Ruger’s 75th Anniversary SR1911

The Working Man’s Gun Celebrates In Style
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This year marks the 75th anniversary of Sturm, Ruger & Co., founded in 1949 by partners Alexander McCormick Sturm and William Batterman Ruger. When Sturm died suddenly in 1951, their first and only product was the Standard Model Automatic, a .22 LR pistol designed and patented by Ruger, who, as the story goes, drew his inspiration from a captured Japanese Nambu pistol he got from a Marine returning home at the end of World War II. The Ruger Standard Model bears a strong resemblance to the slim, light and naturally pointing military Nambu outside, but inside, Ruger engineered a more reliable operating mechanism that was easier to manufacture. After Sturm’s death, Ruger led the company for just over 50 years, making it one of the largest and most successful firearms manufacturers in the world, with a reputation for well-designed, well-made and value-priced products.

Inspired by European heraldry, Sturm designed the firm’s famous logo, but his more important contribution to the success of the company was a $50,000 capital investment to get it started. In today’s dollars, that’s roughly $645,000. Sturm came from a wealthy family and then married into another wealthy family. His wife was the granddaughter of President Theodore Roosevelt. While having a rich friend is helpful in starting a business enterprise, sustaining it requires many talents, focus and genuine passion. Ruger’s intense interest in firearms began in early childhood. This, combined with his mechanical engineering aptitude and business acumen, were the foundation of Sturm, Ruger & Company’s long-term growth and success.

Since 1949 Sturm, Ruger & Co. has made nearly everything in the firearms world and made them well. They never delved deeply into machine guns, black powder or shotguns, but their select-fire Mini-14 rifles, New Army Revolver and Gold and Red Label shotguns were all commercially successful.

Celebrating 75 Years

To commemorate 75 years of innovation and accomplishment, Ruger is making special diamond anniversary issues of four of their most popular guns, three of which feature a laser-engraved anniversary logo banner and special packaging. These include the Mk IV pistol (a direct descendant of the original .22 LR semi-automatic Ruger Standard Model of 1949), the 10/22 Sporter (a direct descendant of the original 10-shot rotary magazine, .22 LR 10/22 semi-automatic carbine introduced in 1964), and the LCP MAX .380 ACP pocket pistol. The fourth commemorative product is the most extraordinary and the subject of this month’s cover. It’s a special collector’s limited edition engraved SR1911 in .45 ACP. Only 750 will be made.

Fancy Function

Engraving isn’t something I ever expected to see on a Ruger. After all, Ruger is like the Ford of guns. The brand provides everything you need and nothing you don’t and stands for affordable quality and reliability for hard working Americans. Ruger has met the needs of shooters in a practical, unostentatious way that didn’t break the bank. They aren’t supposed to be fancy because fancy doesn’t kill deer, hit the bullseye, or drop an assailant.

Or are they? A man who wears stained overalls to work every week rebuilding airplane turbine engines can put on a tuxedo to celebrate his daughter’s wedding. Though an engraved gun seems incongruous with the Ruger image, this is a special occasion. I suspect Alexander Sturm, an artist of refined interests and tastes, would be delighted. I was, and I’m just a regular guy. You might be, too.

The engraving is focused on the slide and consists of dense floral scrollwork with the Ruger logo superimposed on the central portion of a waving American flag on the right side and a Bald Eagle in flight over a field of stars on the left side. The 75th-anniversary banner logo is on the top of the slide, prominent against a background of matte-finished, unadorned, stainless steel. The unique, smooth and checkered stocks are also embellished with a matching floral scroll, engraved screw heads and metal inlay Ruger logo medallions.

I immediately noticed the scrollwork on the slide was cut very deeply with a stippled background that looked like genuine hand engraving. I knew this was impossible since you would have to pay an engraver more than the pistol’s $1,799 MSRP to get this level of coverage. A close look at the engraving showed it was too perfect. I am amazed at how far computer-controlled laser engraving has come in the last 10 years. Ruger would have liked that engraving of such beauty could be done so economically.

Shooting Or Safekeeping?

Since there will only be 750 of these 75th anniversary SR1911 pistols made, it begs the question: Do you shoot this gun or stash it in the safe for investment purposes? A quick look at online auctions suggests that old Rugers are selling at prices reflecting their intrinsic value as firearms rather than prices driven by collector demand. Ruger had made 20,000,000 guns by 2004, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve made another 10,000,000 since then. It seems to me that vintage Ruger collectors aren’t being frustrated by demand-induced high prices yet. The circumstances are very similar for collectors of Mossberg firearms, the other brand of the people.

I believe these brands will become quite collectible, but I can’t say when. It’s been over a hundred years for Iver Johnson and Harrington & Richardson, and collector interest is still light compared to Colt, S&W, Winchester and military firearms. That being said, interest could pick up tomorrow. Whenever it does, a striking limited edition commemorative like this will likely be highly sought after, even if it isn’t an unfired, mint example.

Personally, I’d shoot it because I enjoy shooting guns. That’s why I buy them. By shooting it, whether publicly at a local range or privately in your backyard, you’re participating in the celebration.

Function First

Aside from the classy engraving, this SR1911 has all the great features of the standard model. When Ruger got into the 1911 market in 2011, it seemed to many of us like they’d come late to a party that was already overcrowded. Since then, they’ve proven their approach to the classic 1911 appeals to American shooters.

For starters, they improved the safety of their guns by cutting a small window in the hood of the barrel to serve as a visual loaded chamber indicator. Then, they installed a lightweight titanium firing pin supported by a heavy return spring to make the pistol drop-safe. The pin didn’t have the inertia to overcome the return spring and discharge a primer. This was a much simpler solution than Colt’s complex redesign of the firing mechanism embodied in their Series 80 guns. The Colt solution proved so unpopular with consumers even Colt dropped it and returned the initial design, commonly referred to as the Series 70, though this is something of a misnomer. Ruger built the SR1911 with the simpler, smoother operating, more desirable Series 70 firing mechanism, but safer.

Fit & Finish

By making use of their unsurpassed expertise in investment casting to produce the SR1911 frame, Ruger saved the time and costs associated with machining frames from solid forging or billets. It appears they put the time and money into precision machining to improve the fit between parts, resulting in accurate pistols. The slide-to-frame fit and barrel-to-bushing fit of the SR1911 are noticeably tighter than those of lower-priced manufacturers. In fact, the front portion of the barrel is slightly belled to fit the bushing more tightly where it needs to and still move freely through it in recoil.

Casting also allowed Ruger to make the plunger tube an integral part of the frame instead of a separate part, as it is on other brands of 1911 pistols. This is a minor thing, but any simplification that reduces cost while improving function and reliability is good.

1911 Upgrades

To broaden the appeal of their SR1911, Ruger included as standard some of the most desirable 1911 upgrades, like a skeletonized, lightweight, aluminum trigger that’s adjustable for overtravel and a Commander-style hammer elongated for better thumb purchase when lowering it manually. Lightweight hammers and triggers are old-school upgrades that slightly speed up the cycling of the action and reduce the chance of trigger bounce or hammer rebound with low trigger pull weights. Most shooters wouldn’t notice the decrease in lock time, but the upgrades do provide a higher level of reliability with a light pull weight. I measured the SR1911 trigger pull at 4.5 lbs., so I think these features are in place for future customization. Until then, they give the gun the classic custom 1911 look.

To prevent hammer pinch, the SR1911 has a beavertail grip safety. It’s also enlarged at the heel for more positive activation and reliability. The flat mainspring housing is sharply checkered for improved grip. The forged slide features a dovetail for the front sight, an enlarged ejection port for improved reliability, and wide serrations for a more positive hold when racking. The magazine release button is about 30% taller than standard, making it easier to operate. Similarly, the thumb safety arm is extended, and the slide release lever has an enlarged thumb pad. The magazine well is beveled for easier magazine insertions. Finally, the gun has steel, snag-free, Novak three-dot sights with a wide (0.145″) rear notch and a 1.20″ wide front sight.

If the factory feature package doesn’t check off every box for you, keep in mind Ruger made a 1911 pattern pistol, not a sorta-like-a-1911 near copy. Most standard aftermarket 1911 parts and accessories, including grips and magazines, will fit it. As is, I found the pistol easily capable of shooting five-shot groups from the bench at 25 yards that averaged 2.5″ center to center, and that is quite respectable for an out-of-the-box 1911, especially one at a mid-range price point. The standard SR1911 has an MSRP of $1,229.

For more information on the wide range of model variations in the SR1911 line, visit Ruger.com

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