Never before have there been so many quality options for collectors looking to purchase “shooter grade” 1911 handguns. For the most part, these budget offerings from companies like Rock Island, Shooter’s Arms, and Tisas are reasonably accurate and impressively reliable, especially considering their sub-$400 price tags. That said there are a few areas where these pistols frequently require some attention or tuning. One very common issue is that the included magazines can jam when feeding their last round. This is a foible that can tarnish otherwise fantastic shooting experiences with these 1911s. Let’s take a look at why some 1911 magazines are less trustworthy than others.
The magazine on the left is a Colt manufactured, original-style 1911 magazine. It features a flat baseplate and holds 7 rounds. The one on the right came with my ATI FX 1911, a Shooter’s Arms pistol. It holds 8 rounds with its extended baseplate. Beyond capacity, observant readers will notice another, less obvious difference: the followers. The Colt magazine uses a more reliable, split nose style follower that is similar to the original 1911 design. The reason for this split is twofold. First, the left side of the follower must sit low enough to properly engage the slide lock when the magazine is empty. If this side sat as high as the right, the magazine would lock the slide with a round still left to be chambered. Second, the right side of the follower sits higher to support the final .45 ACP round as it is being fed into the chamber. This feature is critical to the magazine’s reliability. Not only does it help to ensure consistent last-round feeding, but it also prevents follower tilt at all load levels.
On the other side of the equation sits the Italian ACT-MAG magazine that was included with my American Tactical Imports 1911. So far, the pistol has been an amazing addition for me, but this magazine has been somewhat of a disappointment. Unlike the follower in the Colt magazine, the ACT-MAG product uses a follower that has a 100% recessed nose. Because of this, the follower reliably engages the slide lock when empty, but it does not sufficiently support its final round as it enters the chamber. A lack of follower support causes this final .45 ACP round to “nose dive” into the 1911’s feed ramp and locks the entire action, a malfunction that requires magazine removal to clear. While it has yet to cause an issue, this follower is also more prone to tilt when loaded/feeding. In some situations (depending on firearm, ammunition, etc), this could lead to failures beyond those experienced on the last round.
Given my experiences with the ACT-MAG magazine, I strongly encourage 1911 owners to pursue magazines that properly support the final round into the chamber, like the Colt ones I recently acquired. These are truer to the original design and have proven more reliable in my testing. Shooters with ACT-MAG and similar magazines are not out of luck, however. New followers are easy to install and can be found at places like Midway USA and Brownells for less than $10 each.