The Ed Brown Special Forces Carry is one of a long list of purpose driven guns from a family of dedicated 1911 manufacturers that have been defining quality for more than 40 years. Ed Brown’s reputation for quality and precision has placed them in the top tier of pistol makers. For scores of Ed Brown owners, the guns are unequivocally worth their respective prices. Buying an Ed Brown is, without any sense of irony, an investment.
- Caliber: .45 ACP
- Weight with unloaded magazine: 35 ounces
- Height: 5.5”
- Length: 7.75”
- Magazine Capacity: 7
- Recoil Spring: 20 lbs
- Texture: Chainlink III treatment on frame and housing
- Grip shape: Single stack Commander Bobtail®
- Material: Steel
- Finishes Available: Stainless or Gen4 coating
- Barrel length: 4.25”
- Barrel material: T-416 stainless steel, match grade
- Twist Rate: 1-16” left hand
- Sights: 3-dot night sights
- Grips: Black G10
- Trigger: three hole aluminum Factory setting: 3.5 – 4.0 lbs
- MSRP: $2,745
What exactly do you get for the money you’d invest in an Ed Brown 1911? The question is an important one. The decision to buy an Ed Brown wouldn’t be one that most readers of GunsAmerica would make on sheer impulse. And we live in a world that is filled with functional 1911s that come in under $1,000. So how do you justify the cost?
This is actually easier to explain than I’d thought it would be. I’ve shot my fair share of really nice guns. I’ve also shot a lot of expensive guns (not all of which were worth what they cost). The Ed Brown Special Forces is a beast. It is also oddly sophisticated and refined. Above everything is this unifying attention to detail that is exceptionally rare these days. After shooting with the gun for more than a month, I have only found one miniscule cosmetic detail that I would be inclined to change. Only one. And we’ll get into that in a moment, but first let’s look at everything that is right about this gun.
To begin with, all of the parts are solid. This may be difficult to feel in some cases, but none of the guts are made from metal injection molded parts (which have a reputation for being weaker than parts cut from bars and billets of steel). Forged steel has a very different internal make up. At a molecular level, MIM parts don’t offer tremendous structural integrity. It may never be a problem for a gun, but it might. With an Ed Brown, you are paying for quality components. And these MIM parts are often the first things you replace on a lower cost 1911 when you begin to get really serious about customization and performance.
The questions then has to do with starting with the right parts, or adding them slowly over time. All of the various pieces and parts on an Ed Brown are fit by hand. While much of the 1911 world relies on modularity, the Ed Browns don’t. The slide glides on its rails with virtually no friction, and absolutely no play. It is very precise, and one of those feelings that is hard to capture in print. I’ve spent more time cycling the slide off the range as I have on it. The fit is so precise that I keep cycling, looking for that tell-tale grit or catch that is so common. But it isn’t there. Every piece of this gun fits, perfectly, and you’re not going to be able to make that claim when you take a base model 1911 and start swapping out parts.
Once the fit is right on the Special Forces, the tool marks are all buffed out. No matter how close you get to this pistol, you won’t find those imperfections. While I find file marks endearing on a 1911-A1 from 1943, I appreciate the brilliance of this finish. Keep looking closer and closer. Even the edges of the Chain link line up perfectly.
Like many of the other nice 1911s, the Special Forces Carry has functional details that assure reliable performance. The edges of the pistol are dehorned so there is less of a chance that they’ll hang on clothes. The feed ramp has been polished and the ejection port has been lowered and flared to ensure clean ejection.
As you’d expect, the Special Forces has a match grade barrel. The bushing is precisely fit, too. The combination is precise and reliable. Accuracy is almost a given with a pistol like this. The Ed Brown team shoots the guns before they leave the factory and makes sure they’re up to the level of performance they expect. If the gun isn’t, it doesn’t leave the factory.
The trigger is amazing. There is absolutely no creep. The break is clean and very light, right at 4.4 pounds. The break is lighter than most 1911s I’ve carried, but substantial enough that it isn’t going to surprise you. It is the best trigger I’ve felt on a 1911 in a long time, and I can’t remember ever pulling the trigger on one that I’d actually call better. If you want a lighter trigger, the Ed Brown crew can do that. All aspects of these pistols are customizable.
One feature that is subtle is the “memory groove” beaver-tail grip safety. I hadn’t noticed it the first few times I handled the gun, but I did when i was shooting. The grip safety is slightly higher than normal, which allows for you to hold higher on the gun. The slot for the hammer is deep and the bump at the safety’s base is large enough to ensure deployment.
The thumb safety is longer than most, and it doesn’t protrude as far off the side. The result is a safety that still allows for the mechanical advantage of a long lever, but one that isn’t going to get hung up on anything because it sticks off the side of the gun too far.
In addition to the standard cuts made on a 1911-A1, the Ed Browns have more of the trigger guard cut away. Like the grip safety and the thumb safety, this may seem miniscule and so subtle that it is almost unimportant, but it adds to the overall effectiveness of the gun. While any one of these might almost be a novelty, the combination of these features makes the Special Forces just a bit faster, more accurate, more reliable–in short, easier to use.
The logic here seems easy enough to spell out. Ed Brown makes 1911s that are more than aesthetic works of art. There are a lot of makers out there that do that. These are works of art because of their ability to perform reliably, continually. That the guns look good, and the Special Forces Carry certainly looks good, is an after thought to how the various components fit and function together with the shooter. It isn’t fancy that you’re paying for, but function. That’s why I love this gun so much. There’s no dinosaur bone. No Damascus. The stainless is meant for hard use. Some 1911s are so painfully beautiful that I’m hesitant to touch them. But you can keep the guns the are meant to look at.
So I’ve just finished what feels like a huge litany in defense of the price tag. How does it shoot? If I had anything negative to say here, I wouldn’t be writing this review. At all. The Ed Brown functions exactly as advertised, so it will probably be a short section.
We rand the Special Forces Carry from three different holster positions. While the shoulder holster is the most cinematic, strong side OWB is still the fastest. This is a gun that pulls well and points well. It is still a 1911, so all of the single-action credos apply. It is meant to be carried cocked and locked. At most, you’ll have eight rounds to work with. But if you hit what you’re aiming at, you shouldn’t have any problems.
From 7 yards, the gun shoots one ragged hole. At 25 yards the group widens for me a bit. I can put 7 rounds in a nice tight group, though, so I’m not complaining. And this is not a target gun. I’m more concerned with how quickly I can put two rounds in a 12 inch circle than I am with the ability to poke one hole. And I can draw and connect in just under 1.3 seconds, so I’ve got no complaints.
And the gun is dependable enough that I can put lead on that same 12 inch target from 100 yards. Not every time, mind you, but most shots. We shot this plate from 100 yards. At that distance, the front dot almost completely blocks out the target. But with a slight hold-over, the steel will ring. Bang-wait for it-ding. It is one of life’s subtle joys.
We had none. We ran junk ball ammo, reloads, and some heavy carry ammo through the pistol and didn’t have any issues. There were no failures to feed or extract. There wasn’t any issue with magazines or sights. In all, it was an incredibly solid performance from a gun that promises just that.
Earlier, I alluded to one minor cosmetic issue. This is my beef, and not something I’d hold Ed Brown responsible for, yet I’ll mention it here because I think such criticisms are warranted of guns in this price range. The grip panels are angular where the grip is angular. That is appropriate, but where the grip has been bobbed and rounded over, the G10 should really follow that line. This is clearly an aesthetic preference, and some thing that wouldn’t alter the way the gun shoots.
Philosophy of use
Now that we’re through with the nuts and bolts, I’d like to come back to the name itself. Special Forces implies something utilitarian and martial in nature. Several of the finishes and grip colors offer better camouflage than the stainless. While this one is ideally conditioned to be carried, I don’t know that I’d carry the stainless version, unless I was undercover in an urban environment. This feels more like a Secret Service pistol than a Special Forces gun, though I can’t say the same for the full sized versions. If you have read this far, I’d be willing to bet you’re open to carrying a 1911, and I’ve yet to see a 1911, anywhere, that I’d carry with as much confidence.
That’s what it comes down to for me. I own some 1911s. I have one that is 101 years old and one that is 2 years old. They’re great pistols. Yet even the new one spends more time in the safe than it does on my hip. I came into the gun world with a deep reverence for the 1911’s fighting past, and thought that the gun’s venerable history was all the assurance that I needed for daily carry. Yet I’ve had too many first hand experiences with the platform’s finicky nature. And now, when I reach for a concealed carry gun, I don’t reach for a 1911. The Ed Brown could change that. If I could afford the gun, I wouldn’t hesitate to carry it.