I find the 1911 pistol fascinating to a distraction. I have owned most of the makers’ works of art. I say that tongue in cheek as I am the first to admit that some aren’t all that well made. Some foreign, some domestic, less than service grade in my opinion. The problem is hand-fitting. It must be done. Tight tolerances and expert work are the primary reason a Guncrafter or Wilson Combat gun costs more than a Colt. Yet the Colt is a good 1911 by any standard.
Trying to produce a pistol for half the price of a Colt is a daunting proposition. Forged steel frames give way to cast frames and internal parts become MIM rather than machined. This puts the resulting cut rate pistol in the recreational class. That’s OK as long as you know where you stand.
That said, I know how to maintain, modify and fire a 1911 well. I carry a number of proven 1911 handguns. With the background of my love for the type out of the way lets look at a very interesting piece.
The Iver Johnson 1911A1 Carbine isn’t a shoulder stocked pistol. I don’t want to become acquainted with the folks at Leavenworth. This is a true carbine. The original intent of the shoulder stocked pistol, I believe, was for mounted troops to dismount and fight with a stocked revolver, and sure it wasn’t a rifle but it was better than trying to fight a fast moving battle with a rifle on horseback, and then hoping the rifle was still in the scabbard when you dismounted.
The Luger, Mauser and Browning Hi Power pistols were often shoulder stock equipped. Adding a stock to a pistol for more stability and accuracy seems like a great idea…and it is. Unfortunate, thanks to the National Firearms Act of 1934, there are all kind problems and costs involved with doing that. Mounting a stock on standard pistol makes it a short barrel rifle — a NFA-regulated item — in the eyes of the ATF and means you’re in for all kinds of paperwork, not to mention paying for a $200 tax stamp.
So while you can’t simply mount a stock on a pistol, there have been attempts at braces and stabilizing kits. I don’t know this law well (I would learn if I were interested in this sort of firearm), but I am smart enough not to remove the shoulder stock or change the barrel of this carbine.
In general, a 1911 pistol is for carrying and a Colt 5.56mm carbine is for fighting. A shotgun is for what a shotgun does (which is a lot). The Iver Johnson 1911A1 Carbine is for fun. Generally you can’t legally add a shoulder stock a pistol. The Iver Johnson carbine is kind of like the Rossi Circuit Judge though the Circuit Judge is a more permanent in configuration. In short, unless you want to open yourself up to potentially nasty interactions with federal regulators, don’t change the configuration of the Iver Johnson 1911A1 Carbine for any reason.
I am not damning the 1911A1 Carbine’s stock with faint praise but it’s a simple wood plank with a connector. The stock attaches to a polymer mainspring housing and is tightened with a thumbscrew.
The Iver Johnson 1911A1 features a 16.25 inch barrel, making it a legal carbine and letting the seller checks the rifle box on your paperwork. Warning: don’t get any bright ideas about subbing out the carbine length barrel with a standard 5-inch 1911 barrel. Again, that way lies NFA sanctions.
Iver Johnson re-brands Philippine-produced SAM pistols as the basis of the 1911A1 Carbine. Shooters Arms Manufacturing makes close copies of the standard GI 1911. They have cut a couple of corners, but the pistol comes out well.
The 1911A1 Carbine takes down for cleaning just like a standard 1911 pistol, just be sure you have a longer cleaning rod. The carbine is much like SAM’s other pistols. The 1911A1 shows definite improvements in finish and quality over the earlier SAM pistols I tried a decade or so ago and absolutely did not like. A friend of some experience says he now likes them better than the Rock Island imports. I don’t agree, but SAM has made strides and the 1911A1 Carbine is well turned out.
The double diamond wood grips are nice enough and well checkered. The sights are not the abysmal standard rudimentary GI types but slightly improved, taller sights. The trigger breaks at a rather clean 5.0 pounds. It actually improved a little with dry fire. The real surprise — no obvious burrs, tool marks, and generally high finish with the OD Cerakote finish. This thing looks pretty good.
When you think about it, this wasn’t an easy gun to get right. I can imagine the difficulty the engineers had in designing a working pistol that would feed and cycle with the extra weight of a 16.25 inch barrel hanging off of the muzzle end and using the standard swinging link and conventional recoil spring. Lock time and cycle issues must have been a challenge. As far as lock time, cycling, and operation, they got it pretty much right, but it isn’t perfect (more on that later).
Most of us could have fabricated the carbine’s stock in a high school shop class. It’s has a simple textured curve for shouldering and attaches to the pistol grip with a piece of sheet metal. The stock has a nineteen inch length of pull, quite a bit longer than most carbines, but comfortable when mounting the gun.
The carbine weighs right at four pounds unloaded, so it’s light and maneuverable enough. Even with the 19-inch length of pull, the sights are closer to the eye than is normal with a pistol, which is all good for accuracy.
One thing you’ll want to pay attention to is your grip. I found occasional inconsistency in depressing the grip safety. There’s a small space between the top of the stock mount and the beavertail. Getting a good, consistent grip that depresses the safety and allows the gun to fire takes a little practice.
I have a box of forty seven 1911 magazines I use for range magazines. No the mags I use at the range aren’t cheap, but proven magazines that I know work. That’s my definition of a range magazine. They include brands like MecGar, Wilson Combat, and Colt.
The Iver Johnson — which ships with a single 8-round magazine — locked each of my many mags in place. I first fired the piece with Black Hills Ammunition 200 grain lead semi wadcutters. This is a great load for all-around fun use. Velocity jumped from 870 fps from a five-inch barrel to over 1050 fps from the Iver Johnson’s 16.125-inch tube.
Recoil with stock is very modest, less than a .45 Colt lever action or .410 shotgun. I fired more than a hundred rounds and really enjoyed every shot. I painted the front sight with some nail polish a little later, the only complaint on the first run. I fired a couple of five shot groups at 20 yards. A 1.6-inch group was the best I got, but overall groups were very consistent at 1.6 to 2.0 inches.
Sure a Springfield TRP is more accurate, but the Iver Johnson 1911A1 Carbine is cheap and most anyone can get good accuracy out of this firearm right off the bat. It takes some practice to get that type of accuracy from a pistol.
The next range session with the newly painted front sight didn’t go as well. The carbine simply would not feed hollow point ammunition. Not Black Hills with XTP bullets, Hornady XTP, Speer Gold Dots, or Winchesters. Fortunately I had brought some 230 grain RNL handloads and ball ammo so I didn’t waste the day.
This is a pistol that you’ll need to keep clean. It will slow and eventually stop functioning at between the 200 to 300 round mark if not cleaned and lubricated. Cycling, though, is good. Feed function is not. I am certain I could get the pistol up to speed with a polish job and maybe a bit of modification. Would the next 1911A1 Carbine feed JHP better? Maybe.
On the one hand why bother with the tinkering? This isn’t a firearm I would use for critical duty. The darned thing is really just a fun shooter. I think that it wouldn’t be the worst home defense carbine using ball ammunition. Loaded with 230 grain ball or the Black Hills 200 grain SWC it would serve pretty well.
Accuracy isn’t bad at all either, though not a whole lot better than a good 1911 at distances out the 50 yards. I clocked a couple of 230 grain hollow points by feeding them straight into the chamber. Velocity jumped as much as 170 fps from the carbine length barrel. So what we have here is a nice, low pressure, easy-shooting .45 ACP that delivers more muzzle gee-whiz than a 10mm with very light recoil. The 1911A1 Carbine has grown on me over time. It’s a fun gun to own and shoot as long as you use it within its limitations.
Specifications: Iver Johnson 1911A1 Carbine
Model: 1911A1 Carbine (IJ01RIFLE)
Action: Single-Action Semi-Automatic
Caliber: .45 ACP
Frame: Carbon Steel
Finish: Olive Drab
Sights: Improved fixed sights, larger than the standard GI 1911
Trigger Pull: 4.9 lbs
Overall Length: 35″
Slide Width: 0.92″
Weight: 4 lbs.0
Capacity: 8+1 Rounds, also accepts 7, 10 and 11 round magazines
Twist: 1:16” RH, 6 grooves
MSRP: $728 (about $650 retail)
Ratings (out of five stars):
Reliability: * *
Well, with 230 grain ball and SWC factory loads, RNL and SWC handloads, it’s fine. JHP loads, though, are a no-go. Not ideal.
Accuracy: * * * *
Very good by pistol standards, not so much by AR carbine standards. For what it is and compared to, say, a Thompson 1927 or a High Point carbine, it’s good.
Ergonomics: * * *
Not great. Problems with hitting the grip safety consistently and a longer than average length of pull are present.
Fit and Finish: * * *
For the money and compared to anything in the price range, the IJ has good finish and attractive grips. The rudimentary stock is nothing special, though.
Overall: * * *
Let’s face it. The Iver Johnson 1911A1 isn’t really the most practical firearm in the world, but it’s lots of fun to own and shoot and it will get you plenty of attention at the range. It’s well made and sturdy enough, but with a polymer mainspring mount, this probably isn’t a gun you’ll want to sling around on the bench or your truck seat. Still, I’ve become a fan of the firearm over time.