1911: Unsuitable for Self-Defense?

Regular readers know I train under David Kenik. The rabbi is a self-effacing gun guy who’s quick to point out that his advice is his advice. He’s happy to explain why he holds his beliefs, listen to counter-arguments and let you decide whether or not you want to accept or ignore his dictates. In short, no flaming guys. Attack the philosophy, not the philosopher. (Offensive comments will be edited.) OK, so, the rabbi reckons 1911-style guns are unsuitable for daily carry. “They’re the easiest guns in the world to shoot someone with,” Kenik likes to say. “But the hardest guns NOT to shoot someone with.” In other words, it’s all about the trigger. The 1911-style gun’s trigger is too light for the stress of battle. Here’s the relevant section from his book Armed Response.

I had an accidental discharge at an IPSC match. During a particularly stressful fast reload, my finger pressed the trigger without my being aware of it until the round fired. It is commonly stated that ADs are caused by poor gun handling skills and you just need to keep your finger off the trigger. Well, I practiced keeping my finger off the trigger for 20 years. The difference at the match was the higher level of stress that I was experiencing for the first time affected my abilities and awareness.

A few weeks after my AD, I did a training class on a FATS (Firearm Training Simulation) system, which uses real handguns converted to shoot lasers at a movie screen displaying tactical scenarios. With the remembrance of my AD fresh in my mind, I specifically checked my finger during and after stressful encounters. I found my finger subconsciously on the trigger three times during the one hour session! This proved to me that even twenty years of shooting a 1911 and several seasons of action shooting competitions did not prepare me for the effects that higher levels of stress cause.

Coincidentally, a short time later, I cam across details of a law enforcement study that demonstrated that under high levels of stress, the trigger finger often subconsciously travels to the trigger to “confirm its position.” Lt. Dave Spaulding, of the Montgomery County, Ohio Sheriff’s Office, observed that 632 out of 674 officers tested periodically placed their fingers in the trigger guard during FATS training. This is astounding—94% of the trained police officers teste placed their finger on the trigger under stress! This number included many highly-skilled and motivated officers. The officer that he observed doing thse “trigger searches had no memory of doing so . . .

An accidental discharge is more likely with a single-action trigger than a double-action trigger because of its short, light trigger pull. Had I been using a single-action trigger during my FATS exercise, I might have had three ADs, because all it takes to fire a single-action gun is just a relatively light touch of the trigger . . .

My conclusion is that unless you train extensively under extreme stress, the double-action trigger would be a safer choice for self-defense.

In other words, 1911s are more dangerous for self-defense work than double-action combat handguns. Makes sense to me. While I’ve shot thousands of rounds through 1911s, I still get the occasional “Hey, I didn’t mean to fire that round” moment. And that’s without [more than my normal amount of] stress.

But then I’m a relative piker paying this guy cash money to learn how to safely defend myself and my loved ones with a firearm. What’s your take?