When it comes to 1911s, consumers have a huge number of choices, but right now there isn’t any good taxonomic classification of these pistols. (Taxonomy, if you didn’t know, is the scientific classification of organisms by family, genus, species, etc.)
When it comes to 1911s, your two basic classes are “modern” and “original/retro.” The “modern” field is crowded, the “retro” group not so much. However, even many 1911s advertised as being “a page out of history” aren’t historically accurate. The new 1911A1 Government model .45 ACP from Inland Manufacturing in Dayton, Ohio, is about as close to John Browning’s 1911A1 as I’ve seen in a long time.
Whether you compete in Wild Bunch stages at SASS events or just like historically accurate firearms, the 1911A1 is about as iconic an American firearm as you’ll find. The new Inland Manufacturing jumped into the gunmaking business with an authentic 1945-era M1 Carbine, and it brings the same attention to detail to its 1911A1.
It is, of course, a full-size, all-steel 1911 with a five-inch barrel, chambered in the original .45 ACP. Unloaded, it weighs 39 ounces. The finish is a utilitarian flat Parkerizing. You’ll see a stamped list of patent dates on the left side of the slide, just like on the original G.I. guns.
The slide serrations are vertical, and compared to “modern” 1911s, the ejection port is somewhat small. The authentic “hump and a bump” sights are minimal, but to our military’s way of thinking, if you needed or were down to just your pistol, the enemy was so close you probably didn’t need sights at all.
Ironically, most “modern” 1911s look like the original 1911 with a flat mainspring housing and a long trigger and double-diamond grips. That design was changed with the introduction of the 1911A1 (circa 1924), and like the original 1911A1, the Inland has an arched mainspring housing, longer grip safety spur and a short trigger. The mainspring housing is steel, vertically serrated and has a lanyard loop at the bottom.
To make accessing the short trigger easier in the “new” (post-World War I) 1911A1, beveled cuts were made in the frame just behind the trigger, and every “1911” now made sports those same scalloped cuts in the frame. I’m not aware of any manufacturer who makes a new version of the original 1911 design; all of the modern “retro” guns are some variation on the 1911A1.
The double-diamond grips on the original 1911 were replaced on the 1911A1 with fully checkered brown plastic grips, and that’s what you’ll find on the Inland 1911A1. In fact, there are only two places I can find where the Inland strays from a perfect imitation of the original 1911A1.
The first is in the magazine well opening in the frame. The magazine wells of the original 1911, 1911A1 and most commercial Colts up until well into the disco age were not beveled at all, but the magazine well of the Inland is nicely beveled. Anyone bothered by that little inconsistency probably isn’t interested in anything less than a 1911A1 personally blessed by John Browning himself.
The second is the addition of a Series 80 firing pin safety. Colt added these widely panned safeties to its pistols in the 1980s at the insistence of lawyers, although the company got the idea from the Swartz safety from the late 1930s, a feature tried and rejected by the military. On a design that has both a manual safety and a grip safety, I think a firing pin safety is at best superfluous. On a pistol that is supposed to be historically accurate and in “original G.I. configuration,” it’s borderline blasphemous.
It’s been some time since I looked at an original 1911 or 1911A1, so I’m not sure how much chamber throating or feed ramp adjusting/polishing was called for in John Browning’s original design specs, but the Inland’s feed ramp is perfectly mated to the beveled and polished barrel chamber.
Most of the changes that have been made to the 1911A1 between its adoption and the modern iterations are external and allow for more comfort and ease of operation when carrying the pistol cocked and locked or shooting it with a thumb-high hold. Its reliability is as much a function of quality magazines as anything else.
The Inland 1911A1 is supplied with one seven-round Metalform magazine with a non-tilt follower. I’ve used Metalform mags extensively, and they are an excellent, inexpensive choice. When testing this pistol, I mostly used either full-metal-jacket ammo or hollowpoints that had profiles similar to FMJ and never had a malfunction. The sights were the biggest hindrance to accurate shooting, but it’s hard to go wrong with an American classic.