Gun Review: Devil Dog Arms Tactical 1911 in .45 ACP

It’s got more in common with the newer Marine Corps-issued Colt M45A1 CQBP than the original M1911A1, but the Devil Dog Arms Tactical framed 1911 chambered in .45ACP shares all the fighting greatness that made John Moses Browning’s classic legendary.

When talking about Devil Dog Arms, the 600 Nitro Express in the room is the reputation of the company itself. Back in 2016, the founder of Devil Dog Arms (DDA), Joe Lucania, admitted that he had never been a member of the United States Marine Corps from which the company drew its name, and much of its reputation. All of the employees were fired, and DDA closed its doors.

Since then, the company has reopened under entirely new management. They have chosen to retain the company’s name honoring Marines, but the current top management is not now nor have they ever been Marines.

Following too many of today’s plastic fantastic firearms, Devil Dog ships their 1911s in a simple plastic lunchbox-style container. Any 1911 deserves a bit more class than that, and one of this build quality certainly deserves better. But hey, at least it’s not the cardboard that even major manufacturers like Ruger and Mossberg seem to be moving to.

If you like billboard rollmarks, Devil Dog Arms (DDA) has the 1911 for you. Not only is the company’s name in huge, deep cuts on the left side of the slide, the DDA canine logo is cut into the right side of the slide as well. Looking at their website, it appears as if all of their models are so adorned.


Opening the Devil Dog Tactical 1911 up, you’ll find the typical round recoil spring and standard GI guide rod on a Series 70 style gun.

These photos of the disassembled gun were taken before I shot it for the review. The gun was already a little dirty from firing, and note that the interior surfaces show some light wear from use.

Following the guide rod and spring assembly, the trigger is a standard set-up as well. The Devil Dog Arms 1911 sports a classic three-hole aluminum serrated trigger. Devil Dog Arms advertises their triggers are set at 3.5-4 lbs. Truth in advertising! This trial and evaluation (T&E) model’s trigger pull measured right at 3lbs 9oz. That weight pulls through crisply, with a barely perceptible amount of slack prior to the break.

There are two basic models of the Government framed 1911’s from DDA, the Standard and Tactical. The difference seems to be the presence of a rail on the Tactical model. The review pistol is the railed model. It’s disappointing that the Tactical model doesn’t also include a threaded barrel standard, or at least an option for one.

The sights on this model are three-dot Kensights front and rear. Both are drift adjustable. Especially on any kind of “Tactical” version, a tritium option would be more appropriate. I don’t see one available on their site as an option.

Devil Dog says the cast frame and slide are made from domestic 4140 alloy steel.

Both the front strap and the rear of the flat mainspring housing come with an aggressive 22LPI checkering. This is going to feel a bit abrasive to some shooters, but the 20-25LPI is bloody hands down what I prefer. These deep, sharp cuts help to hold the gun in place when the shooter has cold weather gloves on, and also help during our hot Texas summer shooting sessions.

Devil Dog Arms is not playing around with the slide cuts. You’ll find deep relief cuts on both the front and rear of the slide. These cuts are enough to give any shooter solid purchase on the slide even with slick hands or heavy winter gloves. They’re also pronounced enough to make a big impact on the overall style of the pistol.

Each Devil Dog 1911 comes with Devil Dog custom grips held on by hex head screws. I understand that some shooters think this kind of fastener adds some kind of robustness or value, but in fact it does exactly the opposite. With the original, flathead style grip fastener, the 1911 needs no tools at all (only ammunition) to completely detail strip and reassemble the gun. With the substitution of hex screws, now at least one tool is necessary.

These scales follow the same trend as the slide, as they include deep, well pronounced cuts for a solid grip texture. The left side includes a cut-out channel to reach the well-textured magazine release. Overall, the grips fit well and add to the overall look of the gun. They are also fairly wide for a 1911.

The end result of the Devil Dog Arms grip panels as well as the aggressive checkering is a solid grip that provides the shooter with a lot of surface area. That’s absolutely ideal for someone with large hands, but it may be a challenge for smaller-palmed shooters.

The combination of the rail, the G10 grips, and the heavy front and rear slide serrations give the Devil Dog Arms 1911 a beefy, blocky look. That’s anathema to the original elegant lines of Browning’s design. It is, however, a popular aesthetic of many of the modern “tactical” 1911s, and it’s a tribute to JMB that this uber-functional look works well enough on the gun to remain widely popular.

The slide-to-frame fit is a little better than most of the 1911s I see at this price range. It’s certainly leaps and bounds better than my Colts, as well as the Remingtons and Rugers I’ve owned and shot. It’s every bit as good as Kimber’s better offerings.

The extended thumb safety is well-blended into the frame, with no edge extending when the safety is dropped. The top of the extended beavertail, with “memory bump”, is flush against the frame when in use.

The 416 stainless steel barrel ends with a conventional barrel bushing. Although I didn’t require a tool to remove the bushing, it’s pretty tight. Considering that this is a T&E gun that has already had quite a few rounds through it, and has obviously been passed through a few hands, that bushing may be a bit tighter when the gun in brand new and fired the first few times. I don’t think that will have any effect on reliability, but it will make disassembly more challenging for the newer 1911 shooter.

The Government sized 1911 Devil Dog shipped to TTAG was clearly a trial and evaluation model. The box it came in was clearly labeled so and there was light wear on the finish of all the major controls and the rails.  There was also the unfortunate “idiot mark” from someone who either didn’t quite know how to reassemble a 1911 or was in too much of a hurry to do it right.

If you don’t know how to properly reassemble a 1911 so that this won’t happen, here’s a video that shows you how. There’s more than one way to skin a cat, but this is the method of assembly and disassembly I prefer.  It’s also the method that’s listed in several of my 1911 manufacturers’ manuals.

It’s not easy to differentiate yourself in the extremely crowded 1911 market. One of the ways Devil Dog Arms does that with their pistols is the 45% angled cuts and flat top on their slide. You’ll also notice that the slide cuts extend from the sides up and into the top angles of the slide as well. That’s a nice touch. I’ve always liked a flat top slide, as it tends to draw my eye straight to the front sight.

The Devil Dog Arms 1911 is no different. The natural “pointability” of the 1911, combined with that flat top and a bright white front sight allowed me to quickly punch out and acquire my targets beyond the muzzle.

It was during my first few drills at The Range at Austin, running their “Advanced Pistol Program” that I was reminded yet again of why I enjoy the 1911 platform so much. Not only is the platform legendary in its precision capability, but there’s still no practical pistol platform out there more capable of dumping eight rounds of .45 ACP into a fist-sized circle at 15 yards in a mad dash like the 1911.

Working doubles, triples in the Mozambique, or just pouring out as many as I could in the 1-1.5 seconds the targets were available to me, the Devil Dog Arms 1911 did not fail to impress. The gun reminded me, once again, of how much I enjoy this platform.

When it comes to 1911 pistols, I prefer no rail, thin grips, an arched mainspring housing and minimalist roll marks. The DDA 1911 has none of those things. But man, there’s no denying the performance from this pistol. It is just a great gun to shoot.

As far as the mythological misfeeding 1911, the Devil Dog Arms 1911 exhibited none. I already noted that the pistol was dirty when it arrived. I didn’t clean it, but I lubed the gun with a few drops of SLIP 2000 EWL prior to the review. I didn’t lube it or open it up again until after the shooting was complete.

I put 500 rounds through the pistol over the course of a week, and I had another shooter at the Range at Austin shoot it as well. At no point did the Devil Dog 1911 fail in any way. It had no problems feeding or ejecting. The magazine never failed to easily lock in place or fail to eject quickly.

I ran the Devil Dog 1911 with 230gr FMJs, with hollow points of 185gr, 200gr, and 230gr. I ran brands from Armscor, Remington, Speer, and 50 rounds of my own home-rolled 200gr flat point round from Berry’s. I used the single supplied Italian-made magazine, as well as magazines from Wilson Combat and Chip McCormick. I never had any issues of any kind.

After running a hundred humbling rounds of the Mozambique drill, I already had an idea that the Devil Dog 1911 was capable of an unusually high degree of precision. The bench proved my estimation correct.

The Remington Golden Saber 185gr HP scored 2 1/4” average five round groups over four shot strings at 25 yards.  The lighter rounds scored a little poorer than the heavier grains. The inexpensive Armscor 230gr FMJ scored 1 1/4” average five-round groups over four-shot strings.

Those two rounds, the Remington and the Armscor, were bookends of precision for the different brands of rounds I fired. 2 1/4” was as bad as it got, and that’s not bad at all. 1 1/4” is excellent for a firearm in this price range.

I wasn’t expecting much from Devil Dog Arms. I freely admit that my opinion was soured by the company’s previous owner’s deception. I don’t now how well the guns under the old management shot, but under this new team, they shoot great.

Devil Dog Arms has produced a very accurate, reliable pistol with features commensurate with the better manufacturers in their price range. This was the first 1911 review I’ve done in a while, and Devil Dog Arms reminds me of why I love the platform so much in the first place.

Armscor Ammunition

SPECIFICATIONS: DEVIL DOG ARMS 1911 TACTICAL FRAME

Caliber: .45 ACP
Capacity: 8
Finish: Black oxide
Overall Length: 8 3/4″
Weight: 2lb 6oz
Frame: Domestic investment cast 4140 steel
Grips: NBD grips by DDA
Slide: Domestic 4140 bar stock
Barrel: Domestic 416 stainless steel, button rifled, 1:16 LH twist
Trigger: 3-hole aluminum, 3.5-4 lb pull
Sights: Kensight DFS fixed white dot
MSRP: $1,149

Ratings (out of five stars): 

Style and Appearance * * *
The deep slide cuts tie the general theme of the gun together, matching the rail and the grips.  The giant billboard roll mark is a serious turnoff for me, but it may be your cup-o-soup. The overall finish is well done throughout, and remains in good shape despite the fact that the gun had obviously been through a few shooters before it got to me.

Customization * * *
With enough money, you can do a whole lot to a 1911. It’s disappointing that a threaded barrel option and night sights don’t come standard on a “tactical” model.

Accuracy * * * * 
Not quite five stars because it didn’t break the 1-inch group threshold, but excellent precision at this price level with inexpensive ammunition.

Reliability * * * * *
Zero issues with multiple bullet weights and types as well as cartridges from different manufacturers and two different shooters.

Overall * * * *

The Devil Dog Arms 1911’s fit and performance is a small step above much of the competition in this price range. The stock grips fill the hand and the 22 LPI checkering provides a solid grip surface. There’s nothing super special about the gun, but the basics are well executed, for the style of 1911 presented. DDA makes several other models, in 9x19mm and .45 ACP, as well as a couple of different Cerakote options.

comments

  1. avatar Specialist38 says:

    Thanks for the review. Interesting gun.

    My tastes in the 1911 are more pedestrian than presented by DD.

    I do agree that checkering on everything should be at least 20 lpi.

    I would even like checkering instead of serations on the slide.

    I prefer no rail, a rounded trigger guard, and a commander hammer with an extended grip safety but no beavertail.

    A Glock is easy to learn to shoot. A good 1911 is easy to learn to hit.

  2. avatar Winterborne says:

    If reliability had “zero issues,” why only 4 stars in that category?

    Just curious.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      Typo. It should be five stars. Will fix. Thanks.

  3. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

    Don’t be too hard on them for their packaging. My first 1911 platform was a Colt Series 70 Government Model. It came to me in a styrofoam clamshell slid into a cardboard sleeve. Last one was a stainless Colt Series 80. Needs work, but LNIB for $400 so… Oh yeah, plastic box. Love a 1911 and I’m sure this one performed as described but it doesn’t appeal to me visually. Definitely should have night sights.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      You make a good point. But when I get a Colt in a light blue carboard box, it means something different than when I get, say, a Mossberg pistol in a cardboard box.
      I just hate to see companies make good guns, justifiably charge a little more for them, and then sell them in plastic I wouldn’t trust my kids’ lunch with.

      1. avatar Specialist38 says:

        Smith and Colt used to use cardboard/pasteboard boxes that were trim and neat. Easily Stored.

        Now I have a stack of plastic boxes on top of my safe. I usually transport guns in something that holds more than one so they don’t get used much. I do have one Glock box in my truck to hold spare ammo and mags.

      2. avatar Scott C. says:

        If I pay $1100 for a firearm, I’d prefer to get an $1100 firearm in a run of the mill case than get a lesser firearm in a fancy case. I can get my own case, just my opinion.

      3. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

        Yeah, I get you. Last time I received a handgun in a box that deserved it was a Colt SAA. It was a 4 3/4″ .45 Colt with an interchangeable .45 ACP cylinder. Factory ivory. In a fitted hardwood case with blue velvet lining. The lid held a factory authorized book of the Colt history. Retained by leather straps. Traded it for a LW Colt Officer built by Wayne Novak. Can you imagine what that SAA is worth today?

        1. avatar Merle 0 says:

          A SAA .45 colt with a interchangeable .45 acp cylinder!? Now that’s cool.

        2. avatar jwtaylor says:

          Damn. It would be hard to let that go.

  4. avatar Former employee says:

    Why would the company want to retain the name when it’s been associated with that pos Joe Lucania?

  5. avatar Will Drider says:

    Typo? Best group stated as 1 1/4 inch with Arnscor 230 FMJ but photo provided shows same ammo with 1.0 inch group marked on target. Further, in Accuracy it states it did not break the 1 inch threshold. True, as above but surely it was knocking on the door.

    Good Review, highlighted my areas of concern with the exception of: Internal machine/tool marks (any?), MIM parts (=production costs, possible reliability), stated Series 70 guide rod /spring but does not ID trigger system as Series 70 or Series 80?

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      Read it again. More carefully this time.

  6. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

    JWT, you don’t pull a punch, do you? “Following the guide rod and spring assembly, the trigger is a standard set up as well.” Some gentleman need things explained more simply. You can’t trust that they will make a leap of logic.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      Not to mention the photos.

  7. avatar BusyBeef says:

    Looking at this I wanted to hate it but for what you’re getting, that price is reasonable.
    But for a few hundred dollars more you can get into a Dan Wesson – is this on that level of fit and finish?

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      I think CZ has done great with the Dan Wesson 1911 line, and you get a whole lot of bang for your buck there. As far as this one comparing, it depends on which DW you mean. The overall fitment of the Devil Dog Arms 1911 is very good. Style wise, it’s not my thing, but it handles well and shoots well.

  8. avatar StuckInIllinois says:

    Any chance you will do a T&E on a Fusion 1911? They look to make some good versions the way you (and I) like them.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      Email Dan and ask him for one. I shoot what’s on the menu.

  9. avatar Thixotropic says:

    I’ve seen these offered at Ranierarms.com and had no idea of the quality. They are offered at somewhat <$1000 and if they perform like your demo copy that will be just fine, even exceptional.

    I too have a Colt M1991A1 Series 80 SS that I bought in the Mid-1990's before I knew much about the platform. It was loose and goosey and after a trigger job from a renown gunsmith and some other work, it shot <3" groups at 25 yds from a Ransom Rest.

    After years of working on my 'learning gun' I had ROBAR do some stippling on the top of the slide and install a gold bead front and monolithic rear sights. I then had another renown gunsmith install a new Ed Brown match barrel into the slide, tighten the frame to slide fit, the BEST trigger job that I have ever felt on an 80 series trigger, and fix other things like replace the original extractor that was MIM FROM THE FACTORY! That's right, an MIM factory extractor on a Colt 1911. I had intended to fit the 'drop in' barrel myself, except it wasn't close. This, according to the Smith was because the slide on this M1991A1 was actually a 'Narrow Gold Cup' slide, NOT a standard one.

    The weapon is now BEAUTIFUL and shoots <13/16" at 25 yds from a Ransom Rest.

    Custom weapons made by the hands of competent and highly experienced gunsmiths feel, shoot, and even sound different.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      Your experience with the Series 80 out of the box Colt’s is right along with mine. In fact, I use 3″ at 25 yards as my 3-Star average for a full size 1911 in 45ACP, because of my experience with those guns.
      When worked by a competent gunsmith (I use Ten Ring Precision out of San Antonio) I can’t feel any difference between a series 70 and 80 trigger, at least not when I’m actually shooting the gun.
      When worked on by bubba, neither one are worth the time and money.

  10. avatar Scott C. says:

    It’d be okay with the dog etching if it was the more traditional bulldog the Marines are know for, I understand they went for something different but as Marine veteran myself, some things just bug me. Also, you’re correct about the barrel and sight options. I have a Sig 1911 tacops that does have a threaded barrel and night sights and it was right around that price point. I know DD is a smaller manufacturer therefore their economy of scale is way different than Sig (or any other major manufacturer) but those options should still be there.

    1. avatar MADDMAXX says:

      Semper Fi brother Scott….I have an “issue” with the whole use of the “Devil Dog” label.. As a Marine veteran and having served with the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment (THE original Devil Dogs) in Vietnam, I wore the French Fourragère awarded the 5th Marines. The 5th Marine Regiment and the 6th Marine Regiment were awarded the fourragère for having earned the Croix de Guerre with palm leaf three times during World War I. The most famous battle and the one where the “Marines” earned the title Devil Dogs was the battle of belleau wood outside of Paris where the Germans labeled the Marines “Teufelshunde” “they fought like hounds from hell” when the Marines suffered over 55% casualties in three days and still ended the battle in hand to hand fighting with the Germans…. Tribute or not, they have “appropriated” an important part of Marine Corps pride and a significant point in Marine Corps history to make a buck… I’ll pass.
      (Happy #244 U.S.M.C. Nov 10 1775/2019)..

      1. avatar jwtaylor says:

        Follow the “devil dog” link in my article. Unfortunately, the “Teufelshunde” origin story is a myth. It never made sense to me. I speak a little German, and that’s just not how you would say that.

        1. avatar MADDMAXX says:

          Teufelshunde
          This is how “Teufelshunde”(pl) “Teufelshund”(sg) is actually written…the “s” is often forgotten but it is important as it indicates the real meaning of the word which is “dogs of the devil” rather than “devil dogs” Its an (OLD GERMAN SLANG WORD) for a tough, courageous, risk taking and in his case devoted person. a “tough bastard” It comes from WW One when German soldiers were amazed by the courage and toughness of American soldiers coming into battle in 1917. American soldiers were respected and feared… Okay JW, I understand that you are a man of the world and possess abilities and intellect far beyond that of most mortal men with knowledge of ALL things great and small no matter how trivial or archaic, however unless you are fluent in ALL regional speech of all people from all time AND personally participated in those conversations among the Germans of “1917” then perhaps you should reconsider interjecting yourself into every point made by anyone that doesn’t like something that you are promoting… You can make any statement of FACT on any subject about anything and I guarantee you I can find someone who has written something debunking your premise.. So some 1917 German soldier said those Marines in Belleau Wood fought like “dogs of the devil” and some American turned it into “Devil Dogs”? Who the fuck knows? Were you there? Do you know for a FACT that it NEVER happened in the thousands of times that the story of that battle was retold by thousands of people? As a PROUD member of one of the worlds elite fighting forces I will defer to the Marine Corps historians who have done FAR more research and possess far greater knowledge of those times than (most likely) you and most certainly I have… Keeping in mind that much of the controversy revolves around a number of misspellings on recruitment posters and certain alleged “historical” documents as well as differing accounts of the battle (mostly attributed to Pershing’s anger over the Marines receiving more publicity than the Army) I cannot definitively prove that any of that story has any truth to it, but there is also NO definitive proof that it did NOT…

        2. avatar jwtaylor says:

          So you didn’t follow the link and read the sources, some of which are from the Dept. of the Navy. Do your homework before you start your panty wetting rant. If you had followed the link and read the sources, you’d find that American newspapers were calling the Marine’s “Devil Dogs” before the battle of Belleau Wood.
          It is almost certain that Germans called the Marines “dogs from hell” for their ferocity. It’s likely that some Germans called some Marines that in several places at several times. But, if you would follow the links that include sources, you’d find that it’s unlikely that the Marines were known as Teufelshunde by the Germans, and impossible that this name originated at Belleau Wood.
          BTW, I was pretty damn proud when the Wolfpack Marines put me in for a NAVCOM, and I hold that in higher regard than my ARCOM. But I try not to exaggerate history to make myself feel better.

  11. avatar Merle 0 says:

    That’s great to see. I’ll never tire of my love for the 1911 as well. I was one of those never “got it”, and never thought much about it, until a few years back I bought a used Kimber custom at a bargain. Never have I shot a pistol so accurate, trigger and action so smooth. Never any hiccups either, with factory mags or WC mags. Now I also can’t resist picking up a new 1911 every now and then. People who bash the 1911 or don’t understand why it’s so popular need to go find one to shoot. Then you’ll get it.

  12. avatar duroSIG556R says:

    At that price I would expect forgings.

  13. avatar "keep yur paws off ny dead guy" possum says:

    I canr take this gunm apart using a cartridge tho. I was going to put hex head screws in my gunm but thought ,”Nah, thatd be dunmb”

  14. avatar Minuteman says:

    Wonder if you had a issue about a year or two down the road if they would be around to back their product up? A lot of money for a gun that can be bought from another company that’s been around for a lot longer.

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