Wringing Out the Century Scout


by R.K. Campbell

photography by R.K. Campbell

March 14, 2006




No other handgun suits me quite as well as the 1911 design. John Browning’s .45 caliber semi auto  is among the most treasured handguns of the previous century and remains literally at the top of the heap in this century.  I realize the pistol is not perfect, but I am willing to devote the time and effort required to keep it operating reliably.  I am also willing to put range time into any handgun carried for serious business.  The 1911 man or woman has it easier than they once did.  The modern top of the line pistols are quite reliable for the most part, and do not require new sights, safeties and other modifications to work well.  Even the low end pistols now exhibit features that once were found only on top of the line handguns.  The 1911 is popular for a number of reasons, and I will list just a few.  The pistol has a single action firing system, which means several things.  The trigger is compressed straight to the rear for a clean break, and there is only one trigger action to master.  This break can be a very clean one.  The pistol features a low bore axis, which in simple terms means that the middle of the bore is just a little above the firing hand. The bore cannot rise as much in recoil when this low bore axis is present, there is simply no leverage for the gun to rise. The pistol is also quick into action when properly carried. The hammer is carried straight to the back, cocked, ready for action. This is referred to as "cocked and locked" carry.  Finally, and as important as any attribute, the pistol chambers a fight stopping cartridge.  The .45 ACP has been proven time and again in action against enemies of the Republic and motivated felons as well.  There have been numerous attempts to discredit the big bore cartridge and to make the small bores look better than what they are.  These attempts are silly at best and a hoax at their worst.  I cannot accept unverifiable reports and unrepeatable experiments - they are not science. I am not a scientist myself, only a careful experimenter, but the great Enrico Fermi and I share one great trait - neither of us has ever believed in Little Green Men.  Neither do I believe in so called experiments conducted in secret by unknown individuals.  The .45 stands head and shoulders above the rest and will remain so in the foreseeable future.  The .45 represents a good balance of power and control. Calibers less powerful don’t work nearly as well and calibers that are more powerful are much more difficult to control.

Due to the advantages of the type as well as its good sales in several renditions, the 1911 has been manufactured with varying degrees of success and product quality by dozens of manufacturers.  Star, Llama, Remington Rand, Singer, Ithaca, Norinco, Argentine and Norwegian arsenals, Randall, Detonics, Springfield, Kimber, and Smith and Wesson are just a few of the companies that have offered 1911 variants for sale.  They range from pretty poor to excellent handguns.  The pistol picture featured in this review is offered by Century International Arms.  The Scout is a middle of the road gun, with good features but without the elaborate fit and finish found on high end guns.  It is meant as an entry level gun or perhaps a good buy for the fellow wanting a ‘truck gun’ or to get his feet wet in the 1911 game.  It succeeds in this, and should give good service.  There are numerous variations on the theme, including a high capacity variant, and the full length version of the Scout is known as the Chief. The Scout is a 4 1/4 inch barrel 1911 of the general type known as the Commander.  This is among my favorite variations of the 1911, a good size and weight for a carry gun and well balanced. 

The Scout operates on the same principles as any other Browning locked breech handgun.  The gun is fired by a single press of the trigger. The slide and barrel recoil together to a certain point.  When the projectile leaves the barrel and pressure drops, the barrel and slide unlock and the slide continues to the rear, ejecting a spent cartridge. As the slide comes forward, a fresh round is stripped from the magazine and fed into the chamber.  The barrel tilts down and back during this operation.  This is made possible by a swinging link that allows a good range of movement.  Very few designs survive using this link - the French 1935 S is among the last non 1911s to use this system.  The Browning High Power and most subsequent designs use angled camming surfaces, a simplification of the system.  Still, it is far from the oldest system in operation despite the fact that in appeared around 1900.  Our present service handgun, the Beretta 92, uses an oscillating wedge identical in principle to the P-38 and first developed for use in the 1896 Broomhandle Mauser pistol!  Modern? What handgun truly is?

The Century Scout pistol features a slide lock safety that locks the action and the slide, and a grip safety that will not allow the pistol to fire unless the grip is properly pressed. The grip safety is an extended type, as is the slide lock.  I like the grip safety but prefer a standard slide lock. There is no firing pin block or hammer-drop safety. The pistol features a dull matte finish that is the norm for handguns in this price range.  It proved serviceable enough in a few months use.  When you look at the Scout, something tells you the gun is different.  And it is. The front grip strap is of a different design that any other 1911 in my experience.  There is a pronounced dip or indentation depending upon your viewpoint. This seems to allow for a more solid grip and even to lower the pistol’s bore axis. No one complained about this grip design but many found it quite comfortable. The trigger guard is enlarged, another departure from the 1911 template.  This makes for easier use by those with large hands or who must wear gloves in inclement weather.  The short trigger 1911 may not be the easiest handgun to manage with cold-numbed hands, and this is a worthwhile addition for anyone needing a gun for cold weather use. Finally, the pistol has pretty decent sights.  They are larger than the original GI type sights but not as good as King’s Hardballer sights.  They work just fine for most of us.  A big advantage is that the front sight is dovetailed rather than staked on. It isn’t going anywhere.

I lubricated the Scout from the first with Pro Tec gun oil and have continued to use this product, cleaning the pistol every two hundred rounds or so.  The Scout has proven reliable with most ammunition.  Like all handguns, it likes some ammunition better than other.  The Scout is well regulated for 230 grain ammunition. This is ideal for my use, as most of my handloads use bullets of this weight.  It will feed lead flat point 230 grain bullets and the 200 grain SWC, but will not feed every wide mouth hollowpoint with perfect reliability. It would be a simple matter to caress the feedway in what is known as ‘throating’ the feed ramp and chamber.  But there is little need to do so.  A number of first class defense loads such as the Federal 230 grain JHP Classic fed perfectly.  Since the gun was supplied only with one magazine, I used several of W C Wolff’s new magazines. Long known as a supplier of premium gun springs and a respected source for custom gunsmiths, WC Wolff and Company has entered the high grade magazine business with full length 1911 type magazines.  The results are excellent magazines at a good price. During the test period, there were no failures to feed related to the magazine, but we did suffer a number of failures of certain factory and handloaded rounds to feed, attributable to the large open cavity and soft nose of certain types of ammunition.    

I realize it is going against the modern trend and clearly against the findings of ballistic science, but I do not feel undergunned or suffer ballistic anxiety loading my .45 with hardball ammunition.  A good top grade load such as Hornady’s 230 grain Flat Point certainly gives me confidence that the pistol will demonstrate adequate penetration and good accuracy- along with flawless feeding. 

I did not idly waste ammunition during the test period.  After several months, I have tested the Scout from several good holsters with fine results. Like other similar 1911s, the Scout is quite fast on target. The slightly shorter slide and barrel allow the pistol to clear leather quickly.   The short slide radius makes for a pistol that comes onto the target quickly. This is a defensive type handgun, and for overall shooting and informal targets the Chief would be a better choice.  But for those who like the Commander style-and I am one of them-this is a good handgun.

As this point it is a matter of wait and see if the pistol will prove durable over the course of years of use, but it certainly seems well worth its modest tariff and I can find no signs of eccentric wear with several hundred rounds fired.  The 1911 fan will find this gun most interesting, but the newcomer to the tribe just may find that the Scout offers the most bangs for the bucks in its class. 

Accuracy Results

Fully realizing that most defensive encounters take place at three to seven yards, I still measure the practical accuracy of a handgun by slinging it across the benchrest and carefully squeezing off several five round groups.  These are the results.  Some of these groups were fired early in the test period, months ago, and others were fired yesterday.  Overall, the Scout is clearly accurate enough for personal defense and general shooting practice.

Ammunition Group Size
Federal  230 grain JHP ‘Classic’ 4.5 inches
Federal  230 grain JHP  Hydra Shock 3.8 inches
230 grain Oregon Trail/Titegroup (770 fps) 3.0 inches
200 grain SWC Oregon Trail/Titegroup  (801 fps) 3.25 inches
230 grain Sierra FMJ MATCH/Bullseye (788 fps) 2.9 inches
230 grain Sierra FMJ MATCH/Unique (844 fps) 3.5 inches

R.K. Campbell

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Click pictures for a larger version.


The Scout is 1911 like in appearance.  Note however the differences from the ‘mainstream’- an elongated trigger guard and the indentation in the front grip strap



The author did not care for the extended slide lock, but liked the extended slide lock safety.  We added the Wilson Combat grips for show and a better feel- they are the ne plus ultra of handgun grips.



This Scout certainly feels good in the hand, giving the 1911 fan another choice when looking for a good gun at a good price.



Early in the program we suffered a few malfunctions with certain JHP loads.  We simply abandoned those loads and moved to those with a more hardball like feed oglive- and they worked.



This is the bottom end of the Scout. The pistol is very much like any other 1911 but with certain differences we like.



There is no heavy match grade barrel bushing or full length guide rod-the Scout is simple to field strip and maintain.



The Scout is a simple pistol, easy to field strip and maintain, as are all 1911s that are faithful to the original template.



On the range, the Scout proved comfortable to fire and quick on target.



There was some concern the Scout would not fit standard holsters, but as you can see the Scout fits this Rhodesian from Thad Rybka well.