Near the top of my list of Unsung Handgun Heroes resides a Taurus PT 1911 AL-R, a great house gun or car gun with a long list of standard features and, before it was discontinued by Taurus, a decent price tag. At first glance, you might not like it, but I’ll declare that after a few years of use, Taurus’ take on the 1911 makes this classic fighting pistol more useful than ever. If you can find one, you should buy it.
Now in its 103rd year of service, the 1911 design will never go away. Part of the reason is because manufacturers such as Taurus create 1911’s such as the one you see pictured here. Taurus currently offers nine 1911 variants. This Taurus PT 1911 sports an aluminum frame and Picatinny rail (hence, “AL-R”) and 19 standard features that on other pistols can be costly upgrades. Standard on this pistol: second 8-round magazine; extended magazine release; beveled magazine well; front and rear slide serrations; ambidextrous safety; 30 LPI checkering on the front strap ; 30 LPI checkering on the mainspring housing; 30 LPI checkering on the trigger guard; Novak low-profile standard sights; custom shop trigger job; skeleton-serrated trigger; target hammer; beavertail grip safety with memory pad; custom internal extractor; lowered and flared ejection port; polished feed ramp and barrel throat; custom-fit barrrel with gauged bushing; full length guide rod and reverse plug; and custom slide to frame fit.
All of these features pile on top of the classic Government model configuration and, in the Taurus PT 1911 AL-R, measure out to an overall length of 8.5 inches and a weight of 33.6 ounces. As such, this pistol’s best use is duty as a house gun or car gun. Yes, you can carry it concealed, but not well. It’s just better deployed elsewhere, especially when you can add a light or laser to its Picatinny rail.
Given the list of standard features and the pistol’s original MSRP of $870, the Taurus PT 1911 AL-R immediately strikes as a tremendous value. And it is. You get a lot of custom features without having to pay a typical 1911 custom price. My three favorite standard features on this 1911 are the ones that for me increase the functionality: the front and rear slide serrations, the 30 LPI checkering on the front strap, and the custom shop trigger job. These simply make the PT 1911 AL-R an easier gun to handle and shoot. Prices for used PT 1911 AL-R’s will probably run well south of $870; that can only mean greater value.
My three years of experience with the PT 1911 AL-R– which includes hundreds of rounds fired downrange — have proven the pistol to be an accurate, reliable handgun. It wasn’t perfect out of the box; a couple early rounds got hung up on the feed ramp and a couple failed to extract. But after cleaning and lubricating — religiously — and firing more rounds, the PT 1911 AL-R has ran well. Firing this gun produced a bit more kick than I expected from a full-sized 1911 but the front-strap checkering and the grip panels made muzzle control and target re-aquisition very manageable.
Finding a used Taurus PT 1911 AL-R might prove difficult as the gun wasn’t offered for long. If you can’t find one, Taurus offers two other PT 1911’s with Picatinny rails but neither of those with the lightweight, aluminum frame. Of the railed models, the Taurus PT 1911SS-1 retails for $944.88 and weighs in at 32 ounces, 1.6 ounces less than the AL-R version. So while you can buy a current Taurus PT 1911 that’s lightweight and equipped with a rail, the PT 1911 AL-R was the original and on the used market, should be available for far less than retail.
What guns are on your list of Unsung Handgun Heroes?
— Mark Kakkuri