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.
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.
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 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 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 .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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
|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|
|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.