May 2012

Little-Known 1911s: Remington And Taurus 45 ACPs Compete

In the gun world there’s no shortage of 1911-type 45 autos. However, when an old company which made a few 45s during drastic times of national need around 1918 — but has made none since — brought out a fresh, U.S.-made 1911, it got our attention. Remington-UMC made a few 1911s long ago for WWI use, as did Singer Sewing Machine Co., and a few other companies. Remington apparently made something over 21,500 copies of the 1911 for WWI, and then quit — until now. After a very long wait we acquired one of the Remington Model 1911 R1 Enhanced 45 ACPs ($940 MSRP). We wanted a similar-priced gun to compare it to, so we went to another company not commonly known for producing 1911s, Taurus. Our test Taurus PT 1911 ($900 MSRP) was stainless, the only one we could get at the time. It had a forged slide and frame. Remington claims “precision machined” slide and frame, but we don’t know if they began life as castings, forgings, or bar stock. At any rate, when we wrung ‘em out, this is what we found.

The Taurus PT 1911 has the blush of satin stainless, while the Remington R1 Enhanced is available only in blued finish. We liked the features and fine workmanship of the Remington, and its accuracy, more than what we found on the Taurus, but we thought these were both very fine handguns.

Remington Model 1911 R1 Enhanced No. 96328 45 ACP, $940

Our first impression of the R1 Enhanced was that it had a great finish, seemed snugly assembled, and had a great trigger. But what was that abomination where the front sight is supposed to be? Careful, or you’ll cut your hand open, and by no means put this gun into a holster, because that hook-bill on the front end is razor-sharp, and we’re not kidding. We’ve never seen a more dangerous front sight on any handgun, nor have we ever seen a sharper metal edge on any gun anytime.

Going past the front sight for the moment, we liked the dull-black finish, and the pebbly-surfaced wood-laminate grip panels. By the way, there’s no stainless Enhanced version, only a blued one. The slide serrations, front and back, were appropriately sharp and easily used to lock back the slide, pick up a round, or (using the forward serrations) press-check to see if a round is in the chamber. There’s a slot at the back of the barrel that lets you check the chamber, but we are not used to those. There were two well-made eight-round magazines in the fitted hard case. The magazines both had slam pads and had numbered holes to show how many rounds are in there. There was also a decent instruction book.

By the way, the R1 standard version costs $730, but you don’t get the beavertail, the great rear sight, nor the lightened, pierced hammer spur. The standard model looks like a wartime 1911 such as Remington might have made during WWI, and may not have the tight fitting of the Enhanced version tested here. It also has seven-round magazines instead of our eight. We think most shooters will be happier with this Enhanced version in the long run. There are also stainless standard versions, and some limited editions shown on the Remington website dedicated to this pistol (www.1911R1.com).

The left side of the slide had a bold “Remington” in script. The right side had “ENHANCED”  in small letters below the ejection port, and “1911 R1” boldly on the forward part. The front strap had vertical serrations that helped keep the gun from twisting in the hand on recoil. The rear strap was straight, with a checkered-steel hammer-spring housing. The checkering extended to the protruding portion of the grip safety, a nice touch, we thought. The grip panels were checkered in 10 lines per inch, which gave an interesting and solid feel to the gun. The left panel was cut away slightly to permit access to the extended magazine release, which was vertically serrated. The Videki-style trigger had three holes for lightness and an adjustable stop. By the way, it does no harm to remove that stop screw entirely. Some gunsmiths do that to be absolutely certain the screw won’t vibrate back and prevent the gun from firing. There was only one safety, which some of us prefer. It had an extension which made it easy to use, and we found it comfortable if you choose to keep your thumb on it while shooting, as many do. The barrel was stainless steel, another nice touch. Remington says it’s match grade, and we believe it.

The rear sight, apparently made by Remington and bearing that name, was adjustable for elevation with a large, fine-slotted screw. Some shooters might like a wider rear notch for more light on the side of the front blade. Windage was by drifting, which means tapping with a hammer and brass rod. The forward surfaces of the rear sight permit easy and cut-free clearing of stovepipe jams, and at least some effort was made to smooth the edges of the ejection port to alleviate getting cut there, too. Someone at Remington was paying attention to these small details that can make or break a good design. The hammer was easy to thumb cock, and the beavertail was very comfortable for us. Also, we found it easy to use the grip safety. Some 1911s have grip safeties that are very difficult to depress with some hands in some positions, such as with a high thumb. We found that to be the case on an early S&W 1911, and on the Taurus tested below.

Then there’s the question of that front sight. The intent was good, which was to suspend a red, light-gathering plastic element up front to act as a glowing dot seen easily against a variety of backgrounds, and in that light it is excellent. In order to get light to it there has to be cuts made in the front blade, and those are okay too. But the rear-most supporting element leans to the rear, like an undercut Patridge front blade, and that’s all wrong. If that rear element slanted the other way, it’d be a much better sight. As it is, it’s death to any leather holster. It also makes a mighty nice gouge which you can use to open veins, rip your clothing in a stylish manner, cut boxes — heck, the options are many and varied, limited only by your imagination. To put the final death knell to that sight, we found the plastic insert to be loose. It could be withdrawn to the rear with a slight pull. Although a glowing front sight is a great idea, we think replacement front sights are going to be installed on about 95 percent of these Enhanced Remingtons. The front sight is attached in a crosswise dovetail, so replacement should be easy. At the very least, owners will take a file to that razor-like top edge. Three white dots would have been better, we thought, with a normal forward-slanted front blade. And tritium ought to be an option, we thought, which it now is not.

Takedown was traditional and easy. The gun inside the slide had a trigger-release pin on the firing pin, which means the firing pin cannot move unless the trigger is pressed. Taurus also had that safety feature. Workmanship inside was excellent, some of the nicest 1911 work we’ve seen. There was evidence of hardness checking at several points along the slide, which is more nice attention to detail. (Could it be Remington knows how to build good guns?) The barrel was relieved around its chamber opening nicely, though the ramp in the frame leading to it was on the rough side.

There were a few spots here and there on the R1 that were sharp, or had sharp corners that had not been broken. Some were at the bottom of the grip frame around the magazine well, and more were on the edge of the barrel bushing, These can be easily fixed by the owner, though Remington should do so. Some shooters are going to want more beveling inside the magazine well, but that’s a personal thing, and can be done by almost anyone at home. All in all we think Remington did a bang-up job making a really good 1911. The slide-to-frame fit was snug, but not sticky. We loved the trigger pull. We suspected the gun might shoot very well, but we must say we liked the Remington R1 a lot before we ever shot it. What would it do on the range?

We tested with MFS 230-grain hardball, Winchester BEB 185-grain ammo, Cor-Bon’s 185-grain JHP, and with a handload consisting of the H&G number 68, cast-lead 200-grain SWC in front of five grains of Bullseye, CCI 300 primers in mixed cases. We shot the cast bullets last to give the jacketed ammo a chance to slick up the barrels of both guns. We found the Remington worked perfectly with everything. There were no jams, no failures to eject, no problems whatsoever. It fed and fired everything we threw at it. Even better, it put most of them into increasingly smaller groups as we went along. Our two best groups were 1.1 inches for five shots at 15 yards with Cor-Bon’s hot ammo, and 0.7 inch with our handload. There were touches of leading in the new barrel, indicating the need for a bit of polishing, or wearing-in. While not all our groups were stunning, the trend as we saw it was the accuracy seemed to be increasing as we went along. By the end of our testing there were commonly four shots of the five in a clump, and one out. Early on, there were two or three in clumps. We think the R1 will benefit from more shooting.

Our Team Said: As it was, we thought the Remington R1 Enhanced was an excellent 1911. It had very good accuracy as it was, plenty enough for anything short of a target gun, we thought. It worked perfectly, looked just great, had an exceptional trigger, tight fitting, superb workmanship, and a fine historic name on its side. We confess the front sight worked very well as it was, gave an excellent sight picture, and the red dot was easy to see in most any light outdoors short of darkness. The red element needs to be better retained, we thought. The sights were very close to being on the money as we found them. We gave the rear sight a slight tap to center the groups, which had been 1 inch to the left at 15 yards, but perfect for elevation. But that doesn’t mean we’d keep that front sight on there if this were our gun. Also, we wish someone besides Valtro would recess the takedown protrusion of the slide stop, but as yet no one has done so. We think the Remington is an A-minus grade gun, the minus for the front sight that is dangerously sharp.

Taurus PT 1911 Stainless No. 1-191109 45 ACP, $900

Our first impression of the Taurus 1911 was, “What’s that on top of the hammer?” Turns out it is a security locking device. Twist it with a special tool and you can’t cock the hammer. Jumping ahead of ourselves, we had a glitch with the trigger that right now we’ll bet a nickel is related to that hammer lock. We have yet to dig in to find the problem as this is written, and we’ll explain more later.

The all-stainless Taurus was mighty attractive. (We add that this model Taurus is also available blued, for $795.) The very slim grips added a feel that many shooters have come to favor over the normal, rather thick 1911 grips. They were held on with metric Allen screws, not slotted ones like on the R1. The Taurus had ambidextrous safeties with good extensions, making the gun easy to operate for lefties. The gun’s finish was uniform and well-done matte stainless, with front and rear cocking serrations on the slide very similar to those on the Remington. The front grip strap had very useful fine checkering, matched by that on the flat hammer-spring housing. Two magazines came with the gun, both with slam pads. They held eight, and had numbered holes like those on the Remington. However, they were not as stout as those that came with the R1. The extended magazine release was checkered, and the trigger was perforated with three holes, with a larger hole in the center. Like the R1’s trigger, it had a screw for adjusting the overtravel.

The rear sight was a fixed Novak rear with two recessed white dots, and in front was a normal blade with another recessed white dot. We suspect these recesses might make it easy for the installation of tritium sights. But being recessed, the dots didn’t pick up much light. The sight picture was excellent. Unlike the Remington, our PT 1911 used a nearly full-length slide-spring rod that prevented the old style of press checking for a loaded round. The left side of the slide had the Taurus name and logo boldly displayed, and the right had the PT 1911 designation surmounting the caliber designation. A nice touch was the inclusion of the frame’s serial number on the slide and barrel. Taurus claims the three parts are specifically fitted to each other, hence the matching numbers. For some reason there was a patch of checkering on the bottom of the trigger guard. We suspect it belonged on the front of the guard and someone got the message wrong. It might actually help keep the weak hand in place, though.

Now we come to the bad stuff. Everywhere were sharp corners. There was no effort made to break any of them. The front of the slide, the back of the slide, the front of the frame extension under the muzzle, the ejection port, even the front of the Novak rear sight all will cut you easily, and tear up your holster as well. The bottom edge of the slide was nearly as bad. The magazine well had been given a lick and a promise of beveling, with more sharp edges left there. On the good side, considering the Remington, the front sight of the Taurus will not cut you nor your holster. Yay! Fixing the sharp corners here will be easy, because there’s no finish on the stainless steel. However, the dehorned edges will be shiny, not nicely matted like the rest of the gun.

The overall fitting seemed to be snug, though not at tight as the R1, and again we hoped for good results on target. The trigger pull left a lot to be desired. It was creepy and heavier than the Remington, though not impossible. One problem was the grip safety. It required a very hard squeeze, and a low thumb position for it to be compressed completely all the time. It took 3 pounds just to compress it. However, with the grip safety depressed, the trigger seemed to work just fine. For the record, the Remington required just 1.5 pounds to fully depress its grip safety.

On the range we had good results, with entirely acceptable accuracy from the PT 1911. Several of the groups were in the 1.5-inch range. However, the barrel was visibly not as smooth as the other gun’s, and it picked up a bunch of lead from our cast-bullet load, resulting in the worst group of the test. But before it got leaded, the gun clumped four of five cast-bullet shots into 1.4 inches. We suspect some dedicated firelapping of the bore would improve the gun’s accuracy with cast bullets. There were no failures of any kind to feed, extract, or eject. However, we were nearly done with our testing when we were suddenly unable to fire the gun. We pressed firmly on the trigger, but it would not break. Finally with a strong pull about twice as hard as we normally used, the shot broke. This happened several times, and then it went away for the next few shots. It was time to look inside. Remember, we suspected that hammer-top security lock.

Takedown was traditional, despite the full-length recoil-spring rod. Taurus had a clever way around that in the form of a hollow front piece that moved back just like that on the original Browning design, to permit the barrel bushing to be rotated with a standard takedown tool. The recoil spring came out attached to the front retainer. The rest was standard 1911 procedure. Everything looked mighty nice inside, with good workmanship and good materials. The fitting was not as tight as it was on the Remington, but everything was sound stuff, we thought. The machining was not quite as clean as that on the Remington, but was pretty good. We found no obvious cause for the sticky trigger other than lots of oily grit throughout the mechanism. That hammer-top security system was not the problem. It does not affect the trigger nor the fall of the hammer. It’s a mighty clever system, too. So we were wrong and we owe you a figurative nickel. We went pretty deep into the Taurus looking for the problem, as may be seen from our takedown photo. Don’t try this at home unless you really know your stuff. Bottom line, the trigger problem is still a mystery. But cleaning the gun resulted in no further instances of a stiff trigger.

Our Team Said: We thought this was a good gun. You get some features the Remington owner might want to add later, such as the ambi safety, slim grip panels, checkering on the front strap, and a workable front sight. The hammer-top security feature will be of great value to some. If you don’t need that feature, it looks like the hammer can be replaced easily, which gives the option of an improved trigger with some work by your gunsmith at the time of replacement, and will make the hammer a bit easier to thumb cock. Add to all that the fact that this gun has forged stainless slide and frame, the barrel is fitted specifically to this gun, and all three parts are serial numbered as a fitted unit, and that might make some choose it over the R1. You can’t buy an Enhanced Remington R1 in stainless at this time. There are a few things that need addressing by the factory. These include the creepy trigger pull, and all those sharp edges all over the gun. The buyer of this gun can do a few things himself, if he’s handy, but he shouldn’t have to.

ACCURACY AND CHRONOGRAPH DATA

REMINGTON MODEL 1911 R1 ENHANCED No. 96328 45 ACP

Taurus PT 1911 Stainless No. 1-191109 45 ACP

Gun Tests Report Card Summary