is not ambidextrous with the decocker control levers. The P90 and P90DC was made as such. You can even reverse the magazine release button on the P90DC to make it more lefty friendly. 

So with those facts. Today and especially in the mid to late 1990s. If I had decide on which one would grace my duty belt and had to pick between the two. I’d go with the S&W Model 4566. But if I were an agency bean counter and needed to equip a whole gaggle of cops. I’d give a slight advantage to the P90DC since it is affordable. While mine is a righty friendly only gun. They all weren’t like that. So the Ruger P90DC wins by a very small margin.

If money were no object though, I’d go with something like my West Virginia State Police contract 4566TSW though…. the WVSP gun would wins hand down.

3 COMMENTS

  1. I carried a 4506 as my first duty weapon as a “top man.” We have since switched to Glocks. Man, that 4506 was a huge chunk of steel. I really liked the heft of it. Some of the females had trouble with such a big gun though. Thanks for the memories.

  2. Ruger have an absolute gift for making butt ugly handguns. It’s odd, because their rifles are generally pleasing to the eye.

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