by B.B. Pelletier

This is a story about a firearm I recently bought, and I want to use it to explain my motivation when I test airguns for you. I hope you will look past the firearm aspect of the story and try to put yourself in my shoes, because that is what I am trying to do for you. The point of this story is that I understand what it’s like to buy something expensive without knowing what you will really be getting.

Taurus PT1911 is loaded with features that would cost thousands if they had to be added. On the surface, it looks like a great handgun!

The gun is a Taurus PT1911 .45 automatic. I have been wanting a .45 ACP for several years, and I shopped hard for the last two years to find exactly what I wanted. The gun is to be used primarily for defense, though it will also be called on to plink, hunt and generally accompany me when I go into the field.

The number one criterion is reliability. Semiautomatic pistols are not known to be 100 percent reliable, so a buyer has to decide how much less than perfect he’s willing to accept. I have owned 5 Colt M1911s and A1s over the years, so I had a good idea of what was possible. I hoped for no more than three failures per thousand rounds, and hopefully less than one. With my Colts, that would not have been unreasonable.

I am aware that revolvers are more reliable than semiautomatic pistols, and I do own several of them, but all in .357 Magnum caliber. While that’s a good caliber, it doesn’t have the defense performance I’m looking for, plus revolvers generally hold fewer rounds than semiautomatic pistols of the same size.

The choices were many
Like many of you who are overwhelmed by the choices in airguns, I found that the firearm marketplace is bursting at the seams with 1911 pistols. And many of them have good reputations.

The S&W 945 is a wonderful gun. I have fired it and found it to be accurate, nice handling and it has a wonderful trigger. It was hard to pass it by. The price is high, but the gun seems worth every penny.

Kimber is the top name in production 1911s today. That makes them a sort of Weihrauch for 1911 pistols. I seriously looked at them for a year, but they turned me off with a few marketing practices. First, there are no reliable Kimber dealers in my area. The few guns that dealers do carry are not the models I would choose, and they are often priced several hundred dollars above Kimber’s suggested retail price. I got fed up with that practice back in the ’70s when the same thing happened to the S&W model 29 revolver. And, finally, when I tested Kimber triggers at the SHOT Show last year, they all felt creepy. That stopped me cold.

Why not buy from the original maker? I would, if Colt were the same company they were in 1950, but they aren’t. They’ve been run into the ground by mismanagement, in and out of bankruptcy over the past decade and they were among the first to buckle to anti-gun interests – to the point of inventing features for their guns just to appease the anti-gun press, even though nobody had asked for them. They still make a good 1911, but the overhead burden of mismanagment has driven the price through the roof. Too many drawbacks for me.

Philippine .45s
There has been a rush to the Philippines to produce 1911s under American-sounding names – not unlike Winchester having their air rifles made by Hatsan of Turkey. Rock Island Armory is typical of the breed. They make good bread-and-butter pistols that others can gunsmith into great guns. But I wanted something off the shelf that they didn’t offer. Most off-the-shelf upgraded pistols based on Philippine frames are set up for mall ninjas. I wanted a real defensive firearm.

Custom makers
There are dozens of these, coming and going all the time. A few are rock-solid and are the foundation of most of the good things that have happened to 1911s since 1970. Others are just hobbyists who turn out product that is less trustworthy – not unlike some airgunsmiths.

One custom maker who I did consider is Bill Wilson of Wilson Combat. His guns are the stuff of legends – quite similar to John Whiscombe in airguns. And his prices are similar to Whiscombe’s as well! The price was the thing that threw me, because a Wilson CQB had all the features I wanted.

Which brings me to Taurus. If Kimber is the Weirauch of 1911s, Taurus is the Gamo. They have a spotty reputation that includes huge successes (the Raging Bull revolver) and dismal failures. Unfortunately, the failures are all on the semiautomatic pistol side. But advertising for the PT1911 showed all the features of the Wilson pistol I wanted at one-quarter the cost. Their full-page ad in American Rifleman (about $50,000 per insertion) shows the value of all the features they put into the pistol totaling $2,100, but retailing as a package for just $600. And I had tried their triggers at the SHOT Show and found them to be okay. So I bought one.

Now, as an owner, I’m an expert on why you don’t want this gun. In the first 84 rounds, there were 8 failures to feed – exactly the complaint that’s been leveled at this model, which I discovered after the fact. You can find heated arguments all over the internet about whether or not there is any substance to the claim that PT1911’s have feeding problems, but I have lived it. This happened in both factory magazines with two different Remington factory loads, one of which was the time-honored 230-grain hardball GI load that chambers like quicksilver in most 1911s, so no alibi there. ANY failure to feed is the kiss of death for a defense gun. Ten percent makes me sick! Yes, I could try different kinds of ammo and hopefully one or two will be flawless, but my confidence is now shaken.

Taurus did this 8 times in 84 shots. In defensive situations you can’t get the mutts to wait while you clear a jam. You need firepower – not excuses.

I like most of the gun’s other features. I will even tolerate the Colt Series 80 “trigger safety” trigger that is unnecessary and makes for a creepy pull in the target mode (when the trigger is squeezed slowly). It adds one more safety to what is already recognized as the safest semiautomatic pistol in the world, and no custom tuner works with it. I hate the Colt-inspired hammer lock, but I don’t have to use it so it’s not a problem. I wanted so much to love this pistol, but poor reliability is the worst sin a defense gun can commit. I’m not sure I can forgive it.

Making lemonade
Taurus has a lifetime repair warranty that I intend exercising just as soon as I can. Like Gamo, they talk a good talk. I’m going to find out if the walk is there, as well. But either way, I’m going to write about this handgun for the rest of my life. Taurus is proud to tell all comers that each PT1911 is hand-fitted before leaving the factory, so I want to know why one of the two 8-round mags they sent will only hold seven rounds! How come I can gunsmith a real Colt 1911 and get it to work all the time, but Taurus can’t? Perhaps they can fix the problems, but even if they do it will still be a long time before I can ever trust this handgun for defense work.

Where YOU come in!
I think about stuff like this when I test airguns for you, which is the point I’m making today. There is a lot of pressure – not from Pyramyd Air, but from some of you readers, for me to rate a certain airgun better than it really is. I suppose it comes from people who got stung and want me to convince them their gun isn’t as bad as they know it is. If B.B. says it’s good, then it must be! Well B.B. isn’t going to lie for anyone. I have to worry about some crappola gun landing in my lap, just like you. And, like you, I cannot afford to spend my money testing everything on the market. This experience has renewed my perspective about the dangers of trusting advertising and why I have to tell the truth when I test airguns for you!