Ruger’s SR1911 CMD .45—The Right Gun at the Right Time

By Bob Campbell published on in 1911, Firearms, Guest Posts, Pistols, Reviews

Advances in firearms are often slower and incremental in nature. Society changes but slowly and so do society’s tools. When the 1911 pistol was adopted for U.S. military use and then a generation later improved into the 1911A1, few could foresee the tremendous popularity of the type. The 1911 went from a fight-winning pistol to a handgun used in competition and which won every competition it entered.

The Ruger 1911 CMD .45 in silver with a brown grip, muzzle pointed to the right, on a light gray background.

Well made from good material, the Ruger SR1911 CMD should give proven Ruger performance coupled with 1911 handling.

In time, the race was on for the most accessories and the greatest improvements. Much of what was added to the 1911s was counter productive to a combat pistol. Extended magazine release buttons dropped the magazine when the gun was holstered and extended slide release were often caught by the support hand, locking the pistol open during a firing string. The gas pedal slide lock safety was incompatible with well-molded leather holsters. A good quality 1911 crept over the thousand-dollar mark, putting many of us out of the market. Then there were the ultra-reliable polymer pistols, which possessed little pride of ownership, but always work. They captured the low bid police market and earned a place in the scheme of things.

Quite a few 1911 makers have offered a handgun of the GI type. This pistol is affordable and often works well although its practical value may be hindered by its lack of features. Still, wars were won with such pistols and the great feats of the 1911 were accomplished with the GI gun. I like to think that someone at Ruger realized that there might be a market for a handgun similar to the consensus gun once popularized by Colonel Jeff Cooper.

If you do not know who Cooper was, all I can say is, ‘My God didn’t your mother read to you when you were a child?’

I devoted a chapter in my first book on the 1911 to Colonel Cooper and he well deserved the ink. Cooper was of the opinion that an all around 1911 needed a good set of sights, a crisp—not necessarily light—trigger and a speed safety. This was the consensus. If you were going to use exotic bullet styles then you needed a feed ramp polish, but this was primarily due to the poor design of the hollow-point ammunition then in vogue. Modern JHP loads with an overall length of 1.250 inches and a well-designed bullet will usually feed just fine in a GI pistol. If the pistol is properly constructed with the requisite gap of 1/32-inch between the two portions of the feed ramp it will feed well-designed ammunition.

The Breakdown

So, the Ruger 1911 has what is needed in a 1911 but nothing superfluous to add expense. And the price point is very important in today’s market. The CMD pistol is a true Commander length 1911. In an age when many 1911 handguns use the belled barrel system for lockup the CMD uses the original 4.25-inch barrel with a separate barrel bushing. Some feel that this is the most useful and accurate set up.

The Ruger SR1911 CMD .45 focused on the grip handle on a gray background

The Ruger grip panels leave nothing to be desired.

The slide and frame are steel, so the Ruger isn’t a true lightweight aluminum frame Commander. The frame is cast. Since cast parts are used for critical parts in the aerospace industry I feel that they have made the grade for handgun frames. When has anyone ever had trouble with a Ruger frame or receiver?

The sights are an important feature of the consensus gun. The Ruger CMD features Novak low mount sights with three dot inserts. These sights are excellent examples of what a combat sight should be with a good sight picture. They will not snag on the draw. The slide serrations are much the same as any other 1911 and thankfully the pistol doesn’t feature forward cocking serrations.

The pistol is nicely finished in stainless steel while there are pins, screws and parts finished in black. The contrast is appealing to the eye. The magazine housing is nicely checkered. The grip panels are among the nicest I have examined on a factory pistol regardless of the price. I am a fan of custom grips but simply cannot see changing these out for anything in the foreseeable future.

The slide lock safety isn’t a gas pedal type, but it is larger than the GI types. It is ideal for all around use. The memory groove beavertail grip safety helps funnel the hand into the grip on the draw. It is also an advantage to those of us that use the thumbs forward grip style and sometimes allow the palm to rise off of the grip safety. The grip safety properly releases its hold on the trigger about half way into compression. Trigger compression is a smooth five and one half pounds with little creep and no backlash.

The package looked good after considerable examination. Field stripping the pistol showed that the CMD is free of excess tool marks. The Ruger marked magazines have good springs and a well-designed follower. Overall the quality of manufacture is high.

The Expectations

The Ruger SR1911 CMD .45, partial view, with a two-tone soft gray green treatment with brown grip against a log

Ruger’s two-tone treatment is pretty nice!

The proof is in the firing. Ruger has moved to a new type of manufacturing process that includes a surprising amount of handwork and machining to the barrel bushing and barrel from one piece of stock. I am pretty certain that custom barrel makers would approve. Accuracy expectations were high.

The pistol was lightly lubricated in anticipation of firing. The 1911 has often demanded a modest break in period of 50 to 100 full power cartridges before it commenced reliable function. The Ruger demanded no such break in. There were no burrs present and the link was properly set from the factory. The .45 ACP is a very efficient cartridge usually showing a full powder burn in even short Commander length barrels.

Accuracy potential is high and pressure is low. Despite the low pressure, the .45 ACP demonstrates excellent wound potential. With 1.6 inches of frontal diameter and sufficient mass to ensure good penetration the wound ballistics of the type are impressive. 230-grain ‘Hardball’ has enjoyed an excellent reputation on the battlefield.

Despite attempts to revise history and convince us that a small caliber somehow defies physics and does the work of a .45 by using a trick bullet, the .45 ACP remains popular. Total frontal diameter is 60% greater than the 9mm despite comments that the round is 1/10-inch larger than the 9mm—go back a few steps and study your geometry.

The Ruger SR1911 CMD .45 with a Two-Tone soft gray green treatment with brown grip against a log

While designed primarily for personal defense, the Ruger is a fine trail gun as well.

The .45 in standard loadings also has twice the mass of a 115-grain 9mm. .45 hardball produces a long wound channel and produces even more trauma when exiting, a fact that amateurs seem to ignore. Air in and blood out creates a complex wound. Just the same for public safety and to enhance wound potential an expanding bullet is preferred. But most of all remember the basic components of marksmanship. The .45 isn’t very effective if you miss the target.

At the Range

The initial testing was done with Winchester USA 230-grain ball ammunition. We began drawing from a custom leather belt slide. The belt slide is handy, secure enough for range work, and darned fast into action if need be. I often use this holster on the range and would not hesitate to carry it concealed under a proper covering garment. The finish is flawless and overall this is a good example of quality leather.

At three to seven yards the Ruger proved fast and accurate, practically placing the rounds into the same hole in deliberate fire. Double taps, hammers and controlled pairs were well placed. The pistol is simply well turned out and the first class sights and trigger compliment each other. Firing the pistol at the steel gong at a long 25 yards gave a satisfying clang more often than not. Once I acclimated to the trigger—and it is a well tuned 1911 trigger like many others—hitting small targets at known and unknown ranges made for great fun on the range.

The pistol was fired with a variety of left over ammunition from other tests and the results were always the same—the pistol fed, chambered, fired and ejected all ammunition normally.

The Ruger SR1911 CMD .45 in silver with a brown grip, cocked and ready to use, on a light gray background

Cocked, locked and ready to rock! This is a great 1911 pistol for all around use.

I racked up about 240 rounds and examined the pistol. As I expected, there was no eccentric wear. The pistol and the author returned to the range with a number of loads for accuracy testing. Twenty-five yards may be a long combat range but modest for an all around go anywhere do anything handgun, and that is what the 1911 is to me. I have taken a deer cleanly at about that range with a single round, so the .45 will serve in that niche. Not as a handgun of choice for hunting but as a firearm of opportunity to feed the hungry, well, it worked and that is an interesting story for another time.

Personal Defense?

The Ruger SR1911 CMD .45 with beavertail safety grip against a tree trunk

The beavertail grip safety is among the best factory designs at any price.

A personal defense loading should strike a balance of expansion and penetration. The Winchester 230-grain Bonded Core load is the choice of many law enforcement agencies. This load isn’t rated +P, but it breaks just over 900 fps from the Ruger CMD, as fast as many +P loads. The PDX 230-grain JHP on hand was slightly slower at 864 fps. This would probably be my all around personal defense choice. An interesting load that proved controllable and suitably accurate is the Winchester-230 grain JHP in the white box personal defense line. It isn’t a bonded bullet, but it expands reliably and is offered at a good price in 50-round boxes.

Prior to World War One Winchester was given a military contract on the premise that misfires were to be held to one in 100,000, very high standards for the day. The contract was met and Winchester standards are far higher today. These defense loads are useful and the PDX in particularly has demonstrated a good balance of expansion and penetration. The 230-grain PD bullet looks a lot like an unplated Silvertip and that isn’t a bad place to be. I also tested my last half box of the Winchester 185-grain Silvertip. This is a classic defense round that features light recoil as an advantage. Just the same, in the future I think I will continue to rely upon the 230-grain loads.

The Ruger SR1911 CMD .45 in silver with a brown grip and the speed safety option on a white background

The Ruger’s speed safety isn’t quite a gas pedal but it is ideal for concealed carry use.

I was a bit surprised to find the Ruger demonstrated such good accuracy, but then why shouldn’t it? It is a steel frame .45 with ¾-inch off the barrel and the short sight radius isn’t a hindrance off of the bench rest. Army demands for accuracy in the original 1911 called for a five-inch group at 25 yards and a 10-inch group for five shots at 50 yards. That type of accuracy will save your life but many of the GI guns were a bit more accurate. The Ruger clearly bested that standard.

Firing from a benchrest was pleasant but the heavier loads did wear on the wrist after a few magazines of ammunition. There is less give from the bench and when standing in the Weaver stance the elbows act as shock absorbers. Just the same the poorest group was fired with the mildest load, so figure that. Like all quality handguns the Ruger CMD preferred one load to the other but any of the loads tested were accurate enough for personal defense.

Conclusion

The Ruger CMD has made the grade. It is well made of good material, utterly reliable, fast into action and packs a serious punch. For those who practice it is difficult to imagine that a higher level of protection would be offered by any other system. The bottom line—the pistol lists for $842. Examples are sometimes found just a little less. Either way, the pistol is worth its tariff.

Accuracy Results

 

Load Velocity Group
Winchester 185 grain Silvertip 909 fps 4.0
Winchester 230 grain USA ball 822 fps 3.0
Winchester 230 grain JHP PD 841 fps 2.5
Winchester PDX 230 grain JHP 870 fps 2.8
Winchester 230 grain Bonded Core 901 fps 2.6

Handloads

Load Velocity Group
Rainier 185 gr. JHP/WW 231 870 fps 3.15
Rainier 185 gr. JHP/Titegroup 909 fps 2.6
Montana Gold 230 grain FMJ/WW 231 807 fps 2.0

What do you think about the Ruger 1911 CMD? Have you shot one? Do you own one? What are your impressions? Share them with us in the comment 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.

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Comments (4)

  • Mike

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    I have owned the Ruger SR1911 for about a year and a half now and have put more than 500 rounds through it. Mostly Winchester Ball ammo, 230 grain, some Magtech and several reloads from my buddy. It has become by far my favorite 1911 and has now replaced my Kimber Ultra CDP II and my Smith 4566, both of which I sold in favor of the Ruger. I am absolutely dead accurate with this gun up to and including 50 yards. Maybe this gun just suits my shooting style better than the others, but this is the gun I will keep and never sell. Even my friends were impressed with the gun and my son’s both love shooting it. As far as I am concerned, it is my favorite gun in my collection, other than my M1A, but that’s not even a fair comparison. I have not had a single FTF, or any kind of jam or miss fire in 500 + rounds. Good job Ruger, I might have to buy another one. My only other Ruger is my trusty old Blackhawk revolver 357 Mag and it’s not going anywhere either. I like my Rugers and would have to say, this SR1911 is one really nice collectable handgun and would fit well into anyones shooting collection.

    Reply

  • MC

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    3000K plus rounds and only one FTF which happened in the first 50 rounds. As a former plastic wonder pistol guy this is now my SHTF pistol. Enough said.

    Reply

  • Dennis

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    I have one now for just a couple of month. Just today had to send back to Ruger to have the front sight replaced. Had only shot four rounds through while doing some qualification firing when the sight broke. Before that time had fired approximately 200 rounds through it. Ruger is replacing the sight with a machine sight so hopefully will not have the problem again. After using a 1911A1 in the Navy for years if felt great to have one back in my hand… btw… i passed my qualifications with a score of 246 out of 250…. even with out a front sight… great gun easy to shoot

    Reply

  • Dr J. Mick Foster

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    Ruger made one BIG mistake!
    They got greedy…
    When I first looked at the pistol the retail was $629.00.
    When it elevated to $729.00 I started to lose interest.
    Now I see from your article, once again, they increased
    the price to $842.00. Sorry Ruger, but you have moved
    your price up a little much. For a few bucks more, I can
    own the Kimber! A far superior 1911 to the Ruger..

    Reply

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