Ruger Custom Shop SR1911

Hand-Crafted 9mm Fun-Gun!
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Oh, hi Paul,” I said, answering the phone. It’s always nice to hear from Paul Pluff as he’s usually the bearer of news of note. Paul is a dear old friend in the industry and Ruger’s PR/Media guru. He went to Ruger after nearly a lifetime spent at S&W, so he really knows his stuff.

“What if I told you we have something special,” Paul said — and I could hear the smile in his voice. “But you gotta’ keep a secret.”

In my inside voice, I’m thinking, “Oh please, dear god, don’t let it be another polymer 9mm pistol” but on the outside I of course said, cheerily, “Oh, really? What do you have going on there — and as much as I do care for you and for Ruger, please tell me it’s not flat black and made out of plastic. Please?”

“You’re safe on both accounts,” laughed Paul. “We’ve formed a Custom Shop at Ruger — yeah, I know, Ruger has a Custom Shop? — and the first two products are dandies. First off, we’ll have what’s essentially a custom-crafted 10/22 we’re calling the ‘Competition Rifle’ with all the bells and whistles. But the big reason I’m calling you is we’re also doing a hand-crafted 1911 — in 9mm no less.”

Huh? What? Wait a second. I looked at the number on the phone and it was, indeed Paul’s number. Ruger, that bastion of stability, of mainstream America, “John Deere-like reliable” guns and “Oh, no, we won’t do that ... that’s, um ... pretty darn edgy” is, nonetheless, continuing to change what the world thinks about them. What happened to bolt action .30-06 rifles and .357 revolvers? Now it’s AR platforms, high tech materials, chassis rifles, 1911 pistols and, dare I say it out loud — a Custom Shop?

“Gads Paul, what’s in the drinking water out there these days,” I said. “Glad to see this sort of stuff going on at Ruger. Send it along and we’ll take a peek.”

The Deal

After enlightening me as to the details of the 1911 — this would have been at about the beginning of last winter — Paul assured me he’d get one right now. But I told him, “Paul, I’m not going to push this into Handgunner right off. I want to live with it for a while, shoot it and let the dust settle. Then do it again. Since you’re making this big leap, I want to assure myself it’s right. Then we’ll present it to our readers. Deal?”

“I wouldn’t have it any other way Roy, and I figured you’d say just that,” laughed Paul.

The deal was done.

Hanging up I looked at my two pooches, Scout and Amelie, who were watching me intently, heads cranked to one side as if trying to figure out what I had been talking about. “Girls,” I said, “Uncle Paul is sending us something fun so get ready for some serious shooting later.” More head cranking, looking at each other, then trotting off. I think they had the same attitude I had — let’s wait and see.

The Custom Shop

Let me quote from the Ruger website:“Custom Shop products have been designed by Ruger’s expert team of engineers with input from professionals in the field: competitive shooters, renowned hunters and award-winning writers. This new line of firearms represents the finest example of quality and innovation in Ruger products, built to the highest of standards. The Custom Shop will feature exclusive collectible, competition, hunting and personal defense firearms for the most discriminating of shooters.”

Okay, so far so good. Most “custom shops” will often be a source of innovation and new technology, with many of their discoveries and work eventually making it into production guns. Think: Race cars sponsored by the big makers in the old days. The adage “race on Sunday and buy it in the dealer’s lot on Monday” was real-world. Disc brakes, high performance engines, suspension and more were often developed for racing, finding their ways into production cars later. I’m sure this will be the same for Ruger.

Anytime you get a cadre of passionate engineers and shooters together, the game changes. And the “new” Ruger, say, over the past 10 to 12 years, has really opened the door to innovation and breaking new ground. Today, they don’t say, “Oh, that idea is too edgy ...” They say, “Can’t you crank up the innovation and push the envelope more?” Between us, it’s likely old man Ruger would have pushed back at this. From a few conversations I had with him in the olden days, he seemed to make it clear, at least to me, Ruger was about solid reliability, seasoned engineering concepts and steadfast designs without too many surprises.

This certainly doesn’t describe Ruger today.

The Custom Shop at Ruger also makes it clear they’re not performing individual custom work now. They say, “The Ruger Custom Shop offers an exclusive line of high-end, performance variations of our most popular models.” At the time of writing this, they have the 1911 and the 10/22 and are working on other models.

Time Passes

During my time with the gun I shot it about 600 rounds, give or take some, likely a bit more. I also loaned it out to two friends here who shot it “some” they both said. I didn’t really “clean” it other than wiping it down and squirting some oil into things now and again. I did take it apart once and sort of wiped the crud off, but I’m not sure it would have actually needed it to keep running. Modern ammo’s pretty clean shooting.

While a few glitches with any brand-new auto is pretty much normal I didn’t have that experience with the custom gun. I mostly ran good quality factory ammo during shooting, with just a few mags of crappy reloads, but even they ran fine too. The final score was 100 percent reliability — seeming the norm for well-built 9mm 1911 autos for some reason. It really makes you like a gun when it runs like that.

By the time I collected my thoughts here, the SR1911 Custom Shop gun and I were old buddies. It seemed, well … friendly, for lack of a better word. It’s pretty much lived on my desk since I got it and I found myself picking it up all the time to simply enjoy it. I have a torso-sized gong here outside my office door set at 82 yards. I’d go out, just about daily over the past couple of months, load a mag or two, and bing that gong pretty much 100 percent of the time. Sights on the target, press the great trigger and hear the clang. Call it no recoil too and an easy-to-run slide. It’s honestly great fun and I found myself smiling all the time.

Details

The Ruger Custom Shop team worked closely with well-known competitor Doug Koenig to help hone the features of the SR1911. After living with my test sample for about four months before writing, I feel it’s pretty much living up to the promises made for being what is, essentially, a custom 1911 for competition, practice, fun and even carry if you’re inclined. Doug’s seasoned ideas are obvious in the final package.

The basic platform doesn’t hide any surprises. But the list of customized features does add a thing or three for sure. The gun itself is stainless, finished in black nitride with polishes here and there to toss in some accent. I think it looks fine. It’s got a high cut behind the trigger guard, common on custom guns, allowing a firm, high grip. There’s 25 LPI checkering where needed, and the G10 Piranha grips are supplied by Hogue — they happen to know a thing or two about grips. They are, um … grippy, and frankly feel great, adding a good deal to control.

Being a 1911, everything is where you expect it and runs fine. Safeties snick on and off (ambi, by the way), the slide runs smoothly but is tight, as is the barrel lock-up. It has a recoil spring guide rod and the smooth fit and lightweight spring — since it’s a 9mm — makes the slide easy to run and manipulate. It’s great for us old guys or anyone with some strength issues. I really like the move to 9mm in this platform and this example is a benchmark for how to do it.

The magwell is made by Techwell and has what I thought was a peculiar space at the front. That is, until you insert one of the two supplied Metalform mags (10-rounders) and you find the mag’s baseplate toe fits easily because of that. It will also help with after-market mags with even more pronounced toes. I had never seen this before and think it’s a thoughtful touch.

The barrel is listed as being a “competition” barrel and was crowned nicely and hard-fitted perfectly. It has EGW’s “Ultimate Trigger Kit” installed, a nice, flat trigger which I really like — it’s forgiving of trigger finger placement if you’re in a hurry — and great adjustable sights. The sight has a bold green fiber optic in front and a nice, big, black serrated rear to peer through. That front green dot really jumps out in the light.

Our sample is advertised as having a Koenig Shooting Sports low-mass hammer and competition sear, a precision disconnector and tuned sear spring. That hammer is interesting as it’s sort of “skeletonized” side-to-side as well as back-to-front. Check out the pictures to see what I mean. There are plenty of other hand-fit touches too, like a polished ramp, fitted lug, etc. as you would expect.

The trigger was fine, with a bit of travel but still a real pleasure to use. Some people like a tad of travel (I do) so I don’t call that a strike. Our test gun’s trigger broke between 4 lbs. and 4 lbs. 6 oz., using a nifty Wheeler electronic trigger gauge. Very consistent too, as it held those same weights from the beginning to the end of testing.

Accuracy

I did spend some time shooting groups on several occasions. Think of this as a 1.75" to 2" gun at 25 yards. I might even say it likes lighter ammo in the 110- to 125-gr. range. That surprised me as I’ve found the 147-gr. sub-sonics to be more accurate than lighter bullets almost always. But in this case they were about on-par with the lighter bullets. So this opens the door to even lighter recoil, shooting lighter bullets. From the bench, I was able to bing my 100-yard 14" gong I have here easily once I dialed hold-over in, which actually wasn’t very much.

According to Ruger, this gun is made specifically for “competition.” I’m thinking it’s not intended for serious competition against the “big guys” who run really fancy custom guns. As one seasoned competitor I know told me, “For USPSA it could be used in Open, Limited, Limited-10 or Single Stack if you wanted to. But being a 9mm it’s going to be scored minor in all those divisions which might be a pretty tough handicap. In Open and Limited, higher cap magazines pretty much rule too.”

I’d tend to agree. But I think Ruger has a winner here for we mere mortals. For any weekend competitor, local match shooter and even for some regional events — especially for newer shooters starting out — the Ruger represents a package essentially turn-key when you pick it up from the gun store. Buy a few more mags, a holster of your choice for the event you’re shooting, and off you go. Ruger lists the MSRP at $2,499 but are kind to dealers and usually list it on the high side. I did some research and found them for sale from a low of $1,775 to about the $2,200 mark, so do some shopping. Either price still gets you a screaming deal on what is, effectively, a custom 1911.

And truthfully, it’s a nice gun for any sort of shooting. Find a load you like, zero the sights and proceed to enjoy yourself. It’s a beautifully fitted, accurate, easy-shooting American classic — built by an American classic of a gun company.

For more info: Ruger, www.ruger.com, Ph: (336) 949-5200

Cartridge: 9mm
Capacity: 10+1 rds.
Barrel: 5", crowned
OAL: 8.26", Weight: 2 lbs., 9 oz.
Finish: Blackened stainless
Trigger: 4 lbs., 3 oz. (tested)
Sights: Fiber optic, green (front);
Adj. target (rear)
Safety: Ambi
MSRP: $2,499

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