March 28, 2023
On March 29, 1911, the U.S. armed forces officially adopted a pistol designed by John Moses Browning. Taken into service as the “Automatic Pistol, Caliber .45, M1911,” it would go on to become the most respected combat handgun of all time and the favorite of generations of soldiers, law enforcement officers, armed professionals, target shooters and sportsmen, a position it continues to hold more than 111 years after its introduction.
The cartridge it fired, the “Caliber .45 Automatic Pistol Ball Cartridge, M1911,” better known as the .45 ACP, was designed by Browning in conjunction with Winchester, UMC and Frankford Arsenal and featured a 230-grain FMJ bullet traveling at a rated 830 fps. Like the M1911 pistol itself, it is more popular today than at any time in its history, and most handgun manufacturers offers pistols, as well as revolvers, chambered for it.
The 1911 pistol was first used in combat by American soldiers in the Philippine Islands during the waning days of the Moro Insurrection (1899 – 1913) where it quickly earned a reputation for reliability and ruggedness while its .45 cartridge proved effective against fanatical Moro Juramentado warriors. A few years later, the 1911 was serving on the Western Front where its ability to stand up to the vile conditions of trench warfare became legendary.
Wartime service indicated the need for a few modifications, and the resulting M1911A1 featured a thicker front sight, an arched mainspring housing, a longer hammer spur, a shorter trigger with a relief cut in the frame behind it, and an elongated grip safety. During the interwar years, the 1911A1 became the favorite of law enforcement agencies such as the Texas Rangers and the newly formed FBI and gangsters such as John Dillinger and Clyde Barrow. World War II saw it serving with distinction from the fetid tropical jungles of Guadalcanal to the frozen forests of Bastogne, a performance it repeated during the Korean and Vietnam wars. While officially replaced by the 9mm M9 Beretta in 1985, and the SIG Sauer M17 in 2017, “Old Slabsides” soldiers on to the present day with the Special Forces of the U.S. Army, USMC, and is still the choice of knowledgeable warriors who demand the very best handgun/cartridge combination when they go in harm’s way.
Over the past eleven decades, the 1911 pistol has undergone a number of modifications in order to make it more (take your pick) accurate, reliable (?), and/or user friendly. These have included tighter frame/slide fit, installing different sights, checkering the frame, custom grips, extended controls, recoil spring guide rods, beveling the magazine well, ad infinitum. While such modifications (many of its fans refuse to use the word “improvements”) have a place with pistols used for competition, many feel they are superfluous on a combat pistol. Some of its more ardent fans will opine that the pistol was “perfect” the way JMB designed it so why screw around with success?
Whether they are “traditionalists,” collectors, or shooters who merely have a hankering for one of the originals, there are still those persons who want a basic, plain vanilla, military style 1911A1 pistol. Unfortunately, originals are becoming collectors’ items - with appropriate price tags. But when a customer is willing to part with cash money for a product, there is sure to be an entrepreneur happy to supply them with it. After all, that’s how our capitalistic economy works.Today, several manufacturers offer G.I. style 1911A1s, the most recent being the Turkish firm TISAS who offer a handgun built to the near-exact likeness of a military-issue M1911A1 and is now being imported into the country by SDS Imports of Knoxville, Tennessee (SDSImports.com).
TISAS was established in Trabzon, Turkey in 1993 to produced pistols for police and military markets. Their line of Zingana 9mm pistols have proven very popular being adopted by a number of Asian and Middle Eastern armies, police forces, and civilian shooters. Recently, they released a number of 1911-type pistols on the market available in a variety of sights, finishes, grips, controls and other “bells & whistles.” But being I am somewhat of a traditionalist when it comes to military pistols, I requested one of their M1911A1 US Army models to evaluate.
The TISAS M1911A1 US Army is a...well almost an exact copy of “Old Slabsides” so familiar to generations of American soldiers, Marines, sailors, airmen and Coast Guardsmen (did I forget anyone?). At first glance, the M1911...let’s just call it the “Army,” OK ... is just what is appears to be; a Mil-Spec 1911 pistol. There are no fancy “bells & whistles” that are redundant on a combat handgun. Upon examining the pistol, I was pleased to see that it displayed top rate fit and finish. Like the original, the all-steel Army (none of that polymer stuff here, thank you) has dual sharp cut grasping grooves on the rear of the slide while fiber optic front and adjustable rear sights are notable for their absence. Instead, we find a rounded blade front and fixed square notch rear sights that are rugged in the extreme and impossible to knock out of zero.
Look as you may, you won’t find any checkering on the front strap of the frame nor has metal been relieved under the trigger guard. And while it may come as a shock to some of our younger readers, the thumb safety is not ambidextrous, nor is the slide release lever and the magazine release button is designed for the right-handed. It has a 1911A1 style arched mainspring housing; lanyard ring and the grips are checkered walnut just like the original. Oh my! Internally the Army is…oh you guessed it, already. Yup, it’s just the way JMB designed it with a non-ramped barrel held in place by a solid muzzle bushing and an original style recoil system with the short guide rod. The firing system is one area where the Army was slightly modernized with Series 70 internals, and it has a Cerakote finish. And I should add that this pistol had one of the nicest triggers I’ve felt on an out of the box 1911. Take up was short and the trigger tripped the sear with exactly 4.5 pounds of pressure.
At my first opportunity, my wife (and photographer) Becky and I escaped to our gun club to see how the Army would perform. Accuracy testing was conducted at 15 yards from an MTM K-Zone shooting rest with Winchester and Black Hills 230 gr. FMJ ammo. While the small sights sorely tried my (no longer young) eyesight, with a bit of concentration I was able to produce some very acceptable five shot groups several of which measured less than three inches in size. Offhand test firing was performed from the traditional seven yards firing the pistol with both supported and unsupported (one handed) grips. JMB’s understanding of ergonomics came to the fore here because when I lifted the pistol it was immediately aligned with the target. This is a nice (life saving?) feature in combat pistol that most likely would be fired quickly and at close range. Thanks to its all-steel construction, recoil was quite moderate allowing me to make quick follow up shots.
We ran about three boxes of .45s through the Army that afternoon and are pleased to say that we did not experience a single malfunction. As can be seen in the photos, all of the rounds expended found their way to the “proper” places of the target. It’s been several years since I’ve fired a Mil Spec 1911, but the TISAS M1911A1 US Army proved to me that the reputation “Old Slab Sides” earned, at the sharp end of stick, since 1911 was well deserved. While I have owned a number (Becky says “too many”) of modern combat pistols, I would not hesitate to use the TISAS as a primary defensive handgun.
Tisas 1911A1 U.S. Army Specs
- Type: Hammer-fired, single-action, semiauto
- Caliber: .45 ACP
- Overall Length: 8.56 in.
- Barrel Length: 5.02 in.
- Weight: 39 oz.
- Construction: Chrome-Moly frame and barrel
- Finish: Cerekote
- Sights: Blade (front), square notch (rear)
- Capacity: 7+1 rds.
- Grips: Checkered wood
- Extras: Spare magazine, spare plastic grips, cleaning rod and brush, owner’s manual, and lockable water-resistant case
- MSRP: $440
- Manufacturer: Tisas, SDSImports
About the Author
Paul Scarlata began writing articles for various gun magazines in the 1990s. Over the years he has contributed to firearms and military history publications in the U.S. and a number of foreign countries, has had three books on military firearms published and just finished writing a fourth. He became a regular contributor to Shotgun News, forerunner of the Firearms News, in 2010, eventually becoming a staff member where he specializes writing about military small arms from 1850s to present day. His wife Becky, an excellent photographer, has been a major plus to "their" careers.
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