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Tackling the 1911: The Ruger SR1911 Review

by J. Guthrie   |  April 9th, 2012 33

My formative pistol years (the “age of darkness,” as Metcalf calls it), were spent shooting striker-fired DAO autos with polymer frames. I was certainly familiar with 1911s, like most shooters on the planet. Heck, I even own a couple today. But I don’t hang a halo around the 1911, because, after all, it’s just a pistol, one whose design is more than 100 years old.

Dissecting the Ruger would be a team effort. I leaned on Metcalf’s encyclopedic knowledge of the 1911 for historical perspective (he was, after all, a history professor) and one of Ruger’s product managers, Mark Gurney, for the dirty details.

The Sum of Its Parts
There are several things to like about Ruger’s SR-1911—new materials, new manufacturing processes and a very affordable price. Gurney told us the idea had been batted around for decades, but Ruger only got really serious about things a year ago and went from a blank sheet of paper to a pistol in less than a year.

It is a simple and—if you’re of the “less is more” school—elegant rendering. The end product, from the start, was determined by shooters and sellers.

“If you let aficionados design a pistol, you end up with something few can afford,” Gurney says. “Our pistol product manager Kurt Hindle traveled the country talking to distributors and dealers about what really sells and to shooters about what they wanted.”

Shooters wanted a full-size, five-inch gun in stainless steel with a few upgrades that have become the norm on even basic 1911s. The Ruger SR-1911 does not have scaled slide serrations or grooves on top. It is not melted, chopped or otherwise abbreviated. The guts are a return to basics, with one exception.

Anyone who is serious about 1911s usually loathes Colt’s Series 80 firing-pin block, which added one more burden on the trigger. But Ruger did not utilize the 1930s-era Swartz system currently used by Kimber and Smith & Wesson (actually a modernized version of the Swartz) that uses the grip safety—not the trigger—to disengage a firing-pin block.

In fact, Ruger did not use a mechanical firing-pin block at all, but went with a low-mass, titanium firing pin and a heavy firing-pin spring. This setup passes industry drop tests, but may cause California shooters some angst since the bureaucrats there require other mechanisms such as loaded chamber indicators and magazine safeties that aren’t really at home in a classic 1911.

Purism Vs. Practicality
One of the long-raging debates in the 1911 community is the use of full-length guide rods and coned barrels vs. sticking with something that was “the way John Moses Browning intended.” I have shot most of the different designs without issue. Pistols with a full-length guide rod seem to be a touch more accurate, at least in my experience. Ruger went with Browning’s original bushing, short guide rod and plunger mostly because that setup is reliable, easy to manufacture and what most people wanted in a basic 1911.

“A coned barrel must be closely fitted to the slide,” Gurney says, “and can quickly get expensive if mistakes are made. We ended up using a bushing that must be fit to the barrel, which confines the tighter tolerances to a smaller, less expensive part. It’s a win-win here—the classic 1911 design that many customers prefer comes with less manufacturing risk. In addition, a conventional barrel with a bushing is more universal and offers more latitude in using aftermarket parts.

A barrel link and internal extractor—not a cam block or coil-spring-powered external extractor—are used for many of the same reasons. And the skeletonized, low-mass hammer looks great and is as functional as the old knurled spur.
As you might have guessed, the pioneers of investment casting used a few castings. The frame is cast from Ruger-proprietary 415 stainless steel. The custom pistolsmiths and purists are probably now throwing this issue of Guns & Ammo across the room, but the plain and simple truth is that cast parts, including frames, work fine.

Heck, aluminum-framed 1911s have been around for years (most of my pistols have plastic molded frames). Ruger’s in-house investment-casting division, Pine Tree Castings, has been making 1911 frames for other companies for decades, and some of those companies build very high-end competition pistols that handle tens of thousands of rounds each year without issue.

“The 1911 is not an easy pistol to build,” Gurney says. “Many of the custom houses make their parts slightly oversize and then hand fit them, but that’s expensive. Many people can’t spend that much money, so our charge was to make an affordable, good-fitting and -feeling, accurate pistol that people are proud to own. Cast frames allow us to do that.”

In fact, nearly every part in the pistol is a casting, or metal injection molded, except the slide, which is machined from 416 stainless steel. Why not cast the slide?

“A 1911 slide lacks the complex geometry that is present, for example, in a P-Series pistol and doesn’t allow the cost benefits of an investment casting to shine,” Gurney says. “In the end, it came down to cost. We can machine a slide from bar stock less expensively than we can make it from a casting.”

Barrels are made in-house, and though Ruger is big on hammer forging, the integral feed ramp of the 1911 required too large a forging blank to allow that process. Instead, the 410 stainless steel barrels are broached. Both the frame and feed ramp are given a mirror polish to improve reliability with various bullet profiles.

Ergonomics, Shootability
Having shot a 1911 manufactured in 1917 and some other close-to-original copies of mil-spec World War II-issue pistols, I can say a few things about the original 1911. It points and feels great, but it has a so-so trigger, lousy sights and smallish safety, and if you get cute, the hammer/slide will bite you. All these shortcomings have been dealt with over the past 70 or 80 years, and Ruger smartly followed suit.

The long trigger is skeletonized aluminum with an overtravel stop. It is also smooth with a clean break; the sample averaged four pounds, eight ounces. The thumb safety is not oversize like those on race guns, but it has a slightly longer and wider paddle than G.I. spec. The same goes for the magazine release. The mainspring housing was another tough call, but more people wanted the flat version instead of an arched housing, and it wears fine checkering.

“The safety is larger than the original, but it’s not so big as to be called oversize,” Gurney says. “People wanted a speed bump and a beavertail grip safety. Those are concessions to shootability.”

One critical addition, especially for those of us who grew up shooting with a grip so high it’s almost off the pistol, is a hammer-cupping beavertail grip safety with a speed bump. Lack of bite is the obvious advantage, but the speed bump alleviates my biggest complaint about original 1911s—they do not go bang every time I pull the trigger. It is no fault of the pistol, but my grip has evolved aggressively upward to the point that a 1911’s grip safety is not depressed enough to be disengaged. Although a few rubberbands or a small plastic wedge would solve the problem, the speed bump solves it right out of the box and looks better (though Browning, for the record, never saw the need for a grip safety in the first place).

Novak sights with a three-dot pattern are standard, and they sit in a dovetail slot and are adjustable for windage. The rear sight is locked in place with a small set screw. The sight height was designed to put bullets in the 185- to 230-grain range on target (plus or minus two inches at 25 yards), but commonly available front sights of varying heights should easily fix any point-of-impact issues if your ammo gets exotic.

Ruger heat-treats the stainless steel barrel, slide and frame in-house, and once all the parts are properly fit, it gives the pistol a matte, bead-blast finish that is quite attractive. The sights, slide lock, magazine release, grip and thumb safeties are matte black. Rubber grips from Hogue are also flat black and have the classic diamond-shaped checkering interruption around the grip screws. My dad used to joke that, if rained-in, a fellow could always sit in camp and read his Ruger. That is not the case with the SR-1911.

“We tried to engrave the entire manual on the slide but could not get the font size small enough,” Gurney jokes. “Actually, a great deal of effort went into choosing every detail of the engraving. We wanted a classy, classic-looking 1911 that was undeniably a Ruger.”

The frame is laser engraved with a serial number and place of manufacture, as required, and the right-side slide flat wears the Ruger phoenix. The caution to “read the owner’s manual” is presented neatly on the bottom of the dustcover. Prominently engraved on the left-side slide flat is “Ruger” and “Made in the USA.”

“We make the frame, slide, barrel and barrel bushing here at Ruger,” Gurney says. “Other parts are produced for us by contractors, but every part is made right here in the United States—every part.”

The SR-1911 ships with two magazines, one with seven-round capacity and the other with eight. The stainless steel magazines, also produced in the U.S., do not come with bump pads, but they are drilled and tapped so that one could easily retrofit them should they want them.

Running the Gun
We had the SR-1911 (I say “we” because it was tough to pry it out of Metcalf’s hands and everyone else who saw it) for a very brief period, but we were able to give it a thorough evaluation. Volunteers were stacked five deep at the firing line, and in short order the sample pistol had 1,500 rounds downrange without a single failure to feed, fire or function. Accuracy was decent with the usual suspects—the more common carry loads—and it had an overall average of 3.65 inches for five-shot groups fired at 25 yards from a rest.

So how does the SR-1911 compare with other 1911s on the market? Pretty damn well. The pistol is accurate and reliable and will eat anything from 230-grain ball to “flying ashtray” JHPs and put them all into decent groups. Most custom 1911s will shoot groups half the size or smaller but cost three or four times as much as the Ruger. The pistol’s fit and finish is exceptional, and the operating system is ideal for those hell bent on having their 1911 “the way John Moses Browning intended.”

Even for younger handgunners who don’t get weepy-eyed at the mention of ol’ slabsides, the SR-1911 will do wonderfully for self-defense or a day at the range. It packs a wallop but is, as tens of thousands will testify, a pistol that shoots easily and points naturally.

Given the fact that its street price should settle at around $640, the SR-1911 is eminently affordable. Purists such as Mr. Metcalf can certainly appreciate the SR-1911’s homage to its martial roots—save a few refinements that make it shoot and handle better.

Ruger has heavily impacted the handgun market recently with innovative new products such as the LCP and LCR, which are startling in their use of new technologies and Yankee innovation to solve old problems.

The SR-1911 is a straight-up, straight-down old design, and there is not an original part in it. But this still-effective platform has been wonderfully done, and the sum of these parts is an elegant, practical pistol that gives you a lot for your dollar.

The SR-1911, as you’d expect considering its lineage, will do wonderfully for self-defense or a day at the range.

  • Pete

    I got lucky enough to buy one back in February, and I haven't been disappointed. I've only been able to put about 300 rounds through it, but I haven't had any kind of malfunction with it at all. I'm even practicing with it for getting back into local IDPA matches. A crossbreed supertuck holster allows me to comfortably carry this large and heavy pistol with few complaints.

    In light of Rob Pincus' comments regarding 1911 reliability, I'd say this gun should be exempt from that argument. It's got everything you need and nothing you don't. Feel comfortable in purchasing this gun (if you can find it).

  • jackjr

    Just picked mine up today. Took it apart at the gun shop and we all looked it over and really liked what we saw. Hope to get out today and put some lead downrange. I own several 1911's from plain jane to expensive and this one fits nicely in the upper half. Great fit, finish, and feel. Good job Ruger!

  • James

    I have a Ruger SR9, a 10/22, a mini 14 Tactical, and a SR22, so needless to say I am a big Ruger fan. I have been trying to get one of these Ruger SR1911 for months now and everyware I go they are on backorder. So I am now on a waiting list and can't wait to get Rugers version of the 1911 in my hands and out to the range. I was a little hesitant about the new Ruger American Rifle, but after reading the review on here I think I will pay a vist to my local gun shop tomarrow. If you are a ruger fan you should check out the review too, and maybe pick one up.

  • Heretic

    Saying the 1911 is just another pistol is like saying America is just another country. (Hint: it's not.)

  • dko

    I was fortunate to receive my 1911 a month ago. I too am an avid Ruger Fan 10/22, Mini14, Mini30 and was going to purchase the Gunsite Scout Rifle but on backorder and was on a waiting list so long that during the waiting I fell in love with the M1A. Back to the 1911. Shot the 1911 in Army didn't really care for it that much. Took my new Ruger 1911 out on Memorial Day and gave it a go. WOW! I mainly am a rifle man but this 1911 blew me away. The trigger after realizing all i had to do was breathe on it was awesome. I took my Sig P226 9mm with me did a rapid fire run and the 1911 was faster shooting than the 9mm. It is a beauty, rugged, simple and awesome. It is rapidly becoming my favorite firearm and for close quarter shooting IMO cannot be beat.. love it and the Price was affordable for my budget. Kudo's to Ruger on this one.

  • Dave3

    I was fortunate enough to be at my favorite local gun shop the day the owner found out they finally had one coming in, it never made the display. I put my deposit in before I even knew the total price (622 out the door by the way ) took it straight out to the range and had to try that "you'll never hit it shot" that I'm sure we all have, and with some guessed hight adjustment smacked dead on! Did it for me, if it wouldn't be such a waste to take from this world I'd be buried with it. Thanks ruger!

  • Michael

    I have had my SR1911 for two months now. As I just turned 21 it was my first handgun purchase. My dad has several 1911 models including a colt springfield arms and an Ed brown. While I shoot ever so slightly better with the brown the ruger is in a class of its own for fit finish and accuracy/performance for the price. Much better than 2500 for the brown. IMO it out performs the colt and springfield by a fair margin. This was my first ruger it will not be my last. I have 800 rounds through it not one hiccup this far.

  • Phoenix

    I walked into my local gun store looking for a sig but they happened to have a SR1911 they just put on display, so…I'm a proud new owner of a Ruger SR1911. A little more costly than at $800 but every place I have checked for them before giving up was raising in store prices if/when they got another one and the online stores had no clue when they would be available because they had so many back ordered. ~$150 more out the door is worth it so I don't have to be on a waiting list forever to get my new EDC gun.

  • Kevin

    They are really hard to find in the Atlanta area. You can see another review at
    http://www.gunsumerreports.com/review_ruger_sr191

  • Larry C

    I talked to a local gun shop in the morning and they put me on a waiting list. They called late that afternoon and said one came in but the guy who wanted it backed out. Got to pick it up 3 days later ( I live in the PR of Illinois). I shot my brother's SR1911 at PASA Park after visiting with Dick Metcalf and loved it. This shoots just as nice. I would rather shoot it than my M&P 9 any day.

  • Marcasite

    I got one of the first ones to hit my area. I've never seen one on the shelf, they're all snatched up by store employees. I was just lucky to know a guy.
    I've been extremely happy with it. I've owned Taurus (not recommended) and Kimber 1911s, shot many others. The Ruger has much better fit and finish. It also seems better made than the Remington R1 or the lower-end Springfields. It's not an Ed Brown or a Wilson, but after a trigger job it shoots better than the higher-end target Kimbers I've owned.
    Best 1911 value out there, if you can get one.

  • Joe

    Got my SR1911 about a month ago after waiting about a year. Paid $603.oo for it.
    I will never sell this one. Shoots like a
    dream, hits what I shoot at and no malfunctions. Finish is great, and not too much worry about carrying
    next tomy body on a hot day. No risk of rust from sweat. I really like the machined tube on the receiver
    as it will never have to be replaced. The wood grips are really good looking also. The mag release
    button was a tad hard to push in, but a new spring fixed that. If you can find one buy one.

  • djowvc

    I am going crazy for my gun. I have a P89 b and an LC9 and am going crazy waiting for the 1911. If it handles and shoots as well as the rest of my Rugers I will be hard pressed to buy another brand. In fact I will be getting a Scout 308 shortly. This gun is awsome.

  • DOMINIC S.

    I was down at my local gun store looking at 1911's and not wanting to pay a large amount so they showed me the RUGER SR-1911. When i first saw it i feel in love with the gun and i knew it was the right 1911 for me but before i said yes i played with the gun and took it apart i started to like the gun even more so put the gun on layaway because it was the only one that they got in there order.

  • Chet

    Just got mine today!

  • El guappo

    I really wanted to LOVE MY NEW RUGER SR 1911 , but to say I was /am dissapointed would be an under statement. i LOVE THE LOOK , LOVE THE FEATURES , LOVE THE PRICE . But …… BUT !!! The thing is a dog an absolute D O G! It will not feed more than three rounds without a fail to feed (FTF) >It is accurate . IF it fires . I had 30 ftf out of 80 rounds The Magazine 7 or 8 roubds will not fill to capacity without absolutely HEAVING ON IT to get the rounds in . I am shattered . What a PIECE OF CRAP I am seriously thinking of just demanding my money back HAHAHA fat chance . Or waiting a monthe to be told its fixed , and then having the same problem .

  • BIGGREEN

    I got mine earlier this year and it is pure TRASH! I can't manage 3 rounds through it without the disconnector hanging up on the slide and preventing complete forward action. I have talked to 5 other people that have this gun and ALL have the same problem. I have cleaned, lubed, filed and shot the piss out of it, o now avail. Even brought it to a VERY good gunsmith in the area and asked about a new spring, etc. He said "SELL IT, FAST! He says it has more to do with the frame-to slide fit than the disconnector drag. The factory rep says it just needs to be shot and "worn in". What a load of CRAP! I am selling it this weekend, definitely to someone I don't know…LOL! I have over 50 1911s and this is not even close to being worthy of being branded one.

    • Tipper

      You and your 5 friends are full of crap. No way could that be happening. I doubt that yoy actually own one, and of course haven't shot one

    • Joe

      What an upstanding and honest guy you are. Just what we need more of.

  • southtxcowboy

    I'd like to purchase one but can't find one, my local firearms dealer says they don't make it to display case!

  • Rocket

    Went looking for the Remington 1911E and saw the SR1911 in the display case… have to say it is a really good looking piece. Checked the feel of the gun and tested the trigger. WOW! Ruger did a great job on the trigger. Needless to say, it is now in my posession. I have been a Ruger fan for some time (MKII, 10/22, Mini14), and this hand cannon keeps me a fan. Fit and finish are superb, accuracy is good, price is right ($699) and it eats everything I have put through it. No problems whatsoever. Hard to pass on a gun that looks, feels, shoots and is priced like this one…

  • Mike

    Just put a deposit on mine today! Will pick up on 29th of December. I been trying to save up for this gun for a while because of the good reports I been reading about and found one on ODT, Georgia. Hard to get a Ruger SR1911 so I hear. Thanks goes out to Todd at TNT Armory In Cartersville, Ga

    Todd If you read this, THANKS

    H-D rider ODT

  • Marcus

    I bought mine just before Christmas and it is an amazing pistol. I absolutely love it. Less recoil than most kimbers I've shot and absolutely zero problems with several hundred rounds thus far.

  • Steve G.

    Did anyone notice if the front site is centered on the slide?

  • ONTcop

    I was lucky enough to have purchased the SR-1911 several months ago for $682.00 out the door, new. Out of the box this gun shot so well I bought our range staff officers in to look at it. We attempted to "limp-wrist" the gun in every way imaginable to see of the gun would miss-feed or stovepipe. Everything we tried (with safety in mind) failed to get the gun to malfunction. Mind you, this is in the weapons first 100 rounds. The gun became an instant hit with several officers having gone out on the hunt for one. I own many guns and have never been so satisfied with a .45 pistol as I am with the SR-1911. I also own (2) Kimber .45's, H&K USP Compact (just sold it), and a SIG P220. None of these are as fun to shoot or as accurate as my SR-1911. I put my Kimber "SIS" back in the box in my safe and now carry the SR-1911 as my regular duty weapon.

  • FreeRanger

    Great to read all of these (mostly) very positive reviews of the Ruger SR 1911. I've been waiting over six months on two waiting lists for mine to arrive. And I'm sure it will be worth the wait. It appears that the only negative reviews are for clearly defective ones, which I assume that Ruger will take care of.

    I love my Ruger P345. It's rugged as a truck and yet sweet to shoot, as well as accurate. I also have several Ruger revolvers, both single action and double action 44's and a .45 and a .357. Most are Bisley's, my favorite. One is a Birdshead in .45 cal. I've shot running and standing deer with one .44 mag when I had no long gun available. My favorite is the Ruger Hunter (Bisley, SS) in .44 mag.

    But I believe that when my Ruger SR1911 arrives, it will be my lifetime favorite handgun of all. Thanks to all the folks at Ruger who have always provided real fine value, ruggedness, fine looks and good fit, and safety for us average shooters and hunters.

  • Jay

    I was very sadly disappoint in Rugers 1911 that I waited on for 4 months! Ive been around 1911's for 40 years even owned and shot cheap copies that had better machining and parts fitment! Accuracy was terrible and it shot all over the place at 10-12 yards away with several different shooters even on a bench rest! After dis-assembly and close inspection, it was fairly easy to measure and see that many parts are apparently cheap over the counter parts of cheap manufacture.Stovepipes, jams and shells being slammed into the ejection port were the norm! Even the barrel was terrible. Ruger was no help! After about 350 dollars in parts and machining it was and is what I consider a 1911 now! I would've rather spent my hard on dollars on a KImber or Glock if I wouldv'e known it was so cheaply machined!

  • L. Cusatis

    Wonderfully thorough review. I sure miss J.’s work.

  • Jon

    Great article. I just bought the commander version and I couldn’t be happier. It is a beautiful, classic style gun. I actually picked it over Kimber, Colt and Springfield, just because of the price and the improvement of Ruger’s quality in the last few years. Perfect gun Ruger!!

  • JP Limited

    Just picked up a new a Ruger SR1911. Inserted a magazine and it would not lock. Pushed the magazine to the top so it was flush at the bottom of the handle still no locking. Depressed the magazine pin, nothing happened.

    • Foctris

      And? A month later you’re still staring at it?

      • TellItLikeItIs

        2 months and he’s still waiting for the mag to drop?

  • Mikbear

    have a Ruger commander and it is flawless.

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