New SVI Carry Gun – Initial Impression and First 1000 rounds

| July 31, 2011 | 9 Comments

This is going to be a little different than my other initial impressions reports. Its going to be more of just a range report, as I put the first 1000 rounds through the gun in one sitting.

Here it is, fresh out of the box:

Just a quick summary of what it is – a 5″ double stack, full-dustcover 2011, bull barrel, full length guide rod, .45 ACP. For you uber gun nerds, the SVI gunbuilder printout is below.

Design Name: Carry Revised
Template Name: Govt Pistol – Wide Body
Last Updated: 01/21/11
Front Slide Cut: 10 lines per inch
Guide Rod: Stainless Steel
Panel Cut: No
Radial Flute: None
Rear Lightening: No
Rear Slide Cut: 10 lines per inch
Slide Material: Carbon Steel
Slide Profile: Round Top
Slide Racker / Lightening: No
Stirrup Cut: No
Top Rib: No Serrations
Front Sight: Green Tritium dot, .110 wide
Rear Sight: Novak? Extreme Duty Adjustable
AET Barrel Option: Non-AET
Barrel: Plain Barrel
Barrel Length: 5
Barrel Style: Non-Bushing Style (Cone/Bull Barrel)
Caliber: 45 ACP
Compensator: No Compensator
Trigger Base color: Silver
Trigger Bow: Titanium
Trigger Insert Color: Silver
Trigger Insert Style: Flat Long
Triglide System: Yes
Grip Material: Carbon Steel – 4140
Grip Size (Competition Hicap Only): Signature Grip
Grip Surface: Infinity SkaterTerrain? (IST)
Metal Grip Mag Catch: Infinity? Left Side Magazine Catch without button- IDPA Legal
Metal Grip Magwell: None
Metal Grip Mainspring Housing: Steel – Flat Blued
Trigger Guard – New: Under Cut Trigger Guard
Trigger Guard Profile: Infinity Traditional Square (ITS)?
Hammer: Spur
Hammer Finish: Blued Finish
Dust Cover: Infinity Extended Dust Cover
Dust Cover Fluting: None
Frame Material: Carbon Steel
Frame Style: Competition (Wide body)
Grip Safety: Steel
ITI Rail cut: No Rail Cut
Slide Lock Pin: Steel – 4140
Strut: Titanium
Thumb Safety Material: Carbon Steel
Thumb Safety Style: Ambidextrous Tactical
California/ Massachusetts Resident: No
Gun type: Government (5 inch)
IPSC Modified Division Infinity IMM Special?: No (typical)
Pistol Finish: Infinicoat Gun Metal Dark

Basically, after issues with my carry 1911 I was forced to carry my other SVI for many months. My first SVI was a beautiful piece of work and put me solidly on the 2011 bandwagon, but it was designed for HD use, and as such was massive in every possible way, with no thought given to carry convenience. It carried startlingly well, the only real issue was the 6″ barrel was just a touch too long to easily stuff in my pants, but I really wanted a dedicated fullsize carry gun built for carry. This gun was it.

I’ve been on a non-voluntary hiatus from shooting recently partly because of budget, but mostly because of a complete lack of free time, so I decided when the gun came in, I was going to make the time to put 1000 through it right away, so I came prepared. I had a bag full of all sorts of lube, cleaners, patches, and tools, but when I pulled the pistol apart to clean and lube it during the NICS check, I found that it was squeaky clean and VERY liberally coated with slide glide, so I just put it back together. Keep that in mind through the rest of the report, as more or less I just pulled the gun straight out of the box and started shooting.

Now, on to the good stuff. This isn’t my first 1000 round shooting session, and I’ve got a formula all worked out to do it right. Specifically:

You need a big can of reloads, a pile of magazines, a Gatorade to keep hydrated, and a Snickers because you’re going to be there for a while and you want to make sure you don’t get shaky if you get too far away from your last meal time.

So how’d it hold up? I was shooting at 2″ bulls, 50 feet away, 50 rounds per bull. My hiatus from shooting served as further proof that marksmanship is a very perishable skill, and you need to practice hard, practice often if you want to be competent. My shooting kinda sucked a lot, so I can’t comment on the accuracy of the pistol. Here’s the first 250 rounds.

No malfunctions or issues at all at this point. The gun was even locking back on empty mags. For those of you not familiar with the 2011 platform, they’re super finicky about lockback. Getting a 1911 slide stop to engage with a follower coming from a double stack/single feed mag seems to be quite a challenge, and since the 2011 is typically a competition platform where lockback is often disabled completely, I get the feeling that no manufacturer has really tried very hard to solve it. You usually have to do a lot of futzing and tuning and playing with different followers before you get reliable lockback, so I was pleasantly surprised.

Here’s rounds 251-500. Groups are finally starting to tighten up a little bit. Still no failures.

It became clear at this point that the gun was indeed shooting an inch or two left and that I was not jerking the trigger or anything like that. It also became clear that the gun did not come with an allen wrench small enough to loosen the set screws on the Novak Tactical Adjustable sight, either. Also, around 400 rounds, lockback started to get spotty then stopped completely. The fact that it was doing it straight out of the box, with every combination of tube, follower, and basplate I had is heartening, however, and it will probably only take a little bit of spring bending and follower swapping to get it up to 100% reliability. I’ve already talked to Brandon at SVI about it, both now and in the past, and his given me a lot of help, tips, and tricks to get it working. I can’t stress enough how excellent SVI customer service is. This is not a huge concern for me, as I only carry an extra mag out of concern for clearing malfunctions, not because I feel I’ll need more than 13-15 rounds of .45.

Rounds 501-750. My shooting is still awful, the gun is still running great:

After 800 rounds of my filthy, filthy Bulleye and cast lead reloads, it was time to test carry ammo. I figure if the gun cycles carry ammo reliably in this condition:

It will cycle it in any condition. At this point the range was 15 minutes from closing, so I had to shoot fast. I went through 200 rounds of 230 grain +P HST in those 15 minutes, including time to load magazines. That’s why the groups get even worse than they were before. I was shooting fast, and not taking any sort of break between mags, just dropping the empty, slamming the next one home, and continuing. It gets your arms rather fatigued after a while, especially if you’ve already been holding the gun up for 750 rounds before it. Still no malfunctions. Upper left bull is the last 50 rounds of reloads, the other four are HST.

By the end of that long string of HST, the frame had gotten so hot I could no longer rest my offhand thumb against it, the trigger guard was uncomfortably warm to the touch, and I’m pretty sure the slide would have given me a blister if I touched it. I had to drive home with the pistol just laying on the seat next to me, because it would have melted the foam in the case.

So long story short, I fired 1000 rounds through the gun in one sitting, totally around 3 hours or so. I started with the gun in the condition it came in, and did not add any lube throughout the process. I had no failures to feed, fire, extract, or eject. Oh yeah, and when I got it home, it looked like this:

That’s not poor slide to frame fitting, that’s just a huge pile of gunk. Just wait until I crack it open, though.

It gets worse.

Despite this mess, after 1000 rounds, the slide was cycling as smoothly as my well broken in Baer. The gun’s smoothness when clean just defies description. The closest I can get is “like snot on glass.”

Enough with the range report, lets talk about the gun.

My perspective has obviously become a little distorted, as the guns I shoot the most are my 6″ SVI, a 8 3/8″ .44, and a 4 pound PPC K-frame. My first thought when opening the box was “Oh wow! It’s so little!” Once I picked up the gun, I was amazed at how tight and well fit it was, even better than my other SVI. Its not Les Baer bank vault levels of tight, but the fitting and attention to detail leave everything else I’ve had experience with in the dust.

Here’s a few quick examples of what I mean. The flash on my camera made all the seams really obvious, but under normal light, its difficult to see them, and most you can’t even feel running your thumb over it.

Slide to frame, extractor to frame:

Grip safety to frame. It doesn’t look as good as it actually is in the picture, but I would have no trouble convincing someone that handled it that they were one part:

Mainspring housing to frame:

I was also impressed with how natural it felt in my hand. This feeling just intensified when I started shooting it. I’ve had plenty of guns that fit my hands very well, 1911s with flat mainspring housings and full thickness grips, Nill revolver grips, my other SVI, but I’ve never understood until now what people have meant when they said a gun felt like an extension of their body. This is by far the best balanced and best handling pistol I’ve ever come across. When I’m shooting, it doesn’t even feel like I’ve got a pistol in my hands, my arms just feel heavier. I don’t have to move it from target to target for transitions, I just have to think it there. Its fantastic.

Recoil control is also great. Obviously its a heavy gun, with a lot of forward weight, so muzzle flip is very tamed. Its not quite to the “are you sure this isn’t a 9mm?” level of my 6″ SVI, but shooting +P HST through it feels about the same as shooting my practice loads (4.7gr bullseye under 230gr LRN) through a regular 1911. The trigger, as is to be expected of SVI (I have their fire control parts in all my 1911s now) is without peer, crisper even than a tuned S&W revolver. I’ve only felt better on competition free pistols.

SVI Additional Details
SVI just started making their own grip safeties, (I believe they were Browns before) and they’re pretty astonishing pieces of machining. I had my safety pinned, and like I said before, its so well fit its hard to believe its separate from the frame. What I really love, though, its the thumb relief cut tail:

This thing is all sorts of awesome. Not only is it far more comfortable than any other design I’ve had experience with, but it lets me get my grip even higher than before.

I also got the Novak Tactical Adjustable rear sight on this gun. I’m kind of a nut about adjustable sights, even on carry guns, and I jumped on the opportunity to have an adjustable sight that would tear my shirts. (oddly enough, I’ve never had a problem with them tearing up my hand doing tap-rack-bangs, but I’ve lost three dress shirts to sights on various guns over the years) Its a pretty nice piece of equipment. The sight picture isn’t super crisp or clean, not what you’d want for precision shooting, but more than enough for a self defense situation. People are big targets. The rear notch is far wider than I’m used to, and its been rather weird trying to acclimate to it, but as one would expect, it makes sight acquisition much faster. Also, the sight is very rugged. A lot of people don’t like adjustable for carry because they’re afraid they’re get knocked loose. The way the adjustment mechanism is designed, I’m pretty sure you could beat the sight with a hammer and not lose zero.

I usually accomany these reports with some wear pictures, but the Infinicoat finish is close to invincible, and what little wear is visible on the barrel I can’t get to show up in a picture because the barrel is so highly polished. It all just washes out. Suffice to say, 1000 rounds is not enough to leave a mark on the gun.

Finally, just a few pics of the gun looking pretty:

And a family photo with its big brother:

Addendum: Magazines, basepads, and followers

This will likely be off less interest to most people, but I used the 1000 round session to test function of a variety of combinations of tube lengths, basepads and followers. Before I list the results, here is what I was using:

124mm SVI tube, SVI 1mm basepad, SVI standard follower, 12+1 capacity
124mm SVI tube, SVI 3mm basepad, SVI standard follower 12+1 capacity
124mm SVI tube, SVI 3mm basepad, Grams follower, 14+1 capacity
140mm SVI tube, SVI +2 wedge basepad, SVI standard follower, 15+1 capacity
140mm SVI tube, Grams 11mm basepad, Grams follower, 17+1 capacity
140mm SVI tube, Arredondo +3 basepad, Grams follower, 17+1 reloadable or 18 non-reloadable capacity.

What become obvious quickly is that the grams followers do not work well in the shorter tubes. They feed just fine, but I frequently got lockbacks with one round left in the magazine, or issues on the last round where it would be way up out of the ejection port, leading to a three point jam with the nose of the bullet stuck on the edge of the ejection port of all places. It was also not uncommon for the followers to fail to lock back the slide through traditional methods, but have the nose stay in the mag and the rear pop out, stopping the slide at the rear of the magazine.

I think the issues with the Gram’s followers has something to do with too much spring pressure/compression on the last few rounds in the short tubes, because they were 100% reliable in the long tubes. They appear to do a better job of locking back the gun than the SVI design. I’m not 100% sold on them yet. Their followers are supposed to work on 9, 40, and 45, but I think they should be a tad wider for .45 to prevent the rear being pushed up through the feed lips. I want to test these some more.

The SVI followers are by far the best for feeding reliability, but they fall down in terms of slide lockback. The plastic they are made out of doesn’t slide well once the mag gets a little bit of grime in it, and although it will feed the last round just fine, the follower often will not come up enough to even contact the slide stop, let alone push it up. I think slighty different geometry, or possibly aluminum construction would help with this.

I had no issues I felt I could attribute to any of the basepads.

About the Author:

I'm an engineering improvement specialist in the aerospace industry

9 Comments on "New SVI Carry Gun – Initial Impression and First 1000 rounds"

Trackback | Comments RSS Feed

  1. wow, what a test. 1000 rounds in one session is no joke. your arms must have been tired. nice weapon

  2. justin says:

    i want one!

  3. Wen says:

    Awesome build! Sorry to ask but how much did the pistol cost? I have to start thinking of excuses for the wife.

  4. TheWiryIrishman says:

    It all very dependent on how your spec your pistol. With the right options and finish, you can get them down around $3500, most designs I’ve made have been in the $4000-$4500 range, and if you really want to go nuts, they make all-titanium guns for five figures.

  5. Wen says:

    How’s the weight compared to say a traditional Colt 1911?

  6. Torrey Riches says:

    Thanks for the review. I’m shooting the sti tactical in .45. I have had good reliability with the stock sti mags but don’t like the spring action. It is sluggish not “snappy” like it should be. I got some grams spring/followers and love the action of the spring but have the same problem with the slide stop being activated with 1 round left in the mag. The grams followers also hang up a bit going through the constriction at the top of the mag. I talked to Bevin at grams and he said that if I was having a problem it was because the tubes are out of spec. I have a problem with this because my tubes were all bought at different times and all work great with sti spring/ followers. The obvious answer is to stick with sti spring/followers but I love the action of the grams springs. Did you ever find a solution to the premature slidelock problem? Did the grams followers run smoothely through the constriction at the top of the mag body or did they hold up like mine do?

  7. TheWiryIrishman says:

    Wen – Its quite a bit heavier, weighing in at 60.8 ounces with a full 12 round mag and one in the chamber. Loaded 1911s tend to run in the 42-46oz range. The extra weight makes for an insanely soft-shooting gun.

    Torrey – STI is notorious for out-of-spec mag tubes. Most people that run them in competition have them tuned or buy a tuning kit to do it themselves. SVI mags are tuned from the factory, so they don’t have those problems. However, they also cost twice as much.

  8. Eddie says:

    With two different SVI’s would you recommend them for duty carry? I love 1911’s and currently carry a Baer TRS but I want the added capacity that the 2011’s have. That being said I need the accuracy and reliability my Baer has given me, with the capacity of a Glock. The SVI seems like the perfect combination, but a failure at the wrong time is a whole different animal than a failure in a competition.
    Is it going to be next to impossible for me to find a level II or II duty holster for it? One last thing, have you noticed any issues carrying with and without the big magwell?

    Thanks in advance!

  9. TheWiryIrishman says:

    Sorry it’s taken me so long to get back to you on this. I haven’t spent much time on the internet the last few months.

    A 2011 for duty carry? First, I’d recommend reading Hilton Yam’s articles on 10-8 and Modern Service Weapons about carrying 1911s for duty. Second, I’d recommend talking to Brandon Strayer at SVI and ask him about experiences/guns for previous LEO customers.

    Holster options are really limited for 2011s. You have a very few IWBs, and more, but still not many, OWBs. Because of the nature of the gun, teh OWBs tend to be more oriented toward competition. I’ve never seen one with any sort of retention, and none of the the most popular retention holsters are made for it. I think you would have two options. The first and cheapest would be to rivet a retention strap as associated snap hardware to one of the available Kydex OWB option. (I’d recommend the BladeTech DOH) The second option would be the custom route – either contacting the kydex companies to see if they’ll add a strap, or the gun to one of the higher-end leather holster manufactures to have them make you one from the ground up. That’s what I ended up doing for my IWB holster.

    The magwell on my 6″ isn’t actually all that big. Its certainly nowhere near the size of the IPSC/USPSA Open gun magwells. I didn’t find it too much different than carrying a 1911 with a Smith & Alexander well on it. There were only a few shirts I had where it would print more carried IWB. If you’re carrying it OWB for duty, I don’t know why you wouldn’t have one if you were allowed one.

Post a Comment