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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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 (83)

  • Martin Pierce


    make a holster from indoor-outdoor carpet. lay gun on, trace around with marker. try fit, sew, if good, cut sew, use for pattern. buy old leather jacket @ goodwill, cut out lining for inside leather holster, glue with rubber cement; stitch up holster, add belt loop, clip and/ or riveted steel back plate for stiffness on belt. Tip: make your own 2″ leather belt, anything less is useless, add retainers, snaps, etc., etc., etc..Buy whole side of cow leather from tandy leather, 10/ 20 oz cowhide, or scraps. make holsters forever from whole side. saddle skirting / stirrup leather is good for holsters. making holsters, other stuff for 30 yrs. now.


    • Secundius


      @ Martin Pierce.

      How’s the Move, How’s is the Foot, How’s Nevada, I thought your wife Finally came to her senses, and did you in (LOL). Was looking through CA. Obituaries, didn’t see you name!!!


  • S. Gregory


    As a comfortably retired cop (1979 – 2000), I carried .38, .357, 9mm, & .40 over the years. I bought a Llama 1911 clone that was on a police turn-in sale. The previous owner trusted it enough to use it as his final solution to his worldly problems. It sat in a police impound for eight years with blood and brains clogging up the works, not to mention ruining the bluing. I bought it because of my father’s fond memories from WWII. After a loooooong cleaning process that I will not go into details here, I had it re-blued, and had the barrel ported and polished to feed hollow-points reliably. That’s the only work it has had done. I consistantly pull 10 inch groups at 25 yards. As far as concealed carry goes, I do a little leather work here and there, so I molked my own inside the belt holster. It looks funky, since I built it wrong side out (on purpose). This gives me a smooth draw from the grain side of the leather, as well as giving a rough outside that grips my clothes from inside. I also pulled a switch on most holsters by reversing the grip so the grip points outward from my spine. If you want a comparison, reach back and scratch your spine. Then, rub your spine with theback of your hand. The palm out reach Iis more natural, at least for me. As far as stopping power goes, I hear a lot about hyper-velocity meaning greater stopping power. I have to refer to ballistic gelatin tests that show 9mm hollow-points traveling up to 17 inches through the gel before stopping. The .45only travels about 6 – 8 Iinches of penetration. Hmmmm. The average human body is about 12 inches front to back. That means that the 9mm is going to exit the back, still travelling at over 1000 fps. The .45on the other hand spends 100 percent of kinetic energy without leaving the target. Unless you’resshooting at Shamu, you are way over compensating for something. Sorry to get so long winded, but you got on MY personal soapbox with this post. Thanks.


  • Secundius


    If anyone or anybody runs across a De Lisle .45ACP Commando Carbine or a De Lisle .45ACP Parachute Carbine, for sale let me know, please.


  • lamont


    Well said Dennis. I like the comforting part not comfortable. Preaching to the choir Brother !


  • dennis shaffer


    Cocked n locked. 12 years now. Yes it’s heavy, but carrying concealed should be comforting not comfortable. 1911, proven and reliable. worried about magazine compacity carry extra’s. when nano seconds count single action cocked n locked 1911 get’s the job done


  • Henry


    I carry a vintage Colt with a Series 70 slide, Leeper sights, Bianchi pancake holster OWB, never prints outside coat. Love it


  • Scott Puckett


    I began a career as a police officer in 1974 and carried a 1911 on duty or off duty for 30 years. I retired 10 years ago and still choose to carry a 1911 almost exclusively. It fits my hand and I shoot it well. (I still shoot IDPA and 3Gun with a 1911 to keep my skill level up.)
    As for a holster for concealed carry, I have been carrying an Andrews IWB model for 15 years and find it to be the best I’ve ever used.


  • Joe Gunn


    I carried a Kimber Ultra Carry 45 with a 3 inch barrel in Texas for 5 years. I found this gun to be very comfortable to carry concealed and it was excellent at the range. I am currently using it for PPC match shooting. I like the safety features since we draw from a holster as part of the match. I also carried a military 1911 for two years while in the Army MPs. Thus I am very partial to the 1911 45 handgun.


    • Secundius


      @ Joe Gunn.

      What can you say, the M1911 in .45ACP is a Universal Translator, just point it at someone. And they already know what your saying, in any language.


    • JMass_M14


      HAHA! Yeah, sort of the same “Universal…” as my Remington 870 chambering a round. Whoever (or Whatever) was on the other side of my front door is long gone before I open it…

      Actually, I used to keep a round in the chamber at home (no kids around anymore), but I just LOVE that sound!


  • retired75th


    Thanks for the comment – JMASS. Like I teach my kids, – all guns are always loaded all the time and the best safety is keeping your finger out of the trigger well. You asked about glock mags I think. I have a Glock 22 in 40SW and a Glock 32 in .357 SIG. YEs the mags are interchangeable for gen 1,2 and 3. Gen 4 are ambi guns, so mags are different. However, the 357 mags are stamped on the back .357, same for the 40SW mags. Keep in mind also that the G22 mags are a bit longer than the G32 mags, so they will extend out about 1/2″ or so. You can buy mag spacers if you like. I bought half dozen G22 mags with 15 rd capacity on sale about a month ago and can use them with my G32. The G32 mags are typically more expensive than the G22 was the reason. Got them from Brownells. Also have a Glock 19 in 9mm, which I Prefer over the G17 which I was issued. All three are great shooters, accurate and not picky re ammo. I Have an XD that has advantage over the GLocks with a grip safety. I thought it was a bit gimmicky at first in terms of design, but it does work well. I also like that you CANNOT rack the slide, or move it, if the grip safety is not depressed. I would guess that one out of 50 guys that come into my shop for work, will have a round in the chamber. In 30 yrs I had 3 or 4 cases where the barrel was blocked solid and the owner did not know. I always clear and rod every gun that comes into the shop period. I am the only one working in the shop, and I admit to being an sob re safety. Yes I know some guys who have a 55 gal drum with sand and they test fire in the shop and they occasionally have ND’s. aside from injuries inside, you can have injuries outside as well since walls are typically not bullet proof. Even more true at home.


  • Martin Pierce


    Here where I live is a Memorial Hospital with that service to the front door then they park your car and bring it back when your ready. Have to be the early bird to get the Worm–Like before the sun comes up. I have Scrapnel fragments in my spine that the doctor said the bone would grow over it. Fortunatley, not to close to the cord and they are minute. But occassionally, my back flairs up and I must take something for it. Prescriptions cost money so I prefer a good belt or two of Jim Beam when it happens. I like to dip my Oreo Cookies in heated J B for a added Sugar Rush. Va @ one time wanted to work on me but I said no to that. I’ll be happy to Suffer in a sugar induced haze If necessary.


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