|Home - Volume 1 (2006) - Issue 2 (Fall '06) - Pistol Review: Guncrafter Industries Model 2 .50 GI pistol|
Guncrafter Industries .50GI Model 2
Reviewed by Harwood Loomis (Hawkmoon, )
Bigger may not be better, but it IS more fun
I can recall a couple of years ago, when I first read about the introduction of the Guncrafter Industries 50GI Model 1, thinking to myself that this looked like a truly interesting pistol, and one that I'd like to own some day. The day of my owning one hasn't arrived yet and probably won't for quite some time (unless I hit the lottery), but I recently experienced the next best thing to owning a 50 GI: Guncrafter Industries has introduced a new version of the 50GI, the Model 2, and they sent M1911.ORG an early production pistol for testing. The Model 2 differs from the original Model 1 in having a receiver with an integral light rail.
The Guncrafter Industries Model 2 arrived in a zippered cordura carrying case, with a detachable shoulder strap. The pistol itself was wrapped in a soft square of terry cloth, and along with it was a Surefire X200 tactical light. Aside from the pistol itself and the light, the contents of the carry bag also included a spare magazine, an owner's manual, a ?-ounce bottle of MMC brand lubricant and an MMC brochure, and a pair of take-down pins for the full-length guide rod. Although the grip panels are secured with hex-head screws, the provided "tool kit" did not (surprisingly, in my opinion) include a hex wrench for removing them. Speaking about the grips, the ones on the pistol were made by Alumagrips and featured the GI logo.
I own a 1911 built on a Caspian "Recon Rail" receiver, and at first glance the Model 2 appeared similar. And in overall dimensions and proportions, it is. Once beyond the first glance, however, small but significant differences began to reveal themselves. Like the Caspian, the 50GI Model 2 incorporates a standard light rail, not a Dawson mini rail such as found on the Nighthawk Customs 10-8 pistol we recently reviewed. This means that the Model 2 will accept a standard Surefire or other tactical light without requiring any adapters.
Although the width of the light rail itself is the same on the Model 2 and on the Caspian (i.e. industry-standard Picatinny/Weaver), the balance of the receiver is subtly different. On the Caspian, behind the end of the light rail and immediately forward of the slide stop pin the width of the receiver dust cover reduces from rail width to standard 1911 receiver width. Not so with the 50GI Model 2. The Model 2 receiver is completely flush on both sides, carrying the full width of the rail for the entire extent of the receiver. On the right side of the frame, the hole for the slide stop pin is located in a dished-out recess, presumably to allow the use of a standard dimension slide stop while still being able to remove it by pressing on the exposed right-hand end of the pin. The design eliminates an awkward-appearing "step" in the side of the Caspian Recon Rail frame (and all other 1911s with integral rails that I have seen, as well).
The rail itself extends the full length of the slide, rather than ending at where the dustcover of a "standard" M1911 or M1911A1 ends. Again, this is a departure from other railed 1911 designs, such as the Caspian. In addition to providing more rail length for enhanced flexibility in what you hang off it and where, the extra metal adds a small measure of mass to resist muzzle flip when firing those oversized .50 caliber rounds.
I was somewhat surprised to see a solid trigger rather then a drilled or skeletonized lightweight trigger. The trigger features a serrated face and is equipped with an over-travel adjusting screw, which is pre-set at the factory and should not be changed unless there's a good reason to fiddle with it. The trigger guard is not smoothly rounded at the lower front corner, as are most 1911s, but has a sharp chamfer effect on the outside, something unique to the Model 2. Where the trigger guard meets the front strap, the guard is undercut to allow a higher grip. The front strap itself is nicely checkered, as is the backstrap portion of the mainspring housing.
The mainspring housing itself incorporates the flush lanyard attachment recess (it isn't really accurate to call it a "loop") that was designed and is sold by Guncrafter. They not only use this clever adaptation of the need for a lanyard attachment in their own pistols, they also supply it to other 1911 manufacturers and gunsmiths, and it is sold through Brownells.
Length and height are standard, full-size 1911 dimensions: the Model 2 measures 8-5/8" long and 5-3/4" high. This is an all steel pistol, weighing in at 37 ounces empty, 38 ounces with an empty magazine in place, and 50 ounces loaded with 300-gr JFP ammo. The trigger pull scaled in at 5 pounds, with no creep, and felt extremely consistent throughout our testing. Perhaps I am biased because I subscribe to the theory that 4½ to 5 pounds is about ideal for a self-defense and carry pistol, but I felt this trigger was one of the nicest I have ever shot. Although 5 pounds is considered heavy for target accuracy, the 25-yard groups I was able to obtain with this pistol strongly indicate that the trigger was in no way a handicap.
Front and rear sights are night sights. The front is a conventional, single dot. The rear sight is not a double dot setup, with two rear dots flanking the front dot, as I had expected. This pistol uses the Heinie Slant Pro night sight, with a single round dot positioned on the centerline and immediately beneath the notch in the rear sight. The picture when using the night sight feature, then, is simply to stack the two dots vertically (front sight on top, but after a moment you realize that you can't get it reversed or you won't be able to see the front dot), and put the point of aim just above the upper dot. It's very clean and simple - just a vertical string with three points to line up. I liked it, and when I tried it with the lights in the indoor range turned down I felt it was very effective, and easy to pick up a sight picture very quickly. This sight fits a standard Novak rear sight cut, which has become almost as much a "standard" for 1911s as the original M1911 rear sight dovetail.
The magazines are also of exceptionally high quality. They have synthetic bases that slide off, allowing spring replacement and cleaning with "no muss, no fuss." The followers are not formed steel as found in most .45 ACP magazines for the 1911, but molded polymer, more like those found in double stack magazines. And, unlike most 1911 magazines, there are only two witness holes, one near the top of the tube (I suppose corresponding to "Full") and one near the bottom ("Empty"?). Magazine capacity in 50GI caliber is 7 rounds, but when the pistol is equipped with Guncrafter's .45 ACP conversion the .45 caliber magazines hold 8 rounds.
What is it?
The two most frequently asked questions about the 50GI are probably (1) "What is it?" and (2) "Why?" What it is, is simply a very high quality 1911 that fires a .50 caliber projectile rather than a .45 caliber projectile. The "why?" is perhaps more difficult to answer. The early reports I recall reading on the original Model 1 suggested that the concept of building a .50 caliber 1911 was something that was a fascination for Guncrafter founder Alex Zimmerman for many years before he actually got around to doing it. Assuming this account to be more ar less correct, perhaps the most fundamental answer to the "why?" question would have to be "Because he could."
Accomplishing the feat was not as easy as it might initially appear. John Moses Browning's original M1911 pistol was designed around the .45 ACP cartridge, and every critical dimension was optimized to accept and to operate that caliber round. Although the difference between the .45 ACP and the 50GI is "only" five one-hundredths of an inch, when dealing with a piece of complex machinery that is manufactured to tolerances measured to the nearest thousandth, a difference of .05" becomes significant. Alex and his crew had to modify a number of aspects of the frame, slide, and some small parts such as the trigger to make the 50GI a reality. Despite the fact that outwardly it appears to be a standard 1911 with a really big barrel, that's far from the entire story.
It is my understanding, too, that the Model 2 differs slightly from the Model 1 in overall width of the receiver itself. While the receiver of the Model 1 was kept to the same width as the original .45 caliver M1911, with the addition of the light rail on the Model 2 Alex decided to carry the full width of the rail the entire length of the pistol for aesthetic reasons. He felt the clean, slab-sided appearance was more desirable than the stepped sides of other 1911s equipped with integral light rails.
Zimmerman not only redesigned the 1911 pistol to allow it to handle a .50 caliber bullet, he also invented a cartridge to put the bullet in the pistol. In order to adapt a .50 caliber round to the original .45 caliber 1911 pistol, he designed a cartridge casing with a head that is rebated to the same diameter as that of the standard .45 ACP round. The walls of the casing, then, extend out beyond the outside diameter of the cartridge rim. At this time, factory loaded ammunition is available only from Guncrafter Industries, but they also sell brass and reloading dies so that purchasers of their pistols can afford to shoot them.
The recoil spring in the Model 2 is rated at 22 pounds, compared to 16 pounds for the recoil spring in a standard Government model 1911. In addition to using a stronger recoil spring to accommodate the heavier loads of the .50 caliber rounds, the 50GI also incorporates shock buffers as standard equipment. These are specially contoured to fit the 50GI guide rod, and are available as service replacements from Guncrafter Industries in packs of five. Our test pistol was equipped with a full-length guide rod, and the pistol came with two small keys for use in capturing the recoil spring to the guide rod for field stripping. I am not a fan of full-length guide rods, especially in a self-defense pistol, so I was pleased to learn that the Model 2 is also available with a conventional guide and recoil spring at no difference in price. This particular pistol was built for a customer, so I can't criticize the choice of the full-length guide rod. The customer simply has a different outlook than mine.
How does it shoot?
Testing was conducted at Chris' Indoor Shooting Range in Guilford, Connecticut. This is an indoor, underground facility located in a suburb of New Haven and used by a number of area gun clubs and local police departments. The range offers distances up to 75 feet. We fired a few off-hand targets at 25 feet to get a feel for how the pistol shot, then ran the targets out to 75 feet for the accuracy portion of our testing. We also conducted velocity testing on the two types of .50 caliber ammunition supplied by Guncrafter Industries with our test pistol. Velocity testing was conducted using a Competitive Edge Dynamics (CED) Millennium chronograph, set 15 feet from the muzzle. For the accuracy testing, we fired from a bench rest.
Initially, I was disappointed with the results I obtained shooting the Model 2 at 75 feet. Groups were certainly "adequate" in terms of self-defense, grouping well within minute of center-of-mass, but I felt that a pistol of this quality should shoot better. A conversation with Alex Zimmerman confirmed my supposition. He told me the factory test target for the test pistol was 1.3" at 75 feet. I wasn't anywhere near that.
In a subsequent session, I tried shooting without the rest, with the butt of the pistol resting directly on the horizontal surface of the bench. That proved to be at an awkward and uncomfortable height, plus on the third or fourth round I fired from that position the grip pinched my hand between the corner of the mainspring housing and the raised lip of the bench, resulting in a fairly large blood blister. Ultimately, I settled on the tried-and-true, low-tech approach: I put a .50 caliber ammo can on top of the bench, laid a strip of carpet over the can to protect the pistol's finish, and shot from that as a rest. Exercising the writer's prerogative to toss a couple of called fliers, I was able to obtain a best group of five rounds in 2 inches, with four of those five in a ragged hole measuring 15/16 of an inch. That's better than I can shoot, so the only possible explanation is that this pistol shoots very well.
The following table sets forth our results:
When I was satisfied that I had obtained as good a group as I was capable of accomplishing, I had just a few rounds remaining of the ammunition supplied to us by Guncrafter with the test pistol. To use it up I ran out a target to 25 feet and emptied a magazine from a standing position, rapid fire. The result was as good as I could hope for as a self-defense grouping.
It has been my understanding that one of Guncrafter' goals in creating the 50GI was to come up with a .50 caliber 1911 that shoots like a .45 caliber 1911. The ammunition factory loaded by Guncrafter is not especially "hot," according to the velocities listed on the ammo boxes. Our own chronograph results displayed velocities higher than those claimed by Guncrafter. Curiously, in a recent test of a full-size 1911 in .45 ACP, none of the rounds we ran through the chronograph delivered the velocity listed on the ammunition box.
The muzzle energy for the 50GI loads provided to us, based on bullet weight and average measured velocity, calculate as 313 foot-pounds (424 joules) for the 300-grain JFP round, and 438 foot-pounds (594 joules) for the 275-grain JHP round. For comparison, averaging the average velocities of some recent .45 ACP chrony results we get 230-grain bullets traveling at 785 feet per second (239 m/sec). That calculates out to a muzzle energy of 376 foot-pounds (510 joules), which is neatly positioned between the energy ratings of the two 50GI loads. Muzzle energy, of course, provides only a rough approximation of recoil energy and an even less accurate approximation of "felt" recoil but, in general, rounds of similar energy fired through pistols of similar size and weight should not produce greatly different amounts of recoil.
All of which goes to show that, like most things perceived, perceived recoil is at best a subjective measurement. Three of us fired the 50GI. I shot it first, and my impression was that it felt much like a standard 1911 shooting .45 ACP ammunition (albeit with a bit more muzzle flash, especially from the 275-grain hollow-point rounds). Charlie, the general "git 'er done" guy at Chris' range, shot it next. He didn't comment on how it shot other than, "Nice … I like it," but Charlie is a man of few words. I stood behind and to one side as he fired a string at a target 25 feet away, and there was very little muzzle flip. The muzzle rose two or perhaps three inches at most, and he was back on target almost instantly.
When I went upstairs to tell Chris that I would mind the counter for a few minutes while he tried the 50GI, he asked me what it shot like and I told him it was like a really nice 1911. I heard him banging away downstairs, and a few minutes later he came back. "Are you nuts?" he asked. "That thing kicks like a mule!"
Why the difference in perception? I don't know. Both Chris and Charlie shoot in competition and, despite my seniority in years, both probably have more shooting experience under their belts than I. One didn't seem to find the 50GI very different from other 1911s, while the other did. I'll discount Charlie a bit because he doesn't have a lot of experience with 1911s. Chris, on the other hand, carries and competes with a Para-Ordnance P14.45. I don't compete, but my two primary carry pistols are a Colt M1991A1 Compact (Officers) model and a Para-Ordnance 12.45 LDA (also an Officers size pistol). I suspect that the 50GI Model 2 may have felt less different to me because I am more accustomed than Chris to shooting short-barrel 1911s, which inherently have more perceived recoil and muzzle flip than full-size pistols.
One thing is certain: the 50GI is no "hand cannon." It won't leave anyone rubbing liniment into their bruised wrist after two rounds. In my first session with the pistol I fired probably about 75 to 100 rounds, and I felt no more sore than I do after a session firing a .45 caliber 1911. The session ended because I ran out of time, not because I couldn't shoot the gun any more.
Throughout our testing, we experienced zero malfunctions. For obvious reasons, our testing involved only the magazines that came with the pistol (two) and the Guncrafter factory ammunition they sent us with the pistol, but it is worthy of note when a new 1911 handles every round fed to it without even a hesitation in chambering a round, right from the very first round. In fact, if a pistol of this type has any defined purpose other than to allow the proud owner to be the first kid on the block to own a "50 caliber 45," it is probably self-defense. The pistol fires large, threat-stopping projectiles. For a pistol intended for self-defense, 100 percent reliability is not just a sales "feature," it is an absolute requirement. If you can't trust a self-defense pistol to load and fire with 100 percent reliability, you actually have a self-defense paperweight. Accordingly, I was impressed to find that the pistol functioned perfectly, with no disclaimers requiring the owner to shoot 500 or 1,000 rounds through it to "break it in."
The Guncrafter Industries 50GI Model 2 is a superb quality 1911 pistol incorporating an integral tactical light rail, and chambered in Guncrafter' proprietary 50GI caliber. Legend has it that a famous Texas Ranger was once asked why he carried a .45 caliber sidearm, and he is reputed to have responded "Because they don't make it in .50 caliber." Now they do. The Guncrafter 50GI Model 2 certainly is not for everyone. It is a premium-grade weapon, bearing a premium price. With the entire pistol and the ammunition being custom manufactured, it is certainly unrealistic to even think of asking why there isn't an "entry level" model. This weapon is intended for the discerning owner who subscribes to the "big and slow" philosophy regarding ammunition selection for self-defense, and who can afford to buy the 1911 pistol that sends out the biggest bullets available for the 1911 platform.
Every detail of the pistol demonstrates that it was conceived as a high-quality, no frills weapon. The slide stop, for example, is not a hugely elongated paddle that either snags on or quickly destroys holsters. Instead, it is a custom-configured item incorporating a small "shelf" where traditional 1911s have a checkered or serrated wedge. The thumb safety is modestly extended for ease of operation, but is not so exaggerated as to be clumsy or always in the way. And a glance at the photo of the slide stop and the thumb safety will also show just how carefully the upswept beavertail grip safety is mated to the frame.
The MSRP for the Model 2 is the same as for the Model 1: $2,895. Like the Model 1, the Model 2 can be ordered chambered for the 50GI cartridge, in .45 ACP (for the same price), or with a conversion kit to allow changing calibers simply by replacing the barrel, recoil spring and magazine. The conversion kit costs $365. If ordered at the same time as the original purchase there is no additional charge for fitting the conversion kit. The conversions are all hand-fitted, so if a pistol is later returned to Guncrafter Industries for installation of a conversion kit (going in either direction), there is a fitting fee of $115 added to the cost of the kit itself.
The Model 2 is not an inexpensive pistol, but the price is on a par with several other custom and semi-custom 1911s that are available only in the boring, mundane .45 ACP caliber. For approximately the same price as many other premium grade 1911 pistols, Guncrafter Industries offers the option of having a pistol that fires a bigger bullet with consistent accuracy and reliability, along with the panache of owning a pistol that few other people will ever own. Plus, it can be converted to shoot .45 ACP ammunition for practice, and then switched back to 50GI for carry or home defense use.
On behalf of myself and The M1911 Pistols Organization, I want to thank Alex Zimmerman and Guncrafter Industries for arranging to get this test pistol to us. This was not a marketing sample; in fact (which Alex didn't tell me until after we had received the pistol and begun our testing), this pistol was built for a customer and sold before it came to us. Alex kindly asked his customer if he would be willing to allow us to test the weapon, and the customer very generously agreed. The customer has asked to remain anonymous, so we can't thank him (or her?) by name. We certainly wish to express our gratitude to the unknown customer who made this test possible.
In closing, I should mention that Competitive Edge Dynamics (CED) has generously made available to The M1911 Pistols Organization one of their shooting chronometers. Because the test facility is underground and illuminated only with strips of artificial light, the chrono will not function using the available light. CED has also provided a supplemental infra-red light source to address that problem. Being able to make first-hand comparisons between the 50 GI loads and standard .45 ACP ammunition was both interesting and informative.
You may discuss about this pistol, ask questions or in general discuss about this review, in this thread in our Forums Site:
Guncrafter Industries .50GI Model 2
Pistol and ammo:
Competitive Edge Dynamics USA
Orders: (1) 888-628-3233
Chris' Indoor Shooting Range
Phone: (203) 453-1570
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