by J. Guthrie
My formative pistol years (the “age of darkness,” as Metcalf calls it), were spent shooting striker-fired DAO autos with polymer frames. I was certainly familiar with 1911s, like most shooters on the planet. Heck, I even own a couple today. But I don’t hang a halo around the 1911, because, after all, it’s just a pistol, one whose design is more than 100 years old.
Dissecting the Ruger would be a team effort. I leaned on Metcalf’s encyclopedic knowledge of the 1911 for historical perspective (he was, after all, a history professor) and one of Ruger’s product managers, Mark Gurney, for the dirty details.
The Sum of Its Parts
There are several things to like about Ruger’s SR-1911—new materials, new manufacturing processes and a very affordable price. Gurney told us the idea had been batted around for decades, but Ruger only got really serious about things a year ago and went from a blank sheet of paper to a pistol in less than a year.
It is a simple and—if you’re of the “less is more” school—elegant rendering. The end product, from the start, was determined by shooters and sellers.
“If you let aficionados design a pistol, you end up with something few can afford,” Gurney says. “Our pistol product manager Kurt Hindle traveled the country talking to distributors and dealers about what really sells and to shooters about what they wanted.”
Shooters wanted a full-size, five-inch gun in stainless steel with a few upgrades that have become the norm on even basic 1911s. The Ruger SR-1911 does not have scaled slide serrations or grooves on top. It is not melted, chopped or otherwise abbreviated. The guts are a return to basics, with one exception.
Anyone who is serious about 1911s usually loathes Colt’s Series 80 firing-pin block, which added one more burden on the trigger. But Ruger did not utilize the 1930s-era Swartz system currently used by Kimber and Smith & Wesson (actually a modernized version of the Swartz) that uses the grip safety—not the trigger—to disengage a firing-pin block.
In fact, Ruger did not use a mechanical firing-pin block at all, but went with a low-mass, titanium firing pin and a heavy firing-pin spring. This setup passes industry drop tests, but may cause California shooters some angst since the bureaucrats there require other mechanisms such as loaded chamber indicators and magazine safeties that aren’t really at home in a classic 1911.
Purism Vs. Practicality
One of the long-raging debates in the 1911 community is the use of full-length guide rods and coned barrels vs. sticking with something that was “the way John Moses Browning intended.” I have shot most of the different designs without issue. Pistols with a full-length guide rod seem to be a touch more accurate, at least in my experience. Ruger went with Browning’s original bushing, short guide rod and plunger mostly because that setup is reliable, easy to manufacture and what most people wanted in a basic 1911.
“A coned barrel must be closely fitted to the slide,” Gurney says, “and can quickly get expensive if mistakes are made. We ended up using a bushing that must be fit to the barrel, which confines the tighter tolerances to a smaller, less expensive part. It’s a win-win here—the classic 1911 design that many customers prefer comes with less manufacturing risk. In addition, a conventional barrel with a bushing is more universal and offers more latitude in using aftermarket parts.
A barrel link and internal extractor—not a cam block or coil-spring-powered external extractor—are used for many of the same reasons. And the skeletonized, low-mass hammer looks great and is as functional as the old knurled spur.
As you might have guessed, the pioneers of investment casting used a few castings. The frame is cast from Ruger-proprietary 415 stainless steel. The custom pistolsmiths and purists are probably now throwing this issue of Guns & Ammo across the room, but the plain and simple truth is that cast parts, including frames, work fine.
Heck, aluminum-framed 1911s have been around for years (most of my pistols have plastic molded frames). Ruger’s in-house investment-casting division, Pine Tree Castings, has been making 1911 frames for other companies for decades, and some of those companies build very high-end competition pistols that handle tens of thousands of rounds each year without issue.
“The 1911 is not an easy pistol to build,” Gurney says. “Many of the custom houses make their parts slightly oversize and then hand fit them, but that’s expensive. Many people can’t spend that much money, so our charge was to make an affordable, good-fitting and -feeling, accurate pistol that people are proud to own. Cast frames allow us to do that.”
In fact, nearly every part in the pistol is a casting, or metal injection molded, except the slide, which is machined from 416 stainless steel. Why not cast the slide?
“A 1911 slide lacks the complex geometry that is present, for example, in a P-Series pistol and doesn’t allow the cost benefits of an investment casting to shine,” Gurney says. “In the end, it came down to cost. We can machine a slide from bar stock less expensively than we can make it from a casting.”
Barrels are made in-house, and though Ruger is big on hammer forging, the integral feed ramp of the 1911 required too large a forging blank to allow that process. Instead, the 410 stainless steel barrels are broached. Both the frame and feed ramp are given a mirror polish to improve reliability with various bullet profiles.
Read more: http://www.gunsandammo.com/reviews/the-ruger-sr1911-review/#ixzz23qbGINt3