Gun Test: Ruger SR1911 10mm
By John Taffin, American Handgunner
Photos By Chuck Pittman, Inc.
Ruger was fashionably late to the 1911 party. The right time was 2011, the 100th anniversary of the advent of what is still the best semi-auto design ever offered, and the pistol was the new SR 1911. The original design was not perfect in all of its parts, however the basic platform — at least to my way of thinking — has never been bettered. There are only three things needed to improve it: Those original sights are tiny, the grip safety bites me on the top of my shooting hand and the trigger itself usually could benefit from attention.
Ruger did everything right. The SR 1911 arrived with sights which are much easier to see, a beavertail grip safety with a memory bump — both of which I need for positive acquisition and also to shoot comfortably. The SR’s stainless steel construction makes it more impervious to weather and rough conditions.
The one thing I wanted in addition to the Ruger improvements was adjustable sights. The original “tactical sights” are certainly adequate for most uses, and with most loads shoots to point of aim. However, for anything but a deep pocket pistol I’ll always opt for adjustable sights to be able to accommodate any loads I may choose to use. Ruger didn’t fail us and recently came out with their Target Model SR 1911 with excellent adjustable sights. They’ve also offered the Commander-style SR 1911 .45 ACP in both steel- and alloy-frame versions as well as the same lightweight pistol in 9mm. Now the next step has been taken and we have it chambered in 10mm, and this one comes with adjustable sights!
Feeding The Beast
Before we look at the Ruger 10mm let’s begin by looking at the cartridge itself. Back in 1971 my friend and neighbor, gunsmith John French, was part of a project to design a new semi-auto cartridge. Using the .224 Weatherby cartridge case as the basis, it was trimmed to the proper length and loaded with 180-gr. bullets — dead ringers for those used in the .38-40. Named the .40 G&A and chambered in a Browning Hi-Power, it attained 1,100 fps. By 1977 the velocity had been increased to 1,250 fps and it caught the attention of Jeff Cooper. Cooper got on board with the idea and it wasn’t long before we had both a factory semi-auto pistol for it as well as factory ammunition.
Norma supplied the new 10mm ammunition, consisting of a 200-gr. bullet at 1,200+ fps, and the pistol platform was a modified CZ-75 known as the Bren Ten and produced by Dornaus & Dixon. Cooper got behind the project and the orders poured in. What is amazing about Cooper’s enthusiasm was the fact the Bren Ten was neither a .45 ACP nor a 1911. Some buyers got pistols but very few received magazines and the project and the pistol died.
This would’ve been the end of it except for the fact Colt actually chambered the Government Model for the 10mm, saving the cartridge. The ammunition had to be tamed down somewhat and the FBI looked to the 10mm as a replacement for the 9mm that had failed in the infamous Miami Shootout. Eventually the cartridge proved too powerful for law enforcement use and the result was the emergence of the cartridge that almost killed off both the 10mm and the 9mm, namely the .40 S&W using a 10mm-sized projectile at 950 fps. We had now gone backwards to a cartridge which was ballistically equivalent to the original .38-40 chambered in a Colt Single Action in the 1880’s.
The 10mm somehow managed to hold on and other companies sporadically offered pistols chambered for it. This brings us to today and the Ruger SR 1911 10mm. With the arrival of the Ruger, we have the epitome of a perfect packin’ pistol, semi-auto style, chambered for a cartridge which is the most powerful available in a portable semi auto.
Of course, there are more powerful pistols available such as the Desert Eagle in .50 AE or .44 Magnum, however we are talking about a pistol that can be carried comfortably all day, placed under a pillow at night and can be counted on to meet any serious situation which may arise. The 10mm cartridge has been used successfully for big game hunting both in the United States and Africa, taking critters such as deer, elk, wildebeest, zebra and even Cape buffalo cleanly. With the right ammunition and in the right hands, a 1911 chambered in 10mm will do the job. It’s as close to a .41 Magnum as you can get in a 1911 design, to help put things into perspective.
The Best Of It
Ruger’s production manager, Mark Gurney, says of the new pistol: “The new Ruger has a bushingless bull barrel and a full-length guide rod — a little extra weight up front seems to make a big difference. Recoil is smooth. It doesn’t have a checkered frontstrap and the Hogue stocks are quite comfortable, so full power loads don’t make the gun feel like you are hanging onto a wood rasp when you are shooting. The Hogue panels are sticky enough to help you keep a good grip, though. The barrel is ramped and is nitrided to keep the stainless slide from galling with the stainless barrel. The rear sight is an adjustable Bomar-type, and the front is plain black.”
I cannot disagree with anything Mark has shared. Both the slide and frame are CNC machined for a smooth and tight fit, the nitrided barrel is ramped, and the trigger is skeletonized lightweight aluminum with an adjustable over-travel stop. It came to me with a 4-lb. trigger, smooth without creep.
The beavertail grip safety and memory bump allow me to come up with the proper grip with no pain on the back of my hand. Both the thumb safety and slide stop lever are extended, making their operation relatively easy. The two included stainless steel magazines, holding eight rounds, release positively when the extended magazine release button is pushed. The ejection port is oversized and the flat mainspring housing is checkered. The link pin is swaged, the firing pin is titanium. The weight of this 5″-barreled 10mm is just over 40 ounces. The finish is a low-glare stainless steel nicely set off by sights, controls, mainspring housing and grip safety all in black. There’s nothing on this pistol I would consider unnecessary nor is there anything else I would add. I like it just the way it is.
After spending several extended shooting sessions with the gun using both factory loads and handloads, I can say it performed flawlessly shooting everything with no malfunctions — except two caused by the shooter. As my old hands got tired I limp-wristed twice and both times got a stovepipe. Entirely my fault. For my use, the 10mm Ruger is basically an everyday packin’ pistol which can also be used for hunting big game.
Of all the loads tried the one with the highest velocity also proved to be exceptionally accurate. Cor-Bon’s 150-gr. JHP clocked out at 1,400 fps and put five shots into 1″ at 20 yards. The only load that bested it accuracy-wise was the very mild-shooting Federal 180-gr. JHP at 950 fps with 5 shots into a 3/4″ group. Another very easy and accurate shooting load was Black Hills 200-gr. JHP at just over 1,000 fps. Cor-Bon’s 180-gr. JHP at 1,200 fps also shot very well with a 1-1/4″ group for five shots. Other loads of note were the Federal 180-gr. Hydra-Shok at 1,045 fps and 1-1/4″, Federal 180-gr. Personal Defense at 1,025 fps and 1-1/8″, Hornady 200-gr. XTP-JHP at 1,100 fps and 1-1/8″, and the Federal 180-gr. Trophy Bonded JHP at 1,315 fps as well as the Sig Sauer’s 180-gr. FMJ and 180-gr. JHP at 1,270 fps — all with 1-3/4″ groups.
When it comes to handloads in the 10mm I mostly go with cast bullets and WW231 powder. My most used loads are Oregon Trail’s 175-gr. SWC over 5.5 grains for just under 1,100 fps and the old Lyman #401043 .38-40 bullet over the same charge at just over 1,000 fps. Both loads are exceptionally easy shooting and accurate.
A New Classic
This is simply an excellent shooting and performing pistol and I wasted no time in sending off a check to Ruger to cover it. I hope now with adjustable-sighted versions in both .45 ACP and 10mm the picture will be completed with the addition of two more in both 9mm and — most assuredly — .38 Super.
I certainly would not complain if the 9mm also came with an extra .30 Luger barrel. Ruger is known for listening to shooters and especially to dreamers like me. Who knows. I’ll keep my fingers crossed! MSRP $1019.