Why 1911?

30-May-12 – 10:50 by ToddG

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve received a deluge of emails, forum PMs, phone calls, and smoke signals asking what in the world made me decide to shoot a 1911 for the next endurance test. Well, the answer is pretty simple: I didn’t really have faith in the gun’s staying power until now. I mean, anything can last for 100 years. But 101? That’s awesome.

OK, not serious.

There are a few different reasons I wanted to undertake this test.

First and foremost, about 10% of the students who attend a pistol-training.com class are shooting 1911-style pistols. But aside from a few weeks in ’08 when I was shooting a ton of rounds through some FBI-HRT guns down at Quantico, I’ve never really put serious time behind a 1911. I can talk about Berettas, Glocks, HKs, SIGs, and Smiths from extensive experience, whereas I talk about 1911s mostly from an observer’s point of view. That should change. Heck, I’ve learned more about 1911s in the past few weeks — thanks in large part to the advice and assistance of famed gunsmith Jason Burton from Heirloom Precision — than I thought possible.

Second, as anyone who’s read this site knows, I’ve never been part of the Cult of 1911. I’ve seen far too many 1911s of all shapes, sizes, calibers, and price points come through class and FAIL … dramatically. That mirrored my observations from competition, as well. But I’ve also seen guys come through class shooting 1911s without a hiccup. So I have very strongly held beliefs, but are they legitimate?

Finally, it will be fun. Even moreso than the HK P30 test where I had to learn the LEM trigger, shooting a 1911 is going to require me to make a lot of changes to how I shoot. I haven’t used a manually safety in more than a decade. The mag release button is on the “wrong side” and is far enough forward that I’ll need to assess how best to drop mags. The slide release lever, too, is out of normal reach and will require a different approach than what I’ve been doing for almost 20 years.

So no, this test won’t have the same should I buy one? appeal to most readers as previous tests. A semi-custom $2,000 1911 isn’t as likely a purchase for most shooters as a $500 Glock. But it will be interesting to see what the gun can do and whether it has any advantages over the less expensive plastic wonderguns. Maybe I’ll be done with it in a year. Maybe I’ll join the cult. Either way, it will be interesting.

Train hard & stay safe! ToddG

  1. 78 Responses to “Why 1911?”

  2. 😀

    I think it was the review of the Pro in S.W.A.T. Magazine that remarked that the FTU had figured out how to get a pretty sweet CDP gun on the taxpayer’s dime.

    By Tam on Jun 4, 2012

  3. Nevermind the zealots on both sides of this religious aisle – I’m just looking forward to what TODD has to say. Why? Because Todd!

    By 1911Man on Jun 4, 2012

  4. I think tht it will be a very interesting journey-both because Todd is testing a 1911, and because it’s a 9mm 1911.

    While all my 1911s are in .45 ACP (and trust me, I’m hardly the world’s biggest 1911 fan), given increases in cartridge and bullet technology I think that a 9mm 1911 is very much a viable platform, both for self-defense and for gun gaming-at a lower cost ammunition-wise and at a lower pain level physically. That said, to date most attention to 9mm 1911s has been seemingly pretty much exclusively in the gaming arena-Todd’s test could be a paradigm changer.

    And yes, I’m skeptical about the overall applicability of the chosen platform, given both its likely cost and probable lack of realistic availability-but I’m still intrigued and appreciative of Todd’s willingness to go this route. I think that the results will be potentially far-reaching, as well as having a trickle-down potential over time regarding the gun, it’s components, and to other platforms, 1911 and otherwise.

    Kudos to you Todd. I look foward to the saga with great interest.

    Best, Jon Stein

    By Jon Stein on Jun 4, 2012

  5. I think tht it will be a very interesting journey-both because Todd is testing a 1911, and because it’s a 9mm 1911.

    While all my 1911s are in .45 ACP (and trust me, I’m hardly the world’s biggest 1911 fan), given increases in cartridge and bullet technology I think that a 9mm 1911 is very much a viable platform, both for self-defense and for gun gaming-at a lower cost ammunition-wise and at a lower pain level physically. That said, to date most attention to 9mm 1911s has been seemingly pretty much exclusively in the gaming arena-Todd’s test could be a paradigm changer.

    And yes, I’m skeptical about the overall applicability of the chosen platform, given both its likely cost and probable lack of realistic availability-but I’m still intrigued and appreciative of Todd’s willingness to go this route. I think that the results will be potentially far-reaching, as well as having a trickle-down potential over time regarding the gun, it’s components, and to other platforms, 1911 and otherwise.

    Kudos to you Todd. I look foward to the saga with great interest.

    By Jon Stein on Jun 4, 2012

  6. For a moment, I thought you were actually going to shoot a Man’s gun for a change…then I saw the 9mm. :-)

    Am I correct in assuming you’re sticking with AIWB? Have you decided on a holster?

    FWIW – Great choice with the 1911!!! Looking forward to the results!!!

    By agent-smith on Jun 4, 2012

  7. agent-smith — True, true. I don’t think my Pamprin prescription is big enough to handle a .45 again. 8)

    Yes, I’m planning on aiwb. I’ve got a couple of different holsters on the way and will certainly include discussion of those once the test reports begin.

    By ToddG on Jun 4, 2012

  8. So ToddG sez:
    “Second, as anyone who’s read this site knows, I’ve never been part of the Cult of 1911. I’ve seen far too many 1911s of all shapes, sizes, calibers, and price points come through class and FAIL … dramatically. That mirrored my observations from competition, as well.”

    Here’s the problem – people shooting expensive, tarted-up 1911’s in competition. They think that the slide needs to be tightly hand-fitted and lapped to the frame, the barrel needs to have a match chamber and fully supported, (which changes the feed angle), and the barrel lockup and bushing need to be so tight that you need a bushing wrench and a cheater pipe to break it down.

    Lets replace everything from the trigger to the hammer, and buy expensive magazines that don’t hold only 7 rounds and have an original Colt-style follower. Better yet, lets us a high-capacity frame and screw everything up!

    Finally, let’s shoot anything but hardball ammo and mess around with the weight of the recoil spring.

    No wonder the damned things don’t work right. If folks were to spend money on reliability instead of style, those expensive match pistols would look a whole lot like GI issue. It’s their own darned fault.

    By Davey on Jun 4, 2012

  9. What I’d like to see Todd test is a Browning Hi-Power in .45ACP but there’s a problem with that idea … has anyone ever made such a critter?

    I hope after a year you give the basic .45 1911 a try, and the Hi-Power, its 9mm successor.

    I’ll be reading, this sounds interesting.

    By htom on Jun 4, 2012

  10. It’s available in .40S&W but the frame just isn’t big enough to take .45ACP.
    I’d rather have a BHP than pretty much anything except a CZ75/85, which comes a close second.

    By Mike the Limey on Jun 4, 2012

  11. Todd:

    The reason for the “memory” bump on the bottom of the grip safety, and also why some are recommending that you pin (disable) it, is due to a couple of conflicting factors.

    One, is the undercut of the frame at the top of the grip safety with beavertail. The original design does not have this. The intent is to get the gun to sit a little lower in the hand, which it does. The thinking was to help control heavy recoil.

    Two, is the insistence, by the originator of the cult of the 1911, to shoot with the thumb on top of the thumb safety.

    The problem comes about due to the hand contortion needed to accommodate both. The new position of the thumb safety requires your thumb to be lifted and pulled back, relative to OEM design. This pulls the palm away from the backstrap, creating a gap, which is why the bump was added to try bringing the grip safety back into contact with your palm. Depending on your hand profile, it may work, or it may not.

    What it doesn’t do, is help you control recoil. Your palm does not have solid contact with the backstrap, so the gun tends to move around during recoil. If you look, you will see your hand only touches at the web, and the bottom edge of the palm.

    So, the various fixes for this self-inflicted problem are many, and expensive. Lots of grip designs, and added grooving, stippling, etc., of the frame and parts. Plus, different ways to hold it with two hands, all trying to counteract a confluence of a bad technique with a design modification.

    Either, by itself, may be acceptable, but combined are a disaster.

    Further, the thumb safety was an afterthought on the 1911. After winning acceptance in the trials in 1910, the Army requested a thumb safety be added to the design. It’s not clear how much input JMB had on it, and how much was Colt’s engineering dept.

    Note: the grip safety was the original JMB safety on the 1911. This can be verified by looking at the Army Trial guns. This is counter to the myth the True Believers have come up with, that the army made him put the grip safety on. JMB put a grip safety on a LOT of his designs. I suspect he did this to make his guns left-hander friendly, as he gives indications he was a lefty himself.

    There is one of the Army guns in this museum:
    http://forums.1911forum.com/showthread.php?t=227641

    By Will on Jun 4, 2012

  12. “a man’s gun” i didn’t know guns had “gender” 9mm pistols, (and submachine guns) have killed a lot of bad and good guys since 1908, as also has .45 acp in the m1911/11a1. my daughter, noted above, started out shooting my m1911a1 around age 14/15 before later switching to the 9mm colt. i had a female friend visiting from canada some years ago, i took her to the range to try out shooting a pistol, she tried my .45, loved it, and was royally peeved to learn she could not have one at home. i’ve known several gals who shoot the m1911a1 very well, and would laugh at the idea that it’s exclusively a “man’s gun”. the gun does not care who shoots it.

    By "gunner" on Jun 4, 2012

  13. Davey,

    Out of curiosity, have you ever run though an AFHF (or any other 2 day/1k round) class with a .45ACP 1911?

    By Tam on Jun 4, 2012

  14. @ will,
    thanks for the link to the browning museum photos. most interesting.

    By "gunner" on Jun 4, 2012

  15. Folks, please don’t take the “man gun” thing too seriously or out of context. “agent-smith” is a buddy of mine and was just teasing, just as I was teasing in my response.

    No one here is (or should be, anyway) saying the 9mm is just for girl’s.

    By ToddG on Jun 4, 2012

  16. o.k. todd, got it, and i understand your choosing 9mm, pain hurts. my daughter prefers her 9mm colt for its lesser recoil, though she likes the “feel” of the govt. model the oricinal .38 super barrel was also more than she liked, “too snappy’ was her comment, so the conversion to 9mm.

    By "gunner" on Jun 4, 2012

  17. I remember reading many years ago that 1911’s were popular in Argentina among civilian shooters. .45 was reserved for the military. The 1911’s in 9mm were preferred because the held up better than the Browning Hi-Power (P-35) and could be had with better trigger pulls. It seems the most common bugaboo for 1911 clones is they are fussy about magazines. My problems with my grip safety were eliminated by going to Chip McCormack extra thin grips. Also I do better with the short trigger.

    By toadold on Jun 4, 2012

  18. I’m at least as interested in reading Todd’s responses to the gun–whatever it is–as I am in the gun itself.

    Okie John

    By okie john on Jun 5, 2012

  19. i’ve owned an argentine “model 1927”, an m1911a1 made under colt license and supervision. they were well made, to the point where parts were interchangeble with u.s. mil-spec pistols with little or no fitting. the argentine “ballester-molina” pistols somewhat resembled the colts, but in detail were more akin to the spanish “star”, lacking a grip safety.

    By "gunner" on Jun 5, 2012

  20. This sounds like an interesting test. Looking forward to it, I’ve owned a Glock .40, XDM9 and M&P9.

    I’ve shot the S&W 1911 Pro 9mm a few times and really liked it, but never owned a 1911. If I was to purchase my 5th or 6th handgun, I probably would buy a 1911 9mm, or even a 2011 9mm.

    ToddG, even though you and agent-smith were playing around we all still know that people still think the 9mm is a sub standard defense round.

    With 9mm “defensive ammo”, the people to really answer that question are ER doctors and surgeons, from what I’ve heard, once they open you up to operate they can’t tell the difference between modern 9mm, .40 or .45 round. Now 22lr’s I’m sure that’s a different story.

    By SBMe on Jun 6, 2012

  21. the argentine “ballester-molina” pistols

    Heh. Or “Ballerina-Molester” pistols, as they’re sometimes called… 😉

    By Tam on Jun 6, 2012

  22. @ tam,
    “ballerina molester”, haven’t heard that one before, would that be “amos” in the “9 chickweed lane” comic strip, and didn’t i see you on the range with sam and zed a couple of days ago?

    By "gunner" on Jun 6, 2012

  23. I was exited when I read that you would be testing a 1911, then upon reading further I found that it would be chambered in 9mm. While I understand your points concerning ammo cost and the physical stress of high round counts with a .45 I honestly don’t see the point in this choice of weapon for your next test. The 1911 platform is designed for the .45acp cartridge, runs best with the .45acp cartridge and the overwhelming magority of us buy them chambered for .45acp. In my opinion this is can never be an accurate assessment of the 1911 platform.

    By Woodman on Jun 10, 2012

  24. Which is why I keep saying it’s not intended to be a definitive assessment of the 1911 platform…

    By ToddG on Jun 10, 2012

  25. todd has explained his reason for going to 9mm, and it’s a valid one. while the m1911a1 was designed around the .45 acp cartridge i’ve heard of it being adapted to even the 7.62 russian pistol cartridge, (why, i don’t know.) i’d suggest we let todd get on with his project and see what develops.

    By "gunner" on Jun 10, 2012

  26. It’s more important to see the 1911 ran in contrast to polymer double stack designs for the data the test generates than it is to run a weapon in .45ACP.

    At least for me.

    Data is data…except when it’s a Lt. Commander on 1701-D…

    By Mitchell, Esq. on Jun 10, 2012

  27. Todd
    Don’t get me wrong, I love the 9mm (my favorite ccw is a glock 19 rtf2) and I also love the 1911 .45, I just bought a Dan Wesson Valor and after about 4000 rounds I’m absolutely ape over it. It’s just that no one else that I am aware of is publicly running truly high round counts through pistols and what with all of the debate over 1911’s vs polymer I have always wanted to see how a high end 1911 .45 would match up against modern designs in a true reliability test such as this. My dream match up would be a high end 1911 vs a stock gen 3 Glock 17 or 19. My money would be on the Glock. At any rate I appreciate what you are doing and I really enjoy your gun tests.

    By Woodman on Jun 10, 2012

  28. Mitchell, Esq.,

    Data is data…except when it’s a Lt. Commander on 1701-D…

    Nerd. :p

    By Tam on Jun 10, 2012

  29. It seems there are a number of companies who produce a 1911 chambered in 9mm. Currently Sig, Smith and Wesson, Springfield, Kimber, Taurus, just off the top of my head all make a full sized 1911 in 9mm. So i like the choice of gun.
    Admittedly I have been looking at a 1911 for USPSA and IDPA competition and like shooting 9mm.

    So far as manual of arms, how is the location of the mag release different that on a glock/ m&p?

    Regarding the slide stop/ slide release, if you rack the slide to release from slide stop then the 1911 runs exactly the same as any other gun (the big advantage to training to release the slide in this manner).

    By Bryan on Jun 12, 2012

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