Doublestar 1911 PhD (Personal Home Defense)

By Tom Murphy

The Gun

In 1906, the US Military, headed by General William Crozier, Chief of Ordnance of the US Army began evaluating several handgun designs and suitability of a cartridge designated the .45 Automatic Colt Pistol (.45 ACP). Colt submitted a semi-automatic pistol designed by John M. Browning. This was a single-action, semi-automatic, magazine-fed pistol developed with both a manual and a grip safety. Over a two-day period of time, this pistol was tested in a 6,000-round exercise. The gun got so hot that the shooters had to submerge it in a bucket of water to cool it down enough to shoot it again. The prototype of what became the Colt 1911 passed the test with no problems or failure to fire actions.

The 1911 became a favorite of officers when fighting in the trenches on the Western Front during World War I. The era during the two world wars saw numerous improvements on the 1911. The sights were improved, the mainspring housing became arched for better hand control, and the grip was extended. These, and other refinements, were completed in 1924, and the Colt 1911 was renamed the Colt 1911A1.

With the entry of the US into World War II, demand for the 1911 ramped up exponentially. By the end of hostilities, approximately 1.9 million units were procured by the government for all forces.

An entire industry based on custom 1911s, parts, accessories and gunsmithing has grown up around the 1911A1. Many companies have produced their version of the venerable 105-year-old handgun. One such company is DoubleStar Corporation based in Winchester KY.

Its parent company, J&T Distributing, a supplier of parts and accessories for the AR-15 platform, had many customers who requested complete guns using J&T’s US-made quality parts. Today they manufacture various AR-15 rifles and carbines, plus four models of the 1911A1 pistol.

The subject of this test is their new 1911 PhD™ (Personal Home Defense). The 1911 PhD is the first of a planned series of 1911-based handguns that are readily available and carries a middle-level manufacturer’s suggested retail price tag of $1,364.06. The company’s defensive sidearm is chambered in .45 ACP and tips the scales at 33 ounces. Its flattop slide has been serrated to reduce glare. Sights are from XS Sight System based in Fort Worth, Texas. The rear sight is a shallow V with a centerline white stripe. The front sight is capped with a tritium dot which will aid in target acquisition under both normal and low-light operations. The tritium has a life expectancy of 12 years.

All parts on the PhD are made from heat treated high grade ordnance steel. The contact areas of the slide, barrel and frame are precisely machined and heat-treated to insure against wear and help maintain accuracy. The frame, slide and various other parts are made by forging or precision investment casting and Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machined to consistent tolerances.

Some nice ergonomic touches complement the PhD. The slide serrations are more aggressive than those found on other 1911s, making operating the slide easier. A Wilson Combat High-Ride beavertail grip safety lowers the PhD’s bore axis to aid in recoil control. One feature that will come in handy when carrying concealed is a rounded-off grip. Magpul supplies their MOE 1911 grip panels constructed of reinforced polymer. They are designed with a diamond-shaped cross-section to reduce twisting when shooting. Their patented grip surface (Trapezoidal Surface Projections–TSP) enables tight firearm control even when gripped with wet hands. The metal parts of the PhD are Manganese Phosphate/Parkerized for extreme weather protection. Manganese Phosphate is applied by immersing the metal to be treated into a dilute solution of phosphoric acid that chemically reacts with the metal forming a protective barrier. The eight-round steel magazine is from A.C.T-MAG of Gardone Val Trompia, Italy. It has a high impact polymer floorplate and a metal follower.

Other specifics include a lowered ejection port for a more efficient ejection of spent cases; a combat hammer with a non-slip serrated cocking surface; an extended ejector that lessens the possibility of stove-piping; and the PhD comes in a synthetic carrying case filled with poly foam sections that cradle the pistol.

At the Range

The PhD was fired with a mix of ammunition. We fed it Black Hills 230-grain full metal jacket (FMJ) and jacketed hollow point (JHP); brand new Super Vel 185-grain JHP, Wolf 230-grain FMJ and a bunch of ammo that was hiding in the back of my ammo safe. Judging by the condition of their brass cases, they had been hiding for a very long time. One was stamped W.C.C 72, and a plated case had R-P on the headstamp. I think Remington-Peters ceased production of centerfire ammo at their Bridgeport, CT factory in 1970. Anyway, a rather eclectic collection of cartridges were loaded into the magazine.

And, from the first shot until when my hand had suffered enough, the PhD fed and fired every round. I then resorted to feeding different combinations through the gun. Same result, it just went bang. I shot it over a number of occasions–outdoors and indoors–left it dirty and then cleaned it with a sonic cleaner. Lubed it when I began to really feel guilty. It never failed to fire–no jams, no stovepipes, nothing, zilch.

As far as accuracy testing, the PhD was fired at the five-, seven- and 10-yard ranges. All shooting was done offhand and both two-handed and single-handed. Occasionally, I’d lay a shoulder against a vertical support, as if shooting from a doorway. I felt that if this gun were going to be needed for defense, the possibility that I’d have a rest or gun vice close to hand was very remote. I even went so far as to do a double mag dump at the five-yard line–not really looking for accuracy as much as alley cleaning. The results can be seen in one of the photos.

My conclusion is that if I needed a .45 ACP caliber handgun, and needed it badly, I’d be hard pressed to pass up the DoubleStar PhD.

Care & Cleaning

Field stripping the PhD should be familiar to anyone who has handled a 1911. First, insure the magazine is removed, the slide is pulled all the way back and the chamber checked for a loose round. Then press the recoil spring, cover with your thumb and rotate the barrel bushing clockwise until it stops. Carefully lower your thumb pressure and let the cover and recoil spring slide forward until the tension eases. Pull the slide backwards until the small slot on the lower left side aligns with the top rear of the slide release. Press on the slide stop from the right side of the slide until it can be removed. Then the slide and the barrel can be withdrawn. After all the parts come out, the barrel bushing can be removed by rotating it counterclockwise until it can be removed. This is as much disassembly as is needed for routine care and cleaning. Re-assembly is done in the reverse order.

To protect the metal parts, the gun should be stored in a low-humidity area. Never leave a gun in a leather holster or any type of container that can attract moisture, which can cause rust. DoubleStar Corporation warrantees the PhD for one year from registration for repair or replacement of any parts found to be defective.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V21N2 (March 2017)
and was posted online on January 27, 2017


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