In Firearms News issue No. 7, I wrote a story about American Tactical's FXH-45 polymer-framed 1911. I was thinking I'd get raked over the coals for suggesting that a polymer-framed 1911 can be a solid gun (this one is), but the feedback from readers was more positive than I expected.
The chief knocks against traditional metal-framed 1911 are that they're large, heavy, and the capacity — by today's standards — is somewhat limited. While the FXH-45 won't hold any more ammunition than other government-sized models and isn't any smaller, it's lighter than the lightest commander-sized 1911.
You can remedy the capacity problem with a 10-round Chip McCormick Power Mag, but you get a less-than-desirable looking pistol because of the mag's extra length. What to do if you want to retain the classic 1911 look but increase firepower? This is where the 9mm enters into the equation.
In case you haven't heard, shooters are abandoning the .40 S&W en masse in favor of the 9mm. I recently gave away my .40 S&W dies, brass and projectiles. I only have one .40-caliber pistol that never leaves the safe and is dustier than a mummy. Many .45 devotees are seeing the redeeming qualities in the smaller 9mm round, given the quality of today's expanding ammunition and the increase in capacity in a given firearm. But there will always be holdouts who worship at the altar of John Browning and praise the hardball gun and its .45-caliber slugs.
For those with an open mind, a 1911 chambered in 9mm truly is the best of both worlds; you get the capacity (generally 9 or 10 rounds) and lower recoil of the 9mm and the design and function of the time-tested 1911. Plus, the 1911 has been successfully chambered for a host of non-standard calibers like 10mm Auto, .38 Super, .357 magnum and the 9mm Largo.
If you haven't heard of Legacy Sports, certainly you've heard of Howa. Howa's most famous product is the 1500 series of bolt-action rifles, which are known for their silky-smooth action and ruggedness.
As a company, Legacy Sports spawned from Interarms after the owner died and the family sold the company. The Interarms VP of marketing and sales became the CEO of what is now Legacy Sports and has brought the company to where it is today, a manufacturer of shotguns, bolt-action rifles and for the past 10 years, 1911s under the Citadel name.
The company also sells the Nikko Stirling brand of optics, and most recently has gotten into making chassis rifles for precision shooters. All of that said, let's take a closer look at the Citadel, Legacy Sports' bargain 1911.
I received a Citadel model M-1911 (marked "M1911A1-FS" on the frame) chambered in 9mm, but the gun can also be had in .45 ACP. My sample sports a blued finish, but Cerakote OD Green and Flat Dark Earth are available as well. All Cerakoting is done in-house by Legacy Sports. Mine has wood grips, but Hogue Overmolded grips can be had in black, olive drab green and sand color. Full-size government models and smaller officers' models are available.
The government model has a 5-inch barrel while the officer has a 3½-inch barrel. Both models feature the series 70 fire control and an internal extractor. If you don't know the difference between the series 70 and series 80 fire control groups, the series 70 lacks the firing pin safety plunger and several other parts that the 80 incorporates. In my opinion, why add unnecessary stuff to a time-tested design? Oh, right — lawyers. Let's not forget that the most important safety on any gun lies between our ears.
As it comes out of the box, the Citadel is a no-frills 1911 with some of the most popular custom touches built right in to it. Of note is that the gun is one of precious few handguns that are still legal in California. The Rock Island pistols — the frame of which the Citadel is built upon — were deemed acceptable and therefore the Citadel was grandfathered into legality.
The first thing you notice when you pick up the Citadel are the sights. They're three-dot design, but the rear dots are simply round indentations. Some would be tempted to fill them in with white or red, but I'd argue that a better modification would be swapping out the plain front post with a red or green night sight.
After all, your attention should be focused there and not the rear sight. As my colleague Jim Tarr says, you look through the rear sight, not at it. Meprolight night sights are available on the Citadel series for an extra charge, and you might consider adding them from the get go. The front sight is a bit of a bummer because it's a plain black post and the edges of the base aren't machined down to match the contour of the slide. To their credit, both sights are steel.
Grasping the pistol depresses the extended beavertail safety, which can hardly be considered an upgrade anymore because they're so common. But their commonality is a good thing as they were always upgraded "back in the day" for good reason; they're better and more easily depressed than the original GI-style grip safety. Anymore, a standard GI-style safety raises more eyebrows than does an extended model. The hammer is skeletonized, which is also standard fare these days. The thumb safety is a bi-lateral unit, and this particular one has sharp corners and was abusive to my thumb. That said, it did snap on and off positively.
The mainspring housing is checkered nicely, while the front of the frame is untextured steel. Controlling the pistol under recoil isn't a big deal given the 9mm chambering and heft of the pistol (2.32 pounds). The magazine well is beveled and facilitates smooth insertion of magazines. As previously mentioned, the extractor is of the internal style as Browning intended. Again, why mess with success? There are many debates surrounding the 1911, and internal vs. external extractors seem to be as hotly contested as Chevy vs. Ford, and both will continue as long as the sun is burning.
The trigger also has an overtravel screw. The trigger is my favorite part of the gun; there's no reason that it should be a nice as it is, but I'll be darned if it isn't the nicest 1911 trigger I've ever squeezed on a 1911 at this price point. The trigger on my sample broke cleanly at 4.92 lbs. as an average based on five pulls on a Lyman Trigger Pull Gauge. No part of the triggerguard is checkered.
The slide features forward and aft cocking serrations and along the left-hand side of the gun "CITADEL" and the Citadel logo are etched. I'm a fan of forward cocking serrations because I press-check my pistols to the point of an obsessive compulsion. Inside the slide is the 5-inch barrel that's roll marked "CAL. 9mm" on the barrel hood. The barrel is not ramped and is a pretty standard GI-style unit except for its 9mm chambering. Field stripping reveals the full-length guide rod and non-captive recoil spring.
Again, this is a no-frills basic 9mm blaster that'd be a great buy for someone looking to get into 1911s without the muzzle flip and cost of shooting that comes with a .45 gun. Now for the $64,000 question: How did it shoot?
If you haven't shot a 1911 chambered in 9mm, it's a pretty rewarding experience. I enjoy the ergonomics of the 1911 and the low recoil impulse of the 9mm round, so fast and accurate shots with the Citadel were easy to come by.
In my testing, I put 390 rounds through the Citadel in two range sessions, which is more than I had intended, but shooting the thing was so much fun that I kept reloading the magazines until I ran out of ammo. The first time out I shot 200 rounds offhand at a number of different targets and the gun proved to be 100% reliable. I fired a mix of ball and various hollowpoints. The second time out I shot it for accuracy and velocity and ran into a few hiccups when shooting it off of a rest.
When I sat down and focused hard on trigger control, I experienced four failure-to-feed malfunctions. When I concentrated more on grasping the pistol firmly, there were no issues. I believe these issues were due to my limpwristing the pistol when concentrating on accuracy. I used two magazines, a Mec-Gar that was supplied with the gun and a Chip McCormick mag. Each magazine produced two failures to feed, and this supports my theory that the malfunctions were operator-induced; both Mec-Gar and Chip McCormick make high-quality mags and they never failed at any other point during my testing, or testing with other pistols.
What happened during the jams was the rounds that malfunctioned took a nose-dive onto the lower part of the two-piece feedramp. Because the barrel is not ramped, the feed ramp is really two small ramps — one built into the frame and the other in the barrel. When the gun jammed, the bullets sat with the point smashed into the lower ramp. However, when it came time to have fun with the gun, and shoot targets for speed, it was 100% reliable.
Could this gun benefit from a few upgrades? Sure, and this gun would make a great platform for a custom build. Or, you could use it as it was intended, as a fun range gun and effective self-defense tool. With the 5-inch barrel, you'll see better ballistics and velocity from the 9mm than you will with smaller guns made for concealability.
All in all, to fully "trust" the gun, I'd put a couple hundred more rounds through it, just to make sure it functioned flawlessly. Based on all of my offhand shooting, I feel confident that it would do just that, and I'll definitely be shooting this pistol more. The Citadel is a perfectly accurate and pleasant gun to shoot that benefits from a storied and time-honored heritage and design as well as a potent yet easy shooting chambering. Again, what's not to love?