True Value

The Auto-Ordnance 1911TC Stainless Steel .45 ACP Is Reliable And Accurate.

The latest 1911 .45 Automatic Colt Pistol from Auto-Ordnance is the Model 1911TC Custom Model. Whereas my original Auto-Ordnance is a basic no-frills, military finished Government-style .45, this latest iteration of the 1911 from Auto-Ordnance definitely rates the title of Custom Model. The frame and slide are satin stainless steel instead of matte finish blue and virtually everything else on this exceptionally good-looking pistol is a departure from the original.

The stainless steel slide has cocking serrations both front and rear and the ejection port is relieved for positive removal of fired cartridges. The slide is marked “THOMPSON CUSTOM 1911” on the right side with the Thompson logo consisting of a bullet with “Thompson” in script inscribed inside the bullet. Both markings are nicely carried out and do not have the cheap look found on too many pistols.

The low-profile sights, both front and rear, are set in dovetails with the rear sight adjustable for windage by loosening a set screw, tapping the sight in either direction, and then re-locking this screw. Both sights are black with the front sight being a post tapered to the front while the back sight is tapered to the rear and serrated to minimize glare. Both sights are square and the front sight has just the right amount of daylight showing on each side when viewed in the square notch of the rear sight.

The stainless steel frame is marked on the right side above the trigger very inconspicuously with “AUTO-ORDNANCE CORP.” above “WORCHESTER, MA.” and a third line with the serial number. That’s it as far as markings go making this 1911 unique as far as advertising and it is especially heartening not to see a warning label. On the right side of the frame we find the typical slide lock and thumb safety with both extended for ease of operation. The grip safety is of the beavertail style with a memory bump and the typical magazine release button is on the left side below the trigger. Ejection of the magazine is exceptionally positive when this button is pushed. The front strap is nicely checkered for a secure hold while the mainspring housing is flat, checkered, and black. Both of these together prevent shifting of the Auto-Ordnance 1911 in the hand when shooting.

Overleaf: The Auto-Ordnance 1911 is shown with the new Barnes .45 ACP
TAC-XP load featuring an all-copper 185-grain hollowpoint. The flashlight
is the Streamlight Strion LED. The new Barnes .45 ACP TAC-XP is designed
for personal defense.

The hammer is of the Commander style and matched up with a skeletonized trigger. The trigger pull measures a creep-free 5 pounds. Slide to frame fit is very tight with no perceptible play and the barrel has a slight collar at the end to aid in a tight lock-up with the barrel bushing. Some like them, some don’t, however, whatever the case this 1911 has a guide rod. Grips are a checkered laminate of the Double Diamond-style with the Auto-Ordnance Thompson logo medallion installed in the center.

All in all this is an exceptionally good-looking pistol and as such an added bonus is it also fits into what the Taffin Family calls a “Utility Gun” (see the sidebar for the Taffin Family’s definition). With the fixed sights and the satin stainless steel finish this is the pistol made for hard used in rough situations without the user being concerned about hurting it. There is always a place for a high polished blue 1911 with ivory stocks, something we often referred to as a Bar-B-Q gun, and there is a very practical place for a 1911 setup and finished the way this Auto-Ordnance Thompson Custom 1911 is. Whether carried in a proper holster, or stuffed into my waist belt it is ready for any kind of duty. Enough talk, let’s shoot it.

For testing the Auto-Ordnance .45 1911, I used a varied assortment of 24 different loads, both factory and handloads, as well as jacketed hollowpoints, full metal jackets, and hardcast semi-wadcutters and roundnosed versions. It fed and extracted everything perfectly except two other handloads both using semi-wadcutter bullets and the fault was totally with the ammunition and not the Auto-Ordnance 1911. When testing any sixgun or semi-automatic I normally use a large sheet of manila paper with either nine or 12 targets made by using 1-1/2-inch by 3-inch stick on pasters of red, black or orange. I use a template to lay out my pattern and once those little rectangles are stuck on they will not come off and they make excellent aiming points.

The Auto-Ordnance 1911TC is a budget-priced pistol with many upgrades
sought by today’s shooters including front and rear slide serrations
and a lowered and flared ejection port among others.

I made it through the first nine targets with everything going well and then my groups started to shift and I discovered the Allen screw holding the rear sight in place had loosened allowing the rear sight windage to change. That was taken care of, I shot a few more targets, and then my point-of-impact shifted quite dramatically and I found the front sight had moved quite a bit to the left and was simply too loose in the dovetail. With my friend Denis helping me we managed to make a shim using three layers of notebook paper cut to size. This was an in-the-field emergency repair and it worked, however groups shots slightly to the right and rather than try to adjust the point-of-impact I was simply happy to have the front sight stay in place. The simple solution will be for my gunsmith Tom at Buckhorn to make a proper metal shim and adjust the front sight for proper windage.

Several loads performed exceptionally well with the best factory load being Buffalo Bore’s 200-grain +P JHP clocking out at 1,175 feet per second and placing five shots in 1 inch. The Auto-Ordnance 1911 .45 ACP turned out to be an exceptional shooter with my cast bullet handloads using both the RCBS mold 45-201 at 830 fps over 5.0 grains of WW231 and Lyman’s mold 452460 over 7.0 grains of Unique and 950 fps, both also shooting into 1 inch. The greatest surprise was that afforded by using not factory ammo, not my handloads with my carefully cast, sized, and lubed bullets, but rather my handloads using the Oregon Trail 200-grain hardcast semi-wadcutter. Over 5.0 grains of WW231 this bullet placed all five shots into 3/4 inch at 20 yards. I certainly can’t ask for any more than that. Complete results for all 24 loads are in the accompanying chart.
Except for the minor and easily solved problem of the front sight dovetail being slightly too large for the front sight itself, this Auto-Ordnance has proven itself to me to be an exceptionally high-quality 1911 at a most reasonable price.

Another of the upgraded features is the beavertail grip safety (above) with a memory pad to aid positive depression of the safety. The mainspring housing is flat and checkered. The grips are checkered wood. The frontstrap (below) features checkering for a firm grip and the safety is longer than standard and easy to use.

My First Auto-Ordnance 1911

John always enjoys shooting an accurate 1911 and the Auto-Ordnance
shot better than many more expensive guns in his personal battery.

Growing up in the 1940s and 1950s I had the privilege of knowing many returning World War II veterans. My stepdad, three of my older cousins and many of my high school teachers had also served in Europe and the Pacific. One particular friend, James, asked me back in the 1970s if I could find him a replacement barrel for the 1911 he had carried in Europe. That was no problem whatsoever and his 1911 was properly equipped. He passed away in the 1990s and I asked his widow, also a good friend of our family, if she wanted to sell his 1911—that is, if none of the kids wanted it. She said they did not and she would be happy to sell it to me. This began a long line of good news/bad news.

The first bad news was the fact she couldn’t find it for several weeks and then one Saturday she called me with the good news it had been located and she would bring it to church the next morning. The bad news was the gun she had found was not a 1911 but actually a High Standard HD Military .22 from the 1940s. The good news was she was willing to sell it at a reasonable price, however the bad news was the hammer was broken. That became good news when my local gunsmith was able to make one.

She continued to search for the 1911 and the good news was she finally found it tucked up under the bed. The good news continued as once again she said she would bring this one to church. It certainly looked like good news would now reign, and it did, until I saw the 1911. The bad news was it was not his original Government Model from the War but was actually a more modern Auto-Ordnance 1911. I certainly thought that was bad news and the bad news continued in that the original 1911 has never been found so he must have sold it somewhere along the way.

As I looked at that Auto-Ordnance .45, I thought this is really bad news. I expected a “real” .45 Government Model and instead I received a stand-in. There was some good news in that it did not demand the price of a real Government Model. Since I had promised to purchase it I felt obligated and did my duty. I felt I had really missed out—until I fired the Auto-Ordnance .45. It shot accurately and right to point of aim and fed everything I put through it absolutely and totally flawlessly. My thoughts were this is not really bad news at all, in fact I have lucked into some really good news. That Auto-Ordnance joined a select group of “Beater Guns” in the Taffin Family.

“Utility Gun” Defined

In our family a “Utility Gun” has to be a totally reliable, excellent shooting handgun with a finish that allows it to be used without worrying about scratches or wear. It could also be called a Rough Duty or Bad Weather gun as when the conditions get rough the blued-steel, ivory-stocked pistol or sixgun carried in a floral carved holster is left safely at home while the Utility Gun serves without complaint.

This category includes several naturally matte finished Smith & Wesson Highway Patrolman .357 Magnums, a custom Ruger Flat-Top .357 Magnum converted to .44 Special and then bead blasted before bluing, and of course, the Auto-Ordnance .45 with its military-type finish. Today with the proliferation of both stainless steel and black polymer-framed handguns the vast majority of sidearms now fit the Taffin Utility Gun definition. That Auto-Ordnance .45, which disappointed me at first sight is now a valued member of the family and never to be sold. In fact, it outshoots some pistols costing four times as much as I paid for it. I think there’s a lesson in there somewhere.


The original Auto-Ordnance Corporation goes back nearly 100 years. It was founded in 1916 by Col. John Thompson to produce his .45 Thompson Submachine Gun, the famous “Tommy Gun.” In 1949 the assets were purchased by the Kilgore Company known mostly for producing kid’s cast-iron cap guns. The assets then passed to George Numrich and consisted mainly of a truckload of crates. These crates contained tools and parts as well as completed Thompson Submachine Guns. In 1974 Numrich Arms Corporation officially reregistered the original Auto-Ordnance name. Today Auto-Ordnance is part of the Kahr family and still produces many variations of the original Thompson Submachine Guns with one major change: they are all semi-automatics. In addition to the .45 Thompsons, Auto-Ordnance also offers several versions of the 1911 .45 ACP Government Model.
By John Taffin

Thompson Custom 1911
Maker: Auto-Ordnance
130 Goddard Memorial Dr.
Worchester, MA 01603
(508) 795-3919
Action: Single, semi-automatic,
Caliber: .45 ACP
Capacity: 7+1
Barrel Length: 5″
Overall Length: 8.5″
Weight: 39 ounces, Finish: Stainless steel
Sights: Low-profile combat-style
Grips: Laminated checkered Double-Diamond-style
Price: $815

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