Tuesday, August 30, 2016

1911 - Proven by History, Carried by Thousands

We were the good guys. We had a plan.  It was a complicated plan, one that needed to be followed exactly.  You know how on CSI type shows they'll be out in the field where they can come up with a way to match DNA with a can of Aquanet and a long tube? (Wait, that's a potato gun.)  Real life is not like that. Coming up with a way to conduct a complicated experiment involving materials technology with what's on hand is usually a bit more detailed. In this case, the plan would come to fruition with the implementation of a design, one that was thought out and laid on paper, to the last microscopic detail. Of course that means someone usually decides to "improve on it".

So in this mission, essentially that happened and the original design was "tweaked",  without consultation, which meant it wouldn't work, at all.  The plan had to be re-written, not only to solve the problem, which was growing uglier as one waited, but  to also the fix the new problem that the freelance "improvement" to the design made.

The Second Design came with it a Mil Spec no one else would recognize.


There were a few eyebrows raised. Finally someone had to ask.  "What does that mean?".

"Make It Like the Friggin Design Four Ones." (for once)

A design proven by history.

There are many 1911 style weapons out there, from “plain vanilla” straight 1911s to full adjustable sights, underlug accessory-rail equipped weapons designed for special ops, both military and civilian LEO type.  Many of you have one somewhere in that range, in your home or in your holster and for many a good reason.

This is a firearm  that is essentially unchanged in 100 years.

Some things you just can't improve on. Like a firearm that's proven itself over a century. The gun that sits on my table, that rides on my hip, is, but for the smallest accommodations in a few external parts, a few cosmetic updates (and likely better steel), is the same fundamental firearm John Moses Browning developed and Colt produced a little over 100 years ago. 

The first 1911 was born in the Colt Factory the year Roy Rogers was born.  If you are now saying "who is  Roy Rogers?" please go play a video game and come back later with a note from your Mom. It was the same year that Ginger Rogers was born, when John Rigby designed his .416 caliber rifle on original Mauser action for African big game and the same year the Ottawa Senators won the Stanley Cup. (Go Sens!)

When Gavrilo Pincip shot the Archduke Francis Ferdinand of Austria in 1914 with a  32 caliber FN Model 1910, much of the world realized that war was imminent and firearms would play a part in it. There were numerous firearms manufactured at that time, but it was John Moses Browning's .45 that was provided to the soldiers, with some two and a half million or more of  them manufactured to fight the war. To get that many firearms in service, contracts went out to other manufacturers besides Colt and Springfield Armory to make them, including a couple companies up in our neighbor to the North, Canada.

Twenty-One MILLION people died in that war, soldier and civilian alike. The losses continued through WWII, Korea and onward.   I am sure many lives were defended because of that firearm.  Something else that has not changed over time.

I'd toyed with the idea  of getting one, I already have more than one .45 to shoot, but I've heard so much about the 1911, all positive.  So it was no surprise that when I picked this one up, a Loaded 1911-A1, for the first time, I said.  "Oh, Yes."

"Loaded" 1911 does not mean it has a round in the magazine or chamber.  Consider it loaded, like your sub sandwich  or burger would be.  It has ALL the goodies, full length guide rod, polished feed ramp, enlarged ejection port, extended ambidextrous safety selectors, custom trigger and beavertail grip safety.

Concealed Carry - For carry, there are a variety of holsters.  I'm a big fan of  Dennis at Dragon Leatherworks holsters and his Talon  holster fits this firearm well and distributes the weight evenly.  But holsters notwithstanding, there are three basic ways to carry this firearm concealed.

Door #1 - The hammer is down and the chamber is empty.  This means you have to manually cycle the slide before you fire it.  Then, to return the firearm to its previous carry position you have to drop the magazine, empty the chamber, drop the hammer, and reload and reinsert the magazine, all without doing something stupid that's going to put a hole in anyone, including you.  You might as well carry a two and a half  pound hammer as a self defense tool.  It's likely quicker.  Carrying for quick self defense with an empty chamber poses more of a hazard to you than the criminal who is coming right at you.

Door #2 - The chamber hs loaded with a round but you must you cock the hammer with your thumb prior to firing.  If you've fired a single action revolver with a large hammer whose purpose IS be cocked by your thumb, you're familiar with the concept and it doesn't feel odd.  Still, this requires that you pull the trigger carefully and lower the hammer over a loaded chamber prior to re-holstering the firearm. Again, that's an extra step between the bad guy and the defense of your life. Personal choice here.

Door #3 - The one that makes liberals, old ladies and poodle dogs shudder in their shadow and that, my friends,  is cocked and locked.  This means the hammer is cocked, the chamber is loaded with a live round and the thumb safely is ON.  This means that the weapon is ready to fire NOW. All you have to do is click the safety down, pull the trigger while maintaining your grip and click it back up after the threat has the prerequisite hole in it. That's something that Barkley could even manage had he opposable thumbs.

But remember, when  the gun is cocked and locked, the sear is blocked from releasing the hammer. Further, unless a firing grip is on the pistol, the thumb safety swept off, and the trigger is pulled, the gun will not go off.  In my opinion, that's safer than the carry condition of some firearms.

Again, it's a personal choice, but I prefer Door #3.  Instant readiness.  If that door opens and a bad guy rushes in, intent on harming or killing, you can react in an instant.  That is why I carry a .45 for self defense in this manner.  Not to to be considered cool in the tactical sense, nor to balance my somewhat forward center of gravity, but to get the firearm in action when my life may depend on it, NOW, with the fewest opportunities for mistakes.

Some armchair gun enthusiasts like to say that you shouldn't carry a 1911 cocked and locked "because it requires more training than other guns".  I humbly disagree, at least for this particular model.
I'm no expert.  The gun manufacturer's don't pay me or give me freebies to write reviews and I doubt any of them will read them. I'm a better shot than much of the population, I'm a worse shot than a lot of my readership, I'm sure.  I simply know the basics.  I keep practicing the basics.  As such, I can say that I found the operation of this particular 1911 cocked and locked IS instinctual and functional. And I SO did NOT miss that very long and dreaded trigger pull on some double action autos that is like waiting at the doctors for that "you'll just feel a little pinch".

Again, my opinion, and as I tell anyone that reads here, for any new firearm, find a friend that's actively owned and shot one for years to offer guidance.  Even better, for a new firearm OR new to shooting, get an experienced NRA instructor like my friends Lynne F. Keads and Bill at Eastern Iowa Firearms Training  and get some "dual" on it as  we pilots would say.

Size and Weight - the barrel is 5 inches. That's a nice long sight radius for you to peer down for accuracy. Stainless steel, the height is  5.5 " and the weight 40 ounces (with empty magazine). This is a heavy firearm and for some folks, size and weight tend to go against the grain for the concealed concept, as they want light and small.  There are many folks that can and do carry "duty" size pistols and with the right holster and clothing, they conceal them well.  Weight, for me is not an issue as I'm not going to be carrying it all day long, nor size, as I'm 5 foot 8 in bare feet and curvy.  I also like it for recoil. Go fire a tiny lightweight gun with a largish round and then fire the 1911. You'll notice a huge difference in both recoil and comfort. I'd as soon be tied to chair and forced to watch "The Bachelor" than fire 100 rounds through my Kahr 40. The 1911, I can easily shoot for a morning at the Range and although my grouping gets a little looser as I get tired, it's still quite manageable.

First day with the 1911 target.
Trigger - Not just Roy Rogers trusty stead any more.  The 1911 A-1 trigger is nice.  It seemed like my finger just traveled about one nano-millimeter before it encountered resistance, and then just traveled another short distance until releasing with no discernible over travel.  It breaks as crisp and easy as that piece of Grandma's china after someone had too much eggnog.

With that, let's go to the thumb safety on the 1911.  If you've ever operated the bass-ackwards thumb safeties on some double actions, you will fall in love with the simple up/safe down/fire function of the 1911.

But remember, the primary safety is between your ears. Never rely on a gun’s “safety” to protect you from unsafe gun handling. A safety is only a mechanical device, not a substitute for using some common sense.

Grip - I can't count the number of  people I've talked to that try out a new handgun and immediately compare the grip to that of their 1911.  For that "new" firearm they're trying, it's like being the second wife after the first wife died after winning Miss Universe, curing cancer, and waking you up every morning with. . . bacon.  You will ALWAYS be compared to that first, impossible to replace love.  The 1911 is like that for some people.

The feel of the grip is unique, but not in a "she has a unique personality" way, but comfortable, like something you've felt before.  It just fits like it was built for YOUR hand.  The grips, as well, are beautiful.  Sure you could replace with a set of Crimson Trace laser grips, but would you want to? Springfield Armory, as well, seems to have somehow tweaked the original grip safety (an ornery afterthought designed by a committee who have never handled a weapon while under fire) so it works well even when gripping the firearm riding the thumb safety high, for use at any moment. I'm not sure as to what was done, or if it was just my perception, but it did perform well and it's infinitely better than some modern firearms that are lawyered up with a wealth of safeties that only a six year old could operate under duress. 

Accenting the grip area is a nicely cross set of wood panels that contain the double-diamond pattern, along with the Springfield Armory logo. It's not just nice looking, the texture of the surface provides for a positive hold.
The magazine release button  is easy to push in with either the thumb of the right hand, or the middle finger of the left hand (the "how am I driving" finger).  The magazines slide in well, and drop freely when you push the release button. The magazine is 7 + 1, and the firearm typically comes with two when purchased.

Accuracy - You don't necessarily need the "FBI crouch" of old movies and you most certainly do NOT want the "gangsta style" stance unless you want to make  sure the threat gets a chance to get a round off at you first.  Shooting "from the hip" works if you are being attacked by a hippopotamus on Ambien, but in most cases it's going to result in your getting your ass kicked, probably with your own weapon that is grabbed out of your hand.

Learn to use your sights.  Unsighted fire may work at powder burn range, but sights weren't put on a firearm so you could hit a zombie woodchuck in the eye at 200 yards. Sights were made so you can hit a target that's coming at you when you are not going to get a second shot. Using your sights takes practice and concentration.  I don't have a single handgun with laser anything though I have AR15s equipped with holographic technology and some night toys.  Iron sights are my friend and the ones on the 1911 here were very easy to adapt to, even in quick draw.

Stripping and Cleaning- Stripping and cleaning is pretty much standard for any of the 1911's.  http://how-i-did-it.org/detail-1911/field_strip.html for some guided instructions.

Much easier than the take down of the Ruger Mark III. (below)
Would I recommend the "Loaded" 1911 A-1?  Absolutely.  It's got a grip you will always feel comfortable with.  It's manufactured with the best in American Made quality, to one of the highest standards there is.  It's not an inexpensive firearm, but it's one you will own for a lifetime, and then likely pass on to your child or a niece, a nephew.  It's one you'll let your best friend shoot. This is a firearm that will retain its history, over time.

Springfield Armory has nailed the exemplary character of a distinguished sidearm and I'm proud to have one in the home and by my side.

 - Brigid


  1. I stil carry a new Colt Defender on occasion after the decades of carrying a Commander. I love it as it feels like an old friend as opposed to the M&P that now is a daily carry. There is something intangible about that 1911 that I cannot convey in words. Nicely done! And yes. "Cocked and locked." It worked for almost 100 years. Why change it now?

  2. A few extra Ruger bits there?

    That gun looks a nice as my SIG. And that is saying something.

    Somewhere, I have a stamp: MIL-TP-41. "Make it like the print for once!". I used it when I was designing flight simulators.

  3. Back in the day we were required to carry our 1911s in Condition 1 in a duty holster that had a flap.
    I did some research in the post library and found a book written by another MP who had been shot while trying to get his 1911 into action while under the same carry protocol we were still using. He developed a technique to draw and fire from Condition 1 from a flap holster in less than a second.
    He would start with his hand below the bottom edge of the holster's flap.
    He would blade his hand and extend his thumb so that it was ridgid and hook it under the lower edge of the flap and bring the thumb up sharply. This would pop the flap open. He then drove his hand down onto the grip of the pistol. Next he pulled the pistol up about three inches and the rotated the grip out 90 degrees from his hip and jammed the rear sight into the leather of the flap. He the shoved the pistol back down into the open holster. When he drew the pistol from the holster the slide would go into battery and chamber a round and he was good to go.
    I know the Israelies train from Condition 1 and chamber a round using a different technique, but if you have to use a holster with a flap and your weak-side hand is otherwise occupied this works.
    I still have my old Government Model by Remington Rand. When I worked swings I would go to the range and draw fifty rounds of ball before guard mount everyday. Free ammo. Life was good.
    About time you added another JMB design to your toy collection.
    By the way, JMB was LDS. I think the reason he did not serve a mission or get drafted was so he could invent the guns that protected America and saved the lives of the men and women who were in "the service." In times past when someone was said to be in "the service" that meant they were In the service of this country and our fellow man. It has a noble meaning.
    Your new 1911 is a thing of beauty.
    Thanks for sharing.

  4. I should mention the 1970's Navy Quarterdeck carry method. Hammer down on an empty chamber, magazine well empty. Two magazines loaded to five rounds each in a pouch on the web belt.
    I glanced at the Ruger photo, then did a cartoon double take.
    Among other things, I see you have added the rounds fired counter, the recoil operated batter mixer, and the spool of wire for the electrically heated grips.

  5. My 70 series Coltguard Combat Commander is still my most favored. It has been carried more miles and fired more rounds than all the others combined.

    PS: in the shipbuilding industry it was MIL-TDD-41

    Make it like the damn drawing for once


  6. My 1911-A1 remains my daily carry. Weight & size have never been an issue, not since the first time I picked one up in the Navy. And I love the Erector Set version of the Ruger in your last photo, but it's missing the integral stock-mounted torque wrench thing that goes up. :)

  7. Guide rod aside - GOOD FOR YOU!
    And, me being a lib(ertarian), your choices are yours!
    I've owned four, each good-of-type. Sadly, now just one.
    But 20K+ rounds later, with occasional lube and mainspring replacement, SHE STILL FUNCTIONS!
    JMB is smiling...


  8. To this day my thumb still sweeps the slide in a downward motion to clear the safety, even when not shooting a 1911. Some habits die hard.

  9. I caught immediately that the disassembled Ruger is a beater..... then I read the comments and went back to the picture to find the grip heater magnetic coil the odometric shot fired counter the riostatic front and rear site adjustments the audiometric phono sound suppressor the two sided Philip/yankee 22lr bullet simulator and... The 1911 is a MUCH simpler device. You GO Ms B

    Rich in NC

  10. I always wonder what God's holy prophet (John Moses Browning) could have done with CAD and CNC machines.

  11. It's hard to believe but it gets even better. Ya' know, JMB's original chosen caliber for the design was .38ACP, which later evolved into the .38 Super +P cartridge. The "standard" capacity is 9+1 rounds. Shoots like a 9mm and hits like a .357 Magnum. Brigid, you owe it to yourself to try one sometime. Why?
    Because you're going to LIKE it! Dillinger did. BTW: This one was an awesome blog posting, fully on par with that Bacon Jam. Cheers!

  12. I'll second Charlie Hannan's post. The 0,38 Super Colt is an easier shoot,dead bang accurate. It was,in 1929 ,the go to gun of the gangbusters (and the gangs) . There are something in the neighborhood of 250 songs in Spanish about the Super.

    Bottom line, you will love the 1911 in .45 ACP; you'll be gaga over the Super,

  13. "nor to balance my somewhat forward center of gravity"

    To quote Lawdog: Gigglesnort!

    I got my first 1911 last year. A GI Model RIA. Those sights were the first to be changed out. I can't see that tiny GI sight. Otherwise, love it. I don't know enough about the variations between full-length guide rod or the original design (brain cloud preventing me from remembering exactly what it's called) to know which is better, but I do know that I like the gun.

  14. Something I overheard once from the car window in a Costco parking lot, as a couple of employees from the outside parts of the store stood around and discussed their recent experiences...

    "So I pull the trigger and ease the hammer forward to get it into Condition Two, and BAM!" (w/ directional gesture that makes me hope he lives on the ground floor).

    I kinda wished traffic had allowed me to butt in, verify that they were talking about the 1911, and explain why Condition Two (hammer down on a live round) is frowned upon by many authorities because there is no specifically safety-assured way to get there.

    Sure, it's no worse than easing down the hammer on a single-action revolver; but I just have a gut feeling that if a design genius like Browning had meant us to do such a thing, he'd have provided a safer way to do it.

    Of course, some handguns, such as DA/SA semiautos with decockers, have a safe means, by design, of achieving Condition Two. Even there, though, it pays to be careful. Several years ago I read about an incident in which a LEO (perhaps in Phoenix) used the decocker while still covering a subject, and AD'd right into him. Now, whether this was exacerbated by his finger on the trigger, we may never know; but shooting somebody in an attempt to be safer against shooting him is my minimum daily requirement of irony...

    Personally, if I'm going to clank around with a gun all day, it had might as well be ready for use as is safely possible -- Condition One in the case of the 1911 -- but there are reasoned arguments for Condition Three; e.g.,


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