Ruger SR1911 review: Is it worthy of the 1911 name?

Handgun review: Ruger SR1911

Ruger SR1911


There is precious little that “needs” to be “upgraded” on this gun out of the box. Its closest competitors in the mass produced 1911 market is Colt, Springfield, S&W Kimber and maybe Remington depending on the year of manufacture. For the price and quality of construction, Ruger threatens to be above, if not equal to all of them.


It is not a Colt …. Wait, is that bad? One thing about Colts is that they rarely depreciate if kept in good or better condition. Ruger SR1911 may actually outshoot and arguably outlast any other 1911 on the market that has an MSRP of less than $900 (or more). Yet it is not an investment 1911. It is a shooting 1911 that almost dares the user to abuse it.

One common complaint however are the aforementioned tolerances: manipulating the slide on an empty mag may feel like it requires three hands. An empty magazine well makes slide manipulation easier, but a 1911 slide should never be allowed to slam home without a cartridge. At worst it offers unnecessary wear to the frame and at best shows a lack of 1911 etiquette.

For 1911 purists, this model has the half cock and has more in common with the Colt Series 80 than the 70.

It is also a stainless steel firearm: one should not expect to get away with shooting cheap steel cased ammunition, especially lacquer coated ammunition. This requires brass or nickel cases to function at best capabilities. 

Finally: Ruger has also released a lightweight commander (LWCD) model: the 4.25” barrel on an alloy frame. While milled to the same standards, the frame is designed more for carry than use. While these are made in several color schemes for dealer exclusives, their solid nature is bartered for more manageable weight for wearing. This is not a brand flaw – the Ruger SR1911 LWCD will still shoot well throughout the user’s lifetime and beyond - but simply a result of physics: one is for carry and use and the other is for use, use and more use.

This is best for

Someone who wants (needs) a 1911 to shoot and maybe pass on to their great, great grandkids. This model firearm has served in military, police and civilian roles for over a century. If one wants a modern tactical, lightweight polymer pistol, move along. If someone wants an impressively made 1911 style firearm that offers quality for the price without an expectation of a monetary return, but rather one in long service life that will not get hurt from being shot a lot (heck, doing so will arguably only improve it): the Ruger offers features delivered from more expensive manufacturers without the bigger price tag name.

Ruger SR1911 review: Look Closer

To American shooters, there are few handguns more iconic, more “American”, than the M1911. Many gun makers appear to have figured that out as well as many now offer an M1911 clone (to a widely varying degree of parts interchangeability or non interchangeability). John Moses Browning’s most famous handgun contribution, the sidearm that saw the US through seventy years of official service, continues to win hearts and minds. Even though modern designs are lighter, shoot more and may even be less finicky: the 1911 still matters.

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On the 100th anniversary of Colt’s 1911 adoption by the US military, Ruger introduced their modern offering in 2011. Out of the box, the stainless pistol offers improved Novak style three-dot sights, widened ejection port, a beavertail grip safety, extended manual safety, attractive rosewood grips and an adjustable trigger. In short almost everything a “standard” 1911 would need to be upgraded with for both defense and sport. The only thing it might be missing is an extended slide stop (1911 purists have fits of apoplexy when this lever is used as a slide release). True to the legend of the 1911, the Ruger SR1911 looks and feels every bit a trusted piece of hardware.

Sight plane

The standard, full sized pistol has a slide length of 8.67”, making the sight radius 8.5” nominally. The slide is also dove cut for the sights so replacements can be installed if so desired.

Barrel Length

Again, for the full sized, the barrel length is 5”. Though Ruger shortly after and continues to make a “Commander” length with a 4.25” barrel as well as a light weight commander in the same size.

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Grip frame size

While the mainspring housing on the 1911 can be replaced with a version that provides a palm swell, the Ruger SR1911 is shipped with a straight spring housing. The 1911 style rosewood grips can also be replaced, though a reasonable question would be “why?” as they are fine looking and perfectly serviceable, with classic diamond cuts that are interrupted only by the discrete Ruger phoenix head medallion.

Balance of the build

While applicable to any type of traditional use, the standard Ruger SR1911 appears not to be built for carry but for use. It weighs 39 ounces unloaded and that sort of weight is noticeable to anyone weaned on polymer framed pistols. Slide, barrel bushing and frame are all milled from the same block of stainless steel. This makes a strong and easy shooting pistol, but the tolerances are extremely tight: the pistol’s action can be difficult to close on an empty chamber with an unloaded magazine: it is often hypothesized that one may go broke before shooting enough ammunition through it in an effort to loosen the action up.

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Sight choices and accessory options

Novak style three dot sights are standard out of the box, but as mentioned above, the slide is dove cut for both front and rear sight replacement if so desired. This offers yet another “upgrade” option that 1911 builders and customizers will find a boon as many 1911 style slides would have to have said dove cuts milled for sight replacement or upgrades. The Ruger comes with a lot, but offers simpler upgrade mod capability if that is the end user’s intent.


Ruger ships the 5” model with one 8 round and one 7 round, “flush” magazine that is also made of stainless steel.

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Ruger SR1911 review: Final thoughts

There is plenty of competition in the 1911 market starting with Rock Islands and ATIs to Springfields and Colts all the way up to Wilson and STI. The Ruger is priced at the medium grade Springfield category, above Filipino based Rock Island Armory, and below the competitive names of custom gun makers. Aesthetically it can be compared to a Kimber but maintains its rugged Ruger reputation. While it does not have the pedigree of a Colt with its pony stamp, or the branding of the 1-3000 dollar guns, it is ready to be a workhorse and offers features that only come standard for a bit more from “those other guys.”

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