Monday, May 3, 2010


Yesterday's post on the venerable M1911 generated a couple of replies that merit answering:

RTLM said:It's billed as an "entry level" 1911. What would be an example of a non-entry level 1911?

SEAN LINNANE: When you buy your basic M1911 brand new what you get right out of the box is essentially a platform to "build up" on. Over the last half of the twentieth century professional soldiers, lawmen, gunsmiths, metallurgists, competition shooters and others combined their shared experience and energies to make the M1911 lighter, more accurate with better sights and match grade trigger, ambidextrous thumb safeties, beavertail grip safety and beveled magazine well; they sought to make it able to handle modern hollowpoint ammunition reliably via polished feed ramp and flared ejection port.

In the Pro CDP II, Kimber brought back the longer trigger and flat mainspring housing of the M1911.

The Para GI Expert I featured yesterday has a suggested retail price of $599 - if you shop around you can get your hands on an M1911 for less than $500. A tricked out 1911 with all the bells and whistles can take you into the $1500 real fast; so for many the plan is to get yourself into the game with a starter kit and work up from there.

Toaster 802 said: I had a Colt once. I had always wanted a 1911, but when my uncle saw it he laughed at me. He said don't bother reloading, just throw it at enemy. "Your last round might just hit something."

Then when I shot it I knew why he was busting my stones. It was all over the place. Box after box. after a while I switched to a 220. Better fit for me and mine.

SEAN LINNANE: The first 1911 I carried in the Army was made by the Singer Sewing Machine Company; it was World War II-era issue and it rattled like a tool box full of wrenches. I could barely hit the broadside of a barn with it - from the inside - but my platoon sergeant was okay with that because he told me I was only expected to engage targets within 1 meter with it - anything beyond that distance I was supposed to engage with the M60.

Since that time long ago, I learned a thing or two about the mechanical side of firearms; how to slap in new parts and tighten up an old gun, and how to "stroke" a new gun to make it operate smooth and feed reliably.

M1911A1 .45 cal. automatic pistol, cut away to show internal parts.

Bear in mind that the US Army's premier combat unit - 1st SFOD-D - a.k.a. "Delta Force" - carries M1911s.

Many military and law enforcement organizations in the United States continue to use (often modified) M1911A1 pistols because they favor the stopping power of the .45 cartridge and the superior handling of the weapon in close fighting. Marine Force Recon, Los Angeles Police Department Special Weapons and Tactics, the FBI Hostage Rescue Team are among them.

A III Marine Expeditionary Force, Dynamic Assault Course student reassembles his upgraded M1911A1 .45 cal. pistol, Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan, 9 July 2008.

The Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) pistol is an enhanced combat .45 caliber, semi-automatic pistol, built on the M1911A1 frame but incorporating special features and components selected to meet MEU requirements.

Marine Expeditionary Units formerly issued M1911s to Force Recon units. Hand-selected Colt M1911A1 frames were gutted, deburred, and prepared for additional use by the USMC Precision Weapon Section (PWS) at Marine Corps Base Quantico. They were then assembled with after-market grip safeties, ambidextrous thumb safeties, triggers, improved high-visibility sights, accurized barrels, grips, and improved Wilson magazines. These hand-made pistols were tuned to specifications and preferences of end users.

In the late 1980s, the Marines laid out a series of specifications and improvements to make Browning's design ready for 21st century combat, many of which have been included in MEU(SOC) pistol designs, but design and supply time was limited.

In response to this demand, Kimber shortly began producing a limited number of what evolved into the Interim Close Quarters Battle pistol (ICQB). Maintaining the simple recoil assembly, 5-inch barrel (though using a stainless steel match grade barrel), and internal extractor, the ICQB is not much different from Browning's original design.

The final units as issued to MCSOCOM Det-1 are the Kimber ICQBs with Surefire IMPL (Integrated Military Pistol Light), Dawson Precision Rails, Tritium Novak LoMount sights, Gemtech TRL Tactical Retention Lanyards, modified Safariland 6004 holsters, and Wilson Combat '47D' 8 round magazines. They have reportedly been used with over 15,000 rounds apiece.

I can assure you that a trained pistol marksman is capable of putting all rounds into a four-inch circle at ten-to-fifteen meters with a .45 - and I'll shoot for beer with anybody; my .45 against whatever you got.

It's amazing what can be done to what is basically a machine; I've even seen a fully automatic version of the M1911 in the Philippines. The thing fed off modified M3 "Grease Gun" magazines - talk about spray and pray!

This is the second in my series of posts commemorating the upcoming Centennial the M1911 - the definitive sidearm of the American Fighting Man . . . Sean Linnane


  1. I have a copy made by Llama. Slides, Barrels, Trigger group and Magazines are "interchangeable". The grips are not the same(was given a nice set of rosewood Pachmayr that do not fit) and one would need an extractor if slides were changed (Llama uses an external). I'd love to get a better one, but am still fund limited. The new Para looks like a good one. My Llama is 7 years old or so and has served me well, shoots damned well (especially for a $290 knock off) but needs new grip scales (the rubber is getting gummy from living in the heat of Texas and Louisiana staying in the car at work, and my sweaty palms), the sights took a hit a few years ago from a fall while carrying (ice on the stairs!) and it sometimes feeds poorly with my preferred hollow points (230gr TAP or PMC Star Fire) so I'm using Power Balls for now. I know some smithing on it would fix it up, but I'd like a new one, and use this for a Carbine Conversion. I've added a ambi safety to it as I'm a lefty, and the front site was a High Vis fiber optic until the fall dinged it. It is still there, but looks very ugly now. I've got some Bacote to make grip scales for it but have not carved them out yet.

    I've got my old battle rifles (A Schmidt-Rubin and a Chilean Mauser) so time to look back at pistols.
    Wish I had the money for a .50GI version. Bigger Holes leak more blood.

  2. "The first 1911 I carried in the Army was made by the Singer Sewing Machine Company; it was World War II-era issue and it rattled like a tool box full of wrenches. I could barely hit the broadside of a barn with it - from the inside - but my platoon sergeant was okay with that because he told me I was only expected to engage targets within 1 meter with it - anything beyond that distance I was supposed to engage with the M60."

    Bamberg FRG, 1982, B Co. 1/52 INF (MECH) - I don't *think* mine was WWII issue, but everything else in your tale was the same for me, almost word for word.

    The problem - me hitting anything beyond that meter with the .45 - was "solved" some six months later when the company got a new XO. Because of the condition of the .45s some had been trashed or used for parts. There were just enough for the M60 gunners and current complement of officers to be issued one. The new XO was told he'd get an M-16 for the nonce, new (to the company, anyway) .45s were to arrive "soon". Well, he wasn't going to stand for that! He was a by-God OFFICER and he was supposed to have a by-God SIDEARM, not a rifle! So since issuing one to him meant taking it away from a machine gunner and that wouldn't be "fair" to that one soldier, ALL the Pig toters had to turn in their .45s and were issued an M-16 in its stead. Now, guess how many of us carried a Pig AND a rifle in the field?

  3. This is the kind of utilitarian side of Life that appeals to me - I was in elite units but I am not an elitist, if such a thing makes sense. Please email me and send photos and I will post your story. Add in any details you wish to share.

    - Thanks, S.L.

  4. You were issued one of the super rare Singer 1911s in the army?

    Wow! Its too bad you weren't able to buy that piece off Uncle Sam as they're worth in the neighborhood of $25k these days as Singer only made about 500 pistols.

  5. Love my Kimbers!
    Out of the box and 5,000 rounds later they are tight, shoot POA, and will digest handloads, cheapo's, +P's.
    Barrels are still good and one is still running the original springs and extractor.

  6. I was shooting my tanfoglio 1911 at a 12" steel plate at 50 meters last week.

    A bit smaller than a barn door, but all my shots were ringing the gong.

    Anyone can do it- a good firearm and lots of rounds down the range.

  7. Bullseye 45's are generally accurate to 1-2 inches at 50 yards. It all depends on how much accuracy you can afford.

  8. Have had various 1911's through the years. My plain Kimber custom and one of the first Smith and Wesson !911's I have now are hard to beat!I've shot just about everything else through the years but these always impress new shooters.

  9. I luvs me my Kimber. 6" bull at 25 yards off-hand no sweat. The only thing I had done was a trigger rework/upgrade by the factory, and upgraded sights. AT LEAST a couple of thousand rounds thru it and it's been a dream.

  10. Shell --

    You were issued a WWII (or earlier) 1911. Becuase the Army stopped buying 1911's (except for Nation Match competition guns) after 1945. So far as I know, ALL of the Armed Services got their 1911s through the Army, so the next official 1911 purchase for service use would be when the USMC started buying new guns in the 21st Century, as they had FINALLY reached the point where they couldn't keep rebuilding old guns.

    Just like they were still issuing the Purple Hearts minted for the invasion on Japan until GWOT ran through the end of the supply.

    We built a LOT of stuff in the last years of WWII -- that which is still standard issue is still in use. The only reason they had to issue an order for new M2HBs in the 1980s was they had given so many M2s away when they tried to switch to the M85 and they figured they didn't NEED all those M2HBs for vehicular use anymore. (Of course, teh M85 turned out to be an utter dog, which is why the M1 Abrams has an M2. . . )

  11. Thanks for the school. Been looking at a 1911 - currently don't own one. That Para is a handsome piece and at a good price.

    /Currently own a Beretta Px4 Storm .40SW

  12. God, I hate the 1911. Such an overrated hunk of junk. The damn thing is nearly 100 years old. Drop the nostalgia and go with modern pistols that carry twice as many rounds, weigh half as much, cost 1/3rd the price, are 100% reliable, accurate and easy to accessorize with lights and lazers right out of the box.

    There's just so many things I hate about the 1911.

    I can't stand grip safeties. They're totally useless. I'm always afraid that I'll compress the damn thing wrong somewhow and the trigger will get jammed. I'd rather just do without a grip safety thank you very much. I also don't like external safeties at all. I very much prefer the Glock design where all the safety features are internal.

    The damn things also weigh a ton. It's like walking around with a freaking metal plate strapped to your side. Compare to that to the modern plastic pistols which are feather light (and just as reliable) in comparison. Lighter weight guns help me aim better personally and are just more convienent to carry. And why make a gun heavier than it needs to be?

    Another thing that absolutely blows about the 1911 is that they usually only carry 7 rounds. In a combat scenario you'll blow through 7 rounds in no time. Say what you will about careful aiming and all that jazz but someone is shooting at you you tend to try to avoid the bullets while firing back as rapidly as possible. And in that kind of scenario 7 rounds just isn't enough.

    Speed reloads also are nowhere near as feasible in combat as they are on the range. With a Glock you get your choice of 13,15,17,19 and even 33 round guns depending on caliber. All of which give you way more rounds to shoot into the enemy. And in combat I'd personally want as many rounds as possible. A measly 7 rounds just isn't enough.

    If I was given a choice I'd pick a Glock 19/20/21, Springfield XD, SIG, FN or H&K. I'd only use a 1911 if it was issued to me and I had no other choice.

  13. troll would pick an XD that has a grip safety but hates grip safeties....hmmm.

  14. Um, my M1911 carries 8 rounds.

    What matters is between your ears. Not "way more rounds to shoot into the enemy". Just wait for people like this to empty their 33 round magazine, and pounce. Since they never seem interested in the practice of shoot, move, reload - only spray and pray. But then, I've only been shot at while empty handed.

    My M1911 was made in 1913. The guts and slide are all newer. It is my first pistol owned as a Man, and having grown up shooting cowboy single action Rugers I can say my first day with it was like "butter".

    I say to each his own. I've never gotten anywhere putting down other people's choices. Tearing down others builds nothing, except false bravado and didactic bores.

  15. Thompson 1911 new in 81.
    5000 rounds plus later,
    Even an old swimmer like me can still shoot in the mid 270's Camp Perry style.......
    If I had to pick 2 hand guns and leave the cabin forever I would take the Thompson and my S&W 686,although it would be hard to leave Dad's Colt Woodsman behind.

  16. In Viet Nam I was a shop officer for a direct support maintenance company which fixed small arms, arty., electronics, wheeled and tracked vehicles, generators, etc. I held the maintenance float for the brigade so I had all the toys. Want to drive an M88 Medium, Full Tracked, Tank Recovery vehicle? 1790 CU IN air cooled, OHC, twin turbocharged, gasoline engine.

    Anyhow my small arms E6 was a gunsmith at Ft. Benning AMTU back in the world. He scrounged me a new frame that wasn't on anybody's property book and had his crew make me an accuritized 1911 from the parts bin of our mobile 2 1/2 ton mobile gunshop for OJT. The drawers of parts for 1911s, m14s, m60s, m16s, .50 Cal M2 were unbelievable.

    Couldn't figure out a way to legally bring it back so I souveneered it to an Engineer Captain who had admired it.


  17. I have a SS Springfield TRP
    Colt Officers Model
    Ted Yost 1* Custom Commander....
    I've carried them all for work, wouldn't carry anything else..

  18. I'd like to have one in the cabinet just because of the history of the weapon and design. The 45 is a little heavy on recoil, not to mention expensive, for shooting the shit out of cans though. I have a 226 and USPc in 357 sig that I carry and have all the confidence in the world in that round and those pistols.
    I've kinda had my eye out for a cowboy SA but now you got me thinking.

  19. The Springfield does have an annoying grip safety. But at least they still hold a lot of rounds and weigh a lot less. They're also a lot easier to clean and maintain and a hell of a lot cheaper.

    If I was forced to pick just one handgun though I'd probably pick a Glock 19 with a few 19 and 33 round magazines. I'd sacrifice lack of stopping power for larger magazine capacity.

    But if they didn't let me carry 33 round magazines for whatever reason then I'd probably go with a Glock 20 or 21.

  20. A few years ago, my son came back from the sandbox with a wad of cash burning a hole in his pocket, and bought himself a Glock 21, telling me that it was time I retired my old 1911s (like my Kimber Custom, my Combat Commander, and my Springer Loaded) and move into the 21st century.

    So we took his new plastic gun, and my Kimber to the range, and proceeded to run 1200 rounds through the two guns. He had one failure to feed, one stovepipe jam, and two failures to fire (dented primer, no bang). I saved the two that didn't fire, and as we finished policing up our brass, stuck the two rounds into an empty mag, shoved it into the Kimber, and proceeded to put them both into a quarter-sized space at 25 meters.

    To date, the Kimber has run 1750 rounds without a failure. The Springfield has run 1228 without a failure, and I couldn't tell you when the Combat Commander last bobbled. And any of them will shoot inside 3 inches at 25 meters.

    Y'all can keep your plastic guns, I'd rather have one I can count on!

  21. FWIW, You can go WAY over 1500 on a 1911 build, I've done it myself. Have some for race, some for bullseye, some for carry. Different jobs take different tools.

    For the fellow complaining about 7-8 rounds, The 14-45 I built up for myself from a Para-Ord gunsmith frame kit holds 14.

    Also for the fellow that complained about limited round capacity, I was good friends with a Gentleman by the name of Ray Chapman, who founded/invented practical pistol competition with Jack Weaver and Jeff Cooper and a few other characters, founded the Chapman Practical Pistol school in Missouri. Won multiple World championships. Has a STANCE NAMED AFTER HIM for practical shooting. He had his first practical experience turning 16 on a landing craft the day he landed on Okinawa. Carried 1911s, mostly, in his career that spanned Okinawa to CHP to Civil Engineering to Practical Shooting and Starting his School. That's Glossing Over A Lot of other things.

    We were sitting around drinking at the local, as we were neighbors until he died. Him with his traditional glass of red wine. He said "Jack Weaver (HE had a Stance Named After Him Too, you may have heard of?) and I were talking about capacity because Jack LIKED his .38s. He got mad when we went to Major and Minor power factors in practical because he used to say 'If I shoot them in the eye, what difference does it matter if it's .38 or .38Super or .45 ???'" They mostly agreed on that but they both did agree that "if you need more than 5 rounds in your handgun, you are likely in a pretty bad situation to be depending on a hand operated and held device and would probably be better off running, not shooting."

    Of course, that is just the advice of a couple people that had SEEN COMBAT and BEEN LEOs and HAD TO ACTUALLY USE FIREARMS IN ANGER. They could be wrong, I suppose.

    Personally, for carry, I like my customized by me/for me Dan W Bobtail Commander or Springer Micro-Compact, also done by me for my tastes with 8 round Virgil Trip Cobra Mags, which are the BEST .45ACP Mags on the planet because Wilson has a DEFECT in the way they make their followers, in comparison. Ray Chapman's Right Hand Gal did my custom carry holsters and the belts to match, fit to me and the guns. I'm anal that way. All the holsters and gun belts I own match. Holsters and draws work better that way.

    If something BAD look(ed)s to be happening, that's what the 6.5 Grendel with the clipped 26 rounders stuck in it by the bed, in the truck, or in the trunk is for. A pistol is for fighting to your long gun or a last ditch defense when your options are out. If you can't solve a last ditch problem with 7 rounds, you're already dead anyway.

    GLOCKs and such work better for some people. Use the tool that works for you. But High Cap magazines don't replace the need for long arms and only mall ninjas contemplate looking to get in an extended gunfight with a handgun and a bunch of 14 or 15 round mags. That's not the way most real world gunfights happen.

    Opinions are like assholes.
    That I know.
    I am one and I have one.

    But it's a rather informed opinion of somebody who's spent his life around firearms and people that actually use them or used them, both offensively and defensively, at times. Truthfully, I'm pretty comfortable with little pocket pistols in many circumstances, as if I put a .25 or .380 where I want it, it'll still end a fight.

  22. Interesting aside: Ray "liberated" a Thompson to go along with his US Rifle, .30 Cal. and 1911 as he figured he could use it more on Okinawa than any Navy boy staying on board the ship ever would. Said he carried it around for 2 days having emptied the couple mags he had for it in initial contact. Couldn't find any more mags because nobody much landed with Thompsons and nobody was much using 1911s and their ammo supplies reflected it, nobody was going to give up pistol ammo so he could use it any more because everybody was pretty light on .45 stocks. After carrying it around for 2 days he tossed it in a ravine and went back to killing Japs with his M1. Eight rounds at a time, mostly. :-)

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  24. Wow! That comment was made awhile ago...

    I do own a Springfield Armory 1911 now. Night and day to the Colt 80 series I had had before. But I still love my P220.

    My uncle had served from North Africa thru the end of the Italian Campaign. He said he was constantly amazed at how many times he saw the targets of troops using 1911's end up escaping unharmed. Take into account that these guy's were not operator's, but they put the "combat" in Combat Engineers and quite often led the way in the mountainous terrain. He carried a .38 S&W revolver he had traded for, and swore by it.

    Since my uncle went through a lot of shit and came out ok, I figured it would be wise to listen to some of his advise on such matters.

    If he was still with us, he would of bust my balls about the Springfield...

  25. The thing people need to realize about WWII production 1911 pistols is that they were being made just about as fast as they could be, and many shortcuts were made on the original design.

    In short, the focus was to get as many of them made as humanly possible, and not to make them of consistent quality.