[Our CO2 and BB loving friend Sgt. Dave is back again with another new purchase, and he’s going to tell you all about it]
In contrast with certain other realistic replica airguns (like the Luger I reviewed recently), the customer for a Colt M1911 replica has a bewildering array of selections to choose from. In what I admit was a less-than-exhaustive search, I counted up no less than six “classic” M1911 replicas. Adding “custom” or “modernized” versions will more than triple the list — and that’s with criteria limited to realistic-blowback BB-shooters. Deleting the blowback requirement will add maybe four more, and I even found one pellet-shooter. (Pellet replicas are really disguised revolvers, inauthentic in principle and function.)
Confronting this vertigo-inducing array myself, and wanting only a wartime-classic replica with realistic blowback and reliable performance (reasonably-authentic disassembly would be nice), I pored over postage-stamp-sized images, unhelpful specification listings, and finally settled on the Tanfoglio Witness as my choice — until PyramydAir got other ideas. Pyramyd seems to have acquired a large number of used, refurbished Remington 1911 RAC pistols and offered them for maybe two-thirds the new-gun price — in fact, they still do. But it was a sale price offer at about half retail — with a Plano gun case and 6000 Remington BBs thrown in — that really concentrated my attention, and made me decide to check out My Sponsor’s longstanding advocacy for Buying Used.
Unfortunately, I can’t afford to collect any of the generally-similar offerings from other firms for comparison, so this review will cover only the Remington example.
I’ve purchased refurbished products in other categories before, and have been just about unable to distinguish them from factory-new versions. But the Remington 1911 RAC I received definitely had that well-broken-in look both inside and out. After my initial surprise I really grew to like it; there are “John Wayne/War Commemorative” versions out there for which you’re expected to cough up an extra 20-30 bucks to get Limited-Edition fake wear-and-tear, but this gun is the reason I say save your money. Do it yourself; it’s a lot more realistic and a lot more fun.
The Remington 1911 RAC is finished in “Gunmetal” -colored metallic paint (well-worn, in the case of my refurbished example) and, while a mix of metal and plastic is common in realistic replicas, the use of metal by Remington is extensive. Castings are zinc, while the .177cal barrel is brass — or at least appears to be. Magazines are solid zinc castings with extra hardware fastened to them, and are remarkably heavy. They drop free when the magazine release is pressed; DO NOT let them hit the ground! Not only can they be damaged by the rather forceful impact, but they can damage your foot if they hit it. And if they hit the dirt with the top end down, you’ll have contamination issues to deal with.
Externally, the 1911 RAC functions exactly like the firearm, except for spring rates that are all much lighter, so at this point in the narrative, any reader who doesn’t already know how to field-strip an M1911 in the dark is directed to go to YouTube and search “M1911 Disassembly.” There you will learn all you ever wanted to know. Returning to the Remington, the thumb-grip safety is fully functional, and the safety lever blocks the trigger and prevents the hammer from being cocked (unless it already is), as well as locking the slide. The magazine holds the CO2 cartridge and 18 rounds, and locks back the slide after the last BB is expended. The BB follower latches in place at the bottom of its slot (would that all BB mags were so designed!)…BUT. To provide an opening to load BBs, you have to press it even farther, to its limit of travel, and hold it there. Don’t let it snap! — you may launch a BB across the room. CO2 cartridges are pierced and held in place by a setscrew with a quarter-inch Allen head. Quarter-inch Allen keys are supplied with every spare, so they really collect up with your spare magazines.
Disassembly begins as it does with the firearm. But I was unable to proceed beyond removal of the slide-and-barrel assembly (and Remington’s instructions are of no help) until I figured out how it differs from Mr. Browning’s design. The slide has a barrel bushing which can be removed the same way as the Original’s, but neither the barrel nor the recoil spring cap will come out. It wasn’t until I found out how to remove the recoil spring by disconnecting it from the barrel assembly (not unlike that of a Beretta) that the spring cap slipped REARWARD out of the slide; then the barrel assembly, without a recoil spring to stop it, came FORWARD out of the slide. Any further disassembly would require driving out pins or screws.
At this point, we can see that the Remington’s outer barrel actually has lugs which engage locking notches inside the slide, although this feature does not provide blowback delay; the blowback cylinder assembly has a different way of doing that. Reassembled, and with the slide locked back, a *slight* barrel tilt can be seen, though this is a clever illusion: Only the outer barrel tilts relative to the inner, BB barrel, which is fixed in place…oddly enough, by the slide-lock pin, just like the firearm’s barrel pivot.
A loaded magazine may be difficult to latch in place if the slide isn’t locked back. It may help to load seventeen; I found I couldn’t latch a magazine in place with more than fifteen loaded with the slide closed. Then release the slide or, if it’s already forward, rack it back John Wayne-style to chamber a round. Otherwise, your first shot will be blank — or nothing at all; remember, this legendary piece is a single-action weapon, and needs to be cocked. The hammer actually initiates discharge by whacking on a valve in the top rear of the magazine.
At this point, the cycle follows that of the firearm. After the blowback piston-and-cylinder drives back the slide, cocking the hammer (while the gas charge, exhausting through the gas tube, simultaneously propels the BB), it returns under recoil-spring tension, a pin under the gas tube shucks a BB off the top of the magazine and the gas tube, acting as the breech, drives it into battery.
And that’s where the disappointment begins. This gun is not powerful. I’d say it can outpunch a Daisy Red Ryder, but I won’t credit it with much more oomph. It is not accurate. Even from rest I shot big sloppy groups I feel I can outdo with my other replicas. It may be adequate for a “combat arms”-style course of fire, but it will certainly add to the challenge. And it isn’t loud! The clank of the action cycling can easily be heard over the volume of the report. The action of the famously massive slide provides some sense of recoil, but for training purposes the effect is better for displacing your sight picture and teaching the need to reacquire it than for teaching weapon control. Feel of the nicely-knurled trigger is light but indistinct, with constant tension through a very short travel before hammer release.
But for “combat arms”-style shooting, the Remington is a suitably macho choice — especially since the slide locks back when you run out of ammo. An 18-round capacity may be inauthentic, but you can always load seven for practice with ammunition discipline and quick reloads. And the Remington BBs are of gemlike quality and won my enthusiastic approval, in case you were wondering.
The Remington RAC leaves one wondering what the M1911 replicas from other companies have to offer, but provides no ready excuses for ditching it and buying a different one to find out.