ATI’s Affordable 1911 Handgun: The ATI .45

By Bob Campbell published on in Firearms, Reviews

These days, it seems anyone with a small shop can put together 1911 handguns and offer them for sale. Most such guns are parts guns, with outsourced frames and slides and internal parts from various parents. I am disdainful of these guns and prefer a pistol manufactured by a major maker, like the Philippine-manufactured American Tactical Imports pistols.


5-inch Barrel ATI Pistol with brown grip

The 5-inch barrel ATI pistol is a good example of the 1911, reliable and accurate in testing.

 ATI 1911 Standard Features

ATI offers Government Model, Commander length and the short Titan, and their pistols have a number of improvements over the original GI pistol. The sights are larger than those on the GI .45. Some call the General Issue 1911 pistol sights embryonic. The ATI pistols sights are an improvement, and that is an important distinction.The standard model ATI pistol is a straight-up rendition of the GI .45 with sensible improvements. The other pistols—including the high-capacity Fat Boy—demonstrate just how much template modification is possible while still remaining a 1911. The pistols also feature a beavertail grip safety, which help funnel your hand into the firing grip. When firing full-power loads, the grip safety is more comfortable if it is an extended or beavertail design.

A properly designed grip safety helps when you occasionally allow your hand to rise off of the grip safety in recoil. The thumbs-forward grip style in particular allows this to occur, which is why the sights and beavertail grip safety are good improvements.

Another important improvement is much easier to design into the pistol than to modify after the fact: the enlarged ejection port. This is sometimes called a scalloped or lowered ejection port. This design makes ejecting the spent cartridge case more positive as there is more room for the cartridge case to clear during the rapid cycle of the 1911A1 action.

Another advantage is apparent when clearing the chamber of a loaded round during administrative handling. It is more difficult to do so with the smaller ejection port. If you use a shock buff, and the pistol has the original size ejection port, it is almost impossible to clear a loaded round without dropping the magazine and tumbling the cartridge out of the bottom of the magazine well.

If you use a GI pistol for serious use, do not use a shock buff. I regard them as best suited for competition pistols. In any case, you are better served with the shock buff in a pistol with a scalloped ejection port.

The ATI pistols are shooters, not replicas, with an honest stab at giving you a good pistol for the money.

Government Model

The Government Model ATI pistol handles like most full-size 1911s. The controls are laid out in the model of ergonomics for which the 1911 is famous. The trigger is clean, but heavy, at about 6.5 pounds, which is a good weight for a beginner who is ready to learn how to master the 1911.

The sights are friendly to the eye and well regulated for factory ammunition. With 230-grain ball, the traditional bullseye hold produced center hits. With 200-grain JHP bullets, the sights were dead on at 15 yards, which is acceptable for most shooting chores.

The rear sight is drift adjustable. There was no need to adjust the sights in the pistol tested. Recoil was modest, and the pistol never failed to feed, chamber fire or eject. We used CCI Blazer 230-grain FMJ the most, but we also fired some Speer 200-grain JHP +P. While recoil was greater, the +P load is particularly accurate in the ATI gun, with a 15-yard group of 2 inches.

Commander Length ATI with brown grip and dark gray barrel pointed to the right on a white background.

The Commander-length ATI pistol is possibly the best compromise-length 1911 for most shooters.

The Commander

The Commander-length ATI pistol features a good beavertail safety, good sights and acceptable accuracy.

The Commander-length ATI pistol features a good beavertail safety, good sights and acceptable accuracy.

The Commander-sized ATI pistol is simply a steel-frame Government Model with ¾-inch off the slide and barrel. We conducted extensive tests with more than 600 rounds of ammunition fired, including 230-grain ball loads, JHP loads and +P ammunition. This pistol has proven capable of a 4-inch group at 25 yards off the benchrest with most loads, and about 2.5 inches at 15 yards. For a short-barrel pistol that is fast into action and reliable, this is an acceptable standard.

The pistol never failed to function. However, the plunger tube spring should have been stronger. This affected the sharpness of the slide lock safety indent. This, I suppose, is no more than a 50-cent fix. The pistol’s beavertail safety and good sights receive high marks.

A particularly nice set of checkered wood grips set off this pistol. This handgun proved reliable with aluminum-cased Blazer ammo, demonstrating a useful degree of accuracy for training use. The new Federal HST premium defense load proved reliable and accurate as well. Overall, it is a handgun worth its modest price.

ATI Titan with dark brown grip, dark gray body on a woven gray-and-white background.

The ATI Titan is an attractive handgun, particularly considering the modest price.

The Titan

The next pistol is a lightweight 1911 .45 with a short barrel. The Titan is sometimes regarded as a handgun that is best left to those experienced with the 1911. It is short, light, kicks more than the larger guns and is more difficult to master than the heavier pistols. Just the same, if you intend to buy a 1911 for personal defense, it will probably be a short .45. A lightweight pistol on the belt is better than a heavy handgun at home.

The Titan with a focus on the high-visibility sights and a medium brown checkered grip on a white-and-gray woven background.

The Titan has good features including high-visibility sights and checkered grips.

You must put things in perspective. Just as the snub-nose .38 revolver cannot be fired as accurately as the 4-inch barrel revolver, the light .45 cannot be fired as accurately as a full-size handgun. You can be as fast from leather and perhaps even as fast on target. Quickly lining up the short sight radius may make for fast hits—although absolute accuracy is less at longer range.

Just the same, since personal defense demands a rapid shot at close range, this is a trade-off, not a drawback. While I prefer a Commander length 1911 .45 for most uses, the Titan gave me pause, a lightweight .45 many surely will find attractive.

The Titan is an interesting and attractive compact 1911 with a 3-inch barrel. The slide profile and general appearance are 1911. However, the high-visibility sights and upswept beavertail are more noticeable in such a compact pistol. There are mechanical differences as well. The short 1911 cannot properly function with a standard barrel-bushing arrangement. You need to make much modification in the original design for the barrel to tilt at a greater angle in these short-slide pistols. Therefore, you eliminate the barrel bushing, yielding a coned barrel that fits directly into the slide. It is difficult to prove the system works better than the original, and it is the system that works with short-barrel 1911 handguns.

The Titan features an abbreviated grip that holds a six-shot magazine. There are also aftermarket magazines for the short-frame 1911 that hold seven rounds. Wilson Combat even offers an extended eight-round magazine.

Dark gray front sight on woven white-and-gray background.

The dovetailed, not staked, front sight is uncommon in a handgun of this price.

An important part of the design is the dual-wound recoil spring. Recoil-spring technology has improved a great deal with the 1911, and does two things. First, this arrangement slows the extra slide velocity of the short 1911. The recoil energy of the cartridge is the same, but with a lighter slide, and the slide’s velocity could be increased to the point that it compromises the magazine’s ability to feed properly. The dual-recoil spring works well in this short-slide pistol.

Secondly, the recoil spring arrangement also helps absorb recoil. The Titan is a rugged-looking little gun, and in limited testing, performed well. Frankly, the accuracy level demonstrated by the pistol surprised me. The short sight radius is a limiting factor in pinpoint, long-range accuracy. However, the same short sight radius is an aid when quickly lining up the pistol on the target at combat distances. The Titan is brilliantly fast from leather.

In firing the pistol during a number of combat drills, the Titan proved reliable. The pistol’s recoil was not daunting with standard velocity 230-grain ammunition. Many opinions exist about short-slide 1911 pistols, recoil and reliability. Some believe that the standard velocity 230-grain loading—about 770 fps from the 3-inch barrel—is the best choice for reliable function.

Others believe the lighter bullet weights, such as the 185-grain JHP, are better choices because the magazine spring only has to push a lighter column of bullets during the feed cycle. If the pistol functions, that is all that matters. I tend to cling to the 230-grain mantra for function.

The pistol proved reliable with:

  • CCI Blazer 230-grain ball ammunition.
  • Federal American Eagle 230-grain FMJ.
  • Winchester 230-grain FMJ.
  • Wolf 230-grain ball ammunition.

I also fired a number of the 185-grain Winchester Silvertip. Function was good in firing a single box of the Silvertip. That load cut a cloverleaf, and one ragged hole, for a full magazine at 7 yards—which means the Titan has promise. The high-visibility sights are an aid to hitting, and the rear sight is nicely serrated. This is a good touch in a middle-of-the-road priced pistol.

Focus on Titan medium brown checkered wood and beavertail grip safety.

Among the features the author liked best on the Titan are the checkered wood grips and beavertail grip safety.

If you do not hold a self-loading pistol steady, the firing platform is not stable, and the pistol will short cycle. This occurs because the slide has traveled along with the frame rather than independent of the frame. The slide may pick up the cartridge, but it will not finish its travel, and the slide will stop short. Be certain to keep the grip firm with any self-loader, but particularly the short-slide 1911.

That having been said, I am approaching 400 trouble-free rounds in the Titan. The pistol has never failed to feed, chamber, fire or eject.

Perhaps, I have become overconfident with the full-size 1911. The short-slide 1911 will force you to concentrate on the sight picture, sight alignment and trigger press. The Titan is a good defense pistol, but one that is demanding of the user. In the end, the pistol is interesting, and my favorite ATI 1911.

Titan Accuracy Results

  • 5-shot groups
  • 15 yards
Manufacturer Load Group
CCI Blazer 230 grain FMJ 3.0 inches
Wolf 230 grain FMJ 3.25 inches
Wolf 185 grain JHP 2.5 inches
Winchester 185 grain Silvertip 3.4 inches
Winchester 230 grain PD 3.6 inches

Is the ATI .45 part of your arsenal? What do you like about it? Share in the comments section.


Bob Campbell is a former peace officer and published author with over 40 years combined shooting and police and security experience. Bob holds a degree in Criminal Justice. Bob is the author of the books, The Handgun in Personal Defense, Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry, The 1911 Automatic Pistol, The Gun Digest Book of Personal Protection and Home Defense, The Shooter’s Guide to the 1911, The Hunter and the Hunted, and The Complete Illustrated Manual of Handgun Skills. His latest book is Dealing with the Great Ammo Shortage. He is also a regular contributor to Gun Tests, American Gunsmith, Small Arms Review, Gun Digest, Concealed Carry Magazine, Knife World, Women and Guns, Handloader and other publications. Bob is well-known for his firearm testing.

View all articles by Bob Campbell

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Comments (23)

  • Lindsay


    I’m waiting on my commander to get here any day
    Paid $259 for it and of course there will be the full cost. I have many higher priced 1911s but wanted something cheap to just throw rounds down the range


  • Dave Gordon


    Do you know of any tactical light that will fit the 3 inch ati 45 cal?


  • JIm


    IMHO, the ATI ‘Commander’ has one SERIOUS, yet easily fixable AT THE FACTORY (HINT! HINT!)….. The front sight. While SHAPED properly, it is MUCH TOO NARROW. WHY the factory opted for such a narrow front sight defies logic.


  • Steve McKee


    Hey I Got the same gun and really love it,well balanced ,accurate,and reliable . You might get about an inch tighter groups at 25 yards but the price will be double what we paid. In my book that is fiscal insanity for anyone but a full time competitive shooter. Enjoy!!!


  • Tracey


    I was lucky and got the commander size and the frame ramp and barrel ramp line up on mine so I polished it and it will feed hollow points and even hollow points that are more square then round at the point of the bullet. I purchased an 8 round Wilson Combat stainless magazine for it and went to a black rubber Houge grip (only $15 ) put a white dab of paint on the front sight. Handless 45 +P Underwood ammo with ease. I paid $399 for this 1911 and I feel I got a good deal.


  • Steve McKee


    I have the 5inch govt. and absolutely love it. It has proven itself to be every bit as accurate and reliable as my buddies Ruger and my dads Colt at way less money. At this point I have only put about 600 rounds through it but it has not once failed to feed or eject. That is quite astounding for a brand new pistol of any make.


  • David Minigh


    The Military Version of this Pistol is nicely done. No complaints EXCEPT. This Pistol will NOT chamber any JHP I have tried. I even switched to a Chip McCormick magazine known for their “lips”. I am afraid to break down the weapon and attempt to polish the feed ramp so I have resigned myself to ONLY using Ball Type Ammo. This is a big letdown on a weapon used primarily as a home defense handgun so I am sure you can understand. A real “Bummer”. I must admit, however, that in the literature listed on ATI,s Site does have info somewhat advising a shooter to use standard manufactured ammo as well as military style ball ammo. Doesn’t come right out and say not to use HP’s but…


    • Tim


      Sorry to hear about your feeding issue David. I have the Commander size and it’s currently one of my all around favorites…! I didn’t have any issues w/feeding JHP, but I did polish the feed ramp – and this is something that you should absolutely not “be afraid” of doing yourself. Talk to your buddies that have done it, or google it as there is some really good info and videos on the proper procedure. Hope this helps!


  • michael


    ATI GFX 1911 .45 ACP MIL 5″ ATIGFX45MIL
    Palmetto State Armory.
    $299 on clearance.
    Every bit as good at hitting the target as one more than 5 times the price!
    A “hammer” can only be dressed and prettied up so much, but if it hits the nail properly every time, I could not care less about what name on the side of the slide.


  • LLinLa


    I’ve had the ATI Military 1911 .45 with the GSG .22 conversion kit I stumbled on at a gunshow about 6 months ago. I was looking to get into higher fire power since 9mm was my largest calibre and I didn’t own a 1911 style. It was $550 ($100 less than I could find anywhere else in that dual config. Very comfortable to shoot in either round and haven’t had a problem. The safety is a little sharp-edged and the front sight fixed. A little wear or sanding on the safety and a touch of white paint on the sight and I’m happy. (The .22 slide has hi-visible, driftable frt/back sights, too.) Maybe grinding down and cutting the .45 sight dovetail slot might be in the future for adjustable and/or fiber-optics. But for now I can reliable hit what I’m shooting at.


  • LLinLa


    I’ve had the ATI Military 1911 .45 with the GSG .22 conversion kit I stumbled on at a gunshow about 6 months ago. I was looking to get into higher fire power since 9mm was my largest calibre and I didn’t own a 1911 style. It was $550 ($100 less than I could find anywhere else in that dual config. Very comfortable to shoot in either round and haven’t had a problem. The safety is a little sharp-edged and the front sight fixed. A little wear or sanding on the safety and a touch of white paint on the sight and I’m happy. (The .22 slide has hi-visible, driftable frt/back sights, too.) Maybe grinding down and cutting the .45 sight dovetail slot might be in the future for adjustable and/or fiber-optics might be in the future. But for now I can reliable hit what I’m shooting at.


    • LLinLa


      Addendum: I’m not talking against higher priced, collectible models. But less expensive alternatives exist that get the job done. Caveat emptor. Research, read reviews, test if you can then gamble. I have a shooting buddy that buys ammo for only 25% of his acquisitions. I shoot all of mine. No accounting for tastes.


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