Thursday, February 10, 2011

M1911A1 vs. "1911"...

Something that's come up in comments here and here is this persistent internet myth that the M1911 pistol is some elegant weapon from a more civilized age, that the design required "careful tuning" or "hand-fitting" to manufacture. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The M1911A1 was a service pistol, built with interchangeable parts. Over the course of a couple of years during WWII over a million of the things were produced by a typewriter company, a sewing machine manufacturer, and a railroad signal maker. In 1943, the Ordnance Department relaxed dimensional standards even further to ensure that there would be no problem mixing parts from several primary manufacturers and bunches of subcontractors. Manufacturing the M1911A1 is not rocket surgery; the gun is a stone axe, designed to be maintained in the field by draftee armorers using drop-in parts.

However, the result of all that is a reliable, heavy gun with an eight-pound trigger pull, mediocre accuracy, and half the magazine capacity of modern duty pistols, yet one that would still cost over a thousand dollars in today’s economy, because machining steel isn’t cheap.

So various commercial manufacturers started tightening tolerances to improve accuracy, and hand-fitting lockwork to improve trigger pull, and substituting cheaper manufacturing techniques and materials for smaller parts in order to keep the costs out of the stratosphere, and that's how we wind up where we are today, with "1911" being a term as generic as "Kleenex" and applied to almost anything even vaguely shaped like an M1911.

My ’66 Colt is, in essence, a GI gun with improved sights, ergonomics, and trigger; all the crucial parts are dimensioned properly and made from the correct materials. The extractor is still the old Colt part, and nothing's been done to the gun to "make it reliable" because it’s outstandingly reliable as it sits, stubby GI ejector and all. It’s not particularly accurate, however; certainly no more so than any modern polymer service gun and probably far less so than the better examples of the breed, and has barely over half the magazine capacity while weighing two-and-a-half pounds. A manufacturer could build and sell a roughly equivalent gun today for probably not too much over $1,000, but why would they?

Personally, I mostly stay with the 1911 because of sunk costs, and because it's a pistol that is stupid easy to shoot fast and accurately. That, and I like having a sidearm that I know from the ground up, for which I specified every single part. But that's because guns are my hobby. To quote Larry Vickers: "[i]f ... you treat your pistols like we all treat our lawnmowers then don’t get a 1911 – use a Glock."


Tango Juliet said...

I only run a "1911" 'cause that's what all the cool kids do.

Blackwing1 said...

My first 1911 was a Norinco, back when they could still import a pile of 'em. It appears to have been made with very good steel, a pretty lousy finish (matte black something-or-other), and cheapo plastic grips. It will eat anything, even 200-gr semi-wadcutters, from standard GI-style magazines. Doesn't lock up very tight, the frame-to-rails fit is just okay, the bushing is pretty easy to turn on the barrel.

From a Ransom rest on a bench it will shoot about 3" groups at 25 yards. I'd guess that that kind of accuracy isn't sufficient for bulls-eye target shooting, but it's still far better than I can that's a moot point.

I'd guess that the quality of manufacture and tolerances is about the same as the US-made WWII production pistols. But it's never failed to go "bang" when requested to do so. It's my bike-gun, and I trust it completely.

Montie said...

This post is a good example of why VFTP is one of my first reads of the day. Sometimes it has wonderful snarky entertainment value and at other times it puts out really good info and dispels some myths and bad info.

Everything you have said in this post is absolutely true. I stick with the 1911 because I have owned and shot a number of them since I was 17. I have fired more rounds through 1911 platform guns than any other and it "fits" me better than any other platform from an ergonomic perpective.

I own 1911's ranging from a 3" Kimber to a 6" longslide Clark Custom and enjoy all of them, right down to a well travelled Argentine Modello 1927, a gun as loose as any of the mixed parts rebuilt 1911's I used in the Army before the adoption of the Beretta. But that 1927 functions perfectly with the 230 grain ball it was designed for and can hit what I point it at as long as I do my part.

Opinions on the web seem to vary from "the 1911 is a magic talisman that can slay all the bad guys with little effort on your part" to "the 1911 is a high dollar finicky boat anchor good only for 'gun games' not real fighting".

Glad to see you put in into true perspective.

Anonymous said...

Great blog Tam! Nothing but the Truth on that one! Milspec 1911's are great for being super reliable.My 1911 service pistol has never let me down, ever! Yet my custom 1911 is very finiky as to what she likes. great blog!!


Gewehr98 said...

I have 1911 variants because I am used to the design, having been issued them by Uncle Sam for many years. I trained with them, have no issues with Cocked N' Locked, and bought a buttload of the Norinco copies back when they were $219.95 each. My CCW gun, depending on season or apparel, was either a Caspian Officer's ACP or a Kahr K9.

If this makes me a fanboi per GunNutMegger's perspective, so be it. Contrary to popular mythology, 1911s don't need tweaking to be reliable (See Norinco above), but it sure is fun to dress them up with nice bits and pieces.

Tam said...


"If this makes me a fanboi per GunNutMegger's perspective..."

If GunNutmegger ever figured out why God gave him two ears and only one mouth, he might learn something. ;)

Ed said...

All the 1911 hate lately has me really confused. It's like the Glock fanbois are finally getting even for all the years of Glock kBoom pics on the internet, or something.

wrm said...

Guess it depends on what kind of accuracy you demand. My '44 lend-lease RemingColt gives me 6 inch 50 shot groups at 10 meters (standing) easily... not close to what I can get at 100m with a Thompson silhouette gun (creedmore, though) but still 'way better than I need for, say, IDPA.

My kinda-1911 Star MB (in 9mm) can hold a magazine well inside the IDPA head at the same distance.

The most modern pistol I own, a Star Firestar, struggles to hold a couple of mags on A4. That's about the kind of accuracy I see from CZ 75s and the like as well.

All of the above are more than adequate for the purpose. But as you say, they're our toys, that's why we dote on 'em as much as we do.

Heroditus Huxley said...

I've had the opportunity to shoot one twice, and handle them in gun shops at every opportunity. There is no other handgun that feels quite so good in my hands as a full sized 1911--which is odd, because I'm a small woman with child-sized hands. My everyday carry piece is a CZ-82, and is almost as comfortable a fit.

Anonymous said...

HH, not really odd. The average soldier in WWI was fairly small. When we transitioned to the M9, petite lady MPs had some issues with the fatter grip.

Great post Tam! IMHO, a lot of the "hand fitting" issues came about in the early/mid '80's as every bubba with a lathe tried cashing in on the IPSC crazed for "tools not technique" shooters. Lots of parts didn't work too well, leading many to conclude that ALL 1911 pattern pistols had issues. Remember the Randall and AMT 1911s? Yuck..

That being said, our issue 1911A1s were some tired puppies by the late '80's. Several of our armorers (Army) tried swapping parts to get more accurate pistols, with mediocre results. The M9 was a welcome upgrade.

Al T.

Montie said...

You know, Tango Juliet is actually onto something.

Back in 1987, when the PD I worked for transitioned to autos, the powers that be declared that we would only be allowed to carry double-action autos (despite one grand-fathered in old-timer who was carrying a 1911 while we all had to carry revolvers). I was able to plead my case to carry a 1911, helped along by that sergeant and the comment from the instructor who taught the transition course for the state, who said "Man, you can make that 1911 sing" (Thanks to 8 years of IPSC). I was just more comfortable with a gun that I had shot a lot.

When I moved to a larger agency, I was forced to carry the issue S&W double action auto, but still carried a 1911 off duty, because I was comfortable with it.

These days, I still carry a 1911 except when working in uniform, in which case I have to carry the Dept. gun ( my Chief is not a "gun guy" and considers a cocked and locked gun an abomination, although I have tried to explain how his beloved Glock is for all practical purposes partially cocked, he can't SEE it). I like and prefer 1911's personally, but I am comfortable enough with Glocks, SIGs, etc. that I don't mind using them. I even find myself occasionally carying my Glock 19 or 30 off duty when I am in a mood to do so, particularly if flying out of state (less $ and heartbreak if lost).

My son works for a department in California that until just recently had a Chief with an attitude much like my Chief's toward 1911's. They recently hired a new Chief who at his swearing-in was packing a 1911 which caused quite a stir among the ranks. He came from a pro-1911 department, and when asked about it said "well if it's not allowed, I'll change out". this was quickly put to rest by the command staff with "You're the Chief, carry what you want, but the rest of the PD should be given the option, so a policy change was made.

My son called me about my opinion on his changing over to a 1911. He had been optionally carrying his personal M&P .40 which he bought before the M&P .45 came out (they issue Glock 17's). He doesn't have a lot of experience with the 1911 platform and has always been a big S&W fan. When S&W offered their 1911 with a rail he had bought one just to have a 1911 in his safe, but not fired it much.

I went over the pros and cons of his 1911 vs his M&P but basically took it down to "carry what you are comfortable with" if you choose to go with a 1911 make sure it works 100% like your current gun, and that you can hit what you aim at, and most of all that you can deploy it without thinking about things like taking off the thumb safety. It should be second nature so it runs like a "draw and pull trigger gun" for you when necessary, yet if you have to take someone at gunpoint you can do so without ever having disengaged the safety. He went out and shot a LOT at the range under a lot of scenarios and decided to make the change, but I wonder how much of it is because of two factors: knowing Dad's love for the platform combined with "all the cool kids on the Department are carrying 1911's".

I just hope it serves him well if needed.

og said...

I'll be sending you some new grips back with Ms Brigid next weekend for you to torture test, should you desire.

The Raving Prophet said...

I love the 1911. I had a dalliance with the CZ P-01; great gun, felt wonderful in the hand, but I sold it off and stuck with the 1911. One day I'll look into a Glock or a S&W M&P. But I'm not sure I'll change my carry or home defense pieces over from the 1911. Why?

Because I shoot them well. When I shoot another design, I'll do ok, but picking up a 1911 is like coming home for me, and I can make the bullets go where they need to go with one.

I have lots of love for other guns (including and especially S&W revolvers, but I don't shoot them near as well). I know the weaknesses of the 1911, and a couple of those issues have bitten me from time to time. But I'll spend the money and stick with them because it's what I shoot best. I hope all shooters can find a design (whatever it may be) that just "fits" them too.

aczarnowski said...

Through my engineering trained eye I'd call the 1911 elegant. From a more civilized age? Well, we all have some pretty thick rose colored films on our various glasses...

I keep an ugly and abused (mostly by me) 1911 in the safe because I like classic things. Most of my tinkering time goes into my 1977 BMW motorcycle though so I shoot and carry plastic wonders. But at some point I'll have myself a BBQ gun and plastic will never qualify. When showing off a bit is part of what it's for some tradition, whether civilized, elegant or other, has a shine to it I can't ignore.

Zermoid said...

"Remember the Randall and AMT 1911s? Yuck.."

I remember the AMT Hardballer, aptly named, wouldn't digest anything else...

Worse yet, Llama IX-C, Hi-cap 1911ish clone, I was stupid enough to buy it for the hi capacity and found that IF it would actually feed it might be a good pistol, but since it isn't a "true" 1911 most 1911 parts don't fit it, so 'fixing' it is a hard proposition. It is very accurate (thanks to an oversized locking link I fabricated to make the barrel fit tightly into the slide) but you can only rely on the first round in the chamber firing, next one trying to go in is iffy.......

It also really likes cast bullets, since it's bore is about .001 oversize at .453 (I think, this is from memory, but it is oversize).

Even made the barrel ramped by silversoldering on a extra piece of steel, still won't feed reliably, and now I have to weld the frame back up to use a regular barrel.

I don't think the slide locking cuts are 'standard' as my 1911A1 barrel won't fit it, anyone know if a 1911 slide and barrel might work? Or be able to be fitted to the frame?

Gunnutmegger said...

Hey now.

I am not the only person who has noticed the finicky nature of 1911s, or their tendency to need 'smithing.

And, while it is fun to pick apart substandard 1911s, no one in the 1911 camp has been able to provide any solid information on what brands/models of 1911 a shooter can trust.

Which leaves everyone else in the shooting world with a difficult choice: roll the dice and overpay for a 1911 that might or might not work, or buy something more modern that is more reliable and less expensive.

What ARE the "good" brands of 1911, folks? And does that apply to all models in their line, or just some of them?

Anonymous said...

I have one of those terrible 1911's built by the typewriter company for War 2. When it came to me it had not been cleaned in 20-odd years. Stripped it down, cleaned it up, loaded it and went to the backyard. 8 bangs in a row. And it has behaved that way ever since. One day I'll pass it on to my son, just as it was passed on to me.

Anonymous said...


Asked and answered.

New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

"And, while it is fun to pick apart substandard 1911s, no one in the 1911 camp has been able to provide any solid information on what brands/models of 1911 a shooter can trust."

Again, you haven't been listening. You may hear, but it doesn't seem to stick if you obstinately cling to that line.

Bram said...

I would like to have a 1911 to keep with my other old stuff and shoot once in a while. But someday when I move to a free state and can carry, it won't be a 1911.

Anonymous said...

we have received so many 'nonfunctional beyond any hope of repair' 1911's in the last 10 years that we will no longer order or stock any brand of 1911... just the way it is...

Anonymous said...

Makes me want to get the 1943 Ithica out of retirement. It was my fathers. Between me and the wife, we have five of them. She is in the 3 and 4 inch camp, I perfer the standard mostly because it reminds me of dad. I wish there was a grandson to pass it on to, only a grand daughter. Guess grandma needs to take her to the range. ;)


Laughingdog said...

Ok Tam,

I love my 1911, and know that I need to learn more about it if I want to keep carrying it. My Springfield has worked like a champ since I got it. But I know that won't remain the case.

The two Patrick Sweeney 1911 books were recommended to me for learning how to maintain a 1911. Do you know of any others that would be good supplements to those two volumes?

Jayson said...

I have 2 1911s, and it's just a cool ass gun. I'd like to get a Norinco for a good price, but i think those days are over.

Anonymous said...

I love the 1911, have owned a 9mm Colt Combat Commander in Missouri, a .45 Colt Combat Commander in Germany (!) and a 1991 Colt in California.

All gone. Now I have a 625 Smith and Wesson, which will have to do me until my income tax return arrives.

NotClauswitz said...

Terry, un-retire the '43! Do you have the HS barrel or want one?
I found the correct barrel on Gunbroker for my '43 GI Colt and pulled the High Standard substitute-standard replacement. It dropped right in and kept on shooting. The barrel hood is a slightly different profile from the High standard (HS on RT), but they both shoot JHP's as long as they're 230-grains.

Tam said...


I would definitely suggest Jerry Kuhnhausen's The Colt .45 automatic: A shop manual.

NotClauswitz said...

I do know motorheads who would put a pipe and an oversized barrel and piston on their two-stroke lawnmower to bump up displacement, jet it leaner for off-idle power and maybe even a Nology hot-wire ignition set - and some mag wheels - and wind up working on it all the time, but for fun...

Eric Wilner said...

I figure 1911-pattern pistols are like VW bugs, or Linux: great for those who like to tinker, customize, and generally get under the hood and understand the machines they use.
Also, like Linux (but not so much VW bugs), they can be made reliable and low-maintenance, if one is so inclined.

Ancient Woodsman said...

This was excellent. I especially like the start of the last paragraph; just substitute "SIG" for 1911 and you would have my situation. I glommed on to SIGs almost 30 years ago and they work for me.

Amazing how some find I have many SIGs and their reply is, "What, you don't like (Glock/S&W/HK/etc.)?" Heck no, I like them all, and shoot a few others including economy Rugers, too. But due to sunk costs, including time in training, range, plinking, maintenance tools & armorer school, the SIG classic is my go-to.

If I started down that path with a Glock, Colt, S&W whatever at that time I'd be having some ask today, "What, you don't like SIGs?"

Too much of the arguing is simply to promote sales or egos, ignoring the common component of all good pistols: they are all fun. The good ones, anyway.

Thanks for writing that. It was a good read.

Just My 2¢ said...

Hey, Tam:
Don't forget the part that the whole military issue thing can be detail stripped by a GI without tools. Try stripping a yuppie version without a bushing wrench!

It's kinda too bad that 1911's and AR-15s have been "discovered". There is so much carp out there. I just want to scream, "Pay no attention to the advertising! It's all garbage!"

The only 'good' thing about the 1911 situation is that there isn't a flood of Chinese counterfeit and airsoft trash for suckers to bolt on. Unfortunately, the trash is much more subtle and expensive...

Bubblehead Les. said...

'98 Mausers, 1911's, M-1 Garands, 1891 Moisen-Nagants, all 70-100+ year old designs, yet they still work just fine. Used in some of the worst conditions this planet has generated, yet they all did their functions w/o Lasers, Tritium, the Picatinny Railroad and Tupperware Frames. Yet when I ask the surviving users from the WW2/Korea Era about the "Holy and Reverent Saintly Relics" they were using in their Wars, most of the Combat vets look at me and say "it's just a gun". Food for thought.

Firehand said...

Can't remember where first read it, but there's a saying that 'The 1911 is like a lot of things; as designed it's reliable as a rock, but the more the design is screwed with for target accuracy and such, the more you chance screwing with reliability.'

I've seen some old 1911's that would just about rattle if you shook them hard, but they always went bang. And their accuracy- if you had good enough light for those military sights- was well inside minute-of-goblin out to 25 yards, better than I could hold offhand in a self-defense situation.

It's not the sidearm for everyone, but it does work. And I like it.

Ed Foster said...

I might seem a tad less than objective here, as I build 1911's for a living, but we've already pedalled most of the first run to cops up in Mass at dealer cost. Hint, any full time serving officer gets the same deal.

J.B. Stern of the Springfield P.D. is also a reservist SEAL with a bunch of tours to RagWorld under his belt, plus being President's Hundred in both rifle and pistol. All while being on the Navy rifle and pistol team. He and Sean Sullivan, Springfield's Chief Armorer, each put 150 rounds through a carry model, then a target model.

Then J.B. took the guns over to Agawam Rod and Gun, where half the blue suits in western Mass put another 600 rounds through each of them. Zero stoppages, with well shredded x's. Gotta'love that incredible Kart barrel.

Admittedly, I do have to take the front sight down a tad on the fixed sight carry model, but otherwise, honest guns, right out of the box.

I do have to disagree politely with Eric W. as to the inherent reliability of the 1911. Look at the insane tests the government did to accept them. No other pistol in the world (yes Virginia, including the Savage) came even close.

I still have a set of the original Springfield blueprints, and was stunned to see the off angle engagement face JMB deliberately put on the hammer to make the trigger pull something you need a truck to yank.

I gather the pistol was considered a last ditch weapon in those days, to be used just outside the other guy's bayonet or saber reach. All while not shooting yourself or your horse.

We run the same sear engagement as Gunsmith Bob down at Coal Creek Armory (Shit! I still haven't finalized that quote on the slides he needs), Cylinder and Slide's superb drop in kit, or (I bow to the master) Bob Grieder out on the left coast. I've learned a LOT from that guy.

And, we used CAD-CAM to test the geometry on the sear and tweak it better. But aside from being able to trigger well all day at 2.6 pounds (we lawyer them up to 3 pounds on the carry guns and 4 on the target models) it's just a well made 1911, and it gives 100% reliability.

I shoot a mixed bag of Remington, Federal, and Winchester hollowpoints in testing, along with semi-wadcutters, cast roundnoses, and ball. All in the same magazine.

I have to agree with the first rate Hilton Yam commentary Tam sent us to on Monday. If you want a piece that's light, easy to carry, and impresses the gangbangers, carry plastic (Not Glocks, they break. A lot. Check out the latest disasters out in New Mexico).

If you want a professional weapon that is more likely to keep you alive when needed, carry something solid.

CMT is making a top of the line gun because that's where the profit is. Not a lot, but honest, with rapid turnover of the merchandise.

All milled forgings machined in house and lapped to fit, Chip McCormick grip safeties and Ed Brown ambie thumb switch (which fits our super-dooper secret sear with almost no fit-up), Fred Kart's stunning Nat-Mat barrels, and lots of sweat.

But I would expect any well made 1911 with good magazines to function as reliably. No other pistol on earth has fired as many rounds in war and peace, especially peace, and a century of tweaking shows.

Anonymous said...

Hey Ed, All I hear you saying is Blah,Blah,Blah. Put a cork in it already.It's all about individual choice.And there are dozens of "coal Creeks" around.


Tam said...


You know, there are grown-ups talking here. If you were to read carefully, you might actually learn something.

Robin said...

Hear hear, Tam.

I understand the appeal of the Glock and I've got a 1911 that I carry often, that I've shot off and on at USPSA matches for more than a quarter century. The last time it failed to work was in 1989 when the &^%$$#@ spring finger bushing that was invented for it in 1970 broke.

I've done many years of RO's at matches and I've seen people find a way to gum up every gun made even Glocks.

Every model gun made has failed at least once while I watched.

atlharp said...

As someone who holds no real desire or fanboi-ishness for handguns I think that much of this discussion is really drawn out. I mean was this much ink spilled over a Luger or Colt Navy? Everytime I see this discussion I feel like Burgess Meredith in Grumpy Old Men seperating Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon in a fight.

"Kids; Can't live with them, can't shoot them."

NotClauswitz said...

I seem to have sunk my costs into Sigs also, now I have two anyhow because two is one - and a total of 9 magazines between them.

Anonymous said...

I do use a Glock, but I have yet to leave it outside in the elements for over a month. Nor do I typically carry a lawnmower with me when I leave the house. -- Lyle

Anonymous said...


The name and its amazing significance, and that this discussion* is happening in 2011, really says it all, doesn't it?


*Have I mentioned lately what a pleasure this VFTP place is? Keep spilling that ink, girl.

atlharp said...

"Well, you know. lt's a toolbox. You put the tools in for the job."

Anonymous said...

There's tools and there's tools...

Ed said...

My Glock fanboi humor aside, one thing that may impact 1911 reliability is *knowing how to use* the firearm. Case in point - putting a round in the chamber and dropping the slide is a Bad Thing, because it leads to either extractor breakage or detensioning of the extractor.

So you go from something that was reliable, proceed to do boneheaded things with it, and turn it into something unreliable. In pre-Internet-access days, an owner would see a firearm that became unreliable and absent the services of a 'smith or the factory, would remain unreliable.

Tack on customization n00bies installing things like extended slide stops (hey, lets just lock it open mid-magazine, right? durr), thumb safeties, grip safeties and recoil buffers, and you get a situation where the end user is just attaching parts but not understanding the synergy of the 1911 platform. When the catalogs say "May require fitting", they generally mean "Will require fitting, don't screw with it if you have no idea what's going on!"

Of course you can't say that everything is to be blamed on amateur gunsmiths. Factories screw up and make mistakes - it happens. But I've also been at the range with friends where their Glocks go jam-o-matic while my old SA 1911 just runs and runs and runs. Any firearm may fail. Until someone comes up with a Cloak of Invincibility +12 for their pistol, it's going to happen. I don't care whose rollmark is on the slide.

Gunnutmegger said...


Interesting article, Dante.

So, 4 models or so of Springfield, or one of several cryptically-named Colts. That's it?

Thank you for the info. And for being so specific.

Fudgie Ghost said...

I have two Glocks. Don't shoot enough to get "excellent". So it's nice to have a few extra rounds to throw out.

And I take very good care of my lawnmower. Drain the oil and gas every fall, new air filter, sharpen the blade, new oil, in the Spring.

My wife and I are some of the only white people around here who still mow their own lawn.

WV: "dystess" Does dystess funny to you?

Keads said...

Hmm.. I may run afoul here and incur some snark. If so I await it. If wrong I will stand corrected. According to some curators of a museum in Fairfax VA., The correct number of M1911's produced during WWI was over one million. The M1911A adopted in 1924 by US forces during WWII over two million.

The 1911 was released for contract during WWI to AJ Savage, Savage Arms, North America Arms, Winchester Repeating Arms, Lanston Monotype Company, National Cash Register, Corona Typewriter, and Burroughs Corporation and Remington-UMC.

Only Colt and Remington-UMC actually produced the weapon during WWI. Colt sent two different dimensional drawings to Remington-UMC so they went and bought some Colts to measure them after they started production. Some of the Remington-UMC pistols will not be able to use standard parts. They are highly collectible!

One of the problems out here is very few people will say that they made a mistake in the purchase of a firearm. I will, and have do so.

I have to say however at the end of the day I DO trust my continued well being to the presence of my 35 year old Colt Commander model M1911A1 if the SHIF. That is all I ask of it.

And now, get off my lawn!

og said...

This is just as good as Mac vs PC.

Ritchie said...

I've already discussed what I wear. In other fields of endeavour it's called "installed base." Same reason that certain business supply houses still sell 12" floppy disks. Paid for long ago, still works.

Bob H said...

og, Everyone knows you can only slaughter one sacred cow at a time! BEsides, methinks our hostess is about send all the guests home to close this subject. Otherwise I woud respond with this:
Oil or synthetic
MS Word or Wordstar (am I showing my age here?)
Oracle or SAP
Vanilla, Chocolate, or Strawberry?

og said...

Ooh! I can gthrow a monkeywrench into this whole thing!!

The Igun.

Imagine it.

You can only use Iammo in it. it comes in a caliber that you can only GET from Appple. You cannot reload it because the primers, powders, and projectiles are all proprietary, and not available to the general public. It's made of high tech materials and very ergonomic but it has only one control, that fires it, releases the slide, and ejects the magazine, depending on how you push it. The moment you become proficient with it, a new improved model comes out for half the money that has twice the magazine capacity, and the old model is no longer supported.

Anonymous said...

Good post.

Tam - Manufacturing the M1911A1 is not rocket surgery; the gun is a stone axe, designed to be maintained in the field by draftee armorers using drop-in parts.

However, the result of all that is a reliable, heavy gun with an eight-pound trigger pull, mediocre accuracy, and half the magazine capacity of modern duty pistols, yet one that would still cost over a thousand dollars in today’s economy, because machining steel isn’t cheap.

I suggest that many people have been spoiled because technology has marched on since 1911, and it is possible to manufacture a pistol that is (dare I write this???) better than the 1911 at a lower cost. This heresy collides head-on with the mystique of the 1911, which (as we ALL know!) is the absolute bestest pistol EV-AH made. So, people try to make of the 1911 something that it isn't, with the predictable result that it doesn't always work the way they thought that it would.

Typical engineering tradeoff, really. You can have:

--- Cheap

--- Easy to maintain and repair

--- Rugged

--- Reliable under extreme conditions of dirt, cold, wet, etc.

--- Lightweight

--- Feed anything you can stuff into the magazine

--- Tack-driving accuracy

You CAN'T have:

--- All these things together

Spud said...

If'n I run out of ammo, I can always use ma SIG as a club ! Plastic gun ain't gonna have no heft fer clubbing folk...

Will said...

If you want to know why a good 1911 type pistol cost so much, just look at the dimensional tolerances called out for all the parts.

I would hazard an educated guess that the only 1911 contemporary assembly of mechanical parts with tighter specs would be a pocket watch.
I worked in the high-tech optical/mechanical field, and anytime we spec'ed a single tolerance tighter than +/- .005", the cost of the part took a noticeable jump. Probably 80% of all the specs for the basic 1911 are TIGHTER than that. A LOT tighter. Even with CNC (computer controlled) metal working equipment, it's not cheap to do.

If it didn't already exist, no one today would design or build the 1911. Just too damn expensive to make.
The design is very susceptible to tolerance stacking. Which is not good for a very tight tolerance assembly. Change the location of some surface of a part, and that affects the next part, which can affect another, and so on down the line, and pretty soon you can have a gun that doesn't work right. Sort of a cascade or domino effect. One dimension being off may not be really bad, but it is seldom just one wrong spec.

Anonymous said...


I just may take it to the range. The barrel is a HS and looks like the picture you posted. Good deal finding the right one for your 43 Colt. They are actually a little older than me, but not by much. I also have two original mags, one marked L and one S.
G=General Shaver
L=MS Little
They do not have the -C, so they were not made under contract for Colt. (got all this info from one of the 1911 forums)

Thanks for the post and taking the time for the photos.


Unknown said...

Never shot a Desert Eagle or a Sig, but over the last forty years or so there are few I haven't tried, from a Lilliput on up. But Ol' Slabsides just fits my hand real good, and I've yet to have one not go Bang! when I wanted it to.

Never found one yet that wouldn't hold minute of cranium, which seems to be plenty good enough for what I need.

Anonymous said...


"...the mystique of the 1911..."

"...people try to make of the 1911 something that it isn't."

Disconnect. It's not that the design isn't what it isn't, but rather that it is what it is, that creates the mystique.

Someone up there mentioned a comparison to a pocket watch. Yes. That's what the design is; the pocket watch of handguns. Antiquated by modern standards, but in the hands of a master, a work of art like any other.

It's not the most accurate, or most efficient, or most advanced. Quite the opposite. Like the watches, they represent design genius and craftsmanship and enduring functionality that in most arenas of consumer products just does not exist any longer.

My old Omega Seamaster mechanical wristwatch keeps less accurate time than a $20 Timex, but I wear it every day. I bought the '54 Chevy hot-rod truck (since sold after I enjoyed it for several years) in spite of...maybe because of...its impracticality, and its ability to take me back to flashes of my stupid but thrilling youth. And even though I let untold numbers of vintage 1911's enter and leave my FFL boundbook over the years without trying to keep them all, they impressed me and imbued a sense of history and pride that no fantastic plastic ever could, even 100 years from now.

The phrase is so worn as to irritate, but there could be no more appropriate description of the 1911...

It is what it is.

Thank God and JMB.


Anonymous said...

Training standards and expectations have changed dramatically over the past 100 years. The test protocols that are used in modern handgun selection for major LE or military procurement make substantially greater demands on pistols than the War Department did back in 1907-1911.

E.g., one of the great stories of the M1911 trials is that one Colt ran 6,000 rounds in two days. By comparison, in 2009 ATF ran tests for its new issued handguns. Multiple examples of each submitted model were fired TWENTY thousand rounds (each) over the course of about a week. A significant fraction of that was done with JHP ammo, as well, something the M1911 trials never imagined.

We can romantically recall the age when "they built 'em right," but if creating a reliable (by modern standards), durable (by modern standards), accurate (by modern standards), shootable (by modern standards) 1911 was so darn easy why do so many companies spend so much money in such an incredibly competitive market selling 1911s that AREN'T?

No one is claiming that all 1911s (and their owners) be mothballed. I've shot some amazing 1911s in my time, and have seen folks perform at an ungodly level with them. They've got a history in our country that will never be equaled.

But horses have given way to automobiles, slide rules have given way to calculators, and those typewriter companies that used to make 1911s have been overrun by the age of the computer. We don't expect our soldiers, police officers, or self-defense minded citizens to rely on '03 Springfields and M1917s, either.

Tam said...


"...if creating a reliable (by modern standards), durable (by modern standards), accurate (by modern standards), shootable (by modern standards) 1911 was so darn easy why do so many companies spend so much money in such an incredibly competitive market selling 1911s that AREN'T?"

Yup. This is a gun that was designed before modern manufacturing techniques had been invented. These days you can pick any two of the following attributes from a 1911: Reliable, Accurate, Cheap. And even then you're going to have a heavy gun that is shot to death in half the round count of a G17 or HK45 (although, truthfully, how many shooters are really going to put 5k rounds through their heater, let alone 50k or 100k?)

Ed Foster said...

Let's see. Other than the latest roller functioned delayed blowback SillyGun from H&K, essentially everything out there is a Browning. Same slide and frame design, same mechanics.

Primary bullet point coming up here. Except for bells and whistles, they all are the same gun. Describe the functioning cycle of a Glock. In what way does it differ from a 1911? It doesn't.

Some have a cam on the barrel to unlock it, some a link. Both Browning designs, both work well. The link's only advantage is that it can be tuned for greater accuracy. Folks win more competitions with 1911 Brownings than 1935 Brownings for that reason.

So, take any variant of the Browning design, be it a SIG,Glock,Smith or Tokarev, and we have the same feed geometry, similar slide mass, and spring rates. Also comparable machining tolerances for comparable accuracy levels.

The basic design can be tweaked for customer chosen variables. Lighter carry can be effected with alloy or plastic frames, at the cost of ergonomic efficiency if and when the weapon is actually used. Simply, they kick more, which is why you see so many steel framed Glocks in competition.

Double action can be added, although I don't understand why. I have to go with Col. Jeff Cooper on that one, a marvellous answer to a question never asked. But, boys and toys, and I'll sell whatever the traffic will bear.

Double column mags are a real difference, and I think most would agree the tradeoff in bulk restricts them to the various 9mm's in a practical carry gun. For someone like myself, with small hands, single column is the way to go, at least in .45acp.

The 1911 does have an advantage in trigger reset time over any other system out there, but unless we are a near superhuman trick shot like Thell Reed we can't move our fingers fast enough to gain any major advantage from it.

So, basically, why shoot a 1911 rather than any of it's near clones out there?

More parts, more familiarity (at least here in the States), more competition, more time on the range and in the field. Also, it has spent a century being tweaked closer to perfection in handling the .45acp cartridge, which simply is better in man on man scenarios than any of it's competitors.

You're not going to get much over 400-430 foot pounds of energy in any cartridge that will fit in a duty style pistol. Because of the large volume of the .45's barrel and the faster burning powders needed to fill it, the .45 gets that power with less flash (important tactically) and far lower pressures (important in terms of durability) than any of the smaller bores.

Hollow points offer all kinds of extra variables, but at any practical pistol distance, I want my 400 foot pounds delivered in the widest possible package for maximum assured energy transfer.

Remember, if it comes out the other side, it didn't leave all it's goodness in Mr. Badguy, and hydrostatic shock doesn't really apply at much below 2,200 feet per second.

So, out of a host of near identical Browning style pistols, I choose the most evolved, the most type improved, with the biggest support base. Your milage may differ.

fodder4thought said...


Wow. I think that one post just gave me a far greater understanding on the current state of 1911-ness than I could get without having to do some serious research.

Fracking awesome.

Anonymous said...

Tam - Great post. It hit lots of nerves ! All looking for confirmation one way or another. I really like Colt 1911s and it is good to not feel lonely. You are a very smart girl (wise too, I suspect). Thanks for the no-nonsense info.

Keads said...

Great post Tam! In some respects gun ownership approaches a religion it seems.

@ Ed- A fantastic overview of the 1911ness! +1 to you!

commandar said...

I'm responsible for one of the comments that spawned this post, and I'm essentially repeating what I said over at here:

What I was getting at is that a 1911's design lends itself to either being mass produced and what I would personally consider subpar by modern standards -- the 8lbs pull and mediocre accuracy you describe -- or it can be hand-tuned and far more accurate with a lighter pull, yet more finicky.

My baseline here is a gun like a modern Glock which is designed to be both mass-produced and capable of an adequate trigger pull and reasonable accuracy, all at a substantially lower unit cost (with internet rumor, as unreliable as that may be, that Glock has a unit cost of $75-150 a piece). Even H&K, with their relatively high prices, produces firearms that are consistently in league with a custom 1911, yet at a lower end-user cost.

the tl;dr here isn't that I think the 1911 is particularly flawed, but rather that it comes from an era of different expectations.

Tam said...


"What I was getting at is that a 1911's design lends itself to either being mass produced and what I would personally consider subpar by modern standards -- the 8lbs pull and mediocre accuracy you describe -- or it can be hand-tuned and far more accurate with a lighter pull, yet more finicky."

Oh, you can have a 1911 that's tack-driving accurate and reliable, but it's going to set you back $1,500 or more, and that's just an artifact of the design. (The same would apply to other pre-WWII designs like the HP or P210...)

Or, as Hackathorn and LAV pointed out in the interview at Todd's place, you could just buy an HK45 for half that price.

Noah D said...

[i]f ... you treat your pistols like we all treat our lawnmowers then don’t get a 1911 – use a Glock.

And after the theft of my most recent carry gun, that's my plan. I got real lucky, apparently, with my RIAs, but what I can afford, and what I want it to do, point me to the land of combat tupperware.

Anybody want a carry worn full size RIA 1911? Too big to carry for my tastes.

Geodkyt said...

In other words, the HK P7 is just a propriatary cartridge away. . .

Hmmm. . . I wonder how much trouble it would be to mixup a batch of DuraCoat in the original Mac color. . . ?

February 11, 2011

og said...

Ooh! I can gthrow a monkeywrench into this whole thing!!

The Igun.

Imagine it.

You can only use Iammo in it. it comes in a caliber that you can only GET from Appple. You cannot reload it because the primers, powders, and projectiles are all proprietary, and not available to the general public. It's made of high tech materials and very ergonomic but it has only one control, that fires it, releases the slide, and ejects the magazine, depending on how you push it. The moment you become proficient with it, a new improved model comes out for half the money that has twice the magazine capacity, and the old model is no longer supported.

Tam said...


"In other words, the HK P7 is just a propriatary cartridge away..."


I used to really love my P7s. Sold the last one six or seven years ago and haven't shot one since. I've done a lot of shooting since then; I wonder if I'd still like them as much?

Tango Juliet said...

Went with Wilson 'cause I wanted no headaches, no heartaches, no UPS frequent flyer miles and no long searches for reliability.

I got what I wanted with Wilson.

Paid too much? Probably... but it's worth it.

Anonymous said...

You're right about everything, except in saying that milspec 1911's aren't accurate, and implying that polymer guns aren't accurate.

Thomas said...

I carried a 70s LW Commander for years. I love it. It has smooth contours, a great trigger and eats virtually anything. The accuracy is so-so, but, then, it is not a target pistol, it is a working gun.

But, now, when I carry a a pistol, I carry a SIG P220. Why? Because, out of the box, it is every bit as reliable as the Colt and it is more accurate. Besides that, there is no manual safety to worry about.

Would I buy another 1911 Sure. In fact, I am considering one of the foreign cheapos that I can tune-up for the range. I'll still carry the SIG for serious social work.

Tam said...

"You're right about everything, except in saying that milspec 1911's aren't accurate, and implying that polymer guns aren't accurate."

We're talking relative to a tight custom 1911.

Tony said...

You know, this constant comparison of 1911 versus whatever modern pistol design, I just don't understand it. Simply comparing lists of specifications completely leaves out how shootable a gun is, and to me at least this is more important than counting grams or rounds in the magazine. To date, I have simply never encountered a more modern pistol design that locks into my hand as well as a 1911. And how well a pistol fits my hand is important to me - with an ill-fitting pistol, either my accuracy or my speed will suffer. There is just no way around that.

Now, shootability is of couse a personal thing - different hand sizes, finger lengths, etc ad infinitum mean that some guns fit some people better than others. You say you can shoot the Pan-Galactic Gargleblaster 3000 just fine? Well that's great! But to me, that grip feels like a brick and I can barely reach the trigger - so I'll stick with my old-fashioned and out-dated 1911.

Tam said...


Did you arrive here from the Gunbroker link, perchance?

Tony said...

Tam, nope. Been following your blog for quite a while. That was just my observation on the matter at hand - seems to me a lot of people just stare at spec sheets when comparing guns and it seems to me that they miss rather fundamental things that way.

Matt G said...

U jest hate 1911's cuz u got dainty fingers, and cuz u dont even kno the greatness of John Mozis Brownining! Ask wunna yor friends who he is.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I am like most gun guys. In the years before I was old enough to buy a hand gun, I was into black powder guns. They were surprisingly capable but they were non-guns as far as the law was concerned.

I believe it was on 21 birthday, when I was finally legal for a modern smokeless handgun. It did not seem to involve any research; I bought a 1911A1 knockoff made by Llama. It worked well with hardball and hollow points would hang in the juncture between the barrel and frame.

Eventually, I sold that Llama and moved to high power revolvers. Once Springfield Armory made an authentic 1911A1, I went back. I also bought a Colt Mustang Plus II for more concealed carry.

The 1911A1 was the standard sidearm when I was first in the Army. Most of those guns were almost 40 years old back then.

Now that I am an old guy, I still have a fondness for the old things. The design of the 1911 is brilliantly simple.

Recently, I have moved on with carry guns. My preferred standard sidearm is a Glock 20 10mm and a Kahr P380 for concealed carry. Even Jeff Cooper liked the 10mm so I am not so radical. The Glock is also a simple design which works.

The 1911 will always be special to me but 16 rounds of 10mm is fairly awesome.

Unknown said...

I'm interested in purchasing one top quality 1911a1. I'm very interested in one of those new CMT 1911 but I can't find any info on it anywhere my LGS has a nickel one for $1,600. I saved up some cash but I'd like to learn more about what I'm buying.