CONCEALMENT 32 Oracle Arms 2311: The Perfect Hybrid? Iain Harrison 3 Comments, Join the Conversation We Get Handsy With a Couple of Preproduction Versions of the Newest Double-Stack 1911 We earlier predicted that 2023 would be the year in which the 1911 became relevant once again, due to the original Browning design being updated to drag it into the 21st century. By addressing its shortcomings of limited capacity and unnecessary bulk, the advantages of ergonomics and shootability due to its inherently excellent trigger can be fully realized, making it once again a viable option in comparison to the run-of-the-mill striker-fired, polymer-framed handguns that we all know and love. One of the latest iterations of an updated 1911 design is from the upstart Oracle Arms. Once the hullabaloo of SHOT Show was over, we pried one of the Combat Elite prototype sample guns they took to range day away from their engineers, along with a preproduction version of the full-size Combat model, which was about 95-percent ready for prime time, requiring only a few more tweaks to bring it to market. Bottom line up front — both the full-size and Commander-sized pistols will be well received by shooters looking for an alternative to the norm, so long as the initial batch released to consumers is well-executed. 1911 DRAWBACKS We hate to break this to you, but .45 ACP doesn’t cut it anymore. While both it and the 1911 were great at the time of its introduction, improvements in ammunition technologies have rendered it obsolete, supplanted by an even older cartridge design that now outsells it 10 to 1. Don’t get us wrong, as wounding mechanisms, they both suck compared to rifle rounds, but it’s what we have to work with until someone makes plasma rifles in the 40-watt range a reality. Since it was designed around the .45 ACP cartridge, the 1911’s slide is wider than it needs to be to accommodate 9mm Luger, and the frame is longer front to back than necessary. This translates to a bigger, heavier gun, as well as more reciprocating mass than required to operate reliably when it’s converted to use the smaller cartridge. When the artist formerly known as STI updated the 1911 to a doublestack format, .45 ACP was still hanging around like Neil Young at the Grammys, desperately clinging to relevancy while everyone else looked at their shoes and wished they were somewhere else. So they made sure the 2011 magwell was long and wide enough to accept the bigger round, then squeezed the sides of the magazine down to run 9mm. Great idea but marginally reliable. Many of us who ran 2011s on the competition circuit paid big bucks to have our mags tuned by someone who whispered incantations over them while tapping them lightly with chicken bones — or at least that’s what we suspected happened, as the whole process was shrouded in secrecy. By definition, magazines are the most important part of any magazine-fed firearm. By designing them around the 9mm cartridge from the get-go, rather than adapting them from a .45 design, they’re more reliable. Plus, due to their reduced diameter, there’s more flexibility when it comes to grip design. P320 mags are almost universally available and have passed some of the most stringent testing ever, thanks to Uncle Sam. Being steel, they aren’t saddled with unnecessarily chubby side walls — looking at you, Gaston. You can probably see where this is headed for the Oracle 2311. A double-stack 1911 that takes P320 mags? Don’t mind if I do. Compared to a 1911, its slide is considerably narrower and lighter in places — in real numbers, that’s 0.848 versus 0.920 inch and 12.2 versus 13.5 ounces. When shooting, this translates to a noticeably faster cyclic rate; compared to the Springfield Prodigy we brought along as a comparison piece, there wasn’t the kerchunk feel, where you could discern when the slide picked up a round and then fed it into the chamber. The breech end of the 2311’s barrel is locked into the slide by means of a SIG-style shelf ahead of the chamber, which engages an enlarged and squared-off ejection port. It ditches the 1911’s swinging link in favor of a Hi Power-esque, kidney-shaped cam path. There’s no barrel bushing, opting instead to have the barrel interface directly with the slide. All of these design improvements make the pistol easier to manufacture, without needing extensive manual tuning to ensure long-term reliability. There are also sand cuts in the area of the cam lug to give dirt and debris somewhere to accumulate — while we’re not entirely sold on their usefulness, they can’t hurt. Other lightening cuts are made to the slide’s exterior, and as you’d expect of a pistol at this price point, there are both front and rear cocking serrations. Iron sights consist of a suppressor-height front, dovetailed into the slide, and at the rear, there’s a filler plate that can be had with either irons or an optic mounting system, one of the best we’ve encountered so far. Not only does it secure your chosen MRDS low in the slide, it also has adequate recoil bosses to relieve stress from the mounting screws. If you’re running a dot, it includes backup irons in front of the lens. These give a bit more protection to delicate optics and can be used for one-handed manipulation in the event of stoppages or reloads. Heading south into the frame, we find an ambidextrous slide release, the right side of which is retained in the frame by means of a hidden set screw, and the left side is removed during regular field-stripping. Like a 2011, the frame is comprised of two pieces, or three if you count the mainspring housing, which in the Oracle design is replaced by a removable backstrap. In this instance, both upper and lower halves are made of aluminum, begging the question of whether there might be an all-steel competition version in the future. Unlike a 2011, the front of the Oracle’s lower frame interfaces by means of an undercut dovetail, right above the trigger guard — this was very tightly fitted in our sample, requiring several blows from a soft-faced mallet to separate the two, once a cross pin had been driven out. It’s not necessary to remove the grip portion to access any fire control components, so this step will probably never be taken by the average user, but we wanted to give the engineers heartburn, so off it came. After stripping the entire gun down to springs and pins, there’s a few things we discovered that you should know. Firstly, the majority of 1911 bits needed to make it go bang will fit. Hammer, hammer strut, sear, and disconnector are as the prophet willed them into being. The magazine release is from the P320, and under its removable backstrap the actual mainspring housing is a small component that dovetails into the lower frame. Because it needs to fit around a P320-sized magwell, the Oracle’s trigger bow is entirely proprietary, as is the sear spring — there’s no grip safety so this consists of two legs, rather than the three you’d find in a 1911. When we initially cycled and dry-fired the pistol, our emotions ran the gamut of, “Oh look, a new gun! Shiny!” followed by the clacking of a slide being racked multiple times, followed by, “Eight-pound single-action trigger — ewww!” At first, we figured this was due to the use of poorly finished MIM components, but after stripping the gun, found this wasn’t the case. While the hammer and probably also the sear are MIM, they’re decent quality and should last longer than the average shooter’s ammo supply. Almost all of the excess poundage was in the sear spring, and after a bit of tweaking it came down to a crisp 5-pound break with a 1/16th inch of take-up and almost zero over-travel. ROUNDS DOWNRANGE If you have large hands, you’ll love the grip that came on our test pistol. Smaller-mittened shooters may have a harder time, but according to Tom Doyle, our rep at Oracle, this should be rectified before too long. “We’ll be launching a series of smaller grips, safeties, and a shorter trigger,” said Doyle. “So the gun should fit a wider range of people, but we’re a small company so don’t expect everything all at once.” Due to a gas pedal integrated into the lower grip, the pistol shoots flatter than you’d expect, given its weight. Were this an all-steel gun, it’d probably be up in the 42-ounce range, along with the likes of Dan Wesson’s DWX, and muzzle rise would be damped by its considerable mass. Instead, the 2311 relies on user mechanics, and tracking the dot during recoil is fairly straightforward. The pistol turned in very serviceable groups, averaging 2 inches at 25 yards with factory 115-grain ball ammo. We had a couple of failures to feed due to case rims failing to slip under the extractor. As this was a preproduction gun, we weren’t expecting perfection. “We’re very close to a finished design,” said Doyle. “There are a few things we need to work out before launch in terms of consistency in the fire control group, but it’s a work in progress.” In terms of overall shooter impressions, the 2311 is an easy gun to shoot, with all the advantages of an SAO trigger coupled with cheap, reliable magazines, and a great optics system. Letting members of the firearms media put their baby through the wringer before it’s ready for prime time is a ballsy move, as RECOIL is known for covering all aspects of performance, warts and all. It would appear that Oracle is committed to solving their teething problems, and if they do, the 2311 will join this year’s crop of handguns that are making the 1911 relevant again. 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