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.
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.
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?
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.
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
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.