2nd Amendment to the Constitution of The United States of America

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

"I ask sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people except for a few politicians."
- George Mason (father of the Bill of Rights and The Virginia Declaration of Rights)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Taurus PT1911AL

Wow, I can't believe I haven't touched this thing in over 2 months, time flies when your just having fun. Fun? Well, not really, but that's another Rant.

Anyway, the subject of this post is the Taurus PT1911AL. But first, some background info.

A while back I decided that a .45 ACP pistol of the design that John Browning invented would be a part of my modest collection of bang sticks. I fondly remember my first experiences with the 1911 in the Army back in the 80's and thinking what a truly bad asses piece of metal it was. The 1911 instills a sense of confidence in the shooter whom wields it. For starters, its solid. Solid as a rock. When you put one in your hand you know you are holding something of power. Even the GI milspec pistols with their higher than normal tolerance level and looser fit feel like a precision block of milled metal in your hand. All of that comes together with the reliablity and almost legendary toughness that this pistol is known for.

Secondly, you are shooting .45 ACP for crying out loud. There is nothing like the sound or feel of 230 grains of FMJ (at least in the military, hollowpoints are generally frowned upon by those nations adhering to the Geneva Convention) leaving the barrel at 850 - 900 feet per second. The .40 S&W, 9mm and even the .380 are good defensive rounds used in semi-auto handguns, but none of them come close to the sheer power and intimidation of the .45 ACP's "flying ashtray". Despite what you may have heard or read, the .45 was not adapted purely based upon US Army experiences with the .38 against Moro warriors in the Phillipines, but that was a factor. The fact was the US wanted a semi-auto pistol to field that was magazine fed and could take advantage of the, then, new faster burning powders available. The shape of the .45 was ideal for ramp feeding, provided a very good aerodynamic profile for accuracy and was big enough that nobody would complain about lack of stopping power. And lastly, due to the stock 5" barrel and longer sight radius, accuracy with the .45 round is excellent on this platform. It's not a coincidence that a vast number of IPCP shooters choose the 1911 as their pistol of choice for these events.

Upon shopping around for one I was shocked to find that a pistol of the type I wanted (Kimbers were my first choice) were upwards of $700 - $800 or more for the basic models. More "pedestrian" versions of the GI model by Springfield Armory were more in my price range of $400 - $500 dollars, but again, were fairly basic compared to the "luxury" models I longed for. I actually went totally the other way and bought a used Charles Daly 1911 that the store had for a measly $200. I took a gamble thinking that maybe the "you get what you pay for" demon would creep up and bite me, but thankfully it turned out to be a decent enough pistol to use while I saved up for a "dream .45".

The Charles Daly was a bit of a mess, rode hard and put away wet by its previous owner(s), it bore the marks of a well used weapon. The finish was worn on several places and there was some minor surface pitting where it looks like it had been exposed to salt water. Being that these pistols were made in the Phillipines I wondered if this particular pistol had spent some time there around maybe Subic Bay before it found its way stateside. No matter, after replacing the recoil spring (which was a spring designed for the .380 version of the Colt Commander!) with a decent 18 pound one and replacing the extractor and extractor spring, the pistol worked as well as could of hoped for. It even had a few "custom" features on it that the manufacturer The Charles Daly .45 I started my quest with...

installed as standard options for the valued added affect: beavertail grip, skeletonized trigger and hammer, extended slide stop and ambidextrious safety. I added a Houge combat grip and it actually looked like a decent pistol. I used it for about 2 months before I got enough scratch together to go out and get a Kimber. I ended up selling the Charles Daly for $200 (the same price I paid) to a friend at work. I kept the extended slide release and Hogue grips for the new pistol though.
Hogue "Combat" grips that I tranfered to the Taurus. You can note the 30 LPI (Lines Per Inch) etching that Taurus uses on the bottom of the trigger guard. The front of the grip area (covered here) and the back have this too.
The Taurus
My Taurus PT1911AL, a very nice pistol in many ways.

A trip to my local gun shop revealed for me a vast array of 1911 models to choose from, I went in with the Springfield Armory GI Spec model in mind, as it was on sale at the time with a retail prince around $450, but alas, all of their stock had been depleted already. Undetered I began to scan the array of models in the case in front of me and came upon this particular beast: Parkarized slide, aluminum frame, beavertail grip, checkered panels on the front and rear of the grip, custom hammer and trigger, ambidextrious safeties and a price tag of less than $600! I was convinced I was looking at a gently used firearm but no, it was the Taurus PT1911AL! Having it handed to me I immediately felt at home with the heft and feel of a 1911 in my hand. The fit and finish on the pistol was very good and the initial impulse to buy struck hard, but I held off to do a bit of research.

Looking up the pistol on my secret internet research site (OK, I just Googled it) turned up some interesting reading on this pistol. Made by Taurus International in Brasil (note: Taurus has had a somewhat spotty reputation historically but in my opinion has worked on improving it greatly in the past few years) the pistol is entirely made in one facility there using state of the art manufacturing processes and materials. One thing you'll find with foreign made firearms, depending on the country of origin, labor costs are sometimes way less than ones made here and that cost savings is passed onto you (see my post about the Stoeger Cougar).

The company prides itself on producing a $2000 pistol for under $700. Well, while I may dispute that it is as nice as the top line models by Wilson, Les Baer and others, its is still a damn nice gun with a crap load of extras you will pay a premium for from other manufactures. 1911's are one of the weapons that enthusiasts have devoted an almost cult following on customization (I think the Ruger 10/22 crowd takes the prize in this category). Fortunately, many of the common customizations that people add to their 1911s after purchase are standard on the Taurus PT1911. Below is a chart of what Taurus considers its value added features to a base $500 1911 patterned pistol.
























As you can see, it appears that the Taurus is quite the value for the money. I went ahead and got the PT1911AL that I had looked at before for $579, a bit more that I wanted to spend but still a great bargain in my book. The pistol has a cast aluminum frame with blued slide. It weighs a bit shy of 29 ounces unloaded, fairly light for a full sized 1911. The only thing I was disappointed in was that Taurus stopped shipping the 1911 with the Heine Straight 8 sights. It now comes with a perfectly good Novak 3 dot system that I am fully comfortable with, but after seeing the Heine sights on another weapon, I wanted to try them myself shooting. It seems like a really good system. Oh well, life goes on.
Novak 3 dot sites, not the Heine Straight 8 I had hoped for but nice anyway. They are adjustable.

Upon taking the pistol home I disassembled it and cleaned out any packing grease and manufacturing debris that may have been in the weapon. I have found that foreign made guns seem to have more of this type of stuff than domestic made items. This was especially true in the mag well of my pistol. This is probably due to the fact that these are shipped mostly on seagoing vessels here and the extra goop prevents rusting of parts in route. Again, no biggie. The internal parts are in good order and only show minor machining marks on some areas that you would not normally think of as "showroom" parts on the pistol. None of these marks would in any way detract from the dependability or accuracy of the pistol, so no foul here.

The first time I took the pistol to the range I experienced a few failure to feeds only with JHP ammo, ball ran a smooth as silk. These issues disappeared after a couple hundred rounds and have not reappeared save for a few of my own home reloads which I am convinced are my fault. Any weapon needs to be broken in and you should not judge the overall quality of a gun by your first few hundred rounds. Accuracy is on par with any other 1911 I have fired and I could cover a 6 inch circle at 30 feet with most rounds with ease. This may not seem like stellar accuracy, but my focus has always been on practical application and not necessarily freakish accuracy. Until I come across someone who can present a threat to my family or I with a center mass of less than 6 inches across I will be more than satisfied with this level of performance. I am sure that other shooters will be able to manage better groups than this, my eyesight is not what it used to be!

Other than the first few rounds that failed to feed from the new magazines and my own reloads, reliability has been excellent from this pistol. Lets talk about the magazines. The PT1911 comes with two 8 round steel magazines with a generous bump pad on the bottom that serves as both a loading aid and a cushion for dropped mags at the same time. This gives you a total of 17 rounds you can have available (8+1, 8 in the spare mag) for you, which should be more than enough for most any scenario as a home owner or CCW holder.230 Grain FMJ Ball .45 ACP, 1911's eat this stuff up like candy!

A normal 7 round 1911(left) next to a 8 round Taurus magazine for size comparison. Note the rubber bumper pad for aiding in slamming the mag home on loading and to aid in cushioning the mag hitting the ground when doing a raping mag swap.

Safety

I always like to high light safety in its own category as gun accidents are the #1 fodder that gun control advocates use to promote their cause against us. As always it is an unsafe owner, not an unsafe, weapon that is usually at the root of all of these tragedies. Being a 1911 pattered pistol, the PT1911 has the normal 2 primary safeties on it common to all of the pattern types. The first is a grip safety that prevents the weapon from firing until it is depressed by firmly grasping the pistol. I have always found this to be a sensible safety and Springfield Armory's successful XD line of polymer pistols use it, I wish more manufactures would incorporate it as well. The second is the manual safety, which in the case of the PT1911 is ambidextrious for both right and left handed shooters. There are no transfer bar safeties in a 1911 so if you are to carry the pistol with one in the pipe the "cocked and locked" method of carry with the hammer cocked and weapon on safe is the prefered method to use. This may alarm some less enlightened observers who see this as a more hazardous means of carry, but years and years of use has shown this is the best method for safety in terms of both avoiding a negligent discharge and also providing an adequate posture for immediate response towards a threat. The other safety is the Taurus Safety System which is a lawyer friendly key lock system that locks the action and prevents operation of the pistol. The lock is located on the actual hammer of the pistol and I believe it is integral to the pistols operation, so you can forget about adding your own custom hammer. Many people hate key locks, I for one think that if properly used they can be a useful safety addition for people needing to secure their weapons with children in the house. I like it for the fact that if I have to secure my pistol in my car as a place I may be at may not allow concealed carry, that it provides an extra deterrent to its use if it somehow falls into the wrong hands by theft or other means (I also lock it in a secured case with a cable in a locked compartment of my truck - over kill I know but better than a court hearing or trial). One last mention on safety, as stated above, the 1911 fires a .45 ACP round, a proven round capable of one shot stops on even determined aggressors. I was trained by the military to "double tap" or "quick fire" two shots into center mass of a target to increase the stopping ability of my rounds. With the .45, a second round is not always needed, as the large 200+ grain projectile usually imparts the majority of its energy on target and the starting caliber of .45 inches, which many other calibers strive to obtain through bullet expansion, provides a large wound channel. The intended use of a weapon in a defensive situation is to stop your attacker in their tracks before they can harm you or a loved one, the .45 excels in this purpose.
The pistol in "Cocked and Locked" mode. Notice the dremel work I had to do on the grips to fit. Not pretty but functional.
The Taurus key locking safety sytem. Nice if you need it.Another pic of the pistol. The standard plastic checkered grips for this are just fine, I prefer the finger groves and wider grip offered by the Hogue overmolded ones here. I replaced the standard allen grip screws with plain flat head ones here for eas of removal if I am on the range for any reason. Also note that the slide stop is a custom type I stole from my Charles Daly. It is a bit beat up but still very functional. The stock slide stop is nothing to complain about though.
A full length guide rod is standard on the Taurus.

Disassembled pistol. While not rocket science, the disassembly of a 1911 is more elaborate than that of more modern pistols. Still nothing an 18 year old private in 1987 couldn't master. Also in the pic is the barrel blushing wrench included with the pistol, nice touch. I also have a guide rod buffer installed (blue) which I think helps in controlling recoil, but can be a bit tricky when reassembling the pistol.