I have said it before and I will end up saying it again: the 1911 an old design that is more trouble than it is worth. I don’t say it to be confrontational, or to draw attention to myself. I say it because I see my fellow shooters mindlessly parroting the gun equivalent of Chuck Norris Facts whenever the 1911 comes up in conversation, and I just don’t get it.
I am not surprised that the 1911 is out of place in today’s world, and you shouldn’t be surprised either. What other 100-year old design is still in daily use?
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In the comment section of another blog, I summarized my skepticism of the 1911′s attributes thusly:
It’s a 100-year old design. It needs tools to disassemble. It has unreliable magazines. It is finicky about ammo. And, as a single-action pistol, it is unsafe for 95% of its users to carry.
In my original complaint, I forgot to mention the issue with slide-stop failures, and the whole internal extractor/external extractor situation. Either of which would be serious enough to kill any other design’s reputation in the shooting world.
In response to some knee-jerk defenses of the 1911 from fanboys who drank too much John M. Browning Kool-Aid, who told me how all that I needed to do was buy a bunch of aftermarket parts and send the gun to a gunsmith, I added:
Why does a reliable 1911 cost so much, and need so much gunsmithing?
To be fair, I have some of the same complaints with the Walther PPK. Which is also a very old design, one which has been eclipsed by more modern designs which can do everything it does better.
I mean, is it unreasonable to expect an affordably-priced pistol for defense to reliably feed hollowpoints out of the box? What Smith&Wesson pistol of recent manufacture won’t feed hollowpoints? What about Glock? SiG? Beretta? (I know Kahrs need to have some rounds through them before they are reliable, but it says that right in the owners manual). The shooting public would not accept an unreliable gun of a more modern design. But for some reason, the 1911 gets a pass for all of its flaws. “Just use hardball” is not a valid defense of the 1911 design, nor is it a valid strategy for selecting ammunition to defend yourself.
And God help anyone who buys a used 1911. Everyone and their brother seems to think they are qualified to take a Dremel to their 1911. Guys who can’t change their own flat tire somehow have no reservations about playing doctor on their 1911. Who knows what wacky “custom” parts have been put into the gun because someone read about it on the interweb tubes?
It was the best military sidearm of its day, and for a long time afterward. I do not dispute that. But its time has long passed. And a military sidearm is not the same thing as a handgun for personal defense.
Leave aside the lack of reliability with hollowpoints, and the other problems. The 1911 is too big to conceal. And the smaller versions are less reliable due to the shorter slide-travel and a tendency to limp-wrist the gun.
Some people protest by saying that the 1911 is the best gun for defense, because the most “realistic” shooting sports are heavily populated with 1911 users. And everyone knows that you should train like you fight, so that you will fight like you train, right? Well, that would be a more convincing argument if those “realistic” shooting sports didn’t have intricate rules that somehow disqualify most non-1911 designs. Purely by coincidence, right? Sure, they come up with semi-plausible rationales for some of those rules, but there is no way to disguise the overall bias towards the 1911.
I don’t hate 1911 fans. I merely pity them, because they are victims of marketing hype and groupthink, the lemmings of the gun world. And if someone sinks thousands of dollars into a 1911 (and isn’t using it to compete for money), well they are just gullible. Like the kind of people who pay money for tapwater in a bottle.
So what if Jeff Cooper liked the only handgun in use when he was in the military? It’s not like he had a choice of other handguns to use. And, on a related note, Jeff Cooper has a reputation that exceeds his accomplishments. The best information that I can find shows that he spent the battle of Guadalcanal as the training officer on Gen. Vandegrift’s staff. Not leading a platoon. Not on the line, pulling a trigger. And his coy evasions when asked about his real-world experience with gunfighting are revealing, if one cares to view them objectively. (If you have documentation about Cooper’s real-world experience, please drop me a line. I am happy to revise my opinion.) I have no doubt that he was qualified to teach people how to shoot on a range. Beyond that, a grain of salt is required. I prefer to get my advice on defense & gunfighting from men who have actually been there & done that; Massad Ayoob, Jim Cirillo, etc. Am I a qualifications snob? No, I am an results snob.
Ok, got it out of my system.