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Ruger is the largest manufacturer of firearms in the United States. I say that, in case you were wondering. The company wears that crown that was a long time coming, since 1949, to be precise. That’s when the company was founded by Bill Ruger and Alexander Sturm. The company was top seller in handguns from 2009-2012 and were just behind Remington in rifle manufacturing, although that statistic will most probably change as Remington is no longer in business. But, in terms of total numbers of all different styles of guns, Ruger is at the top of the heap. There‘s a reason for that. Being a long-time Ruger gun owner, I can sum it up in very few words: build quality, reliability and great customer service. You may read in my (and other) reviews that Rugers are built “like a tank”, basically overbuilt for their intended purpose. This is largely true. Plus, the quality of construction is second to none. Here’s a quick, personal example…we were at a church-sponsored men’s “night out” but it was during daylight at a local gun range. Yeah, I like our church… Anyway, I was invited to try some clay pigeons with a 12-gauge Ruger Red Label O/U. I am probably the worst shot at the range with a shotgun – never had much reason to shoot one – which my time behind the gun proved, alas. But, I did look the gun over with a reviewer’s eye, as I had but briefly held one in the distant past. I was truly impressed with the quality of the metal and the curly-grained stock and fore end. There were no gaps between wood and metal, and every other criteria for consideration was top-notch. Fit, finish, lockup… it was one beautiful shotgun. I have often toyed with the notion of acquiring an O/U shotgun, but have not done so. I do own a semi-automatic Mossberg 12-gauge, purchased many years ago at a now-defunct big box store. It does the job, but isn’t much to look at.
I guess my point is that Ruger makes good, quality guns no matter how long or short they are. That extends to our gun of the day, a 1911 Commander-sized pistol. We’ll look at this gun in a bit of detail, but first, let’s take a walk down Ruger’s memory lane and look at a bit of company history.
Bill Ruger and Alexander Sturm got together in 1949 with the express purpose of building one gun – a .22LR semi-auto pistol. Ruger had gotten hold of a Japanese Nambu WWII pistol or two and had successfully duplicated them into a new design. After teaming with Sturm, they set up shop in a rented machine shop in Southport, Connecticut. He liked the Nambu’s looks, as he did those of the German Luger and Colt Woodsman pistols. In an effort to combine all three guns into one, they came up with the Ruger Standard – the gun that launched the company. That .22 pistol was so popular that Sturm, Ruger was placed firmly on the firearm manufacturer map. You need to understand that this occurred just four years after the close of WWII. Thousands of men and women came home from the various military branches – at the height of the war we had 16 million in uniform – and a whole lot of them brought their love of shooting home with them. They were not wanting to go to war again – they just wanted to do some hunting or informal plinking. Some got into competition. Unfortunately, a lot of them discovered themselves back in uniform when the Korean conflict turned into a full-blown war in June of 1950. But, I digress – there just weren’t enough civilian “fun guns” around at that time. It took a while for manufacturers to gear back up for the civilian market. Ruger saw this situation and, by designing and selling his Standard pistol, got a jump on the market.
The Ruger Standard pistol became known as the Mk. I. I owned one of those pistols. I was a band director at a small one-building-school-corporation and had been there three years. I decided to leave, and as a going-away present my high school band got together and bought me a Ruger Mk. I pistol, evidently made in 1976 as it bore the rollmark “Made In The 200th Year Of American Liberty.” Needless to say, I was speechless. I daresay something like that wouldn’t happen today… times have certainly changed. I was blown away. That gun was solid, right down to the fixed sights. It accurate, but was a total pain to take down for cleaning – more on that later. Here’s what the Mk. I looked like…
When Alex Sturm died in 1951, the red in the Ruger logo was changed to black. It remained black until it came “out of mourning” in 1999, the 50th year of the company’s existence. Original red-logo guns from Ruger’s first couple of years command a premium to collectors.
The .22 pistol was followed by more handguns and rifles, and eventually shotguns were added to the mix. Here are a few tidbits about the company…
- From 1949 to 2004, the company produced over 20 million firearms
- Ruger became a publicly traded company in 1969
- Ruger’s 10/22 rifle has sold more than 6 million since its inception in 1964
- Ruger also makes golf club castings for several brands of clubs, and gun parts for some manufacturers
- Ruger has expanded its manufacturing sites from its headquarter in Connecticut into North Carolina, New Hampshire and Arizona
- In 2020 Ruger bought Marlin from the Remington Outdoor Company
I have owned several Ruger guns over the years. Those I once (or currently) own(ed) include the above-mentioned Mk. I Standard pistol, a 7.5-inch .45 Colt Blackhawk, a 5.5-inch .45 Colt/.45 ACP Blackhawk, a 7.5-inch Super Blackhawk, a 4.62” Single Six .22LR, two 10/22 rifles, a Mk. II 22/45 (the updated Standard, but with adjustable sights and the grip angle of the 1911, not like the Luger’s grip angle that the Mk. I emulates), and a Ruger American .45 ACP pistol. These are the ones I remember-there may have been others that faded into the misty recesses of what I used to call my brain. (I could look up old inventories, but you get the point). I have owned enough Rugers from the mid-’70s to now to feel like I know a thing or two about the company and its products.
|Capacity:||7+1 (according to the website. It came with two 8-round magazines)|
|Weight:||34.4 oz. With empty magazine, on my digital scale|
|Trigger:||Adjustable overtravel screw. Pull weight averaged 4 pounds, 11.4 ounces|
|Sights:||Drift Adjustable Novak® 3-Dot|
|Safeties:||See Other Features|
|Recoil Spring and Rod:||Standard-length rod (not full-length); 16-pound spring|
|Frame and Slide Material:||Stainless steel|
|Grip Panels:||Checkered hardwood, with Allen-head screws|
- Original 1911 fire control – no Series 80 trigger. A titanium firing pin and heavy firing pin spring negate the use of the Series 80 construction, which in essence means the gun functions like a 1911A1.
- Safeties include grip, thumb, sear disconnect, slide stop and half-cock position. A visual inspection port lets you see if the chamber is loaded.
- The barrel and its bushing are both produced from the same bar stock on the same machine.
- 1911A1 modifications (mostly) except the flat mainspring housing.
- An oversize ejection port and mag release button help improve function.
- Skeltonized hammer and trigger add to functionality and aesthetics.
- Integral plunger tube for slide release and thumb safety is part of the frame and will not come loose. (I had that happen on an inexpensive imported 1911 I once owned).
- Extended thumb safety (not ambidextrous) and slide release levers aid in functionality and ergonomics.
Before we delve into the rest of this opus, let’s see what, exactly, the term “Commander” means in the world of 1911s. Those of you in the know, just skip ahead…
1911s tend to come in one of three basic lengths. By lengths, I’m talking overall length (including barrel length). Obviously, if the OAL is long, the barrel needs to be long as well. The converse is also true. At any rate, over the years 1911 models have evolved into three main different lengths, with some variation built in. But, the main sub-set sizes are:
“G.I.” or Government: Full-sized, 5 inch barrel. Sometimes you will see guns for sale built to original 1911 or 1911A1 specifications. But, by and large, any 5-inch barreled 1911 will be called a full-size or G.I./Government model.
Commander: In 1949, Colt brought out the 4.25-inch Commander 1911. That was a gun with a shorter barrel/slide but still having an 8-round capacity. The 4.25-inch barrel tends to be just a bit easier to carry concealed.
Officer’s, Or General’s: These are usually “shorty” guns with a three- or three-and-a-half-inch barrel, with a matching bobbed frame that holds six (usually) rounds. These were originally made to give to General officers to be worn for mostly ceremonial events. But, they have gained in popularity with the concealed-carry crowd. I owned one for a while – it was a nice gun.
For a quick, more-complete history of the 1911 and the .45 ACP, see my review here.
OK… now for the photos, one of this wanna-be photographer’s favorite part of doing reviews…
Shooting This 1911
Shooting this 1911… hmmm … those are famous words. I would reckon that those, or similar, words have been spoken thousands upon thousands of times over the years. It’s a thing of great comfort to a pistol shooter, to hold a 1911 as you get ready to ventilate some targets. Once you’ve picked up a 1911, you can’t go back (to coin a phrase). There’s just something historic about hefting that familiar bulk and lining up the sights. If you’ve never shot one, I guess you wouldn’t understand, but it’s never too late! I would say that the old 1911 is more popular than ever among shooters. Which leads me back to the topic at hand, shooting this beast.
I could have gotten this test gun in 9mm, but to me, the 1911 is at least a .45 ACP proposition. (I say “at least” because the 10mm has found a home in the 1911 family, and welcome it is, too). I know that the fastest-growing segment of the 1911 universe is in the 9mm chambering, but call me old-fashioned. Every 1911 I’ve owned (and I’ve owned several) has felt like an old friend when I’d pick one up. You 1911 fans out there, you understand. There should always be 1911s in gun cabinets.
At any rate, enough of the pro-1911 rant… I do like the 9mm and do own guns in that caliber, as well as reload for it. I just like my 1911s in .45 or 10mm but have only respect for those who want one in 9mm.
One thing about shooting a 1911 is the ergonomics. Most 1911s, if they are of traditional design (not double-stack) tend to fit the hand very well. This one was no exception. I have average-size hands, with baloney fingers (although I can reach a major 9th on a piano keyboard). Even so, the gun fit well and the magazine baseplate “pad” helped even more. I liked the way it felt.
I shot this gun with a (very) few loads. With ammo in non-existent-supply, I went with a couple of handloads and one of factory .45 ACP load, a 230-FMJ from Fiocchi. I only fired a few rounds but that was enough to get the gist of things. As always, the gun will be more accurate than me, especially with the gloomy, cloudy, snowy weather we’ve had. Enough banter – how did it shoot? Really well. It has two big advantages in its corner – it’s a very-well-built 1911, and it’s a Ruger. Having the barrel and bushing made from the same bar stock on the same machine shows, in the accuracy department. Even though my targets were average, in the hands of a top shooter this gun would be amazing. Of course, if you wanted to have an action job done, there are only about four zillion gunsmiths out there who can do magic with a 1911. (Speaking of gunsmiths, this gun has a lot of standard features that gunsmiths would have had to add in bygone days. Things such as extended thumb safety/slide release, Novak sights, adjustable trigger, relieved ejection port, etc. These things, and more, come standard with a Ruger 1911).
As for the trigger, it broke a about 4 ¾ pounds, with no take-up and a tiny amount of creep. With the trigger’s adjustment screw, overtravel would be a thing of past. Overtravel had been taken out at the factory with this gun.
Let’s look at a few targets…
Three separate groups, but each is tight in and of itself. I say this with tongue firmly in cheek. At least this load would be something to explore.
I do think the handloads could be developed, and a real barn-burner discovered. I also like W231/HP38 powder in target .45 loads – didn’t have time to experiment but there’s no reason that this 1911 wouldn’t like those powders (same powder, different names). Most 1911s eat cast bullets pushed by 231 with gusto. For more on reloading, bullet casting, powder coating etc., check out the “Ammo” link at the top of this page. Here’s a good place to start.
After you are done shooting, you need to clean your new Ruger. I won’t go into how to tear a 1911 down, as most of you who own one already know how to do it, and those of you who are new to the 1911 world can find quick instructional videos online. Speaking of that, here’s a really good one, from American Handgunner magazine. Just pay attention to the bushing, and point the muzzle in a safe, covered direction when you attempt to reinstall the recoil spring plug and barrel bushing…trust me. Things can slip. Anyway, it’s not hard and if you do it a few times, you’ll get the hang of it. One last tip…be careful with the slide release when you are re-inserting it. You can easily scratch the frame if you’re not paying attention to what you’re doing. You may want to take a tiny flat screwdriver (plastic preferred) and push the spring-loaded plunger out of the way without touching the frame. That can save frame scratches from happening.
I can sum up this review in a few words: give this gun a hard look. If you are in the market for a 1911 under $1000, check this Ruger out. You can get this Commander in stainless steel (like this one), in two-tone, in a lighter-weight version or in 9mm. There is a bit of variety available here. Of course, there is a full-sized, 5-inch-barrel version out there, too. I’ve known some guys (who could afford it) to have one in .45 and its mate in 9mm. That would be nice. And then, you might as well go whole-hog and get its more-powerful 10mm cousin – might as well have a matched set!
Considering Ruger’s exemplary customer service (they once totally, freely, replaced a full-sized Ruger American .45 pistol I had sent in for repair and not only did that but replaced it with the compact model I’d originally wanted but which was unavailable at the time I bought it from my local dealer – good folks there), I don’t think you could go wrong. If you are looking for a “platform” 1911 to customize, here you go. Or, if you just want to add a medium-expensive (around $1000) 1911 to your collection, this would be a good choice. This would also be a good gun to compete with, in certain classes of competition. And, for the ultimate carry gun, a Commander-length 1911 isn’t something to be sneezed at. The gun is flat and conceals well. Just practice drawing and swiping the safety off – you really don’t want to carry it hammer-down. Anyway, you see where I’m coming from, I hope. Do I like striker-fired “plastic” pistols? Sure. I own a few. But, I’m not going to turn my back on ol’ slabsides – that’s the gun that protected our troops for 74 years, and the gun that many pistoleros won’t leave home without. I‘m not saying you need to drop everything and go buy one of these to carry…just keep an open mind and at least try one at the range. The single-action trigger usually is enough to get folks to come back for a second try – it’s nice. You could sure do worse…just make sure you practice a lot with it.
If you’re a 1911 fan, please chime in below (or if you’re not, for that matter). As always, keep ‘em in the black and stay safe!