Gun Review: Ruger SR1911

My wife can’t stand bluegrass. She associates banjos and fiddles with inbreeding and sodomy. Sam’s from Africa; what does she know? Bluegrass is blues for white people. God knows we white folks need our blues music, what with tornados making a beeline for our trailer parks and the after-effects of too many highballs. The 1911 is our gun. Sorry, but there it is. Gangbangers have their Hi-Points. Mexican drug lords have their FiveseveNs. The 1911 is caucasian badass: Elvis meets John Wayne with a hillbilly holler. While the design’s 100th anniversary has inspired an entire arsenal of new 1911s, Ruger’s first foray into the field is the only one that can justifiably claim to be all-American. How whitebread—I mean great is that?

Great great American that I am, the fact that the SR1911 is hecho en los Estados Unidos is no biggie. I buy the best “whatever” I can for the money and pretend I’m doing my part for the old red, white and blue by letting the free market do its thing. But if youre a income-challenged 1911 buyer who doesn’t fancy sending your precious gun dollars to Brazil, Croatia or anywhere outside these here United States, the Ruger SR1911 is it.

It is built to a price. Unlike the 1911’s that hover at or around a grand, the SR1911 is about as hand-crafted as a Chevy Malibu. Maybe less. That’s good news for people who want to imbibe the John Moses Brown Kool-Aid with paying Chateau Margeaux prices; you can buy one of the Prescott, Arizona gunmaker’s SR1911s for slightly over six bills. Which is expensive for a polymer handgun but cheap for a 1911. Well, one that works. And guess what? The Ruger SR1911 works.

At the TTAG Get Together we got Ruger’s first 1911 together with hundreds of rounds from a half dozen ammo brands: Winchester White Box, Fiocchi, Federal, Remington, and Wilson Combat (the SR1911’s throated barrel helps ensure that hollow points head downrange). The end result: after more than 500 rounds (not to mention some 160-grain hand-loads at a later engagement) we experienced nothing more untoward than a single failure to eject (cough limp wristing cough).

So yes, you can draw a Ruger SR1911 from a holster in a self-defense situation, switch off the non-ambidextrous thumb safety— Hang on. What? Why would Ruger wait 62 years to create a 1911 and then equip it with a safety you can’t switch off with your weak hand? What is it with Ruger and safeties? They put safeties on guns that shouldn’t have them (i.e. all their polymer pistols) and half a safety on a gun that should have one.

Where was I? Oh yes, you can whip out your SR1911, disable the not-noticeably-over-sized-but-not-undersized-either safety, pull the trigger and expect a rather large bullet to emerge from the gun’s business end, heading for the person or persons determined to do you damage. Depending on your abilities, you’d probably hit said attacker. But not necessarily.

For me to say a gun lacks accuracy is like a Burger King fry cook claiming that lobster fricassée with polyphenol sauce lacks authenticity. Still, our group’s groups at eight yards were about as tight as a 45-year-old hooker. Adam, a man who can dot the “i” of the words “Official Competition” hiding in the corner of an NRA target at 10 yards, managed the best group: two inches. Andre embarrassed himself with a 10.5″ group. Well, I embarrassed him. Here. Ruger says you can use the SR1911 to shoot 1.5″ groups at 25 yards. You and whose Army sniper?

The SR1911 boasts a titanium firing pin that “negates the need for a firing pin block, offering an updated safety feature to the original Series 70 design without compromising trigger pull.” Ruger reckons the SR1911 has a non-compromised four-pound trigger pull. And I don’t weigh one pound more than 200. Only I do and I don’t think it does. I’d be surprised if the SR1911 sitting on my desk requires anything less than five-and-a-half pounds to motivate the hammer forwards. And crisp it ain’t.

Simply put, this is not the target pistol you’re looking for. That said, all the gunslingers’ groups were combat accurate, minute-of-bad-guy, close enough for [cocked and locked] rock and roll. Or, if you prefer, the Ruger SR1911 was no more or less accurate—for me—than my Springfield XD(m) 45, which holds 13 rounds in a magazine that doesn’t feel like it wants nothing to do with your cartridges. And has checkering on the front strap.

Yes, well, there is that. But if we set ultimate accuracy to one side, use someone else’s less crotchety 1911 magazine and graciously accept the fact that polymer pistols offer better reliability, lighter carry weight and better capacity than an all-steel 1911, we’re left with one important JMB advantage: style.

The low-glare stainless steel and wood Ruger SR1911 is as faithful to the John Moses Browning’s design as Old Yeller was to the Coates family. Well, OK, the SR1911’s modeled after the aforementioned Colt Series 70, a gun from the time when bottoms had bells on them (don’t ask). With a bit of bling: a skeletonized trigger and hammer, fixed dovetailed three-dot Novak sights—wait, what?

As a commentator at pointed out, how can you rack the SR1911’s slide on your belt or shoe using the sights (your basic one-handed combat reload maneuver) when the front portion of the rear sights is as smooth as a bunny slope? Answer: you can’t. I know that seems like one of those “what are the odds” objections, but this is a self-defense gun, not a range toy.

A great self-defense gun only has what it needs to have and has it with style. As God is my witness the SR1911 doesn’t need tiny witness holes that only serve to bear witness to our litigious times. What JMB would make of the truncated legal disclaimer—“Read instruction manual before using firearm”—engraved underneath the barrel? I would have preferred “If you’re reading this the firearm is pointed in an unsafe direction.” And after you’ve read the manual, can the warning please go away?

Otherwise, the SR1911 could have come straight off of JMB’s workbench. In theory. Labor costs being what they are, the SR1911 comes off a brand new highly computerized production line. There’s more than a few hands on deck, and Ruger’s in-house investment casting division (Pine Tree Casting) has been CAD CAMing 1911 parts for years. But it’s still true that building a large run of high-quality, reliable, identical 1911s is a monumental challenge for any programmer. I mean, gunsmith.

Speaking of differentiation, the SR1911’s slide stop and thumb safety plunger tube are frame-integrated. So you can’t shoot ’em loose. Just thought I’d mention it.

Truth be told, there’s nothing aesthetically or mechanically that really sets the SR1911 apart from its competitors. Or any other 1911 for that matter. In fact, one wonders why Ruger got their corporate knickers in a twist about the journalists who dared pre-announce its arrival. We’re not talking about a stealth bomber here.

We’re talking about one of the if not the best 1911 for the money. Is the SR1911 a deeply desirable gun in its own right, as Glock is in the field of polymer pistols? Not yet. But the question is no longer whether or not Ruger can fashion a 1911 for a fair price with sufficient quality to satisfy the white guys (and their brothers-in-arms) who worship at the altar of JMB. It’s whether or not Ruger can build a 1911 with as much soul as a Tim O’Brien’s All I Want. As variants emerge, we shall see.


Caliber: .45 Auto
Slide Material: Stainless Steel
Sights: Fixed Novak® 3-Dot
Length: 8.67″
Height: 5.45″
Width: 1.34″
Grooves: 6
Barrel Length: 5.00″
Twist: 1:16″ RH
Weight: 39 ounces
Capacity: 8 + one
Price: $799 msrp, $640-ish Real World

RATINGS (out of five)

Style * * * *
A deeply traditional design which adheres to the 1911 playbook like an intellectually-challenged quarterback. A curse on the gun writers who convinced Ruger to ditch Hogue rubber grips for trad tree. Still, not a hair out of place.

Ergonomics (carry) * * * * *
Feels as good as a 1911 should: slim and substantial (i.e. heavy). It fits into any 1911 holster, gladly.

Ergonomics (firing) * * *
Here’s where the weight pays off: very little muzzle flip or felt recoil. Points naturally. It would be nice if the sights were slightly bigger. But they aren’t. It would be even better if the trigger was a lot lighter and extra-crisp. But it isn’t.

Reliability * * * * *
One failure in over a thousand rounds. Probably not the gun’s fault.

Customizability * * *
You CAN do a lot to the SR1911: ambi safety, trigger job, more effective sights (the front site dot’s too dim), etc. But then you’d be better off starting with a more expensive gun. Rumors abound of a “tactical” version with a rail for lights ‘n lasers.

Overall Rating * * * *
Excellent value for money but a bit plain Jane. The SR1911 needs a little somethin’ somethin’ to differentiate it from its competitors.