By Iain Harrison and Tom Marshall
Staccato/STI pretty much defined the genre of full-sized, double-stack 1911s, and we’re surprised that it took so long for others to enter this market niche, given that their patent on the two-part frame expired way back in 2012.
Staccato’s happy to occupy the upper-tier price point of the 2011 market, now that they’ve successfully convinced everyone that sticking one of their products in your holster will instantly make you Insta famous and that cops need race guns in order to hand out speeding tickets.
Springfield’s Prodigy offers an alternative at a lower price point, and while there have been some teething problems with production guns, they’re a good way to get your feet wet in the double-stack 1911 game without having to sell a kidney. Today, we check out a pair of newcomers that occupy places in the price continuum that up to now have been largely vacant.
Regardless of how many rounds are in the grip, 1911-style designs cost money to produce. And they cost more to produce well. So choosing to embrace the platform will be a considerable investment for most folks, even at the entry level.
EAA has attempted to ease the financial burden with their entry to the marketplace: the Girsan 2311. With an MSRP of $999 it’s $500 less than its nearest priced competitor, and thousands less than anything else in its class. Our test gun was a Commander-sized 4.25-inch model that came out of the box with a railed frame, EAA “Far Dot” optic, magwell, and a single 17-round CheckMate magazine.
EAA advertises on their website that only the first 3,000 units will ship with the optic as a value-add for early purchasers. While the one on our test gun was little more than a placeholder — it flickered on and off multiple times during testing — the slide is direct-milled for the Shield RMSc footprint, so you can swap it for a Holosun K-series or EPS-series optic, which should give you plenty of service life.
While the dustcover is railed, the rail length on our Commander-length testbed was too short to accommodate a SureFire X300U. We tried a Streamlight TLR-1 HL and the length was fine, but the rail slots were a little out-of-spec. The TLR’s included 1913-style lug needed a few passes with a hand file before it would seat properly and clamp down.
We got several hundred rounds through it without a single stoppage or cycling malfunction of any kind. This included Bill Drills, concealment drills with a light bearing holster, and good old-fashioned mag dumps. We had multiple shooters run this gun, all of whom were pleasantly surprised by the 2311’s short, snappy recoil impulse that returned the sights nearly to proper alignment every time, even during rapid-fire strings.
One thing we did note was that the ejection pattern was highly erratic — some rounds spilled out of the ejection port as if nudged by hand. Others shot nearly straight forward over the front sight blade. Others still were kicked over our shoulder.
During a periodic function check between the 200- and 300-round mark, we realized that the grip safety was no longer engaging the trigger bar.
With the thumb safety off, we were able to press the trigger and drop the hammer without having any contact on the beavertail safety whatsoever. We’re not sure at what point the grip safety began failing — it worked fine before we started shooting — but the gun continued to shoot fine even with this issue. But it’s an issue, so we decided to take a closer look.
UNDER THE HOOD
It’s simple evolution that a firearm’s aftermarket support will grow in proportion to its popularity. Double-stack 1911s, with all their newfound stardom, have most certainly spawned an aftermarket of their own. This, frankly, is exactly where we thought the Girsan 2311 would shine.
Its sub-$1,000 price point would make it an ideal candidate to strip down and rebuild with your dream selection of custom upgrades into a truly individual tool greater than the sum of its stock parts.
Grip safeties must be hand-fit to their triggers. The one on our test sample was over-fitted, leaving a very small engagement surface between the beavertail and the trigger bar, thus allowing it be bypassed. In the process of diagnosing this problem and checking for others, we came across some oddities.
Namely, the firing pin and extractor are both non-standard. In the latter case, a standard 1911 extractor wouldn’t even fit into the extractor channel of our 2311’s slide. While this wasn’t true of every component we examined, it does create some brick walls for those who, like us, would have otherwise looked at the 2311 as an inexpensive base for a custom build.
If dreams of double-stack 1911s keep you up at night but you can’t afford the multi-thousand-dollar price tag of other brands, the Girsan is certainly a more accessible way to enter this segment of the pistol market.
Likewise, if you’re not sure you want to commit to this type of pistol, but are “hammer curious,” this is one of the least expensive ways to figure out if you want to jump in with both feet. But our sample-size-of-one would warn us that what you save in dollars will require a little extra attention toward parts wear and fitment.
And while there’s definitely room for upgrades and custom touches, you’ll run into some design limitations throughout that process.
JACOB GREY TWC
If you’re looking for a 2011 to use as a yardstick for the TWC, think of it as a Staccato C2 X Series, with a twist. Unlike the other 2011s mentioned here, newcomer Jacob Grey forgoes the use of polymer for the lower part of the pistol’s grip, instead substituting 7075 aluminum.
This adds a couple of ounces and a sculptural quality to the bottom half of the gun, terminating in a slightly flared magwell. More mass is added to its non-reciprocating components by means of a full-length dust cover with a four-slot Pic rail, and by widening the frame so that it’s level with the slide.
The pistol’s slide is tri-topped with serrations machined into its upper surface — a feature normally found on custom 1911s — and its flanks are adorned with fairly aggressive grooves front and rear to aid with manipulation.
Optic plates fit the RMR and RMSc footprints, each carrying its own rear sight that sits somewhere between conventional and suppressor height. If you don’t like the idea of an RDS on your carry gun, then there’s a cover plate to fill the gap. The TWC’s irons are big and easy to pick up, with a XS tritium-illuminated front sight. Field stripping requires the use of an Allen wrench to unscrew the extended, two-piece guide rod.
The 4.1-inch stainless barrel bull barrel locks directly into the slide at the muzzle end, relieved slightly to reduce weight, with the recoil spring being retained by a reverse plug. Rather than the SAAMI standard of one twist in 16 inches, the manufacturer has opted for a 1/10 twist that should shoot 147-grain and heavier bullets very well — we tried it with everything from 115-grain ball and up, with no complaints regarding accuracy.
Controls are all classic 1911, with the exception of ambi safeties. The safety levers are the only complaint we had regarding the TWC, as the rear edges aren’t sufficiently radiused to blend with the high-swept beavertail. This leads to them digging into the bones of the firing hand thumb, and while it can easily be taken care of by the end user, at this price point, it should be addressed by the factory.
When it first reached our hands, the TWC’s trigger pull weight came in at 2 pounds over the manufacturer’s claimed 3.5 pounds, though after a few hundred rounds this dropped to 4.5 pounds.
Unusually, there’s no overtravel adjustment screw in the trigger — evidently the manufacturer is able to maintain sufficiently tight tolerances that it isn’t needed — and the pistol has the classic 1911 glass rod break with minimal reset. Fire control components are MIM, rather than machined from bar stock, but as we’ve said in the past, this technology has come a long way in the last decade and, for all but the most high-volume users, will serve just fine.
We had the opportunity to put the handgun to the test during a couple of training sessions, as well as a local steel match.
We like taking review guns to matches, as you can be sure that if something’s going to go wrong, it’ll happen on the clock, when your friends are looking over your shoulder. As you’d expect from a handgun that locks up as tight as a jail cell door, accuracy was never an issue. Shooting from a bag with quality hollow-point ammo, we had no problem turning in sub-2-inch groups on demand at 25 yards.
The tightest group we saw was with Norma’s 124-grain Hexagon load, which while pricey has always been a good bet for factory-loaded match rounds. After burning the first cartridge in the magazine into the dirt to eliminate the possibility of a hand-cycled first round flyer, five shots sailed into a cluster measuring just under an inch.
Despite not having any malfunctions at all to report, we did experience one bit of weirdness. When performing preemptive reloads, a loose round would follow the ejected magazine out of the gun about 10 percent of the time; whatever caused it didn’t have any effect on reliability, but it’s worth reporting in any case.
Another mag-related issue concerned the 20-round Duramags made for the Springfield Prodigy, which naturally we had to test in the Jacob Grey, along with some tuned STI mags from a custom 9mm major race gun.
Both the STIs and the polished stainless Check-Mate mags that ship with the TWC fed and functioned flawlessly, but on a reload it’s possible to jam the Duramags in the pistol’s grip if you don’t present them just so.
We don’t know if this is function of geometry or the slightly rougher finish that causes them to bind, but it’s worth bearing in mind when you’re shopping for spares.
This one’s a keeper. Yes, it’s expensive at 2,500 bucks, but it’s more affordable than a comparable Staccato with similar features (and in some instances, there are better touches on the TWC).
We suspect the manufacturer has priced their wares in order to make an entry into the 2011 marketplace, so the price tag will probably increase in the next 12 months. In the 2011 market, like most things in life, you get what you pay for.
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