Does size matter? Five long-slide 1911s say ‘yes’

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks carrying a Ruger SR1911 CMD.  While the Commander-length pistol doesn’t seem like it’s that much shorter than a full sized 1911, it is.  That 3/4 inch difference in the length of the barrel shouldn’t make a big difference in how the gun handles, but it does.  If you’re like me and live with a 5-inch 1911, the Commander length pistols just feel like they’re missing something.

Terminator checks out an AMT Longslide

Terminator checks out an AMT Longslide (Photo credit: IMFDB.org)

But it has me thinking.  What happens when you take the 1911 in the other direction.  Lengthen the slide.  Stretch it out.  Is there a practical difference when the slide is longer?

The look of a 1911 is already intimidating.  Adding length just makes a gun look more dangerous.  So Hollywood loves the long slide.  Is there a difference in performance?

Well, yes. Adding an inch to the barrel of a 1911 would add a bit to the velocity of the projectile.  A quick look at the calculations from Ballistics by the Inch (for the .45 ACP) would suggest an increase of around 50 feet per second.  That’s not enough to justify the addition.  Still, you do get an extra inch of sight radius, or more if the slide is even longer.

The AMT Hardballer II. (Photo credit: Gun Runner Hell)

The AMT Hardballer II. (Photo credit: Gun Runner Hell)

The AMT Hardballer

Rumors abound about the quality of the Arcadia Machine and Tool 1911s.  The AMT brand has been passed around for a while since the company went out of business and it seems to have lost all of its value, which should tell you something.  But word on the street is that there are great AMTs and there are terrible AMTs, and it’s hard to tell the difference between them without actually running rounds through the guns.

AMT made its Hardballer line from 1977 to 2002.  It and Hardballer IIs were popular guns.  It would be hard to find a holster for one of these dudes.  The company made 7-inch barreled versions (the Javelina, Accelerator and Longslide) that had an overall lengths of 10 1/2 inches.  I think they are worth picking up, if only for the novelty.  And because they’re not super popular, the guns sometimes sell for very little.

Springfield Armory's LS 1911

Springfield Armory’s LS 1911. (Photo credit: Calzaretta)

Springfield Armory

Springfield’s reliability is less dubious than that of AMT.  While its polymer XD line is commanding a lot of attention, its 1911 line is still a fantastic place to start a 1911 collection.  The low-priced 1911s are the best of the bottom end guns.  Its mid-range 1911s, like The Range Officer, can hold their own against much more expensive custom guns.  I’m especially fond of the TRP.

Though AMT introduced the first all stainless production 1911s, Springfield Armory has really refined the art.  This gun has everything you’d expect from a tactical carry gun from Springfield.  Aggressive checkering, fat beaver-tail grip safety, forward slide serrations, target sights and a solid trigger.

Unfortunately for us, the long-slide 1911 was taken out of production in January 2013, so if you want one, you have to start hunting.

Rock Island long slide. (Photo credit Cotep.org)

Rock Island long slide. (Photo credit: Cotep.org)

Rock Island Armory

The other company competing for the the entry level 1911 market is Rock Island Armory.  While its guns aren’t as nice as the competition from Springfield Armory, Rock Island guns have a lower price point and often appeal to those of us who want a knock about 1911 that won’t ever achieve heirloom status.

The long slide versions are not listed in the catalog, but they’re out there.  Special order is rumored to be an option, though there are no details on how such an order would be made on Armscor’s website, and no one was around to answer our call.  While I’ve never put my hands on one, I’d suspect that it would be a good buy.  I’ve never found a single Rock Island to be lacking.  Rock Island built its business on economic models and those models often, deservedly, steal the show, still the more expensive ones deserve a look-see.

The STI Trojan is a distinct step up in quality.  (Photo credit: STI)

The STI Trojan is a distinct step up in quality. (Photo credit: STI)

STI Trojan

Let’s get serious now.  Where do you go if you a long slide 1911 that will become an heirloom?  STI is a good place to start.  The growing Texas based company is making a serious impact in the semi-custom 1911 market.

The Trojan has a 6-inch barrel and an overall length of 9.68 inches.  The $1,555 gun is available in .45 ACP, .40 S&W, 9mm and .38 Super.  The Trojan has forward cocking serrations, which I personally think detracts from the looks of a handsome gun, but they would serve a purpose.

For serious custom work, look to Fusion.  (Photo credit: Fusion Firearms)

For serious custom work, look to Fusion. (Photo credit: Fusion Firearms)

Fusion Firearms

STI isn’t alone in its desire to provide a high-end long slide pistol.  Fusion Firearms builds custom designs and its Pro Series Long slides range in price from $1,895 to $2995, depending on the options.  And the guns are exceptionally beautiful.

In addition to the various functional improvements that are available on a custom gun from Fusion, you can also find a variety of aesthetic options.  The more tactical model on the front page is one example, but I prefer the model to the left.  The superb finish on the steel is perfectly matched by the attention to detail in the lines of the frame and slide.

Does size matter?

I don’t see the practical need for additional length on a 1911, but they’re great to look at.  On the AMT-end of the spectrum, they make intimidating movie props for testosterone-laced summer schlock.  On the Fusion-end of the spectrum, these guns are as rewarding to look at as they are to shoot.  Maybe more.

Why are the long slide 1911s falling out of fashion?  Are they more than a novelty?  Feel free to weigh in below.