John Strayer’s 50K Round 1911
February 17th, 2020
5 minute read
In the recent profile of shooting champion John Strayer, The Armory Life editor Mike Humphries noted that John was still using a Springfield Armory TGO-II 1911 that had consumed some 50,000 trouble-free rounds. He thought that was worthy of more discussion, so he asked me to dig a bit deeper on it with John.
Strayer and his wife Terri own two thriving businesses, John’s Lawn Equipment and the ProArms Gun Shop, both in their hometown of Live Oak, Florida. Shooting is their primary hobby. Their FFL gives them access to factory ammo at wholesale pricing — a handy thing for a serious competitive shooter.
When John decided to focus on 1911s for competition, he bought a number of high-end specimens of various makes. The one that seemed to shoot the best for him was his Springfield Armory TGO II. Hence, it got to devour the lion’s share of the ammo supply.
For those who may not be familiar with the TGO series, they are named after the shooter who helped develop them — Rob Leatham, otherwise known as “The Great One” (TGO). As a side note, Leatham stresses that he did not come up with the name, but rather was dubbed that by his friend and renowned shooter, Brian Enos. He points out that Jackie Gleason was truly The Great One…
There were three levels of the TGO series: I, II and III. The TGO I is most like the first gun Leatham built for himself to his specifications. The TGO II was a more affordable version of the TGO I, and the TGO III featured a lightweight frame. Currently, the TGO I is still available through Springfield Custom.
Maintenance and Diet
As you probably could tell from the title, John has put around 50,000 rounds through his TGO II. He has been through multiple recoil springs in this particular TGO II, partly for routine maintenance but largely because he was experimenting with different power level loads that had to cycle the gun reliably. He is currently running a DPM Recoil Reduction System, which he feels does live up to its name. He admits to being lax on firing pin spring changes, having done so only once that he can recall during his 50K round time frame.
The pistol is free of cracks anywhere, and he has only changed the slide stop once, to install a larger one for faster reloads. But what of barrel life?
John estimates that about 30,000 of those rounds were American Eagle 230-gr. full metal jacket that he bought several cases at a time when he didn’t think he had time to reload. When he got more serious about winning, crafting a softer-kicking round that still made power factor in competition motivated him to get into reloading. He has settled on a load that makes power factor with 230-gr. coated round nose bullets.
None of these have been +P loads, and .45 ACP being a low-pressure cartridge, his TGO’s barrel has stood up well. On visual inspection, it looks surprisingly good. I put it on the bench and tried it out for myself, and with the AE load and John’s current preferred reload, it showed sub-2″ 25 yard grouping potential.
For perspective on this, I talked to Springfield Armory’s Dave Williams, one of the world’s leading authorities on 1911 pistols. As to barrel life, he replied, “That’s a tough one. A typical Springfield Armory production barrel service life is expected to be in excess of 50K rounds or so. Accuracy will start to drop off some time after 20K or so but this can only be detected with a Ransom Rest or carefully shooting from a good rest with match ammo…This all depends on how the barrel is maintained over its life. I’ve seen barrels still serviceable with over 80K.”
What about a 1911’s service life in general? Dave advised, “I’ve seen our 1911’s go 80K plus. The great thing about a 1911 is it’s kinda like a small block Chevy that’s rebuildable multiple times and thus can last and last.”
General maintenance is important. Springs, of course, and some other parts simply wear out and require regular replacement by the responsible owner. It’s analogous to tires and spark plugs with an automobile. Dave Williams suggests the following for routine parts replacement: “Recoil springs and firing pin springs: 5-7K. Mainsprings and sear springs: 20K or so. Slide stops really don’t have a specific service life, but periodic inspection will let you know if there is a reason to replace; I would always replace the slide stop when or if the barrel is replaced.”
Thanks to Dave Williams for sharing his knowledge, and to John Strayer for sharing his well-worn 50,000 round TGO-II .45 for this article. It looks like a well-made 1911 like a Springfield Armory and their forged frames and slides will give you a long service life. As a result, Strayer expects that pistol to keep adding to its round count for a long, long time.
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