Deacon’s Bully Pulpit #5 Say Hello to the 1911

~September 16th, 2012

Hello again. Pull up a chair, get comfy and we are going to look at one of history’s great guns and discuss why it might be the gun for you. It is officially known as the Government Model of 1911 .45 Automatic Pistol. It was the United States’ official sidearm from 1911 until placed in reserve in 1990, and has been reissued to some of our troops since then! It has been praised, cussed, abused and gussied up in every way imaginable and keeps earning it’s keep today.

It all started in 1899, when our troops were being issued the Colt 1899 revolver in .38 Colt. During the Spanish-American War and the following Phillipine Moro Insurrection, this cartridge proved to be a dismal failure and the Army quickly re-issued the old .45 Colt Peacemaker. They then decided to develop a new Service round that would be as effective as the .45 Colt. Enter John Moses Browning and Colt Firearms, who began work on a new automatic pistol for the trials. JMB is rightly regarded as one of history’s great firearm’s designers and he was not afraid to tinker and change things in design. Many other great designers were also trying for this huge contract. Colt brought out designs starting in 1900, and kept going from there. The 1900, 1905, 1908 and 1910 models were all progenitors of the 1911, which pounded the other competitors flat in the Army trials. 6,000 rounds were fired non stop, with no failures by the 1911. It actually grew so hot, they would dunk it in a bucket of water so the soldiers could continue to hold and shoot it. Upon the USA entering World War One, it established an unrivalled reputation as a manstopper and able to operate in an environment that choked other automatics in the trenches. It was slightly modified to the 1911A1 due to a 1924 request from the Army and these changes became official in 1926. Pick up a 1911 from WW1 and a brand new one built today and most parts will swap out on your table.

Now, let’s look at why you should consider shooting it yourself and what to look for and avoid:

First, remember our 10 foot rule, this means it has to look like a gun built during the teens to 40s. Many current 1911s will meet this look, for example Remington’s new 1911R1 basic model, while the same maker’s enhanced model would not. Why? The Beavertail safety, drilled trigger and drilled hammer, which will be the kicker on most modern built 1911s.

Compare the differences, and you will see what I mean. The full sizw version has a 5” barrel, and this is the size we must use, as the shorter and longer barreled versions did not appear until the 1950s or later. Also, watch out for slide serrations, these are the grooves cut into the slide to pull it back. Many modern versions will have then angled instead of straight, and also will have them on the front of the slide as well. These won’t work for our ten foot rule. I am using the Remington as an example of new guns that would be great choices. Am I endorsing the Remington? Yes, I just shot a buddy’s and it was a very good gun at a reasonable price! Now, if you are watching the budget and need to get a used 1911, here are some things to look for. Sights, the older the gun, especially military surplus ones, will often have miniscule, and I mean TINY sights! Hard to see, they will definitely have to be blacked out to use. My 1928 made for Argentina is a good example of bad sights. Also, you can open the rear sight notch a little and this will help a lot. The older, long style hammers are notorious for biting your hand if you have big hands like I do. If you have a shorter hammer installed, make sure you have a gunsmith do it for safety reasons. It’s not expensive at all. The 1911 fits almost all hands well and one of the most fun things is swapping grips. The originals came with either hard rubber grip panels in black or checkered walnut. You can find grips in every material imaginable from rubber, to aluminum, fancy woods, ivory, Mexican Silver, real silver and I’m sure that someone has even put real gold ones on one somewhere [Elvis sightings anyone?].

This is an all steel pistol weighing in at just over two pounds empty, so recoil is not a problem for any healthy person, one of the best 1911 shooters I know is a tiny slip of a gal who would have to stand on a milk crate to hit me. Older 1911s will rattle like castanets, don’t worry, that’s why they are so reliable, the loose tolerances ignore dust and grit that will clog other guns. Like all autos, the 1911 has to have good magazines to run right. Mc Cormick, Mec Gar, Colt, Kimber’s Kim Pro and Wilson’s all make excellent magazines. Every kind of holster ever made is available for Old Slabsides as well. Try this rugged old warhorse out next time you are at the range, while it might not be your final choice in the gun to use for Zootin’ you will almost always enjoy shooting one!

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