I wasn’t looking forward to writing this review because I don’t hate this pen. My 1911 Large is a pretty nice pen, but I do not understand the Sailor hype. It’s one of my most confusing pens because I want to like it and I want to hate it and I can do neither because it’s just decent.
First, here is what I think the 1911L has going for it:
The 1911 Large is a very light, well balanced pen that’s large enough to be used posted or unposted. It’s a full-size pen, basically comfortable to hold, and it writes well. It’s a classic design and it just works. It’s a practical pen in many ways–even the broad nib is fine enough to work for everyday writing. It is innocuous. It’s okay. I like these aspects of the pen–ultimately, a pen is made to write, and the 1911L does that rather well–smooth, wet, and a little feed back.
Now the things I personally don’t care for:
The nib: I don’t get it. It’s too soft. It’s mushy. I think a fairly close comparison would be my Pelikan m1000’s nib. The Pelikan’s tines open up easily to allow for neat line variation and expression, which is sort-of true of the Sailor except it feels like it’s too fragile and the tines will be sprung with any amount of pressure. It’s very hard to explain and a lot of users like this feeling, but I feel like I’m going to destroy it. I don’t like it. It feels like tinfoil.
There’s a reason why 14 carat gold was the defacto metal choice for nibs for forever–it can be made rigid while staying soft enough to be a little flexy but also spring back to its original shape. I’m neither a metallurgist nor a nibmeister so maybe I’m way off. Now I’m not talking about the flexing the nib–I personally don’t like Sailor 21K nibs because they don’t feel rigid enough and don’t feel like they will return to their original shape on the down strokes of standard writing. To be fair, these are made with Japanese writing in mind, so maybe that doesn’t matter when writing in that script, and plenty of people writing in western styles seem to like Sailor nibs just fine. Maybe it’s just me.
The converter: Wobbly, cheap (not inexpensive), rattly, and low capacity. I measured the capacity of my 1911L as 0.7mL, which is enough to barely get the broad, wet nib through a day of heavy note taking, so it works but it feels like one of those cheap 99 cent converters except it costs nine dollars. I’ve read that Sailor’s philosophy is that pens should be practical and their cartridges are practical so the converters are somewhat of an afterthought. I wonder if that same thinking about us bottled ink users lead to the decision to make Sailor ink bottles 50% smaller (while charging the same for them). I digress.
Which leads me to what I find most objectionable about Sailor pens: the cost.
The street price for this pen in the United States is $270-$300.
That’s 300 USD for a lightweight, injection molded plastic pen with a tiny, crumby converter and a pretty nice nib. The fit and finish are good, so I cannot fault them there, and while I don’t like the nib personally it is good, both functionally and aesthetically. I just don’t think it’s $300 good. No way.
The Pilot Custom 823 is also injection molded but has a cool filling system and a large 18k nib. Cost in the US: $280.
The Platinum 3776 is about the same size and same concept as the Sailor and it’s converter isn’t trash. US cost: $176. The Platinum President is probably a closer comparison to the 1911 Large, and it retails for $220.
The criminally underrated Waterman Carène has a lovely lacquered metal body and fills with the ever-reliable standard international cartridge system. Those can be had for less than $200.
On the other hand, the Aurora Talentum is a little more than a Sailor, but it is equipped with a superior converter, a larger 14k nib with an ebonite feed and the body is machined from a solid rod–not injection molded.
The cost of the Sailor 1911L is a little more tolerable in the Japanese market. I think I paid $150 for mine when I bought it, including shipping and a converter. A cursory check reveals that they are still right around $160-180 as of this writing. That price makes this pen competitive, not $270. This point is why this review was so hard to write. This is a solid pen at the Japanese price point, but the North American price point is insultingly high. At $300, one is starting to get into custom fountain pen territory or even the used luxury market a la Montblanc, Aurora, Pelikan, and Montegrappa. At this price point, I’d save-up the extra $80 and grab the piston-filled Realo version of the 1911 if I had to have one and I was buying it at the full North American MSRP.
Cost is a weird thing in the fountain pen world. Realistically, one doesn’t have to spend more than a few dollars to get a fantastic writing experience. On the other hand, I’m not one of those types that pooh-poohs expensive pens, either. To me, if you charge more money for a pen, then there better be a good reason–artistry, precision, exotic or precious materials, relative rarity, or some other unique attributes–otherwise the manufacturer (or more likely in Sailor’s North American case, the distributor) is charging more for their name only. Some may consider Sailors “worth” that kind of money and that’s fine–it is a small company that seems to take pride in what they are doing–but my opinion is that Sailor has done nothing innovative with their product line-up and simply continues mass producing the same entry-level pens and charging inflated prices for them. The community would collectively balk at Pilot selling the Custom 74 for $300, or Platinum selling the #3776 for $300–although Platinum’s U.S. pricing approaches exorbitant as well–but Sailor seems to get a pass.
- Light weight and well-balanced.
- House-made nibs are renowned and available in a wide array of grades.
- Classy aesthetics. They are beautiful pens.
- A practical pen that’s a decent choice for everyday writing.
- I don’t like the nibs.
- I don’t like the converter.
- Feels cheap relative to direct competitors–soft injection molded plastic and a filling system that doesn’t inspire.
- The pen is relatively expensive in North America.
- I don’t think this pen brings enough to the table to justify its cost.
- Twist type.
- 1.75 turns to remove.
- Proprietary 21K Sailor nib.
- Available in Extra Fine, Fine, Medium-Fine, Medium, Broad, Music, and Zoom.
- Historically, specialty bespoke nibs were available. If one finds one for sale, it will likely be for a huge amount of money.
- Filling System:
- Sailor’s proprietary Cartridge Converter.
- Capacity when filled with a converter is 0.7mL.
- A piston filled-version called the Realo is available for more money.
- Capped: 144mm
- Uncapped: 127mm
- Posted: 157mm
- Total: 24g
- Cap: 8g
- Pen: 16g
- Section diameter: