Reader Dyspeptic Gunsmith can always be counted on to provide well-reasoned, thoughtful input around these here parts. And some of his retorts are gems worthy of posts in and of themselves for all the world to see. Here’s one he cracked off yesterday in response to Tim Lau’s disparagement of the venerable JMB design:
“Those of us who’ve been around the 1911 platform know it is a finicky gun that requires a dedicated end user and strict maintenance schedule if it is to be relied upon. Many 1911 style guns on the market won’t even work well out of the box. ”
These are the sorts of times when I get really uncharitable towards kids and their historical ignorance. Your teachers didn’t teach you jack in your precious public schools, did they? The 1911 was subject to an acceptance test before being accepted as the US Army’s new sidearm that went something like this: . . .
– total rounds to be fired: 6,000. - 100 rounds would be fired, then the pistols in the competition would be allowed to cool for 5 minutes. - every 1,000 rounds, the guns would be cleaned and oiled.
The 1911 was the only pistol out of the half-dozen pistols at the Army’s acceptance test in 1907-1911 that completed the course of fire, and it did so with no malfunctions.
After the 6,000 rounds had been fired, it was then subjected to deformed cartridges, bullets seated too deeply (which will result in elevated pressures, etc). It passed those tests as well.
In short, the US Army qualified the 1911 from a field of many candidate pistols. The tests began in the 1906-1907 timeframe, and here’s the report of same. After 1907, only the Savage and the Browning design were continuing on to further trials. Here’s a little history on the Savage.
The Army didn’t decide on the 1911 the way they decide on some weapons today – i.e., by going with whichever defense contractor has bought up the required number of Congressmen with drugs, cash and whores. No, the 1911 was accepted in an era where weapons were actually tested. The 1911 was subject to a (for the day) rather rigorous test, and it passed.
The 1911 was designed to be field stripped without tools, and detailed stripped without tools. All you needed to detail-strip an issue 1911 was the rim of a .45 ACP case to take the grip panel screws off.
Modern variants of the 1911 are what have gained the reputation for being “finicky.” They start with such “improvements” as allen-head grip screws. Why? No clue why. These yahoos think the allen-head screws “look cool.” They don’t hold the grip panel on the frame any better.
Then they start tightening the fit and lock-up, supposedly to improve accuracy. Then we get into all manner of nonsense about the metal in the firing pin, the guide rod, the feed ramp on the barrel, the hammer, the springs the shape of the grip safety, ambi safeties, changes to the barrel bushing… on and on and on and on. After the design has been subjected to no small amount of untested stupidity, the 1911 critics come along and pronounce the original design “unreliable” and “out of date.”
Right. I’ll take that under advisement, Junior.
Here’s my favorite problem induced by gun owners (it’s my favorite because it’s so easy to solve as a gunsmith): Far too many people go out and buy a $1K (or higher priced) pistol…. and then feed it ammo with cheap, piece-of-shit magazines. In all box magazine fed semi-autos, I have found that that #1 or #2 cause of failure to feed in all semi-autos I’ve examined have been issues with the magazines. This isn’t particular to the 1911. It’s all detachable magazine-fed semi-autos. The feed lips on magazines controls the attitude of the cartridge as it is stripped off the magazine. Bad cartridge presentation means that things go downhill from there. If you want a reliable pistol, don’t cheap out on the magazines. If you have good magazines, don’t drop them on the ground carelessly.
Lastly, the 1911 was designed to feed military ball ammunition. Once your bullet shape starts deviating too far from ball ammo, you might see issues in feeding.
One thing I can (and do) with my 1911′s that I don’t do with my Glocks (or other combat tupperware pistols) is feed them cast lead reloads. My 1911′s will eat cast lead bullets all day long. Why use cast bullets? Because I can buy them so much more cheaply than jacketed bullets, and if I’m shooting outdoors, why worry about lead splatter in the air? Glock advises owners against using lead, and I’ve seen enough Glock “kabooms” to warrant caution, so I don’t do it.