As far as 1911 air gun clones go, Umarex offers a wide variety. One of the most versatile is their Elite Force 1911 A1 airsoft gun. It is a faithful copy of a 1911, and perfect for force-on-force training.
The gun itself is a spot-on copy of a traditional 1911, mostly. The slide comes in a hair short of that on a real 1911 A1. The barrel has a threaded orange tip extending beyond the end of the slide. Everything else, from the magazine to the hump-and-bump sights will be familiar to those who know their mid-century single-actions.
The magazine holds the CO2 cartridge, so it has a substantial size and a similar weight to a fully loaded .45 ACP mag. This makes mag changes a bit more realistic and allows for functional reloads between CO2 cartridges, too. The airsoft pellets, or as in the airsoft industry, airsoft BBs, load straight into the magazine, too. If you are carrying a centerfire that holds 7 rounds, I’d highly recommend you load only 7 here too, so you don’t get lazy with your round counting.
Like most A1s, this one has a spur hammer and thin grip safety. For those of you, like me, that have meaty hands, there is a risk of hammer bite. It is nothing like the bite you get from a .45 ACP’s slide, but you will feel a pinch if your grip rides high.
The grip safety works, as does the thumb safety. The cross-platform functionality of the airsoft gun and a traditional 1911 is perfectly executed.
Working your way down the grip, you’ll find an arched mainspring housing. While those are out of fashion on modern 1911s, they’re historically accurate. This one is checkered, for extra grip. Below it is a lanyard loop.
This gun does have a full-sized frame, which means it will fit in most 1911 holsters with little difficulty. The orange tip may pose a bit of a challenge for those holsters with closed up ends.
As I mentioned, the gun comes with hump-and-bump sights. These keep true to the historical feel but are not optimal for defensive use or rapid target acquisition. If you’re just looking for an airsoft gun to live out your Call-of-Duty fantasies, then that’s no problem. Very few people carry 1911s with the old-school sights on them anymore, so it might be something I’d look and swapping out. Ideally, if this is a gun you’re using as a stand-in for your carry gun, you would have the same sights on both.
There are other aspects of this gun that are notoriously old-school. The mag release button is small and only works for right-handed shooters. The thumb safety is also diminutive and lacks ambidexterity. If you’ve spent any time with a modified 1911, these will feel so very small by comparison. But they are true to the A1 design.
The only real texture on the slide comes from the vertical serrations on the rear. The front strap on the frame is smooth. There is no rail and no forward serrations on the slide.
The grip itself is plastic, molded into a checkered pattern. It feels a bit slick in the hand. It doesn’t have the warmth of wood, or the bite of the old hard rubber grips.
Even the trigger is a good simulacrum. The shoe has a slight texture to it, and it pulls straight back. There isn’t a clean break. Instead, the trigger stacks just slightly before the hammer falls. While I can’t feel a crisp snap like I can from a good 1911 trigger, it is completely predictable. It isn’t a bad trigger, but it will frustrate dedicated 1911 trigger snobs. But remember, this is an airsoft gun. You want a perfect 1911 trigger, you’ll need to shell out $3,000.
For those who are looking for a historical angle to their airsoft games, this is a must. It is ideal. The gun functions flawlessly. The blowback action is a decent representation of recoil. It looks, feels, and functions like a solid old 1911.
Yet I see the real potential here as something slightly different. I’m a proponent of force-on-force training. I’ve written about the subject a lot, actually. There’s no replacement for training. Adding adrenaline into your training will give you the best evaluation of your skill set. Cardboard targets don’t shoot back. Good colleagues with airsoft guns can. Put on some safety gear and try it sometime. It will change how you train, I guarantee. And that may change how you respond in a real crisis.
For the traditional A1 enthusiast, this is it. For force on force, this is a great choice. For those looking for a historical homage they can shoot in the backyard, there’s no better choice than the Elite Force 1911 A1.
David Higginbotham is a writer and educator who lives in Arkansas. After years of writing and consulting in the firearms industry, he's coming back to his roots with air guns.