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Handgun Reviews

A Signature Pistol

by Greg Rodriguez   |  September 24th, 2010 0

Ed Brown’s new Massad Ayoob Signature 1911 is a fitting tribute to an industry icon.


I’ve been into guns for as long as anyone can remember, but it wasn’t until after high school that I began acquiring and training with handguns. And as I started studying the legal aspects of concealed carry in greater depth. Massad Ayoob quickly became my favorite author.

Ayoob is perhaps best known as an expert on the use of deadly force by civilians and police officers. But he’s also an excellent competitive shooter, a lawman and a highly regarded firearms instructor. So when he sauntered into Ed Brown’s booth at a trade show last year and started talking guns, Brown listened. By the time Ayoob left, Brown had his blessing to build a signature pistol to Massad’s specifications.

The Massad Ayoob Signature Edition is built on one of Brown’s excellent forged, stainless steel frames. The hand-polished frame is smooth and devoid of tool marks. The frontstrap is cut high under the trigger guard to allow a higher grip.

The most notable frame feature is Brown’s bobtail modification. For those who aren’t familiar with it (or missed our cover story on the Ed Brown bobtail in the July/August 2009 issue; see the article at Hand gunsMag.com–Ed.), the bobtail modification consists of a trimmed grip frame, mainspring housing and grips that angle in at the bottom, where the grip is most likely to print under a thin shirt or light jacket. The bobtail modification keeps the gun from printing yet doesn’t alter your grip in the least.

The signature gun’s frontstrap is checkered at 25 lines per inch, which I really like. It is not as hard on the hands or clothes as 20-lpi checkering but holds up a bit better and provides more traction than 30 lpi.

The upper half of the bobtail mainspring housing is also checkered at 25 lpi. The bottom is spared because little of it comes into contact with the hand due to the bobtail configuration. Checkering on the frontstrap and mainspring housing is flawless, with straight lines, sharp points and no run-out.

Other frame-mounted features include Brown’s low-profile magazine release; stainless Hardcore slide stop; Memory Groove beavertail grip safety; and a trim, ambidextrous thumb safety. I am not a fan of ambidextrous safeties, but the Brown version is nice and trim on both sides, so it isn’t likely to disengage inadvertently. The safety lever engaged smoothly and positively with an audible and tactile click.


Brown’s bobtail conversion doesn’t hurt your shooting grip at all, but it does reduce the gun’s profile and makes it easier to conceal.

Ignition parts included Ed Brown’s Perfection sear and disconnector, both of which are machined from bar stock. His Commander-style Hardcore hammer is also machined from bar stock. Ever liability-conscious, Ayoob also requested an extra-heavy duty firing pin spring to prevent “inertia discharges” in the event the cocked pistol is struck or dropped on a hard surface. It’s also cheap insurance against recalcitrant primers.

The trigger is Brown’s classic, three-hole aluminum design. It has a serrated face and adjustable overtravel set screw. Per Massad’s request, Ayoob guns will have a crisp, clean 4.5-pound trigger pull.

Some 1911 shooters prefer lighter pulls, but Ayoob has always advocated more reasonable trigger pull weights for carry guns. A slightly heavier trigger is less likely to be pulled accidentally.

Since it was designed for concealed carry, the Ayoob gun has a true Commander-length, 41/4-inch slide. Commander-length slides are just three-quarters of an inch shorter than a full-size gun, but that little bit makes a big difference in the concealability department. A shorter slide would be easier to conceal, but sub-four-inch 1911s are prone to reliability issues.

The slide, another Ed Brown part, is also forged from stainless steel. It is polished and then precisely fitted to the frame. The fit is nice and tight, yet it reciprocates smoothly on the frame.


The frontstrap and mainspring housing are treated to flawlessly executed 25-lpi checkering for a secure grip.

The left side of the slide is marked Massad Ayoob Signature Edition, and the right is laser-engraved with Massad Ayoob’s distinctive signature. The markings are clean, sharp and tastefully done.

Low-profile, Novak-style fixed sights are dovetailed neatly into the slide. The snag-free, wedge-shaped rear has serrated sides and two tritium dots with white outlines. The dovetailed front has a single tritium dot with the same white outline.

I really like the combination of the white outline and tritium inserts for concealed carry. Tritium shines in low light, while the white outlines make the sights easy to acquire in bright light.

To ensure the Ayoob gun meets Massad’s accuracy requirement of sub-two-inch groups at 25 yards with hollowpoint defensive ammunition, the 41/4-inch, stainless match-grade barrel is a Brown part. So is the bushing. The recoil spring and guide rod are simple, GI-style parts.

The barrel locks up beautifully, and the bushing is fitted just right. It’s tight, but if I man up, I can disassemble the Ayoob gun without a bushing wrench. In my opinion, that’s the way every carry gun should be fitted.

The Ayoob gun’s grips are made of black G-10 and checkered in the classic double-diamond pattern. G-10 is fast becoming my favorite grip material. It is tough, impervious to moisture and, when checkered, is tough enough that those points stay sharp. When combined with good sharp checkering like Brown’s, they make the pistol feel like it’s glued to my hand.

When I unboxed the Ayoob gun, I was impressed with its understated beauty. Though it is an all-stainless pistol, the matte finish is pleasing to the eye and keeps it from being too bright. The black grips and sights add a nice bit of contrast and break up all that stainless steel.


The Massad Ayoob gun features a trim ambi safety and snag-free Novak-style three-dot sights that combine white outlines with tritium inserts.

The signature pistol is smooth as the proverbial bar of soap and free of sharp edges. The carry bevel extends to the magazine well, which is opened up nicely for speedier reloads. The beavertail grip safety is beautifully fitted and sweeps really high to allow a high grip. The speed bump ensures consistent engagement of the grip safety.

During my initial dry-firing session, the pistol pointed perfectly. I am a 1911 guy, so I was not the least bit surprised that the controls came immediately to hand and engaged smoothly and positively. I was pleased, however, to see that the bobtail conversion didn’t affect my grip in the least. In fact, though I did notice that it didn’t extend as far down my hand as my other 1911s, the Ayoob gun was as comfortable and familiar to me as my own custom pistols.

As I studied the pistol during my usual pre-shooting inspection, I noticed that the trigger pull was more than the 41/2 pounds Ayoob specified. It was crisp and clean with no noticeable creep or overtravel, but it broke a little over spec at five pounds, two ounces. I don’t have a problem with that, but some shooters might.

After I checked it out and gave it a thorough cleaning, I headed off to the local sheriff’s department range to break in the gun with my good friend Lance Bertolino. Lance is a police officer and one of his department’s firearms instructors, so I thought it would be nice to have him help me give the new gun a workout.

Per my usual routine, I started off with a few magazines of slow-fire from the seven-yard line. That close-range work allows me to get used to the trigger, see where the sights hit and make sure everything is working as it should.


Massad Ayoob’s distinctive signature graces the right side of the slide, and the ejection port is lowered and flared.

I was not surprised to see the Massad Ayoob gun feed and fire flawlessly and eject spent casings smartly to the right. The trigger was crisp and clean enough that it made shooting the pistol easy, and every round hit right on top of the front sight in a big, ragged hole.

Once I felt comfortable with the pistol, Lance and I moved to the 10-yard line and loaded up a whole pile of magazines from Ed Brown, Chip McCormick and Cerberus Tactical with a mix of ammunition from American Eagle, Black Hills, Federal, Hornady and Speer.

I started out by dumping five magazines, 40 rounds, as fast as I could pull the trigger. The trigger pull was clean enough to allow me to make those shots count, and the gun chugged along beautifully. Next, I handed Lance the pistol and let him go to town with the next 40 rounds.

It took only a quick glance at the target to tell the pistol pointed naturally and handled well for him, too. He experienced one failure to feed, but it was with a magazine I’d already marked as iffy during a previous shooting session. I discarded the magazine, and the gun never hiccupped again.

We let the gun cool for a few minutes while we loaded magazines, then we ran a series of drills that involved multiple shots, shooting on the move and one-handed shooting. Inducing stress and one-handed shooting test the shooter and the gun, as a weak or improper grip can affect reliability. The Ayoob gun ran without a hitch, and both of us hit as well with it as we did our own 1911s.

We were running out of time and low on ammunition by the time we’d finished our drills, so I loaded up a pair of magazines with the last of my 230-grain Hydra Shok ammunition and moved back to the 25 yard-line for some offhand accuracy work.

I didn’t expect to meet the pistol’s sub-two-inch accuracy guarantee without a rest, but I always like to do some long-range work to make sure my trigger control is solid. I was pleased to see all eight of my shots well within the nine-ring on the B-27 silhouette.

I was pleased with the gun’s 25-yard accuracy, so I walked back to the 50-yard line with the last magazine to try my luck. It’s not really fair to the gun for me to be shooting that far, but I managed to keep seven of my eight shots inside the eight-ring. I dropped one into the seven-ring, but considering how many guns I tested that day, I was pretty pleased with my performance and the new Ed Brown pistol.

A few days later, I headed back to the range to do some formal accuracy work from 25 yards with the Ayoob signature gun. I shot five five-shot groups with loads from American Eagle, Black Hills, Federal and Speer. All shot very well, with three of the loads easily averaging well under the Ayoob gun’s two-inch accuracy guarantee.

Federal’s Hydra Shok load was the accuracy champ, with an incredible .677-inch best group and a five-group average of 1.43 inches. Black Hills’ 185-grain JHP and Speer’s 200-grain TMJ load also averaged less than two inches.

I’ve tested enough of Ed Brown’s guns that I wasn’t surprised by the test gun’s excellent accuracy, reliability or fit and finish. But, frankly, that level of quality should be a given on a pistol that carries a price tag of $2,720.

Even though there were no surprises, it’s always fun to test such a nice pistol. The fact that it was configured by the industry icon whose sage writing taught me so much in my gun-crazy youth makes it even cooler. Ed Brown’s Massad Ayoob Signature Edition is definitely worthy of the name.

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