Damn, the last century went fast. It seems that just yesterday we were celebrating the 100th Anniversary of John Browning’s masterpiece; the M1911 pistol. As I put pen to paper, it has been 110 years since the US Army officially adopted the improved version of Browning’s initial offering, the M1911A1. While the “wonder-nine” and “plastic-fantastic” handguns have made deep inroads with the American gun culture, single stack, .45 ACP pistols based upon John Browning’s baby are still popular with shooters and concealed carriers. During this review of the Bantam M1911, we will consider another version of this famous pistol, this one available from SDS Imports of Knoxville, Tennessee.
Baptised in the M1911A1 .45 ACP.
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Long before there was an internet or mobile phones, I sought out training, and was blessed to come under the tutelage of one John S. Farnam. The year was 1986 and I was but a 19-year-old young man. I enrolled in a training program put on by Executive Security International and John Farnam was their lead firearms instructor.
Not being 21 year old, I could not even purchase my own handgun for the training. I had to rent one from the school. The rental guns back in that day were, you guessed it, WWII surplus M1911A1 .45 ACP pistols. When I say surplus, I mean GI configuration; tiny sights, narrow grip safeties, relatively small thumb safeties, and 7 round magazines.
During the four day long firearms training portion of the school, I fired an average of 200 to 300 rounds per day. Training days were ten hours long and by the time I left there I had a thorough appreciation for that gun. A year later I was in the United States Marine Corps and I would carry the M1911A1 until mid-1989 when my unit transitioned to the M9 Beretta.
Carrying the Big Gun.
After leaving active duty, the first time, I became a police officer for a small Ohio city. Back in those days, the agencies expected officers to purchase their own sidearms. The gun I chose was the M1911A1, this one came from Springfield Armory. A full-sized, all steel M1911A1 is not a light gun. Fully loaded, with the new 8 shot mags, the pistol weighed around 3 pounds. Of course, I was carrying it on a duty belt, not concealing it. For years, I tried to find the perfect holster to carry the big gun concealed with varied levels of success.
The typical routine for M1911 carriers, such as myself, was to purchase a full-sized gun for open/duty carry and then buy a second, lighter, more compact gun for concealed carry. The Colt Lightweight Commander was probably the number one go to in that regard back then.
Today, the idea of a police officer carrying a single-action M1911 pistol as a duty gun seems rather ludacrous. I mean, why don’t we just issue them swords, right? Nonetheless, the M1911 remains a staple for many concealed carriers in the United States.
Thanks to the creation of the SuperTuck Deluxe inside-the-waistband rig from CrossBreed Holsters, a gun such as the new Bantam M1911 can be carried concealed all day long. During my review of this pistol I carried it in my horsehide SuperTuck holster.
The Bantam M1911 from SDS Imports.
The old routine for someone who wished to carry an M1911 for self-defense was to purchase a stock gun and then ship it off to a custom gunsmith to have hundreds of dollars worth of tuning, polishing, and accessories added to it. This was particularly true if you wanted to shoot anything but 230-grain ball ammo. Such, fortunately for everyone but gunsmiths, is no longer the case.
SDS Imports offers a wide variety of M1911 style pistols chambered in .45 ACP and one of their latest offerings is the Bantam. The Bantam is a Commander-sized gun. That means it has a shorter slide and barrel sitting atop a full-sized frame. As for specifics, the Bantam weighs only 25 ounces, thanks to the use of an aluminum frame. The slide and barrel are hammer-forged steel. The grip stocks are a grayish G10 which are not only attractive but functional. Regarding controls, SDS specified a wide Beavertail grip safety with a generous “hump” for absolute engagement. The mainspring housing is “bobbed” a la Ed Brown which is not only aesthetic but aids in concealment. The manual thumb safety is ambidextrous with a very positive on/off feel to it.
Practical, Attractive, and Functionality all in One Package.
The slide and frame cuts are attractive but not overly aggressive. Some custom M1911 pistols have “rat file” or “cheese grater” checkering that ends up removing skin from the shooter during extended range sessions. Not so with the Bantam.
Atop the slide is a green fiber optic front sight that is dovetailed and blended with the slide, a serious custom touch. The rear sight is a black steel “U” notch with NO dots, thank the Lord. The front edge of the rear sight is squared to allow the user to snag it for emergency one-hand slide racking. Again, good job there. Each gun ships with two 8 round magazines that have a stainless steel finish and sit flush with the bottom of the frame. For a concealed carry gun, you do not want large magazine base pads sticking out.
Shooting the Bantam M1911.
The true test of any handgun is how it performs. As discussed earlier, old M1911 pistols tend to choke on any ammunition other than the traditional 230-grain ball. I would employ ammunition from a number of manufacturers to test the pistol’s appetite.
From Barnaul Ammunition I had their 230-grain FMJ (ball) using a grey steel case. I used two loads from Black Hills Ammunition; the 230-grain Jacketed Hollow Point and their new 135-grain HoneyBadger load traveling at 1250 feet per second. Both Black Hills loads use high quality brass cases. From Federal, I used Hydra Shok with a 210-grain bullet in a nickel case. To round off the list, I included Hornady’s FTX Critical Defense round with a 185-grain bullet also nickel cased.
During my first outing with the pistol, I passed the gun off to a couple of other shooters. All three of us took turns engaging an 8-inch steel plate from 7 to 15 yards. As long as the shooter did their job, the steel rang. All told we put about 50 rounds through the gun on day one.
For my next outing, I wore the gun to the range in my CrossBreed SuperTuck Deluxe. I deliberately loaded the two 8-round magazines with all of the above-mentioned loads mixed in with one another to see if all the modern .45 ACP ammunition would cycle. It turned out that I need not have worried. The Bantam consumed every single piece of ammunition without fail.
I fired the gun from a strong two-hand hold, with my right hand only and then my left hand only. The gun cycled for every shot. Also, I started all of my drills with the pistol completely topped off; one in the chamber and a full 8-round magazine in place. The Bantam was redundantly reliable.
Disassembling the M1911 Pistol.
One thing that modern shooters need to understand is that regardless of the manufacturer, M1911 pistols need to be properly lubricated and cleaned once in a while. Before I began testing, I took the slide off and gave the gun a treatment of EDC CLP firearm lubricant. I’ve been using the EDC CLP on handguns, shotguns, and rifles for a couple of years now and have never been disappointed.
The Bantam M1911 is based upon the Colt Series 70. Therefore, the pistol disassembles and reassembles just as any Series 70 pistol would. Yes, it is a bit more complex than your Glock, but it’s not that difficult if you know what you are doing. You do not need any special tool to take the gun down for cleaning.
Final Thoughts on the Bantam M1911.
To be most truthful, I have been at this game for so long that I don’t often get excited about guns any more. I had never tested a gun from SDS Imports before this and I was not sure what to expect of the pistol. I am pleased to report to you that the Bantam M1911 really impressed me.
If you were to purchase a 1911 handgun with as many custom features as the Bantam has from another US manufacturer, you could expect to pay nearly twice as much as SDS is asking for their guns.
The bottom line is this; if you are looking for an EDC M1911 that not only looks good, feels good in the hand, and shoots with 100 percent reliability, I would give the Bantam serious consideration. I would not hesitate to carry this pistol on my person.
Professor Paul Markel
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Great review! Semper Fi! I retired in 2013 after 23+ yrs, and enjoy my small collection of firearms which to date, does not include a 1911. This one caught my eye and I am considering. R/Roni