SIG 1911 Pistols

By R.K. Campbell

SIG (SIGARMS, SIG Sauer) has produced quality service pistols for some time but the 1911 type pistols featured in this line up are a relatively recent addition to the SIG product line. After considerable commercial, military and police success with the P series double action first shot pistols, SIG introduced the Granite Series Rail gun to the anticipation of American shooters. (The term Granite series is a play upon the home state of SIG USA, New Hampshire, “The Granite State” and the fact that the pistol featured a rail beneath the dust cover for mounting a combat light.) SIG 1911 handguns are made in America at the SIG plant. The original production pistols used Caspian frames and slides. The quality of these parts is unquestioned. Caspian has been a leader in competition and custom circles for many years. The new pistol builds upon the success of the 1911 with a number of notable improvements. These advances include stainless steel construction in many models, an external extractor and precision manufacture. While the original 1911 extractor is robust and reliable when produced from spring steel and properly fitted, there can be little doubt the modern SIG design is even more reliable and arguably a good addition to the 1911 template. The slide is subtly different from most 1911 pistols and intended to resemble the P series pistols. The result is a handgun that embodies the handling of the 1911, the controls of the 1911, the low bore axis, straight to the rear single action trigger compression and other features but on the other hand the pistol is thoroughly modern and recognizably SIG. The SIG GSR is slightly heavier than many other five inch barrel 1911 pistols but the balance is good. The pistols proved generally robust and reliable. There were complaints with the original firing pin block. This system was a basic Series 80 type but with a small cover in the slide covering the firing pin block. This firing pin block has been modified in modern pistols to a Colt type.

The original pistol was a mix of top quality 1911 custom parts makers including Novak’s Gun Shop, Wilson Combat, Storm Lake and others. The pistol proved reliable and accurate in the hands of shooters and acceptance by the shooting community was good. A common comment was that the SIG gave the appearance of a custom gun more so than a production handgun.

In 2004, the SIG Granite Series was named the Handgun of the Year by the Shooting Industry Academy of excellence. Over time SIG introduced a number of competitive 1911 handguns. The market for a rail gun exists but many shooters like the traditional 1911 profile. The SIG 1911 is offered with a standard dust cover without the frame rail. Other versions feature a blue steel appearance that is actually Nitron coating. While there have been numerous changes in the handgun, the standard features such as Novak sights and the twenty line per inch front strap checkering have remained standard. SIG has also maintained competitive pricing. SIG simply doesn’t produce problem guns; the early drop safety problems not withstanding. The SIG 1911 has exhibited excellent functional reliability. Feed and function are unquestioned and the pistol is not dependent upon a certain type of ammunition for reliability. The majority of SIG 1911 pistols examined have exhibited a trigger compression of five pounds with a minimum of take up. The trigger action is usually devoid of creep or backlash. Considerable hand fitting is needed in the 1911 handgun and the SIG is a good example of hand fitting done correctly.

The first guns were difficult to holster as few makers were up and running with light rail holsters for the light rail 1911. Today major makers such as DeSantis and custom makers such as Secret Squirrel offer appropriate holsters for the light rail 1911. The modern SIG 1911 without the rail may be carried in standard 1911 leather holsters if the fit isn’t particularly tight. Despite the difference in slide profile, the SIG pistol will usually fit a leather holster intended for the standard 1911 handgun. As an example the stainless carry version of the SIG illustrated is often carried in a Liberty Custom Leather inside the waistband holster. Fit is good and so is the balance of speed and retention. The GSR is a bit heavier than a Government Model’s standard thirty nine ounces, due to the heavier dust cover and the rail. Many shooters like this extra balance. The GSR is among the most comfortable of all 1911 handguns when firing +P loads such as the formidable Cor Bon loadings. Accuracy may not be match grade and like all quality handguns the GSR prefers one load over the other but the GSR is an accurate and consistent pistol when overall performance is considered. The author’s original GSR proved particularly accurate with Cor Bon ammunition. Cor Bon offers custom grade high performance ammunition that many professionals swear by. While Cor Bon offers a wide range of choices in 160, 165, 185, 200 and 230 grain loadings, the GSR proved especially accurate with the 200 grain JHP delivering a 25 yard 1.9 inch five shot group. Recoil of this powerful load seems less when fired in the muzzle heavy SIG.

It was inevitable that SIG would introduced compact versions of the original five inch barrel stainless GSR. These pistols build upon the popularity of the original handgun but have features well suited to personal defense. As an example, the C3 version neatly solves a number of problems with short barrel 1911 handguns. The butt of the gun is the most difficult part to conceal. With a proper inside the waistband holster a long but thin handgun such as the 1911 may be effectively concealed. When bending over at the knee the gun butt may print upon the shirt and reveal the presence of a handgun. The C3 features the short grip frame of the Officer’s Model and the result is a shorter handle that is easier to conceal but the magazine holds six rounds instead of the standard seven. But the slide and barrel of the C3 are the conventional 4 inch barrel type. Using a short handle without resorting to a 3 inch barrel results in a handgun that is predictably more reliable than the sometimes troublesome 3 inch barrel 1911 pistols. The C3’s practical accuracy is excellent, limited only by the control factor when firing the lighter gun with a shorter sight radius. The person using the C3 simply needs to practice to maintain the edge with this lightweight but formidable firearm. Intrinsic accuracy is excellent. Practical accuracy is up to the user. Those who practice will prosper.

Among the many versions of the SIG 1911 pistol currently available, the SIG Carry Stainless is the author’s personal choice. The Carry Stainless has the features of the larger pistols including custom grade controls and front strap checkering. The Carry Stainless is three quarters of an inch shorter than the full length 1911 with a four and one quarter inch barrel and does not incorporate a light rail. The Carry Stainless is faster from leather than the longer weapon and also features self luminous iron sights. The front sight is larger than most night sights. The tritium insert is shock mounted in the iron sight with an aluminum sleeve and rubber binding. This large dot is highly visible in dim light conditions. Since most personal defense encounters take place in dim light, the addition of self luminous iron sights is a must for a dedicated personal defense handgun. The SIG rail gun is a good choice for special teams as the dedicated light rail and heavy weight frame make for an excellent service pistol. The Carry Stainless is a good choice when the need for concealment is not as great and the Carry Stainless is a good all around compromise. For most uses the Carry Stainless is an outstanding choice. Like most quality handguns the Carry Stainless gave an excellent performance with Cor Bon +P ammunition including a very good 2.5 inch five shot group at 25 yards with the 230 grain JHP +P.

Ammunition Performance

The primary consideration in service grade ammunition is reliability: cartridge integrity must be unquestioned. A full powder burn, good accuracy and good case mouth and primer seal are all necessary components of service grade ammunition. Some achieve primer seal with a tight fit, others with a coating. Either works if properly applied. Once you have cartridge reliability the terminal performance of the loading may be considered. Modern bullet design means a great deal. Barnes Bullets has introduced a line of defensive ammunition using their own X bullet. This solid copper bullet retains its integrity when meeting resistance but expands well and represents the ideal balance of penetration and expansion. The line is a new introduction but so far both accuracy and quality control seem good.

Cor Bon loads the 185 grain X bullet in their DPX line. The 160 grain Cor Bon is a special short barrel loading for handguns with a three to four inch barrel and the 185 grain load is well suited to barrel lengths of four to five inches.

The Extreme Terminal Performance bullet loaded in Hornady Custom ammunition offers an ideal balance of expansion and penetration. Penetration is the single most important component of terminal ballistics. The XTP bullet is also well balanced and accurate. This bullet offers excellent performance and should be carefully evaluated when service and personal ammunition is chosen. Hornady supplies the bullets to a good number of custom ammunition makers and others that are among our larger ammunition makers. The 185 grain loads are faster than the heavier loads but generate about the same energy due to their higher velocity. Felt recoil is less. Just the same I prefer the traditional 230 grain load, preferring the balance of expansion and penetration and appreciating the momentum of this loading. I reserve the hard kicking +P load for special use.

When all is said and done, the SIG 1911 handguns are among the most modern and effective of 1911 handguns. A combination of good design and excellent quality control is apparent in these handguns.


During the evaluation of the latest SIG 1911, a number of interesting targets were used. These included the Zombie targets from Zombieindustries.com. These targets are filled with paintballs and seem to erupt when hit. They will withstand many hundred of .45 ACP bullets. While these targets add a bit of excitement to sometimes somber testing, they also build tactical skills when properly utilized. They are man sized and react when shot. That is tactical in our book.

SIG Arms 1911
Caliber: .45 ACP
Overall length: 8.65 inches
Barrel length: 5 inches
Height: 5.5 inches
Width: 1.37 inches
Sight radius: 6.5 inches
Sights: Novak
Weight: 38.6 ounces
Mag capacity: 8 rounds

Accuracy results - average of two five shot groups from a solid benchrest, 25 yards

Cor Bon 200 grain JHP +P: 1.9 inches
Cor Bon 230 grain JHP +P: 2.25 inches

SIG 1911
Hornady 185 grain XTP: 3.5 inches
Hornady 200 grain XTP: 2.0 inches
Cor Bon 185 gr. HP +P: 3.0 inches

Hornady 185 gr. Critical Defense: 3.25 inches
Hornady 230 grain Flat Point: 2.9 inches
Barnes 185 grain +P: 3.0 inches

SIG Carry Stainless
Hornady 230 grain XTP +P: 3.0 inches
Hornady 200 grain XTP: 3.25 inches
Cor Bon 160 gr. DPX: 2.8 inches
Cor Bon 200 grain JHP +P: 3.0 inches
Barnes 185 gr. +P: 3.3 inches

This article first appeared in SmallArmsReview.com on December 27, 2013


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