Charles Daly Field
G.I. Grade 1911

Value-Priced Pistol History

When you think about Italian Colt handgun clones, chances are you’re thinking of the many (and excellent) Civil War and Old West replica six-shooters. Charles Daly’s new Field G.I. 1911 pistol will force you to widen your perspective. It’s one of three 1911 pistols made exclusively for them by Brixia. All are quality guns and great values. At their core, they’re actually the same pistol, copied from the original military specification drawings.

The frames are machined from a steel forging, the slides from a solid billet of steel, and barrels are made of 4140 steel with cut rifling. The guns differ in their level of fitting and custom enhancements, with the Empire Grade on top, the Superior Grade in the middle and now the Field G.I. recreating the classic U.S. military issue M1911A1 service pistol.

If you think the M1911A1 is perfect just the way it is, this pistol is for you. The original lines are there, but it’s finished in a dark, smooth, matte black manganese Parkerizing, and has pre-World War II walnut “double-diamond” varnished grips. This is a nice gun at a reasonable price. The MSRP is only $449 so we can expect the actual street and online prices will be lower still.

Choose your quality grade (top to bottom): Field G.I., Superior Grade and Empire Grade.

Quality 1911? Brixia-It!

Truth be told, there is another 1911 platform made in Italy by Tanfoglio but it’s aimed at the highest tier of the market and priced accordingly. The Charles Daly 1911 line is aimed at the typical consumer who wants a well-made 9mm or .45 ACP 1911 handgun for protection, recreation and competition shooting that won’t require a second mortgage.

In Italy, Brixia has a reputation among shooters as a respected maker of sporting shotguns. Among insiders in the European firearms industry, Brixia is well known for manufacturing high quality parts, and assembling the firearms products of other, more well-known manufacturers. This was why Charles Daly selected them to make their 1911 handgun line. Brixia had the facilities, skilled work force and quality control procedures to build the guns to Charles Daly’s exacting specifications. It’s noteworthy, unlike American made guns, every Italian made Charles Daly 1911 is tested at the government proof house with an excess pressure load, and then stamped to prove it. After the proof testing, assembly of each gun is completed at the Brixia factory where they are test fired for proper function before Charles Daly accepts it.

Right: Typical 25-yard, 5-shot group with Black Hills 230-gr JHP, the most accurate self-defense load of those tested.

Price Performance

You can pay a lot for a 1911 from a flagship manufacturer, but you won’t be paying for more gun with the extra money. The Charles Daly Field G.I. is a value priced pistol that shoots as good or better than a famous maker 1911 built to a “Government Model” standard. It’s not a Gold Cup level target gun (the Empire Grade) nor is it a custom carry gun (the Superior Grade).
The Charles Daly G.I. Field seems to have just the right amount of tolerance between the slide and frame to digest all the .45 ACP hollow-points I tried in it with only the slightest initial hiccup.

I didn’t shoot the Empire and Superior Grade guns for this story, but both have match style barrels with belled muzzles and solid recoil spring guides. The Field G.I. had the standard profile barrel, recoil spring guide and plug. The Superior Grade’s slide to frame fit was just like the Field G.I., with just enough tolerance to keep it reliable. By comparison, the slide to frame fit on the Empire Grade was so tight, it made me wonder if it was hand lapped.

On the range with the Field G.I., in casual offhand shooting at seven yards, I was able to easily shoot groups under 2″. The Field G.I. trigger has a little take-up before it meets resistance from the sear, then the break comes at no more than 6 lbs. of pull. Despite a little creep, it doesn’t detract enough to warrant a trigger job. I can’t recall any military M1911A I ever shot being better.

Grips on this pistol are the same “CD” logo walnut as on the Superior Grade model.

From The Bench

I bench rested the Field G.I. at 25 yards and tested three popular self-defense loads and one bargain ball load for accuracy and function. Black Hills Ammunition’s 230-grain JHP averaged 873 fps, with five-shot groups of 2.39″. This was the first and most accurate of the hollow points I tested, but it had a couple hang-ups initially when fired from an out-of-the-box new gun. In both cases, the second round in the magazine hung on the feed ramp, failing to feed. As the problem didn’t repeat itself, I chalked it up to the break-in period.

While the Black Hills bullet was the longest of the hollow points tested, it’s still shorter than a standard 230-grain ball cartridge. However, the Black Hills bullet resembles a truncated cone in basic profile and the diameter of the ogive at the tip is actually fatter than a ball round at the same point of measurement. I had no other issues with function with this or any other ammo in the rest of my testing, but I intend to polish the feed ramp a little just in case.

Federal Premium 230-grain HST JHP averaged 899 fps and 2.53″ groups. Winchester PDX1 Defender bonded bullet JHP averaged 911 fps and 2.5″ groups. Take note all of the hollow points tested are engineered to expand massively in soft targets. Ballistic gelatin test results I examined show them petalling back like deadly flowers, and in the case or the Black Hills and Federal Premium HST bullets, about doubling in size. Penetration appeared on the order of 12″ to 14″ for all three.

The last round I tested was the Remington UMC 230-grain FMJ with an average velocity of 834 fps and groups opening up to 3.96″. Overall, accuracy was better than average and better than I expected for a gun at this price point.

Among the features differentiating the Field G.I. (left) from the Superior Grade (top right) and Empire Grade (bottom right) are the latter’s adjustable front sights, solid recoil spring guides and belled muzzle match barrels.

Aim & Impact

Out of the box, the windage was almost right for me, printing my groups about 1" to the right of my point of aim at 25 yards. A slight hammer tap of the rear sight, with an improvised brass drift made from a .22 LR case on the end of a 10-penny finishing nail, got it moved over enough in its dovetail to center my groups. Elevation needed no correction at seven yards, but at 25, I found the pistol’s issue military style sights centered my groups about 7" above the point of aim.

There’s a lot of rear sight there to work with, and I bet one could bring the point of aim and the point of impact together with a little judicious filing once you decide on a load you like. This is an easy DIY project, but it’s probably best to do the filing after removing the sight from its dovetail slot to avoid accidentally marring the slide finish if you have any ham-handed tendencies. You can get an idea how much to take off by nestling the front sight down in the notch to various degrees while shooting your preferred load and noting the point of impact change of your group with the different sight pictures.

Sights are standard military and small by today’s standards. The rear sight is drift
adjust-able for windage and high enough to file down for elevation adjustment.

As with any import, this gun has more than than its share of marking. However,

Capacity Matters

It’s funny sometimes how a little change can make a big impression. For me, such was the case with the eight-round magazines shipping standard with the Charles Daly 1911s. Back in the day before high capacity double-stack magazines were the norm, the 1911s always struck me as a little deficient in the firepower department with their eight-round total capacity (seven in the magazine plus one in the chamber). So much did this concern me, I carried a Browning Hi-Power. Though I had no great love for 9mm, 13 rounds, plus one in the chamber, was more than I could conceive needing in an emergency.

These days, as a gun writer, I try to give autoloaders a good function test by loading them to full capacity, and with the Charles Daly Field G.I., that’s nine rounds of .45 ACP. I guess nine was the tipping point for me, because now I’d have no qualms about using this 1911 for personal protection. Since this is a basic Army .45, it’s fully serviceable in that role right out of the box.

The level of quality in manufacture I found in the Charles Daly 1911 line is incongruous with their extremely attractive price points. You could actually buy three of these Field G.I. models for what you’d pay for one famous brand 1911 of the same configuration.

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