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[Review] Taurus PT1911: A Great Way To Own A Legend

I am a 1911 fan. I’m not exactly a junkie, but I’ve owned several over the years. I started out, in the late 1970s, with a Llama stainless model. I had trouble with the roll pins on that one, but otherwise it was alright. I then had an AMT Hardballer, again stainless. That was a decent gun. In order, here are some other 1911s that have lived with me for a while…

  • Colt Commander, blue
  • Taurus PT1911 full size, blue
  • Citadel full size, blue
  • Rock Island Armory Compact (Officers-size), Parkerized

I’m not counting the Chiappa .22 LR 1911 I owned for about 23 hours…it would not feed anything I tried to put through it. I assume they’ve fixed that now. Out of all the ones on the list, I was impressed with the customer service department at Rock Island. At the time, there was a fellow named Ivan in Pahrump, Nevada (you can’t make this up) who I talked with when the gun came in without the ambidextrous safety it was described as having. In about three days, I received in the mail the safety, a couple of springs and other things. Needless to say, I was impressed.

OK…what’s that got to do with Taurus and their 1911? Not much, other than to show that, even though I’m not an expert, I’ve had a little experience where this venerable pistol is concerned. I do know what I like and what works for me. Before we look at the Taurus in detail, let’s take a stroll down 1911 Memory Lane.

The 1911

I’ve written a few articles on 1911s and related topics. Among them are the best 1911 for the money, best 1911 in 9mm, best budget 1911, Colt Combat Commander, Colt Delta Elite and one on the best .45 ACP ammo. The reason I mention these is that there is a lot of information in these articles that you may want to peruse after reading this. (I specifically mention the Taurus PT1911 in at least two of these articles – it’s a good buy). Let’s look at where the highly-regarded 1911 came from…

Un-Stopping Power…

The Army was unhappy with the performance of the .38 Long Colt during the Philippine Insurrection (otherwise known as the Filipino-American War). This bid for Philippine independence from the U.S. began in 1896, and turned into a large-scale shooting war in February, 1899. Our troops found out the hard way that the Long Colt would not stop Moro and other tribesmen who bound their torsos tightly in grass, creating a form of organic body armor. (They were also said to be “chemically enhanced” on some sort of natural drug that masked pain but I can’t prove that…it’s just interesting).

colt M1892
Colt M1892, .38 Long Colt

The old .38 just wasn’t up to the task – tribesmen would take one or more bullets but then proceed to get to the soldiers with their edged weapons and create havoc – so we broke out the old .45 Colt Peacemakers that had been mothballed. That did the trick. (Side note – most of these guns’ barrels had been shortened two inches, from 7.5 to 5.5. I guess it made them handier).

peacemaker

With the results from that fracas fresh in memory, the Ordnance Board set out to adopt a new pistol that would have greater stopping power than the .38 Long Colt. In 1904, Major John Thompson (of “Tommy Gun” fame) and medical officer Major Louis LeGarde embarked on a series of experiments to see what worked best in terms of stopping power and tissue disruption. They used donated human cadavers, live cattle and other targets to test the ammunition’s effectiveness… grisly but it gave them the data they needed. The Army eventually adopted the New Service revolver, caliber .45 Colt, in 1909 as the official sidearm before the M1911’s adoption came about a couple of years later.

colt new service

In the end, the Thompson-LeGarde board recommended a bullet that “should not be of less than .45 caliber” and be fired from, of all things in 1904, an auto-loading pistol. That was certainly forward-thinking on their part. The Ordnance Board received test guns from six companies originally but narrowed it down to three: Savage, Colt and DWM (Germany) – they sent a Luger P08 in .45 caliber. Now, THAT is interesting… a Luger in all those holsters down through the years instead of the Colt 1911…
Anyway, it came down to the Savage and the Colt, with the Colt being the eventual winner. Each gun was tested and one of those tests (in late 1910) involved shooting 6,000 rounds over 2 days. John Browning himself attended this test. The Colt got so hot they had to dunk it in water but it came out of the test with zero malfunctions – the Savage had 37. For this and other reasons, the Colt was adapted – the Model of 1911 (later just M1911) .45 ACP semi-automatic pistol. It was originally meant to shoot a .45 caliber 200-grain FMJ roundnose bullet, but that was later upped to one that weighed 230 grains. The tests went on from 1907 – 1911, with the Colt coming out on top.

M1911

Adopted on March 29, 1911, it served as our nation’s official sidearm until 1985. It was, at that time, replaced by the Beretta M9 but several special ops groups continue to use a 1911 of some form to this day. Plus, we all know how popular they are among civilians. It is one gun that has proven itself many times over, from the early days to today. Over 100 years young, it just keeps on keepin’ on.
All this leads us to the modern 1911. Although construction materials and methods used are different than they were when the pistol first appeared, its basic function hasn’t changed in 108 years. John Browning designed the pistol around a short-recoil, tilting-barrel action to be fed from a single-stack magazine. It was destined to go down in history as one of the most reliable, successful and popular pistol designs ever.

Enter Taurus

Taurus is a company based in Brazil, but with growing interests here in the good ol’ U.S. They are building a 200,000 square foot plant and headquarters in Bainbridge, Georgia. Until this facility is completed, their U.S. base will remain in Miami, Florida. You can read more about the history of Taurus in my review of the Spectrum .380. It makes for interesting reading, especially when you figure that Smith & Wesson and Beretta were both players in that history…

S&W and Beretta

Taurus was, at one time, owned by the parent company (Bangor Punta Corp.) that owned Smith and Wesson. Therefore, each of these firearms manufacturers had legal access to designs and plans of the other, which explains why some Taurus pistols look like Smith and Wessons. They also bought, when Beretta left Brazil, that Italian companies’ holdings in São Paulo, which explains why the Taurus PT92 looks so much like the Beretta 92.

Variations Galore

Introduced at the 2005 SHOT Show, the blued PT1911 began appearing on dealers’ shelves later that year, with a stainless version coming along in 2007. Taurususa.com now shows ten different variations of their 5-inch full-size model (9 of which are in .45, with one in 9mm). They also show ten different Commander-length-(or at least 4.2-inch)-barreled variations, with one more in 9mm and they have even fairly recently introduced four Officers Models (3.5-inch barrel) in .45. The capacities are 8+1 rounds, full-size and Commander, with the Officers Model coming at 6+1. That’s quite a variety…you should be able to find something that would work. Here is a listing of specs and features of the stainless model I tested…

Stainless PT1911 Specifications and Features:

Height:5.5 inches
Width:1.5 inches
Weight:42 ounces
Overall Length:8.5 inches
Barrel:5.0 inches with conventional bushing and full-length recoil spring guide rod
Sights:Front and Rear, 3-Dot Novak Drift-Adjustable, with included Allen wrench to loosen setscrew
Safeties:Firing Pin Block, Grip Safety (beavertail with memory bump), Manual (Thumb) Safety – extended and ambidextrous (ambi safety only on full-size models, not on Commander or Officer models)
Ejection Port:Lowered and flared
Slide Serrations:Front & rear
Trigger:Adjustable for over-travel, skeletonized
Grip Checkering:30-l.p.i. on front strap and flat mainspring housing
Grip Panels:Black plastic, diamond-pattern
Feed Ramp:Polished, with polished barrel throat. Corresponding frame area polished
Hammer:Target, Commander-style rowel
Magazines:Two matt black Mec Gar 8-round magazines with extended base plates and flat followers; witness holes on both sides
Mag Well:Beveled
Finish:Matt stainless with polished controls
MSRP:$752
Real-World:~$570*
Warranty:Limited Lifetime to original purchaser

*In terms of pricing, I looked up the MSRP on all the 1911s that Taurus makes, and then looked at a real-world price from an average-priced online seller, and came up with these rounded-off prices:

  • Full-Size models range from $635-$770 MSRP; you can buy a plain black one for about $460
  • Commander models range from about $600 – $740 MSRP; real-world, I found one at $385
  • Officers models range from $640-$714; I saw one for $491

Pricing depends on finish and construction materials. You really need to check the website to see all the different “flavors” these 1911s come in.

It would appear that Taurus listened to customer feedback during the design phase of this pistol. They made some wise decisions, one of which was to include actual Novak sights. I also appreciate the ambi thumb safety, but I do understand that a lot of you don’t like them for whatever reason. It just makes it easier on those of us who shoot left-handed. The beveled mag well, lowered and flared ejection port, beavertail with memory bump, polished feed ramp and throat, fine checkering on the back- and frontstraps, adjustable trigger…these are features that used to come only on custom builds, or at least used to cost more from the factory. I didn’t mention the full-length guide rod because, like the ambi safety., the jury is still out on that for at least some shooters. (If you don’t want the ambi safety, you can buy a Commander or Officers model). The point of all this is that you get a lot of gun for the money, and that gun has some pretty nifty enhancements. Let’s look at some photos of the gun, and examine some of the features included…

Taurus PT1911 left side

Taurus PT1911 right side
A handsome 1911.

Taurus PT1911 left grip

Taurus PT1911 right grip

Close-up of the black plastic diamond-pattern grips. I like the “new” logo, and the hex key screws.

Taurus PT1911 frame crack relief

If you read my Delta Elite review, you’ll see that Colt experienced some very early frame cracking with that 1911 10mm, so they just cut away the part of the frame that was susceptible to fracture stress cracks. They migrated that cut to the rest of their line. You can see how Taurus has not cut the frame away all the way to the slide rail like some makers do…they’ve left an “arch” opening in the frame. This evidently works well for them, as I haven’t heard of Taurus 1911 frames cracking at this point.

Taurus PT1911 front strap

Speaking of the frame, here are the front- and backstraps with the 30-l.p.i. checkering. It is well executed.

Taurus PT1911 back strap

Taurus PT1911 frame underside

Here’s the underside of the slide. I could see no obvious machining marks.

Taurus PT1911 feed ramp

Barrel feed ramp. This is highly polished, as is its counterpart in the frame. This is the best polish job I’ve seen on any Taurus pistol I’ve examined.

Taurus PT1911 polished frame ramp

Taurus PT1911 barrel recoil spring bushing

The barrel and attendant parts. The guide rod is interesting…it is full-length, but is not like others that I’ve seen (where you need to place a paperclip in the hole provided to take stress off the spring). It takes down like 1911s that use the original-length rod. The bushing was a tight fit – a wrench is included.

Taurus PT1911 guide rod end

The guide rod end. Nicely finished. Notice the staking job.

Taurus PT1911 hammer safety

Here’s the hammer and thumb safety. Note the rowel-style hammer, nicely serrated. Also, there’s an internal extractor. The beavertail grip safety covers the hammer fully, so no “bite” here. The extractor end shows as black here, but that’s just the lighting – it is bead-blasted silver like the rear of the frame (see rear sight photo below).

Speaking of beavertail…

Taurus PT1911 memory bump

The memory bump is just big enough without getting in the way.

Taurus PT1911 rear sight

Rear sight. The sights are for-real Novak. I checked on the Novak website, and these sights would add about $70 (full retail) to the cost of the gun if you wanted to add them later. Sights are drift-adjustable with an Allen-wrench-head setscrew. This wrench was included in the box.

Taurus PT1911 front sight
Front sight

Taurus PT1911 trigger

The trigger has an overtravel adjustment screw access hole in its face that takes an Allen wrench. I measured the pull weight with my new Lyman digital trigger pull gauge – it came out to a 10-pull average of 4 pounds, 6.5 ounces. Not bad for a stock, factory trigger.

Taurus PT1911 lyman trigger pull gauge

Taurus PT1911 mag well

The magazine well is beveled a bit. This beveling does help with magazine insertion. Notice the steel mainspring housing. One thing they could change – note the sharp corners of the frame bottom just ahead of the bevel cut…these are very sharp, and uncomfortable with the grip I use. I would relieve those pointy edges.

Taurus PT1911 magazines
Magazines and follower

Taurus PT1911 mag follower

Taurus PT1911 etching right side

Frame engraving. Not too much, but for some folks, ANY engraving is too much. Here is a decent compromise amount. Serial numbers are edited out here but they are matching – it shows that the slide, frame and barrel start out their journey through the factory together and are fitted as one unit.

Taurus PT1911 etching left side

Taurus PT1911 box

And, last but not least, the nicely-padded polymer box it comes in. They’ve upped their game with the boxes they include now. This one will protect the gun.

What Comes With The Gun

Here’s what else was in the box…

  • Some very stiff foam padding, nicely sculpted for the gun and accessories
  • The ubiquitous “bicycle” keyed padlock
  • Allen wrench for sight adjustment
  • Owner’s manual – nicely done. This seems to be newly revised.
  • Warranty reminder
  • Chamber flag
  • Two 8-round magazines

Taurus has, as I said above, has really stepped their game up in recent months. This pistol is a good example of that. I owned a blued 1911 of theirs a few years ago, but it wasn’t as nice as this one. It seems like they’re paying more attention to fit and finish than they did before. This is a good thing, as they needed to do that.

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Shooting This 1911

I shot this gun with a few different loads, and it worked very well. It is winter here (as it is on the north half of our Big Blue Ball), and we have snow on the ground. I tend to get a bit lazy when I shoot an autoloader over snow – I lay a tarp out to catch the brass, and don’t spend as much time outdoors as I would if it were warmer. With that said, I shot a quick target or two with my favorite handload – 5.3 grains of 231/HP38 under a Lee 200-grain H&G 68-style cast semi-wadcutter. If you are a .45 ACP reloader, you are (or should be) familiar with this bullet – it is the standard by which a lot of .45 loads are judged. Short of the 230-grain roundnose, this bullet is one of the most-used in this caliber. Here’s a drawing of the accuratemolds.com version of it…their numbering system shows “69” but rest assured, it’s the tried & true H&G 68 no matter what they call it. A truncated cone nose with a full-diameter cutting band that makes clean holes in targets and is easy to load – that’s why I shoot it. It just works.

H&G 68 Accuratemolds.com

The Lee version has a slight bevel base, but is otherwise the same. I use Lee liquid alox or powder coating on the cast bullets and they work well. Out of this gun, that target loading produced about 840 f.p.s. Here’s one of the targets:

Taurus PT1911 target

This was, to reiterate, shot standing (not from a bench) with a center hold, so I’ll take the results. A Jerry Miculek or John Taffin I’m not. Any time I can get anything resembling a group and not a pattern in the winter, that’s a good thing. As you can see, it would work for practice. This gun is capable of far greater accuracy than I am…I have to keep remembering that it’s about the gun, not the ammo. Suffice it to say, this gun is a shooter – you could do worse.

Here are a few hits and misses…

Pros:

VERY nice trigger. It didn’t need any adjustment. It broke at a four pounds, six and a half ounces with little take-up and no creep and very little overtravel. If it were mine, I’d adjust the stop screw but it wouldn’t need much.

Sights. The Novaks performed as they usually do, very well. Good visibility, and factoring in the windage adjustability, we have a winner.

Safety. The ambi thumb safety worked as advertised, with a positive “snick” when engaged or released. The levers are just the right size, at least for me.

Slide release. I know, it’s a 1911, how could they mess that up, but I’ve shot some of this type of pistol that made the slide release all but inaccessible due to its size or shape. This one is just long enough without getting in the way.

Accuracy. This gun will put ‘em where you aim ‘em. I shot my handloads mostly – I needed to restock my factory ammo supply but the local stores were out of my favorite store-bought load. As stated above, my handload of 5.3 grains of 231/HP38 and a cast 200 grain SWC or a 230 grain RN usually puts the bullets at point of aim and is very accurate. As stated, the weather was a factor but whoever buys this gun will not have to worry about its accuracy.

Cons:

Just one – those pesky points at the front of the mag well. I caught my hand on them more than once. But, that’s an easy fix were the pistol mine.

That’s all – this particular 1911 is a nice shooter.

To Sum Up…

I really like this gun. I sure think you could do worse for your hard-earned buck, with its street price of $500 or so (less, with the matte black finish). Those of you who are regular readers know that I am a fan of Taurus, for the most part, and since they are trying to turn their reputation around, things are getting better.

If you are in the market for a lower-end-of-the-price-range-1911, give the PT1911 a look. No matter if you want one in blue or stainless, you’re covered. There are other finishes available, as are Commanders and Officers Models.

This gun’s main competition at this price point would be the Rock Island Armory line of 1911s. I’ve owned both, and really like both, but after shooting this Taurus I am really impressed with what I call its “shelf image”. That is what it looks like as it reposes in a dealer’s gun case. This gun would garner attention, with its matte stainless finish and very shiny, polished controls. I know, pretty is as pretty does, and this gun “does” perform. Check one out the next time you’re at your favorite gun shop. Please leave a comment below about the PT1911 and your experience with it. As always, get out and do some shooting, but be safe!

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Byron VanArsdaleBraveheart1Calin BrabandtSgt. leBrunRoger Slayden Recent comment authors
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Peter
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Peter

I have just bought an older version in 9mm and am learning to shoot it better. Learn’t quickly that it likes heavy bullets not light ones. My current favourite factory load is Syntek 160gr. Soon I will be starting my hand loading journey.

William O'Brien
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William O'Brien

Have both the blue and stainless 5 inch. Dressed them up with zombie grips from Rio Grande grips. Black on stainless and brown grips on blue. Very attractive. No matter where I shoot them, they elicit admiring remarks and inquiries. As accurate or more so as any other 1911 I have. Great price. Just wish I had got the early one in 38 Super. Oh well, lol.

Michael Popadak
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Michael Popadak

Great article.
I owned a Taurus .45 many years ago. I loved it.
This new one. Your article makes me want to go out tomorrow morning and buy one.
I think I will.
Thanks for all the text messages.
Be
Well …….Mike ~

Roger Slayden
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Roger Slayden

I have a Taurus Stainless PT1911AR and it is one of the older models. I love this pistol, sure it is a little heavy to wear all the time but that weight helps where it counts, shooting it. Being an old Vietnam Combat Marine I like to push the envelope of a weapon and I start shooting this at 15yds. 25yds., 50yds, 75yds, and out to 100yds. on half body size targets. When i can take a pistol like this and put 6 out of 8 in the body at 100yds. I think the gun is working remarkably well and… Read more »

Sgt. leBrun
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Sgt. leBrun

I like the PT 1911 In .45 acp, but it is too heavy to carry concealed in lightweight clothes esp in Las Vegas & Florida. I have had a Walther P-38 9mm, since 1989. I now have my ccw, and put it in my cowboy boots and have it in a pocket holster . It’s now nickel plated with gold trim. It points perfect for me and the grip fits my hand perfect. In W. Germany we went to ourBundesweher sister unit and shot thier handguns and rifles and they shot ours. I won 1st place with the P-38 and… Read more »

Calin Brabandt
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Calin Brabandt

My PT1911 is a bit over years old and it came with Heine tritium sights. Like my Taurus 431 44 spl. that I’ve previously mentioned here, the PT1911 has always performed flawlessly. I removed the ambi safety and installed an Ed Brown right thumb only safety with just a little fitting required. I have a 200 gr. Mihec brass Cramer style mold with round, and pentagon HP pins, and flat nose pins. It’s one of my favorite molds. It casts the most accurate bullets I’ve ever fired from both my PT1911 and my Pietta “1858” New Model Army with a… Read more »

Braveheart1
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Braveheart1

Thanks for the post. I soured on Taurus about a decade ago, but recently picked up a Taurus TX22, and wowed. Great gun and a great price. I’ve been looking for a 1911 in the $700 to $1200 range and really never gave the PT1911 much thought. The TX22 opened my mind to the possibility, and after reading your post I ordered one today. You are correct it comes equipped out of the box with upgrades that rival its more expensive competitors…and it shoots. Lol. Not ready to give up my Glock and Sig polymers and will be used mostly… Read more »

Byron VanArsdale
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Byron VanArsdale

Sir, you do a wonderful job objectively reviewing firearms. I have an older PT1911 with a WC sear and springs and it has performed flawlessly for several years. I’m sure I wouldn’t even need to replace anything on the newer model. Thank you for your efforts and blessings to you.