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.
Once I had established reliability, I carried the SR1911 through several states. Whether in an inside the waistband holster (Mitch Rosen) or an outside the waistband (a couple of different Ky-Tac scabbards), it was as comfortable as any full-size/ full-weight 1911. That is, there were no particular sharp edges…nothing out of the ordinary for an experienced, right-handed 1911 aficionado.
Trigger pull weight averaged 5.3 pounds on a Lyman digital trigger pull gauge. The release had a little roll to it that let you know the pistol was about to discharge, but still allowed the instant of the intended shot to come as a surprise. It was my idea of a “good street trigger” for a 1911 pistol.
The gun came from the factory with the sights “registered” to point of aim/point of impact. That’s something we don’t see as much of as we’d like these days, and I for one appreciate it.
I did have a few quibbles with the gun. One was the magazines. The pistol comes with one flat-bottom seven rounder (presumably for maximum concealment) and one eight rounder with a slight bottom extension that aids in seating the magazine. The latter, when fully loaded, really needed to be pushed in hard to seat properly if the slide was already forward on a live round (as in a tactical reload, or topping off a full load), and there was enough pressure on the stack that the magazine was pushed downward, requiring excessive pressure on the magazine release button to clear out the fully loaded SR1911. I did not find that to be true with the flat-bottom 7-round magazine that came with the gun, nor with the Wilson EDM eight-rounders I used to augment the magazine supply.
Also, the front face of the grip-frame was smooth, in the old GI style. There was enough checkering on the mainspring housing and the diamond-pattern stocks that this didn’t really create a problem in traction of grasp. Still, many would prefer a checkered frontstrap.
Finally, the slide stop plunger tube is integral to the frame instead of being a separate part staked in place, as usual on 1911s. I’m ambivalent about that. Certainly, it isn’t going to work loose over time. However, if it breaks, the whole frame will need to be replaced. There are two sides to that argument; time will tell which side prevails with the Ruger SR1911.
The fans of the Ruger brand—and we are legion—will inevitably compare the SR1911 to the latest evolution of the double-action Ruger .45s that came before it. First, there was the P90: boxy and clumsy looking, it had excessive trigger reach for some of us, at least in double-action mode, but was as reliable as a Kalashnikov and virtually match accurate. Next came the polymer frame P97, more ergonomic in terms of trigger reach, and sporting a decocking lever instead of the manual safety that was optional on the P90. I for one never found it quite as accurate as the P90. Finally, toward the middle of the past decade, Ruger came out with the latest evolution of their double-action .45s, the P345. The most ergonomic of all in terms of grasp and trigger reach, it seemed to have a longer double-action pull than its progenitors but, at least with 230-grain bullets, was as accurate as the old P90. My two (one department-issued, one personally owned) are both fitted with safety-decock levers on the slide, and magazine disconnector safeties.
Cost: Price definitely favors the P345. Suggested retail on the SR1911 is $799 at this writing, and $636 for the P345. Advantage: Clearly, the P345.
Value: Cost and value, as we all know, are two different things. The P345’s polymer frame obviously makes it less expensive to build, and that is passed on to the consumer. However, in their relative design categories, I’d rate both as high value buys when held against other comparable brands. Advantage: Equal.
Accuracy: For some reason, most every P345 I’ve shot has given mediocre accuracy with 185-grain bullets, but grouped very well with 230-grain. I once got a sub-1-inch five-shot group with my P345 and 230-grain Federal Hydra-Shok JHP at 25 yards. So, if 230-grain ammunition is on the menu, the advantage would go to the P345, while if a smorgasbord of .45 ACP is your preference, advantage would go to the SR1911.
Shooting characteristics: Being a much lighter gun with a higher bore axis, the P345 in my hands has visibly and palpably more muzzle rise than the 1911 Ruger. There’s also the matter of that long double-action trigger pull for the first shot. Advantage, I’d have to say, seems to go to the SR1911.
Firepower: As noted, the SR1911 comes with one 7- and one 8-round magazine. The P345 comes with 8-rounders, and will take the earlier 8-round magazines of the P90. Advantage: equal…unless you start getting into aftermarket extended magazines.
Long-term carry comfort: With its “plastic” frame, the P345 is dramatically lighter than the all-stainless-steel SR1911. Ten ounces lighter exactly: 29.0 ounces unloaded for the P345, 39.0 ounces unloaded for the SR1911. Advantage: P345.
Safety: Both of these pistols, Ruger assures us, are “drop-safe.” That is, neither is going to discharge from being dropped or struck.
Assuming each is carried with a round in the chamber, the standard model P345 can be carried off-safe or on-safe, the manual safety function being shared by the slide mounted decocking lever. Most of us find this more difficult to operate than the frame-mounted lever on the SR1911, which MUST be engaged if the pistol is carried in the accepted “cocked and locked” mode.
If a bad guy gets an on-safe gun away from the good guy, more often than not he has to fumble for a while to find which lever “turns on the trigger,” buying time for the good guy to escape or otherwise rectify the situation. The same is true if the good guy can intentionally press the release button that drops the magazine out of the P345; once the magazine falls enough, the round remaining in the chamber can’t be fired . There are many documented cases where both of these features have saved the lives of good guys.
However, there are some consumers who fear that they might accidentally drop their own magazine and “kill their own gun,” or forget to flip the lever from “safe” to “fire” when they need to shoot to save their lives. This reviewer gives people credit for knowing themselves and what they can and can’t do. It’s a subjective decision. Both are safe guns; they offer buyers a choice; and I’d have to call “advantage: equal” in this respect.
The SR1911 is, in one respect, unique in the history of Ruger handguns. It is the first that doesn’t have something unique to recommend it. That little .22 of 1949? It was an ingenious design that became one of the great values in handgunning history, and earned its seven figure tally of unit sales over 60-some years. The single-actions Bill brought back from the gun graveyard in the 1950s? Their coil spring design made them more rugged than any of their Colt predecessors. The P-series pistols used features of previous designs by other makers, but combined production economy with reliability and quality in a way that hadn’t been offered before. The LCP was a more polished take on an existing design, and the LCR was truly unique. The earlier Ruger double-action revolvers all had unique design features that set them apart from their competition.
This is not true of the SR1911. It is…a 1911. There is no combination of design features to it that hasn’t been marketed before by competing firms.
What the SR1911 brings to the table is an honored and proven design platform, from a maker with a solid history of quality and service that is 63 years old. Judging by how well the SR1911 came out…and how well it is selling…that seems to be enough.