For years, many speculated as to why Sturm, Ruger & Company didn’t follow the rest of the handgun industry in producing a 1911 pistol. However, folks said the same about the AR-15, and Ruger came out with one of those a couple of years ago.
About the time the company introduced the SR556 rifle, a piston-operated AR-15, their 1911 was well past the drawing board and already on its way to production. In one of the most long-awaited introductions in the company’s history, the SR1911 debuted in the spring of 2011, coordinating with the centennial anniversary of the design.
Ruger has been subcontracting high-quality 1911 parts for Caspian for many years. It was expected that they would segue into their own 1911 production with no glitches. That turned out to be exactly the case.
Picture the classic 1911 silhouette, rendered in silvery brushed stainless. There are the flat mainspring housing, checkered walnut grips with a Ruger medallion inset and a long trigger (adjustable, of course). There are concessions to modernity—an ejection port enlarged beyond GI spec so it won’t ding ejected brass, genuine fixed Novak sights, and a very desirable beavertail grip safety with the little protuberance at the bottom that is known variously as a speed bump and a memory groove.
There are also considerations given to traditional tastes. Sturm, Ruger is a company that has been down the road and back, and they don’t want to encourage anything as stupid as manipulating the slide with fingers close to the muzzle. Thus, the trendy forward grasping grooves are thankfully absent. There’s no “magazine chute” per se, but the edges of the magazine well are beveled in the fashion recommended back in the day by the man who did more than anyone else to resurrect the 1911 from “ready for the museum” status. The full-length guide rod, unnecessary in this writer’s opinion on a 5-inch 1911, is absent. The thumb safety is slightly oversize and very well fitted. It’s right-hand-only, though. Some people don’t care for ambidextrous thumb safeties.
Lefties naturally dispute that, and so do some “righties” who think ambidextrous function is important, this writer included.
Company founder Bill Ruger, Sr. was a southpaw himself, after all. Of course, his landmark Standard Model .22 of 1949, the company’s foundational product, has always been available only with a right-handed thumb safety, so what the heck do I know about it.
Curiously, the pistol came out of the box with no lubrication on it whatsoever. Out of morbid curiosity, I ran the gun dry for a couple of hundred rounds. It functioned perfectly; I couldn’t even detect any sluggishness in slide movement. This speaks well of the smoothness of the bearing surfaces and the quality of the pistol’s internal fit. After 200 rounds I couldn’t bear to run it dry any longer—shooting a good autoloading firearm without lubrication is almost as abusive as kicking a puppy—and I finally lubed the SR1911. It perked along on its merry way, and was somewhere around a thousand shots fired before it experienced its first malfunction.
This gun had created much interest. As a result, lots of people wanted to shoot mine when they found out I had one. I obliged. When one of the things you’re looking for is long-term reliability, you want to see the pistol fired in a lot of different hands anyway. If those folks are testing it with their own ammunition, well, getting that job done is a little like Tom Sawyer whitewashing the fence.
I trotted out some different exemplars of three classic .45 ACP bullet weights. Over the years, the 185-grain jacketed hollowpoint in the Federal Classic line has turned out to be one of the most accurate .45 ACP rounds out there. In the SR1911, it delivered 2.55 inches for five shots from 25 yards, with four of those in 2 inches even and the best three in 1.65 inches.
I didn’t have a whole lot of 200-grain on hand to choose from—it’s not exactly the most popular factory bullet weight in the caliber—but I found some CCI Blazer aluminum case .45 with the old 200-grain jacketed hollowpoint whose mouth is so wide that the late, great Dean Grennell dubbed it “the flying ashtray.” The combination of wider mouth and lighter weight makes for a short bullet, and a cartridge, which in turn is unusually short in overall length for a .45 ACP. As a result, it is very difficult to feed—it was actually my experience that more .45 autopistols would choke on it than not—and it became something of a litmus test for testing the skills of gunsmiths who throated out .45s for such loads.
It was with this that my SR1911 would have its first malfunction. The first three shots from the bench went fine, and appeared to be about to deliver the tightest group that had yet been fired from this particular gun. Then, however, came shot number four. As the gun came down out of recoil, I could see that there was something wrong. The shot had gone way high above point of aim, and while the spent aluminum casing had cleared the ejection port, the slide was still partly back and the fifth cartridge was solidly jammed. It was a 12 o’clock feedway stoppage, with the wide mouth of the short cartridge caught at the barrel hood area. It didn’t clear easily, and I had to lock the slide back, strip out the magazine, and work the slide and then reload to get the darn thing up and running. The fifth shot went about to where the first three did. Final measurement of the Blazer 200-grain JHP group was 3.30 inches, including that errant fourth shot. However, shots #1, #2, #3, and #5 were in a nice cluster that measured only 1.10 inches. The best three of those were under an inch, 0.95 inches to be as exact as I get, which is measuring to the nearest 0.05 inches, center-to-center.
I can’t blame the pistol for choking on a round some gunsmiths use to assess their own mastery in improving feeding, a round Speer itself appears to have phased out in favor of the much more reliable (and more effective) Gold Dot series.
The last load I ran through it was probably the most popular 230-grain today, Winchester USA brand generic full metal jacket, known to shooter folk as “WWB ball.” This stuff punched five holes that measured 3.35 inches, and the best three, 2.30 inches.