I’ve made no secret about the fact that I really enjoy my 1911s and 2011s.
I think that it’s absolutely amazing that a platform more than a century old can still run with the best that modern manufacturing and engineering can produce.
And of course, like all gun owners, every so often I get the hankering for a new gun. Well, this time I decided that instead of building another AR-15, I needed another 1911. There’s just something inherently and classically American about them, and we could all use some more good old fashioned American values right now.
This begs the question though: which 1911 to get?
There are…a lot of them. Ranging from $400 to $4000 and covering every possible price point in between. So I thought about it, and I decided that a good, mid-range 1911 that would be a good entry point for say, a new shooter might be good.
Enter the Ruger SR1911.
The SR1911 first released back in 2011, and since then it has carved itself out a niche among 1911 enthusiasts as a competent, yet affordable mid-range option. It’s not a high-end, custom fitted 1911, and neither is it a bargain-basement copy of the original government-issue design.
In other words, it’s a Goldilocks gun. It sits right at the middle of the spectrum where cost savings and quality overlap. Or at least that’s what I’d been hearing for several years.
To find out, I went down to my local gun store and perused their used bin, and whaddya know?
So I plopped down $600 of my hard-earned dollars, filled out some paperwork, and took it home to see if this good-enough gat was in fact, good enough.
Why a 1911 in the First Place?
Are you sure you’re on the right website? Do firearms purchases have to have a “why”?
Well, if you need some convincing, consider the fact that the 1911 is the single most proven and battle-tested pistol design around. It’s got almost a 100-year head start on the almighty GLOCK, and was carried by US forces all the way up until the Beretta 92 (M9) dethroned it as our military’s sidearm of choice back in 1985 or so.
In that time period, it saw battlefield use in every major US conflict and earned a reputation as the quintessential American handgun. If these guns were any more American the muzzle flash would be red, white, and blue fireworks and eagles would screech in the distance every time you racked in another 230gr horse pill of a bullet.
If that’s not enough for you (you commie) and you need more “practical” reason to own one, consider the fact that the 1911 is perhaps one of the most intuitive firearms on the planet to shoot.
“Shootability” is of course incredibly subjective, but the 1911 grip angle is widely hailed as one of the most easily-pointable in the world, which makes shooting easier, and feel more natural. The gun just feels right, in a way that some handguns never do.
Where you might have to adjust your grip this way or that to get things settled just right on another gun, particularly modern striker-fired guns, a good 1911 seems to melt into your hand like butter. Cold, deadly, steel-framed, wood-griped, butter.
It’s such a popular grip design with such high ergonomic potential that Lone Wolf, perhaps the leading experts in GLOCK customization, are rumored to be releasing a GLOCK frame that emulates the 1911’s ergonomics and grip angle. Perfection indeed.
Finally, the 1911 is definitely up there with the AR10, the AR15, the Ruger 10/22, and GLOCK handguns in the customization department. You can build your 1911 any way you want, with aftermarket springs, triggers, grip panels, barrels, slides, bushing…everything, really.
I personally feel the way about guns that some car enthusiasts feel about their rides: if somebody else has one just like it, I don’t want it and have to change something. The 1911 offers the hobby gunsmith, or even just someone with the ability to turn a screwdriver, the ability to get a true one-of-a-kind piece that reflects not only their practical needs but their aesthetic tastes.
Or, you can be one of the people that leaves exactly the same as it came from the factory come hell or high-water. Neither approach is wrong, but it’s nice to have such a wide variety of choices…or freedom if you will.
What Makes the Ruger SR1911 so Special?
Let me start by saying that I have always had a fondness for Ruger firearms. I think that they have always represented truly excellent value, and with very few exceptions have always made good products.
The GP-100 was my first revolver, I own several of their rifles, and the 10/22 is definitely in the top five on the “guns everyone should own” list. In short, they’re good people that make good stuff.
The SR1911, in general, I was a little leery of it, to begin with. 1911s under a grand usually fall into two categories: “boy this is almost good” and “boy I wish I’d just bought a paperweight instead”. Neither category makes you feel like you’ve been wise with your money.
But the SR1911 feels…different, almost immediately. First, it is heavy. Like, toting a half of a full-size brick plus a few pieces of another one, heavy. I am inherently suspicious of lightweight steel-framed handguns that don’t cost me an arm and both legs.
That does make it a problem if you want to carry it, however. Carry a 1911? In 2018?
Yes, you unwashed Philistine. Is it the most practical? No. Is it the most reliable? Also, no.
Do I do it anyway, without fear? Yes.
Well, to be fair there’s not a lot of 1911’s I’d carry. First of all, most of my 1911 and 2011-style guns cost a mortgage payment or two. If, God-forbid, I were to have to use my firearm in self-defense, who knows when or even if I’d get that significant investment back.
Beyond that, carry guns see a lot of abuse from things like rain, holster wear, and even the oils from your skin. Not something I want to subject a super expensive gun to. I love everything about my job, but it doesn’t pay that well.
Conversely, a super cheap 1911, complete with machining defects and tolerances looser than a politicians morals? I don’t want to carry that either. My carry gun needs to go bang every single time, without fail or delay. I’ve had to draw a handgun twice in self-defense, once against a charging wild dog that weighed about as much as I do, and once against a wild hog that weighed about the same.
Either time, if my gun had jammed or simply not fired when I needed it to, I’m not sure I would be here now. I would never carry a gun I didn’t trust, and I suggest you don’t either.
So do I trust the SR1911? Over a thousand rounds later, abso-freakin-lutely.
I took this gun home and immediately loaded about a dozen different 1911 mags and went inna woods. I lubed the gun up, reassembled it, and spent a blissful afternoon turning money into noise and spent brass, busting dirt clods, punching holes in old coke cans, and just plinking away to my heart’s content.
In that initial 250 round burst of exuberance, I had one single issue and that was an old GI mag not locking the slide back. I tried cheap 180gr FMJ, I tried lead round-nose, lead flat-nose, expensive Hornady Critical Defense hollow points, Winchester Ranger, and most of a quart bag of mystery handloads.
I used cheap GI mags, the Ruger factory mags, Wilson Combat mags, and MecGar mags.
Since then, I’ve lost count of how many rounds I’ve sent down the pipe of this thing. To be honest, I wanted it to be less reliable than this. I wanted a reason to feel smugly superior about my Springfield Loaded Operator and my STI Trojan, both truly excellent guns.
But it just didn’t fail. Say what you will about the shortcomings of the SR1911 (we’ll get to those in a minute), but you can’t say it’s not reliable. This was meant to be a test gun, and I’ve cleaned it exactly twice in probably 1500 rounds ( I lube it after every range session, I’m not a complete animal) and it just doesn’t care.
The only thing I will say reliability-wise is that the gun didn’t like some of my cheapo GI 1911 mags that I grabbed from the $3 bin at my local gun store, but that’s fine. I don’t love them either.
So for a self-defense gun, it does pretty well. Heavy, at least in this case, does mean reliable.
And the gun certainly isn’t bad looking. The factory Ruger grips on mine are a nice cherry (colored) wood and are nicely textured to go along with the checkering on the backstrap. No front-strap checkering, which I’d like to see on a defensive gun, but this is a mid-range offering after all. The low-glare stainless looks great without veering into “nickel-plated sissy pistol” territory, but we do have a terrible admonishment to read the freakin’ manual before using plastered right under the barrel, but at least you can’t see it when you’re shooting.
Other than that though, the SR1911 is a sharp looking, if somewhat bland and clinical, example of the 1911. The skeletonized hammer and trigger offer a nice bit of character without being too ostentatious on a plain-Jane carry gun, and other than that, the gun simply emulates and elevates the classic 1911 style…not a bad thing in my opinion.
The Bad Thing in My Opinion
Not all is perfect, or even particularly good here, however.
Now the SR1911 does come in a target version that addresses the two biggest gripes I have, the trigger and the factory sights, but it’s a good $300-$400 more than the base model, putting it in with guns like the Colt Gold Cup and the Springfield EMP.
On the base model, the SR1911 trigger is not great. Ruger claims it breaks at a crisp 4lbs. My gauge says that was a lie, or at least an optimistic bit of marketing. This may be a case of manufacturing inconsistencies run amok, but my trigger breaks at an average of about an ounce shy of 6lbs.
I’m an old hand on the 1911 platform and this trigger feels notably weird to me in that it has an inconsistent break, which is downright odd on a 1911 I have to say. Most 1911’s you can count on to break at the same place, with the same amount of force every time.
It’s also more than a little spongy, much more so than I’d like to see in a single-action gun, but costs have to be shaved somewhere. I’d really like this gun a lot more if it had a crisper trigger, even it was just as heavy as it is out of the box.
Overall, the trigger is the gun’s biggest failing, but it’s still not bad enough for me to not recommend it. It’s a very blue-collar, working-class sort of trigger. Unrefined. If it was a person, it’d be your rough-around-the-edges, but still lovable uncle.
Also, you can swap the trigger out very easily and replace it with any of the 16.2 bazillion aftermarket options, most of which are better. A little gunsmith work would probably also leave the trigger crisper and lighter, like a mojito on a hot summer day.
If you do want to make an upgrade, our Best 1911 Upgrades & Mods article will get you started off right!
I have to call ‘em like I see ‘em though, so I gotta say: the base model SR1911 is not going to win accuracy competitions except through sheer luck or some extreme mismatch in shooter skill.
Could Taran Butler whip my ass with this gun no matter what gun I was using? Probably, yeah. But I’m not Taran Butler, and I’m willing to bet neither are you (unless you are, in which case, hey Taran!) so if you’re looking for a match or target pistol, either get the target version or be prepared to upgrade.
Even with the sub-par trigger, I wasn’t having any issues getting decent self-defense groupings of about 3-4” inches at, but Ruger says those groups should be at 1.5” inches. If somebody out there can do that, let me know in the comments or send me a video.
I have a feeling I won’t hear from anyone though because like I said, you’re probably not Taran Butler.
Other than the accuracy thing, which to be fair is a pretty sizeable issue, the SR1911 is mostly just a product of its price range.
The Novak-style sights are perfectly fine, but the smooth-sloped rear sight precludes one-handed racking of the slide by the use of your belt or a desk or something. I’d like to see a flat rear sight to make this possible in a defensive gun, but admittedly this is an easy thing to fix.
Ruger also skimped on the safety and left the SR1911 with the traditional left-side thumb safety, and it’s not swappable to the other side. Again, this is a cost-saving measure, but I would have really liked to see an ambidextrous safety on this gun.
By the Numbers
For a fair comparison, we have to look at how the gun does against others in its class, so here’s how I’d say the SR1911 stands up to the competition.
This is a defensive gun, not a target gun. It needs to be “minute-of-bad-guy” accurate, not a bullseye shooter. That said, while you can definitely hit the broad side of a barn with this thing, you might struggle to hit the narrow side from any real distance, all because of that spongy, too-heavy trigger and its inconsistent break.
You put a bullet in the chamber, you pull the trigger, gun go bang, gun put another bullet in the chamber for you, you pull the trigger, gun go bang again, you can repeat until the magazine is empty. Every time, all the time. No complaints here.
I’d like to see more factory finish options from Ruger, but other than that you have the whole world of 1911 parts to choose from here. I’d suggest a new trigger, new sights, and new grips, in that order, for a defensive gun. For a range gun, leave it alone or pimp it to your aesthetic specifications.
I struggled with this one because it is after all a 1911, but it’s not a particularly standout example of the breed. It is a good looking gun though, just not as good looking as some.
I paid $600 for mine, you can get new ones for about $700-$750 if you look hard enough. For my money, this is one of the best values in the 1911 world, and I’ve seen much worse guns run hundreds of dollars more.
Is it the nicest 1911 I own? No. Is it my favorite? Maybe. Do I trust it with my life? Yes.
Overall, the Ruger SR1911, though perhaps outshone by its Target version cousin, is an imminently competent entry into the mid-range 1911 world, and for the price is one of the best values in the industry. A weak trigger and a few other minor quibbles hold it back from true 5/5 status, but it really is an excellent firearm.
That’s all I’ve got for this one folks. The SR1911 is a good handgun, verging on great, and a fantastic value for what you get.
I’m immensely happy with my choice for a solid, carry-ready 1911, and I think anyone who doesn’t have thousands to spend on a 1911 for self-defense would be too.