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Review: Ruger SR1911 in 10mm

Firearms


Ask a group of gun writers which gun you should buy for your first 1911, and there is a good chance most of them will tell you to buy the Ruger SR1911.  Actually, the same is true of Ruger’s AR-556 when the topic is buying your first AR-15, but that’s a different article.  The Ruger SR1911 gives 1911 fans everything they need and nothing they don’t at a very reasonable price.  And over the past thirty years, the goalpost has definitely moved; “entry level” 1911s these days have all the features and controls of custom 1911s from the 1980s and 1990s.

Since its initial 5-inch Government Model-sized .45 ACP, Ruger has introduced numerous versions of the SR1911, and one of the newest is the SR1911 chambered in 10mm.

Ruger-SR1911-in-10mm-specsRuger doesn’t differentiate by name which SR1911 is which, so this is simply the SR1911 chambered in 10mm (model number 6739, if you’re interested).  FYI, Ruger, if you’re going to start naming models, I suggest the SR1911 ‘Hurricane’ for this one, mostly because it is totally politically incorrect and might offend snowflakes.

This is a full-size “Government Model”-sized all-stainless steel 1911 with a lot of unique features to allow the gun to handle the recoil forces of the powerful 10mm.  Both the frame and slide are cast stainless steel that is then CNC machined.  The end result, while not being as tight as a custom meticulously hand-fit 1911, is still far tighter with more consistent tolerances than any factory 1911 from the pre-CNC era.

The pistol is equipped with a bull barrel that is constructed of stainless steel but then given a black nitrided finish for durability and (I think) looks, as all the other small moving parts on the gun are black as well. The barrel is ramped and the chamber fully supported, which is what you want with a high-pressure cartridge like the 10mm.

The 10mm cartridge is a bit of a thumper, so in addition to the heavy bull barrel adding weight toward the muzzle, this SR1911 is equipped with a full-length stainless steel guide rod and a heavy recoil spring.  Ruger advertises the weight of this pistol as 40.4 ounces, but that is with an empty magazine inserted. Empty weight is 38 ounces.

As for sights, this 10mm has a fully adjustable all-steel Bomar-style rear sight. The rear sight blade is fully serrated.  The front sight is a serrated ramp .125″ wide.  The Bomar rear sight was meant to be tough enough for defensive use, while offering full adjustability.  I think offering this pistol with an adjustable rear sight is a good idea, considering how varied the 10mm ammo offerings are in power—many of them will have different points of impact, especially at distance.

Here are some country music lyrics for you, “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.”  Or maybe that was Shakespeare.  Anyway, that sentiment applies to the bevel Ruger applies to the bottom corner of the SR1911s slide.  Most people won’t even notice it, or if they do, might not know why it’s important.  Trust me, it is.  The first 1911 I ever owned was a Colt bought in 1993, and the bottom edge of that slide was so sharp that it was a rare USPSA match when I didn’t walk away bleeding slightly (because I choked up on the gun with a proper thumb-high hold).

The long three-hole aluminum trigger on this pistol has become such standard equipment that many people probably aren’t aware there were ever any alternatives.  Trigger pull on my sample was 4.75 lbs., which is very serviceable for a factory 1911 trigger.

Slight aside:  Ruger, for years, was known as the gun company that never met a firearms lawyer it didn’t like, and loved sticking safeties and etched warning labels all over its guns.  It has moved away from this in the last five years or so.  While it couldn’t help itself from putting the “READ INSTRUCTION MANUAL BEFORE USING FIREARM” warning on the underside of the dust cover of the SR1911, I love, LOVE, that it didn’t equip this pistol with a Series ’80-type firing pin safety.

Series ’80-type firing pin safeties muck up what is otherwise a crisp, clean trigger pull, and I feel a quality trigger pull (so you can hit the bad guy/charging bear/whatever) is far more important to the safety of the user than an additional safety on a firearm already equipped with two.

The lack of a firing pin safety means that this pistol could, theoretically, fire if dropped on its muzzle on a hard surface, but the truth many SIG P320 haters seem to be unaware of is that many guns are not drop-safe. Here’s a warning label for you: LOADED GUNS ARE INHERENTLY DANGEROUS.  TRY NOT TO DROP THEM. Ruger elected to equip the SR1911 with a titanium firing pin, which greatly reduces the already-low chances of the pistol firing when dropped muzzle-down on a hard surface.

Ruger-SR1911-in-10mm-triggerAs I mentioned, all of the small moving parts on the pistol (except the trigger) are black, which provides a nice contrast.  The safety is single-sided and extended.  The beavertail looks to be on a Wilson frame cut and features a bump on the bottom for more positive deactivation.  The mainspring housing is steel and checkered 25 lines per inch (lpi). The magazine release is both checkered and extended, but it does not stick out so far that you need worry about accidentally ejecting a magazine.

The provided grips on the pistol are black rubber with a double-diamond checkered pattern. With the checkered mainspring housing, they provide a sure grip on the gun, but if this was my pistol, I’d still slap some skateboard tape on the front strap.  Back in the day, I owned a 1911 set up just about like this pistol and did just that.  Eventually, the grip tape will chew through your shirt if you carry the gun every day as I did, but the peace of mind knowing the pistol absolutely won’t slip in your hand when things get spicy is worth a t-shirt or two, in my opinion. The grip panels are held in place with black hex head grip screws.  With all the color coordination on this pistol, I’m surprised Ruger didn’t use stainless screws.

Casual fans of the 1911 may not even be aware of where the plunger tube is, or what it does.  It is the steel tube on the left side of the frame at the top of the grip panel that holds a spring and two pins. The pins press against the thumb safety and slide release and provide detents/resistance for those pivoting levers when they move up and down.  Traditionally, the plunger tube is a separate piece that is staked onto the frame, but this arrangement has always been less than ideal.  Plunger tubes work themselves loose; it is a fact of life with the 1911. Let me relate a personal incident that is far from unique.

In my recent novel WHORL, I equip one of the armored car company employees with a Colt Stainless Steel Delta Elite 10mm. This is more truth than fiction, as my part ner, when I worked for an armored-car company in Detroit more than twenty years ago, carried that exact gun—and had an issue with it that could have gotten him killed.

My partner Darrin went to drop the thumb safety on his Delta Elite at some point in a non-emergency setting, and found, to his surprise, it wouldn’t move.  Investigation showed us that the rear of the plunger tube had worked itself loose, and the detent pin, which normally provides resistance to the thumb safety, was now wedged underneath the thumb safety lever, preventing it from being disengaged, so the gun could not be fired.

Why am I mentioning this?  Because the plunger tube on this and every Ruger SR1911 is one piece with the frame, integrally cast. In this era of CNC-machined frames, every company making 1911s should be doing this, but very few companies are, and in my opinion, it is a very simple way to eliminate a potential problem.

Ruger-SR1911-in-10mm-magThe pistol ships with two 8-round stainless steel magazines.  Flush 9-round 10mm magazines are available from a lot of places, including Ed Brown and Wilson Combat.  The magazine-well opening is nicely beveled to help smooth out reloads, although if you are serious about using this or any 1911 for competition, you’ll want to bolt on an extended magazine well.

Recently, someone asked me why the 10mm was seeing a resurgence right when the .40 S&W is dying a rapid and ugly death.  The two cartridges, after all, do more than share a bore diameter, the .40 wouldn’t exist but for the 10mm. There are two reasons for this, in my opinion: the cartridges themselves, and modern technology.

First, the .40 S&W was designed specifically to be a lighter-recoiling 10mm. As the FBI was developing bullet-testing protocol, it was moving to autoloaders and wanted bullets bigger and heavier than the 9mm, and liked the 10mm’s performance, but it had too much recoil. To solve that problem, first came a downloaded 10mm (the “10mm Lite”), then S&W developed the .40 S&W cartridge to offer the performance of the 10mm Lite in a 9mm-length envelope.

The .40 S&W was specifically designed to be “better” than the 9mm, because it fired a bigger, heavier bullet.  However, after a few decades of bullet-design improvements, the 9mm began performing just as well against bad guys, while offering more magazine capacity and lower recoil. As a result, law enforcement agencies and the general public are leaving the .40 S&W in droves.

The 10mm, especially with the original loads, was and is quite powerful.  In fact, it was too powerful for the guns of that day, which, at the very outset, consisted of the Bren Ten, S&W 1006, and the Colt Delta Elite.  It wasn’t a question of if the guns would break under the recoil, but how soon.

Tarr likes full-length  recoil spring guide  rods because they  allow you to take the  whole top end off the  gun in one piece.

Tarr likes full-length recoil spring guide rods because they
allow you to take the whole top end off the gun in one piece.

The Glock 20 was the first, and for a long time the only, pistol chambered in 10mm that could handle the recoil of the cartridge. But now that metallurgy and manufacturing processes have improved, finding a 1911 or other type pistol that can handle the 10mm, even in its original bruiser loadings, isn’t hard at all. Not only is the steel used of better quality, companies like Ruger tailor their pistols to handle the power of this cartridge, like offering it with a bull barrel and full-length guide rod.  And, a full-power 10mm can do things a 9mm or even a .45 ACP cannot.  It is considered by many to be the only conventional semi-auto pistol cartridge suitable for hunting.

All this talk of how the 10mm had too much recoil even for FBI agents might be a bit misleading. In a full-size all-steel 1911, the 10mm has only slightly more recoil than the .45 ACP. However, for people with small hands and/or little hand strength, or people with little to no prior firearms experience, that can be quite a handful, especially if you’re shooting hundreds of rounds of it during a qualification course.

While the 10mm performs very well in an anti-personnel role, its current popularity seems tied to its utility as a cartridge suitable for hunting game such as hogs and white-tail deer. Ted Nugent is perhaps the most well-known person I can think of who has hunted regularly with a 10mm handgun, although I believe his gat of choice is the Glock 20.

I had a lot of fun at the range with the Ruger.  It had been a while since I’d put some 10mms downrange, and enjoyed the thumping. The Ruger ran just fine, without a single hiccup.

Of all the loads I tested, the Hornady 155-grain XTP had the most blast and recoil, but it also had the lowest extreme spread, standard deviation, and best accuracy. Out of the Ruger’s 4-inch barrel, that bullet did 1320 fps.  Personally, I like the lighter/faster loads for the 10mm, with bullets in the 155–165-grain range pushing 1300+ fps.

I mentioned at the start of this article how today’s factory 1911s offer features that, just a short time ago, were only available on custom guns. Let me give you a quick rundown of the examples of “custom” features just on this gun: low-mounted Bomar-style rear sight, bottom of slide beveled, beveled magazine well, and bull barrel.  That list doesn’t even include the checkered mainspring housing, beavertail grip safety, long trigger, and extended thumb safety that have become standard equipment on every 1911, or the integral plunger tube, which was not available anywhere for most of the 1911’s existence. All that custom gunsmith work would cost as much as the gun itself, if not more.

The SR1911 in 10mm is a perfect example of how newcomers to the 1911 are being spoiled. Enjoy it.

Ruger-SR1911-in-10mm-accuracy

 



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