Some days, it is as if I’ve awakened in a sci-fi movie, one where I’m in an alternate reality. I mean, Remington making a 1911A1? And just to compound that head-spinning situation, Big Green now offers a Commander-size carry gun, loaded with what used to be options. But as a production pistol?
The Commander-size format is a combination of a shorter slide and barrel with a regular-size frame, in this case, steel—not aluminum alloy. The combination gives us the easier carry size of the slightly smaller pistol with the recoil-dampening effects of steel. That is, mass. As with all compromises, it depends on how much weight you assign to each of the variables. Yes, a lighter pistol is easier to carry, but more difficult to shoot. A smaller one is easier to carry and conceal, but as you make any pistol smaller, you also make it more difficult to shoot. This steel Commander-size is a good one for ease of carry without being too onerous to shoot. As for the weight, well, a good holster and proper belt go a long way to supporting an all-steel pistol. I know; I’ve packed many through the years.
The Sum of Its Parts
The R1 Carry slide is blued steel, with Novak-like sights front and back. The front is a night sight, with a tritium, insert, courtesy of Trijicon. The rear is a plain steel sight, no dots, lines or inserts—which is the way I like sights, although my test sample had a set of drift-rod marks from where it was assembled. (Check the records, Remington; whoever put the sights on 73A needs to be handed a brass drift pin.)
The cocking serrations are thankfully present only at the rear and are six round-bottomed grooves. The rest of the slide? Standard internal extractor properly clocked, proper GI-style recoil spring and guide rod, normal and well-fitted stainless bushing, and match barrel with loaded-chamber inspection slot. If you reload, you’ll be happy to know that the ejection port has been lowered and scalloped at the rear, so your empty brass will have an easier—and less dinged—path to the ground. These are all things we used to pay extra for that now, in the 21st century, expect out of the box. Here, we get them out of the box.
The safety is large enough to be useful, but not so large as to be obtrusive. It is ambidextrous and clicks up and down as thumb safeties should. The right-side lever is smaller than the left—a good thing—but were I to hang on to this R1 Carry I’d have to make it a bit smaller still due to the position of my hand in the firing grip. It may not bother you at all—my grip is an odd one—but it’s easy enough to fix.
The high-rise grip safety is fit with a bit of play and some gaps—OK on a production gun but cause for complaint on a custom gun. The grip safety is also set a bit “hard” in that it has to be crushed to the halfway point or a bit beyond before the trigger clears it. I prefer my grip safeties a bit more sensitive than that.
The speed bump on the grip safety, the mainspring housing and the frontstrap are all checkered, 30 lines to the inch. It is nicely done machine checkering, and the frontstrap has clearance grooves top and bottom to clean up the machine cuts and provide your hand a bit more access to the checkering for a secure grip. If you’re thinking of the R1 Carry as a base gun for some extra custom work, the paneling that sets off the frontstrap checkering at the top will serve you well, allowing your custom 1911 guy (or gal) to lift the frontstrap where it joins the triggerguard.
The magazine catch is standard size, height and grooved, and the grips are wood, half-checkered on the diagonal and held on with torx-head screws.
The slide and frame have been dehorned, but in an industrial process and not a hand-done dehorning. You know how you clean your brass before reloading? Well, think of a bin the size of a hot tub with ceramic lozenges in it and a bunch of slides or frames added into the mix. They vibrate around, and the ceramics rub the slides or frames, wearing the edges slightly rounded enough to be nonabrasive.
This is a fast process, and one in use in just about every firearms manufacturer in the country (and overseas as well), but it doesn’t round just the edges you want rounded. It rounds all the corners that the ceramic chips and lozenges can reach. The signs of this show at the slot for the mainspring housing. I realize it is difficult to see, and even I have to admit it is a minor cosmetic detail. And given the competitive price of the R1 Carry, it’s a detail that is easy to overlook. The magazine well, just ahead of it, is beveled for fast reloads.
The trigger is the customary aluminum unit, with an overtravel screw and three lightening holes. They connect, via the sear, to a Commander-style hammer. The trigger pull is very clean and in the four-pound region. In dry-firing it, I could hear the disconnector “ting” as I took the slack up, but most of the time couldn’t feel it. The rest of the trigger pull was uneventful. Once the slack was gone, nothing moved until the hammer fell.
After I had dry-fired it some, then spent a couple of days at the range with it, the “ting” diminished greatly and is now quiet enough that it takes some hard listening to hear it.
- R1 Carry styling cues include a Novak-type rear, Commander-style hammer, extended beavertail and rear cocking serrations.
Bear Down on Those Sights
The slide and barrel are three-quarters of an inch shorter than a Government-size 1911, which leads to an interesting phenomenon. All-steel Commander-size pistols seem easier to shoot quickly and accurately, while leaving you not doing quite as well as you might think. This is not a fault of the pistol, but rather the combination of the slightly shorter sight radius and the mass. At speed, your eye and brain see the sights as being more solid than they’d be on a full-size gun. That is, the sight alignment looks better than it is. The felt recoil, dampened by mass, gives you the impression that you are, indeed, shooting a full-size pistol. But when you look at your targets, there are the occasional fliers.
Welcome to the in-between world of all-steel mid-size pistols. The solution is simple: Pay attention to your sights, and build a proper follow-through in your shooting practice. The shorter sight radius is an unavoidable result of the easier-to-carry slide and barrel length. If you want an easier-to-shoot pistol, get a full-size R1. But as long as you remember this is not a full-size gun and that it will suitably punish your groups for your inattentiveness, you’ll do fine.
The shorter barrel takes a bit of steam out of the velocities that could otherwise be generated, but we all know that the .45 ACP does its work more through bullet mass and frontal diameter than by speed. With a 230-grain bullet, 25 to 50 fps one way or the other isn’t going to matter much. So unless you’re pinning your hopes and aspirations on the efforts of 165-grain bullets screaming along at 1,250 fps, don’t worry about what velocity the R1 Carry generates. (I did check the speeds for those who just have to know).
When it came to accuracy, this particular pistol rewarded earnest efforts in proper technique. In other words, it is a tackdriver. The trigger helps, but the barrel and its fit to the slide and frame are the important part of the equation, and there the Remington builders delivered.
I tested the R1 Carry with a selection of defensive ammunition, but if I fed it the old IPSC standby—a lead 200-grain semi-wadcutter—my bet is that this particular pistol would shoot like a bullseye gun. This one isn’t dead-on for me, hitting a bit low and left, but once I figured out where it was hitting in relation to the sights, it was easy enough to print a photo-worthy group. Reliability? There were no failures. To be honest, it’s been quite some time since we really had to worry about a factory pistol being reliable, but it never hurts to check.
Being an all-steel 35 ounces, the R1 Carry’s recoil was not a big deal, but with the hotter loads you knew you’d touched off a serious round. The grips are just a tad too round for my tastes, but a lot of shooters like a slightly plumper set of grips than I do. I can’t really complain, as the front sight came up in recoil and then dropped right back down into the slot of the rear sight.
The thumb safety on this one is a bit too easy to push off and on, but that is another easy fix, albeit not quite as easy as putting on a different set of grips.
The R1 Carry comes in a lockable Remington-green case, complete with the owners manual, lock, fired case and—hallelujah—a pair of eight-round magazines. Not everyone expects a pistol to come with a complete set of carry magazines (in the case of the 1911, three magazines), but it gets tiresome to open a firearms box and find one lonely magazine staring up at you.
I really want to like this pistol, I do. It is easy to carry due to size, but has heft enough to dampen felt recoil. The trigger is nice, and the accuracy on this particular one is more than you’d expect in a carry gun. If you have a concern about holsters, here’s a tip: If a company makes any holsters at all—and they aren’t making them for Cowboy Action shooting—it makes one for a 1911. Your real problem here is too many choices.
And then my eye rests on the grip safety and its fit to the frame. On an otherwise fine pistol, and one that delivers the goods as this one does, it is like a birthmark on a supermodel. And not in an interesting place. Once I saw it, I couldn’t get it out of my mind. There are a lot of 1911 makers in the world, and it has been a long time since 1911 buyers would look at this and shrug with a “What can you do?” attitude. But the accuracy keeps drawing me back to the R1 Carry…
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