In the 1911-o-philia above, gun guru Larry Vickers says the 1911 is “not a beginner’s gun . . . There are a lot of nuances to keeping it running.” I agree. Only substitute “not shooting someone you didn’t mean to shoot” for “keeping it running.” Never mind care and feeding and reliability; the 1911’s featherlight go-pedal demands SpecOps-level trigger discipline. And rewards the shooter with superb accuracy. Truth be told I’d prefer to carry a higher-capacity “wundergun” over my Wilson Combat 1911 X-TAC Compact. But nothing conceals as well in an outside-the-waistband holster. Or looks as good when it comes out to play. Anyway, do you have a 1911? Do you carry a 1911? Would you recommend it to a newbie or is it an expert’s gun?

135 Responses to Question of the Day: Is the 1911 an “Expert’s Gun”?

    • Completely agree. I learned (and taught my kids) the basics on a .22 rifle, moved on to 9 mm pistols, and then, after shooting a full size 1911, just had to have one as it was the smoothest shooting gun I’d ever fired. I bought a Kimber compact (4″ barrel), which is a bit more to handle, but even my daughter can shoot it one handed.

      But to start there? No. It’s like my father’s experience in the Army–he said he couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn with a 1911. (Of course, there is no way of telling what condition the gun was in, even if it was 1946.) He had no prior experience with handguns, and I rather suspect they were not teaching a two-handed stance, so his lack of success is hardly surprising.

      • My first time shooting a pistol was a government 1911 in basic I did not qualifie, a year later after practice with a ruger security six I made the 4th ID pistol team with a worn out Ithaca slide

    • If you have a good instructor I don’t think it matters. I learned to shoot pistol on a 45 1911. With someone watching and teaching you, it’s not a big deal to learn on that platform.

  1. Couple of thoughts.

    Larry Vickers is playing in an entirely different field of skill from us. That mans fired more rounds through a 1911 then I ever can in two lifetimes. What he says about the 1911 has as much bearing on my day to day non-operator life as Jeff Gordon commenting on race car driving compared to my congested work commute. Different position, different problems, different attitudes. I might fire 2000 rounds a year of .45 if its a good fiscal climate for me . LAV shoots that much walking to the fridge.

    Two. One need not be an expert to defend themselves. Untrained people do it all the time, some of them wearing a badge in the process.

    Three. A 1911 is no different then any other instrument. An individual must consider how it operates, and maintain it as needed to preserve optimal function. Some folks find changing an extractor and working on their guns thereaputic . Others view it as a PITA. Glock makes a superb product for those of the latter persuasion.

    Four. Let there be no pronouncements that Condition 3 is an unacceptable carry practice. The owner payed their money, they can carry however they wish…including not at all. Humanitarian disasters like the Soviet Union got their start when one man told another what to do with his lawfully owned property

    • How very true, all of it.

      I continue to point out how many little old ladies defend themselves from a home invader quite successfully despite not wearing a flat dark earth nightgown made by 5.11, without owning a modern striker-fired pistol, and their complete failure to operate operationally.

      • +!000000-and mandatory training is BS. It’s mostly about willingness to pull the trigger on another human being(or animal)…

    • Four. Let there be no pronouncements that Condition 3 is an unacceptable carry practice. The owner payed their money, they can carry however they wish…including not at all. Humanitarian disasters like the Soviet Union got their start when one man told another what to do with his lawfully owned property.

      Sure, people can do whatever they want, but why can’t we discuss the wisdom of those decisions? Those grannies who successfully defend themselves without a lick of training do so because the gun does what it needs to do, when it needs to do it. Condition 3 is adding more complication to that, making it that much harder to get the first round out. Is that wise? It doesn’t seem so to me.

      Well, got to go get lunch. Now that I’ve destroyed the free world, I don’t want to fight off the invading hordes on an empty stomach.

      Wolverines!

      • Because some people can’t tell the difference between Job Lowe saying “you’re doing it stupid” vs. Job Lowe ordering them not to do it.

        I see it over and over again in the comments here, some guy saying “it’s dumb” and someone else flying off the handle accusing him of dictating how someone else should exercise his rights.

        • @steveinco-“I see it over and over again in the comments here, some guy saying “it’s dumb” and someone else flying off the handle accusing him of dictating how someone else should exercise his rights”

          When someone goes off the edge by offering their own personal critique, since we are all from different walks of life, it can be a motivator to the original poster to see if the random internet name had anything meaningful to offer. You did this to me a year ago when I got serious about legal(governmentpermissionslip) self-defense and decided I would have to pick up a gun again. You said 1911’s we unreliable and I should stick to my GLOCK 30 as my EDC not my back up.
          Thank you as your critique made me run my 1911 hard in training and thankfully only 1 nasty situation. Also thank you for the 250 round break in idea to shoot with my daily carry rounds, as you said reliability from firing thousands of rounds are for the military and competition, not an 8-shot gunfight.

          Condition 3 against a criminal that is intent on causing you harm is the same as drawing on a draw gun. Dead by the time you flinch to draw. Condition 3 you need to get space you may not have. On a drawn gun you take away the space and go for the gun, and find out how committed the thug behind the gun is at murdering you.

  2. I can say without a doubt that this is a gun that some people think is the best in the world for expert shooters, like them, to use.

  3. Sure, just like a 1979 Fiat Spider is an “expert’s car” and Pascal is an “expert’s computer language.”

    We can respect, revere, and pay homage to classic firearms without pretending they’re still on par with modern weaponry. If it takes expert level finesse to master the idiosyncrasies of a firearm, just to make it work and keep it running, then we’re talking at best about high craftsmanship preserving part of our heritage, and at worst about slavish devotion to outdated engineering. Either way, it’s not the same thing as focused firearms mastery that advances the art and science of shooting today.

    I’m sure ye olde blunderbuss can, with its .75 caliber projectile, still take care of business, too; but nobody’s out there kicking it old school, Pilgrim style, and expecting to be taken seriously today.

    Own/carry whatever you want, but let’s just be honest about it.

  4. I was introduced to the 1911 at Ft. Belvoir, VA, in 1958. I was told it would be a life-changing experience, a rite of passage, “It’ll knock you on your a$$,’ etc. I aimed, squeezed the trigger, there was a loud bang, and my coach said, “8 at 3 o’clock.” My reaction was, “Is that all?” It was perhaps one of the greatest disappointments of my life at that point. Today, I own nineteen 1911s, with two more on order.

    • I had a similar experience as a kid. I think I was 12 when I first fired a 1911. People had talked up the recoil, and when my first round was downrange, I turned to the guy who loaned me his 1911 and asked “Did it fire properly? Because there wasn’t much recoil…”

      The recoil of the .45 ACP in a 1911 has always, to me, seemed quite nominal.

      • I agree. I was probably 5 or 6 when I shot my first 1911. Never thought it had much recoil. I didn’t feel much difference in the M9 later. My XDS is a different story altogether. But it weighs a lot less and the ergonomics aren’t nearly as good.

        • Truth be told, I really dislike the recoil presentation on Glock and similar cheez-whiz pistols. As they empty the magazine, the rotational torque changes and the recoil becomes much snappier on one’s wrist. I don’t like that.

        • I find 1911s to be *really* easy on the recoil for caliber. A 9mm 1911 kicks only marginally more than a .22 revolver

      • My very first experience with a handgun was a kimber 45 I rented on a hoot at a local gun range. This was before I knew anything about guns. I don’t remember my hand hurting that day or any time after that.

    • When I was looking at my first real pistol, the guy at the rental counter gave me the Glock I wanted to try first. Then the XD. Then he suggested that since the rental cost covers time, not individual guns, I should try the Nighthawk 1911.

      Bastard.

      Now I need to sell a kidney or something.

  5. My Operator TRP comes out for L10 competitions only. It’s an awesome and accurate firearm, but locked and cocked, even with a safety, would make me nervous for concealed carry… The bang switch on it is super sensitive. I like my Pm9 for social work.

  6. I have two-one in .45 ACP and one in .38 Super, as well as its offspring, the Hi Power. Expert’s guns? I don’t think so, but I agree with Tom in Oregon that I wouldn’t consider it a novice’s gun.

    Do I like them? Yes-marvelous pieces of gear. Do I use them for EDC? No. I much prefer a tupperware gun for that for a variety of reasons, among them being reliability, weight, capacity, and that fact that I don’t feel personally bonded to a piece of polymer.

  7. “or looks as good…”

    Come on now. Be serious. Have you seen someone whip out a Broomhandle Mauser C96 ? That is cool !

  8. I’m pretty sure any gun becomes an “expert’s gun” after you spend countless hours shooting tens of thousands of rounds and learn to recognize every little quirk and hiccup it will throw at you and how to deal with it. Sometimes extremely high proficiency with a device, any device really, will lead people to think it’s a model for experts compared to something they rarely use but have identified as “entry level” because it looks or feels simpler than what they’re used to.

  9. I shot a class last week with an “expert” using a 1911 last weekend. That thing failed over and over and over. Upon inspection it was bone dry and the recoil spring must have been 30 years old.

    A 1911 is just another gun. If you own own or shoot one expert or beginner know how it works and take care of it. Just like anything else you may use or own.

    • SPRINGS SPRINGS SPRINGS! those little things that count so much. Change them as conscientiously as you change your motor oil or your underwear.

      • The rule of thumb I use for coil springs is that you should either use a new spring as a gage, or remember (or write down) how long your coil springs were when new.

        When the length of a coil spring shrinks by 10% (or more), you replace the spring.

  10. I sort of doubt that the millions of men who were issued 1911s in WWII were all “experts”, but somehow they managed to get by. Maybe they’re not that nuanced after all.

    • And yet we have no statistics on how many of those men DIDN”T get by because at some critical point their 1911 failed to perform as required.

      Nobody on the Graves Registration details took the time to note that the soldier they were collecting had a 1911 with a stovepipe or some other mechanical failure in his hand.

      The 1911 in everyday military use was considered a last-choice defensive weapon. The sorts of things these “experts” are doing on the range with 1911’s today is a far cry from what the military envisioned as the proper role for that pistol.

      • Probably because the majority of guys graves registration dealt with were carrying garands. Most grunts were not issued a 1911.

    • Yea, that’s pretty much my perspective as well. There’s nothing inherent about the 1911 that makes it an “expert’s gun.” It was the American combat semi-auto for decades – decades when the revolver was the king of the handgun market and semi-autos were notorious for being somewhat finicky in feeding. Hardly anyone who shot 1911’s was an expert. Yet it performed and performed well. You could ask the Germans who met Alvin York whether they thought the 1911 was an ineffective pistols, but alas, they’re all dead now.

      The truth is that the 1911 was the semi-auto to which all others need need to pay some respect for modern handgunning techniques.The modern school of pistolcraft was started by Jeff Cooper (and friends) in the late 50’s and early 60’s. Before that, combat handgun combat techniques were a hit-or-miss (pun intentional) issue. Cooper founded his school of thought on the 1911 and started working out techniques that help many people think systemically about using a pistol effectively.

      I view claims of the 1911 being an “expert’s pistol” the same way I hear modern-day nonsense about bolt action rifles from AR-15 aficionados.

      • If memory serves, his 1911 malfed at least once during the incident that got him his CMH. I give him more credit than the gun.

        • Oh, most certainly. But the environment in WWI was one of filth, mud, muck, water, and sometimes frozen instances of all of the above. More than a couple of weapon designs failed in that environment.

    • I suppose a lot of WWII vets did use the 1911, but a lot of WWII soldiers really preferred the Thompson for personal defence. My Father In Law and Father were two of them.

    • Why we shouldn’t use military experience and standards when judging citizen dgu’s and gear. If you were a soldier issued a 1911 and carried it according to regs it was in a flap holster with an empty chamber. That was so the “experts” were less likely to shoot themselves in the foot.

      The .45 acp 1911 was a great pistol for it’s time and purpose. But most citizens don’t ride to battle on horses and don’t have the constant oversight that soldiers have.

      The Luger was an awesome pistol also. 100 years ago.

      • The Luger was put through the same trials as the 1911 – it was an alternative to the 1911, along with a pistol design by Savage.

        The Luger came in third in the trials of 1908, behind the Browning/Colt design and the Savage design.

        In the final trial, the 1911 design fired 6,000 rounds without stoppages or breakdowns.

        Today, the three .45 Lugers that Georg made for the Army trials leading up to the acceptance of the 1911 as the Army’s pistols are among the most valuable Lugers in the world.

        • I’m not knocking the 1911. It’s an excellent pistol for its intended use. But, on a clean well lit stateside range I think that in issue configuration with no mods the Luger is a better shooting pistol, accuracy wise.

          In my hand it just points better than a 1911. And the tight tolerances of the Luger, a detriment in field service, work to its favor on the range.

          Course, I’m also a fan of the Webley revolver and the Mosin Nagant rifle so my judgement in these matters may be suspect.

        • Oh, I positively love how the Luger points and cycles. It is truly a mechanical marvel.

          But the way the Luger action operates is not as tolerant of dirt in the action, it is manifestly more difficult to produce due to the details of the machining therein. Even the Germans had to admit, early in WWII, that the Luger was simply far too time-consuming to produce.

        • I went to the range two weeks ago with three 9mm pistols. An M9A1, a CZ 75B with an Omega trigger, and a DWM P08 Luger with a 100mm barrel. I shot consistently tighter groups with the Luger than the other two despite its inferior sights. Its “pointability” and steadiness in the hand is just amazing.

  11. A newbie carry one? Absolutely not. An expert? What’s an expert? Every time I watch retired detective Lt. Joe Kenda holster a cocked and unlocked 1911 into his shoulder rig at the beginning of his episodes, I cringe. And he supposedly carried a Kimber while still on the job. I love my 1911s but I treat them with a bit more respect. He must be smarter than that. God bless Hollywood.

      • And 1917 to 1918. And from 1918 to 1942, as well. And lots of low-rent mobsters in the late 20’s and through the 30’s. Even women were packing 1911’s around in those days, and Colt hadn’t even thought of making pink grips for 1911’s back then for cryin’ out loud.

        • How could they tell the difference anyway? Everything was in black and white.

        • Yeah, that was in a time of war and I would assume the GI “newbies” were given sufficient training by their DI not to blow a hole in their foot or kill the guy next in line. The “newbies” I’m afraid of are the clowns I see at the public gun ranges that have a bad habit of pointing their firearms at me when fumbling with an FTE. Since then I only go to a private range where the high dues and the safety test weeds out the really stupid “newbies.” Also on hand is a trauma kit and a defibrillator when all else fails.

      • Correction—a lot of newbies carried them from 1911 until they went out of service when replaced by the 9mm.

    • In TV Kenda’s defense: If you work in a department that requires carrying with the chamber empty and you want to carry a 1911, then there is a benefit to clearing your 1911, racking the slide with no mag inserted, then inserting the mag and holstering the gun, “cocked and unlocked.” This makes the 1911 much lighter to rack on draw, increasing the reliability a bit because your hand is less likely to slip off the slide. I’m not recommending it, just pointing it out. I’ve tried it. It is essentially the method of carry for the 1911 recommended by William Fairbairn, as far as safety is concerned, but produces a lighter racking weight since you aren’t fighting the main spring, only the recoil spring. Fairbairn removed the thumb safeties from all the Shanghai Metro 1911’s (first large department to use them…) and insisted on chamber-empty carry. I view Fairbairn as the principal source of most modern thoughts on “pistol craft.” I would note that Fairbairn, unlike Cooper et al, was actually in lots of gun fights.

      • Thanks. I thought he must be smarter than that. I didn’t know about the empty chamber policy. BTW: I think his show is one of the best on TV – I read that he refuses to read from a script and he remembers the details of just about every case he solved. His comments are often priceless.

  12. I have to say that “expert” or not, the choice of a pistol is highly personal. The 1911 may be one of the greatest handgun designs in history, that does not make it perfect for every hand.

    I shot the 1911 in the Army and found that even though I am a large guy with large hands I couldn’t get the damn thing to line up with anything I particularly wanted to shoot at without a significant amount of fumbling. It just didn’t work with my hand and arm.

    Interestingly, I had exactly the same problem with the Berettas that replaced the 1911 in the military arsenal.

    On the other hand (no pun intended) it seems like every Ruger I have ever shot, from the SP101 to the P-85 to my current SR9c points directly at the X without my having to even think about it.

    So admire the history and the legacy, but choose wisely based on personal performance, not gun-guy hype.

  13. When I joined the Army in 1974 was a crack rifle and shotgun shooter, couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn with a pistol on the few occasions I shot one.

    After some very good instruction at Ft. Gordon, qualified expert with the 1911. Carried it Condition One every duty shift for about two years. No negligent discharges. Had to re-qualify quarterly. With no practice in between, put up high scores each time. Never had a malfunction of ANY type. Oh yeah, my duty weapon was made by Singer during WWII.

    Hardly an “expert”. And the old warhorse served me well. Safe, reliable, and accurate with minimal maintenance.

    • Kinda random, but if I remember correctly, singer 1911s are some of the most sought after models because they were first and foremost a sewing machine company and they made so few firearms compared to other manufacturers.

  14. It’s surely not a gun for people who do not like to tinker with guns and/or does not want to spend a lot money of guns…

    Expert’s guns? Um, likely not. But, it is the gun equivocal of a high performance car. It’s going to require extra money and some maintenance, compared to something a little more basic.

    I’m more of a basic truck and basic gun kind of guy. 1911’s are cool guns, but they’re aren’t for me, and I wouldn’t recommed them to noobs.

    • Except for a a couple of really high end models I’m not even sure its necessarily a high performance car. More like a classic car. Gets the job done and looks good doing it, but it doesn’t do it better or worse than something more modern, and it does require more attention to maintenance. I shoot glocks and 1911s almost exclusively, but my glock 17 is my business gun. I keep a blued series 70 in the safe for the end of the world. At least if I’m gonna die, I’ll die in style.

  15. My first semi-auto was a 1911. Loved and hated it for all the reasons that have been already mentioned. Love eventually won out after 6 more versions. I do carry and trust my lighweight commander, but carry my Glock more. There is something about a sweet 1911 that other handguns just can’t match.

  16. My wife has a Sig 226 because it fits her well and shoots easy. Explaining (repeatedly) the nuances of how the SA/DA fire control works, it’s effect on trigger weight, and then throwing in the decocker and no safety, it’s a lot of info to understand. I would say from that standpoint, the 1911 is actually less of an experts gun. A striker fire even less so.

    • My .22 Mosquito is the same. Despite its caliber, it is not a noob’s gun. It has a DA/SA trigger with a decocker, a mag disconnect, an LCI and a manual safety. For a noob, it is too damn confusing. And the DA trigger is nearly impossible–it is so heavy I cannot pull it.

      • Believe it or not the Mosquito is the one gun my wife can shoot reliably (that is with CCI Mini Mags) and hit the target every time, so it’s the one that gets kept available to her at home – HOWEVER the safety always stays off, she never seems to remember to switch it off. Mag in, chamber empty, safety off. She knows if she has to pick it up and rack the slide, game’s on.

  17. Very first post nailed it. Neither a newbie nor expert gun, it’s somewhere in between. But since this has devolved into the usual debate, I’m one of those weirdos whose “favorite” semi-auto, and by a wide margin, is the 1911 (It’s a tie overall with ported S&W Performance Center or Gemini Custom modded .357 revolvers), but who rarely carries it. I only carry it 5% of the time, i.e, when I have to carry a 1911 Gov’t or Commander size and weight gun OWB, or when, as RF stated, I’ll be in gun-lover company and want to have a cool gun when I pull it out (and thus, carried my Ed Brown Kobra Carry to all of the days of the NRAAM this year, despite the fact the well-known curmudgeon didn’t bother to come). But EDC? No. Single stack Sig (I view the 239 as the most underrated pistol of all time, and love all 3 caliber/flavors) or .38/.357 snub. Black only, with no decoration, and nothing other than functional mods. I don’t want to feel bad if my EDC gets a scratch or gouge by accident or daily use, and I don’t want to EDC a gun that needs regular cleaning and maintenance to be reliable, even though I do both.

  18. My first carry gun was a full-size GI model 1911, and I certainly wasn’t an expert. I did go out of my way to get some training for it, though. I’ve since learned that there ain’t no reason to carry something that damned heavy. Still love ’em, have six in various sizes, but they sure are fiddly, persnickety things. Had to get a Kuhnhausen manual to keep them in shape.

  19. “Anyway, do you have a 1911? Do you carry a 1911? Would you recommend it to a newbie or is it an expert’s gun?”

    Yes. Yes. Yes/no. (Would recommend, not an expert’s gun.)

    It fits smaller hands and shorter fingers, and you just have to pay attention to what you are doing – not a bad requirement for using any firearm. Engage the brain before pressing the trigger.

    • As someone with small hands and short fingers, I’ve never understood why people said the 1911 was a good fit. They’re awkward to hold, and the trigger is a long reach. Pretty much every polymer gun I’ve held has had better ergonomics for me.

      • Good point. OK, let me edit my comment: it fits my small hand and short fingers just fine. Your results may differ.

        This does point out the need for everyone to try whatever gun you are buying to see if it fits YOUR hand, not someone else’s hand who may be recommending it.

  20. Well, the 1911 seems more prone to choke on JHPs than many other platforms. I’m not terribly excited about 7 and 8 round mags in a full-sized gun. The double-stack 9mm STI(sacrilege!!!) seems like an awesome pistol. That’d be a pricey machine to subject to every day carry.

    When it comes to looks, the Sig X5 and X6 Supermatch solidly beats the 1911. The Sig 227 has nice, reliable 10 (and maybe the 14) round mags. But it comes with its own problems given a very hard slide and much softer aluminum frame. I’m glad I’ve got TW25B.

    GLOCKs & M&Ps don’t have soul. The XD is a chunky mother. But they tend to be very reliable, and the Glocks are nice and light for all day carry, and easy to modify. One could argue that the Glock platform is one of the most prone to negligent discharges.

    I’ve always found 1911s to be easy to shoot, and they fit nicely in the hand. The #1 thing I’d recommend to a novice wouldn’t be a 1911 – it’d be the 4 safety rules. And a fifth – never attempt to catch a falling gun. After that, practice. A safe novice who has fun becomes an experienced shooter, and maybe the next expert.

    • XD is a great gun, but yes, they are big, heavy, unbalanced chunks of metal. On the plus side, when you run out of ammo it can double as a club, and if the SHTF it could be used as a hammer.

    • SIG X5 is a joke. There might be a competitive circuit where all the best guys shoot Sigs but it certainly is not any of the major shooting sports in the U.S.

      The CZ really marries the shootability of the 1911 platform with the modern frills of a wundergun more than any other I can think of

      • Could be that the X5 is just incredibly rare. Glocks, M&Ps, XDs, and CZs are pretty easy to find – and all cost a lot less than the X5s. Also the fully German-made Sigs are being banned from US import. Glocks, M&Ps, XDS, and CZs are easy to replace and modify.

        But I don’t have trigger time with any of the X5 / X6s, or even the 210 for that matter.

  21. 2 Kimbers, 3″ in the car and 4″ at home. I have carried the 3″, but it was just too difficult to conceal full time. When I did carry it I was still carrying occasionally rather than every day, including at home. I do not really understand a lot of the complaints, though, Neither of mine has had any glitches. I use the safety religiously, but my thumb goes to it instantly when I pick up the gun. I don’t have a big problem with someone who does not use the safety, the grip safety still leaves it safer than a Glock. I know that if I decided to do that, my thumb would still push the safety down before my finger went into the trigger guard. If it didn’t move, that might confuse me.

    I won’t comment on the “needs an expert” question, I had several “expert marksman” ribbons decades before the first time I fired a 1911, have difficulty remembering when it might have scared or confused me. And recoil is definitely nothing special. My wife’s Airweight .38 +P will teach you something about recoil, if you think a 1911 is stout.

    • The worst recoiling handguns IMO are the low-weight .357’s. Holy cow, do they hurt your palm and wrist when you try to shoot the canonical 158gr .357 pill. Nooooo thank you. I need to use my hands after I shoot a gun.

      • Oh man, I shot my brother’s aluminum frame .357 J-frame a couple times. Ow. It was like catching a fastball barehanded.

      • Agreed. My LCR is a little heavier than some J Frames, but after shooting some .357 mags through it, my trigger finger was bleeding and it felt like someone had smacked me in the hand with a hammer a few dozen times. Plus I couldn’t hit anything with them.

        Tried the 110 grain Winchester white box, and those are tolerable recoil wise, but the noise is worse than an AR15 in my opinion. Would hate to fire one of those off without hearing protection.

  22. From the description in the video… a 1911 isn’t for beginners because it’s too easy to shoot and has all the best features?
    Damn. I’m going to have to find something much shittier to start with.

    • Made me laugh. Yep. Provided you have a drop-safe 1911, they’re pretty simple to shoot well and to carry chamber-loaded.

      I need someone other than my wife to scream at me today, so here goes: Get a 1911 with an external extractor, keep it lubed a bit, and I can’t believe there’s anything ‘expert’ about maintaining it. If you want that gun to be an ‘expert’ gun, just send it off to a high-end gunsmith for a thousand dollars worth of barrel-bushing-sear replacement. Just my view, and what I do. For light small carry I use the light small .45ACP Glocks. I don’t have time to become an expert with pistols, and age is slowly taking away the physical ability to make longer-range shots well with a handgun. Life.

  23. I’ve never had a problem keeping 1911s running. The first gun I ever shot was a S&W Model 60 .357. I’d probably recommend that newbies start with a double-action revolver (K frame in .22 or .38) or a DA/SA 9mm with a safety (such as a CZ75 or Beretta 92). If you start with a Glock or anything with a relatively light trigger and no safety, then you will become complacent and forget that double-action pulls and thumb safeties are there for a reason.

    • I actually enjoy shooting revolvers quite a lot and they are overlooked by newbies all the time because they aren’t “tactical.” The double action trigger is harder to master, but if I was left with nothing but a k frame .357 for the rest of my life, I wouldn’t feel terribly under armed and I would still have a heck of a lot of fun.

    • a DA/SA 9mm with a safety (such as a CZ75 or Beretta 92)

      Those are in fact VERY different weapons. A Beretta 92 (usually, depends on model) decocks when you work the safety and the lever stays down; you have to unsafe it then do a DA pull. (you could unsafe it before holstering and rely on the DA pull to serve as your “safety.”) A CZ-75 “with a safety” has a safety with actually behaves just like a 1911′[s, cocking and locking the gun. The trigger will probably not be 0.005 ounces like on a whiz-bang race gun 1911, but it’s still a light pull. The 75 CAN be shot double action but I’m not sure why one would bother (except for second strike reasons). This is the 75B (and other size variants).

      Now there is a different sort of 75, with a decocker. That drops the hammer to half cock; you can then forget it and holster the gun. You get a slightly less annoying DA pull because it starts at half cock, *and* you don’t have to remember to disengage the safety lever. (If I HAD to own a gun that couldn’t be cocked and locked, but instead had to start in DA or be manually cocked or racked, it would be this one.) This is the 75BD (D for decocker) and other size variants. (The CZ model naming scheme has absolutely no rhyme or reason to it; at least Glock mostly numbers his guns sequentially.)

  24. The 1911’s trigger isn’t “feather light” unless you had it tuned as such. The light end of the factory spec for GI 1911 triggers was 4.5 lbs. The high end was around 7 lbs.

    Even a 6 lbs (or more) 1911 trigger can feel much, much better than the “ball of squishy suck” triggers on striker pistols. The secret is getting rid of creep and excess movement. I’ve tuned triggers on handguns and rifles where someone wanted a “really nice trigger.” Clean up the trigger & sear surfaces, verify the angles are correct, and try it out. Owners often have reported that their triggers felt soooo much better – and yet, I didn’t change the pull weight at all. I just cleaned up the atrocious tactile feedback the trigger was giving off.

    • None of this surprises me in the least.

      Glock triggers feel cheap, like pulling a trigger on a plastic toy. Because it is plastic. I don’t recall what the CZ P07 felt like (it’s not striker fired, but the frame is polymer…and the trigger is metal).

      I can understand (but not agree) with someone deciding they want a polymer frame; maybe they are sensitive to the mass of the gun they are carrying. I can’t figure out why people make such a fetish of striker fired. Why does it cosmically matter whether the gun has a hammer on it or not? Someone edjumucate me?

      • The cz-p07 has their Omega trigger. Some rave over cz triggers. I’ve owned/shot quite a few and they all feel really creepy to me. However, they are very shootable.

    • DG, you nailed it. I’ve never lightened a factory trigger on a pistol that would be a carry/home defense pistol, for a variety of reasons….but that doesn’t make me stop wishing my G30S trigger felt like a good 1911.

  25. Study history. the .45 was designed to be Soldier proof! that does not mean it is everyone’s gun! most people when using this gun the first time unconsciously bend {stiffen} their wrist forcing barrel low making other problems happen!
    Some people are more recoil sensitive than others! The Idea of stopping power is a salesman ploy getting you to buy the latest super dooper pooper scooper! Two in the Chest an one in the forehead work every time,unless hopped up on favorite drug then all bets are off if using a pistol,
    larger caliber bullets make bigger holes, with proper safety instruction and some practice new guys can handle it just fine!

    • I have never seen a major caliber handgun round to the forehead fail to stop a human no matter what drug they were on! More so with a rifle round. Even a .22LR to the forehead kills (happened to a guy I knew—tried to unjam a gun and it went off, striking him in the forehead and killing him). I worked a suicide where the man put a .38 Special to his head and pulled the trigger; bullet lodged against the opposite side of his skull. Had a case in which a father protected his daughter from an ex boyfriend by shooting him in the forehead with a .30-30—totally cleaned everything out of what was left of the skull. Head shot will stop better than chest shots most of the time.

    • I’d have to agree, and perhaps not for the same reasons that you might have.

      My reasoning is that the grip safety requires a newbie to grasp the pistol with a reasonably firm grip. I’ve had some newbies have a single-loaded GLOCK flip out of their hand because they refused to grasp it tightly enough. Never had that problem with a 1911.

  26. I’m love/hate with the 1911.

    I love shooting them. Rocks, Wilsons (not mine, I can’t afford), whatever. I find them very easy to shoot well.

    I hate maintaining them. Damn guide rod. Damn spring. Gug. Plus a lower capacity. Caliber’s not an issue; I can get them in 9mm, 45, 10mm, 40 smith…so I’ve got choices there.

    I don’t think you have to be an expert to shoot it but there are choices out there that are easier to maintain, need less mantinence and offer superior capacity.

  27. When I first had my Colt Gold Cup, it handled everything but semi-wadcutters. Cylinder and Slide fixed that problem. In the 30 years since, I have had one failure. The slide failed to close on a factory-made 230 grain ball round during qualification for my CCW permit. A tap on the back was enough to get going again and I have experienced no further failures. At matches, I don’t see 1911s being more troublesome than other semi-autos. In any case, I think reliability is a gunsmith or manufacturer issue rather than a shooter issue.

    1911s are safe guns. To make one fire, you have to have the hammer cocked, compress the grip safety, disengage the thumb safety and pull the trigger. If you drop a cocked and unlocked 1911, the grip safety will keep it from firing. If the thumb safety is engaged, pulling the trigger won’t make it fire. By comparison, a striker-fired semi-auto whose only safety is built into the trigger is unforgiving. If anything, not necessarily your finger, catches its trigger, the gun will fire.

    The Gold Cup’s excellent trigger makes it easy to shoot accurately. (Not all 1911s have such good triggers.) The long, heavy triggers on my double action revolvers make them much harder to shoot well.

    The 1911’s one real deficiency is magazine capacity. When the only choice was FMJ ball, the difference in diameter between .45 bullets and smaller ones was significant. With modern defensive ammunition, there is little difference between calibers. That makes a double-stack 9 mm a better choice for self defense. I really wish someone would make a good, double-stack, 9mm 1911 with the external dimensions of a Glock 19.

    The Gold Cup is my second gun. When I bought it, my “training” consisted of reading a variety of gun mags and range time with my first gun, a crappy .22 Luger look-alike. In my opinion, a good 1911 makes an excellent beginner’s gun. By comparison, it requires an expert to shoot a double action revolver well or to handle a striker-fired semi-auto safely.

  28. I do not carry a 1911. I have never found a system that allows me to hide the end of the grip of a 1911 (even when it is poking into my ribs), and even my aluminum framed compact with 9 rounds is pushing up to 30 oz. Instead, I shove a 16 oz Kahr in my pocket or an OWB holster and I’m good to go. (Having “grown into” my clothes, and spending most of my day sitting, IWB is particularly uncomfortable!)

  29. Someday I’ll break down and buy a 1911, but there always seems to be 3 or 4 other firearms ahead of one on my list.

  30. Personally, I do not recommend ANY gun to a newbie until he/she understands gun ownership/responsibility and gun safety. After that, then comes training with more than one style—revolver & semi-auto with SAO, SA/DA, and perhaps even DAO. After some training, then come time to make a decision. I have been shooting 1911s since the 1960s and keep about a dozen of them on hand. Easy to shoot/easy to field strip. For those who can afford it, however, I highly recommend a Sig Sauer—very ergonomic; grip it, point it, then look at the sights—for mist people, the sights will be dead on the target which means in close combat, a point and shoot technique is a viable option. Extremely reliable. Trigger guard large enough to insert a gloved finger without risk of discharge. Very simple field stripping which means it ACTUALLY might get cleaned now and then. Extremely reliable magazines. You don’t have to pull the trigger to field strip it! Very durable. Available in many calibers including Sig’s own .357 Sig which nearly duplicates the ballistics of the .357 Magnum in a semi auto. Interchangeable barrels on some models. Has passed every test ever thrown at it by every agency worldwide including the US military (ranked higher than the Barretta but got beat out on price) and the RCMP. NO, I do not work for them or own stock, though I should since I own quite a few of them! LOL.

  31. I would not classify it as any more of an “expert” gun than any other. (Unless you’re talking a snubnose revolver).

    That said, I do not carry a 1911 – I carry either my 9mm FNX or my .38 LCR (not that I’m an “expert”). but I do practice with it and do OK.

    For a newbie – I would not recommend a 1911 (or any .45) for one simple reason – I can buy 50 9mm for $13; 50 .45acp runs $20.

    You can almost get double the shooting for the same costs. & yes, recoil is lessened in a 9mm too. That said If a gun is reliable and works for “you”; who cares what type it is? If you shoot it well, practice with it adequately who cares if it was designed by John Browning or Gaston Glock. either way – It needs to go bang; and put the bullet where you want it. Any other consideration is secondary.

  32. I don’t really think there are “levels” of trigger discipline. You either have it or you don’t. Lower end GI type 1911s have a fairly heavy trigger too, possibly heavier than a standard glock trigger. My biggest irritation with my 1911 is the grip safety. When I draw and sweep off the safety, sometimes I don’t get quite enough pressure on the grip safety and it won’t fire. This is only on one of my 1911s however. I never have this issue with my officer model.

    • Taking a Ruger Mark I, II, or III down is easy. Put it back together is where “expertise” comes in.

      • I dunno, my Mark II required being smacked on concrete to get the barrel assembly off the grip.

        • What that… ?

          OK, don’t do that.

          Just go get a “dead blow” mallet – a plastic mallet filled with lead shot. You have the bolt stripped out of the pistol, and you whap the barrel on the breech end, and the barrel assembly should come loose with one or two raps of the hammer.

      • No “expertise” is necessary. All I’d have to do is show you the trick to getting the mainspring spur where it should be as you’re putting the mainspring pin back into the receiver.

        All you really have to do is point the muzzle at the ceiling at about a 40 degree angle as you’re pushing in on the mainspring housing latch. Once the spur drops into the correct place, you’ll “feel” it in how the latch is closing (the resistant starts later in the closing motion) and you finish closing the latch and you’re done.

        It is difficult to describe. If I could show people how to do it, then walk them through how it “feels,” they’d realize that the MkI/II/III is one of the easiest pistols to take down and put back together there is.

    • I’d have to say that, yes, there are levels of trigger discipline, but they’re seen on only the highest end competition pistols.

      When you get into the optical or electronic triggers, you’d better know what you’re doing, because there’s no or almost no tactile feedback.

      The highest end competition .22’s can have triggers as light as a couple of ounces on mechanical trigger.

  33. Expert’s gun? Hardly. It was designed over 100 years ago and dumbed-down so that any dunderhead conscript in the Army could use one without accidentally shooting himself in the coconut.

    The only expertise required is field-stripping the damn thing, and even that’s a lot easier than taking down a Ruger Mark.

    • And the 1911, unlike most modern pistols, can be detail-stripped with nothing more than a .45 ACP cartridge rim to pull the grip panel screws. Give me a true GI 1911 or 1911A1 and one .45 ACP cartridge and I can strip it down to nothing in less than five minutes. I think my best time is a tad under two minutes on a older, loosened-up 1911A1. The one thing that would slow me down is if the grip screw bushings aren’t staked in properly and they come out with the grip screws.

      The 1911 is a wonderful pistol design from the standpoint of someone being able to maintain it without the hundreds to thousands of dollars in tools that a gunsmith has to have to work on some other firearms.

  34. LV is an expert. His opinion counts for something, no? Interesting article in the LA Times arguing against cops carrying GLOCKS on the grounds that they don’t train enough to keep the finger off the trigger under stress.I am afraid to put link in bc my post might be considered a robot ad, but check it out. It was printed on May 7th. It’s relevant to the question because unless you practice quite a bit you’re reactions in a stressful situation (gun fight) are likely to be less than first rate. With that in mind, the average CCW would probably be better off with a simpler firearm than a 1911 style pistol.

  35. My first pistol shooting was at age 13, with a Colt Model 1903 Pocket Auto, caliber 38 ACP. No safety (not counting the half-cock notch, which didn’t hold) and no slide stop. One thing it would do very well was bit the hell out of the web of your thumb if you got your grip too high.
    At 17, I was able to trade a Remington BDL short-action 6mm Remington for my dad’s 45 Auto, a Remington-Rand Navy issue with a dark bore that Dad had given to my brother-in-law on a “99-year lease”. Dad hated the 1903, only used it to put down the yearly pig because he hated to cut their throats. He didn’t like the 45 all that much either. I loved it.
    I swapped out the barrel and bushing for a new aftermarket, and found a National Match slide-stop pin and lever at the gun shop where I worked, in a box of odds and ends. After that, I loaded Markwell 185 grain gas-check semi-wadcutters over 3.5 grains of Bullseye with standard primers, and the pistol would make 1.5″ 3-shot groups at 25 yards off a bench.
    I found it easy to shoot after the 1903, and many years later, I qualified expert with a similar gun in the USCG the first time at the range. Traded the 1911 about thirty years ago after I hit a big raccoon with a W-W 185 grain Silvertip hollowpoint in the chest at 5 yards, and he ran off. My local gun shop traded me even for a new Ruger Redhawk 44 magnum, Stainless with the 7.5″ barrel. (44 specials with 180 grain hollowpoints switch off raccoon-size critters like a light). Love my Ruger, but still miss that old 1911 sometimes. An expert’s gun? Nah…

  36. I used to have 1911s myself, then I discovered CZs. After that, all my 1911s disappeared.

  37. The 1911 is not an expert’s gun. GI’s carried them and used them in combat for 70 years, and most of them were not pistol experts. These days it seems like everybody’s opinion of the 1911 is colored, either by the halo that is placed around it, or the fact that it’s 104 years old and there are newer designs. Neither of these things makes it an “expert’s gun.” A good, combat built 1911 is a fine defensive gun for most purposes. There are no problems “keeping them running” as long as you do some basic maintenance. A competition built 1911 can be more finicky, but nobody should carry any competition gun for self defense.

    As for “not shooting somebody you didn’t intend to shoot,” it’s a training issue. How many Glock operators shoot themselves with it when they try to take it down for cleaning? No, I’m not bashing Glocks. Go read the Passively Constructed Negligent Discharge of the Day posts on this very site if you don’t believe me. The point is, even modern wonder guns can be mishandled. Whatever gun you choose, you had better train with it. The manual of arms needs to be second nature. A 1911 is no more complicated than many modern guns, it’s just different. A trained 1911 operator is no less safe than a trained Glock operator.

    Would I recommend the 1911 for a newbie? That depends. I recommend that every newbie go the range, rent a bunch of different guns and calibers, and try them. Whichever one feels and shoots best for them should be their gun. If that gun happens to be a 1911, then I would recommend the 1911. Again, I expect them to train with whatever gun they choose, and I tell them so. In my experience, most newbies like the way the 1911 shoots and feels. It may not be their top pick, but they don’t hate it (usually). So I would say the old 1911 is still in the running. If the shooter likes it and it’s appropriate for their application, it should be considered.

    Lastly, we should resist thinking that every newbie is a moron and that modern wonder guns are moron-proof. We should give people some credit. More importantly, we should stop assuming that technology can replace personal responsibility. In case I haven’t said it enough, we should be training with our guns. Pick whichever one you like, just train with it.

  38. First of all I think whatever weapon the individual at hand can operate the best is what they should carry for defense. Small matter what it may be if they can make it work, because in the end that is what need happen. For me, I carry a 1911 and I have never been happier with a hand gun ever. While this guy is most certainly correct about customizing the trigger, there is an entire other world available with different recoil springs in terms of accuracy and reliability in my experience. The pistol is admittedly heavy but I personally don’t mind as it is a constant reminder to pay attention to what is going on around me and the responsibility of carrying a firearm. I also have to admit as I get older I appreciate the concept of not fixing what isn’t broken. From what I can see and utilize my 1911 is a far better than I am and probably will be; I think it the best design for function. That said while human ingenuity can always find the long way round to the same place, but for me, what need.

  39. I know a couple novice shooters who refuse to carry any gun without some kind of safety or the ablilty to uncock the hammer. Seems silly and potentially fatal to seasoned shooters but if it makes them comfortable enough to actually carry the gun they’re still better off than not carrying anything.
    I love 1911s and I’ve been shooting and carrying them since I was 12 years old without any training. I’ve never had any problems with any of them as long as I didn’t perform too much unnecessary surgery or feed them ammo they weren’t designed for.

  40. My first ever pistol was my Milspec Springfield and I don’t think it’s an expert’s gun at all. Carry it cocked and locked and follow your 4 basic rules (as always) and you’re good to go.
    Also I’ve never understood the gripes about “keeping it running.” 1911s aren’t some 104 year old enigma, they’re just like any other firearm. Clean and lube in reasonable intervals. Don’t shoot garbage Tulammo and expect match grade results. And don’t buy a cheapo brand like RIA and expect it to do all things.
    Another big factor in the 1911s reliability “problems” comes again from people expecting it to be a trophy competitor and a muddin’ fightin’ gun all at once. No firearm in existence is this way. If you buy a super accurate high-end model like Les Baer or Cabot don’t expect it to run dirty on cheapo ammo. If you buy an entry-level model it’ll handle abuse but don’t expect a tack driver at 50 yrds.
    I think people’s expectations that the 1911 is the one-gun-to-rule-them-all is the main reason why so many end up hating on it. They like to talk about the gun’s supporters as being cult-like when it is they themselves that expect it to deliver and be all things to all shooters. And when it falls short its “outdated.” I would contend that no firearm can meet these demands, be it steel or polymer, SA or striker. All that being said, the 1911 is still a perfectly viable option for any number of responsible shooters, noob or veteran.

    *mic drop

  41. My first handgun was a .22LR Erma “Luger” I purchased new when I was sixteen around `1967. That pistol was pretty much the sum total of my handgun experience the first time I had a chance to shoot a handgun until a friend loaned me his Govt. model 1911 when I was twenty. All my life I’d heard how the .45 was “an expert’s gun” with “too much recoil for an untrained shooter.” The first time I fired it I was amazed at what an accurate, easy-to-shoot pussycat of a gun it really is. All of that “expert’s gun” B.S. I’d been fed all of my life was just that, i.e., BS. I still own and shoot the 1911 to this day although as a carry gun mine has been pretty much supplanted by a CZ75; double the ammo, better ergonomics, and less weight are pretty good arguments for the Czech pistol.

  42. I do not recommend any gun with any sort of complicated trigger mechanism to a novice wanting protection. Striker, DAO only. And I carry a 1911. Someone who is not going to practice but wants dependable defense is also not going to spend time caring for it or learning to master the DASA switch.

    There is a joy to running a 1911 absent any plastic gun I have run. I think it is a pistol aficionados weapon More so than an experts.

    • The 1911, Browning High Power, CZ-75B (but not BD) and similar models, plus the Taurus PT99 (I think) are all guns that don’t require you to deal with a DA/SA transition, and some of them are even actually DA/SA. You do, however, have to remember to disengage the safety lever, so it’s still more complex than a Glock to use. But if you just get in the habit of swiping your thumb down as you present, you can fire *either* style of gun well since the gesture does no harm on a Glock.

      • I don’t disagree, but the point still stands: if you do not intend to practice something with point and shoot reliability is easier for a novice to employ. They will probably shoot left and the recoil will be greater than a steel gun, but the sound and fury will happen and that’s the point. My favorite guns are 1911s and CZs.

        That said, my 1911s have not malfunctioned since the first mags I have fed them. Let my main competition gun go uncleaned for 600 rounds over a 5 week period, no issue.

        That said I still recommend a GLOCK, M&P, XD or 9E to those who won’t practice

  43. Learned on the 1911. Could strip it and reassemble by age 8. Out shot a bunch of cops with mine on my 10th birthday (singer that was my gift). Carried one for years. Expert gun??? Hardly.

    Had a DI tell me don’t get lazy with the safeties and the trigger and you won’t have a problem.

  44. Own 1. Carry 1 everyday. Para Expert Carry. Would I recommend it to a new shooter? Idk but as for the “nuances of keeping it running”…. to quote James Yeager in a Glock love fest video, “Keep your f**kin’ finger off the f**kin’ trigger!!” Different guns, same MO IMHO

    • It may have similarities, but it is a lot different. The P series is single action/double action and has a decocker.

  45. Look, this is a stupid question. A 1911 has a specific manual of arms, nothing more. My wife’s and my 1911s, Ruger mark II, P238, and in fact ARs all use the same controls. If you can’t use a 1911 you can’t use a gun. I’m also fine with SA/DA snd DA only systems. We shoot Glocks well too

    All the guns above use the same muscle memory and training. A 1911 is instinctual.

    On the bell curve of intelligence the average human IQ is 100. This is the average intelligence of the citizen driver, voter and gun owner.

    A Glock or it’s clone is only safe AND versitile when securely tucked in a holster. The Glock generation of gun users and their inability to understand the presence, utility and universitiliy of the 1911 is a testament to the growing simplicity of the American gun owner – not to the complexity of the 1911.

    • ” The Glock generation of gun users and their inability to understand the presence, utility and universitiliy of the 1911 is a testament to the growing simplicity of the American gun owner – not to the complexity of the 1911.”
      From an everyday GLOCK carrier – well said.

  46. An automobile is not considered an expert’s vehicle, and it is a lot more complicated than a 1911. So, no, a 1911 is not an expert’s gun. It needs to be lubed every few thousand rounds, and fed decent (not great) ammo. To fire it you need to grab it like you mean it, put your thumb on top of the thumb safety, flip it down, and press the trigger until it goes off.

    • I am a match director for a weekly pistol match, I still see new users to guns have issues with deactivating the safety. Not that it is hard to do or anything just that it has not been programmed in yet

  47. PT1911AR. <3

    Only carry it when OCing up in GA. Impossible to conceal, much less avoid Floriduh's legislated-from-the-bench printing law.

    Wish I could OC at home, since the only way to be legal is off-body CC of PT740 or PT709 or Pocket Carry of PT738. None of which are as nice or effective as the 1911.

    I feed her Perfecta and lube, uh… Once every couple years? I couldn’t even tell you what I used. Probably the dreaded WD40. She doesn’t care. BLAM BLAM BLAM!!!

  48. I wouldn’t recommend a 1911 to anyone. Because I’ve very rarely met someone who wanted spend the type of money on a pistol that would get them into the 1911’s I’d feel comfortable recommending. I have a pair of nice ones. Unless of course they were an experienced shooter with a very healthy gun fund.

  49. It’s the perfect firearm for a beginner due to the safeties on it IMO. Anyone that finds it hard to maintain or picky with rounds bought the wrong 1911.

  50. here goes …. safest carry for 1911 is condition 2 hammer down on loaded chamber if needed to be drawn it is cocked in the holster if your thumb slipsthe halfcock will catch it thats what its for. drawing a pistol this way you should have correct holster and practice. i carried my 1911 in vietnam always like that. in mud water and rain. as navy u.d.t. i was also an aviation ordnanceman rating small arms repair also. cocked and locked make you nervous?? try a glock.

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