Max Michel 1911s Part 2

Max Michel 1911s Part 2 Part 1

Sig Sauer’s custom competition .45 ACP model and .177 caliber version

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By Dennis Adler

Close in theory, close in design from Sig Sauer, the 9mm Max 1911 (left) has a twin (or at least first cousin) in CO2 with the Max Michel, Jr. .177 caliber model. The two pistols are almost identical in weight and balance, making the airgun a great indoor or backyard training aid.

Up until this week it had been awhile since I put an air pistol up against its cartridge firing counterpart, but the Sig Sauer Max Michel 1911 models are worthy of a comparison for the sake of training purposes, despite the differences between the 9mm and .177 caliber pistols. Sig has gone to some length to produce its own personal line of CO2 models based on their cartridge firing versions (there are also Sig Sauer licensed CO2 models like the Sig Sauer 1911 and P226 X-Five, but they are not made for or marketed by Sig Sauer).

The 9mm Max 1911 (in the author’s right hand) weighs in at 2 pounds, 9.5 ounces empty (with magazine inserted), the CO2 model tips the scales 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).

The Max Michel Sig 1911 CO2 model has been referred to by some as just a different version of the Sig Sauer 1911 Spartan CO2 model, (actually it is the other way around, the Max came first), and the similarities of design are undeniable. The Spartan 1911, however, is based on a combat handgun, a broadsword if you will, whereas the Max Michel is more of a scalpel, a precision oriented target pistol, and the main differences begin with the trigger design which is duplicated from the Max 1911 centerfire Sig model.

Although I rarely do live fire comparisons with centerfire pistols, this one was just too good to pass up. The Sig Sauer Max 1911 chambered in 9mm is holstered in a Blade-Tech Tek-Lok injection molded open top holster. This allows secure carry with its contoured design and adjustable tensioning screws as well as a clean, fast draw. This is position one, with my hands at my side. The gun has a chambered round and the ambidextrous safety is engaged.
At the beginning of the draw the gun easily releases from the Blade-Tech holster. Note that my trigger finger is clear of the triggerguard and moving toward the side of the frame while my support hand is on the way up to meet my gun hand and begin the two-handed hold. 
As my support hand comes up and my trigger finger rests on the side of the frame, my thumb is ready to release the safety as soon as I bring the pistol up and push the gun out to the target.
With full presentation of the Max 1911 the safety is released by the shooting hand thumb and the gun is ready to fire as my finger engages the trigger.

I recently spoke with Joe Huston, Vice President and General Manager for the Sig Sauer Airgun Division, and he explained several reasons why current Sig CO2 models are built as they are. Huston is the former CEO of Cybergun (and the Sig licensed 1911 with drop free magazine was one of his projects), so he knows the technology quite well. The primary reason Sig Sauer decided to use the separate CO2 loading system and a stick magazine, explained Huston, was to achieve higher velocities with .177 caliber steel BBs, which the Sig models do. Average velocity is up around 400 fps, and that exceeds blowback action models with self contained (drop free) CO2 BB magazines by around 100 fps average. Secondly, the drop free magazines can be more easily damaged and the CO2 seating screw over tightened. The advanced CO2 seating system in the Max Michel and Spartan is more reliable. Sig is, however, also pursuing new technology to achieve higher velocities (360 fps to 380 fps) with blowback action pistols using self contained CO2 BB magazines. New products with more authentic and fully operating features are also presently under development in Sig’s R&D department in New Hampshire, so they are taking airguns very seriously as training aids, especially with the P320 having been selected as the U.S. Army’s new standard issue sidearm. But Sig Sauer also has an eye on the vast retail market for air pistols through some 2,000 retail stores, plus specialty airgun retailers like Pyramyd Air. Current models like the Max Michel and Spartan 1911s are also designed for the entry level airgun consumer and have to be priced commensurately. This accounts for some of the molded in features such as right hand ambidextrous safeties and the redundant button safety used on the Max and Spartan. “[Through Sig Sauer] we’re bringing new customers to the airgun world, and that was my goal as CEO of Cybergun and it is my goal at Sig,” said Huston.

The one thing you won’t get with the CO2 model is the recoil of a 9mm cartridge being discharged. The Max 1911 is a heavy gun built on a .45 ACP caliber platform, so it takes a lot of the recoil out of a 9mm round. I fired a standard 115 gr. full metal jacketed round which is also a lighter weight bullet.
To speed up reloading as soon as the slide locks back release the empty magazine by pressing in on the magazine release with your support hand thumb. This allows keeping the gun level and aimed on target during the reload. If you have ever watched a Max Michel shooting video he does this so quickly it is almost unbelievable.
Among very good features of the CO2 Max is the identical magazine release configuration, and it is also easy to follow the same reloading procedure dumping the empty stick magazine as soon as the slide locks back by using the support hand thumb.

While we may not all agree on Sig’s occasionally minimalist approach to working features and correct magazine designs, they do adhere to a very strict tenet on fit, finish, quality, and durability. Their airguns and cartridge guns all bear the Sig Sauer name, and within the world of firearms they are two of the most famous names in history.

Sig (Schweizerische Industrie-Gesellschaft) has been manufacturing firearms since 1853, and J. P. Sauer & Sohn since 1751, independently, and jointly as Sig Sauer beginning in the 1970s as a partnership. They expanded to the U.S., first as Sig Arms in 1985, and since 2007 as Sig Sauer, with manufacturing now located in New Hampshire. Sig Sauer’s parent companies in Europe include J.P. Sauer & Sohn, which manufactures rifles, Blaser GmbH in Germany, and (Sig) Swiss Arms AG in Switzerland. So, you can imagine the weight that the Sig Sauer CO2 models carry in bringing the Sig name officially to airguns with the slogan “Shoots like a Sig – Because it is one.”  Well, here is the question for the Max Michel CO2 model; does it shoot like a Sig? With the 9mm Max Michel in hand and the CO2 model loaded and ready, I am about to find out.

A quick review of CO2 loading, the left grip panel is removed, the mainspring housing lowered and rotated down, CO2 inserted, and the mainspring housing pushed up and closed with the palm of the hand. This seats and punctures the CO2 in one motion and is consistent time after time. CO2 leakage and over tightening, as well as possible damage to the CO2 seal, are eliminated by this design.
You might hate stick magazines but you have to love how easily the Sig’s load steel BBs. With the follower locked down, BBs are dropped into a large round loading port on the left side. Slightly tilting the magazine lets them roll up into place. A magnetic ring at the top keeps the first BB in place and ready to fire. Capacity is 16 rounds; exactly double that of the 9mm Max 1911.

The Max CO2 delivered pretty well on the promise of higher velocities than 1911s with drop free CO2 BB magazines with a high of 376 fps (34 fps below the estimated “up to 410 fps”) and an average velocity for 10 rounds of 360 fps with a standard deviation of 10 fps. At 21 feet the gun hits 2.0 inches above POA, which was a 6 o’clock hold on the bullseye. The initial test group fired through the chronograph screens measured 0.85 inches.

With the 9mm model fired from 45 feet, I managed a best 8-round group measuring 1.60 inches. This was the first time I have ever fired the Max 1911.
With the Max 1911, from 45 feet I punched eight rounds into a tight group, with my best 5-shots at 1.42 inches including an overlapping pair.

The range test for the CO2 model was fired using a two-handed hold and Weaver stance. Out of three consecutive IPSC silhouette competition targets, the best total group for 10 rounds measured 0.81 inches with a best 5-shots grouped at 0.5 inches. The trigger pull feels heavier than 5.5 pounds but it is solid all the way through. This is not as good a trigger as some other blowback action CO2 target pistols but it is about as consistent from shot to shot as you could ask for. That is one plus for the Sig that few other CO2 blowback action pistols can claim.

The CO2 Max 1911 only fits in 1911 Rail Gun holsters so your choices are more limited. It aims just as quickly as the centerfire model and proved to be very accurate at 21 feet, a good distance for blow back action CO2 BB models. One negative for the Max Michel airgun, the double button thumb safety is much harder to release in a smooth motion and slows you down. In my opinion, for regular target shooting this is not an issue but for drawing practice it is a clumsy and redundant feature.
The CO2 Max 1911 shoots a little above POA at 21 feet but can deliver tight groups. My best IPSC target has 10 shots at 0.81 inches and my best 5-rounds at 0.5 inches. It shoots like a Sig – Because it is one.

How does it stack up with the 9mm Max Michel? At 45 feet using Sig Sauer 115 gr. FMJ Elite Performance ammunition my best 8 rounds (one magazine) on the IPSC silhouette target measured 1.6 inches. For me, not being a competition shooter, that is a decent target fired offhand at 45 feet. The Max 1911 is an inherently accurate pistol by design. The Sig Max Michel CO2 model has that same quality, stick magazine, separate CO2 channel and all.

A Word About Safety

Blowback action models provide the look, feel and operation of their cartridge-firing counterparts. Most all blowback action airguns look like guns, but those based on real cartridge-firing models like the Sig Sauer Max Michel 1911 are hard to tell apart at a glance. It is important to remember that the vast majority of people can’t distinguish an airgun from a cartridge gun. Never brandish an airgun in public. Always, and I can never stress this enough, always treat an airgun as you would a cartridge gun. The same manual of operation and safety should always apply.


5 thoughts on “Max Michel 1911s Part 2”

  1. Good shooting with both. Personally , I would have left the rail off of the Co2 pistol in order to utilize the same holsters. The increase in velocity is appreciated , but I think it could be accomplished with in a Co2 mag pistol, by lightening the slide , or changing the slide so the only part of it recoils like some 22 pistols. This would result in higher velocity and with the part of the slide having the sights remaining fixed , would increase velocity. The safety system to me is a weak point , a, for left hand use ,and b ,for developing muscle memory. Seems SIG is beginning to realize what is needed for success in the airgun field , and one is being responsive to customer input.

  2. In your review of the Spartan, I think you reported that the removable grip did not “grip” as securely over the CO2 as you thought it should. Do you have the same opinion about the removable grip on this Max Michel 1911?

    • No, this grip panel snaps tightly back in place. The Max 1911 has proven to be an excellent CO2 pistol despite its few technical shortcomings. Trigger pull takes a little getting used to, but once you have a feel for it, the action on this gun is solid shot to shot. Nice bump in the recoil, too. Not quite a .22 recoil but enough to let you know the pistol has some punch.

  3. It looks like if you are a fan of the Max Michel 1911 in 9mm ,you will like this pistol. Room for improvement ,but passable. One are of the 1911 ,9mm pistols that has been ignored is the right size ccw 1911 pistol. By that I mean a pistol not just chambered for 9mm but also sized to the 9mm cartridge and magazine. That award would go to the Springfield Armory EMP. That would be nice to see in a co2 pistol . Scaled down ,taking a co2 mag , ambi safety and fitting standard holsters.

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