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)

  • jim davis

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    when it comes to concealed carry of a 45 i own and carry either a para ordnance para carry or warthog wtth a 3 inch barrel both are extremely lightweight (23 oz) and easy to conceal .

    Reply

  • Martin Pierce

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    Happy 75th belated? I’m 66 and hoping for more– I haven’t shot every gun I could possibly shoot yet. My Wife is sick of gun talk. Her and her friend are dropping me off at Home Town Buffet, then they are going somewhere else to eat dinner without me. I was born with a gun teething ring in my mouth I think. I had to move the guns off of the bed at home before we got married on the Queen Mary ship. You know the drill–me or the guns go!. They ended up on the sofa for a week afterwards until I bought a gun safe. Got to break off now because the computer is overheating and its time to get ready to go and Move Out!.

    Reply

  • Martin Pierce

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    It Happens–I use both about equal now, but was a 1911 person years before the Glock. I believe for me they even shoot to the same point of aim. At one time I had a LOOOOng Barrell bushing you could cock your 1911 against any hard surface. They were marketed to Women that dont have the slide jacking hand strength. I found them to be a pretty handy item. Maybe your wounded and only have one hand to change mag and cock it. About the same as running a long compensated and muzzel braked barrell. Call me a Sissy if you like, but thats my take on it. Basic training dictates keep finger out of trigger guard and dont play quick draw. it happens during and before shift assignments @ police depts. every so often. I wont say all the time but–.

    Reply

  • retired75th

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    Very good article. I was first trained on the Colt 1911 in the 60’s. It is what I know best and feel most comfortable with. Carried a 1911 and a .38 for 32 months in Vietnam. Been an FFL and a smith for 30 or so yrs now. Worked on many many 1911 and 1991 over the years, and have 14 in my collection, incl two 1911M. I rely on the 1911 and 1991. I also have 3 GLocks, an XD and an M&P, and actually a big fan of them. All are GREAT pistols. However, it was very hard to transition from a 1991 to the Glock, XD and M&P mostly due to the safety features or, in my opinion, lack of them. I Feel comfortable with a grip safety, slide lock, sear block combination. Not so comfortable with a split trigger safety. If you have a tight holster, or after an “incident”, you got the nerves and you attempt to holster your weapon in a cockeyed manner, you are probably safe with a 1911, but not necessarily with a GLock. There are many more negligent discharges with these polymer guns (like Glock) than I think are reported on, IMO. Pushing that slide just a 3/8″ or so will cock a Glock and you can do it without knowing. Again I am a fan of the polymers like GLock. Great for fun, for the range, competition, nightstand, but not for carry, not for me. I know LE and security likes these polymer guns with the trigger safety so they can get into the fight quicker, and that is a selling point. When I worked diplomatic security, I carried a 1991A1, and a Wesson 357, while the young guys carried polymers. Over two yr period, I know of 4 accidental (negligent) discharges – just two yrs, and these guys were all vets and should have known better. Just my 2 cents.

    Reply

    • JMass_M14

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      Shame there’s not a “Like” button here, I’d click it for your opinion, retired75th. As you stated, if the actual number of “ADs” were reported, the figure might be frightening! Read an article recently that said you can almost guarantee that any gunsmith who’s been in the business for any length of time is sure to have an unintentional hole drilled in his/her workbench. I’ve only been around handguns since 2001 (after 9/11), but I’ve come awfully close to having an extra hole in my bench due to polymer-framed type guns. Only strict adherence to Gun Safety Law (my definition) number one has prevented it: ALWAYS treat a gun as loaded.

      Reply

  • Martin Pierce

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    I’m so sorry for that, TRUELY. Maybe a Medical Shuttle service that works with your Ins. plan–they help you in places and pick you up.

    Reply

  • Martin Pierce

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    Yeah, and UGLY too–Just jokeing. Well, I might be jokeing but–there is no such thing as an ugly gun (My opinion Only). Wear and Tear and lost finish is sometimes the best. Take my Old Pair of cowboy boots from way back. Just now wearing them in. These new ones hurt and I don’t wear them.

    Reply

  • Martin Pierce

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    Big Glock Fan Mod. 20 10mm. Big 1911 fan, also have a Colt series ’70 .45acp. Im about equal on either one either way. The Glock in my spandex t-shirt under arm pocket under hawaiian shirt. The series ’70 in my inside pocket Navy pigskin WW 2 jacket. On the 8th day, God created the 1911; on the 9th day he created the Glock.

    Reply

    • JMass_M14

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      Always wanted a G-20, just never added it to inventory. Spent a lot on a G-22 ’cause to me it’s the “convertible” Glock: bought a 9mm conversion barrel from Lone Wolf and some G-17 mags — shoot cheaper. Bought a G-35 barrel (yeah, it sticks out!) for a little more accuracy… although I’m not that good to begin with – hehehe! Never did buy a .357 sig barrel, though. My understanding is that you can still use the .40 cal mags, but never researched that thoroughly. I know I’d pick the G-22 over the G-17 any day… but, like I said at the beginning, haven’t even shot a G-20. On my bucket list, tho!

      Currently curious about .22 LR conversion for the 1911: unlike most other people, still have about 3500 rounds of .22 lying around and no more Ruger 10-22 to use it up on! Seen conversion prices around $200-$220… but then there’s that Chiappa 1911 .22 out there for not much more… damn… decisions, decisions!

      Reply

  • JMass_M14

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    Been carrying a 1911, series 70 for past 6 months now… quite happily, in fact. Using a Blackhawk reinforced leather belt and either my Crossbreed holster or Don Hume, have yet to feel any discomfort at the end of the day. I’ve always been amused by the changing standards associated with concealed carry, when the significant factor about whether you’re truly “concealed” is always determined by the grip of the firearm… the bigger the grip, the more likely you’re going to ‘expose’. Yet I never fear that with my 1911 due to its slim profile.

    I used to be a Glock fan… still am, to some extent, I suppose, but I no longer carry a Glock, simply because I hide the 1911 a lot easier… (I’m 5′ 11″, 140 lbs., so I’m not hiding things all that easy to begin with!)

    And, as an NRA RSO, I appreciate the safety features of the 1911. Glocks can be great competition guns (especially for IDPA), yet when you lighten the trigger for competition, you almost eliminate that gun for CCW purposes… but I feel quite comfortable with the 4 lb. trigger on my .45.

    Reply

  • Secundius

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    @ Martin Pierce.

    I saw a REAL NICE looking, .Colt 1911BSM, British Service Model 455Webley for sale. But, at $2,950. USD. a little too much GREEN for me.

    Reply

  • Martin Pierce

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    Arn’t Public and Private facilities required to follow the Federal Law policy on reasonable access to the Handicapped? to necessary areas when needed.

    Reply

    • Secundius

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      @ Martin Pierce.

      In theory, YES. In practice NO. Example, Near where i live theirs a hospital that I have to go too, for Wound Therapy. The Hospital site, sits on top of a hill, approximately 100-meter away, at the bottom of the hill is the parking lot. In order for me to get too the hospital, I have to propel my 240-pound mass and my 16-pound, Wheelchair us a 40-degree Upward Slop. By the time I get up the hill, at the very least 45-minutes has passed and I Drop-Dead of a Heart-Attack Tired. And then sit in the lobby area, either to regenerate my strength, or wait for an available Human Transporter. To take me the rest of the way to my destination. After, Wound Center Therapy, I then reverse the procedure and try not too burn-out my leather gloves. Trying to brake going down the same hill. I probably go through 100-pair of Leather-Palmed Carpenter’s Gloves per year.

      Reply

    • JMass_M14

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      Hmmm, sounds like you’re describing the VA hospital in Muskogee… sits on a steep hill and if you don’t get there at 07:00 am, you have that steep hill to climb. But: they just started a “valet” service a few months back. Pull up to main entrance and they’ll park your car in a roped-off lot. Just avoid afternoon appointments: valet parking is always full-up in the p.m.! Go figure!

      Reply

    • Secundius

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      @ JMass_M14.

      It is a VA Hospital of sorts, Not the Veterans Administration Hospital types, but, the State of Virginia types. I keep thinking about the Architects that are sitting around the conference table. Asking themselves, but not each other, about what they overlooked. and not saying anything, because it might make them look like fools. Then building the hospital, and with that still nagging question, in the back of their collective minds. Say, what did I overlook. Then watching the first patient being wheeled in, in a wheelchair. Then looking dumbfounded, and then saying out loud like a church choir, in unison, THE HANDICAPPED!!! Then having to scramble, too make their hospital Handicap Friendly.

      Reply

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