Old School Cool: Smith & Wesson's Model 645 and 745 Second Generation .45 Autos


Big Blue’s Model 645 & Model 745 .45 ACP Automatics.

Believe it or not, back in the day Smith & Wesson made guns that weren’t 1911s or striker fired M&Ps. Big Blue was actually pretty innovative in their designs and they had a hell of a 9mm DA/SA design that was picked up back in 1968 by the Illinois State Police.

Illinois State Police checking out the S&W Model 39 in 9mm.

Smith even dabbled in the .45 ACP cartridge too, going all the way back with their Hand Ejector M1917 double action .45 back during the Great War.

My WWI Vintage S&W Model 1917 in .45 ACP.

But they didn’t have an automatic and that angered Tom Campbell. He was an engineer and competitive shooter for Big Blue. Back then, the competitive shooting scene had everyone using a Colt 1911.

Smith & Wesson wasn’t happy that their guy was using a competitor’s design. So S&W let him design a .45 auto pistol. He came up with five-inch DA/SA upsized version of the Model 439 chambered in .45 ACP. Campbell call his prototype the Supergun.

Tom Campbell shooting the prototype Supergun around 1983 at a competition.

As Campbell kept winning matches, the number crunchers in accounting and sales started to figure out that they could market the design and make some money. Thus was born the Smith & Wesson Model 645 in 1985.

American Handgunner July/August 1986 issue where Col. Jeff Cooper reviews the gun.
Big Blue’s first .45 Automatic oozed 100% Americana. This gun was stainless steel and chambered in .45 ACP.

This gun screamed 1980s Reaganomics. Stainless steel, chambered in big boy .45 ACP and so rad it starred in Miami Vice as Crockett’s main gun for two seasons.

Crockett aiming his S&W 645 alongside Tubbs with his S&W Model 36 in the season four episode titled “Contempt of Court”.

Even Smith pushed the pistol’s cool factor in their advertisements for the gun.

The ad speaks for itself in what S&W was trying to cash in on.

The Model 645 was an eight-round DA/SA semi built along the then-traditional layout of the S&W Automatic. It’s field stripped in a similar fashion to the 1911.

The controls were the traditional layout of the S&W Automatic with a slide-mounted safety/decocker, 1911 inspired slide stop lever and magazine release button.

The safety lever was ambidextrous and you can see the overall Browning inspired layout of the gun.

So while the Smith & Wesson had a hit on their hands for a duty gun, they still needed to compete in the professional shooting leagues and that DA/SA trigger didn’t lend itself to the shooting styles of the time. So, in 1986 the Model 745 was born.

The 745 was a single action only variant of the Model 645. The gun was made before the creation of the Smith Performance Center but the gun was still something different than a bog standard Model 645.

You can see the biggest different is the blued carbon steel slide.

The most notable cosmetic change from the 645 was the blued side for that classic two-tone look. The oversized magazine release and the longer safety lever were more competition-friendly.

The gun is taken down exactly the same way as the Model 645.

Both guns use the same barrel, magazine, slide stop lever, and numerous other parts. One other difference is the prototype Novak rear sight. The enlarged safety lever is only a safety, it isn’t a decocker.

The 745 can be carried cocked and locked. Since the safety lever is longer, the left grip panel has a relief cut to allow the longer lever to move unhindered.

The right side of the slide has a gold filled engraving marking the 10th anniversary of the founding of IPSC.

They later made a batch without the engraving, but the first year production guns were made this way.

You can also see that the safety is only on the left side of the slide and the 745 has a trigger overtravel screw, too.

Overall, the Model 745 has a slick handling SAO trigger. But for folks who are 1911 shooters, the safety is counterintuitive since it’s down for safe and up to fire.

The sights on both guns are adequate for the era. You can see how the prototype Novak sight was later downsized and improved.

745 on the left, 645 on the right.

You can also see the difference between the trigger assembly for DA/SA and SAO.

745 on top, 645 on the bottom.

Another big difference is the fact that there is no magazine disconnect safety on the 745. You can drop the hammer with the magazine removed.

The Model 645 was produced from 1985 to 1988 and the Model 745 from 1986 to 1990. Less than 8,000 Model 745s were ever made. They’re not exactly common, even amongst S&W collectors.

So if you want to recreate that Miami Vice feel, you’ll want to snag a Model 645.

If you want something a little more exotic, get the Model 745.

 



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