The M1911 pistol market continues to expand at a rate that defies easy explanation. Today, an example of this classic firearm can be purchased from almost every major handgun manufacturer. And while entry-level .45s still exist, most M1911s today come with a variety of cosmetic or functional upgrades, and the biggest trend is for firms to build high-end versions, right from scratch.
One company that is fairly new to the market—and that is the maker of the gun reviewed here—is Carolina Arms Group. This North Carolina-based firm is heavily staffed with veterans, and has a declared dedication to producing the best possible versions of the classic M1911-pattern handgun. Its first product, the Trenton pistol, is named for the reliability-under-stress character displayed by the ragged soldiers of George Washington’s Continental Army in the Battle of Trenton, N.J., on Dec. 26, 1776.
For this report, it provided a sample Trenton Tactical chambered in .45 ACP. The gun is made from forged carbon steel finished in a flat, tactical black color. Contours are of the familiar M1911A1 pattern, with manual and grip safeties, a Commander-style hammer and a left-side magazine release. A departure from the norm is the full-length recoil spring guide. Carolina Arms manufactures most of its own small parts in house.
The pistol’s beavertail grip safety has been hand-fitted to the frame (l.). The Trenton Tactical pairs a black, wide-notch, combat-style Dawson Precision rear sight with a red fiber-optic front sight, both of which are drift-adjustable (r.).
From a distance, the Trenton has the typical M1911 look and could be confused with other makers’ products. But its high levels of fit and internal finish are readily apparent when cycling the slide and dry firing the gun. There is little play in the fit of the slide to the frame—only enough to ensure they function properly together. That movement is very smooth, as is the shorter travel of the overtravel-adjustable trigger in its slot. The trigger break was crisp after the typical amount of slack, and measured right at the manufacturer’s stated 4-lb. specification. Like most modern guns of this pattern, the Trenton has a beavertail grip safety, and, in this case, it appears to have been perfectly fitted to the receiver. The Trenton’s thumb safety is bilateral, while the hammer is a skeletonized version of the round Commander style. There are angled cocking serrations at the rear of the slide.
Several useful shooter amenities have been worked into the Trenton design. Crafted from G10 laminate, the gray-black stocks by VZ Grips feature a coarse pattern of vertical channels accented with lateral grooves. This aggressive pattern is abrasive, but works well for shooters who need some extra texturing to help them hold on to the gun while firing. A further positive grip comes from an attractive but functional treatment applied to the frontstrap and mainspring housing. Instead of checkering or vertical grooving, these surfaces bear a series of overlapping oval-shaped depressions that work well to enhance purchase.
The Trenton’s designers may have wanted to build a very traditional gun, but they also included several modern enhancements for practical use. The front sight is a red-fiber-optic unit, as used on a number of other modern guns, which is matched with a Dawson Precision rear sight with a black sighting surface and a wide notch. It is an arrangement well-suited to a variety of shooting situations. The Carolina Arms Group marks its new pistol with a stylized eagle head and wing, contoured into a letter “C.” Logos appear on both sides of the slide and both stocks; the slide also reads “Carolina Arms Group” on the left and “Trenton” on the right.
One additional feature needs to be mentioned. The maker’s pistols all feature barrels manufactured by Kart, which are designed for installation by professional gunsmiths. Kart-made barrels have earned a reputation for exceptional accuracy.
The test gun weighed 42 ozs., however, it seemed heavier in the hand—probably due to the full-length guide rod and nose-heavy balance. It performed properly in all hand-held shooting. We ran several hundred rounds through the gun to test it for reliability, which was 100 percent, and accuracy following our standard protocol of firing five consecutive, five-shot groups at 25 yds. In this case, the gun was secured in a Ransom machine rest using standard Government Model inserts. Three ammunition loads were tested, and the results are tabulated nearby. The Trenton Tactical comes with a 1.5" accuracy guarantee at 25 yds., and averages for all three loads met that threshold. With the relatively new SIG Sauer 230-gr. V-Crown load, the Trenton delivered an average group size of 1.05". Federal Gold Medal ran 1.38" and Black Hills JHP measured 1.34".
For five-shot groups from 25 yds., these results are Camp Perry, National Match, blue-ribbon accurate. That fact alone makes the Carolina Arms Group Trenton Tactical an intriguing option within the M1911 market. When coupled with the pistol’s high overall fit and finish, the result is a gun that, despite its high price, is a reasonable buy for the discriminating M1911 shooter.