Ruger SR1911 .45 ACP Pistol
By Chuck Hawks
1911 pistols need little introduction for most American shooters, having been adopted by the U.S. Army 100 years ago. The Colt produced and John Browning designed Model 1911 .45 caliber autoloader was probably the most advanced service pistol of its time and the premier autoloader of the First World War era. By America's entry into the Second World War, the old warhorse was showing its age and its design had been surpassed by a number of more modern service pistols, including John Browning's improved P-35 High Power and the Walther double action designs. However, it was retained by the U.S. Military through that conflict, as well as the subsequent Korean War. The result of the 1911's long reign as the official U.S. service pistol was that generations of GI's became familiar with the weapon and it attained mythical status in the U.S.
In addition to Colt, the 1911 pistol has been produced by gun makers big and small. Recently, for example, SIG announced a 1911 pistol. Among established U.S. manufacturers, Kimber is one of the most prominent. A few years ago Smith & Wesson introduced a 1911 largely assembled from aftermarket parts and last year Remington re-entered the handgun market with their mostly indigenous R-1911. For 2011 Sturm, Ruger (www.ruger.com) has taken the leap and introduced the SR1911.
The new Ruger is a relatively traditional 1911, mostly faithful to the Colt/Browning original design. Ruger, always creative, has combined the best of modern technologies to build their new 1911 pistol. The frame is investment cast 415 stainless steel. (Ruger's Pine Tree Castings subsidiary has been producing investment cast 1911 frames for others for years.) The slide is machined from 410 stainless steel bar stock and most of the smaller parts are metal-injection-molded (MIM). In each case, Ruger chose the most cost effective method of part fabrication to create a high quality, yet affordable, 1911. (Yes, it is cheaper to machine the slide than to investment cast it!) The pistol and all of its parts are made entirely in the U.S.A.
As the basic 1911 design slipped into obsolescence, dozens of modifications and "improvements" have been devised to correct some of its real and imagined shortcomings. Many, perhaps most, of these ameliorate one problem only to create another. Many 1911 "combat competition" guns are grotesque rule beaters, poorly suited to daily carry and normal use.
Ruger has wisely incorporated only the most basic and functional changes in their "Series 70" style SR1911. The restrained improvements include a feed ramp shaped and smoothed to feed JHP as well as RN ammo, enlarged ejection port, slant cut slide grooves, Novak three-dot combat sights installed in dovetail slots, loop hammer, beavertail grip safety with "speed bump," long aluminum trigger with adjustable over travel, extended magazine release and a slightly wider safety lever. Note the use of the word "restrained" at the beginning of the previous sentence. None of these modifications are radical or overdone.
Retained are all of the other traditional Colt/Browning design elements, including the barrel bushing, short guide rod and plunger. Also retained is the internal (leaf spring) extractor, grip safety and clumsy Browning swinging barrel link. The grip safety was regarded as superflous by John Browning, but demanded by the U.S. Army. The top of the slide is smoothly rounded, sans rib, as per the original. The SR1911 has no front slide grooves and the mainspring housing is straight. There is no silly loaded chamber indicator, no magazine safety and no firing pin block. Drop safety is ensured by a light titanium firing pin held rearward by a strong spring.
Here are the SR1911 specifications:
We requested an SR1911 pistol for this Guns and Shooting Online review from our friends at Ruger, which was promptly supplied. New SR1911's are supplied with two steel magazines, one eight shot and one seven shot sans bumper. (In the real world you don't drop your magazines on the ground and forget them; you will need to reload them.) Also included is a nylon soft case, bushing wrench, gun lock, Instruction Manual and the usual paperwork, a very complete package. The Instruction Manual is, unfortunately but typically, so larded with safety warnings as to be almost unreadable.
At first sight, everyone on the Guns and Shooting Online staff was impressed with the appearance of the SR1911. The silver, bead blasted, stainless steel pistol is accented by some black finished parts. These include the grip safety, sights, magazine release, safety, takedown lever and pins. The left side of the slide is stamped "Ruger" and "Made in USA." The Ruger eagle is stamped into the right side of the slide. Silver and black Ruger medallions are inletted in the hardwood grips. It is an attractive yet businesslike pistol, intimidating when seem from the wrong end. A person wielding an SR1911 will at least look like they know what they are doing.
It handles and points like a traditional 1911 is supposed to. All controls are right-hand and conventional. The front of the grip frame is smooth and rounded, as is the front of the trigger guard, while the back strap and magazine release button are checkered. Magazines spring free when the release button is pressed. The grip panels are figured hardwood with the traditional double diamond checkering pattern.
At 39 ounces empty and almost 8-3/4" long overall, we consider the SR1911 too big for comfortable concealed carry. Open carry in a rigid duty holster on a wide, supportive belt would be our preferred method. The SR1911 will fit in any holster designed for standard 5" barrel, single stack magazine, 1911 pistols.
The skeletonized aluminum trigger is lighter than a steel part and this improves the trigger action by taking some load off the disconnector. Out of the box, our sample pistol had a trigger pull that measured 5-1/4 pounds with minimal over-travel, but about 1/8" of initial take-up followed by a little creep before it released the hammer. Because the pistol is so heavy (used to more modern pistols, we tend to forget how much an all steel 1911 weighs!), the trigger is manageable. However, since the 1911 is a single action, exposed hammer pistol and the primary benefit of its design is supposed to be an excellent trigger pull, we would like to see the pull lightened to no more than three pounds and the take-up eliminated. The long trigger is an uncomfortable reach for folks with smaller hands and the excessive take-up unnecessarily increases the reach.
We found that a lot of pressure is required to cock the loop hammer. The main spring (hammer spring) is a real lulu! This heavy spring may have been chosen due to the light hammer, the extra strong firing pin spring, or simply because Ruger springs traditionally seem to be stronger than necessary. Dry firing, permitted without restriction per the owner's manual, is a pain in the thumb and the deep, sharp serration in the top of the hammer doesn't help matters. There is a half-cock hammer notch to (hopefully) catch the hammer should it slip from under your thumb while being cocked.
The stiff hammer spring makes racking the slide difficult with the hammer down and the recoil spring is no picnic, either. It helps to cock the hammer first to reduce the effort required to withdraw the slide. Managing Editor Chuck Hawks opined that the SR1911 is as hard to rack as a blow-back pistol. On the other hand, Chief Executive Techincal Advisor Jim Fleck, felt that the SR1911 is no harder to rack than any 1911 designed to handle +P ammunition. Lighter hammer and recoil springs might be worthwhile if you don't intend to shoot +P ammunition, provided they do not degrade the reliability of the pistol.
Because of what most of us felt is a stiff slide, carrying this pistol on duty with the hammer down on an empty chamber (Condition Three) is questionable, unless you have strong hands. Due to the small, hard to cock hammer, Condition Two (hammer down on a loaded chamber) may not be desirable, either. That leaves Condition One, cocked and locked, as the most practical carry method for many users. Condition One is preferred by most 1911 aficionados, but it leaves you depending on a manual safety that releases rather easily to prevent an accidental discharge. Maybe the grip safety is a good idea on this pistol, after all!
To unload a 1911 pistol carried in Condition One (chamber loaded), first remove the magazine. Remember that the chamber is still loaded, the hammer is at full cock and the SR1911 doesn't have a magazine safety. Rack the slide to eject the chambered cartridge. Unfortunately, in order to rack the slide, the manual safety must be set to the "fire" position and gripping the pistol firmly to rack the slide means that the grip safety is depressed (off). Keep your finger off the trigger and the pistol pointed in a safe direction, as all safety devices are deactivated while you are attempting to remove the chambered cartridge.
Carried exposed on a solid gunbelt in Condition One, the SR1911 is easy to get into action. The manual safety is convenient to release and moves easily. (Up is "safe" and down is "fire.") The grip safety automatically and positively releases when the shooting hand grips the butt. The Novak LoMount sights are precise and easy to see in daylight. The single action trigger, full size grip and heavy weight of the pistol help with recoil control and expedite fast follow-up shots.
Take-down for cleaning is standard 1911 fare. After field stripping, you will have the usual seven assemblies and parts on your workbench. These are the slide, bushing, take-down lever, barrel, recoil spring and guide rod, recoil spring plug and frame assembly. Seems a bit much by modern service pistol standards, but remember that the 1911 is not a modern design.
The slide to frame fit on our test pistol is held to tight tolerances with little play, as are the barrel and bushing. The barrel has minimal movement when in battery, always a good sign.
Our range day with the SR1911 was overcast with a high temperature of 61-degrees F. As usual, we did our shooting at the Izaak Walton outdoor range south of Eugene, Oregon. Guns and Shooting Online staff members Chuck Hawks, Rocky Hays, Jim Fleck and Gordon Landers did the test shooting. Our standard handgun testing distance is 25 yards and that is the range at which we shot our groups with the SR1911. All of our shooting was done from either a Pistol Perch rest or sandbags, depending on the individual shooter's preference.
We fired five-shot groups for record with three brands of 230 grain ball (FMJ) ammunition: Winchester/USA, Remington/UMC and Stars & Stripes. In addition, we shot a limited number of groups to test function with Stars & Stripes self-defense factory loads using 185 grain Hornady XTP-HP bullets (basically a maximum load), U.S. military 230 grain ball, and low velocity reloads using 230 grain, cast lead, semi-wadcutter (SWC) bullets.
25 Yard Shooting Results
This time out, Jim shot the best group. One point worth noting is that at 25 yards the 230 grain FMJ and 185 grain JHP ammunition formed a 12-shot mixed group measuring about 4" center to center, a fine performance.
After drifting the sights to center our groups in windage, the average point of impact was about 3" above the point of aim at 25 yards with our FMJ loads. This means that the fixed sight height is set for a zero range of about 80 yards with 230 grain ball ammo at a MV of 835 fps.
The SR1911 is designed to function safely and reliably with all .45 ACP factory loaded ammunition, including hollow point and high velocity (+P) loads. Ruger states in the owner's manual that, "No .45 Auto ammunition manufactured in accordance with NATO, U.S., SAAMI, or CIP standards is known to be beyond the design limits or known not to function in these pistols."
During our range session we found this to be true. The SR1911 functioned perfectly with all five of the factory loads we tried. There were no malfunctions of any kind. Slide velocity was marginal with the light, low velocity reloads, although the 230 grain lead SWC bullets chambered correctly. The pistol's feeding geometry is perfect.
In conclusion, the Ruger SR1911 is a handsome, well executed and reliable 1911 pistol in rust resistant stainless steel. It looks a lot like John M. Browning's original 1911 and remains fully real world functional. I think Browning would have approved of Ruger's approach to his most famous pistol design.
Copyright 2011, 2012 by chuckhawks.com. All rights reserved.