One of the pinnacles of Bill Ruger's firearm design legacy was his P-series pistols that came just a few months too late to win a huge military contract. One of the last of that series to hit the market was a rugged and beefy Commander-sized .45ACP single stack that just didn't get enough love.
In 1985 Ruger debuted their P-85 pistol, an investment cast aluminum framed pistol with a carbon steel slide and stainless internals. Made in a traditional double-action/single-action (DA/SA) semi-auto with a SIG-style lockup and M1911-style titling barrel (but without the bushing) the guns were modern, high-capacity (15+1 rounds of 9mm) used ambi surface controls, and, due to the manufacturing process, fairly inexpensive.
Designed to compete against S&W, Sig, Beretta and others in the 1981-83 Joint Service Small Arms Program, which was looking for a 9mm to replace the military's legacy WWII-era stocks of M1911A1 pistols, the gun was not ready in time and the Beretta 92 was in turn adopted in 1984.
Nevertheless, Ruger went public with its P-85 and it was soon a hit with those seeking a reliable modern handgun as well as a good number of police agencies. It was soon expanded into other calibers such as the .45ACP-chambered P90 (in 1990) and the .40S&W caliber P91 the next year.
(The rather blocky P90)
However, with guns such as the Glock series and S&Ws follow-on Sigma series, polymer was the new thing, this led to the P95 (9mm) and P97 (.45ACP) respectively. The thing is, the 97 was took bulky and didn't prove as popular on the market as Ruger hoped. It really needed to be slimmed down....
Enter the P345
As the polymer-framed/steel-slide P97 was put to bed in 2004, a new, welterweight prize fighter-- the P345 replaced it. The gun used the same magazine as the P90 and 97, an 8+1 shot single stack, but shaved nearly a quarter pound of weight. The 345 was redesigned to incorporate smooth edges and rounded contours-- the "melted" look that is so popular with concealed carry pieces today, only predated by about a decade.
This produced a gun that was, even over its ambi controls, just 1.154-inches wide. Oh yeah, and they even fit a Picatinny rail on board as well in the PR version.
(Via Police Mag)
The result was an overall profile is somewhat similar to a Commander-sized 1911, but weighs a few ounces less. Notably, the polymer .45ACP single stack that replaced the P345 in Ruger's stable in 2013, the striker-fired SR45 is a hair longer (at 8-inches), a tad wider (at 1.27 inches) and unloaded weight is also a hair beefier (30.15 oz.)-- but on the flipside the SR has a 10+1 magazine and a barrel and sight radius that is a quarter-inch longer.
One area where the gun departed from its family tree was that it is bogged down with an almost extreme number of safeties to comply with various state regs. These include a firing-pin safety, the keyed-locking ambi-thumb safety (which doubles as a de-cocker), the loaded chamber indicator, a magazine safety, and tons of warning labels. Further, a Ruger Camblock recoil buffer helped tame the gun a bit.
Still, in 2004, the 345 was a thing of beauty and in many regards still is.
Caliber: .45 Auto (ACP)
Action: recoil operated semi-automatic
Length: 7.625 in
Width: 1.154 (includes slide lever)
Height: 5.75 in (to the top of the rear sight)
Magazine Capacity: 8 rounds
Barrel Length: 4.25 in
Rifling: 6-grooves, 1:16 in RH twist
Sights: White 3-dot, fixed front, drift adjustable rear
Weight without magazine: 26.8 oz
Weight with empty magazine: 29.4 oz.
Weight loaded (1+8 rd. magazine): 35.7 oz.
How did it shoot?
We searched long and hard for someone who really hated the 345, and we couldn't find one. Sure there are a few complaints of the gun being bulky-- but its still a night and day difference from the 1980s P85. In short, we think the 345 just didn't get the love it rightfully deserved.
Russ Chastain had a good, extensive review on this gun when it was still in production as did Roy Huntington (Police Mag) and Jeff Quinn (Gun Blast) back in 2004 when the gun first came out, and all note the gun handled beautifully.
Here is another review:
MrTwingunz's Ruger P345 opinion after three years of ownership
Getting your own
The P-series slowly ended production in the 2000s, replaced by the updated SR series guns. As far as well can tell from the company's production history, the last to die was the P-95.
While Ruger still has the KP95PR and P95PR on California's handgun roster until 2016 the company lists manufacture ending on those models after 2013, and they do not carry any P-series either in the current catalog or on the website.
However, the P345 didn't even make it that long. As noted in the below screenshot, between both models, less than 125,000 total frames were produced between 2004-2012 with production of the Decocker model ending in 2009 while the Manual Safety version stuck around until the end.
While MSRP on these fine .45s ran $599 when new, they are today an excellent deal, with prices typically closer to about $350.
Therefore, if you dig a double-action/single action slim-ish single stack .45, you would be hard pressed to pick up a better deal right now than a gently used P345.