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Back in my original post about 1911 quality, I examined the reliability of full-size 1911s in .45 ACP. TTAG’s Armed Intelligentsia posed questions about Commander and Officer-size 1911s, as well as 1911 performance in other calibers. You want stats? We got stats . . .

Same guidelines as per last time . . .

I went through every issue of Gun Tests from 1996 to the present, and tracked every 1911 they ever tested. A firearm was considered “broken” if it stopped working, shed parts, or physically disintegrated in some way.  A gun was labeled “unreliable” if it had failures to fire, feed, extract or eject cartridges/bullets—whose non-performance was 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/McCormick mags for the review guns, regardless of brand of gun. The reliability numbers for 1911s are overly-optimistic, in other words.]

First, let’s look at full-size/longslide/compensated 1911s and compact 1911s in .45 ACP:

1911 Performance in .45acp
1911 Performance in .45acp

Now let’s look at the other calibers of 1911:

1911 Performance with other calibers
1911 Performance with other calibers

Alrighty. And now we will tie up the loose ends and summarize:

Combined 1911 Performance
Combined 1911 Performance


1) All sizes of 1911s have documented reliability issues, with the shorter models being even less reliable.

2) Deviating from the original .45 ACP chambering increased the percentage of unreliability. But staying with .45 ACP did not guarantee reliability.

3) Problems were not confined to low-end or off-brand guns.

While not specifically tracked, I did find repeated examples of the requirement of tools to disassemble the 1911s that were being tested. I would be happy to provide the specific models if anyone wants to keep pretending that no 1911 requires tools to take down.

The 1911 design is a hundred years old—and it has the performance that goes along with that age. Some of them work well, others not so well.  If you have a reliable 1911, I am happy to hear that. But there are more affordable, more reliable designs available to the shooting consumer. A prospective customer should be look at all of their options and carefully assess their needs before buying.

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  1. I own a GI 1911A1 and a Glock 21. If the balloon was about to go up, and I had to make a choice, I’d have to go with the Glock, hands down. Ralph nails it. .45 ACP great round, delivery method needs to be brought into modern times.

  2. Alright YGN, but we’re still waiting on the comprehensive list of results… 1911’s have some problems, regardless of size or model. However, modern guns have problems too. Comparing 1911’s within 1911’s means nothing other than you can count and read (which, from working with the public, is a big thing nowadays!). Of all 1911’s, even if 10% were unreliable, it means nothing unless we know how modern guns stack up. We need 1911’s (problems, breakage, etc) vs modern pistols (not just Glock’s). One of these days you’re bound to get us some proper data. Having been around enough pistols, long gun, and Remington 700 owners in my relatively short life, even I know and accept the fact that all firearms are tools; tools which are manufactured my man using, tools manfucatured to make another tool (firearm). Until we get meaningful data to make a real-world, and as close-to-industry-wide comparison as possible, these “comparisons” mean nothing.

    • LOL. Welcome, Patrick!

      You’re mistaken; I am not “comparing” 1911s with anything. I am documenting their performance in the real world, as a customer who bought one would experience them. I previously furnished documentation on Glock. People are free to compare the 2 sets of data and draw their conclusions.

      But…you can relax. I am not even close to done. Working on XD and M&P guns next. 4 snowstorms in 2 weeks has cut into my leisure time.

      • Excellent – don’t forget ALL brands and models of modern guns though. Wait, snow storms cutting into leisure time? I thought snow storms were an excuse to sleep in and chill out by a fire! I know your pain though; these 76 degree days really cut into my leisure time as well. I mean, I have to stop by the range twice a week, ride my motorcycle down to the Titan Missile Museum, etc 🙂

  3. Just so you know I’ve carried 1911s for nearly 25 years and mine have been 100% reliable!

    Well not really as my Delta Elite 10mm sheared the rear ejector pin off at 30,000 rounds (discovered when cleaning) and I have a 1991A1 Compact that needed a lot of work to get the cases to eject somewhere other than the center of my forehead. I do still carry a 1911 pattern gun because it’s what I have used for a long time and am very comfortable with. Since I already have a lot invested in the 1911 platform in the form of magazines, holsters etc. and can maintain them myself (I used to work as a gunsmith until the pay of I.T. lured me away) I don’t have much incentive to change.

    However, when a new shooter comes to me for advice I always point them to the Glocks, XDs (of all flavors), Rugers, S&Ws and other makes before I point them at a 1911. The 1911 is still a viable platform, but it is not for the beginning or casual shooter if you don’t have hundreds of hours and thousands of rounds to spend in training and practicing it just isn’t the right gun in my opinion. Not that anyone wouldn’t benefit from spending hundreds of hours and firing thousands of rounds in training and competition with their gun.

    For what its worth if I’m not packing a 1911 I’m usually packing a S&W revolver.

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