1911 Quality II – Short guns & other calibers

More 1911 Suckage

More 1911 Suckage

Back in my original post about 1911 quality, I looked at full-size 1911s in .45acp.  I received questions about Commander & Officer-size 1911s, as well as 1911 performance in other calibers.  Well, here is the data.

Same guidelines as last time.  I went through every issue of Gun Tests from 1996 to the present, and tracked every 1911 they tested.  A gun would be judged as “broken” if it stopped working, shed parts, or physically disintegrated in some way.  A gun would be “unreliable” if it had failures to fire, feed, extract or eject that were not attributable to a documented problem with the ammunition.  I decided that an obviously defective part like a single bad magazine would not render a gun “unreliable” if the manufacturer’s regular magazines worked when the bad magazine was replaced like-for-like.  Note, many of the reviews of 1911s had to use Wilson/McCormick mags for the review guns, regardless of brand of gun.  The reliability numbers for 1911s are overly-optimistic, in other words.

(continued below)

First, let’s look at full-size/longslide/compensated 1911s and compact 1911s in .45acp:

Now let’s look at the other calibers of 1911:


1911 Performance in other calibers

1911 Performance in other calibers

Alrighty.  And now we will tie up the loose ends and summarize:


Combined 1911 Performance

Combined 1911 Performance

Here are my notes from the compact guns and non-.45acp guns:


1911 Notes

1911 Notes

Alrighty.  What conclusions can we draw from these observations?

1) All sizes of 1911s have documented reliability issues, with the shorter models being even less reliable.

2) Deviating from the original .45acp chambering increased the % of unreliability, but staying with .45acp did not guarantee reliability.

3) Problems were not confined to low-end or off-brand guns.

While not specifically tracked, I did find repeated examples of the requirement of tools to disassemble the 1911s that were being tested.  I would be happy to provide the specific models if anyone wants to keep pretending that no 1911 requires tools to take down.

I gave you all of my notes.  If you don’t have access to Gun Tests, I will provide whatever documentation I can (within the limits of copyright).  If there is another unbiased source that I should be looking at, please let me know.

I don’t hate the 1911.  The 1911 design is a hundred years old, and it has the performance that goes along with that age.  Some of them work well, others not so well.  If you have a reliable 1911, I am happy to hear that.  But there are more affordable, more reliable designs available to the shooting consumer.  A prospective customer should be look at all of their options and carefully assess their needs before buying.

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5 Responses to “1911 Quality II – Short guns & other calibers”

  1. JB Miller says:

    My gunsmith says this is why he loves 1911s. Your numbers are pretty consistent with his observations.

  2. Kamboja Tan says:

    I have shot an HK and two Sigs against a dozen different 1911s. Not all of the 1911s had failures, and not all of them had the accuracy of Ray Charles. But the HK and Sig worked every single time with superb accuracy. My Sig 210 got better groups than the 1911s by inches in diameter. And we’re talking at several distances and even trading off guns.

    I think you’re actually too soft on the 1911. I mean, if someone likes to collect them then whatever. I had a Colt Delta Elite until I sold it and replaced it with a Glock 20. But the gun is facked up. If you want an oldass gun then get a Hi-Power. Or a Mauser 98. They actually..work.

  3. Jon H says:

    Were break-in periods accounted for in the tests? I think Kimbers are over priced but after 500 rounds, as reliable as any other.

  4. Gunnutmegger says:

    If the manufacturer specified a break-in period, the review generally mentioned that and took it into consideration.