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The 1911 Pistol

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Meet Andromache, my personal Colt Combat Commander. The caption pic is one of my favorites and she loves to be photographed. I give my handguns female names because in many ways they behave like women. Andromache always attracts attention at the range and she loves to flirt. Men just want to pick her up and hold her. She began life as a stock gun that stayed in a gun shop case for years, unable to be sold. Nevertheless, she caught my eye and it was love at first sight. She went to the gunsmith and like many dangerous females had “some work” done. This included a Videki trigger, Trijicon night sights, replacement of her spring sets with those made by Wolf, as well as the very special grips that define her personality. I’ve spoiled her with Chip McCormick magazines and a variety of holsters. She loves Remington 185 gr +P Golden Saber HP’s. Andromache is beautiful, deadly and classic. After all she is a 1911.

A gun writer of some repute wrote about the 1911 saying, “it is big, it is old, it is heavy.” It also fires the formidable 45 ACP cartridge (the 45 has been thoroughly field tested on crazed Muslims, homicidal German SS soldiers, Mexican bandits, various tough Asian groups as well as domestic hoodlums) It is also a legendary weapon, that served as the standard US military firearm from 1911 to 1986. You can’t see a World War 2 movie without seeing one. A number of authorities considered it the end all as a fighting pistol in its more modern form. With product improvement it survives to this day and sales are still strong (All 5 of its competitors in the early part of the 20th century are no longer in manufacture) The weapon dominates many types of pistol competitions and SWAT entry teams use them because of their speed. Currently its been modernized and improved with various forms including lighter and smaller packages using a variety of other calibers. There are also a huge number of after market parts and the weapon is a dream (or a nightmare) for the part time tinkerer/gunsmith. Pick one up and you’ll want to save Private Ryan too. There’s just something about the 1911. For you people who have high capacity magazine phobia, most of them have 7 or 8 round capacity though high capacity weapons exist.

With all these superlatives you’re probably wondering about why you haven’t bought one yet. Despite all the kudos the pistol is really obsolescent. (I’m sure Jeff Cooper is rolling over in his grave right now) It’s also expensive. No matter what you do to them, it will never be as reliable as a Glock, H&K or Sig. Virtually all the major malfunctions I’ve had or seen have been with the 1911. (This includes a broken main spring in an instructor’s weapon, a high end Wilson Combat, a shock buff that disintegrated on a qualifier with my own Wilson, broken extractor on a friend’s Kimber Custom Shop pistol, broken recoil spring in my Colt Lightweight Commander, broken recoil plug on some guy’s Springfield) In addition I’ve had to replace a mainspring as well as more than one recoil spring when functioning was less than optimal. It’s like having a superhot girlfriend; they require constant attention and money to keep around. Plus, you can never ever really trust them. Like most who have carried one (And had a hot girlfriend), you’ll eventually break up and move on to something else. Larry Vickers, a true 1911 guru, who knows as much about this particular weapon in the world reportedly now carries a Glock.

It’s also a single action semi-auto with its various nuances and single light trigger pull once both of the safeties have been deactivated. You will have to decide what “condition of readiness” to keep it in. However that topic is a matter of training and is really beyond the scope of this article. I went to a several day course just on the use of the 1911. When it runs well there is no better fighting handgun on the face of the planet. Did I mention that it can also be a real bitch to sometimes get back together after cleaning?

There a huge number of manufacturers out there ranging from low end Philippine and Turkish importers to high end custom makers like Wilson, Les Baer, and Ed Brown to name a few. The problem with the 1911 is that you get what you pay for. IMHO the absolute minimum you can get by without modification and still be reliable will set you back at very least a bit over a grand. Most of them will need tweaking except for the very high end. You won’t even get to the Wilson line till you pay well in excess of 2 grand and that’s just the beginning. I would consider the standard as a Colt or maybe a Springfield Amory and work from there. Especially if you get a cheaper one, there are a number of things you can do to make it more reliable. If it’s a GI spec weapon just use hard ball ammunition in it, that’s what it was designed for. Magazines make a difference and I would throw away anything that came with it and replace them with high quality after markets ones. Wilson and Chip McCormick have the reputation. In addition, I’d consider replacing the recoil spring (so easy even a Millennial could do it) with a heavier 17 or 18,5 lb spring and see which one works best. Don’t scrimp on cheap ammo either and thoroughly test it. This can get expensive, because good defense ammo is not cheap. A proper break in is considered to be at least 500 rounds. You can do a lot of this with less expensive ball ammo, but it will take this much to check reliability. Also if you have an economy weapon, consider getting the extractor replaced by someone who really knows what he’s doing. (Sorry ladies, I’ve never heard of a woman 1911 armorer) It also needs to be properly cleaned and lubricated (you tube videos are good at this) at regular intervals. Despite all this, do you still want one? Some of you will, I know I did.

 

 

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