A considerably amount of ink has been used writing about the 1911 pistol and its creator John M. Browning (1855-1926). Good things, bad things, all kind of things. Some love it, some hate it and some are on the fence not knowing what they should think of this pistol with its extended history.
Fact is that the 1911 pistol is and always will be present in Hollywood movies. It made its first appearance in 1929 (The Racketeer). Where were you in ’29? Exactly!
The 1911 pistol served our Military for over 75 years until it got replaced, but in 2012 it was adopted again by the USMC. The 1911 pistol is also used by the thin blue line, like FBI and SWAT Teams but also lots of other Agencies. Further, the 1911 is used for competition shooting, home- and personal defense, hunting and collecting. Some even carry it concealed all day – every day!
As you can see, interest in the 1911 pistol exists on a wide scale.
With the large variety of frame sizes (Officer, Commander and Government are common, but we also have the long slide- and competition models) and calibers (from .22LR up to .50GI), there’s something for everyone.
Most people either love the 1911 or hate it. I certainly love it, but don’t talk other handguns down. Point is that the 1911 has many advantages, besides just looking cool. It is an old but proven design that works in all field conditions. No matter if your 1911 faces heat, cold, sand, dust, water or radioactive fallout – it works just as fine as other pistols made with a polymer frame. I would certainly trust my life on it.
A Series 80 model for instance has three mechanical safeties (thumb- grip- and firing pin). Other advantage is that you can switch out the grip panels. If you have smaller hands then just use thinner grips. Larger hands simply mount thicker grips on the frame. The variety of grip materials seems to be endless. It goes from plastic to metal to all different kind of wood types). Same applies for the trigger. You can equip a 1911 with either a short, medium or long trigger. There are many different sights available for it (night-, target- gold- or brass bead sights, etc.). You can change the back strap. And it’s an easy task to make it ambidextrous (at least the thumb safety) if you are left handed. Also important, in case you need upgrades and/or repairs – there are many drop-in parts available and there is a great number of highly skilled custom gunsmith’s out there. So if you don’t abuse your 1911 it will outlive you many times.
A friend of mine says the 1911 is like a Stripper. It’s nice to look at, you can spend a lot of money on it but you won’t get married to it. He also says that its design is catastrophic for a defensive handgun because it has too many controls. He likes to draw, bring the sights on target and pull the trigger without worrying about disengaging safeties.
Well, I can see his point. That’s why a 1911 might not be the right choice for your first handgun. You have to be dedicated to the platform and get familiar with it first. After practicing it will all become muscle memory.
Some people also complain about the weight of a 1911 pistol. For an EDC (Everyday carry) the ~35 oz. of a Colt Government model (33 oz. for the Commander model) seem high. A Glock 21 for instance weighs about 30 oz. unloaded. The full size S&W M&P45 weighs in at 27.7oz. Beretta advertises their M9A1 with a weight of 33.9oz. The M4, a 9mm handgun, was and still is carried by Military personnel.
Sure, each oz. of weight will wear on you throughout the day. But still, you’ve got a solid, battle proven handgun with steel frame and –slide. And that means less felt recoil when you have to deploy your firearm and therefore it’s easier to control. If the weight is still too much you might want to look into the Colt XSE series for instance. Colt offers a Commander with aluminum frame (O4860XSE), which weighs only 27oz. and is also chambered for the powerful .45ACP (ACP stands for Automatic Colt Pistol and is also an invention of Mr. Browning in case you didn’t know). That’s even less than the M&P and you still got the aluminum frame and not plastic.
If your budget allows it then have a look at Wilson Combat. They offer a Professional Lightweight model (compact frame with 4” barrel) that also weighs just 27.8oz. And you can choose between 9mm, .38 Super and .45ACP.
Perhaps now you think different of the 1911 pistol. If not, I can’t help. But I’m pretty sure that if you do your homework and get your hands on one, that you’ll like it.
Again, it might be not a firearm for beginners, but if you are dedicated to spend some time learning about the 1911 platform I don’t see an issue with that.
Born in the 1890’s, adopted by the U.S. Military in 1911, replaced by the Military in 1985, re-adopted in 2012, still in use with other agencies with millions of commercial pistols available to all of us. I can’t see why the Colt 1911 is not an American Icon!
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