During his lifetime William B. Ruger Sr. was often characterized as the “greatest American firearms inventor since John Browning.” So it well may be that the highest compliment the Ruger firearms company has ever returned in acknowledgement is the introduction of a true-to-form example of John Browning’s classic and iconic Model 1911 .45 ACP pistol in this, the 100th Anniversary year of its original introduction. Ruger’s new SR1911 semiauto is in all ways a full rendition of Browning’s original Model 1911 patent design, yet with the current basic “trimmings” modern 1911 customers have come to expect from the breed as well as signature aspects of Ruger’s vaunted quality.
The SR1911 is also one of the most anticipated new pistol introductions of recent memory. Anyone who has done an Internet search for “Ruger 1911″ during at least the past five years has been greeted with a long list of forum discussions and threads all asking “when”–not “if”–with the conclusion trending toward “wait till 2011.” The eventual association of the two names was widely seen as inevitable as the popularity of the 1911 platform has continued to deepen and grow and more and more other brand-name pistol manufacturers added Model 1911 versions to their catalog lineups. Ruger was about the only top-line maker left without one. Now it’s here–and worth the wait.
Original, Yet Refined
The initial production version of the Ruger SR1911 is a full-size, stainless-steel, five-inch-barreled classic 1911 format pistol with an overall matte bead-blast “natural” finish and contrasting matte black operating elements. The frame is investment cast at Ruger’s Pine Tree Castings facility. All remaining components (slide, barrel, small parts) are conventionally manufactured and machined in the U.S.A. Doubtless there will be some who are still dismayed when they read that a metal pistol has a cast rather than forged frame. They’re out of date. Today’s casting technology is fully equal (sometimes superior) in strength and durability to traditional forged-steel technology, and manufacturers’ decisions on which process to use are primarily determined by cost-effectiveness in meeting internal dimensional specifications, rather than the compositional nature of the two resulting products.
Those who appreciate the traditional will be struck by the many ways the SR1911 follows Browning’s original patent rather than adopting some more “modern” design refinements that are increasingly presented as standard on other recent Model 1911 iterations. The SR1911 recoil-operated action mechanism employs the traditional 1911 barrel link instead of a Browning P1935-type camming ramp as has been adapted by some later 1911 variations. The muzzle lockup follows classic format as well, with traditional barrel bushing and a capped short-form “standard” 1911 recoil spring plunger assembly instead of a full-length guide rod and hollow “pass-through” recoil spring retainer. Disassembly and reassembly are classic 1911–almost as quick and easy as today’s so-called “modular” designs.
The SR1911 extractor is also Browning’s original internal design: a one-piece, pinned-in, spring-steel arm completely enclosed within the frame instead of the pivoting coil-spring-powered “external”
1911 extractor increasingly favored by other 1911 manufacturers. Also like the original Model 1911, there is no self-engaging firing pin block on the SR1911. Departing from the much-disparaged Colt “Series 80″ trigger-deactivated 1911 firing pin blocks or the Swartz-variant grip safety deactivated firing pin blocks on other more recent 1911 variations, the SR1911 employs an ultralight titanium firing pin and extra strong firing pin spring to overcome any likelihood of an “inertial discharge” from firing pin movement should a loaded pistol be dropped on its muzzle.
However, the SR1911 also moves beyond these basics to incorporate a variety of other features that today’s generation of Model 1911 users have come to see as near-essential operator-friendly refineme
nts to the original 1911 format. The frame and chamber feedramps are mirror polished for reliable function with all bullet formats. There is a loaded chamber indicator cutout at the rear of the barrel hood. The beavertail grip safety is humpbacked with a hammer-cupping extension to ensure positive disengagement when hurriedly gripped and eliminate hammer bite to the web of the shooting hand. Magazine release button length is extended for ease of positive engagement, and the lips of the magazine well are slightly beveled for ease of reloading. The lightweight, skeletonized, full-length aluminum trigger is screw adjustable for overtravel, and the low-inertia, lightweight hammer is also skeletonized. The right-hander’s manual thumb safety has an extended operating lever.
The SR1911 matte black sights are low-profile, Novak-type, three-dot, “combat” format. Both are seated in Colt-style dovetails and are adjustable for windage. The rear sight locks with a setscrew, and different-height front blades can be employed to adjust for different-trajectory ammo loads. (Generally speaking, with conventional commercially available .45 ACP ammunition varieties from 165 grains to 230 grains, +P included, this will only vary a maximum of +/- 2.00 inches at 25 yards, anyway). The hard rubber grip panels are checkered with diamond escutcheons and embossed with the Ruger Eagle logo. Other finish aspects worth noting are the smoothly rounded, ungrooved, “original” slide-top contour; the smooth grip-frame frontstrap; and a finely checkered flat mainspring housing. Each SR1911 comes with one eight-round and one seven-round “Made in USA” steel magazines, also embossed with the Ruger Eagle and caliber designation, with buttplates drilled and tapped for installation of bumper pads if desired.
Overall, the SR1911′s appearance is remarkably “clean.” Ruger has long been noted (often less than complimentarily) for its propensity to load up the exterior surfaces of its firearms with product liability warnings and admonitions to obtain and read instruction manuals. But the only visible markings other than the rear cocking grooves on the sides of the SR1911′s slide are a clean “RUGER Made in USA” on the left and a simple Ruger Eagle logo on the right, both fine-line black laser-etched. Not that the typical Ruger warnings aren’t present; they’re just placed unobtrusively on the bottom of the frame, out of prominent view, and essentially invisible when gripped for firing. Overall, the SR1911 is a good-looking piece, more subtle in demeanor than other recent Ruger pistols, and solid and closely fitted–with a firm but crawl-free 4.5-pound trigger pull right out of the box.
Sure To Please
After firing a few magazines through our review sample preproduction SR1911 for familiarization and basic functionality, I submitted the gun to my standard chronograph and accuracy review protocol of five, five-round group averages at 25 yards with each of six different varieties of top-brand current personal-defense and duty .45 ACP ammunition, fired from a benchrest. The combined average for all 30 of those groups was right at 3.65 inches. Just about what I’d expect from a quality-brand “standard-issue” base-model 1911 .45 ACP, and better than most.
By the time I was done with that, I’d put about 200 to 250 rounds through the gun, and ST Editor In Chief Joseph von Benedikt thought it might be interesting to run the round count up to a more impressive number–just because. So with the help of a couple cases of .45 ACP 230-grain hardball ammo from Black Hills, I started banging away over the Christmas holiday week. But I soon found myself inundated by fellow members of our local PASA Park shooting club, who had heard I had a “real Ruger 1911″ in my hands at the range and started showing up in carloads. So I stood by and watched, mostly, while they quickly ate up all our Black Hills ammo, plus what they had brought themselves. When I called a halt, the gun had upwards of 1,500 rounds total down its tube, with no stoppages, no failures to fire, no malfunctions, and had never yet been cleaned or lubed. Not bad, I thought. And the next day it also occurred to me that after such a thorough “break-in” session, it might be interesting to re-run my initial “new-from-the-box” accuracy protocol. As von Benedikt might put it, “just because.” This time, the overall combined average for 30 total groups from the same six individual loads (same boxes, same ammo lots) averaged 3.25 inches overall. Close to a half-inch better than the first set of groups (results are listed in the accompanying chart).
Okay, I don’t usually put a lot of stock in accuracy “comparisons” based on limited group numbers, particularly when fired hand-held by fallible and inconsistent humans such as myself. But when I put 30 groups, 150 rounds total, of the exact same ammo downrange from the same gun, as carefully as I can shoot, and the second time through is a half-inch better overall than the first time through, I’d have to say something did get a little better. And it probably was not my shooting. This “breaking-in” thing might actually have something to say for itself (it always did for mileage on automobile engines back when I was a youngster). And although I didn’t rechronograph the ammo, I’d wager the SR1911 was generating a bit higher average velocities after all those rounds due to smoothing and polishing in the stainless bore.
If all the guys who were literally standing in line at PASA Park for a chance to shoot the Ruger SR1911 are any indication, not to mention all the Internet forum members who have been talking it up for the past several years, Ruger’s new SR1911 is going to register another high mark for John Browning’s classic pistol. It’s a darn good gun. Be hard not to be, with those two names attached.