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Shoot for Value

Roberts Defense Brings High-Dollar Performance to the Mid-market

Photos by AZPhotoMan

The 1911 market isn’t for the faint-of-wallet. It’s entirely possible to find sturdy, working options at three figures. But the reality is anybody looking to shoot a Browning masterwork of any true repute should brace himself for entry fees surpassing a monthly car payment. In fact, more than a few 1911s cost more than a mortgage, yet still don’t rate as “premium” in the single-stack market.

We believe the vast majority of consumers live in the mid-market. In this author’s opinion, the mid-market for 1911s is roughly $1,200 to $2,500. Anything much less comes from overseas.

Conversely, three G’s is about where you can start looking at “entry level” guns from some of the custom shops. A couple of big-box companies out there make entire lines of single-stack .45s in this price range. But in today’s market, a number of smaller companies seek your hard-earned duckets. We took a look at one such company —Roberts Defense.

Roberts Defense came to be in 2012; its first pistols arrived on the market the following year. The brain trust behind Roberts comes from the aerospace and industrial manufacturing industry. The team brought this knowledge to their production of firearms — with a stated goal of producing custom-shop level quality at more affordable price points. We were, obviously, curious about how their vision stacked up against their product line. Fortunately for you, we were pleasantly satisfied with the result.

Skin Deep
Roberts sent us two of its 1911-style pistols. One was the Supergrade Stainless Pro, a traditional .45 Government-sized pistol. Our sample came with Roberts Defense logo grips of a light-tone wood variety. These particular grip panels were rather beefy. They were a boon for our team members with size XL meat mitts, but a little much for those with smaller hands. Fortunately, if you can turn a screw, you can swap out grip panels on a 1911. Plus, if you order direct from Roberts Defense, you can  specify thinner grip panels. The second was a 9mm version of its Desert Ops Custom. The latter is a Commander-sized piece with rail frame, magwell, and a two-tone black-and-tan coating. Both are equipped with Heinie LedgePro night sights, extended safeties, and GI guide rods. The Supergrade Stainless Pro retails for $1,870, while the Desert Ops sits right at $2,000.

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On the surface, these are beautifully crafted guns. The slide-to-frame fit is superb, with zero rattle on either of our test samples. Even without any lubrication, the slide glides on its rails with no scraping, scratching, or catching. We couldn’t find any tool marks, burrs, or imperfections on the Supergrade, and the two-tone finish on the Desert Ops is smooth and uniform in its entirety. Both pistols sport a laser-engraving of the understated Roberts Defense logo at the back rear of the slide, just above the safety. Aside from the single manufacturer’s mark, there’s no gaudy branding or billboard advertising on these guns. The front straps and mainspring housings on both guns are checkered at 25LPI — arguably the sweet spot of checkering intensity.

The barrels in both guns are of undisputable pedigree. The .45 barrel in our test gun is marked from Barsto, the 9mm from Ed Brown. Both are primo tubes that lived up to their reputations. Interestingly, the 9mm barrel isn’t of the fully supported variety. Most 9mm 1911s sport a ramped/supported barrel because it’s easier than risking feed problems over barrel-to-frame fit at the barrel mouth. Roberts Defense, clearly secure in its manufacturing tolerances, went the traditional route. This decision didn’t affect performance one bit, making it noteworthy.

Each comes with two magazines, sporting the same single logo engraving down at the baseplate. Our only gripe with the sample package to this point was that the magazines included with the Desert Ops didn’t have base pads. This made reloading with a magwell slightly more difficult. We were forced to insert the magazine, then push our thumb up into the magwell to fully seat the magazine.

Ironically, the .45 mags included with the Supergrade (which doesn’t have a mag funnel) did have larger polymer base pads. Reloading on this gun was slick and quick. We’re not sure if this was a function of our specifying the 9mm chambering, but it’s something to mention. The aftermarket has ample solutions to the problem if you’re forced to go that way. Roberts Defense has, in our experience, been incredibly responsive to requests. If you place an order directly with them, we’re pretty sure you can specify mags with extended base pads and not experience any heartburn over it.

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