Heavy Insurance: The 1911 for Concealed Carry

By Bob Campbell published on in Concealed Carry, Firearms

As a professional, I take every handgun on its own merits. I take dry lines and trope and infuse the technical with life, making it interesting for you, the reader. Having an idea is not as difficult as putting it together.

Man in white shirt practicing with a 1911, wooded area in the background

The 1911 is fast into action and controllable—note two cases in the air and back on target.

While I try to be fair to every pistol, I have been taken to task for my devotion to the 1911. I think confidence is a better term. There is a sense of history and emotional attachment that cannot be denied; there also is respect for an implement designed to save lives, one that performs better than any other when you study all particulars in zero gauge.

Critics of the 1911 often are uncomfortable with the piece for one reason or another. Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, although we are not entitled to our own facts.

Let’s get the facts straight.

Choosing the Right Pistol

More than once, I have been in situations when my life was on the line, and I am not about to choose a handgun based on ego. I did not choose the 1911 arbitrarily. I did not decide to carry the piece because it was expected of me. The opposite is true, and it was a struggle to have the pistol approved by the various agencies for which I worked. My research and personal experience led to the 1911.

Gray haired man practicing with a 1911

When all is said and done, cocked and locked, the 1911 and a high level of training are the best choices for those willing to engage in meaningful training and practice.

I did not choose the pistol; I recognized its efficiency.

I have a strong interest in competition and hunting, as well as personal defense. There are handguns better suited to a certain niche than the 1911, yet none is as all-around useful.

The ergonomics are unchallenged.

  • It fits most hands well.
  • The controls are laid out perfectly for the reach of the average hand.
  • The low-bore axis limits muzzle flip.

Comparing the 1911 to other types, well, if you fumble the draw and aim at a stationary target, the advantages are not as apparent.

Many years ago, when I first drew the 1911 from the Don Hume thumb break, there was something different.

  • My hand funneled into the grip strap.
  • I drew and placed my finger straight along the frame as my thumb actuated the safety.
  • My hands met in a two-hand grip.
  • The angle of deflection in the grips of which Cooper spoke was apparent.
  • My hand did not feel overstretched but comfortable.
  • The straight-to-the-rear trigger compression felt right.
  • At every step and for every trigger press, I was in control and performing as well as possible with a handgun.
  • When the .45 fired, I knew I held a powerful handgun, yet it abraded neither my palm nor my senses. There were no eddies in my skin.
  • Since the centerline of the bore was relatively close to the hand, there was little leverage for the muzzle to rise.
  • I began firing double taps. An instant second shot printed very close to the first.
  • Tracking between targets was excellent.
  • I could reasonably expect to double tap three targets in the same time frame that it once took to hit three targets with the Combat Magnum (practice is the key).

Safety First

Light handled 1911 in a tan IWB holster

There are times when only an inside-the-waistband holster will do. Note how the wings of this Rock N S leather holster spread the weight of the gun along the beltline.

I appreciate the safety features of the 1911 while realizing true safety is between the ears. When the pistol is properly carried, cocked and locked, hammer to the rear and slide-lock safety engaged, the sear is locked. The pistol cannot fire. If you drop the pistol while the safety is off, the grip safety prevents it from firing. I like those features very much.

A Proven Design

While some say the 1911 is dated, that is far from true. While I prefer the original type for most uses, some modern 1911 handguns have space-age finishes (stainless steel is pretty modern for me), and some examples sport accessory rails for mounting combat lights.

The 1911 is among the most proven of all handgun designs, and not only in the hoary pages of some 1911 Army test. The FBI tested the Springfield Professional Model to the tune of 20,000 rounds without a single malfunction. While the Springfield Professional is not an inexpensive handgun, comparable models, such as the Springfield TRP and Springfield Loaded Model, offer much the same durability, although not quite the same fit and accuracy.

The 1911 is the fastest of the big-bore handguns into action—period—and the fastest to an accurate first shot. Compact versions are available that offer real comfort while giving up little in efficiency. The Colt Commander remains a classic I appreciate very much.

A Look at Ammunition

Man in white shirt practicing with a 1911, wooded area in the background

The 1911 has plenty of power for every reasonable defensive situation.

The cartridge deserves some attention. The .45 ACP originated in a day when most handgun cartridges were low-pressure numbers. The .455 Webley, for example, pushed a 265-grain bullet at only 650 fps. That made the .45 ACP a powerhouse in comparison with a 230-grain jacketed bullet at 820 fps. The combination has proven enough for personal defense and, in fact, has an unrivaled record.

Historical data is there, and so are empirical tests. There are those who have offered so-called studies with zero validity. A test that is unrepeatable and unverifiable and a report that uses secret sources are highly suspect, to say the least. Suffice it to say, the .45 ACP cartridge has a good balance of power and control. Modern expanding bullet ammunition is well designed and makes the most of the .45 ACP.

There is only so much you can add to a cartridge that begins with a bullet with .451-inch diameter without expansion.

When you consider all of the advantages of the 1911, the pistol is a model of human engineering. Ergonomics inspiration or common sense (or whatever you choose to call it), the 1911 is a wonderful handgun on all counts. It is a handgun that gives good men and women every advantage against our protein-fed, ex-con criminal class.

Give the 1911 an honest try, and you may reach the same conclusion.

1911 for Concealed Carry?

Brown and black Avenger type high ride holster with 1911

The Avenger-type high-ride holster is ideal under a covering garment. Note the high ride and well-designed holstering welt.

All right, you say, all of that is proven on the range, but what about carrying the 1911? Is it not long and heavy? Those features are among the best advantages of the 1911. It is long and thin and concealable. When the piece is cocked and locked, you can shove it into a tight-fitting holster without the slide moving to the rear, and the trigger does not get caught in the holstering welt, belt loop or safety strap.

I like that very much.

The flat, smooth, lines of the 1911 promote a fast draw. I want to make an important point about concealed carry. I do not find a handgun that is easily concealed and then attempt to make it work well on the range. Rather, I find out if the pistol is effective on the range.

I do not hope the cartridge will work for me; I choose a proven number I know will work. With that in mind, there are a number of quality concealed-carry holsters that make carrying the 1911 concealed effective, and like any handgun, bearable to keep close to the body.

Concealment and comfort are two different issues.

Galco IWB on a tan belt with a black-handled 1911 against a white shirt

This Galco IWB features excellent quality and dual belt loops for security. The level of retention is high.

If you work at it, even a service-grade handgun can be concealed. It is simply more comfortable to conceal a lighter handgun. When all is said and done, there is nothing faster to an accurate first shot than the 1911 handgun, and nothing else offers its the combination of speed, accuracy and power.

  • You must choose a first-class inside-the-waistband holster for best results.
  • You also must choose a service-grade leather belt heavy enough to support the weight of a 40-ounce 1911 .45. Thin department store belts will not work, although that is true of most any handgun.

With a proper belt and holster, the 1911 can be worn professionally and with a guarantee of speed and concealment for those who practice.

Do you use a 1911 for concealed carry? Why, or why not? Do share with your fellow shooters in the comment section.

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SLRule

Bob Campbell is a former peace officer and published author with over 40 years combined shooting and police and security experience. Bob holds a degree in Criminal Justice. Bob is the author of the books, The Handgun in Personal Defense, Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry, The 1911 Automatic Pistol, The Gun Digest Book of Personal Protection and Home Defense, The Shooter’s Guide to the 1911, The Hunter and the Hunted, and The Complete Illustrated Manual of Handgun Skills. His latest book is Dealing with the Great Ammo Shortage. He is also a regular contributor to Gun Tests, American Gunsmith, Small Arms Review, Gun Digest, Concealed Carry Magazine, Knife World, Women and Guns, Handloader and other publications. Bob is well-known for his firearm testing.

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Comments (82)

  • Erwin F

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    I have three main carry pistols. Most days it is a Glock 30s. The stubby lines of the 30S and light weight, along with the ten round capacity make it attractive for the purpose. IWB carry is preferred, in a Galco Triton Kydex holster which is convenient and very concealable. While light, he 30s is a fat, thick little pistol and after a few hours it begins to wear on me.

    When I can, I also carry my Ruger SR1911CMD, also in a Triton IWB holster. The 1911 is more comfortable to carry than the Glock for longer than a few hours since it is thinner and the length has a bit of a tendency to spread the friction around a little more. This is still an all steel pistol, yet with the Triton holster it feels lighter.. The only drawback is the longer, squarer grip frame sometimes will print easier with flighter fabrics or garments. I use it mainly with sweats, jackets or vests where I know there is little chance of it printing. I carry it cocked and locked. It also happens to be the pistol I shoot the best with and I am very confident carrying it,, though I do quite well with the Glock too.

    For other times I carry a Kahr CW9 in either a Stow and Go IWB or a little custom Kydex IWB holster. Both are very concealable and comfortable for all day carry. This is my Summer carry pistol. It is both reliable and accurate. It is also easy to handle and shoot, feeling a bit like a small 1911. The trigger is very different than either the Glock or 1911 and requires a long deliberate pull for each shot, and is similar inn feel to a quality double action revolver.

    Lately I have been considering the purchase of one of the Kimber, Sig or Dan Wesson pistols with a bobtail grip. I believe such a pistol in Commander length could just about replace the other three pistols for most situations and still allow me to carry with my favorite .45 ACP cartridge. My opinion is based on the carry experience with the other three pistols.

    Reply

  • mr. lamont

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    You’re preaching to the choir Secundius

    Reply

  • Joseph A Dixon

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    I often carry a springfeild full sized 1911. its a reliable gun with a powerful round. Of course function is not the only important thing, its good looking to. However it is a heavy weapon and should be used with a good holster and belt. As for me, wellf i use a cheap wallmart belt though and its worked fine so far so one doesn’t have to go all pricey if they don’t want even thought it might be more ideal. Anyway if ones looking for maximal concealability and ease of carry it might be good to look elsware, but if one wants a good looking, accurate, durable, powerful, and safe gun and can handle the extra heft of the thing, then it might be the right fit for you.

    Reply

  • Martin Pierce

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    Yes, there are squirrles–and possums’, and stray cats too. There all in my Avocado tree and back yard. Im a Cat Lover–but squirrles and possums make a great stew. I hate digging out the pellets though. Add salt, pepper, celery, carrots; in a crock pot, simmer on medium over night then enjoy.

    Reply

  • Martin Pierce

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    I was born self reliant and my father taught me the rest. I can dish it out faster than she can respond back. I have a huge vocabulary of dish it out quips I use when I need to. My father, God Love Him, used to say “Two Minutes of Pleasure, 20 yrs. of Misery”. I live by the theory that my bubble is thicker than hers or anyone elses–and the Life Insurance Policy is STILL in my name. Just gas my boat, gas my Suburban gather up my guns and DVD’s and head for my Gold mine I have in Idaho. One road in, one road out @ 8000′ + 26 acres with it. No Gold, but plenty of silence and solitude and HUNTING!. I’ll send you a Picture when i figure out how.

    Reply

    • Secundius

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      @ Martin Pierce.

      Any biped-Squirrels (bundyious sciurus) in the area.

      Reply

  • Martin Pierce

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    Just buy a Mac 10 in .45 acp w/ barrell extension and some 30 rnd. mags. Only run the hot stuff through it though. It takes a lot of Omph to push that heavy steel bolt back all the way. Its a one minute or so takedown time to strip the bolt, spring, and upper receiver and screw off the barrell extension. Just wrap the barrell extension with insulation or you’ll have bacon fingers real quick.

    Reply

  • Martin Pierce

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    Life is never Ending Fun until you die. But, on the other hand, you don’t worry about wives, bank accts. (If you have any left), friends or enemies, parts for your vehicle and all that other stuff. Just remember–If it has Tires , or T______S!, your going to have trouble with it.

    Reply

    • Secundius

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      @ Martin Pierce.

      The text book definition of Insanity is, Try different methods or things, to come to the same conclusion. Then there’s Female Physics, “No matter what you say or do, your always going to be WRONG. Just sit there and look STUPID, its much safer that way. If she ask you. Do you like this Dress, Do you like these Shoes, Do you like may Hair. etc, etc, etc. It’s a DEATH QUESTION, Keep your mouth shut. DON’T !!! SAY!!! ANYTHING!!! She has your LIFE in her hands. It’s God’s Cruelest Joke To Man, WIVE’S/WOMAN/WOMEN/DAUGHTER’S. IT’S ALL THE SAME. Take care of yourself Martin Pierce, Nice knowing you!!!

      Reply

  • Martin Pierce

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    Wait a minute, not in Nev. yet. Too much junk to throw away (Did I say That?). I never throw anything away!. Foot OK, A________ is sore from too much b. s. Just ordered 2 50′ lb. boxes of wheel weights from amazon and shipped to Nev. Pick up over Christmas and bring back home for casting. all clean and ready to go except for removing the clips from–.and flux. Will start on New Years day when wife goes to indian bingo and wins me some more money. She’s getting stingy in her old age. No bullets I said, “No Jewelry Either”!. So there.

    Reply

    • Secundius

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      @ Martin Pierce.

      Glade to here it. I’m up too 86-websites, now??? OHHHH THE FUN.

      Reply

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