Heizer's PK045

.45 ACP In A 9mm Package!
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Heizer’s PK045 (here with extended magazine) puts .45 ACP power into a true pocket-sized auto.
This is a two-tone version. Photo: Rob Jones/The Imagesmith LLC

It may seem impossible, but here it is. A semi-auto in .45 ACP about the same size as a 9mm compact. The design is brilliant, and the materials and workmanship outstanding. The felt-recoil is not as bad as you might think, either. And, the suggested-retail price is about a hundred dollars less than a thousand.

It’s the Heizer PK045. Here at the start, I want to give credit to the design team: Charles Heizer, Tom Heizer and Hedy Heizer-Gahn. Here’s an illustration of their fine attention to small details: In all auto-pistols, when the slide locks open after the last shot, the engagement of the slide latch with its notch in the slide is rather violent.

The slide latch is tempered to a greater degree of hardness than the slide. This has to be, or the slide might break during recoil. So, at the engagement point, the designers of the PK045 set into the slide a small block of hardened steel, solving the problem forever. Thus, hard slide latch meets hardened slide notch.

Smart designers also look to the past. Did anyone ever do this, and did it work? Heizer went all the way back to 1907 and Nicolas Pieper of Belgium. His Bayard pistol, a very small .380 Auto, positioned the recoil spring above the barrel, an unusual arrangement, but this had two good points.

It put the barrel, and the bore axis, closer to the hand. And, it allows the recoil spring to run the full length of the top. This avoided the necessity of using a short and strong spring, making slide retraction difficult. The PK045 has both of these advantages.

Another design feature also affects the felt-recoil. At the upper rear of the grip-frame, there’s a deep incurve, its depth slightly more than one inch. This sets the whole rear of the top out, onto the hand. Along with the other factors mentioned, this modifies the felt-recoil. What you get is a strong “push” along with what I would call a “bounce” — the whole thing goes upward.

The backstrap overhangs the hand helping to manage recoil. Note the forward “grip safety” on the frontstrap.
Photo: Rob Jones/The Imagesmith LLC

The Heizer PK045, shown with the extended (7-round) magazine and the GripSwell glove.
J.B. said the glove is handy if you’re practicing and eases the snap of the .45 nicely.

Good Thinking

The controls are well-placed. The sear-block manual safety is at upper rear, with levers on both sides. The slide latch is next, left side only, easy to operate. Next down and forward is the magazine-release button, not reversible. Below, on the front-strap, a small grip-safety lever blocks the trigger until you grip it.

The trigger is wide and smooth, with no silly flipper-safety. On the Lyman electronic gauge, the pull on my gun averaged 6.5 lbs., just right for a personal defense pistol. There’s a tiny amount of trigger take-up, a clean break and practically no over-travel. The front of the trigger-guard is rounded, and there’s a small rail up front for a light or laser.

The PK045 is made entirely of Aerospace Stainless steel and the all-black finish on the one shown here is durable PVD. There’s no separate grip panels but the frame sides are textured in a circular pattern giving a good hold. The PK045 is not striker-fired — there’s a pivoting hammer inside. And, good, deep slide serrations make retraction easy.

On a smaller self-defense pistol, I think sights are of less importance. Heizer sees it differently. These are excellent. Both are dovetail-mounted, so windage-adjustment is possible. They are three-dot, square-picture, with fiber-optic inserts. Red at the rear, white-circled green at the front. Really visible, even in low light.

The manual safety is shown off-safe. The hardened contact-insert in the slide
for the slide latch is the small square silver bit in the slide rail.

Shooting: Ouch Or Not?

Getting ready to try out the PK045 at the range, I knew a fixed-barrel unlocked .45 would have some substantial felt-recoil. In deference to the bones of my right hand, which have served me well for 80-plus years, I got out my GripSwell gloves. They are padded in the right places and made of fine goatskin.

I fired a few rounds of high-performance stuff, just to see if the PK045 would handle them and it did, just fine. All of the target work was with regular full-jacketed loads. As for the felt-recoil, it was just as described earlier, a “push” and a “bounce.” On the target, three quick shots puts the first well-centered, the second about 4" up, and the third near the top edge, out of the rings. The best slow-fired group was about 4", done at 15 yards. I think the gun will easily do better than that. I’ll just have to practice with it a bit more.

The flat-floorplate magazine holds five rounds, and the extended one holds two more. Obviously, the extension gives a better grip, with a little less concealability.

Takedown for cleaning is easy. Restrain the recoil spring guide rod at the front, turn the latch lever up, take it out, and ease out the guide and spring. You have, of course, previously cycled the slide and removed the magazine.

The slide can now be taken off toward the rear. If you count the spring and guide as a unit, you have only five parts. Reassembly is just as easy, with one small extra. When putting the slide back on the frame, you must use a small tool to depress the cocked hammer so the slide can go over it.

The Heizer PK045 field-stripped into four components, not counting the 5-round magazine.

The barrel is below the recoil spring. Note the very thin (0.8") thickness. Photo: Rob Jones/The Imagesmith LLC

The Numbers

The PK045 weighs an empty 28 oz. A Walther PPK/S .380 weighs about 24 oz. for comparison. Overall length is 6.1". Height, with the short magazine, is 4.2" and with the extended mag, 5". Barrel is a tidy 2.7". The awesome flatness is a width of only 0.8"!

For the PK045 shown here, figure $899 into the gun-buying budget. Considering the quality and brilliant design, that’s not bad. For those made uneasy by the idea of a .45 this small and light, I believe there will be a 9mm version. We’ll lay hands on it when we can.

A final note, too. For practice, put on that GripSwell glove. In a serious encounter you won’t notice the recoil, but for practice, I promise it makes the experience more enjoyable!

For more info: Heizer Defense LLC, www.heizerdefense.com, Ph: (888) 965-0972; GripSwell Gloves, www.gripswell.com, Ph: (714) 379-9413

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