For many years, the Colt 1911 Government Model was the only service-grade, big bore self-loader. The 1911 is durable, reliable, hard hitting, and accurate enough for combat use. The only legitimate complaint concerning the 1911 was that it was large and heavy. This didn’t matter as much for military use, but the piece was also adopted by some peace officers—mostly federal agents—and experienced shooters for concealed carry.
Superior aluminum technology developed during World War II made the Commander possible. Colt shortened the barrel and slide of the Government Model by .75 inch and paired it with an aluminum frame. The result was 28 ounces of the finest carry gun every developed. The Commander kicks more than the 40-ounce Government Model, and it isn’t for everyone. But for those wishing to master the recoil and manual of arms, no handgun will serve you better.
In 1970, Colt introduced the Series 70. Among the new models was a steel-frame Commander known as the Combat Commander. This pistol is easier to shoot well than the Commander. On the other hand, to some of us, .75 inch off the muzzle seemed pointless when the shorter gun weighed almost as much as the Government Model.
Today, pistols marked Commander are steel frame handguns, and the LW Commander is the lightweight handgun. Some years ago, Ruger introduced a version of the 1911 .45. The SR1911 has been well received based on excellent accuracy and reliability and a good value for the money. The Ruger features improved sights and well designed controls as well as CNC controlled quality. It reminds me of an old Bob Hope and James Cagney routine. Hope says ‘I did it first’ and Cagney replies ‘But I did it right.’ Ruger got the 1911 right.
Ruger introduced a steel frame Commander .45, and then later, an aluminum frame SR1911 .45. There is also a 9mm LW frame version. The SR1911 Commander .45 is my favorite carry gun and a formidable defensive handgun for anyone willing to practice hard and master the beast.
The Ruger Commander features a nicely finished steel slide and hard anodized frame. The grips are checkered and leave nothing to be desired for adhesion and abrasion when firing. The red grain suggests the grips are Cocobolo or Rosewood.
The pistol features Novak sights—our premier combat sight—and a well-designed slide lock safety. The safety isn’t a gas pedal type, but it provides excellent results in speed drills. The beavertail grip safety properly releases its hold about half way into compression. Some prefer a thumb-forward grip that raises the palm off of the grip safety when we take a firm hold. The design of this beavertail ensures that we will depress the grip safety on demand.
The barrel is well fitted to the locking lugs and barrel bushing. The feed ramp features the 1/32-inch gap between the two halves of the feed ramp necessary for proper feeding. Trigger compression, according to the Lyman trigger pull gauge, is a clean 5.0 pounds.
Takeup was short, and the trigger was very tight with little play. The trigger must have some take up, but there was no creep and a sharp reset. Excellent work may be done with this trigger action. The slide release and magazine release/lock are positive in operation. The pistol is supplied with two magazines. In all, the SR1911 is a credible 1911 Commander with good features and workmanship.
The good attributes of the 1911 are maintained in this pistol. The low bore axis limits muzzle flip. There is simply no leverage for the muzzle to climb. Trigger compression is straight to the rear and controllable.
The grip frame fits most hands well. Prior to firing, the Ruger SR1911 Commander was disassembled and lubricated along the long bearing surfaces. There were no tool marks, and the overall level of finish was high. When the pistol was new, it was broken in with Winchester’s 230-grain FMJ loading. This is the traditional hardball loading and the load the pistol was designed for. If a 1911 doesn’t function with this load it is sick.
As an aside, during World War I, Winchester secured a contract that specified no more than one failure to fire for ammunition every 100,000 rounds. The standard is much higher today. Some self-loaders demand a break-in period to smooth out flat spots or burrs. Thanks to modern production methods and close quality control, the Ruger Commander .45 came out of the box running.
The Novak sights with white 3-dot outline are an advantage in rapid target acquisition. The Ruger has fired over 1,500 rounds in constant practice without a single failure to feed, chamber, fire, or eject. The pistol is brilliantly fast to an accurate first shot as a 1911 should be. Despite the lightweight frame recoil is controllable, largely due to modern recoil spring technology.
Much of my practice has been with the standard 230-grain FMJ loading. The Winchester load burns clean and is more than accurate enough for meaningful practice or winning matches. For personal defense, the Winchester 230-grain PDX load is an excellent choice. With a good balance of penetration and expansion, this load offers optimal performance. It is an accurate number as well with 2.5-inch, 5-shot 25-yard groups—the norm with the Ruger SR1911 Commander.
Despite hype and fairy tales, the .45 ACP offers superior wound potential compared to small bore cartridges. Winchester’s PDX load is a credible option for those serious about personal defense. As for the Ruger, I added Pachmayr G10 grips to the piece with excellent results. I carry the Ruger in a Wright Leatherworks inside the waistband holster. It doesn’t get any better.
The SR1911 Commander is a good service pistol and an excellent concealed carry handgun. It is compact, light enough for constant carry, and among the best defensive handguns of our day.
Do you agree that the 1911 in .45 ACP is still the best carry gun today? How does the Ruger SR1911 Commander rate among 1911s and carry guns? Share your answers in the comment section.
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