September 24, 2010
The new Special Forces Carry from Ed Brown is one special 1911.
The Government-size 1911 is a paragon of reliability, durability, efficiency and looks. What it isn't so much is concealable. The five-inch barrel and concomitant slide is hard to wear, and many holsters poke the muzzle into your thigh or hip, leveraging the grip safety into your kidney. Meanwhile, the rear of the frame is poking at your coat, or hanging up on the cloth, draping it and "printing."
Enter the Commander size, which solved many of those problems. By shortening the barrel (and slide) by three-quarters of an inch, the leveraging and the kidney-torture are greatly diminished. However, for some even the Commander doesn't solve the problem of printing. Ed Brown has another solution: Cut it off. Not your jacket, the corner of the frame--as in Ed Brown's proprietary Bobtail frame.
The conversion is simple in concept but a bit of work to actualize. In order to trim the corner enough to matter, Ed had to relocate the mainspring housing retaining pin. That meant a change in the mainspring and its internals. But with the correct tooling and some modified parts, anything is possible. The result is a much more concealable pistol.
With the Special Forces Carry, Ed and the crew have combined all the attributes needed to produce a reliable, accurate and easy to carry pistol. First of all, he made it out of stainless steel. Yes, stainless will be more visible in some instances. But it will also be more resistant to rust, a particular virtue in warmer climates than mine.
The shorter barrel makes for easier concealed carry, although some might worry about a loss of accuracy. They obviously have not been paying attention to the performance levels that Ed insists on. If a pistol is not accurate, Ed doesn't send it out.
The Special Forces Carry features Ed's Chainlink texturing, which is applied to the frontstrap and the mainspring housing. The pattern is a series of truncated concave ovoids machined into the surface of the steel in a repeating pattern. It's not only cool-looking, it's a non-abrasive surface that provides a secure grip.
When I first went to Gunsite, I had paid attention to the things Jeff Cooper had been writing, so my pistol already had its sharp edges knocked off when I arrived. Others in my class had not paid attention, and so the evening after the first class I spent time with file, stone and abrasive cloth knocking the sharp edges off their handguns.
The pistols from Ed Brown do not have sharp edges, as he (and the rest of us who were paying attention) have long since learned to find and remove sharp edges. All the edges are de-horned without the pistol looking like it had been thrown against a belt sander.
As do all Ed Brown pistols, the Special Forces Carry features his proprietary grip safety and thumb safety. Back in the early days we all fussed over grip safeties. I, along with many other gunsmiths, experimented on them--even going so far as to weld some up to then be ground, filed, machined and otherwise fitted to a frame in the quest for comfort and better shooting.
When the Ed Brown design came out, we all stopped because here it was: The Ed Brown grip safety gets your hand higher behind the line of bore than any other. For some the extra height doesn't matter, but for a lot of us it does. I can shoot a 1911 with just about any grip safety on it, but given a choice I go with Ed Brown.
To aid those like me who find a high grip can be problematic in terms of always getting the grip safety off, Ed has added a "gas pedal" or palm pad to the grip safety. It ensures that your hand always engages the grip safety.
The reshaped mainspring housing keeps the gun from "printing" when carried concealed and doesn't affect control during firing. The Ed Brown grip safety gets your hand higher behind the line of bore than any other. Fixed three-dot night sights are standard on the Special Forces Carry.
You can order an ambi safety for yours, but I find most just don't work for me, so the standard one-sided safety paddle is all I ever ask for. The sight selection is easier--you have your choice of night sights or night sights--which makes sense since this is a carry gun. The rear is a Novak-shaped wedge with gripping grooves on the side, and the front is the very stylish ramped Patridge seen on all the best guns these days.
The slide features serrations on the rear only, and here Ed might be out of favor with some of the "modern" pistoleros. Front cocking serrations are a competition item, used so competitors can check the chamber after they've loaded. Since you'll load and unload a pistol on each stage, and in some matches could be doing that a dozen times a day, some competitors like to check to make sure.
For a carry gun, I've worked out a different method. I load the magazine, insert it and close the slide and apply the thumb safety. I then remove the magazine. If there is a round missing, guess what? It is in the chamber, so there's no need to pull the slide back to check. I top off the magazine, re-insert it and get on with life.
For daily concealed carry, forward cocking serrations often perform only one function: to grind the leather or kydex out of your holster from daily wear.
The fit and function of a pistol (especially the 1911) is dependent on the fit of slide, frame and barrel. Some gunsmiths are fond of fitting a pistol so tightly that you have to "pop" it open when it is new. Yes, it will be more accurate and stay accurate longer, but how long is long enough?
I have pistols with more than 50,000 rounds through them that are still accurate. I have one that is over 100,000 and is still more accurate than I am. An Ed Brown pistol closes firmly and securely but does not require excessive force to open. I'm sure if I ever get to the point of that many rounds with an Ed Brown, it will still be accurate. And reliable.
All the internals are, of course, Ed Brown internals. He builds his pistols using his Hardcore internal parts. Each of them have been carefully spec'd to use the correct and best alloy and heat treatment, and they're made to exacting dimensions. These rugged, correctly made parts are all hand-fitted.
The result is a 100 percent reliable 1911, which is what you're looking for in a defensive pistol. Alas, I cannot report that I fired some imposing number of rounds through th
e Special Forces Carry; I had time and weather only to put a few thousand through it. However, not one of them caused a problem--not even the first couple of hundred, which is where, if you're going to have a problem with a new gun, you often see it.
No, right out of the box this was one well-behaved carry pistol, digesting any and all ammo I had to feed it. As you would expect from an all-steel pistol, recoil was a non-issue. Even the most energetic loads were easy to shoot, and the gongs at the club suffered mightily as a result.
The company's Chainlink pattern - located on the mainspring housing and the frontstrap - provides a secure but non-abrading gripping surface.
As far as accuracy is concerned, the Special Forces Carry demonstrated one of the basic laws that any firearm displays: Test it with enough different loads and the gun will tell you what it likes. If you are planning on using a pistol for defense, you should fire about 200 rounds of what you will be depending on--to make sure the pistol likes it. That can get expensive, but it's nothing compared to the expense of discovering a problem when you are in a dark alley.
Every firearm will also show preferences in how accurately it shoots some ammo and where the point of impact is. So don't take it as gospel that you have to use "XYZ load" for your firearm just because I reported it in this or another article. Test your gun with your ammo in your hands, and then go by what you see.
In this Special Forces Carry, I can definitely tell you not to feed it older IMI hardball--at least not the batch I have. This batch suffers from a lack of neck tension. Thus, bullets will set back in the case on feeding.
That can cause problems in feeding, although the Special Forces Carry took that in stride. What it inescapably means is a larger variance in velocity and larger groups. I have found few pistols that will shoot this ammo well, although later production lots do not suffer from the same problem.
The point is, while the Special Forces Carry didn't shoot this stuff accurately (not the gun's fault), it did feed it all, which is something other pistols have failed at.
Once I had done my due diligence as far as accuracy testing and chronographing were concerned, I spent the rest of my time doing what practice drills I could in the snow. The Commander-length barrel and slide made the Special Forces easy to draw, the weight dampened recoil, and the brass was consistently ejected back and to the right.
It worked with all my magazines, but then I do not keep bad magazines on hand. If you want to ensure your Ed Brown pistol works 100 percent of the time, you can order extra magazines right from Ed. He offers standard seven-shot magazines as well as his new 8-Pack magazines, designed from the ground up to have an eight-shot capacity.
In this day of mass-produced goods, cranked out at the lowest cost to satisfy consumers who have little or no taste or concern for quality and durability, it is nice to know that guys like Ed Brown are paying attention to the details. So if you're in the market for a supremely well-made, reliable carry gun, you'd do well to investigate further.
The Special Forces Carry shot all but the IMI ammo quite well, showing a real affinity for Hornady TAP.