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.

View all articles by Bob Campbell

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Comments (83)

  • bob

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    Rob,

    You are my twin!

    Shoot fast drive slow.

    Reply

  • Rob

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    I legally carry a full sized 1911 .45 ACP using an Alien Gear IWB holster daily. If I’m up, its on, and I’m a T shirt and shorts wearing person. Is it concealable? Definitely!! Had a conversation with a police officer at a local car show and never once had the question come up asking if I was carrying. I prefer the 1911 for self defense, because I know when I pull the trigger it’s going to make a loud bang…

    Reply

  • Thor

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    I kept waiting for that compressed spring idea to show up on Myth Busters but have either missed it or they never covered it. Having carried a 1911
    both in the US Army and as a police officer I never had a round fail to feed. I switched to S&W to get double action and eliminate constant comments from observers, “Did you know your pistol was cocked?”.

    Never went to 4 rounds either but then I usually empty the mag at least once a month. Anyone heard much about FBI regs regarding ammo? One gunshop employee just wanted to argue and argue that if I shot an intruder (dead) a big deal would be made if the ammo was reloads or FBI approved? Thanks, Thor

    Reply

    • Secundius

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      @ Thor.

      You might try looking us some Russian/English Websites. The ex-Soviet Union/Russian Federation (Oxymoron), have been using Compressed Spring technology, for at least the last 50-years, or so.

      Reply

  • Hank Alvarez

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    Depending on your situational needs I’ve found the 1911 in the 45 ACP to be the answer for personal security. From my experience in the Marine Corps in the 60’s I hated the thing, but mine has been customized to me and now I like it. It’s not light, nor is it a little weapon that’s easy to conceal but when needed it you know that the odds are going to be in your favor that it will do the job.

    A friend carries a hammerless sub compact 38 special designed for concealment. He let me shoot it and it’s no pleasure, but then he says that not why he carries it.

    Where I live in Southern California conceal carry is very difficult to get approved by the local sheriff’s office unless you can prove that you frequently carry jewels or large amounts of cash. Hopefully, that will soon be a thing of the past. Although we have an attorney general and an administration that deludes itself into thinking we don’t need anything but a phone for self defense.

    What I’m going to say next may start an argument; but for the sake of simplicity, I think I’d rather carry a revolver. When I got my 1911, home protection was one of the main reasons. On my own, I worried about the effect it would have on the magazine spring being constantly compressed, weakening? Our rang coach agreed and suggested we only keep four rounds in it or purchase a revolver, which we did.

    Our 357 revolver is no light weight and carrying and concealing it wouldn’t be easy. Hiding it and an extra speed loader would be even more obvious than my 1911. We’ve purchased custom leather holsters for all of our pistols but the 22’s and those are just as big and heavy as the larger calibers. Our holsters are made for comfort and utility not concealment. I think I’d have to be wearing a big jacket to be able to hide the 357. The 1911 is thinner and I would think easier to conceal if that was the point. Frankly, I’d rather people see it.

    Reply

  • Scotty

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    1911 45 ACP is not a light weapon to carry or handle. Individuals with more muscular upper body strength have a better advantage with this weapon. Lighter framed individuals seem to shy away from the heavier weight and recoil being unable, even with extensive practice, to control the aim for a twofer. Though a exceptional weapon, literally in all aspects, the weight and barrel length of the original standard overwhelmed many a shooter.

    Now on another SORE subject…..just where the heck is all my 22 ammo going??? Where is it!!!!! Can’t help but think that the “Mental Health Posterboy” Joe Biden-my -time until another breakdown admission, has something to do with this shortage. He is probably using his office clout and extensive hands on experience to steer manufactures to produce more shotgun shells for home defense needs?? ( Satire ).

    All humor aside…where is the 22 ammo?????????

    Reply

  • Mc Ruger

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    I’m not a 1911 fan nor am I a 45 fan. .40 cal is my bullet of choice. That might be because I have not spent a lot of time with 45s or the 1911 platform. I will say that the 45s I have shot seem to have considerably less muzzle flip then my .40s but 40s are just plain flippy. I never really cared for the cock and lock thing with 1911s but maybe it’s time to give a good 1911 a real trial and add it to the collection.

    Reply

    • Nam Marine

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      Mc Ruger, Don’t skimp….buy a Colt 1911. A very wise investment.
      I have a Colt Government 1911 in stainless steel !

      Reply

  • Secundius

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    @ Martin Pierce.

    US. made stainless steel may be different in the manufacturing process. I think, but not 100% sure, they treat the metal with an anti-static chemical or varnish, or even possibly Clear-Coat them. In the tumbling process after stamping them.

    Reply

  • Martin Pierce

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    I thought it was because of possible hot embers from the previous ignition of the Black Powder. Brass was easy to work and liter than IRON. I dont believe steel tech had evolved enough then. They would always swab the barrel with a damp rod so as to extenguish any hot embers?. Maybe?. I’m getting Radiation burn from my cheap sylvania 32″ monitor/tv. I have to go drink a Jim Beam cocktail with Iodine and Ice in some Tonic Water

    Reply

  • Secundius

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    @ Martin Pierce.

    If you have too get .45ACP. Get either Stainless Steel or Brass Cartridges. Russian made steel cartridges are made from stamped steel and not, stainless. Brass, I think are still better and safer, but steel is easier to produce in mass quantities. The reason is “Static Electricity”, the reason 17th/18th/19th-century Naval Ships lined their “Shot Lockers/Magazines” in brass. Was to reduce accidental explosions aboard ships, because of Static Electricity build-up,. Just thought you might like too know, for your own Piece-Of-Mind and Safety. If you plan to storage ammunition aboard a boat for any length of time, Either line your Storage Locker with Brass Foil or get/make a “Faraday Cage”. Or you can get an Anti-Static Storage Device, for companies that specialize in sell Electronic Devices (example Radio Shack). The reason I mention this, is because Salt-Water or Salt in general, has a Positive Electrical Charge.

    Reply

  • Martin Pierce

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    There is NO ammo shortage @ the factory. Lets see, aaaaaaaa!–12% of the population have guns (dont quote me). Handgun ammo used to be 50 to the box?–now its 20. Aaaaaa!, everybody has a car, but there is NO shortage of gasoline, or insurance companys willing to sell you Ins. Aaaaa!, groceries are expensive now, but there is NO shortage of Corn Flakes or Junk food. There is No shortage of Presidential Candates to run for office. But not enough people to elect the Right one. Fill in your answer in the Blank space–____________________.

    Reply

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