I have had a yen for a 1911 .45ACP pistol for some time. I love “working classics” in the way of firearms, and trend towards “guns” with a proven track record and some history thrown in. This is why I love the Savage 99 lever action, Winchester Model 70 and Mauser bolt action rifles, and single action revolvers. The 1911 semi-auto pistol was undoubtedly one of John Browning’s greatest achievements, and has been in use as a military and law enforcement weapon continuously for over 100 years now, with very few changes in the original design. Besides Colt, major firearms firms like Kimber, Remington, Springfield Armory and Smith & Wesson produce versions of the 1911, and many more small companies and custom builders are also in the 1911 game. Pretty much any 1911 part will fit any other 1911, regardless of who manufactured them, making it relatively easy to upgrade or customize these pistols. Although the US government has replaced the .45ACP cartridge in it’s official sidearms, the 1911 .45ACP is still used by many “special” branches and detachments, as well as the FBI and law enforcement agencies worldwide. It is also widely used by the military in many other countries. Firing a bullet of up to 230 grains at mostly fairly low velocities gives this cartridge exceptional stopping power, and the 1911 can produce accuracy at a level that makes it a top choice in pistol competitions – and has a well deserved reputation for reliability.
While I often drool at the ads in magazines for Kimber and other high end 1911’s, my own needs have not really justified buying one. The .45ACP is not really a hunting cartridge, and I have a couple of .38 revolvers for home self defense. Recently, however, a friend won a Taurus 1911 in a raffle of some sort, and since he already had two Colts, offered to sell it to me a little below the average retail cost. I did the usual research on the internet and in print publications on the Taurus model, and found the usual mix of good and bad reviews. Ultimately, the comments from those most experienced with 1911 pistols – maybe “defense” pistols in general – like Clint Smith of Thunder Ranch, were that the Taurus was not only a good pistol for the price, but a good pistol at any price. Many criticized the MIM – metal injection molding – process by which Taurus produces it’s parts , but Taurus maintains the final step is individual machining , and it seems this process is actually very common in modern firearms production. Taurus does produce a lot of lower priced firearms, but also is very innovative. Their “Judge” .45LC/.410 revolvers have certainly set the standard for “drive-by” guns, and probably led to the new variety in buckshot and other “self-defense” loads now made for the .410. They are definitely a cut above the Star and Llama pistols. In addition, there is Taurus’s Lifetime Warranty to consider.
I have been very interested in Brazil, Taurus’ home country, since I was in junior high, and still hope to someday visit the Amazon River basin, thus, I have no negative preconceptions of products from that country. Taurus makes all it’s own parts – which could make them officially “Made in America”, albeit SOUTH America! Some more expensive 1911’s are made by companies who purchase their parts and merely assemble them, and some seem to assemble their guns here, but with parts made in the Philippines, or elsewhere.
So I took a chance on the Taurus. First impressions were that it seemed a solid pistol, with good heft, that “felt good”. The stainless finish is attractive and durable. There is a model with a cast aluminum frame and slide, but the one I got uses a hammer-forged steel frame and slide. The controls are all pure 1911. The main safety and grip safety on this pistol are legendary, and allow it to be carried in a holster in the “cocked and locked” condition, with a live round in the chamber, hammer cocked, and safety on. In this condition the pistol can be fired by thumbing the safety off, squeezing the grip, and pulling the trigger, but is very unlikely to fire if dropped or jarred – since the grip safety must be depressed for firing to take place. A retaining strap on the holster that goes between the hammer and firing pin will only increase the level of safety. Being a “single action” semi-auto, the first round in a 1911 must be moved to the chamber manually, by “racking”, or cycling, the slide. The Taurus has several features usually only found on high end 1911’s. Among these are ambidextrous main safety levers, checkering on the front and back sides of the grip strap, dual cocking serrations on the slide – front and back, polished feed ramps, a “rail” for mounting lights or lasers under the barrel, and Novack “3-ball” sights with rounded edges to lessen the chance of tearing clothing – or skin. It also includes the Taurus Security lock, which uses a “key” to lock the hammer, so the gun cannot be operated – a good feature in a home with children. The Taurus comes with two magazines, carrying case, cleaning brush, barrel bushing wrench, and manual. With the 5″ barrel, weight is 42.5 ounces.
My reading on these pistols had led me to understand that it should be field stripped before firing the first time, to remove any heavy shipping grease inside the action. I found none of this stuff, but did learn how to disassemble and reassemble the pistol. While John Browning designed the 1911 to be field stripped with few or no tools, I found the plastic barrel bushing wrench next to useless, and holding the recoil spring rod down with fingers a bit painful. There is a proper disassembly tool available, and I have one on order and will be reporting on it when I get it. Still, simply turning the barrel bushing to release the recoil spring and unlock the barrel is about all there is to the field strip process. Although I don’t expect to go any further “inside” the pistol, Browning also designed it so that it’s own parts became tools for further disassembly.
After putting it back together for the first time, I was a little bit apprehensive that everything should work right when I fired it. Some of what I had read suggested that magazines were a problem on 1911’s – even some of the higher priced ones. To make sure I had at least one magazine that would feed properly, I ordered an “extra” from Wilson Combat, but did not want to wait on it before a first “range test”. Loading both of the Taurus magazines with Winchester “white box” 230 gr FMJ ammo (and only loading 7 rounds in each, not the maximum of 8), I lined the sights on a target and “let go”. The only .45 ACP I had previously fired was a Colt Commander a Galveston police officer who used to visit us when we surf fished near San Luis Pass let me try one night a long time ago. Probably because of the light weight, possibly because of the velocity of his ammo, it seemed to recoil significantly to me – and I was accustomed to firing .44 magnum revolvers. I expected the weight of the Taurus to make it pleasant to shoot, and this proved true. Everything worked as it should, and I shot both magazines to make sure they fed properly. I did not shoot for accuracy this first round, but firing offhand at about 15 yards the pistol was putting shots just a bit to the right, maybe a little low – or possibly I need more time to adjust to the sights. Next round I’ll shoot off a rest, to get a better idea of what the piece is capable of, without me wiggling and wobbling. I was very happy with the way the Taurus operated, and look forward to trying it with hollow point ammo, which is supposed to sometimes produce feeding problems. As this was a brand new pistol, with brand new magazines, things should work even better after firing enough ammo to “loosen” things up a bit.
I mentioned that a vast array of parts and accessories are available for 1911’s, didn’t I? Besides the magazine from Wilson Combat, I have ordered custom grips from Raasco in a sort of synthetic wood called dymondwood, and in a color and pattern named – appropriately, I thought – Amazon Marblewood. I also obtained a rail-mount light – a low cost model from Nebo, the Protec version – as I expect to use the pistol as a backup when hog hunting at night, and for home defense. A leather holster for “generic” 1911 profiles from Blackhawk was fairly easy to shape to fit the Taurus like the proverbial glove. Although designed as an “inside the waistband” carry holster, I will be using it as a clip on, outside the pants holster. I was in a quandary trying to find a holster to contain the pistol with the light mounted, however. Most of the molded Kydex units are made to the specific model of pistol and light, and if they don’t have one, a custom make involves sending them your pistol and light, plus a few bucks more than it is worth to me. Then I got lucky. I had already bought a low cost shoulder holster from Taigear, because I am more comfortable in the woods with a shoulder supported pistol than one dragging down my belt. This is a nylon holster, with a loose fit for the pistol. Turns out, it is merely a snug fit with the light mounted!
Defense pistols are in high demand right now, and most outlets I checked did not have the Taurus 1911 in stock. THe MRSP on the stainless PT 1911 AR, “as tested” is between $900 and $1,000 – not dirt cheap, but less than a Brown or Baer – or a Remington or Springfield Armory 1911. Actual retail selling price seems to be around $700v- $750 right now – if you can find one. I would like to have a higher end model, but at this point, the Taurus appears it will fit my needs. STI makes a very nice 1911, and it is made in Georgetown, Texas – and says so on the slide – but their published price is over $1,800 for the base model. Wilson Combat is also a Texas product, and they make a “Hunter” version of the 1911 I am currently enamored with. Available in 10mm, or .460 Rowland – which is said to produce .44 magnum power in a semi-auto pistol (with an 8 round magazine that can be quickly replaced)- this might be the ultimate 1911 for me, but the price tag of over $4,000 will keep it on my “wish list” (or in my dreams!) for awhile.
Since the .45 ACP cartridge is essentially sub sonic in all but the “hottest” loadings, it is a natural for use with a suppressor. The Winchester 230 g FMJ load, for instance, has a published velocity of 835 fps. I am hoping to add a suppressor for my .45LC Contender to my collection someday, and since that barrel is 16 inches long, the “can” will not have to be permanently attached to avoid the SBR permit. With that in mind, a shorter suppressor and a slightly longer, threaded barrel will make the Taurus 1911 an even more appealing firearm.
The evaluation of the Taurus 1911 will be ongoing as I shoot it more and try different ammo types and add-ons.
One “fault” with the Taurus us that the trigger pull is, well – STRONG. The actual “break” is clean and crisp, but requires a lot of pressure to get to that point. This is probably good from a safety stand point, but does take some getting used to. I do not normally shoot open sights, either, so I have had to adjust somewhat to that. The Novak sights are good, but I have found I do better with my “reading” glasses on. The target pictured shows my latest effort. The 3 shot group high and left of the red bull was with Winchester 230gr Full Metal Jacket ammo (“white box”), listed as having a muzzle velocity of 825 fps. I was holding for the center of the red area. The lower group was shooting hand loaded Hornady 200gr XTP’s, at probably 900 – 950 fps. I was purposely holding for the bottom of the bull, to keep the two groups separate, so I am fairly well pleased with this one. The single shot towards the middle was one I “pulled” (or DIDN’T pull?) with the Winchester ammo. I have done better than this recently, but have also done worse. It appears when the shooter is familiar and comfortable with the sights and trigger pull, the pistol is accurate.
I purchased some ammo from Wilson Combat, 200gr Hornady XTP hollow points listed on the box as +P ammo that should develop 1050 fps at the muzzle. I also had some other loads with the same Hornady bullet, as well as a few with 200gr Round Nosed Hard cast lead bullets. In shooting these over the chronograph, I was more interested in not hitting the chrono than in absolute accuracy, so all shots were aimed high. Still this scattering of shots DID show that I had moved the Point of Impact to the right by drifting the non-adjustable sights a bit.
Wilson Combat 200gr XTP – 1064 fps, 1070 fps, 1070 fps
Hornady XTP (non-+P) – 971 fps, 922 fps, 942 fps
200gr Round nosed hard cast lead bullets – 822 fps, 821 fps, 793 fps
From my as of now extensive reading about the 1911 pistol and the .45 ACP cartridge, the best velocity range for accuracy seems to be from 850 fps to 950 fps. Using six shots – 3 from each of the different bullets and velocities – fired on the bull to test the accuracy at this point of myself as much as the Taurus pistol, I got this target. Yes, 4 shots are in the same big hole. I suspect the two “flyers” were my fault as much as that of the pistol or the ammo. I am still adjusting to both the trigger pull (which seems to be getting “better” after breaking in) and to shooting with open sights again. As I probably mentioned, my other pistols either wear scopes or a ghost ring “peep”.
This “group” was fired not so much as a test of gilt-edged accuracy, but because I had just experienced severe failure-to-feed problems with a semi-auto pistol of another make. I might not have described it as rapid-fire”, but I did squeeze the trigger faster than I normally do when shooting for accuracy. Using ammo from 3 magazines, ranging from 230gr Federal HydraShock JHP to 200gr XTP’s to 205gr Hard Cast lead (round nose), The Taurus fed them all perfectly,and placed them close enough to be a big problem for an intruding hog, or other “critter”!
By the way, the top three shots were from the pistol that malfunctioned. More on that one later.