[Review] Taurus PT-1911: Most Worth It?

For some reason, I’ve had this deeply held belief that a 1911 shouldn’t be a noob’s first gun.

Trio of 1911's
Trio of 1911’s

It’s an expensive, complex gun with a large and powerful caliber round that spits forth from it.  While I’ve shot 1911s on many occasions, I’ve yet to put one through the tests.

Granted, this is partially because I haven’t been able to get my hands on one long enough to actually run my gauntlet.  For some odd reason, people don’t like the idea of me conducting my “limp wrist test” on their $1500 Dan Wesson Custom.  Can’t say I blame them, mind you, I cringe a bit when I do it to my own guns.

That’s the other problem with 1911s: most people aren’t going to drop more than $600 on their first pistol and, for the most part, a solid 1911 falls in the $800+ range.  There are a couple of exceptions, however.

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Budget 1911’s

If you want just a bare-bones 1911, Rock Island Armory has a good selection in the sub $500 range.  These are, however, truly bare bones.  Full review of their Mid-Size version.

Rock Island Armory 1911 GI Midsize
Rock Island Armory 1911 GI Midsize

Chiappa also makes 1911s in that range but, again, they’re pretty bare bones and I’m not familiar enough with their quality to say any more on them.

**Update 2018** Rock Island Armory 1911s are good to go and highly recommended for a budget 1911! They also come in many flavors including 10mm, double stack, 9mm, and more!

Most Affordable 1911
520
at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

What if you want all the bells and whistles though?

I’m talking checkering on the backstrap, frontstrap, and bottom of the trigger guard and a lowered and flared ejection port.  I’m talking ambidextrous safety, skeletonized trigger and hammer and front slide serrations!  In most cases, you better be ready to shell out some major cash….or should you?

Check out more in our Best 1911s at Any Budget article.

Enter Taurus…

Taurus is known for making inexpensive guns.

With the management and procedural changes recently, they’re really earning the “good and inexpensive guns” title.

Let’s face it, the 1911 pistol has one heck of a rabid following.  Fans of the model are very particular and they won’t put up with shortcomings in any way, shape or form.

For a company… heck for any company to put out a 1911, well, it’s really sticking their neck out that’s for sure.  They had better be 100% confident in what they’re putting out lest the 1911 fanboys descend upon the factory with torches and pitchforks.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should inform you that the PT-1911 was a T&E gun sent to me from Taurus.  I assure you, however, that this has no bearing on my final judgment.  I’ve never had a problem calling a baby ugly…which is a good reason why some of my friends with kids don’t talk to me anymore.

520
at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

So what is it about this pistol that gets people so obsessed about them?

I won’t go too far into their history but this is a gun that was designed over 100 years ago and has remained in service for that entire time.  Some parts of the US Military are still issuing it and other are still adopting it over more modern firearms.  The most interesting part, to me at least, is the fact that this gun has remained relatively unchanged to this day.

Sure, they’ve added the checkering and skeletonizing but those are arguably cosmetic.  The core functionality, however, is just the same as John Browning created long ago.  It’s a testament to his engineering genius, really.

The big question is: how did Taurus do?

For starters, they didn’t use their normal casting method to make this gun.  It’s hammer forged and machined to very exact specifications.  They also have pistolsmiths match everything and tune it.

A 1911 shouldn’t be a forge, stamp and ship type of gun and Taurus is taking their time with each one so we can check that requirement box.

Taurus-pt-1911-slide-open

Secondly, the thing people love most about 1911s is that super sweet single-action only trigger.  It needs to be short, smooth and super crisp.  The Taurus trigger achieves this as well.  It’s super short and weighs in at about a 5-pound pull.  It feels no different to me than the Kimber’s triggers that I’ve shot before.

Third is accuracy.  A 1911 should be a tack driver.

The general rule of thumb is that a 1911 should be able to shoot 2” groups at 25 yards out of the box.

Another bit of full disclosure: I can’t personally shoot 2” groups at 25 yards with any of my pistols.  I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m just not there yet.

What I can speak on is that it performed just as well as any of my other guns as far as putting rounds on target and, my friend who works at my local range owns one and he can hit those 2” groups with ease using his PT1911.  There is a benefit to having free access to a gun range any time you want, I guess.  Either way, the accuracy seems to be there.  This gun is definitely far more accurate than I am.

This is a pretty heavy gun also.  Weighing it at just over 2 pounds (unloaded), this completely stainless steel gun absorbs recoil very well and softens the pop of that beefy .45 ACP round.

Ok, so it’s a good gun.  Heck, it’s a great dang gun and a bargain at that.  As I’ve said many times in previous reviews, “This isn’t about how good a gun is”.  In this particular case, we’re putting my ultimate rule to the test: Is a 1911 a good first gun?

Ease to Breakdown 3.5/5

Use the included bushing wrench to twist the barrel bushing counterclockwise.  Hold your hand over the end to keep from launching the spring across the room.  Remove the spring then twist the bushing in the other direction and remove.  Pull the slide back until the takedown notch lines up with the slide release lever then remove the lever.  Remove the slide and then pull out the full-length guide rod and then the barrel.

To reassemble, do everything in reverse and make sure the linkage on the barrel is lined up with the hole when you reinsert the slide release lever.

It’s not exactly an easy process and the full-length guide rod makes it a little more difficult as it requires the bushing wrench although you can take it apart without the wrench in a pinch. 3.5 out of 5

Maintenance 3.5/5

I love those Winchester 100 round packs.

They’re great for testing because they’re cheap and, best of all, dirty as heck.  There isn’t a part of the gun that won’t be covered in carbon after 100 rounds.  It makes it very easy to get a handle on how it is to clean a gun.

In this case, there’s some gotchas.  There are a few areas where I really had to work hard to scrub after a day at the range.  Especially in the slide area.  There are grooves where it traps the barrel and boy those were a pain to scrub. 3.5 out of 5

If you don’t have one already, you’ll want a good cleaning kit to go with your 1911. Our 4 Best Gun Cleaning Kits article can help!

Reliability 5/5

Until the Glocks came along, the 1911 was the pistol that showed a semi-auto can be as reliable as a revolver.

Even today, this 100-year-old design goes toe to toe with Glocks.  There is an old belief that 1911s will only work with ball ammo and to avoid putting hollow points through them.  That may be the case with some models but I tried various personal defense ammo in this gun and it ate them all happily.  The polished ramps and chamber seem to do a lot to help that aspect. 5 out of 5

Safety 4.5/5

In most 1911s, you have a manual safety and a grip safety.

Taurus went the extra mile with the ambidextrous safety as well as their “Taurus Security System”.  There is a small notch on the hammer that, when you use one of Taurus’ special keys, completely disables the gun.  You can’t rack the slide, can’t pull the trigger and you can’t pull the hammer back.  It’s also got a half-cock block (I can’t type that without giggling) that stops the hammer halfway in case your finger slips off which cocking it.

I’ve always considered 1911s to be rather safe but adding these extra little tidbits bumps it up to a 4.5 out of 5.

Poor Technique 5/5

I tried so hard to get this gun to malfunction.  I was shooting it in ways that would simulate the absolute worst limp wristing a person could do and this thing just kept shooting.  The long sight radius makes it easy to keep on target and the legendary reliability of the 1911 takes care of the rest.

This is a very forgiving gun.  5 out of 5.

Starter Kit 4/5

Taurus-pt-1911_in_case

Historically, my biggest criticism of Taurus guns has been the sparse nature of their kits.  I understand you have to save money somewhere in order to keep the price down but still.

Maybe it’s because of the caliber of gun they’re shipping here but they really improved in this department.  Beyond the gun, you get a very nice hardshell case instead of their normal cardboard box.  You also get the bushing wrench and allen wrench for adjusting the sights as well as a cleaning brush.

One thing, however, almost gave me a heart attack when I opened the case: you get two magazines!  That’s unheard of for Taurus pistols (at least the ones I’ve tested/owned)!  Heck, my research has found that it’s pretty rare for 1911s, in general, to come with 2 magazines.

Even with those two magazines though, you’ll want to pick up some more…

It may not be the most extensive kit but, compared to other 1911s, it’s got a good setup.  4 out of 5

Accessories/Upgrades 5/5

I may have mentioned it once or twice (or 20 times) in this article but the 1911 has been around for over 100 years.

40
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Let’s just say that people have made one or two accessories for it.  You can replace just about anything on a 1911 however (and notice I made that bold and italic) very rarely are they actually “drop in parts”.  

Even though every 1911 is based off the original Browning design, every company has made their own little tweaks.

19
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

For the most part, sights and grips can be traded easily.  This Taurus, however, will require some tweaking for many things.  For example: the ambidextrous safety and enlarged magazine release button (and other controls) means you’ll have to stick with grips made specifically for the PT1911 lest ye need to break out the Dremel tool.

Also, because of Taurus’ TSS key on the hammer, if you’re going to replace any part of the trigger system it will have to be a gutting of the entire trigger, not just one or two parts and that will require a gunsmith.  Other than that, the sky’s the limit and you can go crazy making this your 1911.

You’ll want to check out our Ultimate 1911 Upgrades.

Conclusion

The Taurus PT-1911 does a pretty good job of living up to the century-long legacy of 1911s. It strikes the right balance of affordable and quality and performs well. Upgrading the trigger can be a challenge, but that’s about the only issue.

Well, I’m not too big to admit I was wrong.  You hear that Mrs. Noob?!

I’m admitting I’m wrong about something.

I get the feeling she’s going to print this section out and frame it.  So yeah, I’ll no longer be saying that a 1911 is a bad choice for a first gun.

Best .45 ACP Range Ammo
18
at Palmetto State Armory

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

My opinion now will be “The 1911 makes for a great first gun IF you feel like you can handle the .45 caliber round”.  If you do so choose to make a 1911 your first gun, you certainly can’t go wrong with the Taurus PT-1911.  As I said, this was a T&E gun.  

Instead of sending the gun back, however, I’ll be sending them a check.  This gun has earned its place in my collection.

550
at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Averaging out the scores, the Taurus PT-1911 gets a 4.5 out of 5

What was your first 1911? Let us know in the comments! Already got a 1911? Check out our Best .45 ACP Ammo and 1911 Upgrades articles!

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