Another 1911 review. Yup, here we go again. Why? Well, why not? The old 1911 is experiencing a resurgence the likes of which it has not ever seen before. I daresay the 1911 is more popular now than ever. Not bad for a 109-year-old design, eh? Why is it so popular? Here are a couple of thoughts on that.
The 1911’s Popularity
Question: Did you ever have a car, truck, van, motorcycle, etc. that you really, really liked and because of that, you kept it for years past what other folks said was its “useful life”? You know, during the times that your friends and neighbors were trading their vehicles in on a fairly consistent basis, you kept your _________ (fill in the blank-I know what my answer would be). Your friends kept asking you “why don’t you ditch that old piece of ****? Don’t you know that a new car/van/truck would be so much better?” To which you replied, “it still works and takes me from point A to point B.” In your mind, there’s no reason to just get rid of something that has proven its worth for something that is newer, just for the sake of trading. So, you keep your old car or whatever. Thus goes the 1911. Why, in the year 2020 with its preponderance of polymer-framed, striker-fired wonder pistols, is the old warhorse still so popular? One of the reasons, I daresay, is because it isn’t a poly-framed wonder gun. Huh? But, everyone knows that the double-stack striker-fired gun is superior in every way, right? Ahh…not so sure about that, are we? How does the old 1911 compare to its newer cousin? Let’s look at a quick, informal chart I drew up. Of course, this is strictly my opinion, but it is one born of several decades of carrying, shooting, buying (and selling) guns and observing others doing the same. I have been an interested observer of the shooter’s mind and habits for over 40 years and have studied the topic fairly extensively.
The 1911 Vs. The Polymer Striker
|Action:||SA||DA/SA, pre-cocked SA or other|
|Frame:||Metal, with some polymer frames out there||polymer|
|Frame Width:||generally thin||could be thin or chunky, depends on caliber|
|Slide:||usually round profile at top, thin||usually square at top, with exceptions|
|Trigger:||SA, can be tuned to 3 pounds or so||SA or DA, usually around 5 pounds stock, can be tuned|
|Safeties:||Grip, Thumb, Drop (Series 80)||Usually bladed trigger, drop, sometimes thumb|
|Sizes:||Officers, Commander, Government||Anything from tiny to jumbo|
|Calibers:||Usually .45, 9mm, .38 Super, 10mm||Several to choose from, from .380 up|
|Grips:||Replaceable, customizable||Usually molded into grip frame|
|Backstrap:||Grip safety, beavertail, mainspring housing||Sometimes replaceable, different sizes|
|Sights:||Usually dovetailed, replaceable||Usually dovetailed, replaceable|
|Weight:||Heavy. Just heavy. Like, 40 ounces||Lighter, usually|
|Optics:||Not too easily attached, by and large||Some models are equipped for optics|
|Holsters:||Too many to count. Everyone makes one||Some models are easier to come by than others|
|Tune-ability:||Very easy to find someone to tune a 1911||Easier than it used to be but still no 1911|
|Reputation:||Saw us through 2 World Wars and others||Still earning a reputation, usually very good|
|Overall:||The choice of select special forces units and many discriminating shooters||The police and civilian weapon of choice|
So, take from this what you will. The 1911 is here to stay, and is more popular than ever…just look at sales numbers. In case you’re wondering if I’m a bit prejudiced towards the old warhorse, I’m the first to admit that I am. I have owned several…
- Colt Commander, blue
- AMT Hardballer, stainless
- Llama full size, stainless
- Taurus PT1911 full size, blue
- Citadel full size, blue
- Rock Island Armory Compact (Officers-size), Parkerized
I like the platform. I currently do not own one, but I think that will be rectified before year’s end. I’m thinking maybe a 10mm… that seems the next logical step up from the .45, plus it’s deer-legal in my state. I truly like the way they shoot, the way they feel in my hand. The single-stack grip is just thin enough for me to get a good grip on the thing, and with some decently-checkered wood or G10 grips, the gun stays put in my paw.
So, Where Did The 1911 Come From?
I’ve written several reviews and articles about various 1911s. They include:
- Best 1911 For The Money
- Best 1911 In 9mm
- Best Budget 1911
- Colt Combat Commander
- Colt Delta Elite
- Kimber Custom II
- Springfield Emperor Scorpion
- Taurus PT1911
And, in terms of some of the best ammo for 1911s (or any gun, for that matter), check these out:
In terms of a bit of background on John Browning’s wonderchild, check out my history of the 1911 here. It’s an interesting read, about an interesting gun. What truly amazed me as I researched the history of the gun was that it was the first semi-auto pistol adopted by any U.S. military branch, and that happened way back in 1911. Talk about forward-thinking…
Carrying The 1911
I’ve had some experience with the old girl…as the saying goes, I’d brung her to more than a few dances. I even carried one for a while, which is saying something since I’m a fairly round 5-foot-nothing guy and have few places to hide the 5-inch barreled mini field gun that some call a pistol, but carry it I did. (Check out our article on CCW insurance) As with any pistol, the barrel is not the hard part to conceal. It’s the grip. That’s what will print through your clothes if it sticks out. And, the 1911 grip is not very conducive to hiding well in a concealed carry holster, at least in its stock square-butt persona. Some companies make what they call a bob-tailed frame…that’s a frame with the lower rear corner cut at an angle so as to take the “point” off the frame bottom. It’s amazing how that, if you remove a relatively small amount of metal, it makes a really big difference when you carry it. It just doesn’t stick out as much. Anyway, enough about carrying a 1911 … what about the gun we’re examining, the Citadel?
The Citadel 1911
The Citadel 1911 is made by the Armscor Global Defense, Inc. Company in the Philippines. This company makes guns and sells them under different names…one of the brands that they make and that you might recognize is Rock Island Armory. Yearly, Armscor makes over 200,000 guns and almost half a billion rounds of ammo, 80% of which is exported to more than 60 countries. It is an ISO 9001-certified company located in Marikina City. In addition to Citadel and Rock Island, other 1911 gun brands made by Armscor include Charles Daly, STI’s Spartan and Cimarron Firearm’s pre-1923 pistols. I owned a Rock island 1911 (see above), and it was well-made. Not flashy, but reliable. I had a reason to call RIA’s customer service – it was missing the ambidextrous safety that was supposed to come on it – and talked to Ivan in Nevada. I had the part, plus extra goodies, in three days. This is just to say that the guns are well-made and are backed by very good customer service. Anyway, the Citadel and other pistols made by Armscor tend to be good buys for the money.
Here are the specs, then some photos of the Citadel. This example belongs to one of our sons, who graciously offered it to me to review. It is obvious that this is not a new gun – he has carried it and shot it a lot. It has holster wear on the metal, but to me this is a good thing…it means it’s not a safe queen. This gun just works. I think sometimes we tend to go a bit overboard writing about guns that are very well built but may not be available to a lot of shooters due to their higher cost. That’s why I try to keep it real by reviewing other guns that are within reach of that segment of the shooting population yet are good buys that function well. The Citadel is a great example of this.
Specifications, Citadel Full-Size 1911
|Importer:||Legacy Sports International|
|Sights:||Novak-style, drift-adjustable rear|
|Overall Length:||8.5 inches|
|Width:||1.38 inches (across the safety levers)|
|Barrel Length:||5 inches|
|Stocks:||Checkered wood grip panels|
|Trigger Pull Weight:||Average of 4 pounds, 9 ounces – very crisp|
|Capacity:||8+1, 2 magazines included|
|Safeties:||Extended, ambidextrous thumb; extended beavertail grip|
|Finish:||Matte black, parkerized|
|Other Features:||1911 round trigger guard, Series 70 firing system; full length guide rod, skeletonized hammer|
|Ships In:||Lockable plastic case|
|Real-World Price:||~ $520 - $540|
*it has been suggested by various owners that they were told by Armscor Precision International in Nevada that Citadel guns would be treated like Rock Island Armory guns, with their lifetime warranty. Prospective buyers should do their own research into this. Technically, it is 5 years.
Here are some photos of the gun. As stated, you will see wear marks and other signs that the gun has been shot, but all that means to me is that the thing works well so it gets used. Anyway, here you are…
Note the full-length guide rod – it does not have a hole for a paper clip in order to capture the spring for takedown, so remember to keep a thumb over the plug when you take it apart. Nothing new here…it’s your typical 1911 drill.
Notice the non-cut-out frame just above the plunger button…read my review of the Colt Delta Elite (Battered Frame Syndrome, about halfway down) to see how Colt handled their frames’ stress cracking by removing some metal above the slide stop cutout. It’s really interesting how they solved that issue. I’ve noticed in my several reviews of 1911s that some companies will follow Colt’s example and remove that part of the frame while others mill their frames like this Citadel, where an “arch” of metal is left intact. Again, interesting reading.
Also note the skeletonized trigger with an overtravel screw in its base (can’t really see it here). The thumb safety is extended and ambidextrous, and the hammer is obviously not the typical spur-type. Not sure what he did to the grip panel…! Must’ve backed into a belt sander… Seriously, he told me that he copied a trick that he got from watching a Jerry Miculek video. He said Jerry does this to some wooden grips so that sweat won’t build up on the grip – the scratches make a channel – but the grip is still slick enough to allow re-positioning in the hand if needed. Not sure if it works, but my son swears it does.
Here’s a good vantage point to see the extended thumb safety levers…longer but thinner as well so they don’t get moved inadvertently. You can also see a good shot of the windage-adjustable rear sight…the sights are excellent.
You can replace the sights if desired. Also note the forward slide serrations…great for press-checks.
Just in case you might forget what handgun caliber gun you bought…
Shooting The Citadel
I am a fairly busy guy, so I don’t a chance to shoot as much as I’d like sometimes. Today was no exception. I wanted a target to photograph for this review, and I knew the gun didn’t have to prove itself – my son has had excellent accuracy from this particular piece. So, I settled for a quick 8-round magazine of some plain Monarch 230-grain full metal jacket roundnose cartridges. I have some other types of .45 ACP self-defense ammo, but sometimes I just like to shoot what the gun was originally designed to shoot – great big ol’ FMJ punkin balls. (It is interesting to note, however, that the .45 ACP in its original loading shot a 200-grain FMJ – it wasn’t until a little later in its career that the move was made to 230-grain bullets to improve ballistics a bit). I also didn’t try any of my several .45 ACP handloads in this gun, although my son has shot several of them over time through it. I stuck to factory loads. This Monarch load chronographed right at 838 f.p.s. and is made by Prvi Partizan in Serbia. It is decent ammunition. (For more on .45 ACP ammo, check out my article on that subject here).
Anyway, this gun is more than accurate enough for whatever purpose you want to use it for. I’ve even seen some Rock Island .45s being used in slowfire competitions, and this gun is made by the same company that makes those. With a match barrel and bushing and maybe some sight and trigger work, this would be one serious 1911. But…it ain’t bad the way it is now. For a little over $500, you can get a working, accurate gun out of the box that should work for you just fine. Add in the warranty backing it has and you have a winner.
Looking for an inexpensive full-size 1911? Check out a Citadel. It’s no wonder that, as I perused web sites checking on real-world prices for this gun, most of the places I checked were out of stock on Citadel 1911s…that says something in and of itself. If you’ve had experience with one of these critters, please tell us about it below. As always, shoot straight and be safe!
Mike has been a shooter, bullet caster and reloader for over 40 years. Never one to be satisfied with the status quo, he is often found at his reloading bench concocting yet another load. With a target range in his backyard and after 40 years of shooting, his knowledge of firearms and reloading is fairly extensive. He is married, with four sons and daughters-law and 8-and-counting grandkids.