Sig Sauer Spartan 1911 Part 1 Part 2
Another evolution of John Browning’s classic
By Dennis Adler
If it seems like there are more 1911s on the market today than ever before, that’s because there are. The fundamental design pioneered by John Moses Browning and the Colt’s Patent Fire-Arms Manufacturing Company in 1911 has endured for more than a century, even in its original form. Over the decades it has been improved upon, it has been modernized, retro-styled, lengthened, shortened, and modified in every conceivable fashion and caliber by everyone from Colt to Sig Sauer.
Browning’s timeless designs
The Model 1911, as with all of J. M. Browning’s semi-autos, was a descendant, or variation, of his original short-recoil operating system, still the most commonly used design for medium to large caliber semiautomatic pistols. In Browning’s design the top of the slide and top of the barrel locked together with lugs (grooves machined into the top of the barrel that produce raised surfaces corresponding to recesses cut into the underside of the slide). When the gun is discharged, recoil pushes the joined slide and barrel to the rear, and in the case of the 1911, a single toggle link on the bottom of the barrel lug with the slide lock pin passing through it stops the rearward motion and forces the barrel to tilt down and disengage from the slide, thus allowing it to continue its rearward movement, extract and eject the spent shell casing and re-cocking the hammer as it completes its movement. During this process the recoil spring surrounding the guide rod has also been driven to the rear and fully compressed. At this point the recoil spring decompresses and drives the slide forward. As it closes the slide strips a new cartridge from the magazine and chambers it, then reengages with the barrel lugs as the barrel and slide move forward and lock into battery ready to be fired. This entire series of events takes only a fraction of a second.
In his final handgun design for the FN Browning Hi-Power, Browning did away with the toggle link and developed the linkless solid camming lug (a cutout in the bottom of the barrel lug that accomplishes the same task as the swivel link, but is significantly stronger). Introduced in 1935 this same design is used today in the majority of recoil operated semi-autos. It is also the basis for the blowback action operating system used in most (but not all) CO2 powered semi-auto pistols. (Some use a traditional blowback action with the barrel affixed to the frame and the recoil spring around the barrel itself.)
Sig Sauer’s role in 1911 history
Sig is almost as old as Colt. The Shweizerische Industrie-Gesellschaft was established in 1853 but did not get into manufacturing guns until 1860, and then only rifles. The Swiss manufacturer didn’t become famous for producing handguns for almost another century, winning international recognition for the now famous 9x19mm Sig P210, which has been built, with a few brief interruptions in production, almost continuously since 1947. Interestingly it was based on an improved version of John M. Browning’s Colt Model 1911, only the Sig did away with the 1911’s barrel bushing and swivel link. (Through mergers and acquisitions, Sig Arms and J. P. Sauer & Sohn, two independent companies respectively located in Switzerland and Germany, established Sig Sauer Inc. in 2007. J. P. Sauer & Sohn, originally founded in 1751, also exists as an independent company manufacturing rifles and shotguns).
Knowing what Colt had been doing, and doing so well for so long, gave Sig Sauer a very simple goal; do it better. Back in 2004 Sig Arms began building its own version of the full-size Colt Government Model, which was followed by more compact versions as well as new combat models like the Sig Sauer Spartan. While essentially a Colt Government Model at its core, right down to the early-style flat mainspring housing, the Series 70-based Sig Sauer 1911s have custom features that have commonly come at a premium.
The Sig models have an extended beavertail safety, a feature those with 1911 experience have come to regard as essential. They also have a handsomely skeletonized aluminum trigger with over travel adjustment, and a skeletonized hammer that plunges securely into the beavertail safety’s hammer recess as the slide cycles. The .45 ACP Sig Sauer Spartan is further distinguished by its custom oil rubbed bronze (ORB) finish, flared magazine well, front and rear slide serrations, ambidextrous thumb safeties, SigLite front and rear sights, fine 20 lpi front strap checkering, and flat mainspring housing. The Spartan models also have distinctive grips with a gold Spartan helmet and the Greek phrase “MOLON LABE”, meaning “Come and take them”. The Greek lettering is also found on the left side of the slide.
The .45 ACP Sig Sauer models retail for $1,397 making them mid-priced 1911s. With very minor differences to operating features, the Spartan design is faithfully reproduced in Sig Sauer’s new .177 caliber CO2 model, and for a very modest retail price of $109.99.
In Part 2 we will compare the .45 ACP Spartan and .177 caliber models for features, handling, and specs, and then head to the range to see what this latest CO2 model can deliver.