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Savage Arms' New 1911 Handguns: Full Review

Savage Arms has entered the 1911 market, but how to they perform?

Savage Arms' New 1911 Handguns: Full Review

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Although Savage is better known as a rifle manufacturer these days, the company has a long history of producing semiautomatic handguns. Readers may not be aware that Savage’s 1907 pistol was the leading competitor to the 1911 during the 1906-11 U.S. Army trials. Those guns were produced until the Great Depression, when Savage exited the handgun business. That changed in 2020 with the introduction of the Stance, a striker-fired semiauto designed for concealed carry and defensive use. Now, in 2023, the storied company has released its own variant of the handgun that kept its pistol out of military service: the Savage 1911. I will admit that when I heard that Savage would be entering the 1911 market, I wasn’t overwhelmed with excitement. There is a steep learning curve when it comes to producing a reliable and accurate 1911. The nuances of the century-plus-old design do not easily lend themselves to modern manufacturing, and efforts to build a less-expensive 1911 have often ended in disaster. Would Savage take the time and spend the money to do it right? I’ll spare you the suspense: Savage nailed it.

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The black nitride parts alongside the stainless frame create a two-tone effect. The trigger pull will rival even that of high-end custom 1911s.

The Savage 1911 is available in three primary models/finishes, all of them five-inch, full-size guns: black nitride, stainless and two-tone. Models are chambered in either .45 ACP or 9mm Luger. Each of those is also available with or without an accessory rail machined into the frame. My test gun was a two-tone with the rail, chambered in .45 ACP. From an overall design standpoint, the Savage 1911 is not merely a clone of the original but a modern handgun with multiple enhanced features. Like many 1911 makers, Savage has incorporated elements that were previously found only on custom handguns. The slides and frames are machined from steel forgings, solid foundations for a proper 1911. The frame is made from stainless steel and is left raw with a matte, media-blasted finish. The frame is a standard Government size, which means it is compatible with a myriad of accessory components and holsters designed for the full-size 1911. The frontstrap is left smooth but is cut high under the frame to allow for a better grip on the handgun. The accessory rail is machined integrally into the frame’s dust cover so a light or laser can be mounted easily.

The frame’s tangs are machined to be compatible with a beavertail grip safety. The grip safety sweeps high to protect from hammer bite and, like the frame cut, positions the gun low in the shooter’s hand. It blends almost seamlessly with the contours of the frame, with no edges to bite during recoil. The grip safety has a raised pad or bump at the bottom to ensure that the hand disengages it easily. Like all the other controls on the pistol, the grip safety is finished in black nitride to create the two-tone look. There is also an ambidextrous manual thumb safety with extended pads that make it easy to engage and disengage quickly. I shoot a 1911 with a high thumb grip, and I found the wide surface to be a comfortable thumb rest. The mainspring housing on this 1911 is flat and is machined with ovular end mill cuts to create a unique pattern in the place of traditional checkering. This provides some texture without being abrasive. The magazine release is checkered.

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A milled pattern that is also used on the top of the slide looks great, and the sights are excellent day/night front and rear from Novak.

A set of VZ G10 grips, made in Tallahassee, Florida, come installed on this model, and the left panel is cut away to make the magazine release more accessible. The grips are secured with nitrided screws that are compatible with Torx bits as well as a standard flat screwdriver. The slide stop is fairly standard, but for one important detail. Over time, many 1911 users have been challenged by the process of installing the slide stop into the frame. This has created the dreaded “idiot scratch” on more handguns than can be counted. The slide stop on the Savage has a slot machined into it that allows it to press past the spring-loaded plunger more easily, hopefully preventing the scratch from occurring. This handgun uses what might be best described as a Series 70 ignition system. The best part about the Savage 1911 is that the fire control parts—the hammer, sear and disconnector—are fully machined rather than made from MIM or cheap castings. Both the sear and disconnector and made from tool steel. The stainless steel hammer is of the retro Commander or “ring” style, which is my favorite. The trigger uses a solid aluminum pad. Although the trigger pull isn’t light at just under five pounds, it is excellent. There is absolutely no creep, and it breaks with great consistency. I have seen far more expensive custom 1911s that cannot match the Savage’s trigger pull. The slide is machined from stainless steel and is finished in a satin black nitride. This color scheme is reminiscent of the Pachmayr Combat Special, one of the most iconic 1911s ever built. Not only does this two-tone arrangement look good, it has a functional element as well. Galling can be a real issue with all-stainless handguns, particularly if they are machined with minimal clearances.

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The nitriding process hardens the surface of the slide, which eliminates that risk. It also adds corrosion and abrasion protection. The slide has a modern profile, with angled cocking serrations both front and rear. The lower edge is machine beveled. The saddle cuts at the front of the slide are of the ball end mill style, which I have become a big fan of aesthetically. The top of the slide is flattened along most of the sight radius, with a milled pattern that matches the mainspring housing milled-in. The ejection port is both lowered and flared-back when compared to a standard Government model. The Savage 1911 uses an internal extractor along with a fixed frame-mounted ejector. Two dovetails are machined into the slide to accommodate both the high-quality front and rear sights. The sights are manufactured by Novak, one of the top names in the business. The front sight is Novak’s tritium Mega Dot Glow Dome, which combines a luminous lamp with a larger donut-shaped insert. The rear is the Novak LoMount, designed to be highly visible yet snag-free. There is a tritium bar below the square rear notch, so these sights illuminate both front and rear. The rear sight is adjustable for both windage and elevation. These sights are extremely functional: visible in any light, durable and crisp. The five-inch barrel is a traditional 1911-style barrel, but with a twist. These barrels are machined from stainless steel solid bar stock and nitride finished. The barrel uses a bushing just like a standard 1911, but the barrel is made so only the section that interfaces with the bushing is of the full profile. Behind the bushing, the barrel diameter drops 0.010 inch which creates a clearance that no doubt aids reliability. The muzzle is machined flush with the front surface of the bushing, and finished with an 11-degree crown.

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The Savage 1911 pairs a ring-style Commander hammer with an extended beavertail grip safety and an ambidextrous thumb safety.

The Savage 1911 uses the standard Government model feeding arrangement, with a ramp machined into the frame and a smaller bevel on the rear of the chamber. Although abandoned on most modern handguns, this system when properly set up has worked well for more than a century. The barrel link is secured by the slide stop, which also serves as a home for the lower barrel lugs. The two upper lugs are secured into matching mortises in the slide, and the barrel hood locks into the slide above and to the rear of the chamber. The barrel on the test gun was well fitted, with no sign of vertical or horizontal play when in battery. The hood appears to be perfectly fitted to the breech face. A small loaded-chamber indicator is milled into the hood, providing a visual cue as to the condition of the handgun. Like the barrel, the recoil system is a slight departure from the original. A standard stainless steel recoil spring guide is used, along with a set of dual coil wire recoil springs. The springs are captured in the slide using a standard plug, which is machined slick across its front surface. The Savage 1911 feeds from standard 1911 magazines. It ships with two eight-round magazines with chrome-plated steel bodies and extended polymer base pads. I own more 1911s than shoes, and I’ve been shooting them since I was a kid. I’m about as familiar with this style of handgun as any other. I’d like to think that, when it comes to 1911s, I know what to look for. The overall fit and finish on this handgun was impressive but the real proof would come on the range. The Savage was 100 percent reliable with each of the three loads I shot. There are plenty of 1911s that will run fine with 230-grain hardball but choke on other bullet styles. I used three different bullet types of three different weights, and all fed, fired and ejected just as they should have.

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The barrel flares outward to interface with the internal diameter of the bushing. This particular model features an accessory rail for lights and lasers.

The Savage 1911’s accuracy was impressive, to say the least. My first group out of the gun, shot with Hornady’s 185-grain XTP load, was a single ragged hole right at my point of aim. This gun averaged under one inch with that load, and that initial group was under half an inch! This type of accuracy with a duty-weight trigger and without an optic is evidence that Savage did its homework when building this 1911 series. When I’m testing new firearms, some are a struggle to appreciate while others are easy to love. This one slid easily into the latter category. As it turns out, my fears that this gun might not be up to snuff were completely unfounded. This is a well-built, reliable and accurate 1911 with many attractive upgrades included. The use of machined forgings for the slide and frame along with a fully machined barrel and fire-control parts isn’t the most economical way to build a handgun, but it’s the right way to make a 1911. Savage’s entry in the 1911 market is a strong one, and it should become an instant competitor to any handgun in its price category.

Savage Arms 1911 Specs

  • Type: 1911
  • Caliber: .45 ACP
  • Capacity: 8+1 rds. 
  • Barrel: 5 in. 
  • Weight: 2 lbs., 8 oz. 
  • Construction: Stainless steel
  • Grips: VZ G10
  • Sights: Novak Tritium Mega Dot front, Novak Tritium bar rear
  • Trigger: 4 lbs., 14 oz. (tested)
  • Safeties: Ambi thumb safety, grip safety
  • Price: $1,499
  • Manufacturer: Savage Arms



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