Way back in 1911…

The old man closed his eyes and tilted his head back, remembering. “Back when I was a young man we used to shoot guns made out of metal.”

The 1911 platform remains a top selling gun design to this day. The entire gun industry has a 1911 sub-culture. Complete with it’s own language and economy and border security. I mean, if you want to join the 1911 Culture, you got to know your way around. You got to know who the big names are, know those families, know where to go for certain things. Most of the big families can build you a fine 1911, but if you just want certain things… Magazines… Wilson Combat. High Cap bodies… STI. And everyone has rabid family loyalties that remind me of Middle Age Europe. “We fight for House NIGHTHAWK!!!!” *clattering of armor and swords amid the shouts*

The one thing that I shake my head at is the continued push by these great houses to sell these Sub-Compact (in the 1911 world we call them ‘Ultra’) 1911 guns with 3″ barrels. It’s extremely rare that any of these guns fire reliably. If you have one, good for you. But I’ve never seen one that could finish an IDPA Match or a Shooting Class. And most Trainers that I’ve talked to about it haven’t either. I think Rob Pincus was The First Heretic to speak out against these, much to the shock and horror of everyone who heard him.  But he was right.  He’s the Martin Luther of Defensive Pistols.   These pistols just don’t work as a whole.  And it’s the very rare Ultra that does… so rare in fact… that the owners must spend much time petting their Unicorns and playing shuffle board with Big Feet… because I don’t think they are spending as much time on the range with those Ultra’s as they say they do.   If sitting on your couch playing Xbox is “Range Time”, then we’re done conversating.   Ultra’s just suck.  The only one’s I found to shoot reliably are the original Detonics Combat Masters, and even then, that was a less common encounter.  And by Original I mean from within the first 3 factories to wear a variation of the Detonics name.

It has occurred to me thought that this rise of the Ultra is not a push by the gun companies… but by the demand of the Consumer.  The Peoples Republic of Shooters are shaking the gates of the Great Houses demanding wine, cake, and cheeses, and more varieties of Ultra Compact 1911’s.  They don’t want the full sized 5″ 1911 for concealed carry anymore.    They want something smaller and lighter and less effective… because they have forgotten, or in fact never learned, why it is we carry a gun in the first place.   I don’t understand many things in life.  Such as why some people don’t like Bacon.  Why pop culture calls that girl, Justin something, an artist.  Or why someone preparing for a fight will prepare around ineffective or unreliable weapons.  (ineffective such as .32 and smaller calibers.  .380 Auto is the minimum, but it’s better than harsh language)

Then it occurred to me that they are not making ready for a fight.  Not just any fight, mind you. But a fight for their lives and the lives of their loved ones.  Packing a “cool gun” is just for that’s own sake alone and not for the sake of lives.  It’s for the sake of Cool.   A 1400 dollar custom Ultra… I’m not going to say any names…


Might be expensive… and might be as beautiful as Hellen of Troy… But it was made to be only that.  Beautiful and Expensive.  This reminds me of a song from “A Funny Think Happened On The Way To The Forum” which considering the name of the show, I find humorously ironic.   “You’re Lovely, all you are is Lovely.”   This is a gun that is not made for saving your life.  It’s made to be Lovely, and nothing more.   Like a trophy Wife or Girlfriend or Personal Assistant… it’s something to show off and make you look good.   And that’s fine if you are showing off cars or girls… but in my mind, showing off something like a Kimber Ultra Duper Cool Carry, you spent a ton of cash for shows that me that you have a lot of money to waste on something superficial and useless.

If you want a 1911, DON’T get one with less than a 4″ barrel.  Just don’t.  You can have and enjoy a 1911… that’s fine.  But going below a 4″ barrel you are taking risks and forgetting the actual purpose of having a gun on you in the first place.     Of the current production 1911 builders, I’m down to 2 choices.  SIG and SPRINGFIELD ARMORY.  Going above that into the Semi Custom or Custom category, I’ll take an STI or NIGHTHAWK.   Those are my choices.  You can choose what you want.  I’ve forged my opinions at the foundry of Range Time.  On Live Fire Ranges where I have taken classes and have taught classes and have seen every example of 1911’s common in North America.  I’ve seen all of them fail at some point.  But some are more failure prone than others.  These names I’ve mentioned… these Great Houses of 1911’ness… have failed the least that I’ve seen.

I was most pleased that in my last Defensive Pistol class that I taught, in West Virginia it was… there was not a single 1911 of any stripe at the range.  SIG’s, Glocks, M&P’s.  And you know what the problem child gun of the day was?  SIG.  A 229.  Interesting that.  Could it be that the SIG is the latest Metal Gun to show it’s age?  No, not hardly.  But I’m just putting it out there that the 1911 is getting long in the tooth and coming around full circle.

What do I mean by that?

Back in the day, it was just known that 1911’s, brand new out of the box, wouldn’t run right.  Kimber actually, with the Kimber Custom model broke that mold… as they were putting out 1911’s that worked quite well as far as 1911’s go, right out of the box.  This causes a stir because you could buy a new 1911 from Kimber, and actually go shoot it instead of sending it straight to a gunsmith for them to rebuild so it will work.  (The Age of COLT was at an end at that time)
And now it’s seemingly perfectly acceptable to sell 1911’s again that don’t function well out of the box.  I’m not talking about a mere “break in” period.  I’m talking about guns that just don’t want to be reliable.  If these 1911’s were teenagers, they would have nose rings and ear gauges.

39 thoughts on “Way back in 1911…”

  1. As much of a 1911 lover as I am, I have to agree with you.
    None of mine are “off the rack.
    They have had attention, nothing drastic… just making sure that they are as they should be.
    And… I have poly guns in my rotation with them.The smallest 1911 I carry regularly is a 4” model with a commander frame.
    In MY opinion… this is the optimal carry configuration.
    The barrel/slide isnt the hard part to conceal… it is the grip.
    Stop worrying about getting the shortest barrel that you can, get one that works.


  2. Ogre, how have CZ’s performed in your classes? On par with the Glocks and Sigs? I love my CZ97, and prefer it to a 1911 as a .45 blaster.

    1. P01’s, SP01’s, 75’s… have all done very well. Not issues overall. A couple magazine problems identified to specific mags, and usually those were problematic of aftermarket mags and not CZ Factory.

      1. The deal on CZs:

        * Sh*t-hot accuracy for a service 9mm. In part because of the captive slide design that runs INSIDE the frame. Man I used to love running 25 yd plates with those pistols; they will outshoot a Glock/M&P with dismissive ease.

        * Awesome grip ergonomics; among the best in the business.

        * The captive slide design makes it hard to rack the gun for certain kinds of malf clearance drills. This is potentially a big deal for a defense/combat pistol.

        * The magazine springs are questionable. They work, pretty much, but they are discernibly weak and easy to load — not confidence inspiring.

        1. And I agree with you. However I feel while everything they have going on is solid, they have that high waist line like you mentioned, making it hard for me to manipulate and they have triggers that just need a hell of a lot of work. Now hold on – having said that, the one gun that stands out in my mind as having the best trigger in the world, period… My CZ 97B. It was just phenomenal. If they could put that trigger in every gun… SIG who?

  3. I have always thought that the CCO variant of the 1911, especially with an alloy frame, was the best compromise of size, weight, and reliability for a carry gun on the 1911 platform . Having said that, the gun on my hip as I type this is a S&W M&P45C…and I have to admit that I haven’t carried a 1911 of any flavor in about six years. I still love them, but there are better choices out there, especially for daily carry.

  4. I’m another former 1911 carrier. My 1911 is a RIA Government model with a 5″ barrel. The only issues I had with it were bad magazines (they got thrown away) and wearing out the recoil spring. However, I bought a M&P 45C and have not looked back. I get everything I had in my 1911 at a little less weight.

  5. A lot of the issues with 1911s are a consequence of lack of appreciation for what it is. You don’t judge a Camaro by it’s towing capacity, a Silverado by it’s aerodynamics or a Prius by it’s horsepower. The wise individual begins by selecting a cartridge which will accomplish the intended task, then selecting a launcher appropriate for it’s intended use. Right tool for the job.

    1. The 1911 is pretty much in my mind, like the Muscle Cars of old… Big Bore, Raw Displacement, and Higher Maintenance. Not really fit for a Daily Driver.

  6. “I fight for house Nighthawk” Watch Game of Thrones much Org?

    Funny you should mention choff choff Kimber, a friend of mine proudly carries a mini .45 and last we were shooting my Glock 27 he handed me his Kimber and said “Here try this.” I went one round and stopped. Now granted it was very dirty, so dirty the slide couldn’t clear itself and complete the loading cycle from the mag. Not an uncommon experience for me either…

  7. “I went one round and stopped.” Ment to say: It went one round and stopped. Should not type till my second cup of coffee.

    Also on the comments on former 1911 carriers, I also until about mid level in my LE career carried a 1911 off duty. (BTW my dept which just last year approved on duty carry of 1911’s has discontinued allowing new carries of 1911 style guns, too many problems apparently) Now its a Glock 27 – 23 or Kahr P40 etc. The tech has just by passed the 1911. Want to carry one? Fine. But its like carrying an 1865 cap and ball when a Colt Peace Maker is available at the same time….IMHO

  8. I must have just got lucky. My Springer 1911 Mil-Spec (NM-xxxxx serial number) has been going strong without the slightest hiccup for about 8000 rounds now. And it has had nothing done to it except cleaning it after every range trip. I Conceal Carry it during the fall to early spring and swap over to a CZ 2075, when the jacket/coat stays in the closet. (Not sure if that little guy is qualified as a 1911 pattern) The CZ runs like a Swiss Watch (about 5000 rounds so far) and the only problem I ever had with it was the 14 round mags spring wasn’t strong enough. Tossed in a set of Wolff springs & we were of to the races.

  9. The cool gun problem. I see more and more guys on my department that have purchased some type of 1911 for off-duty carry (duty guns a Glocks). They don’t spend an adequate time training with them. They simply go and shoot a box or so, then take them down and shoot an off-duty qual with them, and that’s it.

    I used to be a firearms instructor at my state academy. A few agencies had Kimber 1911s as an option for a duty gun. I watched these pistols shit the bed regularly on the range. Couldn’t get through a string without one having a malfunction. But, the cool guy factor of carrying a 1911 far outweighed common sense.

    BBQ gun? Okay. But, a pistol that I’m going to put my life on? I’ll stick with my issued Glock 17, and my personal G19. Those pistols work every single time, even when filthy. There are any mumber of other makes out there, as well, that are just as reliable.

  10. I made the mistake of getting rid of a Springfield GI model. It functioned flawlessly throughout thousands of rounds and only stove-piped a tad with cheap wolf steel cased ammo. But I needed a 1911 with better sights! I bought a stainless Sig GSR. And although it now works wonderfully, it needed Wilson mags, SlipStream, and about 500 rounds to “break in”. It’s actually sad that any product – pistol or otherwise – earns a reputation of not working as expected right out of the box!

    1. The one 1911 that I have that I will not part with, is my Springer GI. Reminds me too much of my young adventurous years.

  11. With my limited ownership of 1911’s I once owned a Springfield Micro Compact in .45 ACP. It did choke a bit on hardball until about 200 rounds and Wilson Combat mags were used. It ran the premium defensive stuff OK except for one quirk: this pistol has a ramped barrel, and if a hollow point opening was large, a round hand cycled into the chamber could hang up mid-way on the barrel’s feed ramp, since the frame could just grab the sides the bullet. I didn’t run a lot of HP ammo through it, but it never hung up like that when firing it with my chosen defensive loads. I was never completely satisfied with it and ended up trading it away. The short barrel actually made it harder to go concealed carry in a way, because the barrel wasn’t long enough to leverage against my hip in an OWB holster, so it wasn’t as “flat” carrying as a full size or commander 1911. Currently the only 1911 I have is a Springfield TRP that I couldn’t resist tinkering with by swapping some parts out to make it “better”.
    I like the car analogy that I’ve heard applied to 1911 pistols – if you want a daily driver get a polymer gun, but if you want a hot rod (or a stock car) get a 1911. Like all hot rods, you have to fuss over them and understand them to get ’em to really perform. But when they do perform, they perform really well and are hard to beat.

  12. I bought a Sig 1911 C3 after seing your video on the very similar Sig 1911 GSR. I occasionally carry the C3 and personally haven’t had any issues with it, I still recommend striker fired polymer framed pistols in 9mm for carry. I know that just because I am willing to invest time and effort to maintain my 1911 doesn’t mean most people will. Reliability in a carry gun is paramount and for that I trust Glock the most. YMMV, of course.

  13. My holster has either a Colt Series 80 Gold Cup or a Browning Hi-Power in it. Nice that the same holster fits both.
    Thousands of rounds through the Colt with nary a hitch … provided I use quality magazines.
    The Hi-Power is also picky about magazines.
    Now if you’ll excuse me I must put fresh candles in front of my picture of John Moses Browning and bow towards Ogden.

  14. I have only owned one 1911 which I bought new. this is a basic g.i. from auto ordinance, serial no. 4xxx. it came with an adjustable trigger, but the screw would keep moving back and locking up the trigger, so I threw the screw away and no trigger problems since. I have put god only knows how many thousands rounds through this gun. back when I bought it I could get 100 reloaded rounds for seven dollars and fifty cents (this was in the 80’s), I have put fmj’s, 200 grain wadcutters, 185 grain wadcutters, various hollow points both factory and reloads (including a lot of my own) with few problems. no problems with factory 230 grain fmj. as for 185 grain wadcitters I have found that using wadcuter mags (these are designed for wadcutters) and the right recoil spring that feeding issues with wadcutters drops significantly and since these are target rounds it is not an issue. I have had this gun for at least 30 years (gee wiz really, I must be getting old) and have no problem with being faced with defending my self with it. now mind you when I carry concealed I pocket carry a lcr 38 and may switch to an lc380, but as a belt gun around the yard or house gun I have no problem with the AO 1911. the only alterations I have had is adjustable sights(the g.i.’ s it came with out of the box were wably), a lowered ejection port and pacmeyer grips. I have heared people bad mouth AO 1911’s maybe things have changed since 1982 I don’t know, but I trust what I have.

  15. If I were to carry a short barrel pistol these days I’d make it a .38 special revolver. Getting one set up for moon clips is not all that expensive, about $125 for the machine work last time I looked. The Gold Dot .38 Special loads for short barreled pistols seems to be working pretty well. Mean while for apartment defense I’m trying to make a Glock AR-15. Polymer lower, Nitride barrel, coated BCG (slipstream maybe….) and some nice 55 grain or less jacketed hollow points out of a 1:9 twist, 16 inch Mid-length barrel….and a real shiny bayonet.

  16. IMO my SIG P220 5″ SAO is an updated 1911 (there are of course some obvious differences, but still better than the 1911) and I haven’t had a single problem with it with ANY factory ammunition and I would be comfortable with protecting myself and my family with it.

    The only 1911 pistol that I truly regret letting go was my STI Edge .45 as it was super smooth, super accurate and the Recoil Master system is hands down THE BEST recoil reduction system out there…but the high capacity magazines do have issues enough that I retired it from competition and then it was just an occasional “fun gun” at the range.

  17. A Sig 229 that failed? NO! I just picked one up in 9mm fired about 100+ rounds no issues- now I want to go and trade my ultra super duper Kimber for a decisions decisions- I know a Sip P239! In SAS and 9mm to keep the ammo situation balanced..wait there’s a 9mm round shortage? Life just seems to be full of trade offs. I appreciate your knowledge and insights in this complex arena-

  18. I don’t know for sure but it seems that a lot of the police officers and armed security are carrying S&W M&P’s in .40 S&W. The evil guy at the instruments of death store says a lot of them are getting one of the aftermarket sears. Don’t have a hard statistical count but the M&P seems to be giving Glock a run for its money.

  19. I guess I must be the “old guy” from the OP. Series 70 Colt Combat Commander. I am the original owner. A few aftermarket goodies like sights and grips but the guts are stock Colt and I run Colt factory mags. The only thing I did was polish the feed ramp and the lip of the barrel. I can’t remember the last time that gun malfunctioned. I feed it factory ammo and carry factory ammo and it just runs. I’m on my second extractor and I change the springs every thousand rounds or so and Slipstream it from time to time. You won’t win any bets on getting that pistol to malfunction. I also carry a bone stock Star PD that has been monotonously reliable. I’m happy with the 1911 platform and glad there is such large segment of the industry devoted to my preference.

    1. The only problem I remember people having with the Star PD was people letting the frame buffer wear out and not bothering to replace it. Then the frame would get hammered.

  20. We have Kahr PM45’s and Glock 36’s in our group. Both models run very well, overall a smaller package than the ultra 1911’s, with one less round. They are reliable polymer handguns.

  21. Ogre,

    Odd-ball alert….

    As an owner of 6 1911s (Kimber & SA), I can’t dispute much of what you said and many of the other commentors. I will say this, however, about my Kimbers and that is that all of them have been reliable but all but the Warrior were purchased in the mi- to-1990s. My first Kimber was/is the Custom Classic and it’s been as reliable as any of my Glocks or S&W M&Ps. I’d say it has a round count of about 4k and all I do is clean it and change the recoil springs. Sadly, though, they spend more time in the safe than on my hip….sigh.

    Having said all of that, I have found myself wearing my Browning HP MkIII with Crimson Trace grips during the high heat & humidity of summer (welcome to the South BTW!). LIke my 1911s, I feed them Corbon PowRBall for extra reliability. I find that it carries in an IWB holster wonderfully…..dare I say it’s sublime:-) It’s sleek, sexy, and the ergonomics are outstanding. Now that the ammo companies have upped their game in the 9mm category I no longer worry sweat the whole 9mm vs. .45ACP debate. But I digress…

    My question to you would be this; have you considered doing a detailed review and or instructor test on the Hi Power platform? To my thinking, the BHP has all of the attributes that we 1911 shooters enjoy. Single action? Check. Thin slide and easy to carry concealed? Check, and check. It also has a 13 + 1 capacity to satisfy our hi cap needs.

    Drawbacks? Obviously, we have to start with the trigger and move to the magazine safety release. Definitely could use a “tactical” thumb safety, but the issue version is workable. Like others before me, I ditched the mag release safety and the trigger did smooth out. It was never bad, but it isn’t as “silky” as my 1911s. Not all of my mags drop free, but it’s not a “deal breaker”. Still, it disappears under an untucked shirt and slips right into your pants with no problems. Put a pair of Crimson Trace on and you’re good to go. Again, it’s awesome during summers in Georgia!

    What say you?


  22. never seen anybody more red faced than glock perfection shooter step up to the line at a defensive pistol shoot and have it jam , I have seen it happen often too. usually to a well trained police officer that just got done making fu n of all the old 1911’s . they all have stoppages if you think not you are a fool

  23. What about the less expensive kimbers? I’ve had a custom 2 forever – and no, I haven’t run it in a class – yet – on the urging of several people. But it has been reliable. No feeding issues, no problems during IDPA.

  24. I have to second the comments about the revolver, although, not being LE, I don’t see the need for moon clips, in the reality I live in (small rural state). Anybody here have extensive experience with the P90? Please no flames, just curious as to whether I am the only one who likes this gun. I’ve already heard ALL the “comments”, so save it….I just like them, and have had one since, well, a long time, and found it ultra-reliable, including one very important time….

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