(GunReports.com) — To answer a number of questions concerning the performance of the 1911 pistol, the Gun Tests South Carolina test unit obtained a Rock Island Armory Standard GI No. 51421 45 ACP, $410, and a Kimber Eclipse Target II 45 ACP, $1393, in what originally seemed to be a price mismatch.
Contributing Editor R.K. Campbell said, “A category of handguns that seems to invite the most comments is the difference between GI 1911 pistols and the semi-custom factory pistols. By semi-custom we mean pistols with high-profile sights, a custom grade beavertail safety, extended controls, and claims of superior fitting in the barrel, bushing, and barrel hood.”
He added, “The plain old GI pistol that served without complaint in two world wars is seen as the underdog in such a match up. The GI pistol cannot possibly play on an even field with the modern enhanced 1911, can it? The answer is, it depends. It depends on what you are doing and what you expect from the pistol.”
Gun Tests Editor Todd Woodard said, “We wondered how many shooters take advantage of advanced features, and how many shooters can shoot up to the pistols’ capabilities. But there is also the bottom line, and the bottom line is often personal defense. Many shooters swear by the 1911 GI pistol and want nothing else.”
Campbell said, “The 1911 is individual enough that hand-fitting can make a difference. The closer the tolerances, the less slop and the less eccentric wear on the pistol. On the other hand, the GI pistols were fitted well in the locking lugs and barrel bushing, and that was all that mattered for acceptable accuracy.”
In the test, the Gun Tests staff said the Rock Island Armory Standard GI was finished in a type of Parkerizing that resembled a matte-blue finish, and it seemed evenly applied. The grips were OK, just slabs of wood, but they did fit the grip frame. The fit of the barrel hood to the slide and the locking lugs to the slide were tight enough to promise good accuracy.
The Eclipse is among the most popular Kimber pistols. Its appearance is striking. The flats of the slide are brushed stainless, while other parts are treated to a black-out treatment. Performance is the bottom line, however, and the Kimber pistol certainly has that as well. The pistol demonstrated excellent fit and finish. As one of the raters noted, the less slop in the fit of a pistol means the less chance for eccentric wear, and in the long run, the greater the longevity of the pistol.
To see if the Eclipse eclipsed the RIA in performance and value, check out the June 2013 issue of Gun Tests magazine.
Gun Tests subscribers should receive their printed magazines in about 5 days. Subscribers with electronic access can check Gun-Tests.com next week to read about these matchups, Publisher Tim Cole said.