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Article: Browning 1911-22 and 1911-380 Black Label

  1. #1
    Join Date
    20th March 2009
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    Browning 1911-22 and 1911-380 Black Label



    Browning 1911-22 and Browning Black Label 1911-380
    John Browning’s Masterpiece went on a Diet!

    Reviewed by Harwood Loomis for M1911.ORG



    ”Honey, I shrunk the kids”

    The year 2011 was the one-hundredth anniversary of the adoption by the United States Ordnance Department of John Moses Browning’s iconic M1911 semi-automatic pistol. To commemorate the anniversary, it seemed that every company in the universe who made or sold firearms had to offer something in the way of a 1911 pistol. Some companies who already made and sold 1911s brought out special, anniversary editions. Other companies, who had not previously made or sold 1911s, also entered the market with centennial renditions of the 1911. Some of these were quite nice, and respectful tributes to Browning’s design. Others were (to be kind) rather awful.

    Curiously, the company originally founded by John M. Browning didn’t produce 1911s. The company existed as the J.M. and M.S. Browning Company until 1951, when it was liquidated. Two successor companies, Browning Industries and Browning Arms Company, were created in 1955. In a rather confusing reorganization in 1972, Browning Industries became Browning Arms Company, and Browning Arms Company (the parent organization) became simply Browning. Then, in 1977, Browning was bought by the Belgian company Fabrique Nationale, which eventually became the FN Herstal Group. When we stop to remember that John M. Browning was working for FN on the design of what eventually became the Browning Hi-Power pistol, this seems like a natural progression and association.

    But … they still didn’t make or sell 1911s. When the centennial of the M1911 came around, Browning decided they should recognize the occasion. Perhaps to set their centennial pistol apart from the myriad of others rather than compete in a sea of look-alikes, Browning chose to offer a reduced-scale (85 percent of full-size) 1911-22, which was introduced in 2011 for 1911 centennial. Chambered in .22 Long Rifle, the Browning 1911-22 was widely covered by the firearms press at the time of its introduction. In terms of appearance, in almost all respects it is an accurately scaled reproduction of the M1911A1. The major area of scale inaccuracy is that the trigger and trigger window are disproportionately large, in order to allow adult fingers to properly shoot the pistol.


    The Browning 1911-22

    Four years later, the Browning 1911-380 was introduced at the 2015 SHOT Show, although some early samples had been distributed to selected gun writers in late 2014. The original 1911-22 was built using an aluminum alloy slide and an aluminum alloy receiver. Subsequently, Browning had followed up with a “Black label” version that featured a polymer receiver. The 1911-380 is built on the polymer receiver but, in deference to the increased potency of the .380 ACP round, it features a blackened stainless steel slide rather than the aluminum alloy slide of the 1911-22.


    The Browning Black label 1911-380

    Some reviews of the Browning 1911-380 have earnestly proclaimed that the size of the pistol was derived by scaling it to the same ratio the .380 ACP cartridge has to the .45 ACP. This makes for a nice story, but it’s not accurate because, in fact, the .380 ACP round is dimensionally approximately 77% to 78% the size of the .45 ACP. But you can only go smaller to a certain degree. It would appear that the designers of the Browning 1911-380 came to much the same result regarding the optimum size for a .380 caliber semi-automatic pistol that the designers of the Colt Government 380 came to decades earlier.


    The two Browning pistols together

    Both the 1911-22 and the 1911-380 are sized at 85 percent of the dimensions of a standard 1911. Browning also offers both calibers in smaller models, scaled down from the Colt Commander. Browning refers to these as Compact models. The two pistols we reviewed are both the “full-size” configuration … meaning they are 85 percent scale reductions of full-size 1911s. Although proportioned the same as a standard M1911A1 or Government model, the reduced scale of the test pistols makes them more the size of the long-discontinued Colt Government 380. My immediate thought was that they are the size of the Government 380, but that proved to be incorrect. In fact, the “full size” 1911-22 is very close in overall dimensions (but not in proportions) to a Colt Officers ACP. What we finally deduced is that the Compact version of the Browning 1911-380 (which we did not test) seems to be pretty close to the size and proportions of the Colt Government 380. The “tale of the tape” is as shown below:

    MeasurementBrowning 1911-380Browning 1911-380 CompactColt Government 380
    Barrel Length
    4.25"
    3.63”
    3.25"
    Overall Length
    7.50"
    6.88”
    6.50"
    Height
    4.83"
    4.83”
    4.63”
    Sight Radius
    5.38"
    4.75”
    4.25"
    Capacity
    8+1
    8+1
    8+1


    The Pistols

    Our test pistols came from two sources. The author owns a centennial 1911-22, which came with a suitably scaled version of the Ka-Bar fighting knife and a handsome wood and glass display case. During a recent trip to an IDPA match with Paul Acampora, a cross-town neighbor, it came out in conversation that Paul had recently purchased a Browning 1911-380. It wasn’t difficult to persuade him to allow us to borrow it for a couple of weeks in order to compare it to the 1911-22.


    Browning 1911-22 with Ka-Bar combat knife & reproduction M1916 holster


    Browning 1911-380 Black label

    Trigger pull for the 1911-22 measured 4¾ pounds out of the box, with a lot of creep. Inspection showed that the hammer, sear and disconnector had no lubrication, although elsewhere the interior of the pistol had gobs of grease in places where I have never seen grease put in a 1911 before. The sear tip was, for the scaled-down size of the pistol, quite broad, and had no relief angle. One of the advantages of testing your own pistol is that you can tinker, so tinker I did. A few minutes with a stone and a feeler gauge to create a suitable relief angle, a touch of Lubri-Plate in the sear tip, hammer hooks, and disconnector paddle, and upon reassembly the trigger pull was a much cleaner 4¼ to 4½ pounds, with no creep.

    The 1911-380 trigger was also 4¾ pounds out of the box, with some creep, but less than the 1911-22. However, due to the design of the ambidextrous (or “bi-lateral,” to be more accurate) thumb safety on the 1911-380, we were unable to detail strip the pistol to inspect the hammer and sear. All the 1911-380 Black label pistols are equipped with a bi-lateral thumb safety. There are several designs for such in full-scale 1911s, each design seeking to provide the most robust connection between the safety levers on each side of the receiver. The right-side safety lever on the Browning 1911-380 is attached to the safety pin that extends through the receiver from the left side safety by a tiny roll pin. I have never encountered a bi-lateral safety like this, and I didn’t care to risk damaging a friend’s new pistol by attacking it with a hammer and punch. No detail strip for the 1911-380.


    Right side safety paddle on the 1911-380, showing the roll pin securement

    The sights on a military M1911 or M1911A1 are small enough that they are universally regarded as inadequate by today’s standards. Imagine, then, what they might be like when scaled down to 85% of full size. They are there, and they work, but they are definitely not easy to see. The sights on the 1911-380 are much easier to see and easier to shoot. The front sight is wider, and the notch in the rear sight is deeper, wider, and nicely squared off, producing a very acceptable sight picture.


    Rear sight on the Browning 1911-380


    Under the Hood

    Both pistols follow standard procedure for field stripping. Once the slide has been removed from the receiver, it becomes immediately obvious that both pistols depart in one respect both from the M1911/M1911A1, and from each other. The M1911 design is noted for the swinging link that allows the barrel to drop down out of lockup to the slide as the upper assembly recoils. Neither of the Browning pistols uses a barrel link. The 1911-22, like most .22LR variants of the 1911, has a fixed barrel. The underlug of the barrel assembly has a single hole through it, which is locked into place in the pistol by the slide stop pin. The 1911-22 operates on direct blowback, with no lockup between the slide and the barrel.

    The recoil spring plug and recoil spring guide on both pistols is plastic. The marketplace has already responded, and a replacement stainless steel guide rod that is advertised as fitting both the 1911-22 and the 1911-380 is available from eBay. eBay listings may change from time to time so we won’t post a link to the offer we found. Just fire up your Internet search engine and search for “metal recoil spring guide Browning 1911-22”.

    Both pistols feature (if that’s the appropriate word) two-piece barrels. In the 1911-22, the steel barrel extends full length and includes the chamber, but the barrel hood and “locking lug” area is a separate piece, pressed over the barrel and pinned in place. The 1911-22 is blowback operated; a single hole in the barrel foot is engaged by the slide stop pin and holds the barrel in place.

    Unlike the 1911-22, in the 1911-380 the barrel does not extend full length. Rather, the barrel extends into the chamber/locking lug area only as far as the shoulder of the chamber. The chamber itself is part of the larger block that includes the underlug. There is no visible evidence that the barrel is pinned to the chamber block. The 1911-380 barrel locks to the slide, but there are not three locking lugs as on a standard, full-size 1911. The slide simply engages the forward end of the chamber block, and that’s it. And that’s probably more than adequate for the .380 ACP cartridge. After all, many .380 pistols operate on the straight blowback principle. In the Browning 1911-380, during the firing cycle barrel unlocking and drop-down are accomplished by a curved cam slot in the barrel’s underlug, similar to the Browning Hi-Power, the Colt Government 380, and many other semi-automatic handguns.


    Slide, barrel and recoil spring guide of the 1911-380

    Both pistols are equipped with a magazine safety, which prevents firing unless a magazine has been inserted in the magazine well. I find this “feature” to be extremely annoying, and it means that the manual of arms for clearing the pistol must be done differently than for any other 1911. However, it is our understanding that a magazine safety is a requirement for any new pistol introduced for sale in California, so we suppose Browning can be forgiven for doing what’s needed to sell their products in the most populous state in the U.S.

    But … we don’t have to like it.


    Accessories

    The 1911-22 I bought was part of a special package that was being offered around the time of the M1911 centennial, and for awhile after. Along with the pistol, I received a very good quality, scaled-down Ka-Bar combat knife in a matching leather sheath, and a display case (that I can’t use because my state has a “safe storage” law). Browning also offers, but did not include with the centennial package, a scaled-down reproduction of the U.S. military flap-style M1911 holster, and I purchased one of those directly from Browning to complete the ensemble.


    Browning 1911-22 with accessories, next to a Sistema M1911A1 clone with full-size holsrter and Ka-Bar knife

    The knife is superb, and its leather sheath is also excellent quality. The scaled-down combat knife is not offered on Browning’s web site, but Ka-Bar offers a smaller version of the traditional Ka-Bar combat knife. The full-size, military Ka-Bar is 11 inches in length with a 7-inch blade. The smaller version offered by Ka-Bar is 9½-inches long with a 5¼-inch blade. We can’t be certain, but this appears to be the same knife that came with the Browning 1911-22, or very close to it in size. These were made for Browning by Ka-Bar, and it is evident that Ka-Bar takes their quality seriously. I wish the same could be said for the Browning holster.

    At first glance, the scaled-down flap-style holster appeared to be decent. The leather is good quality and heavy enough for a reproduction of the original military holsters but, upon closer inspection, the details aren’t there. First, even before ordering the holster I had seen reports that the location of the closure stud was incorrect. Sure enough, it is. The stud is too far forward (as the holster is worn), with the result that when snapped down, the flap doesn’t close straight but is canted forward toward the bottom. Second, the belt loop layer on the back of the holster includes only slots for mounting the holster on a standard, leather belt. There is no metal hanger for attaching the holster to a web pistol belt, and there isn’t a tunnel to allow owners to make their own pistol belt hanger. Considering that full-size reproductions of the M1911 flap holster are available all over the Internet for under $30 (with the pistol belt hanger), the departure from authenticity in this quasi-reproduction for almost twice the price is, in the author’s opinion, inexcusable.

    For carry, of course, most people will want a holster. The reproduction military-style M1916 holster makes a nice accessory for the GI-style M1911-22, but isn’t at all practical for regular carry if one were to use the 1911-380 as a personal defense firearm. So far, very few (if any) of the “name” holster makers are offering holsters for these scaled-down 1911s.

    Browning offers a molded, polymer belt holster that fits (according to Browning) all models including those with a rail. The holster is available in black or tan and incorporates a plastic belt loop assembly. The MSRP for the holster on Browning’s web site is $44.99.


    Browning holster for the 1911-22 and 1911-380

    By accident, we found a very acceptable and more affordable solution. Several years ago, the author wanted a leather holster to carry a Colt Pony .380 for summer carry under light clothing. I ended up buying a generic, semi-molded leather belt slide holster from a company called Bulldog Cases. These holsters are not closely molded to fit specific firearms; they are shaped more or less to a generic, universal outline. Thus, they offer basically three holsters, “small automatic,” “medium automatic,” and “large automatic.” Each is available in black or tan, and for left-hand or right-hand carry. The holster for the Pony .380 is the Small Automatic, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that it fits the little Browning 1911s perfectly.


    Bulldog Cases small automatic leather holster


    Bulldog holster with 1911-22

    Being an “old school” sort of person, I prefer leather, and I especially don’t like or trust plastic buckles and mounting devices. For less than half the price of the Browning plastic holster, I would choose the Bulldog leather holster. In fact … I have done so.


    How do they shoot?

    After all the details, we still haven’t answered the most important question: How do they shoot? To answer this, we went to see our friends at Chris’ Indoor Shooting Range. This range is an indoor facility. The actual shooting range is underground, which means there is never a problem with wind, and the temperature remains fairly constant. Having the targets suspended from electric-powered runners means never having to wait for a “cold” range to examine or change targets. We like that; it makes it easier to test consistently, under conditions that are basically the same every time.

    Our normal test protocol at M1911.org is to test full-size and Commander-size pistols at 75 feet, and anything shorter we shoot at 25 feet. Both of our test pistols are scaled-down versions of the full-size 1911, and the barrel length is the same 4¼ inches as a Commander, but … it just didn’t seem right to expect these diminutive pistols to perform at a distance of 75 feet. For this test I invited Paul, the owner of the 1911-380, to come along so he could have a chance to try the .22 caliber sibling. After some discussion, we settled on shooting at 50 feet for the accuracy portion of the testing. This was from a seated position, over a rest.

    The tiny sights on the 1911-22 didn’t make things easy, but we did the best we could. Keep in mind that outdoor daylight is always better than artificial, indoor lighting, so we might have been able to do better outdoors, especially with the 1911-22. The table below sets forth the results of our accuracy testing. We shot five shot groups and discarded the worst round of each group. The averages are the average of three, five-shot groups. Unfortunately, we ran out of time before we could complete testing the 1911-380, and we had to turn the range over to a group that had a reservation. Consequently, we can only report on accuracy for two loads in .380 ACP.

    Browning 1911-22

    AmmoAvg. Group (inches)Avg. Group (mm)Best Group (inches)Best Group (mm)
    Federal Game-Shok 40-gr PLRN
    1.50"
    38
    1.13"
    29
    CCI Mini-Mag 36-gr PLHP
    1.38"
    35
    1.13"
    29
    Winchester Super-Speed 40-gr PLRN
    1.44"
    37
    1.00"
    25
    Remington Thunderbolt 40-gr PLRN
    0.88"
    22
    0.75"
    19


    Browning 1911-380

    AmmoAvg. Group (inches)Avg. Group (mm)Best Group (inches)Best Group (mm)
    Winchester USA 95-gr. FMJ-FP
    0.58"
    15
    0.50"
    25
    TulAmmo 91-gr. FMJ
    0.58"
    15
    0.50"
    25


    Prior to the accuracy testing, we did a fair amount of plinking with both pistols in order to get accustomed to them. Neither of us encountered any hiccups with the 1911-22. I encountered one stoppage with the 1911-380, on my first shot. I can’t really blame it on the gun, but I do blame it on the reduced size/scale of the gun.

    For several reasons, I don’t shoot semi-automatic handguns using the “thumbs forward” grip that seems to be favored by competitors, instructors, and “operators” these days. I’m an old guy who has been shooting a 1911 since 1967, long before anyone dreamed up the thumbs forward grip. When I transitioned from a one-handed grip to a two-handed grip, I just added the support hand. It works for me, and to my mind it offers some “tactical” advantages that aren’t the topic of this article. My strong hand, then, grips the pistol the same as I would hold it firing one-handed.

    And, with the 1911-380, that created a problem. With a full-size 1911, using that grip my strong hand thumb is well clear of the magazine release. However, as a result of the dimensional changes from the scaling down of the little Brownings, my natural grip happens to position my strong hand thumb right on top of the magazine release. The .22 doesn’t recoil enough for this to matter, but the .380 does. I fired my first shot, and the pistol cycled but didn’t load the next round. The reason was that as the pistol recoiled, my thumb bumped the magazine release and the magazine dropped down far enough to tie up the pistol. After that, I had to be very careful where I placed my right thumb when shooting.


    The author's normal, two-handed shooting grip


    The author's normal strong-hand grip, on a full-size 1911. Note position of thumb relative to the magazine release.


    The author gripping the Browning 1911-380. Note that the thumb falls directly on top of the magazine release.

    Aside from that little incident, both pistols ran as smooth as silk. (Well, except for the creepy triggers.)


    Evaluation

    Both pistols ship with only one magazine. Spare magazines are available from Browning, for $44.99 each (for either caliber). Neither of these pistols is inexpensive; the street price is typically around $600, and there are higher priced models of both pistols that take the price even higher. Considering the price of the pistols and the fact that they are made mostly of aluminum alloy and/or polymer, we think they should ship with two magazines. Providing only one magazine and then charging an outrageously high price for spares is, in our opinion, unconscionable.

    Both pistols are well made and shoot nicely except for the trigger. Other reviews have commented that the triggers tend to be poor, and we found the same thing. For pistols with an MSRP of almost $700 and a street price of around $600, we think Browning should do a better job on the triggers. The pull weights were acceptable for both pistols, but the creep is not acceptable.

    Considering the materials used in these pistols, we can’t justify the prices Browning has set on them. They are nice pistols, but Browning seems to be awfully proud of them. The 1911-380 is at heart, a polymer pistol, and there are a lot of polymer pistols on the market selling for roughly half the price of the Browning 1911-380. If you like the reduced size in a 1911-like pistol and you can afford the price, the 1911-380 is a good candidate for a small, lightweight .380 ACP carry pistol. For the price, though, you have to really want it. In my opinion, the 1911-22 is simply overpriced. I bought mine because of the Centennial package, with the display case and mini-Ka-Bar knife. For the current price, without the anniversary package, there’s no way I could justify paying the asking price.


    Afterword

    Shortly before this article went to press, I made an unfortunate discovery. I am right-handed, as is Paul, the owner of the 1911-380 featured in this review. Neither of us likes the ambidextrous (bi-lateral) thumb safety. We felt that it should be a simple matter to buy a single-sided safety for a 1911-22 and install it in the 1911-380. Browning's web site doesn't include any parts listings for the 1911-22 or the 1911-380, so I called Browning to ask about buying a safety. To my surprise, they informed me that they won't sell them. All "safety" related parts are "restricted," which means that you have to send the firearm to Browning for them to perform the installation. This includes the thumb safety, the grip safety, the trigger, and (now I'm guessing) probably also the sear and disconnector.

    This is not good news for any 1911 aficionado who prefers to do his or her own gunsmithing. Personally, I like to maintain a modest cache of spare parts, and that's obviously a problem if the only source of spare parts won't sell them. Not only does Browning charge more for these little guns than they are probably worth, they also make it impossible to do any significant work on them for yourself. And anecdotal reports from around the Internet suggest that Browning's service is glacially slow, so even if an owner might be comfortable with sending the gun in rather than buying his/her own parts, doing so may mean being without the firearm for a period of several months.

    Thumbs down.


    Acknowledgments

    First, of course, we wish to acknowledge and thank Paul Acampora for allowing us to use his personal 1911-380 pistol for this test.

    As always, we want to acknowledge Chris Dogolo, owner of Chris’ Indoor Shooting Range, for his unfailing support and assistance in allowing us to conduct our testing at his range.

    You may discuss this review, in our Forums Site.

    Find us on :


    Specifications

    Browning 1911-22
    ModelFull-Size
    Caliber:.22 Long Rifle
    Overall Length:7.38" (212.7 mm)
    Overall Height:4.83" (131.8 mm)
    Overall Width:1.07" (33.3 mm) @ grip, 0.79” (xx mm) @ slide
    Barrel Length:4.25" (127 mm)
    Sight Radius:5.37" (165 mm)
    Sights:Upright, Black, Combat-style (non-adjustable)
    Weight w/o magazine:15.0oz (0.99 kg)
    Magazine Capacity:10 rounds
    Grips:Double diamond checkered, wood
    Finish:Matte black
    MSRP:$599.99


    Browning 1911-380
    Model:Black Label
    Caliber:.380 ACP
    Overall Length:7.38" (212.7 mm)
    Overall Height:4.83" (131.8 mm)
    Overall Width:1.07" (33.3 mm) @ grip, 0.79” (xx mm) @ slide
    Barrel Length:4.25" (127 mm)
    Sight Radius:5.37" (165 mm)
    Weight w/o magazine:18.0oz (0.99 kg)
    Magazine Capacity:8 rounds
    Grips:Checkered plastic
    Finish:Matte black
    MSRP:$669.99


    Sources

    Pistol

    Browning
    One Browning Place
    Morgan, UT 84050
    USA
    Tel: 1-800-333-3288
    Web site: http://www.browning.com

    Range Facilities

    Chris’ Indoor Shooting Range
    2458 Boston Post Road
    Guilford, CT 06437-1398
    Tel: (203) 453-1570
    Web site: http://www.chrisindoorrange.net
    Last edited by John; 8th August 2017 at 10:41.

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