For the past century, the 1911 pistol in .45 ACP has been a mainstay on the American shooting scene. Whether used as a military sidearm or a civilian carry gun, the 1911-pattern pistol is widely regarded as one of the best pistol designs in history. And as you might expect, the widely publicized centennial anniversary of John Browning’s classic design has drawn a lot of consumer interest and driven a serious uptick in demand for 1911 pistols.
In response to this demand, every major handgun manufacturer now offers at least one 1911 pistol. The various models range from very basic pistols that approximate the original military design, to tricked-out race guns that incorporate all the modern bells and whistles. Without a doubt, the variety of 1911 pistols is nearly endless.
One of the new contenders on the 1911 scene is Magnum Research. Of course, Magnum Research is best known for its Desert Eagle line of unique semi-auto pistols. In order to capitalize on this iconic trade name, Magnum Research has dubbed their newest 1911 the “Desert Eagle 1911G.” Attaching this name to the new 1911 may serve to attract certain buyers who favor the pop culture value of the “Deagle” name, but don’t let this marketing gimmick turn you off—this is a serious 1911 pistol.
The 1911G is a thoroughly modern design. Although the classic World War I era 1911 is a great pistol, the last 100 years of firearms evolution has made a great pistol even better. The basic design is true to its Government Model roots, but with all the appropriate upgrades for a modern fighting pistol.
The Desert Eagle’s features are comparable to many other manufacturers’ “loaded” models. Features like an extended beavertail grip safety, skeletonized hammer and trigger, and forward cocking serrations are becoming standard on current 1911 designs. The 1911G also has a full length guide rod and high quality fixed sights.
Thankfully, Magnum Research chose to leave out some modern features that are not needed on a fighting gun, like an oversized or ambidextrous thumb safety, or an extended magazine release. All in all, the 1911G has all the features I like in a 1911 for concealed carry, but none that I don’t. Well … I could do without the forward cocking serrations, but that is really just a cosmetic concern that I can overlook.
This Desert Eagle is not flashy or gaudy, and has an appearance appropriate to its serious mission. The pistol sports a black oxide finish that is largely non-reflective over most of its exterior. The dark finish is nicely complimented with a polished stainless steel beavertail grip safety and a brushed aluminum trigger. The finishing touch is a set of traditional double-diamond wood grips with a reddish hue, and stainless steel hex-head grip screws. Adding a little bit of color nicely offsets the dark blued finish, without being over the top.
One of the most interesting design details on this pistol is the lack of a firing pin block safety system. Most 1911 manufacturers incorporate some type of firing pin block that adds a level of complexity to the 1911’s firing system that can have an adverse effect on the trigger pull and, potentially, on overall reliability.
The 1911G is based upon the well-known Colt Series 70 firing system, which is generally preferred by serious 1911 enthusiasts. Kudos to Magnum Research for offering the traditional firing system to those who have a preference. I suspect many will buy a 1911G primarily for this reason. You can read a lot more about the differences in firing systems with a quick Google search.
The 1911G performed admirably in all my testing. In the course of more than 150 rounds of assorted ammunition, the pistol ran flawlessly. Accuracy was excellent, due in part to the excellent trigger and highly visible sights. Personally, I like the all-black front and rear sight design over the three dot sights that are so common on other guns. Magnum Research’s proprietary sights are easy to acquire quickly, and are easy to shoot accurately.
Recoil is quite manageable, as typical of an all-steel framed 1911. The .45ACP round packs a lot of power, but is not as “snappy” as the smaller, high-velocity rounds like the .40 S&W cartridge. You know you are shooting a big bore pistol, but for most people the recoil is not painful or offensive.
Of course, the 1911G’s relatively heavy weight helps soak up the perceived recoil. My favorite .45 ACP self-defense load, the new Winchester PDX-1 bonded JHP, is easy to control and performed flawlessly in the pistol.
The reason 1911s are so popular is because the design lends itself to fast and accurate shooting. When you combine good sights, a good trigger, and a long sight radius you have a great shooting handgun. The Desert Eagle demonstrates all the excellent shooting qualities that you expect in a 1911.
Thousands of pages have been written on the pros and cons of concealed carry with a full-size 1911. There is no doubt that the 1911G is a large, heavy pistol. It has the advantage, however, of being relatively thin—especially compared to a double-stack 9mm or .40 S&W. The narrower width makes the 1911 well suited to inside the waistband (IWB) carry, and helps reduce bulk if the pistol is carried outside the waistband.
Carrying a five-inch steel-framed 1911 requires a serious commitment to carry. It also requires a good holster, a good belt, and perhaps some adjustments in wardrobe. The good news, however, is that there are a myriad of holster choices. Nearly every holster manufacturer makes a 1911 holster, and reviews of such holsters are not hard to find.
Carrying a 1911 pistol, and particularly a full-size model, is probably not the best choice for an inexperienced shooter. The pistol can be more challenging to carry because of its size and weight, and the manual of arms for the 1911 is more complicated than other handguns. Learning to operate a 1911 requires training and practice. But if you are willing to make the commitment, the 1911 may be the best fighting handgun on the planet. Some of the most experienced and well-trained people I know swear by the 1911, and with good reason.
Once you have made the commitment to the 1911 platform, you have to settle on a particular model in a sea of possibilities. Magnum Research’s 1911G is a high-quality modern pistol with all of the most desirable 1911 features from a respected manufacturer; and the 1911G is a great value when you consider the MSRP of $826 for a well-equipped defensive pistol. Street prices will certainly be lower, and it will be hard to touch a similarly equipped 1911 from an established manufacturer for less. The Desert Eagle 1911G is a modern interpretation of the classic 1911 that was well worth the wait.
Prices as of November, 2011
*The Desert Eagle 1911G was provided by Magnum Research with an option to purchase at a reduced price. The holsters and factory ammunition were provided by the respective manufacturers at no cost.
[ Duane A. Daiker is a contributing editor for CCM, but is otherwise a regular guy—not much different from you. Duane has been a lifelong shooter and goes about his life as an armed, responsible, and somewhat opinionated citizen. Duane can be contacted at Daiker@RealWorldCarryGear.com, or though his fan page on Facebook, and welcomes your comments and suggestions. ]
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