Gun scribe Charlie Cutshaw sure seems to think so. Over at gun PR paradise, Cutshaw’s penned a piece called 1911 Pistol Refuses To Die. Cutshaw reckons John Browning’s meisterstuck is still suitable for police work. Indeed, preferable. Who am I to argue? But hey, someone’s got to do it . . .
To take advantage of the 1911′s speed into action, simple but discrete actions must be learned. As the pistol is drawn and brought up into firing position, the safety is swept off and the finger placed alongside the trigger guard unless it is necessary to open fire immediately.
There’s a problem right there. How can a gun that requires “simple but discreet” actions offer superior “speed into action”? With a Glock or other combat gun, you draw and shoot. Done. This lets the shooter concentrate on other important matters, such as the person or persons trying to kill them.
Asking the police or your average CCW holder to learn to engage, disengage and check the engagement of a thumb safety is . . . dangerous. It’s one more thing that can go wrong during an adrenal dump. By the same token, a gun without a safety switch also requires less careful preparation. Is my 1911 cocked AND locked? Better make sure.
Sure, the cops should be able to master a 1911. But a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. A gun that’s safer for most people is safer than one that isn’t.
Lest we forget, cops carry off-duty handguns. Two similar weapons systems with different operational controls? Not smart. If you wanted to eliminate the risk of an officer forgetting to switch off a 1911 safety, you’d have to make sure that their off-duty gun was also a 1911. You’ll find that plan at ain’tgonnahappen.com.
If the need is to immediately begin shooting, the trigger can be pressed as soon as the pistol comes on target and the trigger’s “feel” is the same every time it is pulled, unlike DA/SA pistols that have a long heavy pull for the first shot and a short pull for the second, requiring a slight change in grip which in a gunfight could be hazardous to one’s health and continued well-being.
I’m no fan of the Double Action/Single Action (DA/SA) trigger system. But then, when the aforementioned adrenal dump occurs, a harder trigger pull is hardly an issue. And the lawyers are right; DA does add an extra level of safety for cops lacking trigger control. (True story.)
I’ve not seen any studies suggesting that police using DA/SA miss more with the first DA shot than the second SA blast. Or that they’re better shots with SA-only rather than DA/SA. And even if they are, why not a consistent trigger like a Smith, Glock or Springfield? Same pull every time.
While we’re at it, where did Mr. Cutshaw get the idea you have to adjust your grip for the two types of trigger pull?
The 1911’s trigger also enhances accuracy, which lessens the chance of missing or possibly hitting an innocent bystander while increasing the probability of ending the threat. Then for cops, there is the issue of officer safety. There are documented instances of bad guys getting an officer’s 1911 and not being able to figure out how to switch off the safety, giving the officer time to go for his BUG. (Backup Gun.) Nobody ever accused these morons of having an IQ above room temperature!
Let’s set aside the issue of the dangers of underestimating your enemy. And I’ll spot Mr. Cutshaw the assertion that 1911s are more accurate than most other combat guns. But there’s no getting around the fact that the 1911’s trigger is relatively light with minimal take up. In a combat scenario, if your finger goes on a 1911 trigger, that gun’s going to go off. There is no margin of error. No second chance.
As the rabbi puts it, “1911s are the easiest guns in the world to shoot someone with and the hardest guns in the world NOT to shoot someone with.”
As for perps stealing guns from cops, yes, well, there is that. But you have to balance the danger of a bad guy taking an officer’s gun (after he or she’s removed it from a security holster) vs. the possibility that the cop will forget to switch off the safety and thwart him or herself.
Finally, there is lethality.As my friend and colleague Colonel (Ret) Marty Fackler, MD once told me, “You need to make lots of big holes so lots of air gets in and lots of blood gets out.” No military or law enforcement cartridge has terminal ballistics to equal those of the .45 ACP, especially when the rounds are loaded with modern jacketed hollow point (JHP) bullets like 230 grain Winchester Ranger SXT, Black Hills Gold Dot, Hornady TAP or Remington Golden Saber.
The relative “stopping power” of various rounds is a source of endless debate. If terminal ballistics was the overriding concern, a .357 revolver would be a better carry piece than a 1911. Suffice it to say, Colonel (Ret) Marty Fackler MD recommends making LOTS of holes. Your average 1911 is distinctly lacking in the quantity of holes department. It’s a challenge that hasn’t evaded Mr. Cutshaw’s attention.
Another issue that is sometimes raised is magazine capacity. One can make the argument for pistols with larger magazine capacity, but my response is that I now carry four Cobra Mags of eight rounds capacity each on my duty belt, giving me four rounds more than the three 12 round magazines I carried with my higher capacity pistol with virtually no increase in weight. The mags weigh next to nothing – it is the ammo load that matters. Of course, I have to change magazines more frequently during qualifications, but that is no big deal. I usually do a tactical reload between stages anyhow. For off duty or civilian concealed carry, it’s wise to keep a spare magazine handy. My belt slide holster that I use off-duty accommodates a spare magazine and the chances of my getting in a gunfight so intense that I need more than 16 rounds is slim to none. So magazine capacity really isn’t an issue for me, although for those who desire it, high capacity 1911s like Para Ord’s P14 up the ammo capacity considerably — from eight to 14 rounds of .45 ACP!
Four mags? Let’s do the math. Four eight-round mags equals 32 .45 ACP rounds, plus eight in the gun. That’s 40 rounds all-in. A Springfield XD-45 or a .45-caliber Glock 21 or Glock 30 carries 13 rounds. Two mag changes later, you’ve blown through 39 rounds.
No small point that. Changing mags in the middle of a gunfight is a motor skill prone to delay and operator error. The less you have to do it, the better. Remember: Mr. Cutshaw doesn’t carry four mags off-duty. Just the one. While 16 bullets might be enough capacity (benefit of the doubt time again), what if it isn’t? What then?
The Para Ordnance in question does indeed offer 14 rounds. But weight! The Glock 21 weighs 26.3 ounces unloaded. The Para Ordnance S14•45 Limited weighs 40 ounces without bullets. I rest my case. ‘Cause it’s so damn heavy.
Alternatively, 9mm. Lots of bullets, fewer mag changes. Less [theoretical] stopping power vs more chances to stop and less reloads. As Bo Peep says in Toy Story, I’ve found my moving buddy.
Next up: reliability:
But there are other reasons for the 1911’s’ unprecedented longevity. One reason is reliability. Given that it has been properly maintained, any well-made 1911 type pistol can be counted upon to go “bang” when the trigger is pulled. The operative word here is “maintained.” No handgun can be expected to function if it isn’t cared for, but the 1911 is more forgiving in this respect than most.
Hold on there. If you meticulously maintain any weapon that isn’t built from rubbish parts, it should be reliable. But I reckon (and I’m not alone in this) that a firearm’s reliability needs to be as independent of maintenance as possible. Or, if you prefer, the gun requiring the least maintenance wins.
Using that criteria, the 1911 loses. To every mainstream combat-style gun made. Especially a Glock. Any Glock. All Glocks.
Now you could argue that a meticulously crafted $2500 Wilson Combat 1911 will be more reliable than a crap semi, and I wouldn’t object. But generally speaking, no, the 1911 isn’t the reliability king. Not by a long chalk.
In the final analysis, if one is willing to learn how to proficiently use a 1911 type pistol, there is nothing really any better for self defense use.
That, sir, is debatable. While there may be nothing better for you, the 1911 is not the best self-defense weapon for the majority of gun owners, private or professional. In the final analysis, that’s the reason most people don’t carry a 1911.