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Bullish on the 1911

Bullish on the 1911
Taurus' new pistol has lots of high-end features without the high price tag.

As big a fan as I am of the 1911 pistol, there are times I get tired of it. John Browning's design is difficult to improve upon, and the patents on the pistol are long expired, so it is easier for firearms manufacturers to build a proven design than it is to design and build something new.

So when I walked through last year's big firearms trade show and past all the 1911-style pistols, I found that most didn't interest me. Except for the individual features on each gun (sights, safety levers, magazine wells), they were basically all the same.

But as I wandered through the Taurus booth, mostly looking at revolvers, I happened to notice a table displaying several 1911 pistols. I picked one up to check it out and noticed that the gun had all the features one would want on a fighting handgun: hard rubber grips, ambidextrous safety, high visibility sights. As a matter of fact, the sights looked like Heinie Specialty's Straight 8 sights, which are normally found on expensive, high end handguns.

The three-hole aluminum trigger has a serrated face. It broke the scales at just under five pounds and had a snappy reset.

As I was examining the gun, Taurus' Chuck Fretwell walked up and asked if I had any questions. I looked at him and asked, "Yeah, how much does this thing cost?" When he told me it retailed for less than $600 [Editor's note: Current suggested list is $700, with street price less than that], that caught my attention, so I ordered up a test sample to find out if such an inexpensive gun with so much promise was any good

Taurus says its 1911 offers 19 standard features for which other manufacturers would charge more than $1,000. In addition, each gun is individually hand-assembled, hand-mated and hand-fitted.

When my test gun arrived, I took it from the box and noted that its flat black finish was not at all attractive but very business-like. To tell you the truth, an attractive bright blue finish really does not interest me on a carry gun, so the flat black color was just fine with me.

I immediately disassembled the gun with the bushing wrench that was supplied with the gun to inspect the internal components. Taurus uses a full length recoil guide rod on the pistol, and while this is one of those topics that many writers like to debate the fact is that I don't care if it has a short or long rod—provided the gun will run. Yes, it is more difficult to field strip, but when I do this type of thing I am not in a hurry, so I don't find this to be a big deal.

The author installed an old mag-well funnel on the gun for easier reloading, but since it didn't allow the bumpered Taurus mags to work in the gun, he removed the funnel for testing.

A close look at the parts revealed that they were of the Series 80 design, but they fit well together with just a few machine marks—nothing I thought would seriously affect the gun's performance. Taurus claims that all "major components" are custom forged from ordnance steel, but I have no idea what they consider "major components." The barrel is highly polished and nicely throated and the slide to frame fit quite precise.

The Taurus 1911 comes in two frame styles: traditional rounded dust cover and accessory rail.

The grip safety is a beavertail design with a memory pad at the bottom to ensure that the grip safety is depressed when the need arises. The front strap, flat mainspring housing and the underside of the trigger guard are all checkered to 30 lines per inch, which offers a solid hold without feeling like the points are digging into the skin.

The 30 lines per inch checkering on the grip provided good purchase without bite.

The skeletonized, serrated trigger broke at just under five pounds with a snappy reset. There was a noticeable hitch at the point of sear engagement, but the trigger did improve as the gun was fired.


The slide has a lowered and flared ejection port as well as forward cocking serrations. The extractor on the Taurus 1911 is the classic internal design, which I was pleased to see. While I realize that external extractors on the 1911 are being perfected, I have seen more problems with the external versions than I have with the internal design.

The hammer is a round Commander style that is a bit more compact than the classic version, but I thought it was very functional with a series of serrations on the top. The hammer on my test gun was also the location of the requisite gun lock that many manufacturers now place on their firearms.

MANUFACTURER: Taurus, 305-642-1111
TYPE: 1911 semiauto
SIGHTS: Heinie Straight Eight
GRIPS: black hard rubber
WEIGHT: 38 ounces
PRICE: $700

The magazine button was a bit extended but still too short for my small hands to reach without a bit of gun flip. I could easily solve this problem, however, by relieving the black, hard rubber grip just to the rear of the button. The grips themselves have a molded checkering with the classic diamond design around the grip screw holes. I thought they were rather classic looking and saw no reason to replace them.

The ambidextrous safety lever is a nice feature and will make a lot of lefties very happy as this addition can cost several hundred dollars depending on who performs the modification.

While the Taurus factory magazines did not have the same weight and feel as, say, a Wilson or McCormick magazine, only a trip to the range would determine their reliability. The magazine well had a slight bevel, but nothing that I thought would be a real aid to rapid reloading. I dug through my parts box and came across an old polymer Rogers magazine funnel that attaches to the bottom of the frame via the bottom grip screw posts.

Most of the controls on the PT1911 are standard fare except for the ambidextrous safety, a feature that's usually found on much more expensive guns.

While some may scoff at this addition, it really helped line up the magazine for a more positive insertion, though the Taurus magazine would no longer fit in the gun due to their wide floor plates. However, a host of other magazines including Wilson, McCormick, Colt, Kimber and even a few old Devel magazines worked just fine.

Of all of the fine features the Taurus PT1911 possessed, my favorite was the Heinie Straight Eight sights that are now standard on all Taurus pistols. An admitted fan of Dick Heinie's sight design, I find the dot on dot configuration easy to see, and I appreciate the serrated rear sight face that dramatically reduces glare.

Jeff Copper is quoted as saying—and I confess I use this quote a lot—that a defensive pistol needs three things: good sights, good trigger and total reliability. It appeared that the Taurus had the first two, but the third was yet to be determined.

I headed to the range with my shooting partner Jack Yahle and 500 rounds of varied ammo makes and styles with the intention of firing every round. I really wanted to see if this gun with all of these features, at a price that was less than half of most 1911 pistols, would perform.

The first thing Spaulding did was to run 10 magazines full of various ammo—one after another—to test for reliability. There was not a single malfunction.

The first thing I did was take it from the box (I had removed the Rogers mag funnel so I could use the Taurus magazines) and loaded 10 magazines—both seven- and eight-round models—and started shooting the gun as fast as I could. I wasn't even trying to hit anything; I just wanted to see if I could get the gun to choke.

With the magazines on the table beside me, I slammed the first magazine home and just started to mash the trigger as fast as I could. When the slide locked to the rear, I slammed another magazine home and repeated the process. I did this until all 10 magazines were empty and I kid you not, the gun did not stop once.

Next, Jack and I moved back to 25 yards and, with the help of a Hornady Delta Rest, shot five-round groups to see what kind of accuracy the gun was capable of. Those who've read my articles in the past know I don't use a mechanical rest because I believe that the human factors of shooting—lining up the sights and pressing the trigger—should not be removed from the equation.

A gun is only as accurate as the shooter holding it, but in the interest of being fair to the gun, I do use the Delta Rest to give it a solid platform. Using six-inch Birchwood Casey Shoot-N-C dots, all of the ammo styles shot within three inches from the rest. The Hornady 230-grain XTP .45 load fired a one-inch group, and I suspect this was because it was my last group and was really used to the trigger by then.

Taurus' 1911s come with the company's integral Security System. If you don't like it or need

it, you can simply

disengage it.

Once that was done, I moved on to a few combat drills. Using a Galco Gunsite Range Holster and a Milt Sparks Versa-Max inside the waistband holster, Jack and I began to perform a number of draw-and-move drills on targets in which our "opponent" was partially obscured by cover. Getting on the front sight quickly was easy to do, and the trigger was smooth enough to keep the rounds where I needed them.

All in all, the Taurus PT1911 proved to be a solid performer, making it one of the best deals around for a daily carry 1911. Did I have any problems? Only one: One of the Taurus magazines would not feed Federal Hydra Shok ammo on the last round out of the magazine. It was always the same magazine, and it occurred only with Hydra Shok. There were no problems with any other makes or styles of ammo or any of the other magazines.

I can't speak for every Taurus 1911 that may come off the assembly line, but if this gun is any indication of what Taurus is offering, the company is going to have a hard time keeping these in stock.

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