The American commercial market for M1911 semi-automatic pistols is lively and growing despite being full to the brim with manufacturers. Populated by virtually every major gunmaker and a dozen, or more, smaller operations, it can be tough to stand out from the crowd. It’s harder still to target the narrow, and well-serviced, high-end/custom segment. But if you want to get noticed, offering guns proudly “Made in America” and wearing mammoth ivory stocks is sure to turn some heads. A case in point is Republic Forge, a relatively new builder of custom-grade M1911s out of Perryton, Texas.
While our evaluation arm isn’t sporting ivory—Republic Forge actually offers grips carved from mammoth tusks and teeth—it was that unusually luxurious feature that prompted our evaluators to order in a gun for testing. The sample we received does not disappoint. The Patriot model is the company’s version of a Commander-style M1911, featuring a 4.25" barrel and the standard barrel bushing arrangement for disassembly. Republic Forge also offers the Valiant and Stryker models in the same barrel length, but those variants are distinguished by a shortened grip frame and accessory rail, respectively.
Beyond its classic dimensions, our sample was also chambered for a classic, though non-standard, M1911 cartridge—the .38 Super. Introduced in 1929, the .38 Super was developed for use in M1911 pistols and was intended to be a powerful, high-velocity upgrade to the .38 ACP. Though surpassed by the .357 Mag., the .38 Super (commonly designated as .38 Super Auto +P) retains a following among competition shooters, handgun hunters and armed citizens, especially in countries that have prohibited “military” chamberings in commercial firearms.
Republic Forge offers eight standard models of M1911, but most of the firearms it makes are custom jobs stemming from a “Build Your Own 1911” program on the company’s website. Starting with a stock model, virtually every feature, from finish and sights to chambering and stocks, can be changed to fit the customer’s preference—most at no extra cost—and an on-screen image of the gun evolves as the changes are made so customers can preview their design. The Patriot, for example, comes standard in .45 ACP, but 10 mm Auto, .40 S&W, .38 Super and 9 mm Luger are available as upgrades. Bear in mind, this review cannot cover the myriad permutations of this model, and will instead remain focused on the gun at hand.
The test sample, a Patriot model in .38 Super, featured a steel slide finished in Burnt Bronze Cerakote and topped with Republic Forge night sights. The sights feature front and rear tritium ampoules arranged in the “straight eight” configuration. In front, the tritium insert is encircled by a larger white ring, while the rear sight presents a black serrated face with the small tritium insert centered below the rounded, U-shaped notch. We like this arrangement because it offers the quick acquisition characteristics of rear notch/front dot models for daytime use, and it is easy to vertically align the two illuminated dots (like the number 8) in low-light conditions. The slide also features cocking serrations fore and aft, and eight glare-reducing grooves run the length of the slide between the sights.
An attractive two-tone appearance is completed by the steel frame’s Tungsten Gray finish, also Cerakote. Controls and safeties are as you’d expect on an M1911, though the bilateral thumb safety is worth mentioning, as are the bump pad and the elegantly extended beavertail of the grip safety. The skeletonized trigger, slide lock, magazine release and thumb safety stand out thanks to their Graphite Black Cerakote finish. The stocks are VZ’s G10 panels in a black and gray color scheme, and the gun’s hammer sports a Texas Star cutout. Overall, it really is a beautifully crafted firearm.
The Patriot’s quality is more than skin deep; it is also among the best we’ve tested in terms of construction. Republic Forge starts each build with oversized parts that expert gunsmiths then machine, cut, hone and hand fit. Our sample gun was tight, and every cut and contour was just so; no detail was overlooked. A good example is the magazine well. On many guns, a flared and extended magazine well is a purely utilitarian upgrade designed to aid rapid reloads. On our Patriot, the extension was integral to the mainspring housing and had been hand-blended, near seamlessly, to the frame. The old-world manufacturing and attention to detail are necessarily time and resource intensive, factors that obviously influence the price, but most would agree the ends justify the means.
On the range, the gun proved to be accurate and enjoyable to shoot. The hand-stippled front- and backstrap—25 and 20 lines per inch, respectively—combined with the textured stocks to anchor the Patriot firmly in the shooter’s hands. Three .38 Super +P loads were selected and tested according to American Rifleman protocol; the results are tabulated on the previous page. One particularly impressive group, fired with the PMC ball ammunition, measured just 0.54" for five shots at 25 yds. The average of the 15 five-shot groups was a hair over 2¼", very respectable. During testing, an issue with the provided magazines began to crop up where the last round would not chamber or, after firing the last round, the magazine would stick and the slide would not hold open. A remedy came in the form of 10-round XP-38 magazines from Chip McCormick Custom (cmcmags.com), which were used without issue. We contacted Republic Forge and were pleased to hear it had already addressed the issue, and new, fully functional magazines arrived promptly. No other malfunctions occurred during testing.
Republic Forge is building some of the best M1911s currently produced in the United States. It has taken “Made in America” to heart and boasts the phrase like a battle cry. Even the benches and tools the company uses to build guns are American-made. So, for the shooter who is willing to pay what it costs, who has a sweet tooth for quality fighting irons and who is inclined to support domestic industry, Republic Forge is an excellent choice.