Gun Review: SIG SAUER 1911 MAX

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I consider myself a competent shooter. I mop up in local shooting competitions. But as soon as I venture out into national shooting competitions I realize I’m merely mediocre. I can hold my own in the middle of the pack, but the whooshing sound I hear when the big boys fly past me like a freight train can be deafening. Max Michel, Jr. is of those amazing shooters, a professional pistolero who knows his way around a 1911. SIG SAUER reached out to Max and offered him the opportunity to design his dream gun for public consumption. The 1911 MAX is the result . . .

Above all, competition shooters need their guns to run reliably. The standard 1911 platform is interesting mechanically, in terms of how all the parts fit together within the slide (especially the extractor and firing pin). While I appreciate the beauty of the interconnected design it wreaks havoc on the platform’s reliability. To decrease failures SIG swapped the original internal extractor for an external design. It does a better job of isolating the parts, allowing for a beefier extractor — all good things when you’re putting thousands of rounds downrange in a short period of time.

A normal 1911 slide is fashioned into a curvy, rounded shape to reduce the amount of “extra” material moving around. SIG designed their 1911 slides to match the look and feel of their existing handguns (e.g., the P226). The result is a more boxy look, but one that’s strikingly simple and elegant. The downside: the 1911 MAX requires a SIG SAUER-specific 1911 holster, which aren’t widely available.

In another break with tradition — to serve the needs of the competition shooter — the 1911 MAX boasts forward cocking serrations. I don’t use them, but some competitors for admin loading. These serrations look good and work well.

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The interaction between a 1911’s trigger, sear, hammer and firing pin is key to producing a great handgun. Getting all the variables correct is essential; if anything’s out of whack it throws off the whole gun. To achieve a competitive edge, the 1911 MAX ditches the standard 1911 trigger for an adjustable flat trigger connected to an EGW sear. The sear trips a Koenig speed hammer and impacts an EGW firing pin. (EGW produces this same configuration in their “Ultimate Trigger Kit“) The interaction is nothing less than perfect.

The 1911 MAX’s exaggerated beavertail grip safety ensures that slide bite is never an issue, while comfortably and evenly distributing recoil across the webbing of your hand. The 1911 MAX’s ambidextrous thumb safety is a welcome addition for right handed shooters who, like me, use both their thumb and the side of their trigger finger to engage the safety. Some 1911 thumb safeties have a tendency to cut into your finger. To ensure comfort, 1911 MAX’s safety is a little more rounded and less sharp than most.

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1911’s built for self-defense often feature aggressive checkering. In a world where a dropped handgun means an instant disqualification, the extra control of the 1911 MAX’s aggressively stippled and from and back straps are much appreciated — even though it can feel like you’re holding onto a cheese grater during longer range sessions.

The  traditional single stack 1911’s magazine well is a very small target for a reload. Under the stress of competition it doesn’t get any bigger, and a fumbled magazine change can mean the difference between first place and tenth. The 1911 MAX’s flared mag well increases the odds of smooth, successful changes and decreases the odds of epic embarrassment.

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Max’s last major change: top-notch sights. The 1911 MAX’s front sight is a red fiber optic dot. In normal lighting they look as big and bright as a full moon in a clear night sky. The twin dot rear sight is easily adjustable for your personal point of impact. Competition has taught me that the same handgun can perform differently in the hands of different shooters. The 1911 MAX’s site features a set of dovetail mounts so you can swap out Max’s preference in pursuit of your own personal excellence.

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I spent a few weeks throwing everything I could find at this gun and I gotta admit that I was pleasantly surprised at the way it handled. With its chunky slide and grippy grip, full power .45ACP loads felt more like 9mm. My usual drill is to set up two targets and transition from one to the other as fast as possible. I try to get the sights aligned on the second target before I can reset the trigger. Aided by the gun’s big red snout-mounted fiber optic dot, the 1911 MAX made this drill easy and instinctive.

About four years ago, SIG SAUER sent me a 1911 Nitron to review. I was severely disappointed with the gun’s reliability. The 1911 MAX may look mostly the same, but its reliability is worlds apart. I removed the 1911 MAX from the box, wiped off the surface oil and started shooting. I didn’t experience a single malfunction in several hundred rounds of ammunition.

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The MAX’s trigger is the source of my only complaint. SIG SAUER had to bore a hole into the face of the trigger blade to provide access to the set screw that controls the trigger weight. This is a pretty common practice, but I hate it. My finger sits directly on the small hole when I fire the gun. At the end of a range session I had a nice little dimple on my trigger finger. It’s annoying and slightly painful.

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The 1911 MAX’s accuracy is exceptional — as you’d expect from a grand-and-a-half 1911. At my usual 30-foot distance I was punching 1″ groups with ease.

For a straight-out-of-the-box competition 1911 handgun, the 1911 MAX is a sweet setup. Although some may balk at the price, the MAX costs less than more common tricked-out 1911 handguns, and it comes with all the same features. That said, reliability is the 1911 MAX’s unique selling point. If you’re in the market for a competition 1911 handgun that won’t fail to run when you run the gun, the SIG SAUER 1911 MAX is worth the money.

Specifications – SIG SAUER 1911 MAX Pistol:

Capacity: 8+1 Sights: Fiber Optic front, adjustable rear
Slide Material: Stainless Steel Slide Finish: Black Nitride
Grip Frame: Stainless Grip: Hogue chainlink G-10
Barrel Length: 5″ Overall Length: 8.7″
Height: 5.5″ Width: 1.4″
Weight: 41.6 oz. Suggested Retail: $1,529

Ratings (out of five stars):

Style * * * *
The two-tone look is classic cool, and the SIG SAUER styling is definitely something you don’t see in a common race gun. It looks slick.

Ergonomics * * * *
Pretty good. The only real complaints I have are that the grippy grip is a touch too grippy, and the hole in the trigger for the adjustment screw is annoying.

Reliability * * * * *
I had zero issues with the gun.

Customization: * * * *
For the most part this is a standard 1911, meaning that standard magazines and aftermarket parts fit just fine. Thanks to the SIG SAUER styling, common 1911 holsters won’t hold the gun. Custom makers are on the case.

Accuracy: * * * *
Not too shabby.

Overall: * * * *
You could spend less and not get as much gun for the money. You could spend more and get less reliability. The 1911 MAX is the Goldilocks of entry level competition 1911’s.

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