John Browning’s Model 1911 remains one of the most popular, if not the most popular, handguns of all time. It was the United States’ official sidearm through WWI, WWII, the Korean conflict and countless other wars and “police actions” around the globe. While replaced by the 9mm Beretta some time ago (at the behest of NATO), it remains in service with diehard units who simply refuse to give “old slabsides” up.

My love affair with the 1911 began when the Army taught me to shoot, field strip (blindfolded) and maintain one. As a defensive handgun it has no equal—plunk a .45-caliber bullet into an assailant’s center mass and it’s game over. A properly tuned and maintained 1911-style pistol can be depended on when the chips are down.

Because of its deserved popularity, 1911-style pistols remain in high demand. I have no idea how many different manufacturers offer their versions of this famous pistol, but the number is considerable. I own (or have owned) 1911s made by more than a dozen companies, and most gave yeoman service. Now there’s a new game in town.

Warhorse Upgrade

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The Officer’s Model came with a contrasting and durable Cerakote-finished frame.

Christensen Arms is well known for custom rifles with lightweight, highly accurate barrels. It now offers a selection of quality 1911s, all with strikingly good looks. What’s more, you can select certain parts to create a true custom handgun.

Two Christensen Arms pistols I recently evaluated include an Officer Model with a handsome Burnt Bronze Cerakote finish on the frame and a full-sized Government Model equipped with the optional Damascus steel slide.

The guns are very tightly fitted thanks to Christensen Arms’ master pistolsmith, who manages to assemble two or three 1911s each day. His attention to detail is obvious. These guns aren’t mass-produced, but instead are painstakingly assembled by someone who knows exactly what he is doing.

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The Government Model’s Damascus slide has distinctive, easy-to-grip serrations for easier racking.

One problem with super-tight-fitting guns is that it takes a lot of oomph to cycle the slides until the gun is broken in. That’s in spite of the deep, imaginatively designed cocking serrations on the slide.

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The slide stop on the full-sized gun is slightly extended, allowing you greater leverage when disengaging the slide. Besides looking sharp, the cocking serrations on the Damascus slide provide a positive grip.

While the triggers are adjustable, my sample guns had triggers that broke cleanly at 3.5 pounds and an even 4 pounds. That was fine with me, so I attempted no further refinement.

Breaking Them In

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Christensen’s 1911s were easy to control during testing.

Another issue with a tightly fitting slide is that the guns may not feed dependably as they come from the box. They need to loosen up a bit before they’ll perform as they should. Christensen Arms suggests using 230-grain ball ammunition for the recommended 400- to 500-round break-in period. I happened to have a copious supply of Black Hills 185-grain jacketed hollow-point (JHP) loads on hand, so that’s what I used for testing. I also followed my usual practice of firing 30 to 40 rounds through each gun as it came from the box, without any cleaning or other prep.

Both Christensen Arms guns produced two stovepipe malfunctions right off the bat while digesting the first 20 rounds. That was mildly disappointing, but not unexpected in guns fitted this tightly. I would never depend on a new defensive gun until it had been thoroughly broken in.

After putting 40 rounds through each gun, I gave them a thorough cleaning and (very) light lubrication. That did the trick. There were still a couple of misfeeds, but by the time each gun had digested another 40 rounds, both pistols were behaving beautifully.

After getting the two guns to feed and fire with regularity, I test-fired them off-hand at 25 yards. Both guns felt good in my hands, and recoil wasn’t a problem. The short-barreled Officer’s Model had no trouble producing 2.6-inch five-shot groups, while the Government Model with the Damascus slide shaved that to just 1.6 inches. These guns performed as great as they looked.

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The Novak tritium sights were easy to see and have the advantage of being visible after dark. The front and rear of the grip frames were stippled to provide a no-slip purchase. The hand-laid carbon fiber grips on the full-sized model added some panache, but were too smooth for my taste. The VZ G10 grips on the Officer’s Model were sharply checkered, providing a firmer purchase and making the gun that much easier to control under fire.

RELATED: Christensen Arms to Produce 1911 Frames and Slides In-House

I particularly liked the Burnt Bronze Cerakote finish on the frame of the Officer’s Model. You have your choice of Cerakote colors, but this finish suited me just fine. That’s just one of the options available when you order a Christensen Arms gun. These two Christensen Arms pistols are of obvious high quality, and strikingly handsome in the bargain. Each gun is supplied with a pair of Christensen Arms magazines, along with a high-quality bushing wrench made of aircraft-grade aluminum. It’s worth noting that the instruction booklet accompanying each gun is very thorough and well written.

Whether you want to shell out $1,400 for the Damascus slide add-on (for any of the models offered) depends on your pocketbook, desire and taste in firearms. If you want a stunning, eye-catching 1911, this is a great way to go.

Custom Options

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Both pistols feature Novak tritium night sights that are dovetailed into the slide.

When you order a pistol from Christensen Arms, you can buy a basic “plain Jane” version or add as many bells and whistles as you want or can afford. For instance, a basic Government 1911 with a stainless steel slide, an aluminum mainspring housing, adjustable trigger and tritium night sights lists for $2,395. The same gun with a titanium frame sells for $3,195.

Adding an ambidextrous safety will set you back another $40, while a Cereakote frame goes for $75. Cerakoting the slide adds $50 to the total. Carbon grips cost $140, while specifying a Damascus slide runs an additional $1,400. Bear in mind that these parts will be expertly hand-fitted by Christensen Arms’ master pistolsmith, so you’re basically getting a custom gun no matter how many custom parts you specify.

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The match-grade barrels are fit by hand for superb accuracy.

There are six different models you can use for your customized platform. These include the Government and Officer models I tested, along with Commander, Tactical Government and Tactical Commander variations. The Tactical models come standard with Picatinny rails, and threaded barrels are available to accommodate a suppressor.

While you can order your gun directly from Christensen Arms, specifying exactly what you want, there are some 250 dealers across the country that have Christensen Arms 1911 pistols in stock. To locate the nearest dealer, click on the “dealer” tab on the Christensen website.

For more information, visit or call 888-517-8855.

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