By John Taffin
I’ve always been a fan of Western movies, good Western movies that is, and one of the best ever is The Wild Bunch. When I first saw it back in 1969, it was a totally new experience as I had never seen such violence on screen. Today much sickening gratuitous violence fills many movies, however in The Wild Bunch it definitely had a real purpose.
My favorite theme in any movie, be it Western or otherwise, is about those who have grown old and either outlived their purpose or found themselves out of step with the current age. This is exactly what The Wild Bunch is all about. It is set in a time of great violence; Mexico was in revolution and men like Pancho Villa and others like him were fighting against the government troops. Bloodshed and violence were not only commonplace they spilled over into our Southwest. The story is set in the second decade of the 20th century.
There are many things appealing about the movie, but for me, two stand out. It was a time of great transition and the members of the Wild Bunch had seen their way of life disappearing before their eyes. I know how they felt, as a world I grew up in is long gone never to be seen again. Also, there are some great guns to see in the movie. For the most part, they are also correct for the period — that is, with the glaring exception of the World War II-era 1903A3 Springfields being used in it!
A second reason is just after the turn-of-the-present century I received a very long and interesting letter accompanied by some photographs from one of the actors in the movie. Paul Harper was not part of the Wild Bunch but rather a member of the posse pursuing it, which Robert Ryan as Deke Thornton was forcibly leading. Not only did Paul, who is a real shooter, send me some neat pictures, he also sent information on some of the guns used. If you see the movie, Paul is the full-bearded posse member.
The time frame of the movie is set as the horse was being pushed aside by the automobile and the airplane, the Winchester levergun was giving way to the bolt-action Springfield, and the legendary single-action sixgun, the .45 Colt, was being challenged by the relatively new .45 Automatic Colt Pistol, the Model of 1911. For many men, the old days were going away too rapidly.
Bob Mernickle rig for competition use in the Wild Bunch category.
The Cimarron 1911 gives shooters and movie buffsa chance to own a cool
retro-style 1911 for not a lot of money.
Life Imitates Art
This film has taken on new meaning for Cowboy Action Shooting (CAS) through a new category called “The Wild Bunch” added in recent years. In it, the single-action sixgun has been replaced by the 1911 Government Model. Shooters who wished to really be authentic began looking not just at any .45 semi automatic in the 1911 pattern, but rather either an original or an authentic replica of the Government Models dating back to the second decade of the 20th century.
Today, most 1911’s are fitted with extended and/or ambidextrous thumb safeties, excellent sights of either the tactical or fully adjustable variety, and a beavertail grip safety. The latter makes a huge difference when firing a long string of .45’s as the original tang has a habit of pounding on the back of the hand — or at least it does with me.
The original 1911 also had a flat mainspring housing instead of the arched version, which appeared in the early 1920s with the 1911-A1 Model. Thankfully, most manufacturers have gone back to the flat version. Sights have changed tremendously, and all to the good. My original 1911, a commercial model from 1914, has miniscule sights just about impossible to see. While it does shoot right to point of aim with 230-gr. hardball, it takes much concentration on my part to make it perform.
The most accurate load through all the testing was Taffin’s Oregon Trail 200 RNFP over 5.5 grains
of WW231 through the bright blue Cimarron.
The nickel 1911 proved to be a good shooter with both handloads and factory ammo.
Out Of The Box
Cimarron Firearms and I go way back together. I was the first to do an article on Mike Harvey and his new venture of importing replica single actions from Italy. Over the decades, Mike has worked tirelessly to convince the Italian makers to produce truly authentic replicas of frontier-period single-action sixguns and leverguns. Today, many of those produced are actually better than the originals. With the coming of the Wild Bunch shooting category, Mike turned to the Philippines for authentically styled 1911’s.
The Cimarron 1911 Semi-Automatic .45 ACP is available in three finishes: Bright Blue as were the originals, Matte Blue as were those which were mass-produced, and nickel-plated. The sights, while still very small, are an improvement over the original and just a little bit easier for me to see; they don’t distract from the authenticity of the pistol. The grips furnished on each Cimarron 1911 are excellent and are of the double-diamond checkered style of the originals.
The only thing found on any of these pistols not mating up with the original version, and also one very easy to correct, is the fact the 8-round magazines have a bumper pad on the bottom. For my use these will be replaced with standard 7-round 1911 magazines. I assume the bumper pad is for those who compete in the Wild Bunch category to prevent damage to the magazine as it is dropped during competition.
Except for the finish, the members of this pair and a spare are identical. A great number of 1911’s today are produced in the Philippines and are of excellent quality and this trio is no exception. They are fitted tightly, work flawlessly and are one of the better bargains found in the semi-auto firearms market today. They are fitted with the authentically styled standard original parts made up of the hammer, grip safety, thumb safety and slide lock. The trigger and the mainspring housing are exactly as found in the World War I era. Shooting these semi-automatics is like stepping back into history, and as such requires more effort to shoot them well. There is a reason most of today’s 1911’s are fitted with a beavertail grip safety, and semi-automatics so equipped are much easier to shoot over the long haul.
The sights also have the older-style sight picture which require a little more effort to obtain a good sight picture as compared to modern larger square notch rear sight mated with a post front sight. Personally, I like all the newer improvements; however, I also appreciate being able to do things the way they did over 100 years ago.
All three of these Cimarron .45’s come with good triggers, and in applying my Brownell’s Trigger Pull Gauge I found the triggers measure 5 lbs., 41/2 lbs. and 4 lbs. for the bright blue, matte blue and nickel-plated versions, respectively. Eight different loads were test-fired in each .45 consisting of three of my favorite handloads and five factory loads. My most-used handloads these days as far as the .45 ACP goes are both assembled with 4.0 grains of Bullseye under 200-gr. cast bullets consisting of either the Oregon Trail Round Nose or the Oregon Trail SWC, a good copy of the old standard Hensley & Gibbs semi-wadcutter design that was so popular in bygone years. It was not only a first choice for target shooting it was also the bullet Col. Cooper recommended for self-defense use before we had so many excellent options to choose from as we do today.
Both of these loads fed and chambered flawlessly in each of these Cimarron 1911’s with the RN version averaging 11/2″ for 5 shots at 20 yards with a muzzle velocity right at 725 fps; easy shooting but plenty of power for most uses. The SWC was just slightly behind with an average muzzle velocity right at 700 fps and grouping just under 2″. My third handload, consisting of the Oregon Trail 200 RNFP over 5.5 grains of WW231, averaged 800 fps with tighter groups right at 11/4″. The most accurate load through all the testing was using this load in the Bright Blue version with a group size of 11/8″; this is target pistol accuracy! I find this to be an excellent load in most .45 semi automatics. With factory loads, SIG SAUER’s 230 JHP proved to be an excellent performer with muzzle velocities over 850 fps and groups averaging 11/2″. I would not have a problem selecting this load when traveling off the beaten path with any one of these Cimarron .45’s.
Cimarron’s 1911 pistols are manufactured by Arms Corporation of the Philippines (Armscor) and will also be available in both 9mm and .38 Super. They are authentically marked with the original patent dates and Cimarron also offers an authentically styled shoulder holster, the US Tanker model, paired with the pistol as part of a “1911 Wild Bunch Combo” for an MSRP of $842.23. If you want a cool retro 1911 that won’t break the bank, then these warrant a look!
For more info: www.americanhandgunner.com/index