There are two great service-grade types in the 1911 handgun—stainless steel handguns are good, serviceable pistols for hard use and commander-size handguns are a good choice for concealed carry. After all, if there were a legitimate criticism of the 1911 pistol, it would be size and weight. The 1911 is thin and heavy. Ergonomics are excellent and beyond question. The attributes of the type make modification, and even redesign, desirable as long as you keep the advantages.
The steel frame 4.25-inch barrel pistol is a popular 1911. Sensibly shorter and lighter than the Government Model, and short enough to make for easier concealment, the Commander-size 1911 has a lot going for it: speed from leather, comfort in firing and design reliability. The pistols are often seen on police belts and in the hands of savvy people who want the best protection possible, which is why many are willing to foot the bill for a handgun that costs twice as much as a GLOCK.
The SIG Carry Stainless is a bright spot in the landscape, a pistol that offers first-class performance at a reasonable price. It is a great carry gun, and the advantages of stainless steel are obvious. The pistol features front-strap checkering, high-visibility sights with self-luminous tritium inserts, and most importantly, SIG-quality manufacturing. The pistol is well made of good material.
The occasional problem gun seems absent from SIG manufacture; SIG pistols have always been consistent, and these are no exception. Most of us will welcome the changes to the 1911 template. It features a positive firing pin block or drop safety. Even when dropped, the pistol’s firing pin cannot take a run forward and crack the primer.
The drop safety prevents the firing pin from taking a run against the firing pin spring. SIG replaced the original 1911 extractor with an external extractor. The original extractor will last for many years, if properly constructed of spring steel. However, if the 1911 has a problem, it is usually traced to the extractor. The new extractor design works well in practice.
The 4-inch Carry Stainless is among the best-balanced 1911 handguns you will ever heft. As opposed to a pistol designed for muzzle-heavy balance and target shooting, the Carry Stainless is primarily designed for rapid presentation from the holster and fast acquisition of the target.
The balance is due more to the design of the handle. The pistol is more than accurate enough for its intended mission—as the range tests show—and it is as suitable for service as any other 1911 pistol. Through time, the short-barrel 1911 handgun has earned a reputation for reliability not quite on a par with the full-length pistol.
The answer to the problem was spring technology, improved magazines from the factory and intelligent maintenance and ammunition selection by the shooter. While the pistol proved reliable with every type of ammunition tested, ammunition that has a full powder burn and ammunition with recoil strength near the original specifications for the .45 ACP is the most predictably reliable.
During the test program, we fed the piece the 230-grain FMJ, a standard hardball loading with much to recommend.
- Accuracy was acceptable.
- The wide-open nose did not impede function.
- The bullet drove deep and produced a sizeable exit wound.
- Control was not difficult.
A counterpoint that is more economical, and often slightly more accurate, is the 230-grain RNL. This type of lead bullet is not hard on the lands and grooves and catches well, while accuracy is often match grade. This load is an accuracy secret, although well-known to serious 1911 shooters. For personal-defense use, and in the interest of public safety, use an expanding bullet. The 230-grain JHP is a proven performer, with an excellent balance of expansion and penetration. I have trusted this load for years and consider it my front-line choice for personal defense.
However, a new loading is changing my mind about lightweight bullets. The Black Hills TAC loading weighs but 185-grains using the Barnes X bullet. The bullet retains the balance between expansion and penetration, and it expands into a petal profile that produces a complex wound. Air in and blood out is what it is all about; the body is a pressurized system, and this bullet plays hell with that system.
Accuracy is superb and recoil noticeably lighter than with the 230-grain loading. While it takes some effort to change from a loading I have trusted for so long, the new TAC load clearly offers an excellent balance between expansion and penetration and certainly is on the cutting edge of wound potential.
The SIG Carry Stainless shoots like a dream when you love the 1911, and for anyone approaching the type with an open mind. Predictably, it is fast on target with good control. At ranges past 25 yards, the shorter sight radius takes its toll on accuracy. Those of you who practice are a threat to man-sized targets to 100 yards. The drop of the .45 ACP cartridge is more of an impediment to hitting than the short sight radius, and the high-velocity 185-grain TAC load addresses this problem to a noticeable extent.
I carried the pistol in a belt slide holster. This holster features an ideal tilt for a rapid draw and is a very handy piece of leather. The SIG Carry Stainless in an excellent, all-around personal defense pistol. Properly carried—cocked and locked—there is no handgun faster to an accurate first shot. The pistol is well made, reliable and combines excellent hit probability with a fight-stopping cartridge. That is all we may ask.
- 25-yard groups
- Average of three, five-shot groups
- Groups measured in inches
|Black Hills 230-grain FMJ||2.5 inches|
|Black Hills 230-grain RNL||1.9 inches|
|Black Hills 230-grain JHP||2.4 inches|
|Black Hills 185-grain TAC||2.0 inches|
|Wolf 230-grain FMJ||3.4 inches|
|Wolf 185-grain JHP||2.5 inches|