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New SVI Carry Gun - Initial Impression and First 1000 rounds

Discussion in 'Handguns: Autoloaders' started by The Wiry Irishman, Jul 29, 2011.

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  1. The Wiry Irishman

    The Wiry Irishman Member

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    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:

    [​IMG]

    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.

    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:

    [​IMG]

    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.

    [​IMG]

    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.

    [​IMG]

    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:

    [​IMG]

    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:

    [​IMG]

    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.

    [​IMG]

    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:

    [​IMG]

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

    [​IMG]

    It gets worse.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    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:

    [​IMG]

    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:

    [​IMG]

    Mainspring housing to frame:

    [​IMG]

    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.
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2011
  2. The Wiry Irishman

    The Wiry Irishman Member

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    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:

    [​IMG]

    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.

    [​IMG]

    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:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    And a family photo with its big brother:

    [​IMG]

    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.
     
  3. 1KPerDay

    1KPerDay Member

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    That... is impressive. Thanks for the detailed report and pics. :cool:
     
  4. 38 Super Fan

    38 Super Fan member

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    :what: Damn, that's your new carry gun? Wow, congrats! :cool: Infinity is about as good as it gets. No flashy AET barrel?
     
  5. Davidfl

    Davidfl Member

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    Nice SVI how much dose a gun cost like that
     
  6. Leaky Waders

    Leaky Waders Member

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    I always like your gun reviews and photography.

    Dumb question...so since it's a bull barrel, does that mean it doesn't have a barrel busing on the end? The barrel just fits into the slide via a taper? If so, then what did you use the bushing wrench for in some of the pics?
     
  7. The Wiry Irishman

    The Wiry Irishman Member

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    Nah. No need for it on a carry gun. I can't outshoot my regular barrels yet, and although I will eventually get to that point, it just didn't seem like it was worth the extra money. Plus I've always thought that the TiN coating was kinda fugly.

    In the neighborhood of 4K. Though their all-titanium guns break into the five figures.
    That's correct. SVI has apparently made a small change to their guide rods. On my 6", I could just pop the slide off and pull the guide rod out. This one is similar to the 3" Kimber recoil system, in that you have to compress and pin it to get it out:

    [​IMG]

    As you can see, it got filthy as well, so I pulled out the pin so I could clean the parts individually. Its a real bear getting it recompressed so you can put the pin back in and get it back in the gun, and keeping in line with my "the closest tool is the right tool" philosophy, I grabbed the bushing wrench to push down the plug so I could get the pin back in.
     
  8. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

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    I have never seen a gun that nasty. Speaks well of it continuing to run like that. Of course SVI has a great rep.
     
  9. agtman

    agtman Member

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    Very impressive report and great pics. Thank you. :cool:
     
  10. Russ Jackson

    Russ Jackson member

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    Performed way beyond expectations. Kind of like the AK of pistols. Great report! How does your hand feel? Any numbness the following day?...Russ
     
  11. The Wiry Irishman

    The Wiry Irishman Member

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    Thanks! Hands are just fine, the recoil on the gun is super tame because it weighs so much and the force is distributed across the wide grip. I shot this gun side by side with my friend's Glock 26 the day after my 1000 round session, felt recoil is about the same or a littler less, and there's much less muzzle flip. I routinely shoot 150 .44 magnums in one sitting without discomfort, so my perspective might be a bit distorted. However, my shoulders were pretty sore from holding it up for three hours. Part of that because I was out of shape from not shooting for two months and spending that time totally sedentary working in front of a computer.
     
  12. intercooler

    intercooler member

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    4k? That's nuts. What will it do that a 1500 piece do?
     
  13. Leaky Waders

    Leaky Waders Member

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    "4k? That's nuts. What will it do that a 1500 piece do?"

    I'm not sure...but that's why I like The Wiry Irishman's posts - he posts unbiased reviews about firearms that many of us can't touch. You should do a search of his posts and check out what happened to a Les Baer that he shot.
     
  14. The Wiry Irishman

    The Wiry Irishman Member

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    I've been somewhat reluctant to respond to this. I've attempted to comment on this same question in various form several times here on THR, and it never goes well. It usually devolves into a totally non-constructive argument, or people's posts start to get deleted (for good reason), usually both.

    I've thought about it for a while, and I decided I'll give it one last try, and hope I don't start something that ends up getting my own thread locked.

    Are you familiar with the Law of Diminishing Returns? Basically, its the idea that with any product or service there's a point at which an equal increase in cost begins to result in lesser and lesser degrees of improvement in the product. Its always been my opinion that for 1911s, this point comes in the 1200-1500 dollar price range, where you have all your popular go-fast features that make the gun easier to shoot (beavertail, extended safeties, nice sights, fronstrap checkering, etc) and more tightly controlled machining that leads to smoother operation, better long-term reliability, and pretty good trigger pull. Beyond this point, each small incremental improvement gets more and more expensive.

    Higher end guns have more hand fitting (or in SVIs case, a combination of hand-fitting and bleeding edge machining practices) that gets you better accuracy, better trigger pull, and better overall fit and attention to detail that leads to better long-term reliability. For example, search around for pictures of high-end 1911s and mid-range 1911s that have decent 5-figure round counts through them, and compare the symmetry of wear on them. A better fit gun will maintain its performance longer than a less well fit gun. You also get better material quality. Also they tend to just be smoother in general, leading to a more enjoyable shooting experience. I'm not a MIM hater, but some people really don't like that even most 1200-1500 dollar 1911s have MIM parts. SVI carves every single one of their parts out of barstock. Companies like Brown, Baer, and Wilson make all or most of their parts out of forgings or barstock. This doesn't guarantee better performance (see the postings about my Baer that has small parts that might as well have been made from balsa wood) but it significantly ups the odds.

    Higher end guns also give you a lot of freedom in terms of customization. Brown, Baer, Wilson, etc, will let you change all manner of things on their guns, and SVI doesn't have any stock guns, every gun they make is a full custom build. This allows you to set a gun up exactly how you want it, and one-off or low number manufacturing is not cheap.

    Also, in the case of SVI, they have to amortize a pretty significant amount of R&D with the price of their guns. They have a ton of patents on new platform developments (for example, their fire control system where every part touches each other only with an imbedded ball bearing, reducing bearing surface and friction to an absolute minimum) and they're constantly working on awesome new improvements.

    So long story short, the super-expensive guns are indeed better than lesser priced ones, but the difference in quality between your typical 1200 dollar 1911 and a 4000 dollar one isn't near as enormous as the difference between the 1200 dollar one and a 500 dollar one. Its a question of personal taste. Are those incremental increases in quality worth the premium to you? Do you want to wring every possible degree of performace out of your platform? Are fit and aesthetics incredibly important to you? Do you just want to buy yourself something nice?

    For me, personally, the premium for the small increase in performance is worth it. Shooting is far and away my favorite hobby, and I find it well worth the massive financial sacrifices I have to make in other areas of my life to fund it. I may not be able to shoot the <2" 50 yard groups that many of my guns are capable of, but I practice as much as time and money will allow me to, and I fully intend to get to that point later in life. I also intend to shoot as much as humanly possible until I'm no longer physically able to do so, at which point the cost of ammo will dwarf the cost of any gun, so why not opt for the best? I've found the more I practice and the better I get, the more bizarrely specific my preferences for equipment get. In the case of this gun, I wanted an all-steel double stack .45 based on the 1911 with a lot of forward weight that fit my hand like a glove, and could incorporate all the incredibly non-mainstream tastes I have in a carry gun. This means I'd have to get a 2011, as the Caspian/Para/Springfield/RIA double stacks just feel terrible in my hand, and this also eliminates the less expensive but still pricey 2011s made by STI. If there's only one place to go to get what you want, simply supply and demand economics dictates that they can charge pretty much whatever they want for it. These little features are important enough to me to merit the price premium. They may not be to others, and that's very understandle and perfectly fine, but again, its worth it to me.
     
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2011
  15. intercooler

    intercooler member

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    Gotcha! I kind of learned that with even the ones I have or have let go. I think it's great you can shoot that many rounds to do testing. Rock on!
     
  16. barrelmaker_2002

    barrelmaker_2002 Member

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    Great review. Glad you could end your hiatus. And I have dug out my allen wrenches and I am pretty sure I have the one you need.
     
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