Sunday, October 15, 2006

Taurus PT 1911 .45 ACP Pistol

In a recent posting about the Taurus Tracker in .44 magnum I outlined the history of Taurus Manufacturing and their track record in the United States. Rather than repeat that let’s look at the history of the pistol design being reviewed this week. I am sure most readers will already know this but anyway here we go:
The model 1911 is a single action, semi-automatic handgun chambered for the .45 ACP cartridge designed by firearms genius John M. Browning. The “.45” became the standard issue handgun for the U.S. armed forces from 1911 to 1985 serving through World War I, World War II, and the Korean and Vietnam Wars.

It is farily well known that the .45 ACP was designed to meet the needs of our armed forces after it was found that the handgun and cartridge issued at the later part of the 19th Century, the Colt New Service chambered in .38 Long Colt, was a less than stellar manstopper. The Colt New Service was a double action revolver with a swing out cylinder which was faster to load and fire than the Model 1873 single-action .45 Colt revolvers that it replaced. However, during the Philippine-American War it was found that the Moro guerilla warriors could absorb several hits from the .38 Long Colt revolvers and continue to attack. Before the fight the Moro warriors woud tightly wrap their torsos in leather and work themselves into a drug induced frenzy. Many of our military units put their single action .45 Colt revolvers back into service causing the government to procure and ship new double action Colt revolvers chambered for the .45 Colt cartridge. This also caused the government to open up bids for a new handgun specifically a semi-automatic in .45 caliber. Colt offered their John Browning design and manufacturers as diverse at the Savage Arms Company and DWM (Deutsche Waffen und Munitionsfabriken) of Germany answered the call. DWM offerred up their famous Luger in .45 Caliber which has become a quite a collector’s item with only a few known to still exist today.

John Browning’s design prevailed and the Colt .45 ACP semi-automatic pistol was adopted in March of 1911 thus gaining the designation of Colt M1911. As we enterred World War I the pistol was greatly coveted by the soldiers involved in both the defense and attack of trenches. General John J. Pershing wanted one issued to every soldier. Unfortunately manufacturing could not meet the demand and the Springfield Armory was allowed to manufacture the pistols while both Colt and Smith & Wesson supplemented the Armed Forces with revolvers chambered for the .45 ACP. These revolvers utilized half moon clips to feed and extract the rimless round in these revolvers which normally require a rimmed cartridge for positive extraction.

In World War II the demand was so great that the M1911 was produced not only by Colt but also by Remington, Ithaca Gun Company, Union Switch and Signal, Springfield Armory, Rock Island Arsenal, and the Singer Sewing Maching company.

The Demise of Colt
For reasons, way beyond my understanding, Colt has failed to maintain their handgun manufacturing advantage. Witness first the Colt Single Action “Peacemaker-styled” revolver. This style of handgun is synonomous with name of Colt. However if you went out to buy this type of revolver today you would probably come back with one manufactured by Ruger or by Uberti of Italy (which manufactures the vintage styled revolvers for Beretta, Cimarron Arms, and EAA). The Rugers and Ubertis are plentiful, reasonably priced, updated and improved.

Witness second the M1911. The Colt moniker was again synonomous with this handgun design. After WWII if you mentioned a “.45” you were probably talking about the Colt 1911. There were other manufacturers, primarily foreign, but their offerring were usually less expensive, less accurate, poorly made and generally disrespected by the gun buying public. The Colt dominance began to shift over the last 20 years. First many 1911 purists were not happy with some of the design enhancements Colt put on their “Series 80” pistols. Most handgunners lamented the way that the magazine safety affected the trigger pull. The Second blow to Colt’s supremacy was the adoption of the Beretta 92 9mm to replace the Colt M1911. After this occurred it seemed that Colt made fewer and fewer handguns and toward the end of the 1980’s and as they manufactured fewer the prices steadily climbed. Then enterred Kimber. Kimber dealt the death-blow to the Colt manufactured 1911 by making it cheaper and better! Kimber produced a pistol with most of the custom goodies you would want for the same price of a stock Colt 1911. The American gun buying public flocked to Kimber and this opened the way for Springfield who also began to produce a high-quality 1911 .45 ACP pistol. While high-capacity 9mm pistols gained a lot of favor in the 1990’s the .45 ACP still ruled the roost as a better manstopper. The great Miami FBI massacre first showed the limitations of the 9mm cartridge in a semi-automatic pistol. Then came the famous North Hollywood LAPD Robbery shootout. Shortly thereafter the resergence of the .45 ACP as a Law Enforcement round began. LAPD SWAT now carries a .45 ACP pistol as do many other municipal, county, state and federal law enforcement agencies carry. Some favor a M1911 single-action pistol while others have adapted double action pistols from Glock, Para Ordnance, Springfield and Smith & Wesson. Ironically many military special unts are opting to carry a M1911 in .45 ACP not being happy with the performance of the 9mm cartridge.

Taurus PT 1911 .45 ACP Pistol
This leads us to the Taurus. There are those handgun snobs who still disrespect the Taurus handguns. To them I say "too bad for you", you are missing out on great firearms at reasonable prices. The Taurus PT 1911 is a prime example of this. Here are the features included in the PT 1911:
Full length guide rod & reverse plug.
Henie Straight Eight sights.
Serrated slide rear and front.
Checkered 30-lpi trigger guard.
Checkered 30-lpi mainspring housing.
Checkered 30 lpi frontstrap.
Ambidextrous safety.
Beavertail grip safety with memory pad.
Target Hammer.
Skeleton serrated trigger.
Trigger job.
Custom fit barrel (air guaged bushing).
Custom slide to frame fit.
Polished feedramp and barrel throat.
Lowered and flared ejection port.
Custom internal extractor.
Extended magazine release button.
Beveled magazine well.
Extra 8 round magazine (both with base pad included).

Some of these refinements may be superflous (I don’t know what checkering the bottom of the trigger guard adds to the pistol) and some are not (Heine sights, custom fitting, polished feed ramp and barrel throat, trigger job, and extra magazine). Regardless you get all of this on a pistol that cost me $449.00 before sales tax. That’s right…all of this for $449.00 or about a third of the price for a basic customized Colt, and less than half the cost of a similarly featured Kimber (heck, Kimber never gives you an extra magazine).
(Click on image to enlarge. Target on the right: 8 rounds of 230 grain FMJ fired at 21 feet. Target on the left: 50 rounds of the same ammo fired at 50 feet)
The trigger is outstanding. No creep and it breaks crisply at 3 pounds. The Heine Straight Eight sights take a little getting used to after being raised on 3-dot sights but they are very fast to pick up and make an outstanding combat accessory. The Black finish is not pretty, but appears to be very durable. The grips are very thin, but I like ‘em. This is not really a target pistol but a very fine combat pistol indeed. Yes, a very fine combat pistol with many target pistol add-ons. If you see one on your gun dealer’s shelf buy it quickly. If you procrastinate it won’t be there when you come back, not with the price and value Taurus is offerring.