Al Capone 1911 – New in the Box from Doug Turnbull – New Gun Review


If you have always wanted a 1911 from the early history of the gun, the new Turnbull 1911 is a great way to own one that is essentially “new in the box” circa 1918.

By Paul Helinski, Editor

Turnbull Manufacturing

The finer things in life are sometimes just those things that technology can’t capture. If a gun is a classic, like the 1911, modern updates are great to carry an effective design forward. But there is a magic to the old guns that Cerakote and Picatinny rails can’t match for some. Doug Turnbull has been restoring classic 1911s, cowboy guns and classic shotguns for decades, with the correct bluing, case coloring and even the original roll engravings. If you missed our first article on Turnbull restorations, you really should read it.  The problem with the old guns, though, is that there are only so many of them that are good candidates for restoration.  And for 1911s, the further we get from the year 1911, the more any 100% original gun will be worth, regardless of condition.  That is why Doug decided to bring the 1911 into his family of newly manufactured firearms, a list that includes the Winchester 1886, Colt Peacemaker style revolvers, and we recently reviewed the Turnbull steel version of the AR-15.  If you have always wanted a 1911 that looked, felt and worked like a gun new in the box circa pre-1920, the Turnbull 1911 is the most accurate gun you could possibly own.  We got to shoot Doug’s version of this modern classic, and sure enough, the safety is even stiff. These guns are available directly from Turnbull Restorations for $1,950.


Turnbull Restorations has been the leading industry restoration service for decades. This new gun is blued with Carbona bluing, just like the original 1911s, and the controls and internals are according to the original design as well.

At the heart of the new Turnbull 1911 is the finish of the gun. It is called Carbona bluing, and it is the original blackish type of bluing found on all of the guns of the early 20th Century. All of the metal parts of the gun are blued in this way, except the magazine which is half blue, like the originals from the teens, which were the first 1911s on the market. The hammer, trigger, grip safety and thumb safety on the Turnbull 1911 are also period-correct, as are the internals of the gun.  The grips are hand-cut double diamond checkering, and holding this gun, you would swear that you just opened a box from Colt in 1918.  Even the screws are super polished to a look and feel that you just can’t capture with a modern firearm.

It always amazes me when someone says that they don’t shoot their old and collectible firearms that have been used and shot before landing in this owner’s hands.  As long as you stick to Hoppes and Rem-Oil, there isn’t much harm that you will do to a gun that has seen hundreds or even thousands of rounds. It isn’t like if you ever sell it the buyer is going to ask you the “round count,” so for heaven’s sake, shoot your guns!  This gun, however, is new, and if you buy them relatively soon, you will receive a “new classic” with a low serial number.  Our test gun is #27.  That feels like a huge ouch to shoot it, because with this much attention to detail and the now famous name of Doug Turnbull on the gun, these “new in the box” 1911s are sure to become collectible 20 years from now. But shoot it we did, and you definitely get that Al Capone feeling at the range. The sights were/are dreadful on these guns. The safety always starts out really stiff, and the trigger pull has some creep, but 1918 is 1918, and a slicked up Colt was not what people bought back then. Al Capone’s Colt 45 felt just like this one to shoot, and that’s pretty cool.


The safety on the Turnbull 1911 is single sided, for right handers, and small and stiff just like the original new guns.

The only thing you will not experience that an original purchaser may have back in 1918 is a gun that doesn’t work right.  Our test gun ran flawlessly with both roundball and flat faced Federal Guard Dog carry ammo. Turnbull Restorations has never been a “gunsmith” type of shop. You don’t send them guns to slick up or fix.  Mostly they just restore the finishes, grips/stocks and the correct markings on the guns. That is why I was concerned that these newly made 1911s would not work so well, but my concerns were unfounded. We didn’t have any failures at all, and the accuracy of the gun was actually pretty good.  That should tell you that these are not “slapped together” guns with wide-open tolerances made only for the sake of a pretty finish.  Both reliability and accuracy only combine when a gun is made to exacting specifications of a fairly tight tolerance. I picked the Federal Guard Dog ammo because it is an extra light bullet, due to a plastic insert inside the slug. If the gun cycles well and shoots well with a light and flat bullet, you aren’t going to see a problem with it regardless of ammo choice.

The only caveat to this gun is that you have to wipe it down. Otherwise your fingerprints will be immortalized in rust.  Early bluing is really just rust itself, or oxidation technically.  You don’t have to bathe them in oil to keep them nice, but a gun cloth with some gun oil is an absolute requirement. I use Rem-Oil on all of my old-type bluing guns and, combined with a Goldenrod in my safe, have never had an issue with everlasting fingerprints. You can see from the pictures here how quickly the prints build up on the gun from range handling, if you choose to shoot yours, of course. They are also making a version of this gun for Cowboy Action Shooting in the Single Action Shooting Society (SASS) class called “Wild Bunch,” and you can have your SASS number put on the gun as the serial number.

You will not find the Turnbull guns at your local dealer.  Contact them directly, and fair warning, there is usually a waiting list, so if you want one of these guns for Christmas you might want to get right on it this morning.


The trigger pull is predictably light because this is a single action pistol, but it has the scratchiness and drag of the originals, just like Al Capone had to deal with.


The Blazer ammo is underpowered but cycled perfectly in the gun.


Federal Guard Dog is a 135 grain bullet because it has a plastic insert in the middle. It was low recoiling, and again, cycled perfectly.


Both types of ammo grouped well at 10 yards. This should tell you that the Turnbull 1911 was not just a sloppy tolerance slapped together project. It is a fine firearm, made to original standards.


All of the steel parts are blued to the same color as the frame. The original magazine was only half blued, as is this one.


Doug is personally inspecting each gun for fit, finish and function before his proof mark is applied.


As expected, the fit and finish of the gun are meticulous.


Hand cut checkering is a really nice touch on a gun that is only a couple grand. For essentially a “custom 1911,” made today to look like it was made right after WWI, this is a very reasonable price.

{ 21 comments… add one }
  • Donte April 13, 2016, 4:51 pm

    I can’t hear antiyhng over the sound of how awesome this article is.

  • Phil Mastrp February 17, 2016, 1:58 am

    I am. Gun collector for year mostly 1911,s. I have almost 30 in my collection. The price range is from $800 – $4500 each. Turn I did have Turnbull case harden and blue niter my hardware. Fo a surpisingly reasoninable price. Now let me get to the point I agree with mos of the comment listed here. Doug you really have to get a reality check, maybe the hat you where is to tight. Your restoration work is fantastic and I do get what your trying to do. But if you know guns then you would know that your 1911 is worth half at most of what your asking. I thank you for leaving all the negative posts. That tells me you have moxy!

  • Larry Holmes June 20, 2015, 11:23 am

    Obviously, some don’t get it…beautiful pistol, and by the way, junk mismatched 45colts are above the 2 grand level..this gun you can use and hand it down to your family

  • abenaki January 11, 2014, 3:28 pm

    Turnbull 1911 45 good looking, pricey . I would buy a smith and Wesson 945 i price range used $ 1400 to $ 2000 new in the box $2400. they don’t make 945 I any more. They are highly sought after.

  • Lopaka Kanaka December 26, 2013, 12:53 pm

    Lopaka Kanaka:
    For a 2 grand 1911 it sounds like we are not going to spend our money on this Turnbull replica. Great information on not what to purchase in a 1911. My 1911’s are half the cost of Turnbull replica and the 25 and 50 yard shoots are something that will stop anyone in there track. If you are going to buy Turnbull replica buy it for the low number and keep it till the price in value has gone up.

  • Adam December 23, 2013, 10:10 am

    Anything built to be a collector item is NEVER a collectable. These are just replicas which gives them no real added value. Some old plain Colt 1911 from the 50s would have more value. $2,000? What an insult. Like those $200 Obama commemorative plates. LOL

  • chris November 27, 2013, 1:26 am

    I have my grandfathers and I shoot it 3 or 4 times a year.It was manufactured in 1928. I thought the gun wasn’t very accurate until my son picked it up and hit the target every time, darn it, another thing he beats me at.

  • dustin November 20, 2013, 8:26 pm

    I have never been a fan of 1911s, but this one is a beauty.But $2,000, great scott!

  • MRM November 13, 2013, 8:08 pm

    I understand and appreciate the concept, but like others have said, 2Gs is not a reasonable price for what you get. When I first started reading this I was excited, I’m actually in the market for a 1911 and I prefer GI models to the tricked out ones and would love to have one that is as true to the original as possible. But, that makes the gun, to me, a less practical value. I’m not sure if I’m making my point clear but I would probably pay between $600 to maybe $1000?

  • user November 13, 2013, 9:16 am

    For $2k, I’d rather go buy two old Colts.

  • dale gervich November 12, 2013, 10:07 pm

    What a great gun, and idea, I have purchased many 1911’s brand new over 50 years ago and they were finished much better then than they are now. To have one of the Turnbull recreations for me would be a bargain, and the Lord wiling and my Beautiful wife not divorceing me i shall have one by the end of the year.

    Thanks for the great review,
    Dale Gervich

  • dale gervich November 12, 2013, 10:06 pm

    What a great gun, and idea, I have purchased many 1911’s brand new over 50 years ago and they were finished much better then than they are now. To have one of the Turnbull recreations for me would be a bargain, and the Lord wiling and my Beautiful wife not divorceing me i shall have one by the end of the year.

    Thanks for the great review,
    Dale Gervich

  • Evan November 12, 2013, 1:22 pm

    I think this gun is pretty cool, but $2 grand? That’s a bit ridiculous. I don’t think $2000 is ever a reasonable price for a pistol, unless you’re talking some super competition pistol that can do things far beyond the capacity of most pistols. Paying extra for design flaws is a bad idea. I don’t care if Al Capone’s pistol had a scratchy trigger, I don’t want one in any gun I buy. Plus, I don’t know what a 1911 went for in the 20s, but I somehow doubt it was the equivalent of $2000 2013 dollars.

    • M lodge November 12, 2013, 2:26 pm

      ….and you completely missed the point

  • R. Sweeney November 12, 2013, 12:02 pm

    I really don’t get this gun. I mean, 2-grand for a 1911 with stiff operation and lousy sights? There are an awful lot of modern, highly accurate, factory accessorized 1911s out there for that kind of money. Would an original early 20th century 1911 be a cool thing to have? Hell yes! That would be a piece of real history, not a knock-off “relic” like something sold to naive tourists. If the price were $500 I could see it, but definitely not 2-grand.

  • bph9 November 12, 2013, 11:10 am

    Could you tell me if the slide and frame and internal parts are forgings or castings?

    Also I am a little leery about the 10 yard testing as this usually indicates the pistol did not shoot well at 25 yards.

    Also is the barrel a one piece or two piece.

    What type of rifling is in the barrel, hammer forged, polygonal, or original deep cut hand lapped rifling.

    • Administrator November 12, 2013, 11:13 am

      It is all forgings. Didn’t shoot it at 25 the sights are awful. Er, there is a picture of the barrel. Call them on the rifling.

  • Jim Pryor November 12, 2013, 9:24 am

    I’ve owned many guns but I have always wanted a 1911 Colt. This REALLY looks GREAT !!!!!~

    • cherokee1934 November 13, 2013, 8:34 pm

      I can tell you for sure that they shoot absolutely great.

  • Jake November 12, 2013, 9:23 am

    In the close up photo of the trigger what is that build up at the back of the trigger? That doesn’t look right or properly finished.

    • Administrator November 12, 2013, 9:31 am

      It’s just oil.

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