Pistol-.45 cal.

Compact 1911s: Two Pretty Good 45 ACPs for the Money

June 2019 - Gun Tests Magazine

There should be a saying: Once you shoot a 1911, you won’t go back. That’s how some of our testers feel about the 1911 platform, which in a properly executed handgun will have a nice trigger, comfortable grip angle, good sights, and plenty of power in 45 ACP. And 1911s that you might carry don’t have to have a big footprint, so with that in mind, we looked at a Commander and two Officer-size 1911 pistols with a street cost of about $450. Inexpensive doesn’t necessarily equate to value in a 1911, but with the two Officer models, one each from Taurus and Taylor’s, and a Commander from American Tactical, Inc. (ATI), we found some value-packed compact 1911s. Not perfect by any means, but good performance for the cost. Of course there are compromises, but that is to be expected in a 1911 that costs about $450. In fact, if we could disassemble and reassemble these compact 1911s into one optimal compact 1911, we would take the trigger from the ATI, the sights from the Taylor’s, and the receiver from the Taurus.

45 ACP 1911s: We Test Five From Les Baer, SIG Sauer, Colt

May 2019 - Gun Tests Magazine - Subscribers Only

The 1911 is a legendary handgun, and it has been offered in many variations since its introduction 108 years ago. During the time after World War I, there were attempts to make the 1911 into a more accurate handgun, primarily for use at Camp Perry. The first National Match handguns were modified by Army gunsmiths for the task. Colt made the pistol commercially available as the National Match during the 1930s. The first guns featured high-profile fixed sights and were considerably tightened over the fit of the Government Model. Colt offered the Gold Cup pistol as a target pistol set up for light loads. Today, we like to have a 1911 with a lighter trigger action than the GI gun and with superior sights, but do we really need an expensive handgun or a target gun for overall utility? For personal defense and most forms of competition, the handguns reviewed will do a good job. They are useful for personal defense, some forms of competition, and for hunting varmints, and even medium-size game, at moderate range. The trick is, how much do you have to pay for this performance?

Threaded-Barrel 1911 Pistols: Some Choices Come Up Short

February 2019 - Gun Tests Magazine - Subscribers Only

Last year, we began testing suppressors on rifles and handguns because we saw that the sound-abatement equipment was becoming a lot more popular. This was a surprise because suppressors are expensive and hard to transact, so it takes a lot of patience and money to get started, and there is a fair amount of legal liability if you get it wrong. Despite these drawbacks, since we began this journey suppressor regulations have become much more relaxed across the country, with all but a handful of gun-restrictive states allowing the devices. Still, it will take a couple of generations for suppressors to become mainstream and for the misconceptions about them to evaporate. For some, these unobtrusive pieces of hollow metal will always be tied to clandestine assassin or spec-ops use rather than as portable hearing protection. Pity, because during our testing with them, we have found a lot of salutary benefits behind the gun, whether long gun or sidearm. Suppressed firearms not only have shown better accuracy in most cases, they are certainly better mannered with a can hanging off the front. Muzzle flip and blast are easier to control with a can in place, and that improves accuracy and enjoyment.

We initially chose handguns chambered in 45 ACP because they offered a lot of full-power bullet weights and shapes that run below the speed of sound, so it’s easy to find good ammo that suppresses well. For the handguns, we started with three full-size non-1911 45s from Glock, HK, and FN, all of which come from the factory suppressor-ready. Reviewed in the September 2018 issue, we recommended the FN America FNX-45 Tactical FDE 66968 45 ACP, $1200. We had function trouble with a Glock G21SF PF2150203TB 45 ACP, $511, and didn’t recommend it. The third polymer gun was the Heckler & Koch Mark 23 45 ACP M723001-A5, $2300. It was big and expensive and very nice to shoot. Some of our testers said that if they were to buy the HK Mark 23, they would remember the day as fondly as when they got their favorite dog, which is high praise indeed.

Our 1911-style test guns this time included the Kimber America 1911 Warrior SOC 3000253 TFS with Crimson Trace Rail Master Laser Sight, $1309. We had loan of this immaculate early-model SOC with about 250 rounds through it, half of which were fired with an Osprey 45 suppressor like the one in this test. The Warrior SOC has an accessory rail built into the dust cover, which allows fitting a desert-tan Crimson Trace Rail Master laser as part of the package.

The second gun was a Remington 1911 R1 Enhanced Threaded Barrel 96339, $675, a recent in-stock price from TombstoneTactical.com. This was a well-outfitted gun for the money, coming with the 5.5-inch barrel threaded .578-28 like the others, two 8-round magazines with bumper pads, and a lot of other features we detail below.

We Compare Three New 45 ACP 1911 Commanders Under $750

September 2018 - Gun Tests Magazine - Subscribers Only

The 1911 Commander is basically a full-size pistol receiver with a shorter 4.25-inch barrel and slide. These 1911 variants are more compact than the full-size issues, yet they offer all the features of the standard 5-inch-barrel variant, albeit with a bit less velocity. Some members of our team like the Commander format with the full-size grip and shortened slide, which makes the pistol easy to hang onto when firing 45 ACP as well as more comfortable to carry concealed due to the shorter barrel. One issue when carrying concealed, though, is the grip, which can print under clothing.

To see which pistol best fit our testers’ everyday-carry needs, we procured three 1911 Commander models for testing: the recently introduced Taurus 1911 Commander ($459), a Metro Arms MAC 1911 Bobcut ($746), and an American Classic Commander ($568). The Taurus is manufactured in Brazil, and the Metro Arms and American Classic pistols are manufactured in the Philippines and are both brought into this country by Eagle Imports.

All three showed great fit and finish and chewed through 45 ACP ammo as fast as we could load magazines. All featured the classic GI-style domed slide, long skeletonized triggers and hammers, straight rear grip straps, dovetailed combat-style sights, flared ejection ports, extended beavertails, extended thumb safeties, textured grips, and 8+1 round capacities. In short, these pistols have all the features a modern 1911 shooter expects in a concealable package.

The Bobcut and AC came in hard-plastic cases and included one magazine. The Taurus included a plastic bushing wrench for ease of takedown. At first glance, these three Commanders looked the same in terms of features, if not cosmetics, and it was the value-added items in each that eventually allowed us to judge one over the other.

2016 Guns & Gear Top Picks

November 2016 - Gun Tests Magazine - Subscribers Only

Toward the end of each year, I survey the work R.K. Campbell, Roger Eckstine, Austin Miller, Robert Sadowski, David Tannahill, Tracey Taylor, John Taylor, Rafael Urista, and Ralph Winingham have done in Gun Tests, with an eye toward selecting guns, accessories, and ammunition the magazine’s testers have endorsed. From these evaluations I pick the best from a full year’s worth of tests and distill recommendations for readers, who often use them as shopping guides. These choices are a mixture of our original tests and other information I’ve compiled during the year. After we roll high-rated test products into long-term testing, I keep tabs on how those guns do, and if the firearms and accessories continue performing well, then I have confidence including them in this wrap-up.

Compact 45 ACP Shoot-Out: Glock, S&W, and Springfield

October 2016 - Gun Tests Magazine

The compact self-loading pistol is easily the most popular personal-defense handgun in America. Shooters realize that small-bore handguns may not have sufficient potential for personal defense. The 9mm Luger is the baseline for personal defense in most shooters’ eyes. The 40 S&W isn’t as popular due to the stout recoil it produces in compact handguns. After all, many 9mms and 40s are built on the same frame. The 45-caliber compact is slightly larger, and the lower-pressure 45 ACP gives a hard push in recoil rather than the sharp jolt experienced with the 40.

To see how our shooters rated a trio of smallish 45s, we acquired three handguns based on the service-size Glock 21, Springfield XD, and S&W M&P handguns.

l From Glock comes the single-stack polymer-frame G36, which is popular, reliable, and well suited to personal defense. The Glock G36 PI3650201FGR 45 6R FS, $561, isn’t the most popular Glock by a long shot, but a number of Glock fans, as well as 45 ACP fans, like the Glock 36 handgun for its simplicity and ease of use.

l Another gun in the test was Springfield Armory’s XD-S, a downsized XD with a slim single-stack grip. The Springfield Armory XD-S 3.3 XDS93345BE 45 ACP, $419, is even more compact than the Glock, with a short grip frame and a five-round magazine.

l The latest arrival in the polymer-frame 45 single-stack scene is the Smith & Wesson M&P45 Shield 180022, $399. The Shield series have been popular and well accepted by concealed carry handgunners, so making a 45-caliber version of it is a natural choice.

We test-fired the pistols with a total of five loads. The first was a handload with Magnus Cast bullets (#803 225-grain Flatpoint) and 4.8 grains of Titegroup powder. Our other test loads came from CheaperThanDirt.com. One was the HPR 230-grain JHP 45230JHP ($38/50 rounds), a Hornady 200-grain XTP ($15.28/20), a Hornady 230-grain XTP +P 9096 ($16.25/20), and a Fiocchi 230-grain Extrema JHP 45XTP25 ($17.24/25). We fired the handload during the combat firing test stage, shooting 50 cartridges in each pistol. We also fired a magazine of the Hornady 230-grain +P in these stages to evaluate recoil in each handgun. The HPR 230-grain load, the Hornady 200-grain load, and the Fiocchi 230-grain Extrema were used in accuracy testing. During the course of our testing, the three pistols never failed to feed, chamber, fire or eject, so reliability isn’t an issue.

As may be expected, these compact 45s are popular with fans of each company’s full-size 45s. But that isn’t the whole story. As we discovered, fans of the full-size Glock may prefer the XD-S and our Springfield XD fan preferred the Glock 36 compact, and so it went. The primary difference was in handling, we found. Here are our findings.