Guns Handguns

New Ruger 1911

John B. Snow Avatar

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The rumor mill has been buzzing for weeks, but Ruger is finally unveiling it's newest pistol, the SR1911. I took part in the pistol's first public introduction at Gunsite Academy in Paulden, Arizona. Here's a behind-the-scenes look at the pistol.
One of the first things you might notice about the pistol is the clean lines of its design. There's no accessory rail, oversized ambi safety or other add-ons common to many 1911s. This is a stripped down shooting tool–a 1911 for purists. Also note that it is made in Prescott, AZ at Ruger's plant there. Check out the video of this gun on the next slide …
On the first day at Gunsite we went to the range and had cases and cases of pre-loaded magazines available to grab so we could stuff our mag pouches and pockets full and start shooting.
This is a sight to make any gun nut drool. You'll notice that the 1911 has all-steel single-stack 7-round magazines. Except for the shoot in the "fun house" we ran the pistols with 230-gr. FMJ ammo.
Gunsite has developed these multi-colored camo targets for their classes. There's an outline of a revolver in there. You can see this shooter did a good job of keeping the shots in the vital "center of mass" area. You only do that by keeping a laser like focus on the pistol's front sight.
Ruger is going to offer 8-round magazines as well, which you can see in this picture. The 1911 comes with functional low-profile combat-style sights with a three-dot sight picture.
Ken Jorgenson, Ruger's head PR honcho, shows off a classic modern gunfighting stance, using a two-handed grip with feet slightly staggered and about shoulder-width apart. The targets in back rotate in and out of view. When they pop around it's time to draw the pistol and get off the shots before the instructors flip them back out of sight.
Many of the drills we did involved shots to the center part of the target followed by a shot to the head. This solid tight-cluster demonstrated the Ruger's excellent accuracy and handling characteristics.
We didn't stop shooting when the sun went down. The instructors had us do a series of drills using the Ruger 1911s in conjunction with handheld Surefire lights.
This photo shows two popular ways to employ a flashlight while shooting. The shooter in the foreground has the light indexed against his chin while employing the 1911 one-handed. That his light is angled toward the ground isn't a mistake. These Surefire units throw off enough light to flood the target and give you good sight picture without illuminating your pistol and possibly diminishing your low-light vision. The shooter behind him has his light in his weak (left) hand acting as a brace underneath his strong shooting hand. There are pluses and minuses to every technique but the important thing is that they all work.
The firing line at night, illuminated by Surefire weapon lights and muzzle flashes.
The targets turn, the guns come out of the holsters, lights go on and more rounds are put down range. Repetition is key to master and the Rugers held up to the thousands of rounds of hard use.
The Rugers kept running in no small part because of this worker and the machine he's using. This unit is part of Ruger's quality control. With the pistol placed in a precisely positioned jig, the machine takes measurements all around the pistol to make sure everything is in spec.
One of the things that really impressed me about the pistol is its craftsmanship. These pistols are built tight, but they functioned flawlessly. Ruger is very proud that everything in the pistol is U.S. made.
These barrels show the barrel bushing and locking lugs on the 1911.
Various components for the assembly of the 1911 come in pre-sorted bins so that the workers can quickly assemble the pistols without fumbling around for parts. You can see that the front sights use a dovetail to slide into position on the slide.
More components for building 1911s. Here we see (from left) recoil spring guides above a bin of recoil spring plugs, recoil springs, extractors, firing pins and, at the extreme right, grip screws.
Before and after. The slide of the 1911 starts its life as a round piece of stainless steel bar stock and is machined down to what you see here.
So really, this is what is mostly made in a gun factory. Scrap metal.
And these are some of the tools that make those scraps. The labels on these bits indicate they are all for one of the processes involved in making 1911s.
Not every machine used to make guns is shiny and new. Some of the older machines are the most valuable because they do what they are supposed to do reliably and well.
But some machines used to make the 1911s are state of the art, such as this EDM (electrical discharge machine), which is used to make precise cuts in tight spots that a traditional CNC machine has difficulty with.
Here's a closer view of what that EDM machine does. You can see the slide of a 1911 in a jig under the liquid in the machine's tank. The wire heading into the water is what is going to make the cut to the breech face on the slide.
When the machine gets going is looks like a bubbling pot of witches brew, which makes sense because there is something slightly magical about what it can do.
This is the result. The small piece is the metal that was cut away to form the face of the breech of the 1911. What's the big deal? Because this cut is so precise it goes a long way to enhance the accuracy and reliability of Ruger's new 1911. And that, as Martha Stewart would say, is a good thing.
The finished product–but not ready for shipping yet. Ruger is testing the triggers on its 1911s using this sophisticated rig. Look closely and you can see the pin that fits into the skeletonized hammer to automatically cock the gun as well as the "trigger finger" that presses against the face of the trigger to dry fire the pistol. On the far side of the pistol you can see the green box with wires that feed to a computer.
I'm a bit of a trigger snob, so seeing this unit in action nearly brought tears of joy to my eyes. This is a closer view of the pistol in the device with the .45 Auto marking clearly visible on the barrel.
A look at the trigger-testing unit in action. The laptop in the background shows the readout. How did the pistol do? Take a look at the next image…
This readout plots the travel of the trigger measured against the force used to make it work. You can see that about one pound of effort is used to take up the slack in the trigger. After that the force curve goes up to about 3.5 pounds where the trigger breaks. The steep down and up of the curve shows that there isn't much overtravel in the trigger, which is a good thing. You can also see how consistent the trigger is from shot to shot. The graph shows four different tests of the trigger and the results track nearly on top of one another.
Cocked and locked. The triggers on the SR1911 are outstanding–as is the whole pistol really–especially given the modest price tag. I think the Ruger 1911 is going to compete very well in the admittedly crowded 1911 market.
Every pistol made at Ruger's plant gets test fired at this indoor range. The worker takes one pistol from the rack, sets it into the metal box and when he closes the door it fires downrange.
Another rack of guns gets ready to be test fired. Yes, these workers get to shoot guns for a living but it couldn't be less glamorous.
Law enforcement agencies from around the country have sent patches to the folks who do the test firing in recognition of the vital work these people do to make sure the pistols function well.
One of my favorite parts of the plant tour–the ammo dump. To test fire all those pistols requires ammo. Lots and lots of ammo. And these folks make that happen by loading hundreds and hundreds of magazines.
They literally crank out loaded magazines one after another. Loose cartridges go into the loading ramp and the handle is used to jack them into the magazines. I would love to get one of these machines.
A closer look. Her thumb is pressing the magazine being loaded into a slot at the base of this contraption. Every time she cranks down on the handle a cartridge is slotted into the magazine.
Of course, if I got one of these I would spend even more money on ammo than I already do because I wouldn't be able to keep from shooting all the time.
In pretty short order you can load up a case of cartridges to haul off to the range. Speaking of which…
Back at Gunsite, we continued to take full magazines of ammo and make them empty. When we ran though our pre-loaded mags, we stuffed them full again the old fashioned way–one cartridge at a time using our thumbs.
The SR1911 in profile. One thing you may have noticed is that the warning language, so prominent on other Ruger firearms and a source of frequent criticism, is tucked out of view.
This gives a glimpse of the lawyer lingo on the bottom of the frame. The angled cocking serrations on the back of the slide, the moderately sized thumb safety and the proportions of the slide release lever all contribute to the pistol's very good ergonomics.
The ergonomic qualities of the 1911 were evident during our several days of shooting at Gunsite. The instructors there are the best in the business and if you're serious about learning to use a pistol sign up for the famous "250" class. It will take your shooting to a whole new level.
1911s come in countless flavors, but the eagle logo on the slide and on the grip clearly proclaim that this 1911 is a Ruger.

Shooting Editor, John Snow, gives you a sneak peek at Ruger’s latest 1911.