Max Michel 1911 Part 1

Max Michel 1911 Part 1 Part 2

Sig Sauer’s custom 1911 model and .177 caliber version

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By Dennis Adler

Team Sig’s Captain and world champion shooter Max Michel, Jr. is shown testing the Max 1911. The centerfire models are chambered in .45 ACP, .40 S&W or 9mm. Introduced in 2012, it was followed by the Sig Sauer Max Michel, Jr. CO2 model in 2016.

It would be safe to say that Max Michel is a natural born competition shooter, one of those fortunate individuals who knew what they wanted to do from the time they were very young and pursued their dream. For Max Michel, that dream was to become a world champion competitive pistol shooter, a goal he has achieved by becoming not only the current IPSC World Champion; but the only competition shooter in history to hold seven World Speed Shooting Championships. Michel is also a fifteen-time US National Champion, the only Action Shooter to win all USPSA Area Championships in the same season (2010) and the only Action Shooter to hold a Guinness World Record. Talk about fulfilling your aspirations.

The Max 1911 was designed by Max Michel for Sig Sauer as a custom competition level model and is the gun that the Sig Sauer CO2 model is based on.

His father, Max Michel, Sr. competed in IDPA (International Defensive Pistol Association) and introduced Max to the competitive sport of Practical Shooting as a youth. By the time he was 18 he had shattered most of the records held by the top Junior Competition Shooters in the U.S. and was invited to join the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU). During his decade-long tour with the USAMU he earned the rank of Staff Sergeant and served as the Military Coach of the Action Pistol Team as well as being responsible through his training programs for insuring the combat readiness of soldiers fighting the Global War on Terrorism. Utilizing his years of competitive shooting experience, Michel developed one of the U.S. Army’s most dynamic handgun training programs.

A shadow of itself, the Max Michel CO2 model (background) is based on the Sig Sauer Max 1911 designed by Sig Sauer’s world champion shooting team captain Max Michel, Jr. The centerfire models are available in .45 ACP, .40 S&W, and 9mm (pictured). The similarities are clearly evident as are the differences between the cartridge firing and CO2 cartridge powered handguns.

Today, Max Michel, Jr. is Captain of the Sig Sauer shooting team, manages Sig’s involvement in the competitive shooting market, including working with other shooters, match sponsorships, and co-marketing efforts. Michel also works with Sig’s product managers and design engineers to further strengthen the company’s competition gun offerings. And on top of all that he manages to teach select shooting courses at the Sig Sauer Academy.

Looking down on these two pistols it is clear that Sig Sauer wanted to make the CO2 model as much like the Max 1911 (bottom) as possible while still allowing the CO2 model to share common parts with the Sig Sauer Spartan.

The centerfire Sig Sauer Max 1911 Model

The Max 1911 is a race gun-inspired pistol built by the Sig Sauer Custom Shop to Michel’s specifications. The 1911 Max offers a variety of special features, including an external extractor, a lowered and flared ejection port, a Dawson Ice magwell, Nitron finished stainless steel slide (with the Max Michel MM logo at the rear) and a natural stainless steel frame with an undercut triggerguard. The Nitron-finished slide has lower forward cocking serrations, the stainless frame has 25 lpi checkering on the front strap and fine checkering on the flat mainspring housing for a secure grip. The 1911 Max uses ambidextrous thumb safeties and an extended beavertail grip safety with raised pad. Completing the action shooting modifications is a skeletonized Koenig Speed Hammer to shorten the lock time, and a Sig Sauer flat-faced trigger to improve trigger press and reaction time. Interestingly the J.M. Browning-based 1911 design used by Sig Sauer retains the traditional short guide rod design and barrel bushing, no fancy full length guide rods to complicate disassembly here. The gun is stocked with Hogue custom MM logo G-10 Chain link pattern grips that are built to offer a very aggressive, non-slip surface for the shooter’s hand. Last, the rear sight is Sig’s own dovetailed fully adjustable design facing a dovetailed red fiber optic front, and making this a very fast pistol to get on target. The centerfire models are available in .45 ACP, .40S&W and 9mm versions.

Tom Gaylord pointed out some failings in the CO2 Sig’s design back in November of last year in his first review of the Max Michel 1911. Regarding the unusual double thumb safety he noted that it “…operates differently than any safety I have seen.” I also mentioned this when I reviewed the Spartan CO2 model in Airgun Experience. It uses the same design. Like it or not, it is there and with a little practice is workable, but this is not a training aid since it slows getting the gun into action from a SAFE condition. What I do find interesting about the airgun’s safety it is that it can be engaged with the hammer down (as shown), which you cannot do with the cartridge model’s safeties. They only operate with a cocked hammer. Colt did, however, introduce this design with the Mustang .380 which can have the safety locked and unlocked hammer down or cocked. That much of this Sig airgun’s safety design is not unusual, only the secondary release button.

Max Air – the Sig Sauer CO2 version

While some regard the Max Michel Sig CO2 pistol as little more than a different version of the Sig Sauer 1911 Spartan CO2 blowback action model, (the similarities of design are undeniable), the Spartan 1911 is a combat handgun by design, a broadsword if you will, whereas the Max Michel is more of a scalpel, a precision oriented target pistol, and the main difference begins with the trigger design duplicated from the Max Michel designed centerfire model pictured in this article.

The Max 1911 has Sig Sauer designed fully adjustable rear target sights while the CO2 model has well made fixed white dot combat sights. The sight appears to be retained with a hex head screw and not molded into the slide. I rear sight is removable but due to a retention peg corresponding with a hole in the slide does not appear to be drift adjustable. It may, however, be replaceable with an adjustable sight in the future.

“When it comes to shooting, consistent training is invaluable, whether you are a member of law enforcement, the military or are a responsible citizen carrying to protect your family,” said Max Michel, Jr. “Despite this, many people don’t have the time, opportunity or finances to train as much as they should. The 1911 Max Michel BB Pistol gives you the flexibility to train anywhere, anytime with measurable results. Dry fire training is always recommended, but can be boring and sometimes misleading. This is a great way for those who typically shoot a 1911-style pistol to work on accuracy, speed and drawing from concealment.” This is exactly what I have been writing about in Airgun Experience, and there is more to this CO2 Sig Sauer model than just a pretty finish and nice grips.

The front white dot sight on the Max CO2 is well designed but appears to be a fixed piece and not replaceable. Too bad you can’t upgrade to the red fiber optic sight on the 9mm model. Note that both guns use the same lower forward slide serrations.

Airgun features

The Sig model features a full-metal slide and frame with a blowback action that gives a fairly brisk recoil feeling with each shot. If there is any one fault with the CO2 model it is having features not found on the centerfire Max 1911. First and most obvious is the Mil-Std. 1913 Picatinny accessory rail which limits the carry and drawing practice with the CO2 model to Rail Gun holsters only. The chain link grip texturing is slightly smaller and shallower than the Max 1911’s Hogue G10 grips, and while it has a slightly undercut triggerguard and extended beavertail safety, the airgun lacks the same sized grip safety pad.

The two 1911 Sig models, Spartan and Max Michel share a number of parts including the frame, sights, hammer shape and double left side thumb safety. Both also have non-functioning right side thumb safeties.

Where the similarities between the Spartan 1911 CO2 model and the Max Michel really overlap, aside from the dustcover accessory rail, is with the frustrating dual thumb safety release and non-functioning ambidextrous right hand release lever. It also uses the same hammer as the Spartan and fixed white dot combat-style sights. So yes, they are a lot alike, right down to the innovative Sig CO2 cartridge loading system. This is a combination of removing the left grip panel and lowering the hinged flat mainspring housing panel. After loading the CO2, rotating the mainspring housing back into place automatically seats and pierces the CO2. Nice. This is a big plus on both airguns as it eliminates the need for either a seating screw or hex head tool.

The CO2 model has a 5-inch smoothbore barrel, the Max 1911 a 5-inch rifled match grade barrel. One other big difference is the distance the slide moves. Travel and lock back on the CO2 model is only about 50 percent of the actual distance on a centerfire 1911, evidenced by the amount of exposed barrel and position of the rear of the slide in relation to the hammer on the Max 1911.

What the Max Michel CO2 model brings to the table aside from a fine finish, product branding and quality construction, is the Max 1911 style flat trigger. This is where the airgun becomes the basic training surrogate Max Michel talks about. There is also the weight and balance of the airgun which is fairly close to the 9mm pistol. The Max 1911 weighs in at 2 pounds, 9.5 ounces empty (with magazine inserted), the CO2 model at 2 pounds, 0.6 ounces empty (with magazine inserted). Comparing overall length the Max 1911 is 8.7 inches, the Sig CO2 model 8.7 inches. Height is 5.5 inches vs. 5.75 inches for the airgun which has a taller rear sight. Both have the same maximum width of 1.25 inches (measured from the ambidextrous safeties). What this airgun’s purpose comes down to, other than just being a CO2 version of the Max 1911, is the trigger design, and remembering Michel’s statement about the flexibility to train anywhere, anytime with measurable results. Trigger pull on the 9mm Max 1911 test gun averaged 5 pounds, 14.5 ounces, the CO2 model has a heavier but solid 7 pound, 14.5 ounce trigger press with a mere 0.125 inches of take up, exactly the same as the Max 1911’s trigger!

Trigger for trigger the Max 1911’s is perfectly copied on the CO2 model and is the airgun’s most noteworthy feature. The undercut triggerguard on the Max 1911 is not as deep on the airgun but the frontstrap checkering, while not as fine an lpi, is commendable.

Is this a perfect training gun for the Max 1911? Not entirely since it uses a 16-round stick magazine and separate CO2 chamber in the grip frame, (in deference to a better self-contained CO2 BB magazine), and fixed white dot sights. Is it close enough to use for practice? It is so long as you bear in mind that you are not reloading with a full sized magazine when the slide locks back, and that is also a part of competition practice. But for less than $100 you would be hard pressed to find a closer match to the Max 1911, and if you are a Sig Sauer fan, this is one more Sig for your collection.

In Part 2 a shooting comparison between the real 9mm Max Michel and the CO2 model.

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