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Ruger SR1911CMD: A timeless classic on a diet

Lightweight commander combines features that make commander an ideal carry choice with a frame material that’s dramatically lighter than its steel counterpart


By Andrew L. Butts, C1 Contributor

The M1911, as originally built, is an all-steel pistol with a 5" barrel and an unloaded weight nearing two and a half pounds. This steel construction makes for legendary durability but the 1911 is, as I lovingly call it, a pants dragger. The pistol’s flat profile makes it easy to conceal but the weight can be an issue for all day carry, requiring a belt and suspenders to keep a pair of britches in place.

The weight issue has been tackled in various ways over the decades, with the most successful being the Lightweight Commander first produced by Colt. The names “commander” and “lightweight commander” both denote Colt designs but have become colloquialisms of the 1911 culture. They are generic terms for any 1911 pistol using a 4.25 inch, rather than 5 inch, barrel. Commanders and lightweight commanders are identical in shape and size and differ only in their frame materials.

The commander is all steel while the lightweight commander replaces the pistol’s steel frame with one constructed from aluminum. This change in material reduces overall weight by almost half a pound. While this makes for a more comfortable carry, the change isn’t without problems.

The 1911’s feed ramp is integral with the frame and the use of relatively soft aluminum has resulted in durability issues in guns subjected to a steady diet of jacketed hollow point ammunition. Believe it or not, the jagged edges on these bullets will actually scar or chip the aluminum ramp over time. I have a lightweight aluminum framed 1911 from a well-known manufacturer that shows evidence of damage from such ammunition. The damage isn’t to the point of causing any reliability issues, but it is progressively becoming worse and will eventually require a gunsmith to fix.

Ruger has just announced their take on what a lightweight commander should be. This new model is dubbed the SR1911CMD-A and closely follows the tried and true Colt design. The pistol features a black anodized aluminum frame topped with a stainless steel slide, giving the gun a “reverse two tone” finish. The pistol comes with many now-standard 1911 features such as Novak sights, an extended thumb safety, and an upswept beavertail grip safety.

The Ruger design team is aware of the tendency for feed ramp damage and has taken the unique and innovative approach of using a titanium insert. This insert is pressed into the frame and duplicates the shape of the traditional feed ramp without requiring the additional design and machine work of using a ramped barrel. The titanium insert results in a ramp that is impervious to wear while still keeping the frame as light as possible. Granted, the weight savings of this small titanium insert is marginal over an insert made of steel, but it does demonstrate Ruger’s interest in thinking outside the box where 1911 manufacturing is concerned.

I like commanders. The shorter barrel and reduced overall length makes for a pistol that’s quicker to draw from the holster and is comfortable for both open and concealed carry. The shorter length can be a blessing when seated in a vehicle or sitting at a desk all day. The lightweight commander combines the features that make the commander an ideal carry choice with a frame material that’s dramatically lighter than its steel counterpart. Half a pound doesn’t sound like much of a difference in the two models, but after a long day’s wear, it is readily apparent.

A belt and suspenders? Not anymore.