I apologize for the long read, but it’s a complex subject…
First I will admit that I’m an unabashed 1911 lover and fan. I believe GOD and Saint John Moses Browning sat down together to design the old Colt of 1911. I will (in a very low voice, almost a whisper) admit to also being a relatively new Glock fan since they finally made a gun I like and fits my hands well (my beloved Glock 43X). I have owned a lot of Glocks over the years and as much as I loved their simplicity of operation and reliability I could just never get a decent natural grip on any of them, so down the road they went until this last gun. I’m now looking to get a companion 48.
One thing that I find puzzling is that I’m STILL constantly reading or hearing misconceptions about the 1911, specially in cases when folks decide they need to put a GREAT handgun down to justify their starry eyed love for their “Plastic Fantastic” of the week. Lord those discussions are soooooo 1980s . Anyway it’s not the case here so much but all over forums on the internet and a LOT during CCW and other classes I teach. There is just a preponderance of bad info about 1911s out there. So I will take a minute to try to dispel a couple of the biggest thrown around “facts” and what I call “gunstore counter lore” that I see repeated over and over as some sort of gospel by some folks.
First and my favorite:
1911s are unreliable guns. Oh boy, where to even begin. When you hear a statement like that you are listening to someone that has NO practical knowledge of 1911s in general. To start, with the plethora of manufacturers of 1911’s worldwide, this statement is the equivalent of saying “all family sedans are unreliable” just because they are all cars. If someone said that in front of you you’d know it can’t possibly be a true statement. Yet when someone utters it as a “fact” when referring to 1911s, many folks especially new shooters , just go ahhhhhhh, that makes perfect sense!
Well, it makes no sense to lump every 1911 out there together under a generality when there are probably hundreds of manufacturers worldwide making a whole lot of different guns?!?!? The good news is even with that in mind the statement is WRONG! Just like automobiles MOST 1911s are great vehicles if you stick to factual info.
The actual truth is that this old tale came out of a few factors. First the often repeated opinions of thousands of soldiers whose first and only exposure to 1911s came from being handed rattly, parts guns that had been in service since the FIRST WW and had been “rebuilt” with whatever parts were laying around and handed out to troops with no QC of any kind. You ONLY get to hear from the guys that got 50+ year old and older guns because the guys from WWI that got them out of the box and were GRATEFUL for the new gun, are all unfortunately gone! And still the 1911 has the record for the longest serving gun in military history. So we know it can’t possibly be a dud.
Second, these guys were also taught how to hold/shoot a gun using an early 1900s manual of arms and issued the latest and greatest magazines made by the lowest bidder. Most of these mags were older than the shooters. These guys have been going around telling everyone that will listen, with the deference earned by veterans of actual wars, that the 1911s are bad, unreliable and inaccurate guns and we believe them because uncle Paul carried one in Europe, Korea, Vietnam etc. BUT the problem is that they were right. In 1960…
So how do you make a 1911 unreliable? Wear it out until the slide almost falls off the rails, slap in a cheap magazine of antique design and then hold it far down the grip so you can induce limp-wristing failures by letting the gun recoil freely. There’s your unreliable 1911.
Today’s 1911s are made out of steels (and high grade aluminum in some frames) that are MUCH better than the old guns, using the latest CNC machines and modern/consistent heat treating, and we have access to modern world class magazines that can feed just about ANY bullet configuration there is reliably into just about any configuration barrel. Fact is that the vast majority of time, almost regardless of manufacturer, if you have a good recoil spring and a decent modern designed magazine you will have a 100% reliable gun from just about any modern 1911 manufacturer regardless of price point. And that includes the outstanding 1911s coming from the Philippines, Turkey and other East European countries.
You know how I know this? I have a 1940’s EARLY war production Remington Rand and totally original early 1970’s vintage Colt Series 70. Colt almost died as a manufacturer of 1911s because the Model 70 had a reputation of being a finicky eater and often failing to digest the hollow point ammo of the time reliably. Back then, if you bought a Colt, the first thing you had to do was send it to your local witch doctor gunsmith to do his magic and get it to run reliably with defensive ammo. THIS almost killed the market for 1911s in the USA.
Little did we know back then that the whole problem with the gun AND with earlier 1911s like my RR was NOT THE GUN AT ALL, it was those old magazines. Today I bring these two guns to the range and I can run mag after mag of ANY modern HP ammo, actually ANY ammo, through them without a hitch. I just can’t do it with period correct mags and you most certainly can’t do it with cheap mags from the $6 bin at the gun show. But once I insert a Wilson Combat or a Kimber Pro-Tac mag? I’m off to the races with a flawlessly running machine. As a matter of fact, I never do the 500 round break-in some 1911 manufacturers recommend for their new gun. I take my new 1911s to the range with good proven mags and a big ammo can in which I dump my “leftovers” of .45acp all mixed and I run a bunch of magazines of mixed ammo (see below) though them. If the run flawlessly with that, and they always do, I run a few one mags of my preferred SD ammo through them and it’s on my belt.
My favorite counter to this magazine point came from a Glockophile who actually said to me “But good 1911 mags are expensive!!!”. REALLY? How much do you pay for factory Glock mags? I buy Wilson Mags for under $30 all day long. Chip McCormick Shooting Stars MATCH for under $20 on sale and my latest batch of 5 OEM 10mm mags my for my Dan Wesson cost me under $20 each on a really good sale. ALL of these run my guns flawlessly. So BIG forehead slap when you hear that…
This picture should make it EASY to spot the main issue. On the left the follower and lips of a 1960s vintage mag. On the right, the follower and lips of a Wilson Combat mag.
1911’s are complicated when you compare them to a Glock . REALLY?!?!?!? The 1911 was designed to be completely disassembled, or stripped and even REPAIRED with nothing more than it’s own parts and the rim of a spent case of .45acp ammo. No need to go to an armorers course and get specialty tools for the old warhorse. So instead of launching into a long explanation just take a look at these two pictures and you can make your own assessment.
Glock trigger assembly
So the next time you hear that one particular bit of misinformation, you now know better.
Third: And one and my favorites.
You need to shoot a 1911 differently. NOPE. You need to shoot a 1911 CORRECTLY.
This is what was taught in the old days.
These poor guys were handed a gun, asked to shoot a few mags and sent off to fight. Notice the super low grip taught by bullseye instructors afraid of the hammer biting them.
THIS is how you grip and fire a 1911. EXACTLY the SAME way you should fire ANY other modern semi-auto handgun. With your hand as HIGH on the grip as possible and your support hand tight, so you control and manage recoil and not the other way around.
No “limp writing” and no free-recoil, with the added advantage that the reset and trigger motion on a 1911 is measured in TINY LITTLE FRACTIONS of an inch therefore facilitating fast and accurate fire. Not so much in many other guns with more “modern” triggers.
So in summary, just about any well maintained 1911, old OR new with a good recoil spring, fed quality ammo from a GOOD modern design mag and fired the way it is supposed to will be as good and reliable as anything else out there and quite frankly better than many of the options available today.
Hopefully you’ll find this info helpful and educational for some new shooters that otherwise will be digesting false information and maybe passing on a FANTASTIC option in the SD Handgun menu! Long live the 1911!!!