April 14, 2023
ATI (American Tactical) is known to a lot of people as the “polymer gun” people. They’ve grabbed a lot of attention with their polymer-framed AR-15 rifles and pistols, but their catalog extends far beyond that, offering a wide variety of proven designs such as AR-15s, 1911s, and shotguns. While they do import a number of firearms, their ATI-branded guns are almost exclusively made in the US.
Most people are aware that ATI makes several versions of America’s favorite pistol, the 1911, but it wasn’t until I was perusing their site recently that I saw their Extreme Hybrid family of pistols. These are 1911s, but sport polymer instead of metal frames. I secured one of their ATI Firepower Xtreme Hybrid FXH-45 models to see how it actually performs. ATI offers two different versions of this model, one with a 5-inch barrel and one with a 4.25-inch Commander-length barrel. I secured the latter to test. This 1911 is chambered in .45 ACP and made by American Tactical in their South Carolina factory. So, if buying American is important to you, ATI has you covered.
If you look at the photos of this pistol you might not like the non-traditional looks. Very few things are actually “new” though. Studying the lines of the ATI I was reminded of the Safari Arms 1911s which were popular in the 1980s. Those steel-framed pistols had finger grooves on the frame and finger hooks on the trigger guards. They were also much heavier and more expensive than ATI’s offering. Like every traditional 1911, this FXH-45 is a single-action pistol. This means the hammer has to be cocked for the pistol to fire. There is a bilateral extended manual thumb safety as well as a grip safety. It is fed by standard-pattern 1911 magazines, and one 8-round magazine was provided with the pistol.
Before we dive into any other details, lets discuss the weight. Anyone with some shooting experience might be combining “polymer” and “.45 ACP” in their minds, and wincing at the expected sharp recoil. In fact, this Commander-sized 1911 weighs 29.7 ounces with an empty magazine in place. So, its not much lighter than a similarly-sized aluminum-framed 1911. However, with polymer the manufacturing cost is lower, and ATI can pass that savings on to the consumer. Suggested retail on this pistol is just $599.95, which means you’ll probably see it for sale at, or even under $500.
The 4.25-inch barrel sits inside a slide that has a unique profile with angles, relief cuts and a flat top. There are three lightening cuts on either side of the slide near the muzzle. The slide is in fact taller than usual, and it is equipped with a removable top plate just forward of the rear sight. The plate is held in place with two screws, pop these out, attach the optional ATI Optic Mount, and you’re ready to attach a mini red dot sight. The ATI Optic Mount accepts dots which have the footprint of either the Trijicon RMR or the Burris Fastfire.
As for the provided sights, they are steel, and the front has a red fiber optic insert. The rear has a plain black serrated notch. Interestingly, the FXH slide doesn’t wear “1911” sights, but instead accepts Glock front and rear sights. This is another reason the slide is a bit taller than a standard 1911, as a Glock-style front sight is not dovetailed, but rather held in place by a screw coming up from below.
The slide does not ride on polymer frame rails. Instead, there are 7075 T6 aluminum inserts in the frame. This is in fact how their polymer AR-15 lower receivers are constructed, with aluminum inserts at stress points. At the front of the gun you’ll see a two-slot tactical rail which gives you enough space to mount most weaponlights and lasers. To the rear of the rail is the oversize trigger guard. It is only slightly undercut, and not as much as it first appears, as the bottom of the trigger guard curves downward to make more room for a gloved finger. The front of the trigger guard sports some horizontal serrations.
The front of the frame has very sizable finger grooves. These finger grooves eliminate the need for checkering, provided they fit your fingers. They fit me like a glove. At the rear of the frame is a checkered polymer mainspring housing. To either side of the frame are traditional double diamond checkered wood grips.
Generally the reliability of a 1911 lives and dies with its magazine. Luckily we live in the era of excellent aftermarket 1911 magazines. While it was unmarked except for an ATI polymer basepad, the magazine with this gun (and also sold by ATI) are PSI ACT magazines. These are, I believe, the best 1911 magazines on the market today. They have individually marked holes in the sides of the blued steel bodies, and the stainless steel followers have an anti-tilt design.
When it came time to send rounds downrange I expected the gun to jump due to its light weight, but I found that recoil was not nearly as abusive as I was expecting. Actually, it wasn’t abusive at all, but it was sharp, like a compact polymer-framed .40 S&W. However, the finger grooves on this pistol fit my hand like a glove, so it stays locked in place for me. If those grooves don’t quite fit your hand, you won’t have the same experience.
A couple times when I was shooting I had the magazine pop out half an inch or so. I wasn’t able to replicate it on demand, so I don’t know if the recoil was causing my hand to shift enough to hit the magazine release, or if the polymer frame was flexing enough to dislodge the magazine. Other than that I didn’t have any problems, and the gun ran every type of ammo I fed it in the short period of time I had to test it. That said, ATI only recommends FMJ ammo for this gun, so I only tested it with FMJ ammo (SIG and Winchester 230-grain) and two kinds of hollowpoints which have profiles like FMJ ammo: Hornady’s 185-grain Critical Defense and Federal’s Syntech Defense, which features a 205-grain polymer-clad lead hollowpoint.
Be aware that because of its non-traditional lines, this 1911 won’t fit into most 1911 holsters. On the pistol product page ATI thoughtfully provides a list of holsters that do fit: DeSantis models 002, 85, and M65, the Blackhawk Sportster (a nylon pancake holster), and the Stealth Operator Compact holster from Phalanx Systems.
ATI’s FXH-45 is an interesting addition to the 1911 family tree. Because it has a shorter Commander-length barrel and a polymer frame, this pistol lends itself more to carry, but it is a big gun and not easily concealed. If you were looking for something for open carry, or a nightstand gun, this pistol would fit the bill. I’m personally curious about the long-term durability of a polymer/aluminum lower when subjected to the recoil forces of a .45 ACP, but lightweight guns like this are meant to be carried a lot and shot a little.
ATI Firepower Xtreme Hybrid FXH-45 polymer 1911
- Type: Hammer-fired, semiautomatic
- Caliber: .45 ACP
- Capacity: 8+1 rds.
- Barrel: 4.25 in.
- Overall Length: 7.25 in.
- Height: 5.4 in.
- Width: 1.3 in.
- Weight: 29.7 oz.
- Slide: 416 Stainless steel with nitride finish
- Frame: Polymer with 7075 T6 aluminum inserts
- Safeties: Fiber opitc front, nothch rear (Glock style)
- Trigger: 5 lbs. (tested)
- Accessories: one 8-rd. mag, cable lock, lockable case
- MSRP: $600
- Manufacturer: American Tactical
This article was originally published in Be Ready! magazine. You can find the original magazine on the OSG Newsstand. If you have any thoughts or comments on this article, we’d love to hear them. Email us at FirearmsNews@Outdoorsg.com.