I have longed for a lightweight “Commander” 1911 for a number of years. When I held the Colt “Lightweight Commander” many years ago, it went on my radar. It has been on my radar ever since. I was carrying a Colt Series 80 MKIV “Combat Commander” off duty and the pistol weighed heavily in a Bianchi OWB pancake holster with a thumb break. I could not afford the “Lightweight Commander” and it soon dropped off the radar although the memory of one remained.
I have had “Commander” 1911-based pistols since that time and when Ruger introduced the SR1911CMD one soon found its way into my home. The SR1911CMD, like the Colt, is heavy at 36.4 ounces unloaded. I soon had reservations about carrying the SR1911CMD and opted, instead, to carry the Springfield XDs 4.0 45 (23.5 ounces), but did not like the 5-round initial capacity. I had even succumbed to the temptation to carry a 9x19mm pistol, the Glock G43. While the XDs and Glock G43 are excellent pistols with great shooting characteristics, I needed to return to my roots with a 1911-based “Commander” sized pistol; the right one just did not come around for me – until lately.
Ruger introduced the SR1911CMD-A, a lightweight version of the SR1911CMD and I started to do my homework. Even when I viewed videos and read reviews about the features of the Ruger SR1911CMD-A, I still was not convinced that the pistol was right for me.
I really liked the Colt Lightweight Commander XSE, but it cost more than I could afford and it retained one feature that has caused consternation to users in the past.
I liked the Springfield RO Compact; it was light, compact, and held enough rounds (6+1) to warrant serious consideration. The grip was short enough to conceal well and the gun felt good in my hands. The trigger was good but not excellent. The sights reminded me of the XDs; they are small and the front sight is fiber optic; I changed out the sights on the XDs because of this. I vacillated between the Ruger SR1911CMD-A and the Springfield RO Compact; I went to the two local gun shops that carried them on several occasions until I think that the salespersons were growing weary of me. I sensed that it was time to fish, cut bait, or forget the whole thing. Being true to my nature, it was time to fish.
Colt, Springfield, and Ruger know what they are doing when it comes to building firearms. I know that I could have pulled other 1911-based pistol manufacturers into the mix, but I have pistols made by Ruger and Springfield and I had enough to think about between those two let alone add complexity to the mix. It was almost going to come down to a coin toss.
Allow me to digress for a minute. Recently, I had acquired a Glock G43 after carrying a Springfield XDs 4.0 45 for a while. The Glock G43 is a very fine pistol for defensive work with the right ammunition and the right handler. I was not the right handler, although I am right handed. I just could not attain the level of proficiency with the G43 that I had hoped for. Granted that the G43 is a light, short-barreled, compact pistol and for UCAP work it is better than having a .380 caliber, in my opinion. I really wanted to jump on the striker-fired pistol bandwagon and become a “fanboy” of them. The Springfield XDs 4.0 45 is also an excellent piece to pack, bit it too suffered from a shortcoming – in the capacity department.
I do like striker fired pistols but there is something in me that likes to see an external hammer. I like the feel of rolling a hammer back, I like the sound it makes when doing so, and when it is cocked the pistol is ready to rock. I needed a pistol that I could interact with on my terms and not the pistol’s terms. Once again, I headed for the LGSs. This time, I headed out with a little more edumacation (sic) than before. It was time to fish.
The Ruger SR1911CMD-A won the battle, but there was a price to pay aside from the cost of the pistol; More on that later.
The fit and finish of the Ruger SR1911CMD-A is excellent from its anodized aluminum frame to the brushed stainless steel finish on the slide. The slide to frame fit is flawless and tight. One of the features of the Ruger SR1911CMD-A that I like is that the barrel and bushing is made from the same stock and the pistol locks up tight as a drum. The grip panels, although slim, provide a good purchase on the pistol and Ruger chose the famous double-diamond patter and excellent checkering.
The back strap is of anodized aluminum and nicely checkered. The front of the grip has vertical serrations to aid in gripping the pistol. Some folks have complained about this, as they would like more checkering; I am fine with it as it is. By comparison, the Springfield RO Compact has no checkering on the front part of the grip at all.
The slide lock is standard 1911 fare while the left-side only thumb safety is extended but rounded on the leading edge, which I prefer over a squared off edge. The Heine sights are drift adjustable for windage. No elevation adjustment is provided. The rear sight sweeps back to the rear so there are no worries concerning catching them with your hand during an overhand racking of the slide. Slide serration are on the rear and allow more than enough purchase for the hand without being invasive to the first layer of skin. The overall finishing of the slide is very smooth.
The magazine release is right where John Browning intended, left side only, and slight pressure from the thumb drops the magazines like they are supposed to. What I like is that I can push the magazine release with my thumb without changing my grip – just like it should be. The Ruger SR1911CMD-A magazine release seems to be extended more than I have experience with other 1911-based pistols, but that might seem that way due to the thin grip panels. The grip panels are fine, as they aid in concealing a 7-round magazine grip handle – but I like a thick grip. Read on!
Field stripping is standard 1911, as the Ruger SR1911CMD-A uses a standard bushing and two-piece guide rod. Ruger includes a plastic bushing wrench with the pistol to help in the field stripping process, but I found it unnecessary. By comparison, the Springfield RO Compact has a one-piece guide rod and a tapered barrel. I was allowed to field strip Springfield RO Compact and it takes some doing. I suppose that if you field stripped the Springfield RO Compact enough it would become easier to do. With the Ruger SR1911CMD-A, I could field strip it blindfolded because doing so is burned into my memory cells; another point for the Ruger SR1911CMD-A if you have any experience with a true 1911-based pistol at all – familiarity breeds familiarity.
The Ruger SR1911CMD-A also has a grip safety memory bump, a very nice beaver tail so that I can get my hand as high as possible, and a light and serrated “combat” hammer. Rolling back the hammer on the Ruger SR1911CMD-A takes a little effort. The hammer does exhibit a half-cock position and the pistol will not fire with the hammer in this position even with both the thumb safety off and the grip safety pressed. Note that the Ruger SR1911CMD-A is a “70” series design. Ruger has (as does Springfield Armory) incorporated a titanium firing pin that prevents the pistol from firing even if dropped on the muzzle.
Two flush fit, stainless steel 7-round magazines are provided with the Ruger SR1911CMD-A and both magazines are drilled for base bumpers. The Ruger SR1911CMD-A, of course, uses any 1911 standard 7-round and greater capacity magazines. Magazines slide well into the slightly-beveled magazine well, and like most 1911 magazines, require a firm push to become fully seated. Some may want to add base bumpers, or use magazines with them already installed. Base bumpers do; however, add slightly to the handle of the pistols. Personally, I prefer flush mount magazines for primary carry and use magazines with base bumpers for spares, as will be the case with the Ruger SR1911CMD-A.
There is no need to perform a “Press check” to determine if there is a round chambered. There is a small “window” at the rear of the chamber where a loaded case can be viewed. However, you can still perform a “press check” if you wish, as the Ruger SR1911CMD-A with its two-piece guide rod allows you to do so. Ruger saw fit to stay with a two-piece guide rod over a one-piece guide rod that complicates disassembly. Thank you, Ruger!
The Ruger SR1911CMD-A has two rattles that are caused by slight side play in the trigger and slight side play in the grip safety. The play in the grip safety seems to stem from a little play in the pivot hole of the grip safety around the shaft of the thumb safety. To be honest, I know of no 1911-based pistol that does not have some play in the grip safety – it is not a game stopper.
The thumb safety is positive, but in my opinion, slightly light for my taste. Personally, I like a stiff safety. The thumb safety; however, works fine and there is no play when the safety is in the on or off position. The thumb safety, spring, and grip safeties are replaceable items should you feel the need for tighter tolerances in these areas. Can you say, Brownells?
The trigger is a curved-faced, serrated aluminum trigger that is adjustable for trigger over-travel. There is slight lateral play in the trigger that some purist would be screaming about. Personally, a little side play here does not bother me; it would if the pistol would be an Ed Brown Custom, but it is not. Again, I know where Brownell’s is should I feel the need for a tighter trigger fit. The trigger exhibits a short take-up before resistance is felt. No real surprise there. The trigger pull, out of the box on my particular pistol, measures a crisp break just a hair under 5 pounds. There was just a hint of grittiness, but this is a new pistol and that will, no doubt, go away with use. No measurable trigger over-travel was detected.
One of the features that I was really concerned about with the Ruger SR1911CMD-A was the integrated titanium feed ramp. One of the banes of aluminum-framed pistols of the 1911 past (including the fine COlt “LIghtweight Commander” was that the feed ramp was part of the frame. Some feed ramps were damaged when using hollow-point ammunition. Springfield uses a feed ramp that is integrated with the barrel; one nice happy unit. Ruger; however, took a different course with the Ruger SR1911CMD-A and embedded a titanium feed ramp into the aluminum frame. Now, we all know that titanium is strong and that was not my concern; the embedding part was. After all, I did not buy this pistol to have it fail before I really got started with it. I have to admit that I do not know how Ruger did it, but they did it well. The titanium feed ramp is virtually seamless with the material of the slide. The Ruger SR1911CMD-A is an old design made better by modern metals and manufacturing.
I mentioned earlier that with purchasing the Ruger SR1911CMD-A there was a price to pay. The money to purchase it was bad enough (isn’t it always), but I am talking about another price – something to house it in. I donned a mask, rubber gloves, and became a surgeon of sorts.
I had a Crossbreed Super Tuck Deluxe holster from a previous encounter with a 1911. I found that it did not work for me for one reason, the sweat guard. When I ordered the holster, I specifically ordered it with a “Combat Cut’ at an additional $10, which means that you pay them an additional cost to remove material. If you have purchased a CBST, then you know of what I am speaking about. A good on-line friend of mine, a retired leather smith that I will call Steve, because that is his name, stated that a sweat guard should not be used for a 1911 for the reason that it may interfere with the operation of the safety; more specifically, the safety could be knocked off-safe by the sweat shield. A quick test run of the Ruger SR1911CMD-A and the CBST revealed that it could be possible for the extended thumb safety to hit the top of the sweat guard when holstering the pistol. You see, the top of most sweat shields will curve outward against the firearm due to the pressure of the body against the holster. That could pose a problem with a 1911 with an extended thumb safety even if the safety is rounded when attempting to holster the pistol. I decided to pay myself $10 and lop the sweat shield off the holster. A line was drawn and #2 X-ACTO knife surgery ensued.
While I did have an IWB holster for the 1911 (and a well made holster it is), it is fully leather with metal clips like the CBST. Unfortunately, it also has a sweat shield and it is a little bulky for IWB carry due to the thickness of the leather; I needed something as skinny as possible that would adequately support the Ruger SR1911CMD-A, keep it tucked close to the body, and the CBST wasn’t doing anything but resting among other holsters anyway.
I needed to leave enough sweat shield material to accommodate holstering the Ruger SR1911CMD-A without fail and also not take away from the integrity or stability of the holster. What I ended up with was a highly stable, concealable, and minimal holster suitable to house the Ruger SR1911CMD-A, at least in my opinion. I can grab the handle fully while resting my thumb on top of the thumb safety. The safety comes off as I clear body parts and the pistol is quick from the holster. While the modified CBST holster is not pretty, it is functional.
What everybody that reads reviews waits for – range performance.
Since I was evaluating the Ruger SR1911CMD-A for function, I selected five brands of ammunition for the initial test:
- Georgia Arms 230 grain FMJ (810 fps)
- Remington 230-grain JHP (835 fps)
- Remington 230-grain Golden Saber (875 fps)
- Federal 230-grain Hydra-Shok (900 fps)
- Winchester 230-grain PDX1 (920 fps)
Note that velocities noted are for a 4” barrel.
I felt that the selection would provide me with a range of options with which to measure felt recoil. Boy did it!
I did not bother with 185-grain fodder since I only carry 230-grain ammunition for defensive purposes.
Performance was excellent with all and all shot without a bauble. Obviously, the Georgia Arms 230 grain FMJ (810 fps) was the mildest of the bunch and is a good practice round. Once I got into the Federal 230-grain Hydra-Shok (900 fps) realm, felt recoil jumped considerable, and so did the muzzle. The thin grip and the light weight of the Ruger SR1911CMD-A let me know that I was handling something to be reckoned with.
I was shooting at 10 yards for more fit and function than accuracy but all rounds impacted within a 4” circle while I was shooting from a modified Weaver stance. Five rounds of each were fired for comparison and function purposes. The Remington 230-grain Golden Saber provided the best group, recoil was mild, and I think that it would be an excellent carry load in this pistol. I would reserve the Federal 230-grain Hydra-Shok (900 fps) and Winchester 230-grain PDX1 (920 fps) for a heavier pistol than the Ruger SR1911CMD-A.
Although two 7-round, flush fit magazines come with the Ruger SR1911CMD-A, I had ordered several 8-round Ruger magazines for the Ruger SR1911 on a previous occasion and they were put into play for this range session. All magazines performed flawlessly throughout the range session. The 8-round magazines will be carried for spares.
The Ruger SR1911CMD-A is a natural pointer for me, and with exception of my human errors, all shots fired from the Ruger SR1911CMD-A landed as close to POA as I could get them using a “covered” POA. The Ruger SR1911CMD-A really likes 230-grain and performs well with mid-range velocity ammunition.
Arriving home, I started considering some different grip panels over the thin panels provided with the pistol by Ruger. Rummaging through the grip drawer, I came across a set of Hogue rubber wrap-around finger groove grips that I had removed from another 1911-based pistol. These grips will help tame the felt recoil and provide me better control of the pistol. They; however, do come at a cost and that cost is giving up a bit of concealment. The Hogue rubber wrap-around finger groove grips add to the girth of the handle, but they fit my hand perfectly, and my fingers are positioned in the same place on the pistol. The grip forces my middle finger into the bottom of the trigger guard, my trigger finger is a straight line to the trigger, and the web of my shooting hand is as high as possible on the back strap. Even though they are wider, I have no problem reaching the magazine release without changing my grip; Hogue provides a relief in the grip just behind the magazine release.
UPDATE August 5, 2019
The SR1911 CMD-A has received a new set of grips. This 1911 Govt. Fingergroove Silverblack Checkered Engraved grip from The Altamont Company really sets the pistol apart from others.
The width of the grip is perfect in my hand (the same width as the Hogue grip) and the texturing is excellent for a good grip.
The Ruger SR1911CMD-A has gone through several updates since this article was published.
An extended magwell was added, as was a set of grip panel that accommodates the extended magwell and benefits the look of the pistol and my hand.
The series of photos below show the end result of my updates.
The extended magwell is an Ed Brown product with an arched mainspring housing.
The grips panels are from Lok Grips for extended magwells; part of the “SEMIS” series of grips. They provide an excellent, light texture and hte vertical pattern (I believe) accents the pistol’s looks.
The Ruger accompanied me to a recent training course, the Bare Bones Gunfighting presented by InShadowInLight founder, CR Williams. I was running my Ruger SR1911CMD-A while all others ran those puny 9mms. But I was able to hold my own. I had two issues with the Ruger, but they were my issues and not of the Ruger. Compared to the others, I spent a lot of time on reloading the Ruger with a fresh magazine. The 1911 does have a downside with magazine capacity, but I knew that going in, and I got a lot of practice with combat reloads. I have to train myself to hold the pistol closer to my body while reloading; I knew that, but could not break an old habit during the training sessions. But, my holes were bigger than everybody else’s holes. That was not actually good when we were all working the same target because I could not blame my bad shots on somebody else. My bad shots were mine. All mine.
WRAPPING IT UP:
I would rather give up a little in concealment rather than give up a lot in controlling the firearm under heavy recoil in a bad situation. However, concealment can be adjusted and the rear clip of the CBST was dropped one notch, which raised the rear of the holster, to increase the forward cant of the holster; this rotated the butt of the pistol more into my rib cage and that works well for me. Aside from this, the thin panels that Ruger provided just didn’t look right on this pistol. I wanted to install a set of Hogue Exotic Wood Grips with finger grooves, as I had on my SR1911 and SR1911CMD, but opted instead for the the Hogue rubber wrap-around finger groove grips. The Hogue rubber wrap-around finger groove grips blend in well with the black anodized aluminum frame and they convey that this pistol is meant for business and not for advertisement.
The Ruger SR1911CMD-A, now sporting the Hogue rubber wrap-around finger groove grips, resides in the modified CBST holster, is stoked with 7 rounds of Remington 230-grain Golden Saber ammunition in a flush fit magazine, and is accompanied by two 8-round spare magazines (filled to capacity with the same ammunition) that reside in the “Frankenmora” dual magazine pouch.
So there you have it! Finally, after years of yearning for a lightweight “Commander” 1911-Based pistol, Ruger helped to make yearning a reality. Out of the box, the Ruger SR1911CMD-A functions like a dream. I really had no doubt, as the Ruger SR1911 and Ruger SR1911CMD have performed without error. While some say shoot 500 rounds to really break a pistol in, I have no qualms about carrying the Ruger SR1911CMD-A right now. In fact, I now do. It just doesn’t get better than this.
If you are a 1911 lover like I am, and would consider a lightweight “Commander” pistol for EDC, and don’t want to pay a lot of money for a quality pistol, the Ruger SR1911CMD-A might be worth looking at.
SOURCES FOR ARTICLE:
Ruger SR1911CMD-A: http://ruger.com/products/sr1911/specSheets/6711.html
Hogue Rubber Grip Govt. Model Rubber Grip with Finger Grooves: http://www.amazon.com/Hogue-Rubber-Govt-Finger-Grooves/dp/B001QVYT72/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1440507901&sr=8-1&keywords=Hogue+1911+grips
Crossbreed Holsters: http://www.crossbreedholsters.com/
Simply Rugged Cumberland Leather Concealed Carry Holster: http://www.simplyrugged.com/ecommerce/Cumberland-Leather-Concealed-Carry-Holster.cfm?item_id=359&parent=669
My review: Simply Rugged Cumberland (Versa Clip II) Holster: http://guntoters.com/blog/2013/07/05/simply-rugged-cumberland-versa-clip-ii-holster/
Cold Steel 17T Kobun Tanto Fixed: http://www.amazon.com/Cold-Steel-17T-Kobun-Tanto/dp/B0034JR4EO/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1440609159&sr=8-1&keywords=Cold+Steel+Kobun
REMORA DUAL ACCESSORY HOLDER (IWB): http://www.remoraholsterstore.com/Remora-Dual-Accessory-Holder-IWB-p/1mhlg-.htm
Glock G43 – No Longer Wishful Thinking!: http://guntoters.com/blog/2015/08/03/glock-g43-no-longer-wishful-thinking/
Little Big Brother and the Baby Boomer: http://guntoters.com/blog/2014/09/28/little-big-brother-and-the-baby-boomer/
REMORA DUAL ACCESSORY HOLDER (IWB) MODIFICATION: http://guntoters.com/blog/2015/08/09/remora-dual-accessory-holder-iwb-modification/
Excellent video review by Hickock45: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_o3BNVyJKMs
Added 09/01/2015 – Editor’s Notebook: Rugged and Ruger – and More: http://www.thetacticalwire.com/features/230024
Special thanks to Jeff Quinn at gunblast.com for use of some photos. Be sure to read his review and view the video at his site: Ruger Lightweight SR1911CMD-A 45 ACP Semi-Automatic Pistol (An excellent review and video by Jeff Quinn at Gunblast): http://www.gunblast.com/Ruger-SR1911CMD-A.htm