More than a century ago John Moses Browning created the 1911 automatic pistol. Over time, the design has evolved slightly to be mass-produced and generally. However, the 1911 itself is still essentially the same platform it always was. The 1911 is a single stack, single action only platform with a manual safety and grip safety.
The design is reflective of its time but it still continues to be a popular choice for many individuals. I dare to say the 1911 is likely produced by more companies than any gun outside of the AR 15. You can even build one from an 80 percent lower receiver.
The question remains is the gun outdated? Even hopelessly outdated?
The Evidence Against the 1911
What makes me think the 1911 is an outdated platform? Well, there are a number of reasons why I would not carry or employ a 1911 in a defensive role when better choices are offered. The reasons include the gun’s capacity, weight, reliability, and even their price. I want to elaborate on these reasons in depth.
How much does capacity matter? Can you get the job done with 7 rounds? Of course, you can. The 1911 holds anywhere from 7 to 9 rounds depending on size and caliber which isn’t that different from a gun designed for concealed carry. However, the 1911’s capacity and size are not comparable to a concealed carry gun. Even small 1911s like the Springfield EMP in 9mm have a low capacity compared to their size.
The Springfield EMP is nearly as tall and as thick as a Glock 19 but holds only 9 rounds. The SIG P365 with it’s 12 round magazine is still thinner and shorter than the EMP. The 1911 does not offer comparable capacity when size and purpose are put into perspective.
The all-metal design of the 1911 adds significant weight to the platform. As we’ve discovered the design of modern handguns can utilize substantial amounts of polymer without compromising the weapon’s integrity. This cuts weight without sacrificing capacity or size. The SIG P320 in 45 ACP weighs 39 ounces when loaded with 11 rounds of 45 ACP. A comparable Springfield 1911 weighs 43 ounces empty. Even the big CZ 97, another all-metal gun, weighs 46 ounces loaded with ten rounds of ammo.
The gun is just heavy due to its design and trimming weight is possible but it tough to consider a 1911 with a polymer a real 1911. Albeit these polymer frame1911s can cut nearly 11 ounces off of the design. The 1911 is a sturdy design which does make it a harder to carry gun. That boat anchor weight will be felt as the day wears on.
The 1911 was designed to be a very simple weapon, and it was intended to shoot a 230-grain hardball FMJ round in the so-called Government configuration. If you keep the 1911 in this configuration and test it for the right ammo, you are usually good to go. Problems have occurred with these guns when you try to shrink them or get crazy with the ammo. In my experience, you have to find the right ammo that fits the gun. My RIA 1911 is one of the cheaper models and only likes 230-grain FMJs. Some JHPs will be worth it, but not all.
Size-wise, it is an entirely different issue. Small 1911s are famously finicky. Advances have been made, and companies like Colt, Springfield, and Remington have made prosperous production compact 1911s. Not all companies can claim this however and purchasing a compact 1911 should be done with a ton of research.
Rock Island Armory rules the current budget 1911 market, and other small companies like ATI also have a hand in the market. Even budget 1911s, bare-bones, bottom of the barrel guns are still nearly as much as a modern polymer pistol. The Ruger Security 9 sells for less than the cheapest 1911 I can find on the market. 1911s are not the most inexpensive guns, and even budget guns are costly compared to modern pistols.
Where Does That Leave the 1911?
Listen, I enjoy the 1911 as a fun gun to shoot the same way I enjoy single action army clones. They are interesting and integral to firearm’s evolution, but I feel their time has passed. With modern ammunition, the .45 ACP no longer rules the roost. The 1911 platform is a big, heavy, and expensive option compared to the rest of the market. I don’t doubt someone with a 1911 can defend themselves. However, I can do the same thing with a lighter, easier to carry weapon with double the capacity.
What do you think? Is the 1911 outdated? Share your opinion in the comments below, we want to hear from you!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine gunner who served with 2nd Bn 2nd Marines for 5 years. He deployed in 2009 to Afghanistan and again in 2011 with the 22nd MEU(SOC) during a record-setting 11 months at sea. Travis has trained with the Romanian Army, the Spanish Marines, the Emirate Marines, and the Afghan National Army.
He serves as an NRA certified pistol instructor and pursues a variety of firearms based hobbies.
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6 thoughts on “Although Timeless and Reliable, is the 1911 Hopelessly Outdated?”
Opinions are like armpits. Everybody has one and most stink. I have carried a 1911 in most configurations from full size to subcompact and with good magazines and about any good personal defense ammo they have functioned flawlessly. With a few good Wilson combat 8 round magazines in 45 cal no matter where you are in the world your not out gunned
It’s a good thing you’re NOT the final authority on ANYTHING…
I’ve fired a number of plastic guns and did not like any of them. A Glock 19 has noticeable felt recoil in 9×19. Just didn’t want to try a plastic .45. My Kimber Pro and Ultra pistols do not have noticeable recoil and they all load 230 grain FMJ or JHP in .45 ACP. Perhaps I am just sensitive to recoil. I can carry a Kimber Ultra in .45 ACP in my pocket and have 8 rounds if needed. Barsony pocket holsters are my friends.
IMHO, this pretty much says it all. “However, I can do the same thing with a lighter, easier to carry weapon with double the capacity.” Yep, you sure can! And, it may well take the full extent of that double capacity to do “the same thing” that the venerable 1911 can do with less.
My wife doesn’t like my revolvers, she doesn’t like my 9mm’s, she’s not even a big fan of the 380’s we’ve bought especially for her. BUT, she can handle the 1911, and that’s the name of that tune 🙂
I have no problem with “plastic” guns and favor Glocks in certain environments, such as marine/beach areas, etc. My primary carry pistols are all steel 1911s and I do not find the weight burdensome, on the contrary I like the recoil dampening properties of a heavy pistol.
I am an FFL/SOT gunsmith and I agree with you on general terms. Notwithstanding, the 1911 when setup properly addresses the issues you raise. Ten round magazines, proper gunsmith tuning, and a custom Kydex holster that distributes the 1911 weight properly (like a good backback) more than address the issues. Setting up the 1911 for 45 acp 230 grain bonded JHP +P ammo raises the performance to 1000 FPS. Then there is the inherent 1911 accuracy and precision. In summary, if setup properly the 1911 is very competitive with 9mm polymer pistols. It really comes down to preference.