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. I would not be surprised to see Duane’s Lawnmower Shop offer a special edition. Most such guns are parts guns, with outsourced frames and slides and internal parts from various parents. I am disdainful of those guns and prefer a pistol manufactured by a major maker.

The Backstory

The U.S. has imported the Philippines-manufactured ATI pistols for several years. They have a decent reputation and seem a good value for the price. The importer, American Tactical Imports, recently left New York and an unfavorable climate toward guns and business. They are now in South Carolina, which has a pro-gun governor and is looking forward to other gun-related businesses making a similar move.

I leave politics and lobbying to the experts, although I will say it is probably easier being a gun guy (or girl) in Texas or South Carolina than New York City. But there are great people in NY State—regardless of the government. My hat is off to my friend Joseph Tartaro, of the Second Amendment Foundation, a life-long resident of New York State. You should support the Second Amendment Foundation if you want to keep your guns and keep shooting.

Enough said.

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.

The Standard Model

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. My favorite rendition of the 1911 is the 5-inch barrel Government Model. The full-length slide, standard barrel bushing and full-length dust cover seem to make for the greatest reliability. The long sight radius allows the greatest accuracy in the hands of a trained marksman. Just the same, the Commander length with its 4.25-inch barrel is the easiest of the two to carry.

ATI offers Government Model guns, 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. They are small, unless you want a replica of the GI 1911. The ATI pistols sights are an improvement, and that is an important distinction.

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

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. The Government Model .45 was fired the least of the 3 pistols tested for this report, but then we all know what a Government Model steel frame 1911 should feel like. 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 7 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. As I have mentioned before, these are my personal pistols. With rare exception, I purchased almost all from retail outlets. That is the case with the Titan. The pistol has never failed to feed, chamber, fire or eject. I have spent a considerable amount of time with this pistol trying to be all I can be.

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 pistol.

Among my friends, several favor the Commander, and everyone loves the Government Model. After years of packing a full-size .45—and numerous near misses and brawls with our protein-fed, ex-convict criminal class—I need a break from time to time. My back loves the Titan. Yours will too.

Proofing the Piece

After firing many good-quality loads, the Winchester Personal Defense 230-grain JHP is in the pistol now. This is a standard-velocity load with good expansion potential, not too much recoil and good function.

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.

SLRule

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 (6)

  • Tim

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    Has anyone been able to find a Blackhawk CQC Serpa holster that will fit the ATI Commander?
    Thanks!

    Reply

  • Ron

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    I like mine but I offer one caveat:
    Be careful choosing your holster.
    I switched from my Fobus to a leather holster because the Fobus scuffed the finish VERY badly. = $$$ to get it refinished. :(

    Reply

  • Noob

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    Hey Jon, go get your Colt, then when you realize you hate it and a friend of yours lets you shoot his ATI, and it dawns on you that you made a mistake wasting your money, think of me :-)

    Reply

  • Rich

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    I’ve owned the Titan FX for over a year now and won’t leave home without it! It took some getting used to the weight difference, from previously carrying a Kahr 9mm. I used a Fobus OWB holster but marked my Titan pretty bad. I now have a leather belt holster & leather shoulder holster for everyday carry. The gun shoots great, eats all that I run thru it. I change off with Hogue grips and Cocobola wood grips(looks nicer).
    I changed out the main coil spring with a Colt Mustang setup, and works well. The only thing is now it wont stay open on last shot. The original coil spring tends to loosen up on the retaining cup, but holds open on last shot. I’m going to try the Kimber coil assembly next, read good things. At the range, you gotta watch out for getting beaned in the forehead with the spent brass. Happens occasionally, but I’m thinking the ejector may need tweaking.
    Sorry for the long comment, but this is a gun worth owning…guess it’s around $450.

    Reply

  • Cort

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    Jon, if you click on the highlighted named products, it takes you to the CTD page that shows the pricing and availability. If you want a colt, buy one. These little newsletters are just brief reviews of some of the new products out there, if your looking for complete breakdowns and side by side comparisons of guns, you need to spend 12-25 bucks for a magazine.

    Reply

  • jon

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    i read this article mainly because mr. cambell wrote it. but i did read it rather quickly. did i miss something??? i did not note a retail price for any of the tested guns. also, why bother writing another article about another 1911 ,45??? i would like to see an article about the new puma .22 cal. buntline special and its shorter barreled brother. or a real long extensive glock model 41 . 380 cal. or the new glock 45 rail gun. but please do us all a favor, quote a retail price on each tested gun to let us know in a hurry if we can even be interested in it. i for one believe that if im going to buy a 1911, im just not interested in a cheap gun. im buying a colt that hasnt been modified.

    Reply

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