Firearms

ATI’s Affordable 1911 Handgun: The ATI .45

Five-inch Barrel ATI Pistol with brown grip, pointed downward and to the right on a black background.

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]

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (32)

  1. Owned the government for over 7 years and have fired thousands of rounds. Never had an issue, and have taught 6 daughters to fire with it. I own several manufacturers and this is the best value I have.

  2. I am a retired LEO. I bought an ATId Fatboy .45 acp, double stack 10 rd. mag. 3.1 in. barrel. I liked the size, capacity, and balance of the gun. It came with one mag. and plain sights-not adj. and no out line. The dealer I bought the gun from, attempted to obtain a second magazine for me with negative results. Calls and email to the US importer and email to the factory in the Philippines, went no where. In a two year period of time he was able t find an addition 12 and 14 round extended mags. He also spoke personally to the ATI rep. at the Las Vegas Shot show, who promised him help with the problem. Nothing happened. I also tried to obtain better sights for the gun. They have dovetails for the sights that are made by no one. Support from ATI was and is non existent. They just do not provide support for their products.

    1. Bruce,
      I will be meeting with AI this week, I’ll pass along your comments and contact information and see what we can do. ~Dave Dolbee

  3. Evidently I’m not the only one who reads articles posted that came out a number of years ago. WHEW! It’s NOT just me.
    Anyway, having just discovered this particular article on this ATI 1911 style pistol, I admit to being intrigued by the platform. True, I’ve seen short articles on the pistol before now but, because I wasn’t familiar with the ATI brand, I paid them no attention. I suppose that is MY loss since I am now MUCH better informed by spending the time to so my due diligence on the mfr and product in general.
    Most notably, to me anyway, is the asking price for any version of this manufacturers offerings be it the full-sized Government version, the slightly abbreviated Commander version or the Officer’s Model which is called their “Titan” option. Depending on who you ask or where you read about it or which FFL dealer you deal with, it seems any version of this 1911 platform can be had from ~ $299.00 – $350.00ish.
    Now I don’t know about YOU, but for the money that price seems to be a SERIOUS DEAL for anyone looking for a 1911-type pistol in any of its iterations.
    Now understand, I bought my first Colt M1911A1 Government Model .45 ACP pistol while serving in the US ARMY over in Germany for the HUGE (To ME, anyway) price of $350.00 back in 1980, IIRC, and it has been in my possession ever since. It’s accompanied me on countless adventures and served as my primary sidearm when I was a Rookie Deputy Sheriff until the department FINALLY issued me a Department pistol. With only the (VERY) occasional burp or hiccup while using reloads from either my department (we were issued lead projo reloads for qualifications and issued Factory FMJ for carry. This was before the less-than-educated training staff would trust EVERY gun to cycle HP ammo) or my own reloads I used for.practice and IPSC shooting. But when it came to FACTORY ammo, I’ve NEVER experienced a burp, hiccup or nary a fart from either of my Colt’s. Same with the Officer’s Model which I carried in an ankle holster as my backup pistol.
    Speaking of which, my Colt Officer’s Model only cost me $450.00 NIB as a present to myself upon graduation from the Police Academy.
    My point in this LONG (ER than I expected diatribe-sorry) is that it seems I might have to reconsider the ATI brand for a “Basic” pistol that might be worth the money, time and effort to build myself a 1911 in .38 Super one day.
    Even if the brand has increased in price I cannot believe the end result would be anywhere near the cost of even a well-used original in the caliber from a major manufacturer.
    And to those who have written in to discuss their happiness about their purchases, good for you. I’d be interested to know if, several years and untold hundreds or thousands of rounds later, they are still happy with their choice or if it has, ultimately, turned out to be a POS that some have complained they were/are right out of the box.
    Thanks for the article and informative comments. I’ve learned more and am now considering the purchase of one for myself.
    While I’d PREFER a new pistol, for those who have written about getting a “Lemon” perhaps you’d be willing to sell it via an FFL dealer for a REASONABLE price?
    If so, drop me a line and we can kick around the idea.
    Thanks for reading.

  4. This is my only.45 ACP; I also have a Uberti .45 Long Colt SA revolver. Quite a step up from my S & W .38 Special, both in 4″ barrels. I really love the accuracy of this GFX .45 Military! I have a question about the safeties: the thumb safety is pretty self-explanatory and feels very reliable. There is another one that also seems to be reliable when I pull the trigger in the half-cocked position. Is this one okay to use? Thank you. Jeff Taylor, Pgh, PA

    1. The Half cock is not an intended “safety”.
      Never “go off half cocked”, get it?
      Also, with the hammer back, if you pull the trigger holding it, then you flick the manual safety off, the hammer will fall and the gun will fire.

    2. I still don’t know why they would put it on if one is not to use it. No warning, no nothing. I’m confused, not that it is rare for me to be in this state of mind, but surely I’m not the only person who has wondered this.

  5. I bought the Commander-Sized version of the ATI 1911 in 9mm and it cannot be made to function reliably. There is no feed ramp and the 9mm barrel, being of a narrower diameter, has an even greater jump from the magazine as bullets try to feed. This gun might work in .45 ACP, but even then it is a guess. The thing is anyone who test fired this gun at the factory would have recognized the problem. If they were decent people they would have not produced a mechanically flawed gun and then marketed it here in America. I bought the gun used, and I am sure the previous owner sold it because of the same problems I am having. I had a talented gunsmith look at the gun and he said the design flaws were unfixable without making the gun dangerous to shoot. DO NOT BUY ATI 1911 9MM HANDGUNS!!!

    1. Mine seem to work just fine, and I have them in both 9mm and .45 ACP.
      Are you trying to use some funky hollow point?

  6. 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

  7. 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.

  8. 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!!!

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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…

    1. 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!

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

    1. 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.

  15. There is nothing better for a collection than a true Colt. The 1911 is a true piece of history. And you’ll pay for it. But you decide the price you’re comfortable with, any decent modern firearm will do the job of firing ammo, so you must pick the other specs that matter to you. The original 1911 design is just a place to start. Modern improvements and a lower price make strong selling points for guns like the ATI. You can buy what you want, just make sure you’re getting what you want.

  16. Jon, All I can say s a fool and his money are soon parted. Buy a Rock Island and save some serious coin for ammo. When you buy a Colt, all you are paying for is the name my friend. That is why Colt had to be rescued in an 11th hour bank bailout, to darn expensive!

  17. Two problems I have experienced with mine.
    Will not feed hollow points.
    When carried in a leather iwb holster the safety has disengaged.

    Any suggestions?

    1. Hey Mike,

      I have heard that lots of 1911’s have trouble with hollowpoints. Polishing the feed ramp would probably help, you can look up how to do that on youtube.

      Stronger magazine springs may help as well so the nose of the bullet doesn’t tip down when the slide is snapping back shut. FMJ’s wouldnt have a problem, but if the tip of the hollow point hits the feed ramp it might jam it up.

      As for the safety, A stronger detent spring could help, as well as somehow deepening the detent notch on the thumb piece, or just replacing the piece with a nice and easier to hit safety.

  18. Wow, over a year ago since he posted and we are still correcting Jon?
    Jon, I had an unmodified Colt .45 1911 and so far a couple of “cheap 1911’s” and the only thing that might make the Colt stand out would be the finish.
    My ATI .45 mil-spec 1911 purchased new @ $299 from Palmetto state armory is as far as I can tell is as good as a Colt.
    And the Citadel 9mm 1911 purchased new @ $349 from the local Rural King has an ambi extended safety, beaver-tail, full length guide rod, and again, as far as I can tell is as good as a Colt.
    Both shoot accurate as good or better than I can, never had a failure of any kind, and empty would be as good a club as any 1911 at any price.
    I now have a 1911 in .45, and one in 9mm, all for about the price of one Colt 1911.
    Now that I have experienced the convenience of having an ambi safety, I am getting one for my ATI so the ATI will end up costing about as much as my Citadel, but with fewer bells & whistles.

  19. 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. 🙁

  20. 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 🙂

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

  23. 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.

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