Five Years With The Ruger .45 SR1911

By John Taffin

Rumors had been abounding for many years about whether or not Ruger was going to actually produce a 1911. Dan Wesson had a 1911, Taurus had a 1911, Smith & Wesson had a 1911, all God’s children had a 1911 — except Ruger. It had to be and Ruger officially joined the 1911 family fold with an historic announcement on April 18, 2011 making it one of the only good things about Tax Day. Ruger had a choice as they set about designing their own 1911, namely would they do something radically different or follow the time-proven path of John Browning’s basic design. I am happy to report Ruger chose the latter. Ruger’s SR1911 strips just like a 1911, feels just like a 1911, shoots just like a 1911, handles just like a 1911, holsters just like a 1911 — well you get the picture. It is a basic 1911 with “RUGER” on the slide. With all the competition building 1911’s Ruger had to do it right, and they did.

To me the most important feature on any handgun are the sights and as the digits in my age have been greatly added to I appreciate better sights even more. Both the front and rear sights on the Ruger are set in dovetails and can be adjusted for windage. They are Novak-style, set low, and there are no sharp edges. Sights are black with white dots and provide a good square, easy to see for me, sight picture.

Second only to the importance of the sights, to me, is the trigger. Ruger’s trigger is skeletonized aluminum with an adjustable over-travel stop. Of greater importance to me is the fact the excellence of the sights are matched by a clean, crisp trigger measuring 43/4 pounds. With such a sight/trigger combination, although it is not quite that simple, I expected the new Ruger 1911 to perform well and that is exactly what has been experienced over, and over and over.

Two other major factors involved in just how well a 1911 will perform are slide to frame fit and how tightly the barrel and bushing mate up. Ruger’s frames are cast by their sister company Pine Tree Castings and then CNC machines are used to provide a precise slide-to-frame fit. The result is a tight fit.

Ruger advises the stainless steel barrel and bushing are produced from the same piece of bar stock on the same machine which also helps to provide accuracy.

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The Ruger 1911 follows the classic pattern of John Browning’s crowning achievement.

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Even the Commander models are great shooters.

Added Features

Some of the other features of this all stainless steel pistol include the now virtually mandatory — and bite-free — beavertail grip safety with a cut-out to accept the back of the skeletonized hammer. The beavertail is not as wide as found on most 1911’s today, however it performs its function without increasing felt recoil. The beavertail grip safety as well as the slightly extended thumb safety, slide lock and magazine release are all blue steel providing a nice contrast to the stainless steel slide and frame. The firing pin of the Ruger 1911 is titanium and is matched up with a heavy firing pin spring which mediates the need for a firing pin block. Ruger says this offers “… an updated safety feature to the original ‘Series 70’ design without compromising trigger pull weight.”

One of the mild arguments these days is whether the old original internal extractor should be used or should we go with an external extractor. Ruger has stayed with the tried and true original design. It certainly has continued to work flawlessly.

Another old original design concept I prefer is the original flat mainspring housing. The reason for the change given way back in the 1920’s was the tendency of the flat version to cause the pistol to shoot low. The arched mainspring housing supposedly changes the shooter’s grip enough to compensate for this. The choice is purely subjective and I prefer the checkered flat backstrap as supplied on the Ruger 1911.
Grip panels are nicely checkered with the diamond pattern and the Ruger emblem. Material is Cocobolo but I like personalized grip panels and my Ruger 1911 now wears genuine stags. They look exceptionally nice on this stainless steel .45.

Interestingly enough, with the fixed sights just as they came on this 1911, the gun shoots right to point of aim with 230-gr. round-nosed cast bullets at 850 fps. My original Ruger SR1911 has been fired with many different factory loads and handloads over the past five years. With proper ammunition it has never failed to feed, fire, or extract; performance has been absolutely flawless. The only question after the first 1911 from Ruger was what is next? Adjustable sights? Perhaps a .38 Super and 9mm, even a 10mm chambering? At the time we went to press, Ruger announced a Lightweight Commander in 9mm so we’ll be getting one soon to test.

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Five years, five Ruger 1911’s: Original SR1911, Commander,
Lightweight Commander and a pair of 30th Anniversary
Shootists Commemoratives.

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John found his modest Bullseye load was very accurate and pleasant to shoot.

Commanders

The Ruger Commander began as an all stainless steel pistol and even though it is shorter and lighter than the original Ruger SR1911 I found it quite easy to shoot. Unlike my old war surplus .45 I never get bit by either one of these Rugers thanks to a beavertail grip safety. As on the full-sized Ruger 1911 the beavertail grip safety, as well as the slightly extended thumb safety, slide lock and magazine release, are all blued steel providing a nice contrast to the stainless steel slide and frame.

Now that Ruger had both the 1911 and the Commander exceptionally well carried out in stainless steel, one might have expected them to sit back on their laurels for a while; not so. Ruger followed with a second Commander which like the original Colt has an alloy frame. This cuts seven ounces off the weight of the stainless steel Commander. This may not sound like much but holding them side-by-side it feels like a significant amount and definitely does so when either one is carried all day. A close look at the two model Commanders shows they are virtually identical except for the composition of their mainframes. The lightweight Ruger Commander has a polished titanium feed ramp, cutting down on wear as cartridges enter the chamber.

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Matched pair of Ruger 1911 30th Anniversary Shootists
.45’s with leather by Simply Rugged.

Loads

Neither Commanders have ever failed to feed, fire, or extract; performance with proper ammunition is absolutely, perfectly flawless. My most accurate handload is the Oregon Trail 200-gr. SWC over 5.5 grains of Bullseye for 915 fps and a 20-yard, 5-shot group of just 0.75″. Bullseye has been in use for over 100 years, however it still performs just as its name indicates. Two other handloads also perform superbly. One is assembled with the H&G #68 after which the Oregon Trail SWC is modeled and loaded over 7.2 grains of Unique gives just under 1,000 fps and a 11/8″ group, while Lyman’s SWC, #452460 loaded with 7.0 grains of Unique clocks out at 848 fps and a 11/4″ group. Unique has also been around for over a century and remains one of the best powders we have available for either sixguns or semi-autos.

What does the future hold for the Ruger 1911? I hope they get to the point they will offer adjustable sighted versions not only in .45 but .38 Super and 9mm as well. I would not be adverse to also seeing an adjustable-sighted version chambered in 10 mm.

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2 thoughts on “Five Years With The Ruger .45 SR1911

  1. Rick Brigham

    John: Great article! I have a Ruger lightweight commander. Noticed you shoot a H&G68 ahead of 7.2 grains Unique. Same thing I am using, but I have failures to feed about 25% of the time. What is your Cartridge Overall Length for this? My H&G slug in full size 1911’s shoots into beercan ends at 50 yards.
    PS-Someday I’d like to shake your hand. I live in Clarkston, WA, only 300 miles from the Snake River Plains…..we are about same age/grew up on Elmer Keith and Jeff Cooper.

    Thanks. Rick B.

  2. Jim

    I have the lightweight commander and love it. @Rick, if your having failures that often I’d first run factory ammo to see if failures stop. If not, a trip to Ruger might be in order. I’d check the data on your reloads and try Hogdon Titegroup powder, it burns better and gives the .45 the heat it needs. Hogdon powder data on Hogdon web site.

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