Product Review: Winchester WIN1911 Ammunition

JHP and Colt with mag (web)

Back in November, when Winchester revealed they were planning to release a new line of ammo designed specifically for John Browning’s most iconic handgun design, you were probably interested…unless you’re a Glock fan. (Just kidding, guys.) Either way, you should be interested now. Winchester’s goal of an ammunition line worthy to bear the name of the 1911 left big shoes to fill, but the end product is more than interesting: it’s the real deal.

Win1911 box (web)High hopes are a dangerous thing; they have the ability to doom a product from the start if it fails to live up to its own marketing. I’ll admit that I had my concerns because of the incredible amount of attention Win1911 received in the days leading up to the SHOT Show (and the days since), but inspecting and shooting more of it left no doubt in my mind that this ammo lives up to the hype…and then some. That’s saying a lot, because the 1911 is my favorite handgun design, so I had high expectations from Winchester on this one. They didn’t disappoint.

The first thing you should notice about a Win1911 cartridge is that it doesn’t look like run-of-the-mill ammunition. Nickel-plated jackets give this ammo a distinctly awesome appearance. Available in full metal jacket (X45T) and jacketed hollow point (X45P) varieties, everything about these rounds is optimized to run well in the 1911 platform. This ammo was designed to make sure you can have confidence in your 1911 from the range to the nightstand, and everywhere in between. It is true that a well-tuned 1911 will run almost anything, but most 1911s aren’t well-tuned (if they’re tuned at all), and that makes consistent, high-quality ammunition even more important where a poorly-adjusted gun might be more sensitive to the quality of the ammunition used.

The profiles of both the JHP (left) and the FMJ-FP (right) are virtually identical.

The profiles of both the JHP (left) and the FMJ-FP (right) are virtually identical.

My first impressions of the product were good. Both the full metal jacket (FMJ) and the jacketed hollow point (JHP) varieties were blemish-free, came out of the box completely untarnished, and had a nice crimp to them. Per Winchester, since this was their first real widespread use of a 230 grain, flat-nosed FMJ, they took a lot of time to make sure they got the profile right. Moreover, the profiles of the JHP and the FMJ are almost identical, which ensures that if your gun feeds one, it will feed the other without a hitch. This was my first opportunity to handle the JHP because all of the rounds I put downrange at SHOT Media Day last month were FMJ, and I was thoroughly impressed.

We started out the day case-gauging fifty rounds of each type in an EGW min-spec case gauge, and every round was in spec. After that, we randomly measured the overall length (OAL) of ten FMJ and ten JHP rounds and recorded the results. Both were hovering right around 1.21″, with the OAL of the JHP being longer by a margin of .0075″ on average. SAAMI spec for .45 Auto ranges from 1.190″-1.275″, so these rounds were right in there. Although a lot of round-nosed FMJ was (and is) loaded longer than 1.21″ (typically closer to 1.25″), many other flat-point FMJ loads and almost all JHP loads are on the shorter side due to different feed geometry. The Win1911 JHP rounds I measured were virtually identical in length to the Winchester Ranger Bonded 230 grain JHP I have on hand (one of my all-time favorite self-defense loads in .45). Between that comparison and the simple fact that the Win1911 hollow point was one of the smoothest-feeding JHP’s I’ve ever used in any caliber or platform, I’m pretty sure Winchester did their homework on this one. The brass length and case rims were also dead-on, and held extremely close tolerances from one round to the next.

Winchester advertises these two rounds as being matched for the same point of impact through a given gun. Through the 1911’s I’ve tested both rounds in, that claim gets a check mark next to it as well. One slight discrepancy between the two rounds was the velocity. Through the same 5″ Kart barrel, the average velocity for 20 shots was 839 fps from the FMJ and 859 fps from the JHP (measured with a Pro Chrono Digital Chronograph- 126 ft. elevation, 53% humidity, 62° F). It is worth noting that both rounds were consistent from shot to shot; the JHP was just a little bit faster across the board. Both rounds came in just under the advertised velocity of 880 fps, but neither missed it by much, and this isn’t a round that’s defined by its velocity. Winchester wasn’t trying to make a 230 grain bullet leave the barrel at 1050 fps; they were trying to develop a solid, standard-velocity load that would function in any properly manufactured 1911 pistol. In my estimation they did just that; 840-860 fps is the traditional sweet spot for standard .45 loads anyway, so I certainly don’t think any less of this product for that result.

Shot off-hand at 15 yards, this off-hand group measuring just over 1.25" was shot by the author with the Win1911 JHP load.

Shot standing at 15 yards, this off-hand group measuring just over 1.25″ was shot by the author with the Win1911 JHP load.

Accuracy was similar between the FMJ and JHP, but the undisputed edge through both test guns (an EGW Custom with a Kart barrel and a Colt built by Novak’s) went to the JHP. Standing at a distance of 15 yards, shooting off-hand, I shot one of the best groups of my life with the JHP. Center-to-center, it measured slightly over 1.25″, with four of the holes falling within .75″. This wasn’t a bullseye gun, and this isn’t advertised as match ammo, but it blew my makeshift “X-ring” out of the water. To put it mildly, I was impressed. (Yes, I tend to like products that make me look good.)

Overall, Win1911 has proven to be reliable, consistent, and high-quality ammunition. It’s a nice standard-velocity load that should cycle any in-spec 1911 100% of the time. Through a couple hundred rounds, there were zero malfunctions of any kind, and the accuracy was very good. The big surprise here was that the JHP felt like it fed even more smoothly than the FMJ, which goes to show exactly how fantastic the bullet profile is. Ejection through both test guns was close to perfect, with most of the casings landing in a nice circle at the 4 o’clock position. This is no hotter than most standard factory ball loads, but it is more accurate, more consistent, and cleaner-shooting. If you’re a fan of the 1911, this load should function in any of them. Especially for owners of older 1911s, which weren’t really designed to run anything other than FMJ, the Win1911 JHP might well have a profile that will allow reliable function in your specific gun with better terminal performance than military ball. So whether you’re shooting a 1944 Remington Rand or a 2010 Colt Series 70, Win1911 allows you to embrace your inner pistolero and sling lead with confidence. HP

Win1911 boxes with Colt (web)

-Colt Driver; Product Photos by kChanko; Win1911 X45T (FMJ) $26-$30, X45P (JHP) $36-$40

Handgun Planet would like to thank Winchester Ammunition for the evaluation sample used for this review. All function tests were performed using Wilson Combat ETM HD/+P magazines (previously tested here). In addition to the two test guns referenced above, we also ran Win1911 through a Kimber TLE/RL II with no malfunctions.

*Originally Posted 2/21/2014

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