September 2011

New 1911 45 Pistols For Less Than $1000: Ruger, Springfield, Magnum Research

Both Magnum Researchís Desert Eagle 1911G and Rugerís SR 1911 45 ACP autoloaders are solid choices, our shooting team believes. But Springfield Armoryís Range Officer is in command.

The year 2011 marks the 100-year anniversary of the introduction of the John Browning’s most successful pistol. The initial design was actually completed about 1907, but after acceptance by the U.S. Military some four years later, it became known as the 1911 and was chambered for 45 ACP (Automatic Colt Pistol).

To recognize this achievement, we found three affordable 1911-style 45s introduced in the year 2011. They are the Ruger SR1911 No. 6700 45 ACP, $799; Springfield Armory’s $939 Range Officer; and the $799 Desert Eagle 1911G from Magnum Research. The introduction of yet another 1911 from Springfield Armory isn’t surprising; the company has essentially built its formidable reputation on 1911 pistols. For Ruger and Magnum Research, however, these pistols are their first tries at producing 1911s.

All three models featured a 5-inch barrel on a full size frame offering a flat profile checkered mainspring housing below an enhanced grip safety. Thumb safeties were left side only. The front strap of each pistol remained smooth. Each pistol utilized an aluminum trigger that was lined at its contact surface and relieved to reduce weight. Only one gun, the Springfield Armory Range Officer, offered an adjustable rear sight. Only the Desert Eagle was fit with a full-length guide rod. The Ruger pistol alone was fit with three-dot sights and offered a noticeably taller magazine release button. Otherwise, these three pistols were nearly identical.

Besides their basic functionality, these pistols are interesting for another reason. They individually include advancements in 1911 design and finish that shooters of this time take for granted. To better illustrate some of these so-called advancements, we compared our test pistols to a 100th Anniversary, we shot them alongside a 100th Anniversary Limited Edition 1911 Government model from Cylinder & Slide ( The retro-1911 is being built for production by Cylinder & Slide, Bill Laughridge’s Fremont, Nebraska, custom house famous for the production of high-quality 1911 parts. On the outside of the current pistols, it is easy to see an improved grip safety, beveled magazine well, aluminum trigger adjustable for overtravel, oversized or ambidextrous thumb safeties, a lowered and flared ejection port, reduced mass hammer and high visibility sights both adjustable and low profile. Most of the upgrades that define the modern era 1911 were developed in the final quarter of the 20th century.

Today’s features are supposed to help the operator shoot the gun faster, safer, and more comfortably, and those upgrades have become more economical. Not long ago, our test pistols would likely have sold in the $1400 range. The cost of high-quality 1911s first took a notable drop with the introduction of Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) machining. This made accurately machined parts more abundant, reducing hand fitting.

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