Wednesday, December 05, 2012

SIG 1911 Ultra .45 ACP

The Ultra is SIG's entry into the small 3 inch barreled 1911 market.  For many, many years of my life the conventional wisdom said that making a 1911 shorter than a 4.25 inch barrel was sheer folly.  Conventional wisdom told us that the short slide would recoil and return too quickly rendering the pistol completely unreliable.  Conventional wisdom surmised that the recoil would be too intense, and conventional wisdom determined that the short barrel would lose a tremendous amount of velocity because the powder in .45 ACP cartridges required 5 inches of barrel to burn completely.  The great thing about the market place is that demand drives innovation and the shooting public wanted their beloved 1911 in a smaller size.  Where the conventional wisdom saw roadblocks talented gunsmiths saw challenges in need of solutions.  

As more and more states began granting concealed weapon permits the public wanted smaller pistols to be chambered in larger calibers and one by one the talented gunsmiths began to overcome the challenges that the conventional wisdom felt were neither possible nor practical.  

The solution to the reliability problem also assisted with the recoil issue.  In order to get the pistol to function the gunsmiths experimented with heavier recoil springs so that the recoil and return of the slide was timed properly.  The eventually led to the development of full length guide rods paired with double and triple recoil spring systems.  They made the dis-assembly of the pistol a little more difficult but the pistols worked.  The stout spring systems also impeded the intense recoil that the shooter would normally experience.  Now, don't get me wrong, these little blasters are still a handful to shoot but they can be managed and many are capable of accuracy levels that exceeds most shooters expectations.  The last conundrum was solved by the ammo companies who began producing powers that burned quicker and mitigated some of the velocity loss with the 3 inch barrel.

So, let's talk about SIG.  From the moment I fired my first SIG 1911 I immediately realized that SIG put their heart and sole into their new line-up.  Some quick research showed me that the SIG 1911's were produced with parts representing a Who's Who of premium 1911 gunsmiths.   I'm not going to resubmit the list mentioned in an earlier SIG 1911 review as I do not know that the suppliers are still current but it was impressive.

SIG produces two 1911's which I feel are near perfect carry pistols in the C3 and the RCS.  The grip length on those pistols and the Ultra is the same but the C3 and the RCS have 4.2 inch barrels whereas the Ultra has shaved almost an inches off the barrel length sitting at 3.3 inches.

One of the marvels in the SIG 1911 is their design and engineering.  Yes they are 1911 pistols but they have a flair all their own.  The shape of the slide is very attractive and on the Ultra is it set off by the squared profile and the tasteful and useful beveling at the front of the slide.  This both removes a little weight and make holstering the pistol just a tad easier.

As can be seen in the above three photos, the Ultra sports very good looking double diamond checkered rosewood grips that also have the SIG SAUER name/logo cut into them.

The ultra comes with low profile SIG night sights that are dovetailed into the slide.  The rear sight also contains a set screw helping to hold it in place.

The inclusion of the set screw in the rear sight might lead you to believe that the rear sight is drift adjustable for horizontal corrections.  It is but trust me, leave that to a qualified gun smith. Chances of you being able to adjust the sight with your mallet and brass punch are slim.  The good news is that it will be very difficult to knock them out of alignment.

The finish between the black hard Anodized frame and the matte stainless slide are a perfect match.  The frame includes a beavertail to protect the web of your hand from hammer bite.  The front strap is checkered and the grip safety includes a flared extension to ensure the proper engagement once you take hold of the grip.  The trigger pull averaged 5.1 pounds on my scale.

In terms of the rest of the specifications the pistol is 6.8 inches in length, 4.8 inches in height, 1.4 inches wide, weighs 28 ounces, and the magazine hold 7 rounds.

Unlike other small pistols no special tools were required to remove the guide rod/recoil system.

One of the great engineering feats of this pistol was the smooth and tight fit between the slide, barrel, link and guide rod/recoil system.  Note the flat rather than coiled recoil spring.

I was especially taken with the fit of the barrel link into the base of the guide rod.  This was the first 1911 where the the link lined up perfectly with the slide stop pin each time I reassembled the pistol.

Target Time

With most pistols I have a tendency to shoot a little low and to the left.
This trend continued with the Ultra as can be seen in target above and below.  Both were shot at 21 feet using Magtech 230 grain full metal jacket ammunition.    The top target took the first 12 rounds fired through the pistol and the bottom target took 20 rounds.

The target below was shot with 25 rounds of the same ammo and at the same distance.  A little adjustment of my trigger finger moved the group a little closer to center.

During my test period with the Ultra I was in the midst of a .45 ACP defensive load drought.  I did have a nice supply of Remington Ultimate Home Defense 230 grain Bonded Jacketed Hollowpoint ammo and the 21 foot target below shows 12 rounds fired with six of them landing in the 10 ring.

I must say that the recoil on the SIG Ultra seemed stouter than the three inch barreled Kimber pistols which I have owned in the past.  

All in all the Ultra is one of the more attractive micro 1911's on the market.  If you are not stymied by the Single Action Only operating system of a 1911 pistol the Ultra has a lot going for it.  It is small, it has night sights, and it groups well.  It holds 7 + 1 rounds of mighty .45 ACP ammo and if you need more a spare magazine rides easily in your pocket.


K. F. Peters said...

I never bothered with even looking at 1911's, too expensive to buy and shoot, besides the design is ancient.

Yet I now have two guns that are similar to the 1911, a Sig P238 and a Ruger 22/45 and I love shooting both. So now I'm almost considering 1911.

What is your take on this vs. a Sig P938?

Average Joe's Handgun Reviews said...

Mr. Peters,

Both are great pistols. The 938 will have less recoil, be less expensive to shoot, and will fit in your pocket. If those things are important to you then go with the 938.

If you desire the power of the .45 then the Ultra is good. As always, if you can borrow or rent these pistols you would be able to better come to a decision. However, that may be tough to do.

Anonymous said...

"This was the first 1911 where the link lined up perfectly with the slide stop pin each time I reassembled the pistol."

I found that the slide slop was a little too course for a fine fit and replaced the MIM part with a 10-8 Performance drop-in stainless steel slide stop. It allowed much easier slide stop installation; no more fiddling around, trying to find just the right angle where it slips in easily.

My grip of choice is the Pearce OM-2 rubber grips. To my hands they give a much better feel than the checkered stock double diamond wood grips which have a little too much "bite".

Another excellent choice would probably be the Crimson Trace laser grips.

And like most 1911s one can change the trigger to one that is much shorter or change the beavertail safety to one that feels more natural.

My magazines of choice are the Wilson Combat and Tripp Research mags. The stock Sig mags fit flush with the frame and can slow down mag changes. A mag with just a little longer lip should help with reloads although you may be able to just feel them when holding to shoot.

Anonymous said...

I just picked up my sig 1911 ultra. Went straight to the range. I am going to spend a awful lot of cash on ammo. Perfect pistol right out of the box.

463rd TCW said...

Love my ultra. Bought it as a carry replacement while my XDs was on recall. Have carried 1911's since 1964 in Nam and this one will continue to be on my side with the XDs going in the safe. As for recoil for me I barely notice it from my 5" Colt and it's more accurate. Also I carry the 8 round full size clips as backup. I know that's only 2 rounds extra, but I've never heard anyone say "I wish I had more ammo".

Anonymous said...

I have a two piece guide rod that came with my nitron. After shooting 100-200 rounds I noticed that the end piece had started to unscrew, which made removal if the rod and spring impossible until I took a needle nose and tightened it almost flush with the nose of the frame. I also noticed failures to feed, at least once per mag after about twenty rounds. Not sure if this is related, or why The Sig guide rod isn't one piece, After cleaning I added a couple drops of Lok-tite. Any comments, suggestions appreciated.

Just a 1911 shooter said...

With the shorter sig 1911. A locked wrist is needed I
feel more then a normal length 1911.

Anonymous said...

Who makes a recoil spring kit for the ultra carry

Unknown said...

the 938 feels good in the hand however if you have big hands and you use a high grip like with the larger 1911 style the slide can and will bite you. If you are a lady or a man with small hands I cant say enough good about it

Unknown said...

I recently purchased the Sig 1911 Ultra Compact after looking long and hard at Kimbre, Springfield and Colt. All very nice guns but at the end of the day when I looked at the features of the Sig vs the others, plus fit and finish it was too hard to pass on the Sig Ultra. The low profile night sights, two tone finish, beautiful grips, awesome trigger, simple field take down and reassembly just out did the other guys. In your hands you can see and feel the quality. I got it brand new for $855 out the door which just sealed the deal. Shop it, do not pay the retail at over $1,000 + tax some dealers are asking. I took the Ultrra out on 1/30/2016 and fired 250 rounds of 230g FMJ and it exceeded my expectations. At 21' and 60' I shot better than I have with guns with 4-5" barrels. Recoil was no more noticeable than my 4" .40. Target acquisition was fast and easy. If you are looking for a compact .45 I can now recommend the Sig. I was a little worried about the purchase initially because of FTF problems I had read about. As a former career law enforcement officer and police firearms instructor reliability is very important to me as it should be to everyone. I will put 250 more rounds through this gun and then start to rely on it as my primary self defense weapon. Side note: my wife shot 3 mags and loved it. She shot better with it than she did with her .380 G-42.

Unknown said...

Mr. McKnight,

I appreciate your comments/feedback. Very helpful sir. I'm 38 mother of 5 kiddos ranging 15-3 and have owned my Sig P238 for over a year and am totally in love with it. Perfect for CC carry for me considering I'm 5'1 (on a good day) with short upper body/torso that makes my cc option limited. HOWEVER, I am itching for a second firearm and my husband has found an awesome deal on a Sig 1911 Ultra that is my P238's bigger twin. Super excited to have a bigger firearm but was worried about how I would be able to handle it.

Hearing that your wife loved it is refreshing to hear. :)
Looking forward to owning a big boy too. (Big for me at least.)

Unknown said...

Stoked to hear that ladies are enjoying this Sig 1911 Ultra!

I love my P238 but have been wanting something...bigger, yet I can carry. (Vertically challenged 5.1 on a good day.)

Unknown said...

Dear Average Joe. I realize that this article is 4 years old this month..Dec. 2016, but just wanted to say, I've had my Sig Ultra Compact Two Tone about a year now, haven't fired it much at all, but have enjoyed it, the times I have. I've highly personalized/customized mine. Even Sig said they've never seen one done like that!! However, I'm going to try and sell or trade it, evenly, for the Ruger SR 1911 Commander, all Stainless. It's just something I want to do. I've always loved Ruger guns, since the 1960's. I have 2 "Old Model" 3 screws, that are 44 years old, and look as good as the day I purchased them!! It is a great article about a great gun!!