The 1911 Not Only Abides,
It Flat-Out Thrives.
So here I am in the front seat of a van with a laptop on my lap, remembering the student who asked me yesterday why more training staff than not were wearing 1911 pistols, when we were obviously familiar with more modern technology.
Well… not only flat but thin, the full-size Springfield 1911-A1, currently riding in an ARG holster inside my waistband, is more comfortable than almost any other handgun of the same power level. When seated for an all-day drive, that’s important—indeed, it’s important for all-day carry whatever you’re doing.
Serious shooters appreciate the 1911 because it is, well, shootable. It points well in most hands. Various trigger lengths and a slim grip profile allow it to fit the smallest hands, and the largest. Its trigger pull is consistent from first shot to last, and can be made very controllable. A relatively low-bore axis minimizes muzzle jump caliber for caliber, and those caliber choices range from .22 Long Rifle to .50 GI, and the classic chambering, .45 ACP, is remarkably versatile.
Some of us like to compete when we can. The .45 I’m carrying, Springfield’s Range Officer model, costs under $1,000 retail and comes with adjustable sights, which adapt to the different trajectories of the .45 ACP’s wide range of available loads. It is suitable for bull’s-eye pistol events in both centerfire and .45 competition, the Stock class of NRA Action Pistol and the Bianchi Cup, Limited category in USPSA, the Custom Defensive Pistol division of IDPA, any bowling pin shoot, Steel Challenge or a PPC Auto match.
Defense? Pistol and load have proven themselves from the street to the battlefield for well over a century. A popular meme on the gun-related Internet is “handgun calibers suck,” but you’ll have a hard time selling that argument to those of us who’ve seen what a 230-grain Federal HST +P .45 round does in living tissue.
Kevin Williams displays splendid control of his Springfield
Range Officer 1911 9mm at ProArms IDPA match.
The 1911 is one of our most iconic firearms. For my generation, it was the gun Grandpa carried in WWI, Dad in WWII, older brother in Korea, younger brother in Vietnam, and perhaps even son in the most recent conflict, since the 1911 .45 still endures as a niche weapon with our military. For those who carry for protection of self and others, that long and distinguished history of getting the job done is… comforting.
Contrary to the beliefs of some, a quality 1911 can run just fine without your gunsmith looking over your shoulder. That said, though, it requires attention for maintenance and manual of arms. Properly carried cocked and locked, it wants an experienced hand that knows when to flip the thumb safety up on “safe,” and when to flick it down into the “fire” position. With its short and relatively light trigger pull, the 1911 really, really wants us to keep our finger outside the triggerguard until we are in the very act of intentionally firing a shot.
The recommended hammer-back carry frightens the uninitiated, but the most important word in “cocked and locked” may be the last one. Exquisitely ergonomic and easy to use once habituation is developed, that thumb lever is a safety net in case a criminal attacker gains control of the pistol and tries to commit murder with it. Tests show it may take the unfamiliar user 17 seconds or more to figure out how to “turn on the shooting machine,” and that’s a lot of life-saving time for the Good Guy or Gal who has been disarmed.
If it becomes necessary to shove the pistol into the waistband without a holster—never a good idea—we have both thumb safety and grip safety between us and an unintended shot if a careless index finger or some foreign object gets caught in the guard and pushes the trigger rearward. For years I’ve taught holstering with thumb on exposed hammer, another safety net, and one not available on striker-fired guns. The thumb on the hammer also pulls the web of the hand off the grip safety, putting that component on safe as well.
Thumb on hammer, trigger finger extended, safety on: Ed Brown Signature
1911 .45 goes into comfortable, concealable Rosen ARG holster.
Bear in mind that some 1911’s are not “drop safe,” and can discharge from inertia if dropped or struck sharply. That’s why I like those with internal firing pin safeties, such as the Series 80 system of the Colt and ParaOrdnance or the Swartz type on the Kimber II series. Failing that, inertia discharge can be prevented with a lightweight firing pin and extra-strength firing pin spring, as found in the Springfield currently on my hip.
Habit brings comfort, too. My generation started shooting when the 1911 was the only available large-caliber, semi-automatic pistol. The years have made it as familiar as a well-worn pair of slippers. That’s not exactly a bad thing, either.
I’ve now mentioned “comfort” four times here. And you know, speaking of my old favorite pistol, I’m comfortable with that.
By Massad Ayoob