Gun Review: Devil Dog Arms 1911 .45 ACP

By Brent Dempsey

While Internet battles rage on over plastic versus steel and the caliber wars continue, we are all enjoying a Golden Era in the world of firearms. New manufacturing methods and materials are coming into the industry allowing innovation and allowing boutique manufacturers a chance to thrive. While this innovation is bringing new designs to the market, it is also giving us familiar guns at levels of quality and price that couldn’t be imagined just a few short years ago.

When I set out on a mission to be the first to review the new Devil Dog Arms (DDA) 1911 I never intended to do a fan boy article. Strap in, though, because a fan boy article is what you are about to get.

The DDA 1911 series isn’t screwing around with plastic or aluminum. This is an all steel 1911. Frames are cast and slides are machined, both from 4140 steel that the company says is sourced domestically. The barrels are stainless steel and are hand-fitted to the barrel bushings.

TTAG Content Contest Remington R1 ZORE X Core

DDA is building their new 1911 line in two styles, three sizes, and three finishes. The traditional 1911 curves are available in each size, or a tactical rail can be incorporated into the dust cover. The railed models use a squared off trigger guard so accessories attached to the rail have a solid vertical surface behind them. The traditional models use a rounded trigger guard we’re all accustomed to on a 1911. Each style can be had in the original 5-inch barrel or shortened models with barrel lengths of 4.25” and 3.5.” Lastly, all the DDA 1911’s are available in .45 or 9mm.

The guns are also available in three finishes and a combination two-tone finish. Finishes available include the FDE Cerakote included in this test, a black oxide finish, and Boron oxide finish that looks like a nickel style finish. They will also do a black frame with the Boron finish for a traditional two-tone finish.

What if you want one with a FDE frame and a black slide? I think you’re crazy, but call DDA. They have been extremely easy to work with and I would be surprised if they wouldn’t hook you up with the combination you wanted.

The guns are stunning. I handled each of the three sizes and at least one in every finish. Each finish was perfectly applied, even and smooth with no blemishes inside or out. More on that later. The slides have three wide serrations on the front and four on the rear of the slide. The cuts are perfectly squared off and the slide isn’t cluttered with branding.

The slide says simply ‘DEVIL DOG ARMS’ in a large font on the left and the company’s stylized dog’s face on the right. Combined with the seven large serrations the effect is a clean, almost stark slide. This may not have worked for the gun except that the finishes are so well done. With the outstanding finish work and the minimalist slide ornamentation the gun is immediately attractive with a bit of an industrial look.

DDA uses flat top slides, well-cut 22 LPI checkering on the front strap, large ramped rear sights by Kensight that appear to use a standard dovetail mount if you need your own style of sights. Kensight has an excellent reputation for rugged well-machined sights. They also make very well-priced adjustable sights if you wanted to make your DDA 1911 a competition pistol. All the DDA 1911’s use skeletonized hammers, a ‘memory bump’ grip safety, and three-hole triggers.

The grips are a custom design developed in house at Devil Dog. They feature deep aggressive serrations at the front and back of each grip panel. When I first held the gun I expected the extended range session was going to cost me some skin from my hands. I was pleasantly surprised. The serrations on the grips certainly enhance your grip on the gun but shooting and recoil did not dig the edges into my hands the way I expected.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but most will agree the overall effect DDA has achieved is a very visually attractive gun most shooters will be proud to own.

That Trigger
For some time we have been carrying the banner for trigger consistency. A good trigger means more than a light trigger pull, it requires a crisp release and a good trigger has to break consistently at the same place with the same force. For some time, the Canik TP9SA, a single action trigger, has reigned as the most consistent trigger we have tested. Well there is a new Sheriff in town.

In ten recorded trigger pulls on a Lyman digital gauge the Devil Dog 1911 had an average trigger weight of 3.46 pounds with only a 4.9 ounce maximum deviation between the highest recorded force required to break at 3 pounds 10.3 ounces and the lowest of 3 pounds 5.4 ounces.

As you can see on the chart below the DDA had just a bit more than half the maximum deviation of the Canik and just a bit more than half the standard deviation. Both guns blew away the Para Ordnance 14.45 I considered for years to be my match gun. To give it some perspective I have been raving about the unexpectedly great trigger on the Canik for months, but the DDA trigger beats it in every respect.

Two shooters I deeply respect shot the DDA 1911. The first, a long term shooter and SWAT operator who carried a tuned 1911 for years, declared the DDA 1911 to have the best trigger he had ever felt on a factory gun. The second, a competition shooter, complained about the 1/8 inch take-up before the trigger engaged. He’s right, there is a hint of slack before you feel any pressure from the trigger, but that has never bothered me and I hadn’t even noticed until it was pointed out to me.

So you have a beautiful gun with 1911 ergonomics, great sights, excellent grip and the best trigger we have ever tested. So what?

Shooting
These were the first two rounds I fired from the DDA 1911:

When the first two rounds you fire from a gun occupy the same hole, you may be onto something special.
The 1911 design still sells because it shoots so well. Excellent ergonomics plus the sliding trigger mean most people shoot the 1911 better than they shoot many other guns.

DDA has built an excellent 1911. The all steel slide and frame provide enough weight to soak up recoil and the aggressive grip panels lock the gun in place in your hands. Highly visibly sights and the best trigger we have yet to test combine to routinely drop bullets on top of each other at close range. We quickly gave up on the ten yard line because there was no challenge.

We did not have a mechanical shooting rest available to test the DDA 1911 and that’s a shame. The fitting of the barrel to the bushing is obviously top-notch and rested groups at 25 yards were routinely under 3 inches with Remington Golden Saber hollow points and Winchester round-nose practice ammunition.

I suspect we could have cut our group sizes in half with a mechanical rest. Most of the guns we test don’t benefit much from formal accuracy testing but I would have loved to see how the DDA would have performed. I suspect average groups in the 1.5 inch range would be entirely possible with this gun.

Every gun should be entitled to a break-in period, but typically tightly fitted 1911s need a break-in more than other guns. DDA provided us an unfired demo gun for this test. I stripped, cleaned, and oiled the gun before the range session, but expected some growing pains getting started. Here again we were pleasantly surprised. Round #45 extracted properly, but failed to eject and the gun tried to rechamber the empty shell causing a stoppage.

We expected this to herald the beginning of a series of issues as the parts began to find their way but that was the only issue we had with the gun over two range sessions, four shooters, six types of magazines and four ammunition manufacturers.

This was a very uneventful break-in for a 1911 and I suspect it’s in part due to the finish. The excellent Cerakote finish was continued inside the slide giving the gun one of the cleanest internal appearances I have ever seen. A major law enforcement entity recently insisted its new handgun provider also put their external coating inside the slide. The consensus seems to be the coatings decrease friction inside the slide and keep everything moving together in better harmony.

One failure to eject made for a very uneventful break-in for a 1911. Especially one as tightly fitted as the DDA 1911. Other than one ejection issue the DDA was perfectly reliable, easy shooting with a trigger as close to perfect as we have seen yet. We started shooting smaller and smaller objects around the range simply because the gun made it so easy.

Summary
Devil Dog Arms has made a beautiful, well-functioning 1911 with excellent sights and an outstanding trigger. The company hasn’t invented anything new with this offering, but they are applying modern manufacturing techniques to turn out an impressive pistol at a very competitive price. With a trigger this good, the only question is whether you care for the aesthetics. I found the stark industrial look of the wide serrations and minimalist aspect of the slide to work very well, and thought the squared trigger guard with the tactical rail was the right choice.

At an MSRP of $999 for the full-size model, I suggest you buy a DDA 1911 before there is a run on these pistols and the price goes up.

Specifications: Devil Dog 1911

Caliber: .45 ACP
Barrel Length: 5 inches
Overall Length: 8.75 inches
Weight: 2lbs. 6 ounces
Finish: Cerakote FDE
Capacity: 8+1
MSRP: $999

Ratings (out of Five Stars):

Style: * * * * *
The full-size 1911 is a beautiful gun. DDA kept the graceful front of the slide while adding an industrial look with wide serrations and a flattened top. The squared front strap looks sharp with the tactical rail, but they kept the traditional rounded trigger guard with the standard dust cover. The custom grips add to the industrial look in a very functional way and the layered laminate gives a striking visual appeal.

Ergonomics: * * * * *
Standard 1911 ergonomics are hard to argue with from the single stack grip to the sliding trigger. Most who choose a gun other than the 1911 don’t leave because they dislike the ergonomics. The DDA tested is a heavy full-size gun that’s feels good in the hand and shoots like a dream. The included stocks are thicker than is currently in vogue, but they give excellent purchase on the gun.

Reliability: * * * * *
Every gun should be entitled to a break-in period. We had one failure to eject on round #45 from this brand new gun. Other 1911’s I have tested required much more break in time and grew into perfectly reliable guns. With 500 rounds through the DDA I had total faith it would perform.

Customize This: * * * * *
Once, the 1911 platform required gunsmithing credentials to work on well, but modern CNC manufacturing has standardized most parts and the Internet is filled with videos helping the amateur change parts. With the addition of the tactical rail, the 1911 platform can be adjusted and customized as much as any other pistol system.

Concealed Carry: * * *
Some people carry full-size 1911’s on a daily basis but, most of us don’t. While the thin platform makes the gun fit close to your body and is great in an IWB holster, the nearly 2½-pound empty weight discourages most. DDA has smaller options geared more toward concealed carry.

Overall: * * * * *
Devil Dog Arms built a visually beautiful gun that shoots even better than it looks. They are currently priced at $999 MSRP, about half the price the same features would cost you from some competitors. The attention to detail in the checkering and the interior finish put the DDA 1911 ahead of many offerings that cost considerably more.

comments

  1. avatar James69 says:

    oh look, another $1000 brick. Thanks it’s just what I need.

    1. avatar Curtis in IL says:

      According to this review, it’s a $1,000 brick that shoots as well as most $3,000 bricks.

    2. avatar Hannibal says:

      How fast and far can you throw a brick?

    3. avatar Weapon Of War says:

      You’re not worthy.

  2. avatar yolo says:

    Step 1: outsource vanilla 1911 to another shop, don’t forget to put your companies name on the order form so they can etch it on the slide for ya

    Step 2: when the shop calls go pick the parts up, see if you can trick the workers into loading your truck for you

    Step 3: stop at burger king for lunch, then drive the 1911 parts to a cerakote shop. Haggle with the nice lady at the front to see if you can get the price around $50 per unit since you have 500

    Step 4: pay your nephew $1 a gun to assemble them and put in the boxes you ordered from VistaPrint, along with the manuals you printed at work and some company decals custom ordered from Fiverr.

    Step 5: add $500 to the price, then profit. Don’t forget to send out review guns to all the gun sites they always need content, but you’ll need it back to sell as “nib”.

    Good writeup here but it’s tough to get excited about a 1911. I guess that’s the best thing about them.

    1. avatar FlamencoD says:

      A quick minute or two reading the Devil Dog site will show you that they have a 50,000 sq ft machine shop with high speed CNC machines, and they produce machined products/components for OEM partners in firearms and defense aerospace industries. This would make me think they machine their own slides and frames for their 1911s. They probably buy the raw steel billets and then machine them into final shape in house. I can’t tell whether or not they machine their own barrels.

  3. avatar Sich says:

    If you ever own a Schwinn Bicycle? That was made using 4140-grade steel…

    1. avatar Curtis in IL says:

      I used to ride a Schwinn to school because I was on the tail end of the bus route and I could get home sooner that way.

      The bike weighed a ton, but it sure held up better than the cheap ones people were buying at the discount stores. I took it to college and handed it down to my sister when I graduated. Apparently 4140 is pretty good stuff.

      1. avatar Sich says:

        First developed in 1892 by the Carneige Steel Company. And adopted by the US Navy in 1896, still in use today…

      2. avatar Weapon Of War says:

        Sigh, wanted one, but my Dad, God Bless Him, bought me a Huffy.

    2. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      4140 steel is the steel most commonly used in gun barrels, and has been since before WWII.

      Commonly called “chro-moly steel,” it is an alloy that can be heat treated, welded, machined, cast, forged – all quite well. It machines pretty nicely, and when welding, it doesn’t need pre/post heat, as some of the higher-specification steels (eg, 4340) do.

      4140 is perhaps the single most useful steel in the production of firearms. You can use other steels, but it is difficult to justify the expense unless you’re designing something extreme. eg, I might be moved to use 4340 steel for making an action for a .50 BMG, but for anything smaller than that? Heat-treated 4140 will work quite well.

  4. avatar Philthegardner says:

    For the price? Call me intrigued. Definitely got my attention. There’s a reason so many 1911’s are sold every.frickin.year.
    People like me love ’em, and keep buying ’em!

  5. avatar pieslapper says:

    Actually the caliber wars were settled last month. It’s Creedmoor Uber Alles, Creedmoor Uber Alles!

    1. avatar EWTHeckman says:

      I wonder what a 6.5 Creedmoor 1911 would look like. Would you be able to hold it with one hand? Would it shatter every bone in your body when you fired it?

  6. avatar Roh-Dog says:

    Do you think they can make one with a polymer lower?
    Maybe in a semi-cocked, striker-fired configuration?
    Make it boxy and almost universal in parts and holster compatibility?
    With a big ‘G’ on the grip?
    Naw…?
    I’ll just buy a Glock, at that price, two.

    1. avatar New Continental Army says:

      Or 7 hi points!

    2. avatar neiowa says:

      You can have my Gluck even if someone is GIVING the things away. Someday I’ll buy a 1911 but would greatly prefer a double stack.

      1. avatar michael in ak says:

        go buy it then….and keep your stupid opinion to yourself. Glocks are not pretty, Glocks are not sexy, but when you discuss guns that go bang when needed, they are definitely part of the conversation. To think otherwise is ignorant.

        1. avatar Hannibal says:

          I love how salty you get that he’s basically retorting the same thing to the other poster who was making the same comment about these guns without any knowledge of whether they go ‘bang’ or not.

    3. avatar LJPII says:

      Then do it and STFU.

  7. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

    overall, nice.
    i wonder if that trigger pull is repeated in other samples.
    the name on the slide could be smaller. good font though.
    the right side looks good, very uncluttered.
    i’m glad the trigger doesn’t have little stars broached in.
    i’ll watch for a 10mm.

    “…the best trigger we have ever tested.”

    as a contest entry, who would that reference?

    1. avatar Arizona Free says:

      I would have to include the star bm 9mm. Bought a surplus for $229.00 but looks almost new. The trigger is about 3.2 lbs and like glass. No creep or take-up just a crisp break. Accuracy is excellent.

  8. avatar Jason says:

    I didn’t realize you guys had a trigger test here at TTAG. The Canik XXXSA was just replaced in the top spot by a Devil Dog. Uh huh, I see, very interesting.

    You guys ever run this test on a Dan Wesson 1911 or a Wilson 1911? I’m sure either would quickly and forever remain much higher on your list than the two current reigning champs. TTAG may I suggest you test a Dan Wesson or Wilson ASAP before too many people see the list. Just to show folks you really know what’s up, might want to test a Volquartsen Scorpion too.

    Also curious what is currently rounding out the Top 10? Got a Glock in there? LOL.

    1. avatar Curtis in IL says:

      I think so far they tested five triggers and Glock came in at 9th place.

  9. avatar Greg says:

    Great write up, always tell folks you don’t have to spend big bucks for a decent 1911. Did you drop it in sand? Flat wire recoil spring or coil?
    Try multiple lights on rail?

  10. avatar FlamencoD says:

    Nice job in the write-up. As for the gun, it looks cool, but I still prefer the look of my Kimber 1911 or Springfield RO Elite series.

  11. avatar Lowell says:

    I have to say…. I will probably never buy a 1911. I fully expect that some day I will build at least one, and perhaps even as a CNC project, but I will never buy one. The design is now a range gun in the same way that a Single Action Army is – revolutionary in it’s day, and stupendously out of date now.

    I also don’t plan on ever buying a stock Glock – the grip sucks. The trigger is atrocious. Luckily, the free market exists, and a bunch of pistol manufacturers actually took the time to read Glock’s complaint page like Glock never does and then ironed out the flaws in the Glock design which Glock never will. I still have my 80%Arms pre-order G17frame NIB, and I’m looking for some idiot that has replaced the factory slide and barrel with super-duper Gucci crap and is okay letting go of the perfectly serviceable factory parts for cheap. But otherwise, not gonna bother.

    If I’m going to actually BUY something, that would be the M&P, CZ P10C, and the Hudson H9.

    1. avatar michael in ak says:

      All that wasted typing about Glocks….pathetic

      1. avatar Setarip says:

        When you die one day, do you think you will go to Glock heaven?

        1. avatar Michael in AK says:

          Absolutely not. And i won’t need one in heaven

    2. avatar Rusty says:

      Have you shot a great trigger’d 1911? I was vehemently against them, thought they were kinda ugly, old, outdated. But a few weeks ago i got to shoot a Wilson Combat 1911, and was legitimately jaw-dropped impressed. I’ve never experienced such a soft perfect trigger in my life as that gun had. I’ve got my share of striker pistols, the best trigger of which is my canik sfx. But after that first trigger pull I’ve done a 180 and NEED a 1911 now. It was an eye opening experience I didn’t want to have (i’ve told myself I’m done buying guns for 2018…ha!) but recommend to everyone

  12. avatar JD says:

    Don’t forget this is the same company who’s owner had committed stolen valor.

    1. avatar EWTHeckman says:

      Actually, there is a lot more to that story. I just saw that come up on their Facebook page when I looked at it earlier to day. Here’s the exchange:

      David Wyble Hey f*****s! I belong to Devildogshirts.com I am not afraid to speak your name because more than one of your members said you were a fraud!!!

      Because I directly manage Devil Dog Shirts I am calling you out!! I have fought and lost personal friends in Kajaki2010!!! Pretending to be some one you are not is stolen valor!! Especially when f*****s come my site thinking I am a POG

      Reveal your Marine association so I can cross examine. Otherwise I will blow you and your company out of the water!!!

      Devil Dog Arms David. Thanks for your enthusiasm in learning more about us. A little research will reveal that the company was founded a few years ago by someone who claimed to be someone they were not. The company was shut down and has been brought back to life by a group of people who care for the name, the brand and the reputation that is deserving of the Devil Dog monicker. Devil Dog Arms, Inc. was shut down and the new Devil Dog Arms, LLC. was born. We have been very honest that we are not USMC owned and have never tried to portray anything but the truth. During our rebuilding, rebranding and relaunch we have been able to raise money and become great friends with the SSA and RSF both of which have welcomed us with open arms along with many, many USMC brothers whom we have very deep relationships with. Had it not been for these personal relationships we would not have had the will or desire to carry the company name. Since the relaunch we have made it clear that we want to honor the name and keep it alive because you can’t let a Devil Dog die. We took on a huge black eye from someone else’s wrong doing and have made a positive outcome from something that was so negative many years ago.

      David Wyble It’s all good… I appreciate the response. Yet I have people trying to call me out for stolen valor and getting our name twisted. It pissed me off a little

      Personally, I think it’s wrong to attack someone for the actions of someone else in the past.

  13. avatar Ogre says:

    When I read about the DDA M1911, it put me in mind of the Colt M45A1 I bought because, well…Marine! But I paid bout $700 more for mine (at the PX!) than the DDA costs. Well, damn me all to hell! I also have a Colt Compact 3.5″. But I’m not going to run out and buy a DDA pistol, although it looks like that company has done a good job covering the 1911 field and kept the cost down to a reasonable level. Some guys will want one. What I’ll want to see are more objective reviews of the pistol (not fan-boy ones) to see if it’s worthy.

  14. avatar Jay in Floriduh says:

    Ehhhhhhhhh
    Add another 1911 to the bins.

  15. avatar Joleolsen says:

    Sponsored post much?

    1. avatar Greg says:

      TTAG has advertisers and that usually is the beginning of the end. Advertisers do call the shots and you’ll notice negative comments or reviews will start disappearing. Happened to TFB god forbid the $ doesn’t come in.

  16. avatar MD Matt says:

    General points for 1911 reviews:
    What kind of safety (extended or standard?)
    What length guide rod (do I need a tool to break this down or not?)
    How many magazines does this come with and how many rounds does each hold?
    Series 70 or 80?
    What is the power of the recoil spring (am I going to have to replace this for full house 230gr loads like my Colt Gold Cup?)
    External extractor or not?
    Flat wire springs or no?
    What types and brands of ammo were used in the review (jhp, fmj…etc?)

    Good review–though I still haven’t seen anything that beets the price to value of my Magnum Research.
    Thanks for reviewing a quality product at a good price.

  17. avatar Robert Fory says:

    Tactical rail can be incorporated into the dustcover. A 1911 has a dustcover? Forgive me if it’s a stupid question.

  18. avatar Daniels says:

    I went on the company’s website and emailed them with a few questions and a lady that works there called me back and sent me a bunch of info. I wouldn’t mind dropping $1,000 for one of these. I’m a 1911 man and find them to be pretty kick ass.

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