So I was a little bored this morning and was trolling around on Facebook when I spotted another “expert” trash-talking the 1911 pistol. To wit, this individual links to a site that goes into detail regarding the various stoppages and failures one should expect if they choose to carry this antiquated warhorse. Well…maybe.
After some six decades on this old rock, I have learned that experience is a lot like statistics. As one old saw goes: There are lies, damn lies and statistics. Experience can be deep but narrow. It can be broad but shallow. Few of us are fortunate enough to have both depth and breadth in any one category of experience, much less many. I have a fair breadth of experience in firearms, but some experience is deep; others not so much.
In terms of the 1911, I have been shooting one for some 43 years. I have also carried one quite a bit during that time. Thankfully, I have never had to shoot someone with it, or any other gun for that matter. I have never been in the military and only spent a short period of time in law enforcement. If I may be so bold, I have never set myself up as an authority on gunfighting nor presented myself as some testosterone-overloaded ninja.
However, I am capable of critical thinking. I know what works for me. For example, most double-action semi-autos feed from a double-stack magazine. That means the grip area on such pistols is wide. Combine that with a long and relatively heavy DA pull that switches to a SA trigger after the first shot, and my rather short, fat fingers, makes this type of pistol difficult for me to operate in an efficient manner. A 1911 with a flat mainspring housing and Wiley Clapp’s Tactical Oval grip scales fits my hands perfectly, and after putting some 200,000 rounds through several 1911s it could be accurately stated that I am familiar with it.
The 1911 pictured at the top of this page is my first one. I have told its story before, so there’s no need to repeat that. The only parts that are original on this pistol are the frame and slide, and both have been extensively modified. About 20 years ago I started using this pistol as it was more-or-less originally issued at some shooting schools I covered for another publication, as well as a couple of IPSC matches. At the time it had somewhere between 50,000 and 75,000 rounds through it. I’m not sure because I bought it used. Any gun that has had that many rounds through it will show its age, and I had a number of failures—stovepipes, failures to eject or feed; I even had the extractor fly out of the gun during an IPSC match. Hence the rebuild. Since it has been rebuilt I have put somewhere around 5,000 rounds through it without a single failure. I keep it clean and properly lubricated.
Am I implying that the more modern guns like DA semi-autos and the striker-fired semi-autos are unsuited for service or self-defense? Absolutely not. The choice of a self-defense pistol is a very personal one, and those who choose a modern DA or striker-fired semi-auto are probably making the right choice—for them. But to imply that these modern pistols are flat-out superior to a design that has flourished—and still does—for more than a century when comparing a new or just broken-in gun to a veteran with thousands of rounds through it or one that is poorly maintained isn’t simply dishonest; it’s childish.