Being thoughts on the art, science and politics of shooting and firearms instruction.
Friday, May 6, 2011
I pretty much owe it to the venerable 1911, not to let the 100 year anniversary of the Army's adoption of this fine old firearm pass unremarked.
I met my first M1911A1 as I was wooing the love of my life. Her father had brought back a better than average specimen from the battlefields of Germany in 1945. He shot it rarely over the years, letting it rest on the shelf in his closet in the Hoyt 1918-production GI issue leather flap holster it had probably been issued in, fully loaded, cocked and locked. As you might surmise, he was slow to let this wiry teenager after his daughter have anything to do with his guns until it became apparent that I wasn't going away. After going off to military school, learning a bit about safe gun handling, and proposing to his daughter, I finally got my hands on it. I remember it being challenging to shoot at first, with a bit of kick, and a LOT of noise. No one wore hearing protection back then and my sensitive little musical ears felt every bit of it. The thing I remember most about that pistol was the only shot my father-in-law ever took with it with me watching. He hit a foot long 2x4 floating down the Nottaway river at 50 plus yards dead center. I suspected a lucky shot until years later when I first saw his expert qualification badge on his WWII dress blouse hanging among some old clothes in the attic and heard some of the stories of the black GIs in the labor service company he commanded.
Army issue 1911s were fascinating. They were pieces of history in many ways, many so old, used and loose as to be inaccurate and unreliable. (Keep in mind, in the modern Army, the pistol is viewed a not much better than a rock as an actual combat tool.) And as with all Army issue gear, 'improvement' was officially frowned upon. But one could occassionally go through a rack of 1911s to pick out the best one, and if you were in the right position, you might even be able to replace a few parts to deal with any obvious problems. This is how I wound up with a better than average pistol in most of my assignments to combat units.
Since retirement from the Army, I've tried out a number of different pistols built on the 1911 design, and by many different manufacturers. Colt, Springfield Armory, Kimber, Dan Wesson, Para Ordnance, and even Taurus 1911 designs have been in my gun safe from time to time. Several other high end manufacturers produce quality machines (Caspian, STI, Wilson Combat, Ed Brown, S&W, SIG-Sauer), and actually, for around $400 you can now purchase a good basic 1911 made by ATI, Armscorp, or Rock Island Armory, all of Phillipine production. If you decide to get into 1911s. the place to start is http://forums.1911forum.com/ and check out the many youtube.com postings on manual of arms, maintaining and shooting 1911s.
My most recent 1911 was the new Ruger SR1911. It is similar to the design of the Army M1911A1 I used while on active duty, but had added features I like: significantly more visible sights, an extended beavertail, a skeletonized hammer, and an full length trigger. Ruger really got it right on this one.
I might have paid a little more for mine than they will eventually sell for ($701) but I consider that a fair price for the gun. To date, I have fired 275 rounds through it, with narry a hitch. No failure to fire, no failures to extract or eject, no failures of any kind. And the pistol is ACCURATE.
Oh,... there was one flaw. I found the grip screws loosened after about 150 rounds requiring me to tighten them with an allen wrench. That may be enough to keep some of you from buying one, but let that bide. If that's a problem for you, you don't deserve to own the best 1911 I've ever had, since my father-in-law's, of course.
Okay, 2014 update: I sold my SR1911 (gasp!) Yes, but I only did it to replace it with an SR1911 CMD, the 4" barrel version of the same pistol. I've found it to be just as accurate and reliable as the original full-size gun, but a bit easier to carry and conceal. Still highly recommended!