November 07, 2011
The 1911 wave has been ridden by a number of manufacturers, and so many variations have been made over the past 100 years that it seems unlikely that there would be room for any more. Fortunately for 1911 fans, Ruger doesn't go along with that theory.
The company recently jumped into the 1911 market with its SR1911. Ruger has long been known for the manufacture of tough, reliable and reasonably priced firearms. Its previous offerings in the auto pistol market have been excellent double-action and striker-fired models, and the addition of a 1911 is the perfect way to round out its extensive handgun lineup.
One complaint I've heard over the years about Ruger handguns has been that though they're well-built, some models are perceived as unattractive. Prior to the company actually unveiling its 1911, there was some worry in certain circles that Ruger would bring a lack of style sense to its take on John Browning's design.
The first time I handled the Ruger SR1911, it was quite clear this was not the case. It was immediately apparent, in fact, that the SR1911 very well may be one of the most handsome Ruger handguns I've seen to date.
The full five-inch pistol bears a great finish—bead-blasted stainless steel slide and frame. The components are matte black, which, in combination with nice checkered wood stocks, make the gun a striking piece.
Ruger outdid itself with the grips on this pistol. The grips on my test gun had a nice figure to them and excellent checkering in the old diamond pattern. They bear the Ruger emblem embedded on both sides.
As I mentioned, the pistol's components, including the slide stop, thumb safety, magazine release and beavertail grip safety are finished in matte black. These parts are manufactured using metal injection molding, which is a process that uses powdered metal, along with a binder, that is injected into a mold. The binder is then melted out, resulting in a part that is dimensionally correct and metallurgically as strong as a wrought part.
The pistol's mainspring housing is also matte black, and checkered. The magazine release and thumb safety are slightly extended, and the thumb safety isn't ambidextrous, which I prefer. The Commander-style hammer has an interesting finish—it's actually two-tone, with stainless sides and black matte and the back and top, covering the serrations.
The meat of the SR1911 is the stainless steel slide and frame. The slide is forged, and the frame is cast using Ruger's time-honored investment casting system. They are then precision machined for a tight slide-to-frame fit. My test gun had a very tight slide-to-frame match, and sideways play between the two was minimal.
The SR1911 features several accuracy-inducing details, not the least of which is the fact the barrel and bushing are made from the same piece of ordnance-grade bar stock. Once the two pieces are made, they are kept together instead of mixed and matched. This ensures a precise fit and improved accuracy. Another interesting and unique detail is that the pistol's plunger housing is cast integrally. This prevents the loosening of the housing from the frame, which can obviously be a problem.
There's been a good deal of debate over the years regarding Colt's Series 70 versus the Series 80 1911 pistols. The 1911 design remained basically the same from the inception of the pistol until 1970 when Colt instituted changes in the pistol's bushing design in an attempt to improve accuracy. These were the MK IVSeries 70 pistols.
In 1983, the company made significant design changes internally. The MK IV Series 80 guns employed a new firing pin block safety system. The design used internal levers and a plunger to positively block the firing pin, the block deactivating when the trigger is pressed.
The purpose of this new design was to prevent the gun from discharging if were dropped on a hard surface. The objection to the Series 80 firing pin safety system amongst many shooters was the idea that the action couldn't be fine tuned because of the levers and plunger, especially if one wished to hone the trigger to a light action under three pounds. I've never worked on a Series 80 pistol, but I'm told that indeed a good gunsmith can smooth the action on one, though it's a bit more time consuming.
Many of today's 1911 pistols still utilize the Series 80 firing pin safety design. Ruger was able avoid this system by incorporating a titanium firing pin and a heavy firing pin spring. Ruger says this method negates the need for a firing pin block, offering an updated safety feature to the original Series 70 design without compromising trigger pull weight. The combination of the lightweight firing pin and heavy spring eliminates the possibility of an inertia firing.
The trigger itself is relatively crisp—just under five pounds according to my RCBS trigger pull scale. The trigger itself is skeletonized aluminum, and is adjustable for overtravel.
Ruger has long been fond of hand forging its barrels, but the SR1911's is not forged since the integral feed ramp would have called for a large forging blank. The barrels are broached using 410 stainless steel.
The SR1911 comes standard with the Novak three-dot sight system. They are fitted into a dovetail slot and locked in with a small set screw. The rear sight is adjustable for windage. While I'm a fan of Novak sights, I'm not particularly a fan of the three white dot system. It's personal preference, but I like black sights or certain night sight combos. I find it very difficult, especially when shooting for accuracy, to get a good sight picture with the white dots. I'm hoping Ruger will offer other sight options in the future.
While the SR1911 aesthetically is an outstanding rendition of Browning's original 1911 pistol, the obvious question is how does it actually perform? I took the Ruger out to my desert range on a hot afternoon with several brands of factory .45 ACP ammunition for workout. I started out with Black Hills 230-grain jacketed hollowpoints, running a number of magazines through the gun. I picked various targets at various distances, getting familiar with the feel and trigger pull. The Ruger proved to handle easily, and I had little difficulty busting dirt clods and aluminum cans at ranges out to 30 yards offhand. The gun also performed quite well on the 25-yard accuracy test.
The SR1911 functioned very well using the several varieties of factory ammunition I had on hand. I experienced two failures to feed, both using the Black Hill 230-grain jacketed hollowpoint ammunition. The hollowpoints have a particularly wide mouth, and I think that's what casued the failures. I suspect a little extra polishing of the feed ramp would remedy this problem for anyone wishing to use this load extensively.
I believe the SR1911 is going to be a great success for Ruger. With a retail price of just under $800, it's an outstanding value. Anyone looking for a well-made, well-finished 1911 pistol at a price that won't leave them eating frijoles for a month should look no further than the SR1911.
- Type: 1911 semiauto
- Caliber: .45 ACP
- Barrel: 5 in. stainless 6-groove
- OAL/Width/Height: 8.67/1.34/5.45 in.
- Weight: 39 oz.
- Construction: low-glare stainless steel slide and frame
- Trigger: single action, 5 lb. pull
- Sights: fixed Novak 3-dot
- Safeties: grip, thumb
- Price: $799
- Manufacturer: Ruger
- Smallest avg. group: 230 gr. Black Hills JPH +P—2.0 in.
- Largest avg. group: 230 gr. Hornady TAP—3.5 in.
- Avg. of all ammo tested (5 types)—3.0 in.
- Accuracy results are averages of three three-shot groups fired at 25 yards from a sandbag rest.