Ask Foghorn: Polymer Frame or All Metal for Handguns?

ST asked many, many months ago:

Does anyone on your team have a preference of metal or polymer frame firearms for purchase and carry, and why so?

Is this a ‘phase’ time and experience will cause to change, or am I forever condemned to irrationally prefer the time-honored feel of machined aluminum over modern glass filled nylon?

Here’s my take…

There’s absolutely no doubt that polymer handguns are here to stay. They’ve proven themselves to be accurate, reliable and just as good in every way shape and form as an all metal handgun. And to be quite honest, I’m in the market for an M&P myself. But given the choice I always prefer a metal handgun over a plastic one.

The rationale I like to use is that firearms have been made of metal for centuries. We understand the way the material functions under stress and we can reliably predict failure points and implement replacement schedules to ensure that the gun will always work. I know for a fact that my 1911 will need a new extractor eventually and thanks to the understanding we have of metallurgy, I can pinpoint that replacement in the weapon’s lifecycle to within a couple hundred rounds.

We’re getting to that point with polymer handguns and the newer firing mechanisms, but I just don’t feel that we have the same level of understanding that will assure me that my frame isn’t going to crack or some other part isn’t going to wear out when I need it most. But the real reason is that I prefer the way it feels.

I was on the range yesterday with someone who I infected with the gun nut bug and is looking to buy their first handgun, and they were talking about the difference between a Glock and a SIG. They had gone out and looked at the two and formed their own opinion that SIGs just feel…better. More solid. And even though the Glock is cheaper and just as reliable on paper, they want the SIG.

It’s the same way with me. I can happily shoot a polymer frame handgun, but I will never trust my life to one. When everything is on the line I feel more secure knowing that my 1911 was built the way JMB intended. And it’s made out of the same material that has proven to be so insanely reliable for the last century.

For some things I’m all about the latest and greatest. But when I absolutely need it to work first time every time, there’s no substitute for an extremely well-proven design.

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