forum home > articles home

Different 1911s Compared

My son Eric called me from work recently (the AAFES Gun Counter) while I was out. He asked for some advice on comparing the fitness of new 1911s. One of his co-workers, who I've met--nice guy, was considering a new 1911 and they were having a hard time comparing the nitty gritty of construction. I will say Eric is quite good considering his experience. He's not a 1911 mechanic but he's grown up shooting them. Still, I am pleased that he still calls his old dad for advice. I stopped by, and had the pleasure of looking over several new 1911 pistols--although we were not allowed to disassemble them (per AAFES policy). I thought I'd share some info on some pistols you might not have heard much about. I looked at a Magnum Research M1911 G, a Thompson Custom Stainless steel model, A Ruger SR1911, a Citadel M-1911 Compact (the rest were all 5" Government Models), and a Remington R1.

One general comment about all these pistols--they all came with very nicely-executed wood stocks, except for the Citadel as noted in my comments below. I wouldn't change any of the factory stocks.

The Magnum Research Desert Eagle model is made by BULL in Israel and is so-marked on the frame. The version I looked at was blued with a nice polish. It had an extended strong side safety lock and beavertail, plus a full length guide rod. Fit and finish were flawless. Controls operated properly and the safety was crisp. Sights are sloped combat fixed style, all-black if memory serves (and memory does not always serve these days, at least not like one might wish. I look at things important to me and commit them to memory, while things that can be readily researched, changed easily, and which will appeal or not appeal to different folks--like sights, I just naturally don't seem to retain. In other words, who cares? Find out if it having black sights or three white dots matter to you ). Lock-up was tight front and rear and slide to frame fit was very good. The trigger was essentially perfect. Obviously I had no gauge on hand but it had minimal (read the perfect amount) take-up, was creep-free, broke clean, and was probably under five pounds. This was a surprisingly well-made pistol that took me completely by surprise. The only BULL pistols I've ever experienced were early models with square trigger guards and other goofy features that were imported here 20 years ago or more and which were never desirable. Price was in the mid-700 range and seemed well worth the price.

The Thompson (Auto-Ordnance) was stainless as I said and the best-looking AO I've ever handled. Thompson has upped their game. External finish was definitely good, although I'll put my two stainless Springfields against it and the Springfields will win in most eyes. Fit and finish was good. The Thompson was tight, barrel lock-up front and rear was good as was slide-to frame fit. It also had full-length guide rod like the Desert Eagle. It has a beavertail and extended safety lock. The sloped combat style sights were all-black. The frontstrap checkering was nice. I didn't find it too abrasive.

The only weakness in the Thompson, which Eric had already identified, was that the safety lock was somewhat soft when disengaging it. A properly adjusted safety lock should be crisp and click into position, both on and off. It shouldn't be difficult to engage, but it should be sure, with no doubt the safety has engaged or disengaged. This Thompson would engage with reasonable crispness--though I wouldn't mind more, but was really not crisp coming off. Would this put me off buying the pistol? No, but I would replace the safety lock. It was a red flag I mentioned to Eric's friend as something to consider. I tested the pistol carefully and it showed no sign of coming off while pulling the trigger until my fingertip turned almost white. But as a carry gun I would have it refitted or more likely replaced. I don't want to spend too much ink on this--one-off problems are encountered often enough with all makers, just consider this a heads-up to check out with any 1911 you buy.

Other than this, the Thompson was definitely a very nice pistol. The trigger was very well set-up, and I was hard-pressed to choose between it and the Magnum Research 1911. I'd be happy with either. If I had to choose only one of the two based on trigger, I'd choose the BULL-made pistol, but if given the Thompson, I'd not touch the trigger--is was GOOD. And you know, I was impressed with the progress this line has made since being purchase by Kahr Arms. Price was lower than the Magnum Research.

The Ruger SR1911 had a beautiful stainless finish. Here Eric and I disagreed. I thought the Ruger stainless was nicer than the Thompson, I think he liked the Thompson finish better than the Ruger--but he'll be the first to tell you that he's not a stainless fan in the first place, which clouds his opinions on stainless guns. The SR1911 was marred by Ruger's lawyer-speak engraved on the dust cover. The Ruger is what people call a Series 70 gun, which is a lazy and pathetic and way to say the Ruger has no firing pin block. I mean seriously, can we at least call it "Series 70-style," if we are going to rip off trade-marks from Colt left and right? The Ruger has a standard-length guide rod, extended safety lock and beavertail. It has a two-tone finish, with small parts black on a silver frame and slide, a look that was popular on electroless nickel Colts thirty years ago, and which I can't help thinking makes the Ruger somewhat of a nostalgic-looking gun. But what goes around comes around when it comes to fashion. The Ruger's frame to slide fit was looser than the Magnum Research or Thompson, and the barrel lock-up looser than both of those as well. The biggest disappointment was the trigger. The shoe was a sloppy fit in the frame with up and down and even side to side movement. And the trigger pull was not very good. Way too much take-up, creep, and the break was rough. Not terribly heavy, but not a trigger I'd enjoy shooting.

The truth of the 1911 trigger is that it is all in the way it feels. It can be 3.5 lbs or 6.5 lbs. and both a superb trigger--or it can be anywhere in between there and suck because of excessive take-up and/or backlash, and creep. "Creep" in case you are wondering is a general term to describe those felt mechanical movements transmitted to your finger after hammer-sear engagement that should not be there.

I will stop there. Eric says they have received multiple Ruger 1911s that just don't measure up, usually because of sloppy slide-frame fit and/or poor triggers.

The Citadel Compact I looked at was an afterthought with Eric's co-worker. It wasn't a fair comparison perhaps as it was a compact, or Officer's ACP-size pistol: 3.5" barrel, shorter frame. It had a beavertail but a standard safety lock. Combat sights. Black finish. Bull barrel and full length guide rod, dual spring, which is SOP for 1911s this short today. I'm actually familiar with this model as Citadel is made by Armscor in The Philippines, and except for caliber this pistol is identical to my Rock Island Armory Compact 9mm. One exception--this one I looked at had an AAFES-only set of ivory-looking stocks with American flag. Quite nicely done. Fit and finish on this pistol was very good, lock-up was tight, and the trigger was excellent, light, crisp, and creep-free. I would have had no hesitation buying it if I had a use for 3.5" .45s. For what it's worth, the finish is much blacker than in that promo photo above. (Photographers often show finishes lighter in photos in order to show detail.)

Finally I looked again at the Remington R1. Eric had just ordered in another as they only had one left in stock and it had been stock-worn, meaning the bottom of the triggerguard was getting noticeably rubbed from having a lock continually put on and taken off as it was removed from the case for customers to look at. (darn AAFES's over-reaching safety measures). The new one had not been out in the case. It had a nice satin black finish, with Remington's now familiar features.

Somewhat traditional sights, although the rear sight is much thicker than say a basic Colt or Springfield and could be used for the now WILDLY POPULAR "Rack your pistol on your belt or a table when you get one arm shot off" Method. If you have not learned this method yet do not attend a shooting school and let them find out or you will be derisively hooted at for your ignorance, I'm sure. Or maybe it's just that 1911 pistol makers are playing follow the leader, because nobody making other types of guns seem to be bothering...

Where was I? Otherwise standard 1911 features--no beavertail, flat mainspring housing, the safety lock is the USGI tab type, which you simply never see anywhere anymore. In fact, those sights, which possess three bright white dots, BTW, are the only concession to modernity externally, though the pistol is throated, and Remington licenses Colt's Series 80 firing pin block system. The one oddity is a stainless barrel bushing. I suppose it draws attention to the large .45 caliber hole in the muzzle end, but I'd prefer it be black. This pistol locked up tight, and the trigger was good. It had proper take-up and broke cleanly. It was heavier than some, going perhaps six pounds, but that's just an educated guess. It had, when I pulled it slow, the tiniest of hitches just after take-up, then was completely clean--but my finger could feel it. It was so subtle it could have been detritus--metal bits, coagulated grease/oil, etc., in the tiny bits, so I hesitate to judge this one at all harshly--it was nothing like the Ruger, which clearly had serious mechanical issues--I can picture the Ruger's hammer's hooks and/or sear nose about as straight a line as a drunk walks when the cop pulls him over and has him try and walk a straight line down the sidewalk. Zig. Zag. I only mention what I noted on the Remington it because it was not quite ready for Camp Perry's fifty yard Bullseye line.

But this R1 is about a perfect carry pistol as I can imagine. Heavy duty, easy-to-see sights, a small, unobtrusive but positive safety lock. A proper 1911 trigger that is not as light as some of the boutique pistols being sold by other makers to people who just want a 1911 in their collection but don't know a mainspring from a sear spring, It has a firing pin block that's been proven to work over the last thirty years (worthwhile in this litigious day and age, especially when every other type of firearm is also made with one), and it's a full-size, all-steel Model 1911 made in the USA. It even came with two magazines, which look like MecGars. What's not to like for a 1911 geek like me? Okay, Eric's friend wasn't looking at the Remington, I just added that one in because I was interested myself. And yeah, I bought it.

I hope if you read this far you found these mini-reviews interesting.

Uploaded: 7/30/2014