August 31, 2016
By Patrick Sweeney
There are a lot of things you don’t mess with in nature. One is the scorpion, and ranking among the biggest of them all is the emperor scorpion, which grows to be a whopping eight inches long. So when SIG Sauer decided to upgrade its existing Scorpion 1911, I suppose it makes sense the company would choose this intimidating arthropod as the pistol’s namesake.
The Emperor Scorpion 1911 is a rock-solid, Government-size 1911 in .45 ACP. The big change from the Scorpion is the finish. It’s a polymer finish applied via physical vapor deposition. Parts are bathed in a fog of polymer, which attaches itself to the steel like a trial attorney to a check. The resulting finish, in flat dark earth, is tough enough to stand up to pretty much anything but a belt sander. It also offers increased lubricity, making the Emperor Scorpion easier to clean.
The Emperor Scorpion 1911’s slide features the SIG 1911 contour, which I have to admit is growing on me. The sidewalls come up a bit higher, and the radius of the top deck curve is wider, making for a profile that echoes the iconic SIG P226.
The slide flats forward of the ejection port each have a raised rail, with the forward cocking serrations machined in the rail only, which aids in this design echo. I’m not usually a fan of forward cocking serrations, but on SIGs they are low profile and not sharp-edged, so I can live with them.
Behind the ejection port, which has been scalloped to prevent brass from hitting the slide, is an external extractor. In response to complaints from shooters who didn’t like the hassle of keeping the 1911’s internal extractor properly tensioned, companies began to use an external extractor—with varying degrees of success. Fortunately, SIG has a long history of building guns with external extractors, and its designers got it right on its 1911s—and the Emperor Scorpion 1911 is no exception.
On top, the Emperor Scorpion 1911 has a set of low-profile night sights set into transverse dovetails for maximum durability. The barrel is pure John M. Browning: a normally ramped frame-and-barrel design, with a standard bushing and bushing fit. No coned barrel here, and the bushing fits both the barrel and slide snugly but without binding. A bonus, the recoil spring system is your basic “it has worked since forever” design. In other words, no full-length guide rod.
The trigger, hammer, thumb safety, grip safety, retainer tunnel and the grips are all done in black, contrasting with the flat dark earth finish. And the fire control parts are not just black but have been shaped in a manner I find useful and comfortable. The trigger is relieved to lighten it, and it’s long, so I find the trigger finger position to be quite comfortable. The hammer is in the Commander style—if you think of a Commander hammer updated to the 21st century. It is rounded, serrated, low profile and lightened.
The grip safety is a beavertail, which ensures it stays on top of the web of your hand and protects your hand from any hammer incursions during recoil. But it is also relieved on the sides, and I find that the web of my hand appreciates this design because the web now has room to accommodate the frame and grip safety. Last but not least, it has a speed bump on the bottom end of it, so your high-and-tight grip won’t leave the grip safety drifting in space.
The slide stop has a small projection on the rear. I have a very thumb-forward grip, and every other extended slide-stop lever I’ve shot has been a no-go for me. This projection extends it just enough to make it easier to hit to drop the slide, but it’s not so much longer it rubs on my thumb. The magazine button is absolutely standard—no proprietary “improvements” on a bomb-proof design.
The thumb safety is the real winner for my hands. I shoot with a peculiar grip, and most ambidextrous safeties are useless to me. Well, SIG changed that. The Emperor Scorpion 1911 has an ambidextrous safety, but both levers are low profile. And the right-hand side one is so low profile it does not bind against the knuckle of my firing hand when I have a solid, proper grip on the pistol. At last I’ve found an ambi-safety-equipped 1911 where I won’t have to take the safety lever to a bench grinder.
The pistol features Hogue’s innovative Magwell Grip Set, which combines extended grip panels and mainspring housing to create an integral, durable magazine well. The G10 grips have Hogue’s aggressive Piranha texture, and it’s so aggressive you may have to toughen up your hands to use it. If you don’t want to toughen your hands, you can knock off the more aggressive edges.
Over the years I’ve experimented with a variety of mainspring shapes, from flat to arched, and in the end I discovered it really doesn’t matter. The mainspring housing on the Emperor Scorpion 1911 is flat. It’s made of G10 and has the same texture as the grip panels and, as I mentioned, is also extended to form the rear of the mag well funnel.
The frame is steel and has all the improvements we’ve come to expect on a 21st century 1911. The frontstrap is lifted at the top, behind the trigger bow. The undercut is not extreme or aggressive, but it’s noticeable and does make a difference. The frontstrap is checkered in a sharp 25 lines per inch. Today, 25 lpi is the new normal, replacing the old 20 lpi, which was really sharp when done right and also a real hand-shredder. The other option is 30 lpi, which is delicate and not quite as grabby. But 25 strikes a useful balance—sticky enough to help, still durable and not hand-gashing like 20 lpi.
Out front, the frame is reinforced for the accessory rail, and the rail has three cross-slots providing options in positioning a light or laser. I pawed through my box of lights and lasers and tried them all, failing to find one that didn’t fit. The extra steel of the rail bumps up the weight of the Emperor Scorpion 1911 by a few extra ounces, and the weight is added where it does the most good: forward of your hands, under the bore line.
The slide markings are rollmarked, and the frame markings are laser-etched. The frame markings are darker than the surrounding color so they stand out. Overall, the SIG Emperor Scorpion 1911 is a nicely contrasting mix of wet-beach brown and black, and I like it.
But as good-looking as the SIG Emperor Scorpion 1911 is, the proof is in the performance. The trigger, as I’ve come to expect from a SIG 1911, is crisp and clean. The slide-to-frame fit is smooth and tight, and the barrel links up and down without rubbing. It locks up tightly enough, but it isn’t bank-vault tight. This works for me, provided the accuracy is there.
Being a full-size Government model, the five-inch barrel gives you pretty much all that a .45 ACP has to offer. Barrels can be fast or slow, and this particular one is on the fast side. The speed and power high-water mark came with Hornady Critical Duty +P load, with its 220-grain bullet posting 1,015 fps at the muzzle. It did not disappoint in velocity with any other of the loads I tested, either. They were all at or above the median speeds I’ve recorded in other pistols with five-inch barrels.
As for accuracy, well, I do declare! If SIG keeps sending me pistols that shoot like this, they are going to bankrupt me because I’m going to have to start buying a lot of guns. I joke from time to time about pistols that shoot like a Bullseye gun, but this one does. Not one of the loads tested disappointed, and some were eye-opening.
In particular, the HPR 185-grain jacketed hollowpoint shot like nobody’s business. We may know guys at the gun club who have a tattered, one-hole group they shot some time back and have been carrying around to brag about for years, but this SIG produced groups like that again and again.
The Emperor Scorpion 1911 ships in a lockable SIG hard case, with a pair of magazines inside. The magazines are stainless steel eight-round models with baseplates large enough to work with the extended grips that comprise the magazine funnel.
Note the price of extra magazines is entirely reasonable, and using SIG magazines in your SIG pistol is one sure way to cut down on potential problems. If your Emperor Scorpion 1911 won’t feed reliably with these magazines, you can be pretty sure it’s the ammo.
Which brings me to reliability. The one-word summary is “flawless.” We’ve come to expect that, but it is still gratifying to spend a few days at the range with a pistol and not have to struggle with any aspect of its operation.
And the price for the SIG Emperor Scorpion 1911? For all the features you get, I think it’s a real bargain at $1,213. I know I’ve written this many times before, but if you were to build a pistol to be like the Emperor Scorpion 1911 back in, say, 1985 (minus the rail, which didn’t exist then), it would’ve cost you something like $1,700 in today’s dollars—and you would’ve had to wait six months to get it back from a gunsmith.
So what are you waiting for?