It was a typical Tuesday here at Gun Abuse Central. An email in my inbox announced, “Patrick, overnight package arriving tomorrow. Need feature ASAP.”
The box that arrived was plain, but inside were a pair of Ruger boxes. When I opened the first one, my reaction was, “Another SR? What now?” Considering the possibility that Ruger had done something just a bit odd, like chambering it in .357 SIG or .45 GAP, I dropped the magazine out of it as part of my “check and unload” routine. As I was holding the mag, my coffee-starved brain noticed that the magazine was not shaped like the 9mm and .40 I already have here. I turned the pistol over to see the model name: SR45. Wait a minute, this can’t be. The frame doesn’t feel any bigger than my 9 does. What trickery is this?
Well, it isn’t trickery but engineering, and unless you fondle one model and then the other, you won’t notice the difference between a 9mm, a .40 and a .45. And I’m not sure if you picked one up at random when blindfolded you could tell which was which. That’s how slim Ruger managed to make the new SR45.
The .45 has the replaceable backstrap, thumb safety, husky external extractor and loaded-chamber indicator that the smaller brothers have. The same polymer frame with an accessory rail up front and the same striker-fired system inside the slide with adjustable sights on top. Proportionally, they are the same, and if you saw one in the gun shop display case, you might not be able to tell one from the other unless the caliber-marked side is up.
However, while the 9mm and 40 .SRs each have barrels a fraction over four inches (4.14 inches, according to the book specs and my dial caliper), the .45 ACP has a barrel of 41/2 inches in length. Not because the .45 ACP needs that much to get bullets up to speed, but that happens to be the barrel length that balances well in .45 ACP configuration. Similarly, the .45 is a quarter-inch taller, at 53/4 inches. That’s necessary to get that 10th round into a flush magazine.
In width, however, the book specs are the same, at 1.27 inches. That is the width to the widest parts that stick out, namely the thumb safety. The 9mm and 40 are both thinner than that where your thumb rests, being under an inch, while the .45 is just a smidge larger, but not much. Complaining that the .45 is thicker there is like complaining that a supermodel is a size four instead of a size two.
The trigger? It’s the expected little-bit-gritty because it’s a new gun, but it started to clean up with a bit of dry-firing.
The magazine is a double-stack tapering to a single feed point, with a sharp taper to it. I had expected the taper to be more gradual, as I’ve seen in earlier versions of 10-shot .45 pistols. But Ruger engineers have figured a way to make the SR45 magazine double-stack almost all the way up and not make the gun feel like some porky bullet hose that you have to accommodate your hand to. In talking with Ruger, the magazine, while looking familiar, is not an adaptation of a design from some other model. It is all new for the SR45, and Ruger made sure it worked 100 percent before letting it see the light of day.
This is something I think needs emphasis. Most double-stack .45s are portly and end up wide in the beam, a bit difficult to get your hands around. Now, if Ruger had been determined to make the SR45 hold as many bullets as possible, I’m sure they could have made the SR45 fat. But they settled for slim and 10 shots in the magazines. And I can easily imagine that the makers of aftermarket magazine pads will be upping the count, making plus-two and plus-four baseplate extensions.
While this one is in brushed stainless trim, the SR45 is also available in a nitride stainless version. And as with all Ruger SR models, the slide and barrel are through-hardened and the barrel is rifled in the customary Ruger manner and will not have any problems with lead bullets.
The Other .45
In all the excitement and glee at looking over the new SR45, I had almost forgotten about the other Ruger box in the carton. So, after sorting through the ammo stack and finding the ones I wanted to test in the SR45, I opened the next box. Oh my.
There, in a zippered Ruger rug, was a stainless SR1911, Commander-size. The frame simply reads “SR1911,” but the spec sheet lists it as the SR1911CMD. The frame, slide and barrel are stainless, while the other parts are blued steel. The grip safety is highly upswept and sculpted on either side to allow your hand to ride as high as humanly possible. The thumb safety is low profile but more than big enough to use at speed or under stress. The mainspring housing is flat, checkered, steel and properly fitted. The slide stop is classic, unchanged from what has worked for a century.
The sights are Novak three dot, and there was a detail I noticed on the front blade that took me back in time. It has been customary for decades to finish a front blade so it is flush with the slide on the front and project rearward past the dovetail. When I was fitting Novaks back in the 1980s, I’d trim the blade so it did not go backward past the dovetail. And so this one is fitted, too. I’d like to think I had some influence there, but probably not. And Ruger went one better. The front blade, while full width at the face, is narrowed forward of that, so as to provide the clearest possible sight picture.
The trigger is the Ruger standard, with three triangular-shaped holes through it. In function, it is clean and crisp, and while competition shooters might mutter a few objections to it being “too heavy,” those who intend it for daily carry will find it to be clean enough to use and heavy enough to be carryable.
The Commander-size 1911 has always been one I’ve admired, even though (curiously) I haven’t owned many of them. The weight is listed as 21/2 ounces less than that of the Government-size SR1911, but the big advantage is size. The three-quarters of an inch off the slide and barrel makes it a lot easier to carry than the Government model, and the near-Government weight makes the all-steel Commander-size pistol fun to shoot.
With a standard barrel design (no integral feed ramp) and a slot to be used as a loaded-chamber indicator, the SR1911CMD went into the bag with the SR45, and I doubled the ammo supply to take to the range.
Out in the Cold
Overnight, a Canadian high-pressure cell moved in, and when I woke up, the temps were in the single digits. Ordinarily in a situation such as this I’d take advantage and subject a test handgun to snow, ice and cold-water abuse. But the studio photographer was eager to get to work just as soon as I had finished, so I didn’t dare scratch either pistol. (Ruger wouldn’t care, but Mike does.) So I refrained from skidding it downslope before test firing, but in the cold I almost tested myself that way.
On the range, the SR45 trigger cleaned up to the point where it was actually nicer than that of the SR1911, and that one wasn’t bad. Neither was work, both were clean and crisp, and with occasional breaks to warm my hands, they were a joy to shoot.
The differences in recoil were interesting. The SR1911CMD, despite being some 41/2 ounces heavier, had a sharper-feeling recoil than the SR45. However, the weight didn’t matter as much as the bore axis, and the SR45, being higher, gave the pistol more leverage. So the SR1911 snapped straight back into my hand, while the SR45 rolled more, taking more time to do so. Neither was unpleasant, but I could definitely tell which was which.
As for accuracy, while there was a time when Ruger rifles had a “roll the dice” reputation as far as accuracy was concerned, Ruger handguns have always been good. Well, they’re doing something right in Prescott because both of these pistols wanted to shoot. The trigger on the SR45 was helping me out, and decades of shooting 1911s made the CMD feel just right. Too bad the weather was against me. Between the numb hands and the general tiring effect of sitting still to shoot, I tossed a shot out of a group more often than I would’ve liked.
And as cold as it was, there was not time or energy to be doing drills, not that they would have told us anything that the accuracy testing hadn’t. Not once did I experience a failure to feed or fire, even when I dropped a handful of ammo in the snow. I picked up the rounds, blew most of the snow off of them and loaded the magazine anyway. When, on aiming, I realized that I really couldn’t feel the trigger I was trying to use, I left the SR45 on the bench, got in the car and fired up the heater. When I finally thawed my hands, the pistol had had a good time to soak up the cold and freeze any moisture that had gotten into it. And still it worked.
So, on the one hand we have learned nothing new. I mean, it should not come as a surprise that Ruger makes reliable, accurate handguns. The mix of forgings and castings that they make their handguns from allows them to create durable tools. (I’ve been to the plant and talked to the engineers. They decide which method produces the best parts, at the lowest cost, and at a production rate to satisfy demand.) The penny-pinching accountants allow us to buy them at a more-than-fair price. And you would have to do a lot of practicing and get really good before you start out-shooting a Ruger.
But on the other hand, we’ve just seen what to other makers should be an alarming bit of info: Ruger plans to fill every market niche with a handgun. Making a full-size and then compact 9mm/.40 pistol is a slam-dunk in this era. Everyone wants one, and every one you make, you can sell. But to continue and make a full-size .45? And I’d bet good money a compact version is in the pipeline. What’s more, while the fans of the original polymer pistol have been begging for a single-stack .45 for, oh, decades now, the Ruger SR45 is in actual size a single-stack .45 but with double-stack capacity.
And for fans of the 1911, the SR1911CMD is another eye-opener. Again, to make a full-size 1911 is easy, and you can sell them like hotcakes. But an all-steel Commander size? And again, I’d bet good money that an aluminum-alloy version is in the works.
Ruger is coming out with new handgun models almost faster than I can test them and certainly faster than I can buy them. If you haven’t cracked open a Ruger catalog recently, you may be surprised.