Friday, January 27, 2006

Boomsticks: The Once and Future Pistol.

In the annals of the sidearm, there are many famous handguns. Maybe four have reached the status of Icon; immediately grasped and understood by anyone with even a modicum of exposure to Pop Culture, whether they grok which end the bullet comes out of or not: The Colt Model 1873 (aka "The Peacemaker"); the German P-08, known popularly as the "Luger"; the Glock, of rap lyric and Tommy Lee Jones one-liner fame; and the M1911 pistol, generically termed "The .45".

For a nonagenarian, this is a gun that sure gets around alot. It's the preferred sidearm of quite a few of the more well-known teams of trigger-pullers and door-kickers. Most action pistol disciplines have special classes for non-1911-pattern guns, to allow for an interesting fight for second place. It's still amazingly popular among both casual target shooters and CCW permit holders, and it completely dominates the centerfire stages of bullseye competition. It's still made by Colt, and currently cloned by: Kimber, SIGarms, Springfield Armory, Rock River Arms, Rock Island, Charles Daly, Dan Wesson, Smith & Wesson, Taurus, Para Ordnance, and more. Entire boutique houses, such as Wilson Combat, Les Baer, Ed Brown, STI, and Nighthawk Custom have sprung up around the business of offering handmade deluxe 1911's. Custom parts makers like Nowlin, Kart, Chip McCormick, and Greider Precision would probably dry up and blow away were it not for incessant demand for parts to improve on, specialize, or personalize this old military sidearm.

One of the most sought-after 1911 models on the market right now is Springfield Armory's Professional model. Originally designed to meet the needs of FBI SWAT and their Hostage Rescue Team, this is a no-BS fighting pistol that emerged on top after a thoroughgoing selection procedure that left many pistols from big-name custom houses sucking wind by the side of the road. The Professionals are hand-built in Springfield's custom shop, which is run under the watchful eye of Dave Williams, and lend their aura to lesser, mass-produced guns like the TRP and Loaded 1911 models that come off of Springfield's Geneseo, IL production line. Springfield may not be getting rich off such labor-intensive guns, but the halo effect cast over the rest of the product line by the Hostage Rescue Team pistol more than makes up for that in publicity alone.

Eschewing such competition-oriented touches as a full-length guide rod (a feature which provides no measurable accuracy benefit, may be a detriment to reliability, and complicates takedown) and forward cocking serrations (useless outside certain range-safety procedures during some types of competition), the Pro instead emphasizes ruggedness and reliability, while still offering match-grade accuracy. As an essentially hand-built gun (although not truly bespoke, since you can have any color you want as long as it's Black-T, and the guns are built to the FBI's specs, not yours,) the Pro is expensive but worth every penny, as one of the fastest-shooting, most accurate, hardest-hitting CCW-able pistols on the market. All-in-all, the Professional Model is very nearly the current pinnacle of evolution for the 1911-pattern fighting pistol.

Now, of course, with an expensive pistol like this, one would never dare risk exposing it to anything so crass as holster wear.

Further, it must be understood that such a tightly-fitted and highly-accurate pistol mustn't be exposed to dirt, lest it impede the gun's functioning (and resale value.)

Remember, too, that this finicky match-grade machine requires careful cleaning after firing, to ensure proper functioning.

Of course, that was all a joke: What really needs to be remembered is that here is a pistol that served American soldiers for seventy years in every hellhole on earth, from the mud of the Meuse-Argonne to the snows of Bastogne; from the dry cold of Chosin to the dank swamps of the Mekong Delta. The Pro is simply a current iteration of those guns; a weapon made of tool steel and now coated with teflon, to boot. This may be why the USMC just placed an emergency order for a bunch of them: What worked then works now, and while we wait for the anti-grav device to come along to obsolete the wheel, we can also limp along with these things until the boys at Sandia perfect the Death Ray. Until that day, this'll make for a pretty fair stand-in.


Xavier said...

Perfect. Prefect in fact!

rbshaw said...

Bravo-you are a hell of a good writer!

Anonymous said...

It's odd having to spend 4 times the cost of a Glock to get a 1911 that runs like a Glock.

Wouldn't a nice, bare bones, mil-spec 1911 work? That's what worked in WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and everywhere inbetween. Those 1911's didn't cost 1/4 the price of a car.

Tam said...

I've owned plenty of Glocks.

Believe me, if this pistol just "ran like a Glock", I would have sold it long ago.

I've had plenty of GI-type bare bones 1911's. I don't anymore. There's a reason.

If you just want to get to the grocery store and back for a loaf of bread, I suppose a Toyota Echo, a BMW M5, and a 4WD pickup truck are all pretty much the same thing, and there's not much point in spending any extra money for the latter two.

theirritablearchitect said...

May I also throw this piston into the ring in the "near custom" category...

I've never even fondled one, but Jardine has been hands-on in its development, and I have seen his work elsewhere.

theirritablearchitect said...

Excuse me, that should be pistol, not piston. The M5 comment got me all hot and bothered.

Josh said...

That pistol is the living (sorta) embodiment of a "make no substitute, take no excuses" attitude. Excellent post. Makes me want to delete half the crap I put up last night.

Anonymous said...

I was out CCA last evening buying an XD subcompact. I wish I had known about your blog then...

Oh well...


Anonymous said...


So lets see, the additional $2,000 gets you a good single action trigger.

Now, fitting the hand, comfort with the controls, mental attitude toward it, etc, are things that are personal.

My Glock 30'll do everything your $2,500 1911'll do. It's a joy to shoot, it's accurate, it fits my hand well, it won't rust, it always works, I don't worry about getting it absolutely filthy is a non-issue, it can be dripping sweet without worry. I've never ran water down the ejection port cause I just never thought about it.

So what does your 4x4 luxury hybrid handgun do that's worth the $2000 upgrade?

I'm not trying to troll, I'd like to pick up a nice 1911 one of these days on general principals, but it's not the end all be all handgun.
I'm not saying the Glock is either (it isn't, a better trigger, better supported chamber), but for something you don't have to jack with to make it work and work pretty much every time, $500 is much more attractive then $2,500.

Anonymous said...

At least the 1911 doesn't have that IDIOTIC trigger safety.

I was all set to buy a used Model 19 from a friend of mine. UNTIL I shot it. After ~ 50 rounds I had a divot in my finger from that stupid safety...

And FWIW, Smith & Wesson sells their SW1911 series starting at $699. That's nowhere near 4X the price of any Glock I've ever seen...

NotClauswitz said...

Bwahahah! No squishy-trigger for me! ;-)

Anonymous said...

Jay G
That's some amazingly soft finger pads you have there.

The 1911 posted and linked to in this entry is this $2,400 Springfield Armory "Professional Model 1911 A1". That's 4 times the cost of a Glock :). And it seems to run like a Glock.
Found the S&W 1911 for right at $600, not a bad buy at all.
But again, this particular 1911, which is just oh so tactical, is $2,400.
(sorry about the $2,500 bit, the extra $100 just slid right in there when I was typing)

Anonymous said...

It is amazing how defensive some people can get about their favorite guns. I've got a friend that owns several Glocks (4 I think) and I've fired all of them. I don't like any of them.

My everyday gun is a Ruger P97. It has its good points and its bad points but (in my humble opinion) is just as dependable, reliable and accurate as a Glock for a third less money.

I spent 21 years in the military and am very familiar with Mr. Browning's innovation. The 1911 has its good points and its bad points...but if I had the $2400 to pay for a handmade version of the most effective handgun design ever concieved, I'd do it in a heartbeat.

Whether Roughedge will admit it or not, there is a reason that the FBI is willing to pay $2400 per for these weapons. And there is a reason that you rarely (actually, I never have) see a Glock in an NRA Bullseye or Conventional Pistol match.

Anonymous said...

The FBI doesn't mind spending a bunch of money, so long as it's our money.

The S&W 1911s are pretty nice from what I've seen. Kinda jonesing for one right now.

Anonymous said...

and here I thought I was being offensive:)

Guess it comes down to "how much is your life worth?".

Guess mine's about $600 with night sights, mags and holster.

Tam said...


"That pistol is the living (sorta) embodiment of a "make no substitute, take no excuses" attitude."

And that's exactly its appeal; the design requirements (as anyone can read in the RFP) were for accuracy, reliability, and durability. Price, ease of manufacture, and other economy factors weren't a consideration.

In today's corner-cutting world, a pure-t no-expenses-spared functional object, built with no goal other than to be The Best is a joy to behold, whether it's a car or a coffee maker; a personal computer or a pistol.

Xavier said...

I'm glad to see Tam's gun with carry/use wear. To many people make a $1000 pistol a safe queen.

For almost 15 years, I never understood the allure of a 1911 until I gve in and shot one. Many people disparage that which they know not, simply to justify that which they know.

Lack of money might stop me from buying the pistol I want at a certain time, but it will never stop me from eventually getting what I want. Some folks say "This is good enough, and i don't need to spend more", others save until they get their heart's desire. What's the problem with that?

Anonymous said...

I have exactly the same argument about PCs and Macs. Which is really funny. Then again, I have a Guinness in hand, so many things are funny - I apologise ;)

I had the pleasure of firing a 1911 pattern gun, and immediately fell in love with it. Tam's SIG was sexy as all hell, the Glock was nice and all that... but the 1911 just snugged up into the web of my thumb and murmered "Where ya been?"

In a few short hours, I suddenly understood the whole Pistol Thing in a way I never had before. If someone wants to drop $2,500 on a specific pattern of gun, then it's because they want to, and even better, often, they can.

It may be entirely rational. It may have elements that are non-rational. As long as you get => $2,500 bucks worth of yippee out of it... who cares? Me, I empathise entirely! :)

Anonymous said...


It's called hyperbole. :)

I really really REALLY didn't like the trigger...

To be completely frank, I really don't have a dog in this hunt. I've got two of each: Two 1911s (a WWI military-issue Colt and a new AutoOrdnance 1911 milspec repro that cost me $480 new) and two Smith & Wesson SW99s (Walther P99 marketed by S&W).

Love 'em all. Carry the SW99 compact all fall, winter, and spring.

I'm a revolver guy, anyways. Came VERY close to buying a Colt Python today - well, as close as you can being roughly $900 short of the asking price...

Anonymous said...

I'm a contentious objector in the battle between 1911's and Glocks.

I'm not really fond of either design.

While I respect the 1911 tremendously, it was designed by St. Browning and did serve our country well for over 80 years, I just can't shoot one worth a darn.

Every single time I borrow someone's 1911, at least once, and usually several times, I'll have a failure to fire caused by that damned grip safety. Unless I consciously change my hold on the gun, at some point I'll fail to keep the safety depressed properly and get a "click" when I'm expecting a "BANG!" As a result, I'm more aware of how I'm holding the gun than how I'm shooting. My groups with any 1911 usually resemble shotgun patterns.

Btw, Jeff Cooper also has a problem keeping the grip safety depressed. He routinely pins the safety's in his personal guns. Not something I'm likely to do myself in this day and age.

I have a different problem with Glocks. I can make them go "Bang!" every time, but I hate how they feel in my hand. They feel like holding a block of wood out at arms length. That and the spongy trigger really, really bug me. The G19 sorta halfway fits my hand OK, so that would be the one I'd buy if I ever do break down and go plastic.

The two guns that fit me the best are the Browning High Power (which would be perfect if not for that mag disconnect safety) and the CZ-75. Smith & Wesson K-frame revolvers also feel like a part of my hand. A 3" Model 65 is my current carry gun.

Even without a Glock or 1911, I think I'm good to go with any of those.

Anonymous said...

I wasn't going to do this, but I've just got to.

Roughedge's whole argument was that his Glock was just as good as the 1911 that cost 4 times as much.

When I opine that my Ruger is just as good as his Glock and cost less, all the sudden it's about how much our respective lives are worth.

No, Rough, that's not "offensive", that is the DEFINITION of defensive.

My point wasn't to insult you (or make you even more defensive than you already were) it was to point out that everyone has their favorites and can be very dedicated in their...dedication.

I happen to like my Ruger better than any Glock I've fired. That doesn't make Ruger "better" than Glock in general. It makes Ruger better than Glock for ME. So, if I can procure a weapon that I like better, and pay less money in the process, does that indicate that I value my life less than you? Or does it simply indicate that I prefer a weapon that happens to be less expensive?...sort of like the fact that your preference for your $600 Glock over the $2400 1911 described in the original post doesn't indicate that you value your life 1/4 as much as Tam.

Anonymous said...

My Kimber is great! It is the basic model. I would like to shoot the FBI Springfield to see if perfection can be improved upon.

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to put in my penny, I have shot guns for more than 15 years and love all of them. Like so many others i used to "badmouth" glocks, till when working with another group of triggerpullers such as myself I was offered to try a model 19. This changed my attitude forever. The ease of use, and inherent accuracy that I personnelly found in this gun was amazing to me. It was a personel thing like sailorguy is saying. I recently bought an ed brown kobra, and while this gun is beautiful to the eye, and has very tight tolerances, I had numerous problems with this gun which were very upsetting to me. While I have never had a problem with my Glock and it is being issued to the new Iraqi police. The brown team is also not being helpful at all and it would be hard for me to recommend anyone to buy their guns. I was on a list for a professional and I want to kick myself for not waiting as I have shot the SA operator and find it time be a amazing 1911. I should have bought the SA and tami your VERY lucky to own one. For these reasons and others when I deploy again I will NOT take the Ed Brown and my advice is to make sure you shoot the gun you choose regardless of cost well, adn to do your homework on whatever weapon you choose.


SerbSpaniard said...

I just came across this blog, and I must point out the pathetically obvious to Mr. Roughedge:
1. The FBI issues its agents Glock 22s (or 23s, if they choose).
2. The FBI ordered the SA Professional 1911 because it is more appropriate weapon for its SWAT teams than the Glocks. It's performance fits its purpose and function.
Just as the Glock 22/23 fits the Special Agent's purpose and function. For instance, if it is unlikely you may need 17 shots or that you'll be training to shoot a terrorist twice in the face, where such point-of-impact is maybe three inches from a hostage's forehead, then the reliable, military-purpose sidearm called a Glock is a great choice. Otherwise, I suggest the Professional model.

Anonymous said...

I have owned both, one was an issue, the other I bought and sold years ago. The Gock is a fine weapon, it is just not my choice

For me it just comes down to the .45 got me home from a war.

If I had to go again, it would be the first weapon I selected. No other pistol would be considered.

As long as I had a .45 with 7 rounds with me I never felt unarmed.
I own a Colt 70's LW commander today, best .45 I have ever owned.
Carry on.


CaptNemo said...

I've shot Glocks, Rugers, Berettas, Colts and assorted "no-name" semi-pistols.

When I decided to buy my pistol, I chose the Springfield Armory Mil-spec and I have never regretted it. I have had only one mis-feed (because of crap CCI ammunition) in the 1000s of rounds I have put through it. It's accuracy is wonderful.

It cost me $500 off the shelf at a retail outlet.

It's easy to disassemble and clean and it just works.

The 1911 is by far the best GENERAL PURPOSE pistol.

Anonymous said...

who cares? shoot what you like carry what works for you, half the battle is having confidence in your equioment

Anonymous said...

Fact: A Glock (esp in 9mm) is a great proven pistol to be sure but its not a 1911. Lots of other good bullet chuckers out there but we're talking 1911's. And though the mil-spec 1911's of yore were great, finding a good specimen will cost just as much (probably more) and it doesn't have the modern refinements of the Pro (for all the thumb on top of safety high hand hold 1911 shooters). And sorry a gun like an SA Mil-Spec or Colt 1991 isn't actually "mil-spec" is it? The Pro is the most test and proven hand fitted 1911 on the market today. 8000+ rounds through mine and lovin' every round of it.

Anonymous said...

I love my Glock 17 but its no Professional Model. I love my Professional Model but its no Glock 17. I've long forgotten how much I paid for them. They're mine so I dont' put a price tag on them since they're not for sale. And no. From my own experience, after owning Colts, Kimbers, and SW1911's all 1911's are not created equal. If you love the 1911 do yourself a favor and get a Pro, or maybe a Baer or a true custom 1911.

Anonymous said...

Eight years ago I bought a Kimber for about $600 shortly after getting my ccw. I figure since then I've put about 2000-3000 rounds through it and can't remember any malfunctions. Got a .22 conversion for it to cut down ammo expense for practice.

It would be nice to be able to afford a custom pistol, but with my level of skill it would be like giving a Stradavarius to an orangutan.

Anonymous said...

I've owned three Glocks in my checkered past. A 19 and two 23s. Decent fighting handguns. But I can't hit the broadside of a barn at two feet with them. And I hate the triggers. Too much takeup. And my last Model 23 had that God-awful 8lb NY1 trigger (shudder). Plus a .40 Glock kicks like a moose with an attitude. Girls just wanna have fun, but I I want that much fun I'll shoot my hubby's Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum Model 29-3, the Lew Horton job from 1985 that only 200 of were made.

Owned a Beretta 92, a Beretta Px-4 Storm, a SiG SP 2022, a Smith 469, and even a Smith 39-2. Nice guns. But 9mm...good caliber, but I'd like to trust my life to something that'll drop the bad guy with the only shot I'm likely to get in an emergency. And I hated the safety on the Berettas and Smiths. God and John Moses Browning intended safeties to flip DOWN, not up, and they should be on the frame, not the slide, for easier reach with a scared and trembling thumb.

Enter the 1911. I learned them in the Army, before Uncle Sugar lost his mind and swapped our worn-out 1911s and Model 10 revolvers for Beretta 92s that were bigger, bulkier, and not as tough.

Packed a Colt Model 70, one of the early shots Colt took at remakes. Well, I carry cocked and locked. Without a firing-pin saftey I wasn't keen on packing this thing-too easy to go off if the muzzle gets whacked hard. Tried a Defender. Loved it. Wish I'd kept it, even though it jammed on every third round and weirdly-crazy jams where the fired cartirdge did a 180 and got jammed back in the chamber open-end first. Tried a third Colt, a Gold Cup this time. Got it home, took a good look, and found out that the slide was so badly machined that the spring tunnel sidewall on the left was half the thickness of the right. Then I shot the sights clean off at Round No. 250 and it started rattling like a milspec gun. But it sure was a tackdriver.

Time to try a variant. I traded the Gold Cup on a used Kimber Pro Carry HD II. I was onto something there, but I didn't like the hellacious muzzle blast, plus this gun had not been gently used. Time to trade up.

Enter the brand new Kimber Stainless II. Now no longer so new, and I think I have finally found gun happiness. It's tight as a drum. It has all the toys save night sights, and I want Heinie Straight Eights anyway, so no need for buying one new with Meprolights. I like the full length guide rod and my small hands appreciate the forward serrations, they help rack it. I especially like the extended safety and magazine release, and the composite grips. Kimber rocks.

Miao, Cat

Chris said...

Love this piece...the article isn't bad either. ;-) Got introduced to the 1911 in the Army--like Cat says above--we had to carry the Baretta as a standard issue secondary.

When I got my CCW as a civilian, I promptly got a Springfield Mil-spec 1911 and never had a problem with it. I carry a Sig SAUER P226--which was a deal from a buddy--and my wife gives me crap about carrying a 'girl's gun'--she has the IMI Baby Eagle in .45.

My next carry pistol will be a 1911-clone--I was thinking Kimber, Sig, or Para Ordinance, but I'll be tracking down one of these Professional Models after reading the article. So, thanks for the review.

BTW, I'll never get a Glock. I've seen the front sights fall off of two different specimens--and heard of a third such occurrence from a buddy--all as a result of normal carry and use at the range, all were stock guns, and the events were separated by a couple of years each.

One such problem may have been an anomaly, but two and three definitely put me off that plastic pistol for good.