Editor's note: View our extended photo gallery of images that didn't appear in the June "Arsenal" review iof the Ruger SR1911 in print.
Just into the second decade of the 20th Century the U.S. Army adopted a new handgun, the "U.S. Pistol, Automatic, Caliber .45, M1911"...And a legend was born. The M1911 (and the later M1911A1) didn't display any of the old world craftsmanship, mechanical intricacies, or svelte outlines of its European contemporaries such as the Parabellum/Luger or Mauser C96 Selbstaladepistole. But the gun that was nicknamed "Old Slabsides" by its detractors would go on to become the most respected military handgun of all time.
Three features endeared the M1911 to soldiers around the world: its utter reliability, its mechanical simplicity, and the performance of its .45 ACP cartridge.
The first two of these features were trademarks of all of the firearms designed by the M1911's inventor, John Moses Browning. The third was a result of the U.S. Army's less than positive interaction with the Moro Juramentados of the Philippines whose propensity for soaking up .38 revolver bullets without being incapacitated led to the Army's insistence that any issue handgun be of at least .45 caliber.
Browning was only too happy to oblige and designed the "pistol, ball, caliber .45, M1911." This cartridge proved so effective that it is still issued to American soldiers, no changes being deemed necessary after more than a century of service.
The same features that have made the .45 ACP effective for the military made it equally attractive to law enforcement officers, especially members of tactical units who appreciate the 1911's excellent ergonomics and the accuracy provided by its single-action trigger.
Today several dozen manufacturers produce 1911 pistols to satisfy demand from collectors, gun enthusiasts, and warriors. One of the newest is Sturm, Ruger & Company.
Since the late 1980s, Ruger has offered an extensive line of 9mm, .40, and .45 caliber pistols. But while all of them have been commercially successful, they have seen only limited use by law enforcement agencies.
Until recently all Ruger centerfire pistols were built on alloy or polymer frames and utilized either a DA/SA or a variation of the so-called "Safe Action" trigger. But the company has always been known for its entrepreneurial acumen. So it came as no surprise to most gun writers when, in recognition of the 1911's centennial, Ruger announced its first 1911-type pistol, the SR1911.
A True 1911
At first glance there is no doubt that the SR1911 is...well... a 1911. It has all the classic features of Browning's most famous pistol but with a few modern, shall we say, "modifications" that significantly improve handling and shootability.
First of all, it's made from 100 percent stainless steel with a bead-blasted matte finish. The slide features a lowered and flared ejection port and is fitted with a set of Novak-style low mount three-dot sights. Square cut grasping grooves enable positive retraction of the slide, even with wet hands or when wearing gloves.[PAGEBREAK]
For many years having an adjustable rear sight was considered de rigueur on any properly set up 1911 pistol, but fixed sights are once again in ascendancy. Not only is this sighting arrangement rugged to an extreme-which is what you need on a combat handgun-but with the .45 ACP cartridge, the point of impact between various bullet weights out to 25 yards is going to vary so little as to make no practical difference. In fact during my test firing of the SR1911, I used bullet weights ranging from 165 to 230 grains and at 25 yards they all shot close enough to point of aim to keep me happy.
And while we're discussing the slide, it should be pointed out that the SR1911 has an original style internal extractor and does not have Series 80 or any other type of firing pin block. In its place Ruger engineers used a lightweight titanium firing pin and a heavy firing pin spring. This set up is simpler, just as effective, and does not have a deleterious effect on the trigger pull.
A five-inch stainless steel barrel and muzzle bushing are standard and, so as to improve functioning, the frame and barrel feed ramps are highly polished. The recoil system is exactly the way Browning designed it and it functions just fine without any modern "refinements" such as full-length guide rods. This system has worked just fine for 100 years and has the added benefit of making disassembly significantly easier.
Ruger was a pioneer in using cast frames on its pistols, and it is no surprise that the SR1911 features one. A precision CNC-controlled machining process results in a superior slide-to-frame fit and smooth slide travel. The SR1911 does not have an integral frame rail for mounting lights, lasers, or other tactical accessories that are all but mandatory on police service pistols today.
A closer examination of the frame shows those areas where the SR1911 diverges from the original. First of all, metal has been removed from under the trigger guard to allow a higher grip on the pistol for improved recoil control, which is helped along by a sharply checkered mainspring housing. It comes with a seven-round and an eight-round magazine; the latter has an extended plastic base pad. The magazine well has been beveled and that along with an extended magazine release speeds up reloads.
Both the thumb and grip safeties have been extended for more positive manipulation. The latter device is fitted with a palm swell to ensure positive depression while an extended beavertail tang helps to soften felt recoil and improve recoil control. Both the hammer and trigger are skeletonized, in the case of the former to speed up lock time. The trigger is screw adjustable for over travel.
Tradition comes to the fore again with a set of checkered wooden grips with Ruger logo medallions. While I freely admit to having synthetic grips on all my personal 1911s, I have to say that the Ruger wooden grips provided a secure purchase, even with perspiring hands.
Ruger provided me with an early production SR1911 to evaluate for POLICE Magazine. Because I am well versed in the mysteries of the breed, the new Ruger held few surprises for me.[PAGEBREAK]
I found the slide a bit difficult to retract. This was a sign of tight slide and frame tolerances and a hefty recoil spring, and it became easier after I had run about 50 rounds through it. The trigger pull had a bit of take up and broke crisply at 4.4 pounds, which is just about what you want on a single-action service pistol.
A few days later, I headed out to the range with the Ruger, a selection of .45 ammo, and a BlackHawk SERPA CQC holster to see how it performed.
I test fired the SR1911 for accuracy from a rest at 25 yards; the results were very satisfying. (See "Shooting the Ruger SR1911," below). While all four types of ammo shot to point of aim, the Ruger showed a preference for slower moving projectiles and consistently printed the tightest groups with the Black Hills 200-grain LSWC target load.
After the chronographing was completed, I belted on the BlackHawk holster and proceeded to run a series of drills on a combat target set out at 10 yards, firing the Ruger with both supported and unsupported grips.
The SR1911's sights provided a fast, sharp sight picture, enabling me to put rounds where I wanted them with commendable speed. The controls were well placed and could be manipulated easily. Thanks to the pistol's excellent ergonomics and, not insubstantial, weight, recoil control was very good, allowing fast, accurate follow-up shots. I tended to shoot a bit low but more about that later.
Seeing no need to haul a lot of ammo back to my office, I spent an enjoyable hour engaging steel targets on the 50- and 100-yard ranges. At the latter distance I had to "walk" a couple of rounds in to find out how much "Kentucky" elevation to use but after that the SR1911 and I racked up a respectable ratio of "clangs" to "bangs."
I had three failures to chamber with the Winchester ammunition fed from the seven-round magazine. But this problem seemed to sort itself out as the pistol was broken in, and they were the only malfunctions in the 200 or so rounds I ran through the SR1911 that afternoon.
Still, I must voice two criticisms that I have with Ruger's newest pistol. I tend to shoot low with any 1911 fitted with a flat mainspring housing, which is why all of mine have the arched style. I'm sure I'm not the only shooter with this preference. Secondly, the lack of an accessory rail is a serious problem on a contemporary combat pistol. It would not require a major design change to drill and tap the SR1911's dust cover to accept a rail, and I hope that Ruger will offer both of these items in the future.
Other than these issues, I found the SR1911 to be a fitting example of a 1911 pistol. It was well built of first-class materials, and it displayed excellent ergonomics; above average accuracy; and reliability. If you're in the market for a 1911 pistol for police service, Ruger's SR1911 ought to be given serious consideration.
Paul Scarlata has served as an auxiliary police officer and is a frequent contributor to POLICE.
Caliber: .45 ACP
Overall Length: 8.7 inches
Barrel Length: 5 inches
Height: 5.25 inches
Width: 1.3 inches
Weight (empty): 30 ounces
Magazine: 7-round and 8-round
Construction: stainless steel
Sights: front: white dot; rear: Novak-style Low Mount with dual white dots
Grips: Checkered wood
Features: Skeletonized aluminum trigger with overtravel stop, skeletonized hammer, chamber inspection port, extended thumb and grip safeties, titanium firing pin, busing wrench, nylon gun rug, lock, owner's manual