Why The 1911?

Colt 1911
Colt 1911

By Syd


  • I like it.
  • I shoot it better than any other pistol I have tried.
  • It looks good.
  • I can put any kind of grips on it that I want.
  • It is accurate, powerful and fast (DVC).
  • I understand and can maintain any part on it.
  • It has the best trigger of any handgun ever built.
  • It is durable.
  • I like it.

A visitor to The Sight M1911 once asked me to “sell” him on the M1911. I said, “Well, shucks, I thought your were going to ask me something hard.”

People often quiz me about why I’m so stuck on the M1911 pistol. After all, it’s an old design, in service since 1911 – the source of its name – and there are newer, excellent designs of auto pistols. The SIGs, Glocks, CZ, and H&K pistols are all excellent designs which perform admirably. None of them are perfect, but many are mighty doggone good. The modern pistolero really suffers from an abundance of riches.

The International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC) selected as its motto, “Diligentia – Vis – Celeritas” – “Accuracy – Power – Speed”. This comes directly from the teachings and philosophy of its first president, Col. Jeff Cooper. It’s no coincidence that Col. Cooper’s handgun of choice was the M1911 .45 automatic pistol. In my own thrashing about to find the right personal sidearm, I found that I agreed with Cooper. I got more accuracy, power and speed with the M1911 than I did with other types of pistols. It’s really as simple as that. It’s the gun I shoot the best.

Other things I like about the M1911 include its distinguished service history and the fact that it readily lends itself to customization. More Congressional Medals of Honor have been won with M1911 pistols than any other side arm. There are lots of aftermarket modifications you can do to personalize your gun. If you’re inclined to tinkering, the M1911 is your gun. One of the interesting ironies about the M1911 is that, while it’s one of the oldest autoloader designs, it’s still the fastest (for my money). An expert Glock shooter who knows how to do the short trigger reset can keep up with an M1911, but a normal shooter can get off rounds faster with Old Loudmouth than any of the other autos.

Reliability: I have one autoloader which has never jammed, and that’s a S&W 6906 9mm. Every other autoloader I know about has jammed sometime. For all of their hype, I have seen Glocks (and most other brands) act up at matches and training sessions. Compared to a good wheel gun, all autoloaders are fussy. There are several variables that affect this, including ammo, magazines, and grip. An auto which is not supported properly can jam. My Kimber is rock solid, but I have had times in which I was shooting from weird positions and around barricades on my weak side and have experienced feed failures. My son shoots a Beretta M9, a pistol renowned for its reliability, and when he was first learning to use the pistol he was plagued with feed failures because his grip simply wasn’t firm enough. A damaged magazine, weak springs, and out of spec ammo can all trigger malfunctions in autoloaders. Part of learning to effectively use an autoloader is mastering a solid grip and learning to clear malfunctions. An M1911 which is properly set up and using appropriate ammunition is a highly reliable gun. An M1911 which is tightened and “accurized” to shoot 1” patterns at 50 yards should not be expected to enjoy a high level of combat reliability. Appropriate ammunition for the M1911 is 230 grain FMJ or hollowpoints which have the same bullet shape of the FMJ round.






Colt Combat Commander 1911
Colt Combat Commander 1911






Jeff Cooper

“The 1911 pistol remains the service pistol of choice in the eyes of those who understand the problem. Back when we audited the FBI academy in 1947, I was told that I ought not to use my pistol in their training program because it was not fair. Maybe the first thing one should demand of his sidearm is that it be unfair.”
— Guns & Ammo, January 2002

Clint Smith On The 1911

“The 1911 remains popular because it’s an efficient tool. In more than 30 years of experience, I’ve met more competent, serious gunmen who carry 1911’s than those who pack any other handgun. They are professionals – policemen, government agents and others who carry handguns daily because the know their live may depend on it…Me? I’ve carried a 1911 every single day for the past 20 years. It’s a very comforting gun to have at your hip. It offers a good, consistent single-action trigger pull and is wonderfully dependable. Because the 1911 is basically a defensive handgun, I’m not concerned about tight groups. I don’t bother with expanding hollowpoints that could cause feeding problems. For absolute reliability, I shoot only high-quality ball ammunition. That big .45 slug doesn’t have to expand to be effective.”
From Guns and Ammo, September, 2001.






Kimber Classic II
Kimber Classic II





Tom Givens, Author and Trainer

As a “fighting” handgun, a properly set up and tuned 1911 has no equal. It has superb ergonomics, redundant safeties, excellent reliability and longevity, and the best trigger action available on any common service pistol. The trigger alone makes it the easiest service pistol to shoot well at speed. My primary handgun every single day, 365 days a year, is a lightly customized 1911.

That said, the 1911 is NOT a gun for the casual user, or what we call NDP’s (non-dedicated personnel). The gun was designed when technology was expensive, but skilled labor was not. The exact opposite is true today. A carry 1911 should be gone over by an experienced specialist (Heinie, Burns, Yam, Yost, Garthwaite, etc) and then properly maintained by the end user. The average cop or typical CCW holder would be better served with a Glock or SIG in most cases. If you’re willing to spend the money to get a properly set up 1911 and TRAIN with it, then you’re not “average”.

Last year I took three classes as a student (Taylor, Gonzales, Suarez) and the year before one from Clint Smith. In each of those classes I fired about 800 rounds through my carry 1911 without cleaning it and with zero malfunctions. At the NTI last year, I dropped an impact target with about an eight inch square vital zone at approximately 80 yards, from an awkward position, with one shot from my carry 1911, while being filmed by a TV crew. The superb trigger on my gun made that a lot easier. Since I have a choice in my personal weapons, I choose to carry the system that stacks the odds in my favor. My life is worth the extra expense/effort. YMMV.

Chief Michael King on the M1911

“I’ve shot EVERYTHING in twenty-five plus years of law enforcement and never found anything I like better.”

Chuck Taylor

“If you’ve heard that Old Ugly is on the way out, you’d better look again, for such is simply untrue; quite the opposite. Everything it has had the capacity to do for the last eight and a half decades remains valid. It thus remains King Of The Hill and will likely continue to do so well into the next millennium. To produce a handgun with better or more practical capabilities will be difficult and perhaps impossible. And I, for one, feel that we can look forward to watching the M1911 continue to dominate the handgun world well into the foreseeable future.”

“So, is there really a “best” pistol? Technically, if we eliminate shooter skill from the equation, yes. When interviewed after the tests, all participants agreed that the big Colt Government .45 (SA) had the best all-around combination of power, “user-friendliness,” accuracy and functional reliability, while the Glock M-22 .40 S&W (“semi”- DA) and LW Commander .45 (SA) tied for second. The Browning P-35 9mm (SA) was rated fourth and the Smith & Wesson M-39 9mm (DA) last.”





Kimber Pro Carry 1911 Pistol
Kimber Pro Carry 1911 Pistol




Officer Lawrence Birch

“Being a police officer, I have always carried a sidearm. For the past 9 years it has been a 9mm S&W. I never liked it and always wanted my 1911 as a sidearm. In 2001, I, along with two other officers took on a tremendous task of selecting a new sidearm for my police department. All of us are partial to the 1911. It was very difficult to be fair and objective in this test. In an age of polymer guns and the 9mm and .40 rage, it was a task to find a suitable sidearm for some 50+ officers. The round was nothing but the .45, and why not? Isn’t that what everything is compared to these days? We shot and tested our guns in a brutally harsh manner, water, sand, mud and pond water rinses, thousands of rounds and a few sessions of “toss the gun at the wall”. The four competitors were Glock, Smith, SIG and Para-Ordnance. Only two passed our tests, SIG and Para. In the end, 19 our of 20 police officers picked the Para, the chief went with the choice of the men and now our department carries the Para-Ordnance 14.45 LDA. Our officers qualification scores have risen dramatically and in a since we still carry a piece of history with us wherever we go. If John Browning only knew what a creation he had made.”

Daniel N. Powell, USMC

When I qualified with the 1911 in the Marines, my pistol rattled when I shook it, but it would still put a full magazine into the center of a combat target. Later, when we were issued the M9, none of us could shoot them accurately. Not long after they were issued, the Corps recalled the M9 and re-issued the 1911 for that reason. It wasn’t until the Pentagon ordered the Marines to carry the M9 that they were re-issued. However, almost every Marine I encountered carrying a sidearm carried a 1911 in defiance of the order right up until I was discharged in 1991.

Hal Lowder, US Army Military Police Corps

I was very fortunate that when I was deployed to the Persian Gulf that my unit was low on the list to get Beretta’s. so I HAD to carry my 1911. It was nice having a functioning sidearm that I didn’t have to carry in a plastic sandwich bag like most of the other guys did. And I might add, with no malfunctions. My Remington Rand issue fired every time !!

2LT Robert Wancha, 1776th Military Police Co., Michigan Army National Guard

About 15 years ago my National Guard unit went to qualify with weapons (individual and crew-served). I stepped up to the firing line for qualification and I was handed a very, very old Colt 1911A1. The thing was beat to death, sloppy in fit from years of service, and badly pitted from just as many years of neglect. With a tight annual budget and little money for ammo, we didn’t even have the chance to fire a few rounds for familiarization. So at this point having never handled a 1911A1, I started the qualification. I couldn’t see where the rounds were striking the target, but I had faith and kept shooting center mass. When the firing stopped, we were told to walk downrange and check our targets. I put them all in a very tight circle in the black. I qualified expert. I could not believe a rattlebox in that state of shape could deliver such performance.




CQB 1911
CQB 1911



Bob, USN

When I was a young man (19 I believe), I had to apprehend a guy who went berserk and was holding a Navy nurse with a knife to her throat. I fired a round that hit the forearm just above the elbow. The impact spun him around completely and threw him to the ground. It was then that I knew why this piece was the standard issue sidearm. After 40 years, it’s still as vivid in my memory as if it has happened yesterday. For me it was a sad day when it was replaced by the 9mm Beretta back in ’85.

Martin, US Army

I was an Urban warfare instructor in Berlin, Germany with the Army. There I learned that it [the m1911] is the best pistol for warfare and home defense. We used both .45 cal. Colts and Beretta’s in 9mm. Nearly all instructors praised the 1911A-1. It is a great weapon for urban warfare and home defense.

Jeff Chandler, Movie Actor

A youth spent in New York City, where even admiration for a gun struck terror in the hearts of one’s elders, kept me from gun appreciation for some time. In fact, it wasn’t until I was in the service that I made close contact with firearms. And out of the welter of guns they threw at us, my fondest association was with the Colt.45 Automatic Pistol. It’s a tricky little devil, but has always paralleled, for me, the kind of punch I admire in the ring—short, well-aimed, and devastating.

Cpl. Rick Jakubowski, 31st MEU(SOC),

Experience and practice give DAP Marines the capability to fire three short, two-round bursts at each target they engage, and every member carries a .45-caliber pistol as a secondary weapon because of its high-caliber knockdown power. The handgun normally serves as a backup when there is no time to reload the MP-5. It is also used for accuracy when firing on a ‘bad guy’ using a civilian as a shield. DAP Marines train extensively with their pistols to expand their skill at accomplishing these difficult shots. Some of the DAP Marines carry 12-gauge shotguns for “minor nuisances” like locked doors.




Jans Sistem
Jans Sistem



Bill P., Law Enforcement

Early in my career, probably 27-28 years ago, I was involved in a drug bust/warrant arrest. One of my partners was armed with a Colt .45 1911. Upon entering the apartment of the bad guy and announcing our purpose, the bad guy, who happened to be standing next to an ironing board with a hot iron on it picked up the iron and was about to use it as a weapon when my partner drew the .45, pointed it at the bad guy’s chest, saying “Put it down or I’m going to put 5 big ones in the middle of your chest.” Needless to say, the bad guy succumbed to the big hole in the end of the Colt.

Rosco S. Benson on rec.guns “Is the 1911 an Outdated Design?”

Of course the 1911 is an outdated design. It came from an era when weapons were designed to win fights, not to avoid product liability lawsuits. It came from an era where it was the norm to learn how your weapon operated and to practice that operation until it became second nature, not to design the piece to the lowest common denominator. It came from an era in which our country tried to supply its fighting men with the best tools possible, unlike today, when our fighting men and women are issued hardware that was adopted because of international deal-making or the fact that the factory is in some well-connected congressman’s district. Yes, beyond any shadow of a doubt, the 1911 IS an outdated design….and that’s exactly what I love about it.

The gangster era of the 1930s and the two world wars are mythical, archetypal times, and during that time, the “Colt Automatic” was the butt-kicking pistol. There really wasn’t any competition over here in auto pistols. Of the great pistols, only the Luger co-existed with the M1911 and they weren’t very popular in the States. The Luger was feared and respected, but our lawmen, soldiers and hoods didn’t select it to create their legends. I don’t know if the Glock or the Beretta will ever get the chance to serve during an era as uniquely suited to the creation of legend and mystique in the way the M1911 did. It’s a matter of being in the right place at the right time, and getting the job done when the chips were down.

Kimber Desert Warrior 1911 Pistol
Kimber Desert Warrior 1911 Pistol

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