SACS/Warren Reliability

31-Aug-13 – 15:41 by ToddG

Looking at the first 50,000 rounds of the SACS/Warren 1911 test, people seem drawn to one of two diametrically opposed opinions:

  • A Mean Rounds Between Stoppages of better than 3,500 is impressive, it did great!
  • Previous test guns were more reliable, it did horrible!

First, let’s get the harsh reality into the light. This gun was less reliable than the Smith, HK P30, HK45, and even the troubled gen4 Glock. No matter how you massage the data, the other guns proved more reliable. In some cases, the other guns were substantially more reliable.

But is “less reliable” the same as “unreliable?”

Fourteen stoppages in 50,000 rounds is a MRBS of 3,571. That’s almost twice as good as the industry standard 2,000 MRBS. It’s also as good or better than the results I’ve seen from many government agency procurement tests. So objectively, the gun is reliable… but not as reliable as other guns tested.

Looking at the 1911 stoppages, magazine issues are a major culprit. Three occurred due to the Metalform feed lips giving up the round too quickly during the feed process. At least two more were caused by the Wilson ETM magazine’s positioning of the top round very far forward which can lead to feed problems if the slide doesn’t move forward with full force. Eight of the fourteen stoppages occurred within the first 13,000 rounds before I switched to a 14# variable recoil spring at the advice of Heirloom Precision’s Jason Burton.

So in true 1911 fanatic fashion, if I dismiss all the problems before settling on Wilson magazines and the 14# recoil spring, after that the gun had just six stoppages in 37,266 rounds… a MRBS of 6,211! That beats the Glock gen4 gun and the P30! But that is massaging the data, and while it may influence how I personally feel about relying on the gun in its current configuration, it’s not an honest assessment of the 50,000 test.

Let’s look at the reality of the reliability from the entire test. What does an MRBS of 3,571 mean?

Odds of having a stoppage during a 6-shot F.A.S.T. run: 1 in 596
Odds of having a stoppage emptying all 11 rounds in the gun: 1 in 325
Odds of having a stoppage while firing all 31 rounds I carry normally: 1 in 116
Odds of having a stoppage during a typical 75-round match: 1 in 48
Odds of having a stoppage during 200 rounds of demos in an AFHF class: 1 in 18

(for those who like the 6,211 number better, the results would be, respectively: 1036, 565, 201, 83, and 32)

It’s also worth noting that while four parts broke during the 50,000 round test, none of them had an immediate impact on reliability or performance. The first part to break was the mainspring housing pin, which would have performed perfectly in its broken condition until the gun was next disassembled. Two broken ejectors each went hundreds and hundreds of rounds without inducing a stoppage, a result which actually inspired many readers to recommend getting away from the extended ejector altogether. The other “breakage” was peening of the slide stop notch in the slide, which may have exacerbated problems with my grip preventing the slide from locking back on an empty magazine.

So is the gun reliable or not? As I’m sure the comments will demonstrate, it’s a matter open to debate. Yes, one chance in three hundred twenty five is mathematically worse than one chance in 1,516 (e.g., the HK45). And I wouldn’t fault someone who made a decision based on that. But realistically we’re down to “angels on the head of a pin” equations at that point. For me personally, even the 3,571 number is well past my personal threshold. Because while it’s easy to get wrapped up in the numbers and the calculations, the reality is that the gun’s reliability is likely to be the least of my worries in any stressful situation. Which is why it’s on my belt as I type this post, and why I’ll be carrying it until the next 50,000 round test begins.

And if I’m wrong, it will make for a great blog post by my successor, right?

Train hard & stay safe! ToddG

  1. 15 Responses to “SACS/Warren Reliability”

  2. So when do we learn about the next PTC test?

    By fixer on Aug 31, 2013

  3. fixer — As soon as I do!

    By ToddG on Aug 31, 2013

  4. IMO,for most gun owners the topic of MRBS is academic.
    These days it takes a wealthy man who can afford to shoot 3000 rounds of anything through their guns.Its taken me 6 months to put 1/3rd of that much though my carry gun.If you have the money to shoot a gun often enough to break it,you can afford to fix it.

    Yes,there’s a greater risk of malfunctions should you need the clear holster.That being said,its why we practice malfunction drills.Even an HK owner cannot assume the gun they carry will be 100% when the flag flies.Say you do own a gun that’s gone 10,000 rounds without a malfunction .If your luck is bad enough that you’re in a gunfight,you’re unlucky enough to suffer a malfunction.

    By ST on Aug 31, 2013

  5. It’s clear the data supports the conclusion the 1911 is less reliable compared to the other guns tested. However, are there other qualitative reasons why you might chose a 1911 over the others (feel, accuracy, etc) that compensate you for it’s disadvantages (cost, lower capacity, reduced reliability)?

    By Tim on Aug 31, 2013

  6. Tim — Two points: first, as I tried to point out, while it’s less reliable that doesn’t mean it’s unreliable. Think of it in terms of wealth. Having $500M isn’t as much as having $1B but it’s still an awful lot of money.

    Second, as to the balance of values and why I’m sticking with it, there will be a detailed post specific to that question in the coming week or two.

    By ToddG on Sep 1, 2013

  7. Well even with the malfunctions, the first round still went off in all cases. So provided you were in a “gunfight” at least you should have one round in the bad guy (or good guy depending on who you work for).

    By Will on Sep 1, 2013

  8. What are the standards and conditions the pistol is subjected to during the military trials where 2,000 MRBF must be achieved? Is it similar to what you did with this pistol, easier, or tougher?

    By Tyler on Sep 1, 2013

  9. I’d love to see and XD put through the test. It seems to be very popular around here for USPSA stuff.

    A P226 might be an interesting test as well.

    By Bruce on Sep 1, 2013

  10. Thanks for all the hard work and reporting on the 1911. Now that you have run more than a few guns through the 50,000 round test, do you plan to post a spreadsheet with what you would consider to be vital statistics for each gun?


    By Wade on Sep 1, 2013

  11. I would love to see some pics of the wear on that pistol. Thanks for the great review.

    By jb on Sep 1, 2013

  12. Tyler — Most gov tests involve shooting 100-250 rounds at a time, then letting the guns cool, lubricating them, and possibly cleaning them. Then at some regular number of those intervals (usually 500 to 1000 rounds), the guns get detail stripped, inspected, cleaned, reassembled, and put back on the line.

    By ToddG on Sep 1, 2013

  13. …a result which actually inspired many readers to recommend getting away from the extended ejector altogether.

    I, personally, was being relatively tongue-in-cheek.

    All things considered, I find a (not overly) extended ejector to be, on balance, a good thing.

    On the other hand, my pre-Series 70 gun doesn’t have one and I haven’t been in any real hurry to change that, although I did have the ejection port lowered and flared before having the gun refininshed so that the option is open should I ever decide to.

    By Tam on Sep 1, 2013

  14. Todd – just want to say I really appreciate these tests and the insight you share with the community. :-)

    By (Another) Tim on Sep 3, 2013

  15. Todd,

    I am going to take your results from the standpoint of after the magazine reliability was settled. The gun was originally designed with a 9 round magazine. Going to the 10 round magazine changed the dynamics a bit and it took a while to figure out the best combination. With that said I will have to look at it with the MRBS being 6,211. Of course this is just one mans opinion.

    By Scott E on Sep 3, 2013

  16. Todd,

    On another note with respect to the two ejector breakages. You noted previously that the magazines left rear lip touched the ejector on the ten round magazines when inserting the magazines hard. This occurred on the 10 round magazines but not on the factory 9 round magazines that came with the gun. This comes back to my previous comment about magazines not being specific to this particular gun. While I cannot be certain that was the cause I cannot count those two breakages because of it but then again that is just me.

    By Scott E on Sep 4, 2013

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