Springfield/Warren 9mm 1911 Endurance Test: Report #7

17-Sep-12 – 22:05 by ToddG

13,008 rounds 8 stoppages 0 malfunctions 0 parts breakages
5 mags deadlined

It’s been a tumultuous time with the SACS/Warren gun.

At the two month mark, I did some skill assessments and came to an unpleasant conclusion: I wasn’t really getting any better with this gun. I’d made a number of changes in terms of technique and approach to practice and while I was seeing some improvement in daily best results, my average on-demand ability was flat.

Before throwing in the towel, I decided to make two hardware changes.

First, I installed a new set of grips sent by my good friend David at VCD Grips. Between you and me, I was a little skeptical at the bold claims David made about the grips. I didn’t think they’d really make that big of a difference. I’ve never been a fan of stippling grips as evidenced by the from-the-factory condition of my M&P, HK, and Glock pistols.

Dear David,
Boy, was I wrong.
Love, Todd

These grips are without doubt the “grippiest” I’ve ever seen. Once I apply pressure, it’s like the gun is super glued to my hands. The pistol still recoils, of course, but my grip doesn’t shift in the slightest. In turn, that allows me to focus pressure on controlling the gun rather than maintaining my grip which is not always the same thing. But even though the grips are incredibly good at locking my hand into place, they somehow avoid the two problems I’d expect with such a design: (1) they don’t keep my hands from shifting into position on the grip panel during the presentation or after a reload, and (2) they don’t grab at my clothes in an uncomfortable or concealment-busting way. They just work.

The other major change I made, also coincidentally thanks to a discussion with David, was to revert back to some orange nail polish on my front sight (a la the JohnO DIY High Visibility Front Sight). During the Glock test I became very accustomed to an orange front sight that didn’t require any effort on my part to apply or maintain. With the SACS/Warren gun, I decided to forego the hassle but it’s been a struggle. I’ve jumped back and forth between one- and two-eyed shooting trying to make the black front sight work but it never let me achieve what I wanted. Finally, I gave in and did the orange thing. Result: huge instant improvement in my ability to get a fast sight picture, track the sights, and even aim more precisely in slow fire.

So the good news is that, when all was said and done, I got to the point where I was comfortable running the gun and felt like I had a real opportunity ahead to excel with it. I ended the day with a F.A.S.T. run shooting my carry ammo and turned in a decent 4.63 clean (1.55, .36 / 2.14 / .20, .19, .19). I’d like to see another quarter second come off both the draw and the reload, though, before I’ll feel like the pistol, the universe, and I have all become One.

Then, today, I decided to start my practice session by burning through my carry ammo with the “300” bullseye drill. My carry gun, in my carry holster, carry mags, carry ammo… literally everything exactly the way it was as I walked around town today. The result was pretty horrifying. First round out of the gun resulted in a feed stoppage. Tap, rack, fire… and a second feed stoppage. Finished the magazine and then on the fourth round of the next magazine it happened again. Three stoppages in less than 15 rounds… the first 15 rounds I would have fired if I’d needed the gun for something more than practice. Call me a sissy, but that raised a concern.

All three stoppages were identical. The cartridge was horizontal, the bullet stuck on the feed ramp about half way up. I spoke with Jason Burton of Heirloom Precision about the problem. Jason has been incredibly generous with his help since I first started toying with the idea of a 1911 test and today was no exception. We discussed the various possibilities and came to the conclusion — based, admittedly, on me describing the problem to him over the phone — that a heavier recoil spring might be the best solution. I had a 14# variable spring in my range bag and had installed it after the initial problems. A short 250 round range session later and there had been no repeat of the problem with either HST or my practice ammunition, much of it shot out of the same two magazines associated with the initial stoppages.

Nonetheless, I have to admit that my faith has been shaken. It’s a very unpleasant thing to find that the gun you’re carrying wouldn’t have worked when you needed it. Just a few days ago, a federal agent at the range needed some help with his SIG and none of the ROs could figure out what was wrong. They asked me to take a look and sure enough, the trigger bar was broken in half. There was no way to make the gun go bang. I felt pity for the guy, because we knew that the breakage could have happened on his last assignment if he’d needed the gun. Today, pity turned to empathy and let me tell you… it sucks.

Also, almost minor importance in the grand scheme, another Metalform magazine stopped locking the slide back. Considering that the Metalforms are hardly ever used anymore, it’s pretty clear the problem is nearly universal. I’m looking into possibly replacing the springs to see if that will help.

Due to my teaching schedule I’ve got precious little time for training over the next couple of months. That means that periodic function testing is going to have to give way to some ham fisted analysis. Tomorrow, the gun will be used at the monthly KSTG match. The next day I’m hoping to spend at least a couple hours on the range working basics and feeding the machine to see if it chokes. After that, it’s next chance to shine or falter will be at the Pittsburgh AFHF class this weekend.

Wish me luck…

Train hard & stay safe! ToddG

You can also follow and discuss via the pistol-forum.com 2012-2013 Endurance Test thread.

Previous Springfield/Warren 9mm 1911 Endurance Test posts at pistol-training.com:


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  1. 26 Responses to “Springfield/Warren 9mm 1911 Endurance Test: Report #7”

  2. I am beginning to be very happy that all my 1911’s are .45 ACP as originally intended…

    By DocGKR on Sep 18, 2012

  3. Doc, I suggest you shoot them some more and see what happens. Not trying to be snide, but I truly worry about people who trust that their 1911s will actually work. I either suspect that they’re not shooting them enough or they selectivly perceive how reliable their guns are.

    “Oh that failure happened because of bad X”

    Choices for X:

    a. Ammo
    b. Magazine
    c. Extractor
    d. Recoil spring
    e. Ejection port size
    f. Grip
    g. Feed ramp
    h. Weather

    When really the whole platform is just an epic fail.

    Sure, there may be that ONE guy who’s gone through tens of thousands of rounds without problems, but the horror stories far outweigh the fairy tales.

    People’s lives are at stake here and eight stoppages in 13,000 rds + five dead aftermarket mags makes the whole “1911 lifestyle” thing a situation I just want to run like hell from.

    I will never go back to 1911s. I feel your pain, Todd.

    By Ketan Chand on Sep 18, 2012

  4. Disclaimer: I don’t have any experience with 1911s.

    I have always heard that magazines are a weakness on 1911s(especially 9mm). Why is it that someone can not make a quality magazine that solves all the magazine issues. Think HK 45 and Glock mag reliability and durability. It seems like it is always a hit or miss. Some people experience good results with one maker of magazine and someone’s else has bad experiences and vice versa. Again I don’t know anything about the specifics of 1911s, I am just wondering.

    By Kevin P on Sep 18, 2012

  5. This test is making it increasingly unlikely I’ll ever do more than play with someone else’s 1911. I’m not really interested in .45, and the perceived benefits of the platform don’t seem to outweigh all the fiddling that’s required.

    Are you still using tape on the front sight, Todd? I’ve had good luck using an orange, oil-based Sharpie paint pen. http://www.amazon.com/Sharpie-Paint-Markers-orange-medium/dp/B0026HC9AE

    You can pick up orange and green at any local craft store.

    By Sheep Have Wool on Sep 18, 2012

  6. Todd, have you tracked the time spent keeping it running? Meaning phone calls, email, spring changes- both mag and recoil, shorter cleaning intervals, searching for the perfect mag, etc. throughout the test. How does that time compare to previous test guns?

    By cct125us on Sep 18, 2012

  7. KC,

    I am not the Doc, but given our correspondence in the past,our mutual memebership and mutual training experiences, I am supremely confident that any 1911’s that remain in his battery are GTG, as in bet your life on it GTG.


    By David Barnes on Sep 18, 2012

  8. Maybe it’s time for a test; for at least me, that might be more interesting. As a retired 1911 apologist myself I’m already keen to some of the same issues you’re experiencing. Now how about the FNS9, PPQ, XDM, Hi Power, CZ 75, etc…

    By Matt S. on Sep 18, 2012

  9. I had a similar situation with an M&P45. Decided to burn my carry ammo, first round fine, second round fine, third round doesn’t feed period. Tap rack, nothing. Drop the mag, replace, tap rack bang. click. Both mag springs in my primary two magazines were bad, had taken a set, and were not pressing the rounds up in the magazine. With the full ten rounds in the top round would feed because of the pressure of the rounds underneath them. That was a day full of suck…

    By Sparks2112 on Sep 18, 2012

  10. I have done a lot of shooting with a 1911, the past few years a good portion with a couple Rock River 9mm 1911’s. Anyone that really knows 1911’s (LAV, Ken H) will say it is enthusiast gun and you really need to be your own armor to keep the gun going, and any deviation from the original JMB design adversely effects reliaibity. So 9mm guns are going to have problems, the gun wasnt designed for that little pointed round.

    I would suggest ditching anything metalform. Wilson would be first choice, that don’t work then I would experiment. Also I would ditch the standard extractor and install an aftec

    By R.Smith on Sep 18, 2012

  11. There is no shame in continuing the 1911 test, while carrying a G17 or P30.

    By GJM on Sep 18, 2012

  12. I’d say push through the test. It’ll be very rewarding when you get past that block and start making advances. I carry a Springfield 1911 chambered in .45 predominantly from September through May. I trust my life to it. I train with all of my magazines – carry ones included. The only stoppage I had was from out-of-spec ammo. Upon further inspection, the bullet wasn’t set far enough into the casing. That was my only bobble. That’s in about 3,500 rds. My Springfields and my Colts are 100%. My Kimber, on the other hand…

    By John K. on Sep 18, 2012

  13. Just an observation. For years I was a devotee of only black on my sights. If I ever came across a student/employee who colored their sight we would immediately blacken their sights. Needless to say I have had a come to Jesus monument and seen the light. After significant amount of reading and having seen such an improvement in my sight acquisition and my personal guns as well as our company guns run orange front sights. Black sights may work well for precision slower fire shooting, but when it comes to running the gun at speed brightly colored sight are the way to go.

    By RSA-OTC on Sep 18, 2012

  14. love the new grips, very similar to the way SV is now texturing their metal grips. Although with their style, you can’t really see the circles, they just leave the bits where the end mill didn’t overlap the previous spot. Incredibly grippy.
    I’d love to see a set of CZ Shadow grips have this done to them and play with them.
    It’s amazing the trouble you’re having with this 9mm 1911, we’ve got a couple guys with Spartans in 9mm at my club, and I’ve yet to see them fail, and I’d be all over them if they did, just like they watch my guns for the same.

    By Rob E on Sep 18, 2012

  15. wow that gun, looks good from far but far from good!!!!

    By Jimmy Creed on Sep 18, 2012

  16. Todd I think that the problem is the quality of the selected firearm in the beginning. I see day in and day out the STI/SVI 1911 working without any hick ups at the range. Are they carry weapons?? NO. Are they affordable?? Not by me. I think that in order the 1911 model to work the quality of all of its parts must be rather hi. Please excuse my English.
    Keep up the good work.

    By Tasos Panagiotopoulos on Sep 18, 2012

  17. Todd,
    Thanks for your candor.
    Good luck with your testing.

    By J on Sep 18, 2012

  18. I do think these results are extremely interesting, but a test in .45ACP would be more interesting in seeing how they’re different.

    But I’d love to see the next endurance test on a Beretta PX4 Storm.

    By Robert on Sep 18, 2012

  19. Thanks Todd for the idea. I just used a red marker on my front sight on my dept issued Glock. The sights are bad and are going to be replaced soon. Know the front sight stands out. Thanks!

    By Dave S. on Sep 18, 2012

  20. Ketan Chand–A properly customized 5″ steel-frame single-stack 1911 in .45 ACP can be a superb choice for the dedicated user with a bit of gray in their hair, who grew-up using the 1911, and who is willing to spend a significant amount of money to get it properly initially set-up and considerable time to maintain it. Keep in mind with 1911 pistols that calibers other than .45 ACP and barrels shorter than 5″ induce increasingly greater problems. After being issued, qualified on, or carrying 1911’s for 25 years, in 2011 I retired my 1911’s. For folks who want a .45 ACP pistol, but don’t want to invest the funds and effort into getting a good 1911, they would be far better served with the M&P45, HK45, or 4th gen G21. Of course, unless someone lives in a state with an idiotic restriction on magazine capacity, most folks would be better off with a quality 9 mm. Unfortunately, these days a finding a good 9 mm can be a bit hard–my recent Nov 2011 G19 has had more malfunctions and problems than any of the 1911’s I previously relied on for duty or carry use. Thankfully I have some older pre-2010 9 mm Glocks that actually run.

    By DocGKR on Sep 18, 2012

  21. I agree with John K. Push through the test. You will eventually break through the barrier.

    Scott E

    By Scott E on Sep 19, 2012

  22. Many scientific experiments have a predetermined interim analysis points where the study must prove it is not turning futile. Perhaps, this is such point?
    As far as SACS/Warren gun is concerned, I know what my opinion is, and I’ll let others form theirs. After all, the raw data, as well as descriptive info, are right here, and comparative data on previous projects is in the archives.
    At this point I see this as not a test for the gun, but solely a test for the shooter. To me it is now all about you wanting to push yourself further vs not seeing any point in doing so.

    KC: “the whole platform is an epic fail” is an epic exaggeration, both from historical and practical prospective. I have one appropriately set 1911, and the thing has not had a stoppage, round count 4222, half of that – in classes including 1 day of Todd’s class. I’ve seen other 1911s do the same, and I know many 1911 users who won’t be sentimentally attached to anything that wasn’t doing its job.
    The common denominator was (5 inch + 45ACP + lots of money + expert build + magazine maintenance log).

    By YK on Sep 19, 2012

  23. I’ve had problems with mags not holding the slide open on last round (1911, Sig, CZ). Every one of them were due to plastic follower formed a divot where slide stop hit it. Replaced the follower and they all worked perfect. No springs or else were changed.

    Interesting fact: Glock end of 3rd Gen and beginning of 4th Gen had “epic fails” due to bad parts and improper springs (spring weights). I’m just saying.

    I love my 1911’s and I am the first to admit Vickers and Hackathorn’s tome that a 1911 is a “hobby gun”, ESPECIALLY in anything besides .45ACP. But when they work … OOOOOOOOOHHHHH they are SUH-WEET!!

    In short, any machine can fail; nothing is 100% reliable. Some come closer than others. Hi-Point! A 1911 is a historic model and partially a work of art. If I found the right one, I would defend my life with it. But I won’t because I like them too much and the police take it if I use it to defend myself. I’ll use a “plastic fantastic” I can replace quickly.

    By GhettoSmack on Sep 19, 2012

  24. I just listened to the ProArms podcast where the owner of Nighthawk Custom Firearms discuss how they get good reliability out of 9mm 1911’s. He said they found the angle of the feed ramp was critical. They also do some special blending where the barrel contacts the frame, highly polish the ramp and chamber, and use Metalform magazines. His comments are interesting in light of the discussion in this forum regarding the Metalform mags.

    By David Hicks on Sep 20, 2012

  25. I am surprised to hear the Nighthawk really pushes Metalform – I wonder if they are tuning the feedramp to those magazines or something. In my handful of years playing with 1911s, I find the answer to most magazine related questions ends with “Wilson or McCormick”. That said, as much as I love me a nice 1911, I don’t carry one…

    By Dan on Sep 20, 2012

  26. It kinda seems to me like this has ceased being a pistol test and has become a magazine test. If nobody makes decent magazines for the platform, it kinda makes the durability and reliability of the weapon itself irrelevent. It also keeps the test results from representing the weapon and makes them a representation of the magazines that are chosen. Kinda brings into question the usefulness of the test…

    By chimptastic on Sep 20, 2012

  27. Why does everyone get so emotional about the 1911 platform, whether in support of or adamantly against? I personally love 1911s, I love shooting them, I love collecting the rare high end ones, I love everything that’s 1911…do I carry one? NO! Would I carry one? NO! There are too many more reliable and more concealable plastic pieces out there that I can junk around and not bat an eye at. The 1911 is a work of art and a piece of American history that anyone in their right mind should be able to recognize and admire, even if doing so from a distance.

    I would buy, own and shoot the piss out of one of these SACS Warren Tacticals, even if it never made its way to my hip on my way out the door in the morning…

    By D on Sep 20, 2012

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