My pal Breda recently went out for her inaugural 1911 experience. Judging from the pictures, it looks like she rented your basic Colt 1991A1. Judging by the text, the target, and the big ol' grin, it looks like she had a great time. This is because she did it right: quality gun, name brand ammo, knowledgeable help, and a positive attitude.
True Confession: My early 1911 experiences were nowhere near as good...
It is often said that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. I regret to say that more than once I have fallen victim to having a little knowledge. Allow me to embarrass myself and set the Wayback Machine for almost eight years ago to the day...
Back in ’00, a guy made a post on The Firing Line about the reliability of the 1911-type pistol. I responded in high dudgeon with a list of the 1911-type pistols I’d owned and a litany of the woes I’d suffered while shooting them. On the surface, it read like a fairly knowledgeable post.
I was not a novice at the time. I’d been slinging guns across the glass for a living for, oh, seven years or so. I’d shot competitively, both smallbore rifle and action pistol. I’d dabbled at reloading. I’d owned probably a half-dozen pistols of the type that could loosely be termed 1911s. I was less than happy with the breed.
I cringe reading it now.
In the intervening eight years I have had what is almost a college edjumacation in firearms, with a minor in 1911s, and looking at that post is like looking at a high school yearbook; it was amazing how much I knew that wasn’t so.
Did you see where I referred to a “G.I. Springfield”? Yeah. It wasn’t. I mean, I knew it wasn’t military; but I thought the frame was made for a government contract. The “NM” in the serial number stands for “National Match”, right? (Hint: No.)
Everyplace I referred to “factory mags” or “G.I. mags”, I now realize that I meant “$5 gun show mags”. My “factory” Colt mags may have said “Colt” on them, but they didn’t have the horsie on them and had probably never been closer to Hartford than 500 miles. I knew a CMC or Wilson mag by looking at it, but everything else got automatically lumped into the "factory/GI" mag category in my mind. Why I expected a cheapo "USA" mag to work in a 1911 when I wouldn't let one within a hundred yards of my Glock remains one of life's great mysteries.
Being a savvy shooter, I had a “gunsmith” friend work on 1911s as soon as I bought them, without even shooting them first. I had him “ramp and throat” them. What he did was ruin them. I knew just enough about 1911s to trash a perfectly good gun.
Further, since they were all used when I bought them and I had no idea how to properly check one out, JMB himself only knows what kind of boogered-up shadetree smithing failures I was proudly carting home to mangle even more.
I was lucky in two respects in 2001. First, I started working at a shop with a gunsmith who really, really knew his stuff; Shannon Jennings taught me more about how 1911s work than I can properly credit. As an added bonus, working under the same roof as a guy with a known reputation let me see plenty of ruined guns when they were brought in for his ministrations. Seeing what is done wrong is as instructive in its way as seeing it done right.
Second, I bought a LNIB Springfield Professional, complete with the Wilson mags it shipped with from the factory. That let me see what a good 1911 was supposed to be like.
Needless to say, my views changed a bit. I’ve owned at least eighteen different 1911 pattern pistols since then (not counting the Radom or Double Beagle in the photo below)…
Other than the Detonics Combat Master and the Colt GI/ParaOrd hybrid, both of which were absolute basket cases that I purchase with open eyes, hoping to resurrect them, I never had a real problem with any of the lot.
Of course, this time around, I knew what I was looking at when I bought a used one. Also, this time around, I resisted the temptation to show how savvy I was by having them “ramped and throated”. You know, for reliability.
If I learn as much in the next eight years as I did in the last, I'll really be dangerous...