Quality: 1911 vs. Glock Vs. Taurus

The 1911 Sucks post sure stirred up some strong emotions. I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but I had a great time debating the issues and I learned a lot. But there were also some other issues that were raised and not addressed to my satisfaction (being the sort of guy who likes facts and evidence). For instance: just how reliable are 1911s? How reliable are Glocks? And, from the comments, some people took exception to my characterization of Taurus as a brand with hit-or-miss quality, so what is the real deal with Taurus quality? How can those questions be answered? I thought of a way to get some baseline metrics on those issues. And since I was burning up vacation time from work, why not use it to be productive?

Some background: When products are manufactured and offered for sale to the public, the vast majority of them are not individually tested for function & quality. A shipment of (for example) DVD players will arrive in containers at a U.S. port, and 2% of those units will be tested. If those 2% pass the testing, the entire batch will be presumed to be “good” and they will be sent to the warehouses of the retailers who will be selling them.

If more than a certain percentage of those 2% have defects of some sort, the importer will go back and test another 3% of the shipment (for a total of 5%) for defects. If the 5% sample passes the testing standards, the whole batch is sent on to the retailers. Any units that fail the testing will be sent to a service center to be repaired to testing standards and then sold as “Factory Serviced” products. (Since they are marked down, and have been tested individually to ensure function, do not hesitate to take advantage of those deals!)

But if the total 5% sample flunks the test standards, the entire batch is sent back. Modern quality control methods make that very rare nowadays.

Bottom line: lemons happen, and there is no economical way to prevent that. But they are rare.

For those of you who haven’t heard of it, there is a magazine called Gun Tests that does exactly what their name says. They test guns (and the occasional scope, holster or reloading setup), usually in groups of 2-4 guns, and with 3-5 comparisons per month it adds up to a huge database of hands-on gun reviews. They don’t accept any outside advertising and thus cannot be influenced by the threat of lost ad revenue if they spill the beans on a crappy gun (and yes, that happens at the glossy gun magazines). I don’t work for them, I am simply a long-time subscriber.

Now, when you look at a gun review, there are some things that are Objective Observations (“gun X holds 10 bullets, functioned without misfeeds, and shot 3″ average groups at 50 feet for 3 shooters”) and other things that are Subjective Observations (“gun X felt good in my hand, it was easy to conceal with my carry method”). Subjective observations need to be taken with a grain of salt since every person has a different outlook, but Gun Tests has been pretty scrupulous about telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. I trust their objective observations. I am sending them a link to this post, in case they want to put their two cents in (they can get the pennies off John Browning’s eyelids).

Who better to use as a reference to gauge the quality of these 3 gun types? I couldn’t think of another unbiased resource as detailed as Gun Tests, but I welcome any suggestions for additional sources of information. I want facts, no matter what they reveal.

So I went through my archive of back issues (complete, as far as I know), from the present day back to 1996, and took notes on the reviews they did of every Taurus, every Glock, and every full-size 1911 pistol in that period.

What did I find, you ask? Well, to set some guidelines, a gun would be judged as “broken” if it stopped working, shed parts, or physically disintegrated in some way. A gun would be “unreliable” if it had failures to fire, feed, extract or eject that were not attributable to a documented problem with the ammunition. I decided that an obviously defective part like a single bad magazine would not render a gun “unreliable” if the manufacturer’s regular magazines worked when the bad magazine was replaced like-for-like. Note, many of the reviews of 1911s had to use Wilson mags for the review guns, regardless of brand of gun. The reliability numbers for 1911s are probably overly-optimistic, in other words.

Well…after going through every issue I have between 1996 and today (again, I am pretty sure I have every one), I compiled the following numbers:

Illuminating, isn’t it?

From the top…I own a Taurus .22 pump-action rifle, and it’s a lot of fun (despite merely fair accuracy). But I handled a lot of .22 revolvers from Taurus when I was in the market for one, and they all had problems. Caveat Emptor! If you find a good Taurus that is reliable and accurate, I am happy for you. I like the fact that Taurus has a great warranty policy, and that they are willing to take some pretty big risks in developing new interesting guns. But I don’t know that I would trust my life to a Taurus without a lot of personal testing of the specific gun in question. And, while it is pretty nifty, the ballistics I have seen on the Judge make me view it as a less-lethal force option.

Glock. 47 reviews, and just one bona fide lemon with a single failure-to-extract hiccup on another gun. And, a compact 10mm would have been my first guess as the gun that had the major issue, since it is a long case and a fast bullet. Tricky action timing there. To be extra fair, I included every problem I found in every Glock review (3 of the 4 occurred in 1998, BTW), just to be sure that we have the whole story. And the story is pretty clear: Glocks work.

1911. Well, well. 15 problem guns out of 72 guns reviewed. (Hey, what’s the difference between a 1911 and Linda Lovelace? Linda Lovelace never choked!) And there are some pretty high-falutin names in the unreliable column. Sure, a low-end off-brand 1911 might be a loser, but a “Wilson CQB” isn’t a low-end gun is it? What about a “Kimber LTP II”? Or a “Kimber Custom”? I honestly don’t know how the 1911 fans can claim that their gun of choice doesn’t have a reliability issue.

Before anyone gets an attack of the vapors, click here for my notes pages, with the model of gun and date of review.

Please, read the reviews for yourself and tell me if I made any errors. Yes, I know I have crappy penmanship. Can’t be helped. Should have been a doctor. Ask if you need me to clarify anything. I can’t post the whole reviews because of copyright issues, but excepts should be acceptable.

No parent wants to face the fact that they have an ugly child. And I can understand why some 1911 fans would want to downplay the documented shortcomings of their pistol of choice. But facts are facts.

I eagerly await additional information from any interested commenters.

[Text courtesy yankeegunnuts.com, a most excellent gun blog.]

58 Responses to Quality: 1911 vs. Glock Vs. Taurus

  1. avatarWes says:

    No surprise to me about Kimber. It seems almost commonplace that when I see a Kimber owner mention their gun breaking, suddenly a bunch of other Kimber owners come out of the woodwork and say the same thing. $ /= reliability.

    From what I’ve seen, I’d say your Taurus “hit or miss” characterization is right on. Seems like they either work great or they suck.

    Hell, you guys want some strong emotions stirred up? I’ll do that right now for you:
    If I had to choose a reliable gun to go bang, I’d take a Hi-Point over a Taurus or a Kimber.

  2. avatarmini says:

    I didn’t read the other posts about 1911s, etc., but your tone in this post is sure to fan the flames. I have no stake in this argument – I don’t own any of the guns compared – but I would like to add one point. Reliability of new guns isn’t necessarily the most important data. It would be a better comparison of design to test guns that have proven reliable for their first month of existence.

    Let’s say Smithy’s Gun Company sells pistols. 50% are absolutely amazing and 50% are scrap metal. If I can exchange my purchase under warranty to insure I don’t get a lemon, I might be happy buying from Smithy’s. The final quality might be worth the poor execution. Perhaps Smitty’s just has terrible quality control as you mention. Whether the mixed-bag performance is worth the price is a different question, of course.

    Very few would bet their life on an unreliable weapon. Maybe the question is not “how reliable are Glocks?” but “how reliable is MY Glock?”

  3. avatarPatrick Carrube says:

    Well, I do have a problem with your results – you are comparing one type of pistol (leave Taurus out of this for a second) in multiple calibers vs. one main caliber of multiple brands of 1911 pistol. Is that really conclusive? We all know that Glock’s work – even JMB would agree. Your original argument and original statement was that “1911′s suck”, for one reason or the other. Now, you have since narrowed your original scope to focus on reliability. To be conclusive, you need to go back through you books and compare the reliability of all polymer/modern pistols to 1911′s. Make sure to include Hi-Point and other lower-end pistols (hey, you included High Standard and Lonestar in the 1911 table!). Actually, what would be better would be making the comparison above, but separating caliber by caliber. Then, to further make use of your data, compare those numbers to manufacturer QC/QA protocols. By simply focusing on Glock to 1911, you are assuming that all 1911 manufacturers and Glock have comparable QC and QA protocols. Does Glock only test 3% of their manufactured pistols? Does Lonestar only check 3%?

    • To be fair, Patrick, I didn’t narrow anything; the Glock issue was raised by 1911 devotees. A lot of claims about Glocks being “unreliable”, having “bad magazines”. Funny, those people are being pretty damned quiet right now. Must be dinnertime at the Crow Diner.

      And, there is an error of logic in your argument. What I did was compare the reliability of every model of Glock in every caliber to full-size 1911s in .45acp. In doing so, I presented the worst possible view of Glocks (with the most chances of a problem) and the best possible view of 1911s. And the 1911 still came out on the bottom. If I included the non-.45acp caliber 1911s and the commander & compact 1911s, the 1911 would look even worse. If I restricted the comparison to .45acp Glocks, there would be no Glock failures. Or, as their motto says: Glock Perfection.

      I stacked the deck to give the 1911 every possible opportunity to avoid problems, and the results speak for themselves. I furnished the brand names because I knew that some people would try to claim that the only guns that failed were low-end off-brand 1911s. And I provided my notes. Regardless of what a company claims to do for QC, the really important issue is what happened with the guns that made it out of the factory.

      I don’t want to ban 1911s. I just want people to stop pretending it doesn’t have some serious problems.

      • avatarPatrick Carrube says:

        Error in my logic? Sorry, but please talk to any statistician if you don’t believe me. Perhaps you’ve misunderstood me so I’ll try this again. You are comparing one manufacturer (Glock) to all 1911 manufacturers. Glock pistols, regardless of caliber, size, or model #, are still Glock pistols. This means that Glock’s QC/QA methods all apply to every pistol you noted, and all the designs are relatively the same (for better or worse). The 1911’s models are made by nine (9!) different manufacturers. Even comparing a Glock .45ACP to all 1911 .45ACP’s, you’re still comparing one manufacturer to nine 1911 manufacturers. “Stacking the deck” to give the 1911’s the best possible opportunity is actually a comparison of manufacturers and manufacturing methods, not necessarily a comparison of pistol designs. There are two ways to achieve this: first, you can go through all the issues of your magazine and compare all models of modern pistols (SIG’s, Beretta’s, Glock’s, XD, CZ, etc) to all models of 1911’s. This still takes into account the variability of manufacturing processes, but it should be a large enough of a sample set to make this statistically insignificant. Then again, we are also assuming that a Glock pistol is as easy to manufacturer as a 1911. We know that it isn’t, but we are comparing the design of the pistol and not the process required to manufacture. The other way to test what design is actually better, would be for Glock to actually produce a 1911. Since this is unlikely, I will await your findings from scouring the previous issues of the gun reviews.

  4. avatarSteve Crocker says:

    Guess what you guys have said is true but my Taurus Millennium Pro has never hickuped and has earned it’s place on my hip.

    Had many 1911′s and never had much problems except them dang magazines.

  5. avatarDon Curton says:

    It was my understanding that some of your higher end 1911′s are made to tighter tolerances, stiffer springs, etc. for competition use. Thus they’ll foul faster, not work as good dirty, take longer to break in, only work with custom ammunition, etc. Grandpa’s .45 from the war was loose and only so-so accurate, but “it always worked”. I’m not sure I’d use a Kimber for self-defence without a whole lot of break-in first.

    Of course I typically pack a Ruger Blackhawk, so my opinion is suspect.

    Also, had a subscription to Gun Tests years ago, lost it when I moved. Great mag. If I remember, they came on 3-hole punched paper so you could take a year’s worth and put it in a 3-ring binder. I had several years worth from the early 90′s, don’t know what happened to them.

  6. avatarJohn Moses says:

    Glocks do work and have owned two, models 23 and 26, have shot many 19′s. Can’t recall a single failure with any. I just don’t care for the feel and the trigger although there are aftermarket solution to that. Would most certainly grab one and be very pleased to possess it if the excrement hits the occilator.
    In fairness to the 1911 let dozens of manufacturers over the course of 100 years make the Glock pistol and see where we are. Could Taurus produce a flawless Glock?
    As stated in a previous post I had 2 Kimbers that taught me alot about malfunction clearance. They are gone and would never buy again. All my others from Wilson to Springer GI’s have been without any problems. Know your equipment and make certain it works. I don’t strive with a problem gun, if it fails I purge it from the battery.
    I have owned 3 Taurus, all bought used for bargain prices and all failed or broke. Parts fell off a single action and other revolver one cylinder badly out of time. Would never consider one for serious duty. Feel the same about others I have owned. Have had two lemon Rugers.
    My go to guns are Sigs, like the feel of metal and good triggers. Absolute reliability.
    Buy what you like and practice with it.

  7. avatarNewt says:

    The problem to me is that you’re comparing brand versus type effectively. Glock vs a bunch of brands of 1911. That’s kinda bad math right there. We need to know for example a bunch of glocks vs a bunch of springfields vs a bunch of wilsons, etc to make real valid statistical conclusions here. I suspect a Wilson does a little better than an Armscor.

    If you show that all of those brands fail at the same rate as small samples of all of those brands and more than GLOCK, you’ve got a valid conclusion. Plus it’s just numbers with no variance. Bad Shooter. No bullseye.

    • As I mentioned to Patrick, they tested many .45acp Glocks, and none failed. They tested multiple Springfield, Kimber and Wilson 1911s, and each brand had failures on an upscale model.

      It is the design that I am critical of, not any one manufacturer.

      • avatarPatrick Carrube says:

        Again, the design of one manufactuer to one design (sort of) of multiple manufacturers. This is statistically and experimentally flawed, I do not understand how this is hard to see.

        • Nice try. I know it is hard to admit, but the 1911 fans cannot just wish reality away.

          When you compare every full-size .45acp Colt 1911 tested versus every Glock .45 tested, the Colt brand 1911 design choked.

          When you compare the multiple tests of the Wilson, Kimber and Springfield brands, under the same circumstances, they all choked as well. No failures on the Glocks.

          1 to 1, Patrick. Brand t0 brand, so that’s not a valid excuse anymore. Caliber to caliber, so the known 191 problem with non-.45acp calibers is not a factor. No commander-length or compact 1911s in the mix to worsen the reliability stats, either.

          There’s no way to semantically make the comparison go away.

        • avatarPatrick Carrube says:

          Oh my, I don’t know if I can take this level of mathematical ignorance anymore… even comparing “1 to 1″, “1″ is still a Glock. This means, you cannot make the definitive statement that 1911′s suck because they are unreliable. You can, however, make the statement that Glock Pistols are reliable, although you still cannot say that the Glock design is reliable from this data set, although we know they are (the reason you cannot use this data set to say that the Glock design is reliable is because there are too many variables, plus we do not know of Glock’s manufacturing or QC protocol). In the statistics world, you are inferring.

        • avatarPatrick Carrube says:

          If you think I’m BS’ing you, send me the books and I’ll do it. This will be the 4th time I’m requesting these numbers, perhaps there is good reason why you are still stuck on the Glock vs 1911 Multiple Manufacturer comparison. I’ll even pay the shipping charges. If you are going to talk numbers and post tables, those numbers had better mean something. Like I said in the past, this is TTAG and not NBC/CBS/ABC. Statistics and experimental design are difficult, and most people don’t understand them. Fortunately for our TTAG followers, I do.

  8. avatarMartin Albright says:

    I don’t agree that YGN’s method of comparison is unfair. In fact, I would say it is representative of the dilemma a prospective shooter often finds himself in: Which gun do I buy? Many, many, many folks right here would immediately say “get a 1911!” without qualifying as to which 1911 he should get, which mods he should make, which mags and ammo he should use, etc. It’s just a default position like Ford guys saying “get a Mustang!” or Chevy guys saying “get a ‘Vette!”

    I think it’s more accurate to say that a 1911 is like any other highly refined and specialized piece of gear: It is a tool best used by experts and those who are knowledgeable of its capabilities and limitations. And yet, time and time again, I see supposedly well-schooled gun guys recommending a 1911 to a shooting newbie.

    So yes, IMO, the Glock-vs-any-old-1911 comparo is a fair one because it portrays the typical gun buyer’s choices.

    • avatarPatrick Carrube says:

      Statistically speaking, YGN’s comparison is flawed. Agreed, it may present buyers with a “which 1911 to buy” problem, but it is not and should not be considered “statistically significant”. Personally, I don’t know of ANY educated (distinctly different than “well-schooled”) gun guys recommending 1911′s to beginner shooters. Giving a newbie a 1911 to CCW is like giving a TIG-welder to a first time metal-shop student.

      • avatarMartin Albright says:

        Patrick go to any gun related message board and type in “Hi, I’m a new shooter about to get my CCW permit and am wondering what kind of pistol to get?”

        I’ll bet you a drink that at least 25% of the responders will recommend a 1911 of some sort. In fact, it may be closer to 50%. The cult of the 1911 is strong in this country.

        • avatarPatrick Carrube says:

          Oh I didn’t disagree with you on that, but you said they were “supposedly well-schooled gun guys”. I was just pointing out that the better portion of intelligent 1911 guys, and knowledgable gun guys in general, will not recommend a 1911 to a newb for CCW. I would recommend that a newb SHOOT a 1911, to see if they like the handling and ergonomics of said pistol, but certainly not to start CCW’ing with.

  9. avatarrabbi says:

    It is a fact that some 1911s are great and some suck. There is no other modern product made that we would accept the same odds of getting one that didn’t suck.

    • avatarPatrick Carrube says:

      Does a Ruger or Remington count?

      • I have never heard of a GP100 or SP101 revolver that broke. The Mark I and Mark II .22s were very reliable. Ditto the 10/22. Never heard of a Mini-14 that didn’t go bang every time, either (wonder where the design inspiration for it came from…).

        Seems like Ruger’s problems started with the old man stopped being involved with the company.

        • avatarPatrick Carrube says:

          Well this I will agree with – Ruger needs to man up and start making the stuff they used to. My neighbor bought his teenage boy a 10/22. That this is a jam-o-matic, not automatic! The magazine almost makes your finger tips bloody when trying to take it out as well. My coworker has a MkII that shoots great, but when I disassemble it, it almost never wants to go together. I do enjoy shooting older Mini-14′s, but would never buy a new one. QC/QA problems is going to ruin Ruger and Remington.

        • The Mark I and Mark II (and Mark III, which I would not buy; the trigger disconnect safety ruined the trigger) were notorious for being a bear to reassemble.

          There is a trick to holding it a certain way to get it back together. Also, some company makes a replacement part that you can install that makes it possible to remove the bolt for cleaning without fully disassembling the gun.

  10. Yanno what is funny? The way that 1911 defenders keep trying to redefine the comparisons to make the 1911 look good. I am not referring to you, Patrick. You appear to be willing to examine the facts.

    Patrick, I really don’t understand what numbers you think you asked me for 4 times (normally I only need to be told twice). I gave you access to my notes with all of the model numbers and the dates they were tested and the results of the tests. I can provide more info if you are specific. Let me be clear on what my data showed:

    Comparing multiple full-size .45acp 1911s made by Wilson vs. multiple .45acp Glocks = 1 Wilson failed reliability test

    Comparing multiple full-size .45acp 1911s made by Springfield vs. multiple .45acp Glocks = 1 Springfield failed reliability test

    Comparing multiple full-size .45acp 1911s made by Kimber vs. multiple .45acp Glocks = 3 Kimbers failed reliability test

    Comparing multiple full-size .45acp 1911s made by Colt vs. multiple .45acp Glocks = 1 Colt failed reliability test

    There is no multiple manufacturer issue. It’s 1 to 1. The 1911 design failed each comparison, despite being from one of the “quality” 1911 brands.

    I did this time-consuming comparison (and I don’t have a problem doing more) because 1911 fans kept claiming that the only unreliable 1911s were cheapo guns, or that a certain brand is the problem. The problems span all brands and all levels of price/quality. And since those brands have been able to make reliable guns of other designs (like the XD), it can’t be the brand itself taking all of the blame.

    • avatarPatrick Carrube says:

      Well I’m not here to twist facts or anything similar. I’m here to dispel the myth that “1911 sucks” because it is unreliable. The fact that the 1911, which is getting ready to celebrate its 100 year anniversary, is still currently in use by some of the most elite teams in the world. This fact alone is enough to prove to most that the 1911 is a force to be reckoned with (how many special-ops teams use a polymer gun?). Historically, the 1911 has been difficult to run with JHP ammo, but modern examples (say the last 8-9 years) are significantly better than anything produced in history, and good majority of them will run flawlessly out of the box. The 1911 is difficult to build – that is nothing new. Modern companies mostly build to price a point, which means hand-fitting rarely gets done. However, just because a pistol requires hand fitting, it doesn’t mean the actual design of the 1911 pistol is unreliable. I have been trying to get you to see that. A properly built 1911, not a custom model or super high-end model, will keep up with the demands of any LEO, CCW, Special Ops, target shooter, or for home defense. If you want a pistol to drop in the mud, run over with a truck, and then can literally be put in the dishwasher, then the 1911 isn’t for you. If you want a pistol with a phenomenal trigger, is thin and easy to conceal (regardless of what YGN says), and has the optimal grip angle, then the 1911 is a great option!

      • avatarPatrick Carrube says:

        I appreciate your willingness to research, so I will try this again – this time I’ll break it down stepwise. Step 1) Go through all the books you have (or want). Step 2) Write down the reviews of every gun, every model – separating only between “modern” (i.e. SIG, Glock ,etc) and “1911″ (all manufacturers). NOTE – skip any test of a non-modern guns, (such as a Colt SAA) or other gun not suitable for self-defense (for example a Colt .25ACP). Step 3) write down what or why they are considered “unreliable” – we can run two data sets, one where we eliminate any guns with magazine issues (not just 1911’s) because most firearm manufacturers don’t typically make their own magazines. However, for completeness sake, we will compare both data sets – if nothing more than for completeness sake. Step 4) email me the results and I’ll punch the stats. We’ll share the results with TTAG! I think everyone will be surprised.

      • avatarBob Bobson says:

        It seems that both sides are actually saying something similar, they just don’t want to admit it. Patrick writes:

        “Historically, the 1911 has been difficult to run with JHP ammo, but modern examples (say the last 8-9 years) are significantly better than anything produced in history, and good majority of them will run flawlessly out of the box. The 1911 is difficult to build – that is nothing new. Modern companies mostly build to price a point, which means hand-fitting rarely gets done. However, just because a pistol requires hand fitting, it doesn’t mean the actual design of the 1911 pistol is unreliable.”

        I believe that this is the point that the ‘anti’ 1911 folks are trying to make. The design is such that in order to make a highly reliable/effective/precise/etc firearm, it takes allot of work, or in Patrick’s words “The 1911 is difficult to build”.

        Just as Patrick points out that nobody denies that Glocks are reliable, I have not seen anyone point out that ALL 1911′s are unreliable. The original author has pointed out that there are many completely reliable 1911s in service throughout the world.

        I am also looking forward to any further research on this, as your next post is proposing a pretty grand research project that will no doubt be interesting to follow.

      • avatarCombatready says:

        Basically I’ve always thought and thus said…the Glock is the Ak47 of handguns…it won’t break, you don’t have to lube it like you’re getting ready to sleep with it …it doesn’t jam hardly ever(I’ve had Glocks in .40, 9mm, and .45) not one jam for me ever. Many guns don’t do well in overly humid climates, or overly dry climates, just for the fact of lubrication or complication of moving parts(sand, mud, water etc.), Its says in the Glock manual “don’t overly lube your glock as its designed to work with very little lube initially.” paraphrasing of course….personally for CCW out of the box reliability and the fact that the 1911 only places 1 1/2 inch groups to Glocks’ 2 inch groups average at 12 yds consistently with both…I’d take the Glock for CCW. You? I mean the purpose of any firearm first and foremost is to work not look like it works…governments both local and federal use glock more than any other weapon…U.S. special operators have a choice of handguns to use and there is an overwhelming majority from all four branches that say a glock is their “choice” weapon. SOCOM is the only command wherein they give them a choice in caliber as well…the .45 is the king in that respect too I’m Combat Control myself….Glock 21′s are the most common(this was before the release of the glock 21SF model at least when I played in the sand box), H&k, and then Sig…In all things mechanical the simpler version usually wins in terms of reliability ..cars, firearms, tools etc…when there are more things internally those things can break and each individual thing that breaks within the mechanism.. that’s 1 strike against that mechanism as a whole…more parts = more breaks..

  11. Ok, the criteria I used are in the post above. I was looking for guns that broke and guns that did not function reliably (I did not address accuracy, ergonomics, or cosmetics/dehorning). A single bad magazine would not be considered a “gun problem” as long as other magazines from that manufacturer worked properly. “Unreliable” meant that the gun failed to function at least one brand of ammunition used in the test (Gun Test usually uses 3 types of ammo for each review).

    The data I already compiled covers every Glock and every new full-size 1911 (I did not included surplus guns). The 4 issues on the 47 Glocks tested were noted in my chart (only 2 were directly related to the gun, thus only 2 were “issues”).

    For full-size 1911s, I have data on which guns broke (1) and which had reliability issues with at least 1 type of ammunition (14). While I kept seeing mention of the need to use the Wilson mags to make the 1911s work, I did not track the type of magazine used (In effect, the non-Wilson 1911s that needed to use Wilson mags got an advantage in reliability).

    Potential stats to compile for analysis:

    1) Which full-size 1911s required Wilson mags to work (additional datum on previously tracked models)
    2) Breakage/reliability on XD, SiG, Kahr, Beretta or S&W pistols
    3) Breakage/reliability on compact & commander size 1911s

    Let me know what you think will be the most revealing to examine.

  12. avatarCW2 Sweetwood says:

    Patrick, you said “(how many special-ops teams use a polymer gun?)” I have been in the Army for a long time, and have deployed several times. I have done work for many SF/Seal/AF Para Rescue/Marine SOF guys, and have only seen one Marine wearing a 1911 in combat, and two SIG’s. Every single one of the other special warfare guys I have seen had a Glock on their hip.

  13. avatarCaligula says:

    I would never own a Tar-ass. They have a poor reputation for reliability – period. I don’t understand the 1911 love affair. It’s heavy, not conducive to concealed carry, and has a limited capacity as a single stack model. I also don’t care for a manual safety on a self-defense weapon. DAO or DA/ SA with a de-cocker is more pragmatic. I like new, proven technology. There are plenty of “modern” pistols out there that I would trust with my life, Glock, Sig Sauer, CZ, Smith & Wesson, and Beretta to name a few. If I had only one pistol to chose for self defense, the choice is easy: Glock 22.

  14. avatarSteve says:

    The 1911 can be problematic, and can require some work to ensure 100% reliability – and that’s the main problem with the 1911.

    When I first got into 1911′s about 35 years ago, it didn’t take me long to realize that every 1911 I get is a “project-in-a-box,” no matter who makes the gun, until proven otherwise. With two recently acquired guns, simply changing magazines to a different manufacturer corrected the guns’ performance and eliminated failure-to-feed problems with 100% reliability proven with over 3,500 rounds of mixed ammunition over the past 6 months through both guns.

    Another real problem with 1911′s that directly affects reliability is lubrication. Without proper lubrication, they get cranky and don’t work. I have found a lubrication regimen with my 1911′s that allows me to run over 1,000 rounds without cleaning or lubing. Bill Wilson recommends a complete strip, clean, lube every 500 rounds. Since he’s shot over half a million rounds through 1911 pistols, that seems like sound advice unless you’ve personally proven the performance of the guns you own at greater than 500 round cleaning / lubing intervals.

    Finally, there are the springs, ejector, and extractor. Failure-to-eject, and some of the other jam malfunctions can usually be traced directly to one of those items. When you get your project-in-a-box it behooves you to check the extractor and ejector for correct function. If you know what to look for, and how to check the extractor and ejector, and they both check out – you proceed to shoot and make sure to change the springs at regular preventive maintenance intervals.

    This brings me to my question, as to whether the 1911′s tested were proven as reliable prior to testing, were cleaned and lubed properly and PM’d as needed. Without this information, it is difficult to draw a real conclusion as I would never test a 1911 out-of-the box specifically because they usually need some tweaking to ensure full reliability.

    That’s just the way it is, and if you realize that and know how to make them run you get 100% reliability.

    I know many people who shoot Glocks specifically because they don’t have to futz with the gun – they want it to be like a refrigerator, you just plug it in and take cold beer out of it and don’t have to know or care how it works. That’s fine, I understand.

    For me – I love 1911′s and would never own a Glock – my life’s too short to drink cheap liquor or own an ugly gun with an inferior trigger pull.

  15. avatarBrian says:

    I’d like to jump in here with my opinion. I (briefly) owned a Springfield loaded 1911. After returning it for service 3 times, I finally gave up on it ever being reliable. It only ever made it through 1 box of ammo without any kind of failure. In the beginning I couldn’t make it through one magazine without a failure. That sucks. Lat week I sold it and picked up a Glock 22. Guess what? The Glock actually works!

    I know this is a good example of getting a lemon. I’ll give you that. But from the responses I got from a forum I belong to, it’s not that unusual. I heard lots of people telling me it’ll smooth out after 500 rounds. Keep shooting it, it’ll settle down. It needs to be broken in. Polish the feed ramp so it will feed reliably.

    I’m fairly new to shooting, so I’m not from the old school that finds this acceptable. In my opinion a pistol should work, right out of the box, 100% of the time. I don’t want to have to wait for to see if it will become reliable at some point in the future, or send it off to a gunsmith to make it work. Even if my 1911 did magically become 100% reliable after over 1000 rounds, I was never going to trust it, so bye bye.

    The Glock I bought only has 100 rounds through it so far, but it has been 100 trouble-free rounds. During the first 100 rounds through the 1911 I had about 15 failures.

    Some guys have had years of trouble-free use from many 1911s. That’s great. My personal experience is different. It’s going to be a looooooooong time before I try another one. Isn’t it great that there are so many options available to us?

    Think I’ll keep the Glock.

  16. avatarAdam says:

    I bought a glock…once…. to me the grip angle was all wrong, the ‘pull the trigger to disassemble’ seemed downright dangerous especially for those ‘new’ to guns. i would never recommend one to someone who did not have extensive safety training with firearms. Also i’ve never heard of a 1911 blowing up and injuring the owner due to what i would consider a major design flaw of an improperly supported cartridge. This is why glock states using aluminum cased ammo will void your warranty. What i would really love to see is a comparison of ND & AD incidents. Many police departments had noticeable increases in such accidents after switching to glocks. Also most every accident i’ve read of in the past few years where someone shot themselves or a friend ‘accidentally’ involved a glock so their safety is very much in question from where i stand (although i’m not sure if this stems from the gun or the type of person more likely to buy one; first time owners, gangsta wannabes etc).
    I’m a huge 1911 fan but i know and will admit many of them have issues ‘out of the box’. Safety however seems to be a stronger point on a 1911, an unmodified version requires a firm grip to be obtained before the trigger can be pulled vs the glock design where (and this has happened) if anything should happen to snag the trigger the gun will go off. I will also state for a fair comparison you would need a time machine to go back and obtain original military issue 1911′s NIB and run all your tests through them. its also worth noting it was meant for nothing but ball ammo per original design so mods were necessary for moddern jhp rounds. Much like the AK-47 the design has been used by so many manufacturers with different tolerances that there are many out there that malfunction on a regular basis and many that you can drop in the mud, sand and dirt and will fire without a hitch every time.
    I often wonder if by 2080 there will be a dozen companies manufacturing glock clones?
    i don’t own a full-size 1911 i have a colt combat commander 100yr anniv. model that so far 2k rounds not a single failure and my daily carry an RIA compact now past the 5k round mark that after dumping the factory mag for a mix of colt, chip mccormick, and wilson mags has not missed a beat either. its only failures were with the factory mag which allowed the rounds to nosedive into the mag rather than chamber. My father’s kimber on the otherhand had to go through about a 300rd break-in before it would reliably feed JHP ammo.
    glock might win the edge in reliability but as far a safety goes i think it has one of the worst records out there.

  17. avatar21tango says:

    I own a nighthawk grp recon and several other 1911s. I own 1 glock (21sf). I have 6 tours between Iraq and afganistan. My nighthawk is as good a 1911 as you can get I love this gun!!! That being said she had some issues in the stan. My glock went bang every time. In combat i carry my glock. here at home in nice weather i like my nighthawk.

  18. avatarrodger says:

    I wont argue. I love my 1911s but my glock is the most reliable gun ive ever owned. when im at the range my 1911s get equal range time but for combat its my glock hands down.

  19. avatarSimeon Pudpuller says:

    I like my Starfleet issued Type II Phaser Pistol. I pull the trigger and it vaporizes scum every time!

  20. avataraled says:

    uhm….mathematically & statiscally – there’s no use in comparing any of this gun based from all the posters here even from the thread starter since any of them could be biased with their honest & humble views (sorry for the guilty ones).

    the only fact here is that you can never prove it unless you try them yourself…..which is still subjective even objective for any enthusiast reading this forum. so sad to say, unless you can personally do it several times (try all of them…..as real ‘experience’), one cannot really arrive to an empirical conclusive opinion as to what/which is really better than the others. no bad blood here but the 2% sampling stated above is true and better companies even raise that up up to 10% minimum to ensure quality.

    it all boils down to your belief…..and yes, as ‘sucking’ as it really seems, the better marketing propagandas pitched by their companies for us to contemplate/believe on……as it is with all the products we consume EVERYDAY which ‘shapes’ our views.

    anyway, big thanks for the thread starter for all these.

    cool & enlightening.

    • avatarSteamin' Jim says:

      If I may present my mathimatical dilema: I love me some 1911′s I’ve owned multiple new and used all the way from a Colt 1916 ed to stainless Remington. The problem is that most are iffy out of the box, and takes more $ than I like to break in, so all my new ones go straight to work with me (large PD) to get lent to coworkers to “try out”. It’s a win for all involved, my new 1911 gets free break-in time and my buddies get to try it out.

      The other end of the spectrum is my glock. It surely is reliable when you’re shooting standard loads, but LE ammo is RARELY comparable to standard. Extra heavy, low recoil, semi jacket wadcutters, bargain bin practice, I’ve found this gun has zero tolerance for much of it. I have quite litterally put at least 8000 rounds through my service weapon and have become highly proficient at secondary clearing procedures.

      Having said that there are too many factors in the real world to say whether one proven design is better than another. Ultimately it really is down to the user to properly deploy his weapon. Having said that, if I don’t shoot perfect at qual it’s probably the gun’s fault.

  21. avatarwallen says:

    Your tally do not make sense. The 1911 was made by 9 manufacturers. with 14 faults, that would be statistically 1.55 fault per manufacturer. whereas the glock had six (2+4) problems. The broken 1911 belong only to one manufacturer and even if spread out amongst them would only be .1 fault or almost nil. Making the 1911(design) still better than glock. Even if you count it as 3 different glocks G30,21 & 17, it would still be 2 faults per gun. Statistics can be interpreted in many ways but in the end its just a guide for a lucky guess. Taurus as a whole may have more lemons, but they are changing stuffs almost every year. Not a staple design like the glock

    • avatardavebsr says:

      First, two corrections: Glock had 4 examples that were in any way unreliable. Not 6. Glock had 0 breakage problems, 1911s had 1. I’m not sure you knew how to read the chart.

      Second, some Math:
      1. 1911′s unreliability ratio was 14/72 or about 1/5. 19.4%.
      2. Glock’s unreliability ratio was 4/47, or about 1/12.* 8.5%. If you make sure your gun is lubricated and make sure your mags work, that number drops down to 4%.
      3. 1911′s BROKEN ratio was 1/72, or about 1.5%
      4. Glock’s BROKEN ratio was 0%.

      *That’s including the two very-fixable problems: getting a working mag for the G21 and lubing the G17 before using it, which I think is usually not required.

  22. avatarSshort says:

    My next pistol is going to be a glock but I do plan to get a 1911 one day because the glock might work better but it is ugly as sin compared to a 1911.

  23. avatarJames says:

    I’m not disputing any of your findings, just adding my 2 cents. As a Vietnam Vet there’s a certain emotional attachment to the 1911, one of them saved my life. I own 2 Rock Island Armory and 1 American Classic Trophy, all manufactured in the Philippines. As of yet, I’ve never had any problems with them. There’s a certain lure about the 1911 being 100 years old and the military’s service pistol for 80 years. Even if a 1911 isn’t your first choice for self-defense, every gun collector should consider owning a least one, as a part of America’s history.

  24. avatarArt Yeo says:

    Thank you for publishing your findings and taking the time to dig out and compile the data from your past Gun Tests subscriptions. I really enjoyed reading it.

    Before I begin, like you, I love facts and I am always curious about people’s choices and the facts associated with it.

    One thing which many nay-sayers about the 1911 did not really cover or, perhaps, did not cover it well is the fact that high profile agencies have deliberately chosen to use the 1911 even as we speak. To name a few: FBI HRT, FBT SWAT, Marines Sp Op Cmd, Marines Force Recon, LAPD SWAT, Delta Force (1st Sp Forces Op), etc. In fact, the Marines has just signed a 12,000 M45 1911 contract with Colt just recently on July 2012.

    And, it looks like the higher the intensity their work is, the more they choose 1911.
    So, the question are these:
    1) if the 1911 is significantly less reliable than the Glock, why are Govn’t agencies choosing the 1911.
    2)if the choice of the 1911 is supposedly a poor choice of weapon, isn’t that a blatant mis-use of tax money, not counting how their choice has placed our elite men at risk? I would directly question why not just one agency has made such a “mistake” but multiple ones?

    I’d love to hear your response for this one. I know this article is kinda old but many people still see it when they are digging into this topic.

  25. avatarGeorge says:

    What a waste of time and bandwidth

  26. avatarJW says:

    I don’t wish to resurrect an old debate, nor do I hold any allegiance to any of the three categories of weapons reviewed. I own at least one of each. Now, I didn’t read every comment, because at some point it turned into a pissing contest. But, I do believe that your review fails to provide an apples-to-apples comparison in one regard. Without regard to Taurus, and as mentioned by at least one person above, you are comparing a singular brand and design to multiple brands of a singular design. The comparison issue lies in manufacturing quality (at least in part), which varies widely from company to company. Therefore, one must compare each company individually, because otherwise your review holds each 1911 manufacturer accountable for the successes and failings of all of their peers. I don’t think anyone would disagree that Glock makes a fantastic weapon. But, what if Glock allowed other companies to copy their design? Would Srpingfield, Kimber, Taurus, Rock Island, etc produce a design copy that functions as flawlessly as the Glock brand? Who knows? But, I think it would be same to assume that many manufacturers would experience their fair share of failures which, by your testing standards, would stain the reputation of the Glock brand based on design and manufacturing failures of other companies that were out of their (Glock’s) control. So, I think the only way to be fair is to compare brand-for-brand, across all frame sizes and available calibers within each brand of 1911. When the 1911 data is extrapolated, one may very well find that certain manufacturers have had as much, if not more, success in the reliability of their rendition of the 1911 platform as Glock has experienced. Or, the result may be unchanged, with Glock still dominating the field in reliability. But, everything must be accounted for. If only Glock mags were used in Glocks, then only matching manufacturer’s mags must be used in each 1911. If aftermarket mags or parts were used in 1911′s, then the same aftermarket mags and parts must be used in the Glocks. The same brands and types of ammo must be used in each platform and caliber. I know this would be a monumental undertaking, but you can’t claim to “know” or “determine” or “prove” or “disprove” anything with a half-hearted attempt at a fair comparison.

    Abbreviated rant: If Glock sold their design, some manufacturers would experience great success while others would not, just as has been the case of the 1911 design. You can’t throw all 1911 manufacturers in the same bucket and compare them only to a single manufacturer, it is simply not fair. Maybe Kimber has had some issues. Maybe Springfield and Colt have as well. But there just may be one 1911 manufacturer out the who has provided a weapon whose reliability is equal to, or possibly even greater than, Glock.

    As I said, I’m not taking sides. I own Glock, Taurus, and a couple 1911′s, and I enjoy them all and have found them all useful. But, I am a consumer product-based statistical analysis consultant by trade (that is, I do something similar to what you have done here for a living), and a review such as this would not hold any water in any industry that I have been affiliated with during my career, and I have worked in firearms consulting for many firearm and firearm accessory manufacturers. You simply can’t hold multiple manufacturers of a single design accountable for each others successes and failures while claiming that they should, as some sort of conglomerate, be comparable to an individual company’s proprietary design. Now, let me reiterate, I do not assume or hope that the outcome would be any different. So don’t flame me. Maybe Glock would look even better when compared to individual manufacturers of the 1911. But maybe a brand-based extrapolation of the 1911 data would at least allow the identification of one or more 1911 manufacturers that seem to “have it right.”

  27. Interesting article. I don’t know if I agree with all of it but it was interesting. I have a few points.
    1) I agree with your information about Taurus. They seem to let more bad guns out of the door than their competitors do. A clerk at a local (large) gun store recently told me that 1 out of every 5 Taurus’s they sell is brought back in with a complaint or problems.
    I have to wonder how much of that is due to Taurus being a semi budget manufacturer and newbies buying their guns? Of course Glock probably sells tens of thousands of guns to noobs as well so that point may not be valid.
    2) M1911 is a platform not a manufacturer.
    3) Glock is a manufacturer not a platform.
    4) Putting Glocks up against M1911′s is not really a fair test. There’s only one manufacturer of Glocks and there are most likely a few dozen different companies that make M1911′s. QC for Springfield has nothing to do with QC for S&W, Kimber, RIA, SIG, etc.
    5) If you’re going to compare pistols then put the Glocks up against a Springfield M1911, Kimber M1911, RIA M1911, etc. If you’re going to lump all M1911′s together then you should do the same with polymer guns that are similar to Glocks. The early S&W Sigma’s, Glocks, etc should all be combined when compared to M1911′s.
    Put design against design and use an equal number of manufacturers from both platforms.
    That would be a fair comparison.

  28. avatarleif says:

    1911s were used in the military for since the early 1900′s. can glock say that?

  29. avatarJeff says:

    Statistically misleading results.

    You looked at 47 Glocks, of various calibers, and compared them to 72 1911s from various manufacturers. That’s not a valid comparison.

    For example you list Colt as having 1 failure. But you don’t list how many were tested. Did the test 1 Colt and get one lemon or did they test 58 Colts and get one lemon? The two answeres (neither likely) give two completely different results. The second would mean the 1911 by Colt was potentially more likely to be reliable than a Glock, the other has such a small sampling size that you can’t draw any conclusions. Most likely, the answer is somewhere in between, though its likely from the overall sample size that fewer Colt 1911s (or any single brand) were tested than of any single Glock model.

    Glocks do work – that’s been we’ll proven. 100 years of aggregate data, with no reputation for failures except in Colt made non-mil spec guns of the 70s (3 finger bushings) and recent production from a variety of manufacturers says the 1911 design is reliable also. Though it does point at the current crop of them being poorly made.

  30. avatarBilly says:

    True story… a security guard at my work carries a 1911. I asked him about how reliable it is with the hollow points he carries. His answer: “It’s okay, it jams sometimes, but that’s why I carry it cocked and locked, I know the first one will fire.”

    This is typical 1911 koolaid. Your duty weapon has known reliability issues and you carry it anyway because its a 1911.

    No other gun in the world could have a reputation like this and be considered good. If brand X gun came out with all the issues of the 1911 design they would be bankrupt quick.

  31. avatarTerry McCann says:

    Interesting article! I agree with the flawed comparison but oh well. I have a Ruger SR1911 and that had had no hiccups at all as far as anything! It functions 100% and feeds everything I put through it no problem! FMJ, HP, hand loaded hp, doesn’t matter! Granted I haven’t thrown it in the mud haha, I love the gun and the design! I was debating on getting this or the Glock 21. I do like Glock and will have a G21 someday but I like the SR1911 better! Ask anyone who has a SR1911 they are fantastic guns!! And they are not high dollar guns like Kimbers or other 1000+ dollar guns! I’m 5’6″ and 130 pounds and I can conceal my SR1911 fine. Hell I used to conceal my 6″ stainless GP100!! Of course my go to concealed carry gun is my Kahr CW 45 and that too has functioned flawlessly! Back to point though, the SR1911 cost me a little over 600 and functions perfectly! Are glocks more reliable? I guess under harsh conditions like if you want to throw it in the mud or something else unfortunate or possibly foolish. Does that mean I doubt my SR1911? Hell no! I don’t think the design “sucks”. Anyone looking for a excellent 1911 that doesn’t break the bank needs to look at the SR1911!!

  32. avatarMikC says:

    Love my 1911′s but they are for play, If the SHTF only a Glock 21 SF will be on my side.

  33. avatarBill J says:

    MikC +1 , I agree. Messed around with multiple designs and manufacturers years ago. I decided that skills and training in realistic tactics was more important than the pedigree of my equipment. I have to laugh when people on the net “always” get around to the “it’s ugly, it’s cheap, inferior grip angle, not accurate (enough), trigger is funny” crap about Glocks. In my opinion combat accuracy is more important than being able to put one in the eye of a fly. Yes 1911s are nice to shoot and are aesthetically pleasing. But, I sold/traded mine and besides the range I will carry plastic from now on.

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