Best Double Stack 45? Reviewing the FN 545 | American Firearms (2024)

We get hands-on with the FN 545: A high-capacity, double-stack .45 ACP pistol with unmatched reliability and ergonomics for serious firepower and precision.

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Best Double Stack 45? Reviewing the FN 545 | American Firearms (2)

Updated

Feb 2024

With a striker-fired answer to the 2011 game that keeps “The Lord’s caliber” at its center, the FN 545 series hits the market with an up to 19-shot capacity in .45 ACP and makes an excellent choice for a lot of users.

I put it through the wringer over the past few months and have finally published a full, unvarnished review for your reading pleasure.

In This Article

1. Overall Score

2. Test Scores

3. Specs

4. At a Glance

5. What Is the FN 545?

6. Who Is It For?

7. Distinctive Features

8. Range Report

9. Things To Love About It

10. Possible Issues

11. What Sets it Apart?

12. Alternatives

Overall Score

Best For

  • High magazine capacity (15+1 and 18+1 options)
  • Optics-ready and suppressor-ready features
  • Excellent ergonomics and recoil management
  • High-quality, ambidextrous design with easy maintenance
  • Superior trigger quality compared to similar models

Considerations

  • Larger size may not be ideal for concealed carry
  • Higher price point compared to competitors like Glock 21 and S&W M&P45
  • Limited aftermarket support for accessories and upgrades
  • Extra magazines are expensive (over $50 each)
  • Lack of a manual safety option could be a downside for some users

Our Verdict

The FN 545 has a feature set that makes it easy to fall in love with the gun if you haven’t already been won over by its top-shelf ergonomics, reliability, and commanding magazine capacity.

While expensive compared to guns like the Glock 21 and S&W M&P45, those guns just pale in comparison when features are stacked, and the FN big bore stands tall.

Test Scores

How’d the FN 545 stack up onour 60-point scale?

Accuracy: 9/10

If you can see it, odds are, you can hit it.

Ergonomics: 9/10

I have shot lots of .45s over the years and the 545 is near the top of the list when it comes to ergonomics on a production gun that delivers manageable recoil and controllable follow-up shots.

Features: 9/10

The FN 545 Tactical is suppressor and optics-ready, ships with two different length/capacity magazines, and has ambi surface controls. The only reason that I didn’t go 10/10 is that there are no manual safety options, which is a feature that some people like, especially in a .45.

Fit & Finish: 9/10

FN should be proud of their build quality.

Reliability: 10/10

Going just under 1,000 rounds drawn from almost a dozen different loads, I only had one documented stoppage, and that occurred while the pistol was suppressed.

Value: 8/10

There is no hiding the fact that the FN 545 is a pricey gun, especially when compared to double-stack striker-fired polymer-framed .45s from Glock and S&W.

However, the features and build quality are obvious, offsetting the cost to a degree. That still does not change the fact that spare magazines start at $50, though.

Specs

Caliber:

45 ACP

Capacity:

15 rounds in the flush fit magazine w/ one in the chamber (18+1 extended included)

Weight:

43 ounces loaded / 31 ounces unloaded no mag

Width:

1.45 inch (widest point over grips)

Barrel:

4.7-inch cold hammer forged steel with 1:16 twist

Height:

6 inches with flush mag / 7.5 with extended

Overall Length:

8.3 inches

Finish:

Black or FDE Desert Tan

Frame material:

Polymer

Sights:

Suppressor-height tritium night sights w/ optics-ready slide with multiple plate footprint options

Safety:

All models have internal drop and trigger safeties.

Grips:

Molded into frame with two interchangeable backstraps

Trigger pull:, 5.5-7.5 advertised (actual was 6.5 pounds on average)

At a Glance

The FN 545 debuted in early 2023 as FN’s new “big bore” twins to the already popular FN 509 family. Whereas the 509 is in 9mm– hence the “09” part of the name– the 545 is stretched to accept the .45 ACP while the sibling FN 510 is in 10mm Auto.

Best Double Stack 45? Reviewing the FN 545 | American Firearms (7)

FN 545 Tactical Profile

The takeaway on the 545 is that it is an optics-ready striker-fired polymer-framed pistol with a double stack magazine that is meant to deliver reliable hard service and serious stopping power from an iconic company that bills its products as the “World’s Most Battle-Proven Firearms.”

What Is the FN 545?

Telling the story of the FN 545 would be weird without mentioning the background of its base platform– the FN 509.

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The FN 509 was their submission to the Army's Modular Handgun System tender. The above is the compact variant in FDE.

Developed in conjunction with advisers drawn from former military special operators with decades of real-world experience down range, the pistol that became the 509 was FN’s submission to the Army’s Modular Handgun System tender that eventually led to the military replacing the Beretta M9 with SIG Sauer’s P230 as the M17 and M18, for better or worse.

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SIG's M17 eventually won the way with the Army.

Designed specifically to stand up to brutal field use in regions as diverse as the arctic, jungle, and desert and still perform, some industry experts felt that FN’s and HK’s submissions were only kept out of runoff for the MHS’s winner’s circle as Glock and SIG had better proposed pricing.

An instant hit when debuted on the commercial market in 2017, the FN 509 has proven itself and has been selected both by military and high-profile police services (with the LAPD, for example), setting it up for further success without the persistent controversy that has haunted some other more successful pistols that won the MHS contract.

FN has made it in dozens of variants and subvariants over the past half-decade and it just made sense to introduce it in other calibers.

Hence the 510 10mm and 545 .45.

Best Double Stack 45? Reviewing the FN 545 | American Firearms (10)

The FN 545 looks like a scaled-up 509, because it largely is.

Scaled up from the FN 509, the 545 looks much like the company’s tried-and-true hammer-fired FNX-45 but in the end feels much better as it has updated ergonomics and striker-fired internals but with a trigger that is noticeably cleaner than that typically seen on the 509 lines.

FN currently markets the 545 series in both a Tactical (covered in this article) and the gently shorter MRD model (which does not have the threaded barrel, extended mags, and tall suppressor-height sights of the Tactical) as well as in both black and FDE colorways. Plus, there are state-complaint (10-round magazine) models as well.

Who Is It For?

The FN 545 is meant for someone who perhaps is already a fan of the .45 ACP caliber (the ongoing debate between it and 9mm continues to rage onward) but wants a more modern platform than the standard hammer-fired single-action 1911s on the market.

It is ideal for both range and personal defense use. When speaking to the latter, it may not be great for use as a concealed carry handgun due to its size but could excel in a home defense scenario, especially in its Tactical variant.

So, in the end, the person best suited for the 545 is someone looking for a rock-solid reliable handgun that holds lots of hard-hitting .45 ACP on tap– the Tactical variant comes with both 15+1 and 18+1 capacity magazines.

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The flush (top) mag gives the user 15+1, while the extended mag (bottom) ups the ante to 18+1.

Distinctive Features

Fit & Feel

FN has a well-deserved reputation for shipping good-feeling and well-crafted guns going back to the 1880s. My test 545 upheld that tradition. Plus, it has a fully ambidextrous slide stop lever and magazine release that work without issue.

Best Double Stack 45? Reviewing the FN 545 | American Firearms (12)

The FN 545 has a fully ambidextrous slide stop lever and magazine release that work without issue.

Grip

The 545 has what FN bills as an “enhanced” grip texture that is 360 degrees and, with the well-thought-out balance to the gun, really dampens the recoil and allows easy control. Even though it is a double-stack .45, the grip is thin compared to some of the competition out there– for instance, the Glock 21.

Best Double Stack 45? Reviewing the FN 545 | American Firearms (13)

The 360 degree grip balances control and comfort, and includes two interchangeable backstraps for customization.

This is further enhanced by two extra interchangeable backstraps that ship with the gun to adjust that grip a little more. I’ve shot lots of .45s over the years and the 545 is near the top of the list when it comes to a production gun with manageable recoil and controllable follow-up shots.

Barrel

The 545 Tac ships standard with a 4.71-inch cold hammer-forged extended threaded (.578″x28 to mount compensators and suppressors) barrel that is target-crowned for accuracy. For better reliability, it has a polished feed ramp and chamber.

FN is well-known for its barrels– they not only manufacture their own in-house but also crank out barrels for many other rifle and pistol makers as well– and they are good at it.

Trigger

FN terms the trigger used on the 545 as “Target-grade” and I found it to break clean at around 6.5 pounds on average against their advertised pull weight range of 5.5-to-7.7 pounds.

Best Double Stack 45? Reviewing the FN 545 | American Firearms (14)

The 545 trigger feels similar to, but is superior than, the typical trigger we've come across on FN 509s or Gen 5 Glocks while falling short of guns such as the Walther PDP.

In terms of comparison, it feels similar to, but is superior than, the typical trigger we’ve come across on FN 509s or Gen 5 Glocks while falling short of guns such as the Walther PDP.

Best Double Stack 45? Reviewing the FN 545 | American Firearms (15)

While the 545 comes close, Walther's PDP is still top of the trigger heap from our perspective.

Slide

The machined steel slide on the FN 545 Tactical is hallmark FN, with large “ears” protecting the rear sight. This assembly can be removed if opting to run a micro red dot, however.

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The slide's removable "ears" protect the rear sight.

Speaking to ergos, the slide has extremely aggressive front and rear co*cking serrations, while a loaded chamber indicator gives the user a head’s up (and meets some state requirements).

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There are serrations a 'plenty on the 545 slide.

There is plenty of friction on the serrations to work the slide, even when wet.

Sights

The sights on the FN 545 Tactical are great, being drift-able steel front and rears dovetailed directly into the slide. Suppressor-height, they should co-witness with most micro reflex dot optics and include Tritium lamp vials for use in low-light situations. I found them to stand out in any condition.

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Optic plates and instructions

When going to optics, FN ships the 545 series with a series of four plates and more than a dozen screws and accessories to make the pistol work with Leupold Delta Point Pro, Trijicon RMR/SRO, Docter, Vortex Venom/Viper/Razor, Holosun 507/508, C-More STS2, and Burris footprints.

That’s impressive as a lot of pistol makers (Beretta) don’t send any while others (Glock) just send one or two, so you’ll have no issue mounting your favorite red dot sight.

Safeties

The FN 545 has four internal passive safety systems: (1) a striker block; (2) drop safety (3) a trigger disconnect; and (4) a trigger safety lever, to prevent the pistol from firing unless the trigger is pulled, and the slide and barrel are in the locked (in battery) position.

FN has eight different 545 SKUs currently listed in production and all are “NMS” which means there is currently not a variant that comes with a manual active safety lever.

Range Report

In all, I have put just under 1,000 rounds through our FN 545 across more than four months of testing and evaluation. It shoots well and is dependable. I tested it with steel, nickel, and brass-cased ammo from no less than 11 manufacturers including 200-grain round nose, 230-grain FMJ, and 185-grain JHPs.

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10-yard performance was fantastic.

The bulk of what I shot was Federal American Eagle bulk pack AE45, Sellier & Bellot SB45, and Norma red box, all 230-grain FMJs in the 800-fps range. The worst failures to report were a few times that the slide failed to lock back on an empty magazine and one FTE experienced while running it suppressed with a Rugged Obsidian 45 can attached.

Speaking to accuracy, I had no problem ringing every size steel plate set up in our action shooting bay between 10 and 25 yards.

On paper with silhouette targets, the superb sights and excellent ergos combined to deliver center mass performance.

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Taking things back to 15-yards was still a treat

Things To Love About It

The FN 545 has a decent trigger and lots of high-quality features, especially with the Tactical model that I have reviewed. It is suppressor and optics-ready, with the latter having a ton of options open right out of the box without having to hunt down plates. Maintenance is a snap and the pistol field strips easily.

A well-machined pistol with an eye for reliability, it worked and ate through everything I fed it and is comfortable to shoot and easy to shoot well.

Possible Issues

In a couple of words, like other big bore pistols, the FN 545 is just big. This is something that any double-stack .45 is going to fight against. While the gun does a good deal of mitigating its inherent size– it does a better job than the Glock 21, for instance– it is still a chunky gun, especially with its ambi controls.

This could make it tough to carry comfortably and relegate it to more of a range and home gun than an EDC. Plus, besides the fact that holsters are hard to find, extra mags are pricey, at over $50 a pop. Speaking of price, the FN 545 is on the expensive side, coming in at right around $1K as the “good price.”

What Sets it Apart?

It is an ambidextrous 18+1 capacity .45 ACP that is available in FDE and is both suppressor and optics-ready, something that I am not sure anyone else has on the market. Plus, it feels ready for anything and performs well enough that it could be the “go-to” option for fans of the caliber.

Upgrades

Unfortunately– and this is a problem with all FN pistols– there is little aftermarket support for these guns. While people like Apex have been venturing into accessories and triggers for the FN 509 series in the past couple of years, their offerings for the FN 545 are limited. The story is much the same for holsters and magazines.

Alternatives

Glock 21

When looking at other double-stack striker-fired .45s on the market, the Glock 21 easily comes to mind.

While the G21 has been around since 1990, it just recently was given the Generation 5 treatment. Although it comes in at a few hundred bucks cheaper than the FN 545, even the Gen 5 G21 doesn’t come anywhere close to having the same features or magazine capacity.

S&W M&P45 M2.0

Likewise, the Smith & Wesson M&P45 M2.0, which unlike the G21 is available in a threaded-barreled option, only has a 10+1 capacity while being almost the same size.

Best Double Stack 45? Reviewing the FN 545 | American Firearms (2024)

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