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Citadel Cerakote 1911s for Self-Defense at the Range
Armscor has been building 1911s for many years, and building them soundly and traditionally. For a number of years, Legacy Sports International has imported these pistols under the Citadel brand and offered them on the U.S. market at very reasonable prices. That tradition continues and expands in 2016 with the new offering of flat dark earth Cerakote finish.
A citadel is a fortress and the new flat dark earth finish on these guns makes them look and feel almost indestructible. The finish is offered on both the full 5-inch Government model and the 3.5-inch Compact version. With MSRPs at $796 these new models are priced at the entry-level for 1911 pistols.
Both include some features you’d expect to find only on higher-end models, like front slide serrations on the full-size model, Novak-style sights, memory bump grip safeties, G10 grips, skeletonized hammers and triggers and full-length guide rods. The Government model even includes an ambidextrous safety.
The guns arrived looking very much like a pair to twins, except that one stopped growing somewhere along the way. The first thing I did was inspect the Cerakote finish and application. That’s an area that not everyone gets right — but it looks like Citadel did. The application is even and smooth. This is especially critical on the side and frame rails, and the action felt smooth with no binding.
All the same, I never trust the lubricity of ceramic coatings and I applied a generous amount of oil before shooting. Some versions of FDE guns look like they should come wrapped in a diaper — these don’t and are very appealing to me. It would be easy to loose these guns in the dirt or sand.
Almost everything else on the guns is flat black. I like the two-tone visual interest and I also appreciate the utilitarian look. These Citadel pistols cry out to be used in the elements. The sights, beavertail safety, hammer and all the controls are all matte black. The only parts on these guns that glimmer are the barrel hoods and the tips of the stainless steel guide rods.
The G10 grip panels have the perfect look for a rugged handgun. They also feel fantastic and won’t lose their traction due to sweat, grease or water.
The black steel sights have a Novak cut, and while they don’t have dots there are actually two small round placeholders for them. If you care to do it yourself, the template has been provided. The front sight is also absent of any visual aid, just a black serrated slope to fill the rear notch. Again, a dab of your favorite color would fix that. If you want a quick acquisition sight picture, you’ll want to do something with them or change them.
Legacy Sports supplies two magazines with each Citadel pistol. The magazine bodies are painted black with all-metal construction and have polymer base plates. They are also, I think, a possible weak link in the system. I experienced a few feeding and ejection errors with them. I never take any 1911 out for a day at the range without several brands of magazines, and I found that the Citadels performed just fine with higher end feeders like Wilson Combat and Chip McCormick.
Aside from the magazines I found nothing worth complaining about with these 1911s. I even did all the requisite 1911 snob checks to be sure the slide to frame fit was tight, the barrel fit was good, and so on. I was impressed with how snugly the parts fit together.
Full Size versus Compact
There are a couple of differences between the full sized Government model and the smaller Compact such as the bevels at the muzzle of the slide on the Compact, to make the pistol easier to holster. Or the hole through the guide rod of the 3.5-inch model that allows you to use a small tool or paperclip to trap the recoil spring tension for disassembly and reassembly. That small but appreciated extra is not present on the full length guide rod of the 5-inch model.
The full-sized Citadel has an ambidextrous safety. The Compact has a right-hand only safety, but it has been bobbed, trimmed and smoothed to make it slim and snag-free for carry, yet still easy to operate.
The biggest difference between the two is that the full-size uses a barrel bushing while the compact opts for a bull barrel. This is common among the short-barreled 1911 pistols. The fit is accomplished by flaring out the barrel at the muzzle to provide the fit to the slide. This also makes for a very thick walled barrel at the muzzle with a nice crown.
Shooting the Citadels
Surprisingly, these two guns shoot very differently from one another. The compact model likes a six o’clock hold while the full-size shoots more point of aim. The Government model’s trigger is heavier and a bit grittier, breaking at nearly 6 pounds where the compact’s trigger is crisper and is certainly lighter at just over 4 pounds. Considering the potential of the compact to be a carry gun, the trigger quality is appreciated.
I experience feeding and ejecting malfunction with the supplied magazines but none with other brands. I also had far fewer failures with the compact than with the full-size, contrary to what one might expect. Certainly better magazines are room for improvement, but I’d gladly buy new magazines for a soundly built gun — as appears to be the case here.
Both models have plain frontstraps, absent any checkering or grooving. This is a matter of preference. The mainspring housings are also different with different backstraps. The full-size has a checkered polymer mainspring housing while the compact is equipped with a steel housing with vertical serrations. The grip safety on each has a well-shaped and grooved memory bump, and I noted no preference between the two.
The sight pictures are good enough, but as mentioned they are black on black. As long as lighting conditions are not challenging they work just fine and are easy to acquire. For concealed carry, the Novak-style profile is snag-free.
What I appreciated most about both of these pistols was the G10 grips. The grips provide an excellent connection to the guns and keep them in place. The texturing is aggressive enough to give you a rock solid hold, but not so much so that it irritates. The thumb relief for the magazine release button could be a bit larger, if I were to nitpick.
The accuracy of both Citadel 1911s is most respectable. For entry-level 1911s I frankly expected a greater spread on the target than I got with this pair. Both handguns punched respectable groups from a rest at 50 feet with the compact model performing slightly better — it does have a lighter, smoother trigger.
The entry-level 1911 market is always rich with choices, but not usually with all the extras that Legacy Sports provides with these Citadel pistols. This new pair in flat dark earth Cerakote, equipped with so many upscale extras like the G10 grips, full length stainless steel guide rod, light trigger and hammer — just to name a few — are great value.
These guns are fit very well, and in fact, the beavertail and grip safety blending on the Citadels is better than on some top brand 1911s I own. The Compact is concealed carry ready right out of the box. The Cerakote finish on these guns is excellent quality and should last a lifetime.