By Daniel T. McElrath
The Eagle LR Special, from Iver Johnson, is one substantial piece of gear. All-steel pistols seem almost anachronistic in the age of polymer or aluminum-alloy frames, yet the Eagle is as modern as any 1911 out there, essential material notwithstanding.
Iver Johnson has of late been creating some striking pistols with a high-end appearance despite competitive pricing. The Eagle LR Special is no exception. I’m not usually a fan of two-tone pistols, but here the matte-blue (black) slide and Midnight Bronze Cerakoted frame complement each other, rather than contrast. The black controls accent the chromatic pairing, as do the deeply figured Dymondwood laminated stocks that exhibit streaks of everything from black to tan.
Present are all of the refinements that are now so de rigueur on modern 1911s, we scarcely note them anymore. For the record, they include a high-sweep beavertail grip safety with memory pad, extended thumb safety and slide release, lowered and flared ejection port, three-hole trigger and skeletonized hammer.
What is new and distinctive that the Eagle LR Special brings to the table are a threaded barrel with included thread protector; suppressor-height, tritium night sights and a Picatinny rail integrated into the dust-cover. It’s a sturdy 1911 ready to embrace the modern world.
Picking up the Eagle, its heft seems considerable, even for an all-steel gun. That’s because it is. With a barrel .75-inch longer than a standard 5-inch 1911, plus a thread protector, as well as the added mass of the rail, the Eagle tips the scales at 43 ounces, some 4 ounces heavier than a standard all-steel, full-size 1911.
The pistol feels nicely smooth in the hand; slick, but not quite slippery. On the other hand, there is a lack of available purchase. The frontstrap is not textured; it contains no checkering, stippling or serrations. Moreover, the aforementioned stylized grips, which incorporate both a smooth area and a “gator skin” area, don’t offer a lot of “grab.” There are, of course, a number of fixes for this, from having a gunsmith checker the frontstrap to applying skateboard tape to swapping out the grips for rubber units from Pachmayr or Hogue, among others.
The sights are XS Sight Systems Express Tritium Dot combination. The front is a post containing a green tritium dot surrounded by a white ring. The rear is an extremely shallow “V” with a vertical window of tritium. Using the front sight, dot the “I” of the vertical line in the rear sight or simply place the front dot in the deepest part of the rear’s “V.” Though they may be the fastest iron sights out there, be aware that within 15 yards they require a dead-on hold rather than a 6-o’clock one.
The rail is a three-slot design, allowing you to best position your accessory for comfortable manipulation. You can mount a light, a laser or a light/laser combo. You can also mount a light there and Crimson Trace LaserGrips on the grip frame. The Eagle gives you a lot of options.
Fit and finish were both good; no tooling marks were visible inside the slide. Controls were comfortable to access and actuate with moderate pressure and functioned with a snappy sureness. The trigger was particularly good, exhibiting some take-up and virtually no creep before cleanly breaking. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better trigger, stock or custom.
Though we can’t see the Eagle being worn regularly for concealed carry, its weight pays off pleasantly at the range, where felt recoil is noticeably reduced. Furthermore, because that weight is at the muzzle and the dustcover, muzzle rise is attenuated. I imagined this would really help with hot loads, but Iver Johnson forbids both +P and reloads in this pistol.
We did experience a problem with the thread protector coming loose every few shots, necessitating unloading the pistol to safely retighten it. We corrected this with some removable, medium-strength threadlocker (don’t use the permanent stuff, since you do want to be able to remove it). Also, during testing there were five failures to go into battery, with the extractor hook missing the case rim.
The addition of a suppressor (simplified by the threaded barrel and high sights) would make shooting the Eagle quieter, more convenient and more practical for those shooting on private property where noise can be an issue. However, it’s also a fine pistol without a suppressor, one that just expands your options. Firing the vaunted .45 ACP round, equipped with night sights and mounting a light, laser or both, the Eagle should make a formidable home-defense tool. Overall, the Eagle LR Special is a versatile, easy-shooting pistol that evinces the best characteristics of the 1911 while also being nice to look at.