It has been noted that what you get today for a reasonable price in a 1911 pistol would have cost you a lot extra just a few years ago.
John M. Browning’s design was a solid, dependable fighting pistol that worked flawlessly in conditions that would cause competitive designs to choke and malfunction.
The 1911 .45 ACP (Automatic Colt Pistol) was the designated carry sidearm of the U.S. military from its acceptance in the second decade of the 20th century until its replacement in the 1980s with a different design and smaller caliber in the size of 9mm.
And today, many elite fighting units and law enforcement units have returned to Browning’s creation and the horsepower of the .45 ACP, sacrificing cartridge capacity for more stopping power and the incredibly natural “feel” of the Browning design.
But to make the Browning design an exceptionally accurate gun required the work of a talented gunsmith that specialized in the 1911, turning what was a standard warhorse of a fighting pistol into a sleek thoroughbred competition gun. It would become a gun that shot incredibly tight groups and afforded increased speed in aiming, reloading and “pointability.”
Custom features such as enlarged magazine wells, enlarged ejection ports, large and improved target sights, tighter fits between the slide and frame, enlarged thumb safeties, extended “beavertail” grip safeties to enhance grip, and dozens of other enhancements would take a run-of-the-mill shooter and turn it into a tight, fast-shooting comp gun. And these would add up to $1,000 to the original cost of the gun.
But with the advent of computer-controlled machining, the industry was able to make tighter tolerances much less expensively, and companies found the American handgunner wanted his 1911 — and he wanted all the bells and whistles found on the earlier competition guns.
Nowadays, most companies have a plethora of standard features that enhance the shooting capabilities of both the gun and its owner, and the gun costs much less than custom guns with the same features did a decade ago.
Ruger Firearms (ruger.com) introduced their first version in 2011 at the National Rifle Association Convention in Pittsburgh, Pa.
With a recommended MSRP of $829, this Ruger would have easily cost $1,000 more back when its features were considered custom.
Deemed the SR1911, these all-stainless, bead-blasted guns offered classic Browning design with a 5-inch barrel that was CNC-machined for a precise slide-to-frame fit. As with all Ruger firearms, the company likes to point out they are all American-made.
The stainless steel barrel and bushing are produced simultaneously from the same ordnance-grade barstock for a precise fit and improved accuracy.
The slide features rear cocking serrations, a dove-tailed Novak rear sight, an extended thumb safety and an extended beavertail grip safety. The firing system is the older, more-popular and original “Series 70” design with a titanium firing pin and heavy firing pin spring, which negates the need for a firing pin block without compromising trigger pull weight.
Ruger has added an inspection port that allows visual confirmation of a loaded chamber.
The SR1911 also features custom touches, such as an aluminum skeletonized trigger and adjustable over-travel stop. It also has a skeletonized hammer, a handsome custom touch to an already exceedingly handsome pistol.
The grips are hardwood grip panels, attractively checkered and carrying the Ruger logo on each.
Each gun is shipped with one seven-round and one eight-round stainless steel magazine, bushing wrench and a soft case. The design fits standard, currently available holsters.
I received two SR1911 models — the original design introduced in 2011, and the new Commander-size introduced in 2013 — for testing from the Ruger distributor. The Commander carries the same features as the original design, but with a 4.25-inch barrel for more discreet carry — my favorite size in the 1911.
Like many handgunners, I have a weakness for Browning’s design, but my favorite has always been the Commander for ease of carry and concealability. You just can’t find a concealable handgun with more authority than a .45 ACP Commander. I’ve owned a couple of 1911s, and both were the smaller Commander models.
I didn’t have a large selection of ammo, but I did have a large quantity of what is considered the standard load — 230-grain ball, full metal jacket.
A test with my Lyman trigger strain gauge showed the full-size version trigger to break at just a couple of ounces over 5 pounds. The Commander size broke about 3 ounces heavier than the larger gun, but seemed a tiny bit smoother in travel.
Both shot exceedingly well in my tests over sandbags at 10 yards — but the surprise was the Commander — which consistently shot tighter than its larger brother.
The best group of the day was turned in by the Commander, with five shots just under 1.5 inches — but four of the shots made one oversized hole that made it hard to tell four bullets had passed through it. One flyer extended the group size.
The full-sized gun consistently turned in slightly under 2-inch groups with five shots, and once gave me a group nearly approximating the Commander’s. But overall the Commander shot slightly tighter off the sandbags — perhaps easily attributed to an affinity for that particular brand of ammo.
The distributor had dressed the full-sized version in a set of American Elk antler grips with a similarity to ivory — glowing with a gorgeous patina.
Eagle Grips (www.eaglegrips.com) is one of the premier custom handgun grip companies in the country, offering a huge selection of grips custom made in their own factory here in the U.S. Their warranties and guarantees on their products have earned them an enviable reputation in the gun industry. These elk grips are featured on the home page of their Web site.
There were no surprises when I started my speed and tactical shooting. Both guns performed flawlessly, and I ran about 100 rounds through each of them without a single malfunction.
I shot double and triple taps at 7 yards, and the large Novak sights allowed for quick, positive target acquisition.
Both guns were a pleasure to point and shoot, and I could easily be tempted to add the SR1911CMD to my personal battery. In fact, the only change I could even begin to contemplate would be lightening the trigger to about 2.5 pounds.
Ruger has a couple of real winners here — handsome, utilitarian guns with features that would have added much to the bottom line years ago, and now only add a custom look, feel and quality to the shooting experience without the custom price.