New innovations replace old ideas and we call it progress. The plethora of modern high-capacity magazine handguns has caused many to relegate the 1911a1 to the trash heap along with the Model T Ford. Hold on cowboys, not so fast!
There are a lot of modern high-capacity magazine, polymer framed handguns on the market today. And a lot of them are outstanding designs. I personally have been carrying a Glock 19 as my primary carry gun for a number of reasons. But I also still have my custom combat 1911a1 which I also carry in certain situations. The modern gun press, as well as many military and Law Enforcement organizations have taken the view that a high-capacity handgun in 9mm is God’s gift to the shooting world, and have decided to relegate the 19lla1 and it’s cousin, the Browning High Power ( even though the High Power carrys 13 in the mag) to the dust bins of history. Why? Are there valid reasons? Personally I do not think so. And I still consider my 1911a1 as a modern and viable self-defense weapon.
So lets take a look at some of the criticisms of the 1911a1 and analyze their validity. Many of these criticisms come from service members who had to train on and carry the 1911a1.
I spent 8 years of my Army career assigned to various Marksmanship Training Units and I shot on the Army Pistol Team 8 years at the National Matches at Camp Perry. I hold the Army Gold Distinguished Pistol Shot Award. Most of my time though was teaching soldiers how to shoot with off the rack 1911a1’s. The accuracy complaints had more to do with the tiny issue sights than the inherent accuracy of the pistol itself. With the modern sights that come on modern 1911a1s this is no longer a valid criticism. The 1911a1, out of the box, is inherently an accurate pistol. I was successful at teaching a number of 95lb. soaking wet female soldiers to qualify with the issue pistol even using the tiny sights.
Size, Weight and Recoil
1911 series pistols are made in a number of reduced size versions. The Colt Commander started it off years ago and a number of manufactures make Commander sized versions today. Many are no larger or heavier in practical terms than my Glock 19. The 1911 is a man-sized pistol though. Many people with small hands (like myself) can have difficulty getting a proper grip to allow proper trigger finger placement. I solved the problem by installing a flat mainspring housing like the one pictured on the Commander above. In regards to recoil, again, I have trained small women to handle the .45acp very effectively. It’s about training folks! I am not going to revisit the old argument on caliber effectiveness. The .45acp has proven itself as an effective defensive cartridge around the world for a long time. I have had private students that shoot the .45acp better than the .40S&W.
Ahhhhh. Now we are entering the real problem many people have with the 1911a1. They seem to think they are safer with 15 or 17 rounds in the magazine than 7 or 8. Are they really? How many misses are you planning on shooting in defending yourself? And how many armed assailants are you planning on taking on with just your handgun? Now, before all of you high-capacity mag fans start throwing rocks, let me explain what I mean. Lets define what the purpose of a defensive handgun actually is.
To begin with, any handgun is a relatively poor defensive weapon compared to a rifle or shotgun. But is has two advantages over either: It is smaller and easier to conceal and much lighter and easier to carry. It is designed as a last-ditch defense against an armed aggressor. If you need more that 8 rounds in a defensive situation, you should have had a rifle, or a shotgun with you in the first place! Granted there are many Law Enforcement Officers that can only carry their issue handgun normally, and have to leave anything else in the squad car. But that is a function of bad policy and politics. There are some (very few actually) soldiers whose primary weapon is a handgun. In combat zones, most of then scarf up a rifle anyway or their commanders issue one to them. These two groups may feel that they have a legitimate need for more rounds in the mag. But to me, the real issue is training. Now I am going to say something that is going to offend many of my military and LEO friends: Way too many police officers and soldiers couldn’t shoot their way out of a wet paper bag in a serious situation. I know this for a fact as I have trained and trained with many of them. And it’s not their fault. Training hours and ammunition are expensive and many police departments, and even the military, will give the minimum training to get by and that is it. These organizations feel that they can substitute “firepower” for training. But to their credit, many fine police officers and soldiers spend their own money to attend world-class shooting schools to get really proficient.
There is a valid place for the high-capacity magazine 9mm. But those who choose to arm themselves with a 1911a1 in .45acp are most certainly not under gunned, if they are willing to take the time and effort to train with it properly and keep it’s intended use in perspective.
11 thoughts on “In Defense of the Venerable 1911a1 in .45ACP”
The 1911 does what it was intended to do. Deliver a large, heavy round down range and stop the momentum of the assailant. It is an accurate weapon which, of course, depends upon the ability of the shooter. I was introduced to the 1911 in the USMC in 1969. It still serve the purpose intended.
It’s simply too much gun for me but I was raised on the Browning HP as you know..
As for the mag capacities? I like a high mag capacity.
If I’ve got the time I’ll hit what I’m aiming at BUT in an ambush situation the nice thing about a large capacity is I can put people behind cover cowering like little school girls while looking round for adequate cover.
Then, and only when I’m safe, will I start to play “pip the ace”.
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A 9mm round is a peanut. There are really only two handgun calibers woth their salt: The .45 ACP and .357 Magnum.
The 9 mm and the .45 are serious calibers,
The difference between a M1911A1 or a Glock or Glock-a-like is a timeless pistol for ever and plastic with a limited timeclock (or timeGlock) for safety.
The 1911A1 is well designed by a genius. Simple, and robust.
Yes, I carry a 9mm Diamondback but,, when I head to an area that I find uncomfortable, my Springfield Micro goes with me. Nothing like the power and performance of a .45 1911.
St. Louis Missouri
Home of the Delta 1 Sights and the 1911 Sure Fire Magazine
I prefer higher capacity for numerous reasons, however, love this article. You are absolutely correct it is all about training. As for misses/hits- when speaking of the average cop or military trigger squeezer that number is substantially higher in defensive situations then civilians in similar situations. Of course, the average cop or military grunt is not by default a “gun” person whereas the average gun carrying civilian is- meaning more trigger time training.
Regardless, as much as this will hurt many .45 auto and .40s&w fans feelings, modern self defense ammunition has progressed so that the 9×19 luger is essentially a better round being virtually identical in ballistic testing, smaller (more fit in magazine space-because misses happen and group attacks are more likely now than ever before) and is easier to shoot accurately- my entire family carries glock 19s and being a shooter who regularly burns through barrels (shoots them out) I highly recommend a higher capacity handgun, specifically because so many people tend to “forget” the one is none two is one etc., rule.
As a general matter of fact I have personally put down Feral Hogs (weighing in the 600lb range) with 9×19 hornady 135 critical duty and in one case using speer gold dot 115grn both my go to self defense rounds based on testing and results in real flesh testing. :)
shoot me an email. i have a few pics of my .45 babies.
Agreed on all points. I love my Glock 30, subcompact .45. I also love my Para-Ordnance Expert 14.45, which is a double stack that holds 14 rounds (plus one in the chamber). I went with the same caliber for both pistols because when I grab ammo in a rush, I don’t want to accidentally try to load 9mm (or whatever caliber) into a .45 mag. Make sense? Mitigate errors while still in garrison.
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Para Ordnance has done great work with the 1911 design. I also still believe the old single stack version is a viable defensive handgun. Nothing wrong with caliber compatibility. And the .45acp is an effective round. I am seriously considering a Glock 30 to replace my 19, and let the wife have it.
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