A Tale of Two .45s
The Internet is a most interesting place. If we know where to look we can find reliable information. However it’s definitely the place where the buyer should be extremely aware. The Internet is also filled with misinformation, outright lies and even evil people out to cause harm. Just this past week someone raised the question as to why modern guns are of such poor quality and then he was joined in by a long chorus of like thinkers. Never mind his original premise was wrong — he still had plenty of support.
He is so far off the mark as to not even be in the game. Anyone who is a regular reader of mine knows how much I appreciate the old Classic Sixguns. These are the guns that stir my soul, my heart and my spirit. However, at the same time, even though today’s firearms do not touch me emotionally as the old guns, I have to admit they are better made, of better materials, held to tighter tolerances and are relatively less expensive.
In every test I’ve ever run when they are matched side-by-side with their early “Classic” counterparts they have proven to be more accurate. Two of these guns, both .45’s, are what this piece is all about. One is a replica of the Colt Single Action Army .45 while the other is a .45 Model 1911 — the former comes from Italy while the latter was produced in the Philippines. After shooting sixguns and semi-autos for more than 65 years, and writing about them for more than 45 years, I’m not easily impressed. Both of these .45’s are impressive.
The 14-round mag of the MAC 3011 means a loaded gun
and two spare mags just about eats up a box of 50 .45’s!
Because of the transfer bar the Traditions
.45 can safely be carried with six rounds.
The SAA .45
The Single Action Army .45 is a Traditions Performance Firearms revolver produced by Pietta and imported by Eagle Imports. It’s offered in several chamberings and all three standard barrel lengths of 43/4″, 51/2″ and 71/2″. In the old days, these were known as Civilian, Artillery and Cavalry Models. Two versions are offered, an all-blue Rawhide and a case-colored/blue Frontier version. Just as with the originals both of these have one-piece walnut grips.
At first glance, the Frontier .45 looks just like an original Peacemaker from the 1870s with one easy-to-miss change. That change is the position of the trigger. With traditional single actions, the trigger sets back in the trigger guard, however with the coming of transfer bars, as pioneered by Ruger, the trigger rides farther forward. The position of the trigger on the Traditions Frontier tells us this replica single action has a transfer bar.
In fact, as far as I know, this is the first actual replica ever fitted with a transfer bar.
Until this .45 arrived, all replica single actions were best carried with the hammer down on an empty chamber.
There were some versions produced with a safety engaged by putting the trigger in the so-called safety notch. Others use the “Swiss-safe” extra-long cylinder pin, which could be pushed backwards, allowing it to protrude enough from the back of the frame to prevent the firing pin on the hammer from contacting a primer. I never trusted the first version and the second was more trouble than it was worth. So until the arrival of this Traditions Pietta .45, all replicas I used personally were carried as 5-shooters with the hammer down on an empty chamber.
The Traditions .45 Frontier performed exceptionally well with both
factory ammo and reloads.
Fit And Finish
The 71/2″ Traditions Frontier .45 is very well finished with a case-colored frame and hammer, and the balance of this excellent sixgun — including the grip frame — are blued steel. Metal to metal fit is excellent, as is wood to metal fit.
The cylinder locks up tightly whether the hammer is in full-cock position or at rest, the action is quite smooth (especially considering it has a safety transfer bar) and the trigger pull is set at a slightly creepy 4 pounds. The walnut stocks are not only well fitted to the frame; they are also contoured correctly for my hand. There is no overlap of wood at the top of the frame. They are also oil finished instead of being glossy, which also aids in an authentic look.
Sights are traditionally-styled Single Action Army consisting of a square-backed non-tapered post front sight mated up with a well-cut square notch rear sight. For my eyes, hands and loads, the sights were right on the money for windage and would only require a few file strokes on the top of the front sight to bring the elevation to perfection. If there is anything wrong with this replica single action, I can’t find it.
Shooting the Traditions .45 was pure pleasure as I used three Everyday Working handloads, and three factory loads (Black Hills, Buffalo Bore and Federal). The average of all six loads was just a gnat’s hair over 1″, as five of the loads printed 1″ groups while one other load was a “large” 13/8″. For those who do not reload, Buffalo Bore offers a .45 Colt load using a 255-gr. semi-wadcutter clocking out at over 1,025 fps while operating at standard pressures. It’s an excellent do-it-all load for outdoor use in the .45 Colt. There is certainly nothing here in Southwest Idaho that cannot be handled with this sixgun and load.
The .45 ACP MAC 3011 delivered remarkable groups.
Most hovered around 1″ or a tad more at 20 yards.
From the .45 Single Action with more than 140 years of history behind it we turn to the newcomer which only has a few years over a century guiding it. This second .45 is on the 1911 pattern and of course is chambered in .45 ACP. It’s the MAC 3011 SSD and is manufactured by MetroArms Corporation in Manila, Philippines. Unlike the .45 Single Action this 1911 is neither a replica nor can it be considered traditionally styled. Everything has been accomplished to turn this into a perfect competition pistol. By competition, we’re not talking bull’s-eye shooting, although it probably would work quite well for this, but rather high-speed, combat shooting at steel plates and such.
As far as functioning, everything is traditional 1911 and it fed and chambered everything I tried, both factory loads and handloads, and also shot everything exceptionally well. This pistol is blued steel, however only the sides of the slides are high polished with the rest being a matte finish. Starting at the top of the slide we have an excellent set of sights. The fully adjustable rear sight is set deep in a dovetail. The rear sight notch is cut square and the rear sight blade itself is serrated and tapers to reduce glare. The front sight is also set in a dovetail and is a highly visible red fiber optic.
The slide has cocking serrations, which are slanted backwards and located below the front and rear sights on both sides. The hammer is a commander style skeletonized matched up with a lightweight trigger. The safety is extended and ambidextrous. The Beavertail grip safely is hollowed out slightly on the top to accept the back of the hammer and it also contains a memory bump. Grips are very nicely checkered aluminum, the front strap is checkered and the mainspring housing is serrated.
The magazine release is located on the normal 1911 left side position and releases the magazine positively. The magazine itself is a major difference when compared to most .45 Model 1911s. Instead of the standard seven or eight rounds it is a double stack 14-rounder, giving this pistol a capacity of 14+1 rounds. The bottom of the grip frame is fitted with a beveled magazine well to assist in rapid replacement of the magazine. At this point I would say the only thing I can find wrong with this pistol is the fact it only came with one magazine.
Even if it were never to be used for competition, it would be a most comforting outdoor pistol when carried in quality leather. It would certainly serve as a concealed carry pistol if you’re willing to put up with the extra weight and bulk. Fully loaded with two extra magazines would pretty well use up a box of .45 ACP ammunition.
More than 240 years of .45 history are represented by these two .45’s.
A Lucky Winner!
The survey was so popular that it was kept open longer than originally intended. The work itself took time, but finally, after two years, the pistol came back. I noticed NHC added a couple features — tritium night sight inserts, and the NHC forged steel slide stop.
If I hadn’t kept a record of the serial number I wouldn’t have believed it was the same gun. Craig Gholson at NHC had mentioned the slide/frame fit was about the worst they’d seen, no doubt due to mismatched components. It appears as though they built up the rails with TIG welding, then re-machined them. At any rate, fit is now excellent.
The trigger broke cleanly at 33/4 pounds. Best groups (5 shots at 25 yards) were around 11/2″ while average groups were around 2″. I shot around 150 rounds of various factory loads with no malfunctions.
This is an amazing 1911. It went from an ill-fitting, mismatched handyman special to a pistol any 1911 fan would be proud to own. And in fact, one lucky Handgunner reader will own it. All who voted in the survey were eligible for a draw to win the Colt/Nighthawk custom. Congratulations to the lucky winner (not drawn at the time I wrote this) and a sincere thanks to the thousands of knowledgeable Handgunner readers who took the time to vote.
By John Taffin
For more info: www.americanhandgunner.com/nighthawk-custom