A recent article about a small agency in N.C.’s Kimber problems has led to widespread discussion about the 1911 being a “hobbyist’s gun” (see, e.g., View From The Porch But it says “Custom” right on the gun! and Gun Nuts Media 1911 as a hobby gun). All of which echoes what Ken Hackathorn and Larry Vickers said in the recent pistol-training.com interview about the HK45:
“The 1911 is an enthusiast’s pistols. In order to keep that gun running you have to, it’s not optional, you have to become your own armorer to a degree. You have to be able to diagnose and fix minor problems on an end user level. If you’re not willing to sign up for that, frankly you have no business running a 1911 for anything other than occasional recreational shooting. If you’re going to put yourself in harm’s way with that gun and you’re not willing to sign up for that, then you need to avoid it.”
And across the country, the chorus of “I carry a 1911 every day you bastards!” has rung out.
I see 1911s in class all the time. Admittedly, no one is showing up to Aim Fast, Hit Fast with a Taurus or RIA. Mostly it’s Springfields or semi-custom guns (Wilson, Baer, Nighthawk) with Colts & Kimbers (often heavily ‘smithed) thrown in for good measure. Do they all work? No. Do they all break? No. Are there some common themes? Yes.
- There is a direct correlation between IQ and 1911 reliability. I know it sounds harsh, but it’s true. The smart guys are the ones who understand the weaknesses of the system and prepare for it through proper selection, custom work, and maintenance.
- Maintenance is key. We’re not just talking cleaning and oil. To run a 1911 well, you need to understand extractor tension. You need to understand what each of those little parts does, how it does it, and how it can go wrong.
- You usually get what you pay for. While I’ve seen guns from the big name semi-custom shops crap out, that’s far less common than breakages or reliability problems with off-the-rack bargain 1911s. Of course, the guy who spends $3,000 on a Wilson probably also tested his gun and had any problems fixed by the manufacturer immediately. Which leads us to the final thought…
- Folks who shoot 1911s because they shoot them well do better than folks who shoot 1911s because they think the 1911 is cool. Before class ever begins, I can usually figure out whose 1911s will run and whose won’t. The guy bragging about his 1911 will almost always (a) suck , (b) have a problem gun, or (c) both.
What this all amounts to is pretty simple:
Yes, you can get a 1911 that runs and you can keep it running. The operative word is “you.” There is a lot more you need to do when choosing the gun, running the gun, and maintaining the gun than if you bought a (Beretta Glock HK SIG S&W). That doesn’t make the 1911 a bad gun. But it does make it a hobbyist’s gun.
Train hard & stay safe! ToddG