2By Wes Minton

RF comes off the line at Red’s and strikes-up a conversation. When he finds out I’m a 1911 guy he pulls out a Roberts Defense Super Grade Pro from a nondescript case. “It’s an early production gun,” RF says. “The sights fell off. They replaced them with these.” Heinie Straight Eights. My favorite sights in the world. RF asks if I wouldn’t mind testing the box-fresh custom 1911 for TTAG. Let me check my schedule . . . yup. I can make room. But is there room in the market for yet another custom 1911 maker? Well, if it’s a good one . . .

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The Roberts Defense Super Grade isn’t going to muscle its way into the market on looks alone. Not that there’s anything wrong with its appearance. The Super Grade’s satin stainless steel’s warm sheen gives the gun a subtle, business-like look. Paired with black cherry grips and classic 1911 cues, the Super Grade is a modern take on a timeless design. Which, of course, it is. Like a lot of high-end 1911s.

Roberts Defense’s motto is “never compromise.” If hand-fitting means never having to say never mind, they’re living up to their creed. The Super Grade’s clearly benefitted from a lot of hands-on care and attention. The frame-to-slide fit is exceptional, with no hang-ups and no rattle. None. Racking the Super Grade’s slide isn’t like manipulating a greased lightning Cabot (what is?) but the 1911’s action is at least as smooth as a Wilson Combat custom.

Like most 1911 guys, I worry about tight-fitting guns; a John Moses Browning meisterwerk with tiny tolerances can foretell future function failures. The barrel bushing was so tight on Robert’s blaster I couldn’t remove it without a bushing wrench. Like a town bicycle, it will loosen up over time. The grip safety is blended very well to the frame, but it isn’t as well-sorted as it is on a higher-priced custom gun – yes there are many – like an Ed Brown. With a price of “just” $1649.00 I’m willing to let it go.

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Roberts Defense fashioned the Super Grade Pro’s hammer and sear from D7 tool steel. According to diehlsteel.com, that’s a “high carbon high chromium die steel with added carbon and vanadium for abrasion resisting qualities. Useful for applications involving extreme abrasive wear.” Roberts says the metal maintains its shape and angles much better than other steels.

The trigger feels like a gunsmith-tuned go pedal, though it’s got a lot of wiggle inside the frame. The trigger pull is as clean as an airline pilot’s kitchen and as sharp as Saville Row suit. It has the perfect amount of take-up leading to to a solid wall, followed by a crisp break. If your sights are moving when you fire the Super Grade, it’s all you.

Ah yes, Heinie Straight Eight night sights. I know that sight choice is a matter of personal preference; a lot of people aren’t fans of the way the stacked-dots sights line-up on target. Before you dismiss them, try them. They’re instinctive and, as I said, fast. Even better, unlike the Kensights RF tested on the gun when they first shipped it, these didn’t fall off.

Perhaps this is a good time to mention that all Roberts Defense guns come with a transferable lifetime warranty. If your third-hand Roberts Defense has feeding problems or the sights come loose – perish the thought – you can send it in for free warranty work. As customers of high-end 1911s will attest, personal and prompt service is one of the major benefits of working with a small gunmaker; they’re willing to take responsibility for any and all issues and fix the problems fast.

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The Roberts Defense Super Grade comes equipped from the factory with VZ Grips. Combined with the sharp checkering on the front strap and the mainspring housing, the result is as aggressive as an abused Rottweiler. My girlfriend yelped just from picking up the gun (unloaded, safe direction). Maybe I’m a masochist, but I like the texture. You know the gun isn’t going to move in your hand. At all. [ED: If ever.]

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The first thing I look for in any gun I shoot: reliability. The Robert Defense Super Grade has it in spades. RF ran 250 rounds of Winchester White Box RF through the gun (“just warming it up, Wes”) sans problem. I fed it another 500 rounds. In addition to standard 230 gr. ball, I shot three popular self-defense rounds: Hornady TAP FPD 230 +P, Federal Hydrashok 230, and my personal favorite Federal HST 230 +P. All of these loads fed through the pistol without the slightest hiccup. There were no malfunctions whatsoever.

Target for Roberts Defense Supergrade Pro 1911 at 15 yards, Winchester White Box

The pistol is ridiculously accurate. It shot so well I had to compare it side-by-side with a Les Baer Thunder Ranch Special with a 1.5 inch guarantee (a gun that will be getting it’s own review sometime soon). The Les Baer was slightly more accurate, but that could be down to user familiarity (i.e. it’s my gun). Considering the Baer’s $800 premium over Roberts Defense, that’ll do.

Summary:

A lot of TTAG readers balk at paying a grand-and-a-half for a gun. Any gun – never mind a 1911. Especially when they can find perfectly serviceable 1911 for $800 to $1000. But the Roberts Defense Super Grade has “it”: the high-quality hand-fit feel and rock-solid performance buyers expect from guns that sell for $2k and up. The company is fast, friendly and passionate about their product, willing to stand behind their gun for as long as ye shall live. And beyond.

The only potential problem: the Super Grade Pro’s extremely aggressive checkering and grips. As they say about strange sexual practices, if you don’t understand it, it’s not for you. But if you’re willing to suffer a bit of pain for a lot of gain – shooting a proverbial tack-driver – you can’t do any better at the price. And maybe even higher.

Specifications:

Caliber:                .45 ACP
Barrel Length:              5”
Weight:                  36.8oz
Finish:                 Stainless
Capacity:                     8+1
Price:            $1549 MSRP

Ratings (out of five stars):

Style * * * * *
If you’re looking for a custom 1911 that screams CUSTOM 1911, this isn’t it. A classic gun with a modern look.

Ergonomics * * *
Like giving a porcupine shiatsu.

Reliability * * * * *
Hollow points not a problem. Not a single hang-up.

Customizable * * * * *
It’s a 1911. Apart from a GLOCK there is nothing more customizable. But why would you?

Carry * * *
It’s a big old gun, but I conceal a full size 1911 every day without issue.

Overall * * * * *
Value-priced at $1649? Yup. With the Super Grade Pro, Roberts Defense is on its way to gaining favored status in the custom 1911 club.

35 Responses to Gun Review: Roberts Defense Super Grade Pro

  1. That’s a beauty, but the old adage “If you have to ask how much it costs, you can’t afford it” comes to mind. $1600? Ouch!

    • Depends on which 1911 you’re talking about. Not all handguns are created equal, even at the same price point.

      That being said, I’m not what anyone would consider a 1911 guy. Never owned one, shot a few belonging to friends and family. I like them well enough, but they’re not a must-have for the safe. However, were I ever to find myself in the market for a nice, custom 1911, for whatever reason, I’d at least consider this one, based on this and other reviews. It seems to me that you’re getting a lot of quality for your money, considering the MSRP. It has a classic look, which I find very appealing. Could it use a little more work? Yeah, I suppose; it’s not the sexiest 1911, but it’s clean and functional. I like the aggressive checkering. And it’s a 1911; after-market parts, accessories, and upgrades are all over the place if I don’t like something in particular thing. The warranty is a bonus, definitely, although I’ve never busted up a gun so bad that I couldn’t fix it in my garage. Accuracy looks to be on par, if not better, than other handguns in that price range.

      Hell, the more I talk about, the more I tempt myself… but anyways, it’s a very nice option in a fairly saturated market. Can’t complain about competition.

    • All 1911s are the same any way, so what’s the point? Buy a Rock Island and shoot the shit out of it.

      *runs away as quickly as possible*

    • This gun offers custom features, like hand fitting and high quality parts that are simply not available with manufacturers like Kimber. This gun compares best with Dan Wesson or Springfield’s TRP line. I happen to carry a Dan Wesson, though after this testing and reviewing the Super Grade I intend to buy a Robert’s Defense as an alternate carry gun. In addition to the high quality parts and fitting they offer a transferable lifetime warranty which is unlike any other firearms manufacturer I know of.

      As with any 1911 it is personal preference and this one happens to have the combination of features that match my exact preferences.

  2. Be interesting to compare this gun to my Springfield Armory TRP, which is more “production” but has a very similar price point. I, personally think the TRP shoots well and a lot of the reviews I read online before buying suggested that it was a damn fine gun for the price.

    • I really like the Springfield TRP, it is a fine gun that offers a lot for its price. I have shot a few TRPs and like them very much as well. The scales tip towards the Supergrade for me. But all it came down to is personal preference, not performance. I guarantee that side by side they would go toe to toe.

  3. One thing that will make or break Roberts Defense will be wait times. Les Bauer or Wilson Combat might be able to get away with six month (or more) production timelines, but lesser known companies will have a hard time. I would rather not wait. If I want a high end 1911 or rifle or whatever, I want it now, not in six months. I might have to pay a bit more to get one at a LGS or on gunbroker, but sometimes the premium is worth it to jump the queue.

    • I’m thinking the guy wanting a high-end 1911 might also be the guy with a bunch of other guns in his or her safe, and wouldn’t be averse to a little wait. Heck, the design is over 100 years old anyways.

  4. I dont know if wwb is really good for reliability testing, will it run with cheap wolf ammo? Most high end 1911s will jam up if you look at them sideways but still a good review

  5. The SA TRP’s sharp 20-lpi frontstrap checkering is a frequent …. er …. point of contention (ouch) in intarwebz discussions.

    Frankly, I love mine. But then again I don’t have sissy lady hands.

    I suspect I would love the RD as well. I would like to see an undercut trigger guard, however.

    Those of you complaining about the $1600 price…how many Glocks do you own? Sell a couple of those plastic bricks and buy a real gun instead.

  6. Your photos indicate the gun is not in the same class as Wilson, Brown, Guncrafter; but it is not in the same price range either.

    It is in the price range of a SA TRP, but it doesn’t look to be in that class as well. If Roberts can clean it up and finish it with more care, they may find a market.

  7. The Roberts Defense logo on the slide really detracts from the look, in my opinion. Kinda like putting big, shiny rims on an old muscle car. The car is nice, the rims are nice, but the two don’t mesh. Maybe it’d look better in an older style script. Still seems like a nice pistol though.

    • I was going to post the same thing. That’s what I love about my Dan Wesson…very clean and discrete without a big billboard on the side. I also prefer my 1911s without front cocking serrations.

      Seems like this is more a competitor for Dan Wesson, Springfield TRP, mid range STIs, S&W e series, Kimbers, etc, than an Ed Brown, Wilson Combat, Les Baer, etc.

  8. If you forget your razor you could shave with the sharp corners left on the front of the slide.

    There is a big difference between sharp checkering and rough checkering. That looks like some rough checkering so it will feel like it, compare it to the checkering on a Les Baer or Wilson and you will see the difference.

  9. Looks like a nice gun but I am not a 1911 junky. I went out and bought an RIA tactical with the rail for 1/3rd the price and it eats Tula all day long.

  10. I’m among those who question why one would ever spend 2k on a 1911.
    Then again, I barely make 29k a year, so I’m quite biased against it from go, but seriously, why would I pay 1200 more for a “tack driver” that does the same thing a ruger 1911 does? Because it does it “better?” Frankly, I don’t need tack driving accuracy and tight tolerances aren’t my Cup of tea.
    I may own a Wilson combat ONE DAY, but it won’t be very soon lol. I’ll have to pass on this one.

    • Call me crazy, but for 3 times the price I want 3 times the gun.

      Firearms are a great example of the law of diminishing returns. If you’re a competition handgunner, you may get some value out of a 4 figure firearm. Otherwise, go buy a decent 1911 clone for $700 to $800 and call it good. A modern one will still be more accurate than the average handgunner.

      Although for such an old design that is so widely copied, I’m actually surprised how expensive it can be. I’m aware there are models that are probably closer to price for a Glock, but my assumption is the desire to have that so-called “tack driver”. Accuracy that I’ve seen out of much cheaper handguns.

      This is supposed to be a “match grade” handgun though. Therein lies the rub. If you don’t need “match grade”, and you really don’t for self defense situations, it is just a really overpriced 1911. I’m sure the quality is nice but not good for much other than bragging rights, and only to impress those that think dropping more than a grand on a handgun is a virtue.

      • I actually really like 1911s but I’m sort of with you, almost.

        A GLOCK priced 1911 is not going to be a ‘good’ 1911, they start getting good at about $700 and a ‘nice’ one can be had for a little less than 1000. At that price point your into a gun that is already so much more accurate than a human can milk out of it that buying more is an expensive tilt at a windmill. If you shoot bull’s-eyes you may have a different expectation but if you’re convinced that your carry piece needs to shoot one ragged hole at any range you’re confused about what a defensive handgun is for. Open the tolerances to achieve and maintain reliability while retaining 4 inch at 50 yard groups and you’re onto a useful defensive pistol.

        My personal carry1911 is a Colt 1991A1 that I’ve owned for nearly 20 years and shot perhaps 5-8k rounds through. It’s more reliable now that when it was new and it still shoots respectable groups. A new colt 1911 with better bells and whistles and the same robust reliability and accuracy would cost right around $1k now. Springfield has several offerings that are $100-300 less and if not every bit as good or better, they are at least so close you can’t tell the difference. If a 1911 is what you want for a defensive handgun, spending more than $1k will not net a ‘better’ defensive gun. It might net a better target pistol or competition pistol, but it won’t net a better defensive gun.

        Part of the reason is that at the Colt/Springfield level the guns are already so good that when using them defensively, that is quickly and relatively closely, shooting for coarse accuracy, a more accurate pistol will not prevail but rather only ever do just as well as the quality but lesser priced pistols. In a DUG shooting one ragged hole is both counter productive (it would be better to spread the wounding around) and far too slow (it would be better to have a much more open group delivered much faster). It’s also likely impossible to achieve the level of control and discipline to shoot overlapping shots while actually in fear for your life anyway, and as stated even if you could learn to do it it’s not desirable. At the same time, in order to achieve such astounding accuracy the higher priced pistols tighten up the tolerances in various places often to the point of seriously sacrificing reliability, particularly in a dirty pistol or one that isn’t being gripped properly. That makes most of these ‘range queens’ unsuitable for a defensive pistol unless it’s all you have.

        A note on super accurate handguns:

        They will not make you a better shot.

        I should almost say that again for emphasis: If you can’t shoot straight with a cheap pistol you’re not going to improve with a $8k Cabot either. Keep the cheap pistol, buy a few $100 worth of quality one on one instruction and use the rest to buy and shoot ammo until you can’t miss.

        I teach basic people to beginners and every single time someone says they think the sights on their brand new whatever are off. One glance at the target and the rounds are all over the place. If they were always in one spot but not where they wanted them it might be the sights but more likely it’s their grip, trigger control or flinching, but when they are all over the place it’s just a lack of fundamentals. Still, I always take three shots with their pistol to prove the point without arguing. At 21 feet, shooting whatever some beginner brought to the range I have yet to ever have one throw a group bigger than 2 inches, which is still more than good enough for DGU work.

        The bottom line is that most pistols are more accurate than most shooters and virtually all quality pistols are more than accurate enough for defensive use. The never ending search for the ‘perfect’ pistol might be fun, but it’s an academic exercise. Learn to shoot what you have and if you finally get to where you can outshoot your gun, think about an upgrade, or just accept that it’s still more accurate than it needs to be for a DGU.

        • +100
          i dont think that could have been said any better.

          btw…ive never heard of cabot until this comment. jesus h christ. a 10k 1911?
          all aboard the NOPEtrain….heading to notgonnahappenville

        • it would be my intention to spread the wounding around, i would prefer however that it were i doing the spreading rather than the firearm.

    • Not sure if “more” customizable is necessarily accurate, but you can sure do a lot to a Glock, including, but not limited to:

      (1) Replace trigger, springs, entire trigger group. You can modify pre and over travel on trigger system with custom trigger group.
      (2) Replace striker, safety plunger, all springs.
      (3) Replace recoil spring system.
      (4) Customize frame to fit your hand.
      (5) Beavertail options.
      (6) Mill the slide for a RMR.
      (7) Replace sights.
      (8) Replace barrel with ported and/or threaded barrel.
      (9) Install compensator.
      (10) Mag release replacement.
      (11) Mag extensions.
      (12) Various grip modifications to fit your hand.
      (13) Various materials for the grip.

      A Glock is highly customizable.

  11. I guess I’m a little confused as to why I would get this over a Para for the same or less money….

  12. The MSRP might be $1600, but you can buy this for just over $1200 new. At that price point it seems to be a very good deal. Priced similar to Dan Wesson.

  13. ” Like most 1911 guys, I worry about tight-fitting guns; a John Moses Browning meisterwerk with tiny tolerances can foretell future function failures.”

    This is pure myth. Not to mention, untrue.

    • A tight fitting production gun can be a problem. Some companies tightly fit their slides so that they feel like they were hand fitted, the problem is if they are not polished or fitted correctly it can prevent the slide from sliding freely on the rails. This leads to hang ups and malfunctions. Cough cough Kimber cough cough

      • @Wes, I would agree with you if you had only said “production guns”. However, you did not and so lumped all “tight” 1911s in that problematic category. I’ve been issued, shot and competed with “tight” 1911s for 15 years now. Still carry one daily in the course of my work. All of them out of either Les Baer or Springfield’s Custom Shop. Not one, not once, have they had a malfunction that could be attributed to “tight fitting”.

        I had a Glock fail me in Afghanistan due to “loose” fitting…it allowed too much moon dust inside and it completely locked up after ONE round. It took a vise and a mallet to return it to service. And I longed for one of my “tight fitted” 1911s instead.

        So…be careful about that old myth. Use it judiciously sir.

  14. I think it’s like anything if life in that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” as they say…It doesn’t work for me at this price-point but it might if I simply made more money and expense was but a minor variable in my 1911 selection equation. I have two 1911 .45acp models, namely, a Regent R100 and an ATI FX MIL so I think that is indicative of my frugal-like ways…Oh, and I also have tow other 1911-22’s SIG and GSG (yes, I know they’re the same gun…).

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