What’s big, stainless, chambered in .45ACP and lived only in the 1980s? Smith & Wesson’s Model 645, of course.
In the early 1980s, S&W was producing a series of second-generation semi-auto 9mm pistols that followed up on the company’s earlier Model 39— itself the first non-European designed 9mm produced for the U.S. market– and Model 59 offerings. These included 8+1 shot single stacks like the S&W 439/639 and the “Wondernine” 14+1 double stack S&W 459/659.
These double-action models, with alloy frames, were light and, using a slide-mounted safety/decocker, safe for new users. As such, they proved popular with not only consumers but also law enforcement agencies looking to upgrade from .38/.357-caliber wheel guns.
However, there were no comparable .45ACP pistols in the lineup.
Enter the Model 645
First produced in 1985, the S&W Model 645 was similar in size to the classic M1911 Government Issue, with an 8.5-inch overall length and a 5-inch barrel. Unlike the iconic .45ACP, it carried an extra round (eight in the mag rather than seven), had a squared-off and serrated trigger guard, and was double-action with a safety decock lever. This latter feature meant that the gun was more appealing to officers in departments that wanted to carry a .45 but was forbidden to do so in cocked-and-locked single-action pistols such as the M1911.
Speaking of departments, the 645s greatest claim to fame of its period was that it was carried and used– extensively– by the fictional Detective Sergeant James “Sonny” Crockett, as portrayed by Don Johnson in Miami Vice.
Replacing the chromed Bren Ten the vice detective with a penchant for pastels sported in the first two seasons of the show, the new-to-the-market S&W 645 appeared on-screen in seasons three and four. The good folks at IMFDB noted this was because “the producers wanted to keep up Crockett carrying a State-of-the-Art pistol.”
It should be noted that Michael Mann, of Crime Story, Heat and Vega$ fame, was the executive producer of Miami Vice and the show was noted for its wide array of interesting firearms. This included everything from the Franchi SPAS-12 to the .44 Auto Mag and Desert Eagle hand cannons, the uber-cool HK P7, and even a LaFrance M16K. Competition shooter Jim Zubiena served as a firearms instructor on the production and even famously appeared on screen in an episode as a hitman pulling off a lightning-quick Mozambique drill from cover.
Anyways, back to our gun…
Smith followed up on the 645 with the very similar but more successful “third-generation” Model 4506 (with some of the early guns accidentally mismarked as 645s) which included a one-piece Delrin grip and adjustable sights. Notably, Sonny Crocket carried the 4506 in Miami Vice‘s fifth and final season.
The 4506, as well as its more abbreviated 4516 and 4566 little brothers, remained in production for a full decade while the line branched out to include DAO variants and a TSW series gun which lived on in S&W’s catalog until 2004. The short-lived carbon steel Model 4505 was meanwhile only made in 1991 while a third-generation “Value Line” Model 457 was marketed until 2006. These spawns of the 645 were Big Blue’s only all-metal .45ACP semi-autos until the company began making their GI longslide variants, the SW1911.
But that is another story.