The newest auto pistol from Taurus (Dept. ST, 16175 NW. 49th Ave., Miami, FL 33255; 800-327-3776; www.taurususa.com) is a very old familiar friend: a Government Model 1911.  The official name is Taurus Model PT 1911, and this .45 ACP pistol was introduced at the 2005 S.H.O.T. Show in January. It now becomes the firearms industry’s latest testimonial to the world’s seemingly insatiable demand for this most classic of all classic pistol designs. I got my hands on a preproduction model and can testify that it is a real tribute to the Model 1911.

Fully loaded with premium accessories, with individually tuned and fitted features, the PT 1911 leaps from the box already equipped to go head-to-head with the current Model 1911 market’s most dominant names, with more trimmings than even many custom-built competition guns. All that at half the recommended retail price of any other equivalently equipped Model 1911. In fact, once the initial rush is over, you’re gonna be able to buy a PT 1911 for the same real-world price as most other companies sell basic plain-vanilla Mil-Spec 1911s.

Here’s a close look at the PT 1911 package.

The fundamental format is a standard full-size Model 1911 with a five-inch barrel, built exactly to the U.S. government’s final official specifications set for the gun (circa 1947) and manufactured entirely by Taurus in its ultramodern Brazilian facilities.

It is available either in blued-finish chrome/moly steel at $599 MSRP or matte-finish stainless steel at $619 MSRP. The stainless version is stainless in all major components with “stainless-appearance” flash-chrome heat-treated carbon-steel working parts where appropriate (of course, sights, grip panels, and magazine components are also not stainless). Both versions feature plain black checkered rubber grip panels.

Taurus’s “Custom Shop” Approach
For all intents and purposes, the PT 1911 is assembled with what we in the U.S. would call a “custom shop” approach. Slides and frames on both the blued and stainless versions are Taurus-forged, not cast, and are individually hand-fitted to match-level tolerances during assembly.

The forged match-grade barrels (stainless on both the blued and stainless guns) are also individually fitted, with a polished feedramp, polished barrel throat, an air-gauged solid barrel bushing, plus a hardened barrel link and lug for long wear and an enduring fit in heavy-duty use. Each PT 1911 hammer/sear/trigger setup is individually fitted and tuned, receiving a U.S. gunshop-equivalent “trigger job.” The internal extractor is individually tuned. There are no “drop-in” parts. All accessories and operating controls are individually fitted.

The only “signature” accessories on the PT 1911 gun are the sights. They are Heinie Specialty Products’s SlantPro Straight Eight two-dot system, which a rapidly growing number of law-enforcement and military operations units are adopting as superior to any type of existing three-dot sight. The Straight Eight consists of one white dot in the semi-Patridge front blade and one white dot directly below the bottom of the square rear sight notch.

Both the front and the rear sights are drift adjustable for windage. And varied height front blades are available. Unlike three-dot systems, which can confuse the eye with lateral spacing and alignment, the Straight Eight acquires immediately. All you do is “stack” the dots. If one is above the other, you’re aligned.

Other performance-enhancing refinements on the PT 1911 include slide serrations at both the front and rear, to aid in manual cycling and clearing; a lowered and sculpted chamber port for reliable and consistent case ejection; an extended magazine release button; and a beveled magazine well for positive engagement and easy insertion with rapid reloads. Each PT 1911 comes standard with two eight-round .45 ACP magazines with thick black polymer bumper pads for positive seating upon insertion and to cushion impact and resist magazine damage. The PT 1911’s straight-back mainspring housing, the frontstrap of the grip, and the underside of the trigger guard are all checkered (30 lines per inch) to enhance security of grasp in either one- or two-hand hold.

All parts on the PT 1911 are manufactured by Taurus, including the magazines and the custom-style accessories, and they are specific Taurus configurations and not copies of any other brand-name designs. (Of course, all popular Model 1911 accessories, such as beavertail safeties, triggers, hammers, etc., are very similar in appearance.) Even the Heinie sights on the guns are actually fabricated by Taurus, under license and according to Heinie’s strict specifications. Most of the small parts are manufactured through metal injection molding (MIM), which is a very precise, cost-effective process growing in widespread use throughout the entire world of precision metal parts fabrication in many high-tech industries. Taurus has become a national leader in MIM technology, and OEMs a large number of parts for other manufacturers throughout the firearms industry.

It is important to remember that in spite of the PT 1911 being an “all-Taurus” product, it is nonetheless a true-dimension Model 1911 pistol in all specifications–which means that a shooter can replace any of the gun’s accessories or components with any other Model 1911 aftermarket parts for which he has particular preference with only the minor fittings or adjustments normally required for installation. At the same time, however, Taurus spokesmen observe that one of the main reasons they believe the performance of the PT 1911 outstrips similarly featured pistols that cost much more is that other manufacturers assemble their “loaded” guns with off-the-shelf parts from various sources without the unified design and quality-control coordination that makes the PT 1911 a truly integrated product.

Put simply, with the PT 1911 the basic gun and all the bells and whistles were designed, manufactured, and assembled under the same direction under the same roof. It makes a difference. Or as Taurus Vice President Bob Morrison wryly observed when I asked him about parts compatibility, “Sure, the other stuff will fit. But if you have a nicely equipped Mercedes, why would you want to switch its drive shaft with a part from Acme Auto?”

With all this pedigree, it’s almost anticlimactic to say how the PT 1911 shoots–but it shoots well. Face it; the Model 1911 pistol is such a time-proven design, and all of its manufacturing idiosyncrasies have been worked out for so long, that a gunmaker would have to be really bad to screw one up. I had the opportunity to run five varied commercial .45 ACP loads through the preproduction review sample. Thanks to the Heinie sights and a crisp 3.25-pound trigger pull, my first full-magazine familiarization runs fired offhand at 50 feet with Federal’s Personal Defense load printed at about 2.5 inches, which is certainly what I’d expect from any tightly fitted and full-featured Model 1911 pistol. The overall average for all five loads from benchrest at 25 yards was essentially the same.

All of which leaves us with the question that was on the mind of everyone who saw or heard of the PT 1911 at last January’s S.H.O.T. Show: With its hand-fitted assembly, custom features, and long list of premium-design accessories, how can Taurus possibly afford to sell the PT 1911 at such a low cost? I asked Morrison exactly that question. His answer was thought provoking.

“Think about bottled water,” he said. “If you own the well and the bottling facility and make the bottles and the shipping cartons and print the labels, you can always sell water at a lower price than if you have to buy that stuff from somebody else and feed their profits.

“At Taurus we do everything in-house. Our designers and production engineers have every conceivable way to produce parts right on site, from forging to machining to MIM-ing. We can produce virtually any shape of any part we design…if it’s too complicated to be made by normal methods we just MIM it instead of machining it. Our new, totally equipped 1911 is unique because we went from concept to completely packaged product in our own plant, in our own environment. All components from design board onward were completely integrated from the get-go: dimensioning, finishing, hardening, heat treating, choice of metals, manufacturing method, fit and finish–all as a single operating unit, designed by one engineering team. That’s why you get so much for so little. We made it all to our own tolerances, in-house. Every single part was designed to be mated to every other single part.

“A lot of people still think that just because something costs more it’s necessarily better. That’s out-of-date thinking. Remember bottled water. The Taurus PT 1911 costs less because it’s made better. It costs what a smart manufacturer’s 1911 ought to cost.”

Well, when you consider all the very advanced, very reasonably priced products Taurus has brought forth over the past eight years, it’s hard not to agree with him.