While I do have a few good rifles and shotguns, I find handguns the most interesting. The handgun is fascinating functionally and operationally, and most interesting are those historically used to preserve the Republic. Simple pride of ownership is reason enough for owning the handgun, giving it a value beyond practicality.
My handgun is a 1911. The term 1911 once meant the Colt Army gun, although now the term encompasses dozens of makers and numerous variations of the 1911 theme. There is no handgun that suits me as well. I have been taken to task as to that choice more than once, and no matter how the argument is planned, or how skillfully the opponent measures his skill at linguistic jousting, he cannot persuade me to feel differently. Every year that goes by reinforces my faith in the 1911 pistol and, in fact, it seems that more and better 1911s are yet to come.
Why I Choose the 1911
I did not arbitrarily choose the 1911. I did not choose the 1911 because it is a good-looking gun or because it was expected. I recognized the 1911 for what it is. You simply cannot undermine the persuasive evidence in favor of it. If a Smith and Wesson Model 10 .38 Special revolver had been the ne plus ultra of handguns, I would have kept my old, heavy-barrel Military and Police. It was not. The Browning High Power was not, either; the low-bid, polymer-frame guns also are not. The 1911 offers the best combination of fighting pistol attributes of anything I have tested.
The term synergy comes to mind. Synergy is the interaction between elements or forces in a manner that makes the combination of those elements more effective than the individual elements operating separately. While I favor the 1911, I have not avoided firing every other type of handgun. I have gone through case lots of ammunition testing all types of firearms. I do not believe I wasted the ammunition because I learned a great deal about handgun construction and performance.
Handgun geometry is rather simple. The grip has to be comfortable and the controls in ready reach of the digits. The grip should be angled to present the sights toward the target. I discovered the 1911 early in my quest; just the same, I continued to test others. After 40 years, I concluded that nothing equals the 1911 in the important particulars. Few handguns even approach the deadly efficiency of the 1911 in trained hands.
The Benefits of the 1911
With the 1911 the best at what it does, we are led to ask what a handgun should do. The handgun is a personal-defense weapon, purely and simply. A threat is not enough, and the mere presence of a handgun is not enough. A handgun must be brought into action quickly and strike a powerful blow with some degree of accuracy. Speed and power are not negotiable, but accuracy requirements depend on the mission. I have seen few 1911s that are not accurate enough to save your life even at a long 50 yards. When you are under the terrifying oppression of fear, a 1911 is a great equalizer.
- The 1911 features an ideal blend of weight and balance.
- The cartridge is the most powerful we are likely to be able to control well in a 40-ounce handgun and does well in handguns appreciably lighter than that.
- The bore axis, or the height of the middle of the bore above the hand, is low enough that muzzle flip is limited.
- There is little leverage for the muzzle to rise.
- The controls are in the ideal location for rapid and sure manipulation.
- The trigger press is straight to the rear.
- The single-action trigger is among the great advantages of the 1911; it is well suited for service use and may be tuned to a very crisp let-off.
- Durability is unquestioned.
- The 1911 may be broken or mishandled, and it outlasts all except the most dedicated competition shooters.
- The pistol stands tons of abuse and continue to operate. I have seen pistols with cracked frames and a broken barrel bushing continue to function.
The modern 1911 is a far different pistol than the one introduced in 1911 to the Army and available commercially in 1912. Just the same, a trooper who served in Mexico would instantly recognize the modern 1911 pistol. The 1911 is an enigma. A contemporary of the Ford Model T, the 1911 has outlived its competition and is a milestone of engineering expertise.
The pistol is as accurate as anyone can hold in its best examples.It fits most hands well, with a natural feel that seems inspired. Let me expound a little. The grip you affirm with the 1911 allows you to take control of the handgun, aim it correctly and recover it from recoil. The barrel should line up with the forearm and help propagate the locked wrist. The 1911 meets those requirements. Remember, once you have acquired a grip in the holster, you have to live with it throughout the firing sequence. There is nothing that feels like a 1911, and no grip as comfortable to the human hand.
The 1911 Saves Lives
Throughout the years I have interviewed many gunfight survivors. Those who used the .38 Special, .357 Magnum or 9mm relate the tactics they used and tell you what they did to survive. “I did this and prevailed” or “I managed to survive” are the common quotes. Those who use a 1911 will tell you that the gun saved their lives. They used the pistol competently, and the awesome efficiency of the 1911 stood them well. Trainers tell us shooters often perform at a fraction of their “range capacity” when engaged in a life-or-death situation.
I believe trained shooters retain far more of their learned capacity during a critical incident when they have trained with a 1911. A rough trigger and a grip that does not fit well are easily overcome on the range with practice and dedication, and you are lured in to false confidence. You may feel you are good enough for any defensive need. Are you?
The 1911 is simply a different breed. I have little patience with detractors of the 1911. They do not understand the equations involved and often have their own agenda contrary to logic. The 1911 is not a he-man’s gun, nor is it possessed of arcane properties. It is a good gun that men or women of average physical and mental ability can use well. In trained hands, a 1911 is a fighting handgun without equal. Do not let anyone convince you another modern handgun is the fast track to proficiency.
The 1911 is the jet stream.
Many give much weight to the fact that the 1911 is an American design used by American soldiers for many years and is still in service. Compared to a modern, low-bid polymer-frame pistol, the 1911 represents individuality. You may customize, personalize or paint it camouflage.
It is still a 1911—and is the finest fighting handgun ever built.
Winchester Ammunition and the 1911
America’s first military self-loader has become even more popular in the days since World War I. To me, Winchester and 1911 have always gone together. During the First World War, Winchester reached the unheard-of standard of one primer failure in 100,000 rounds. That standard became much higher as time went by, and Winchester produced accurate, reliable ammunition for serious use.
Winchester® Ammunition has now released The Win1911™ line as a functional ammunition line to accompany the M1911. The .45 ACP rounds are available with flat-nose, full-metal jacket (FMJ) or jacketed hollow-point (JHP) designs. The flat-nose FMJ rounds are built for high accuracy and affordability.
Throughout the years, the flat-point FMJ bullet has proven more accurate than the round-nose FMJ on average, for several reasons. The flatter nose also creates a larger wound by chopping rather than pushing flesh aside. The JHP round shoot to the same point of impact as their FMJ counterparts, and the ballistics also are matched in velocity and trajectory. Both the FMJ and JHP designs feature nickel-plated bullet jackets for easy identification and 230-grain bullets. That is exciting innovation from a company even older than the 1911; Winchester was founded in 1866.
I chose to test the new loadings in Colt handguns. I used the Commander, a Series 80, Commander XSE and Series 70. When addressing the loads, the first thing I noticed is that Winchester developed them specifically for the Win1911™ line. They are not simply the Winchester USA FMJ in a different wrapping.
I fired the FMJ FP load first.
- It is a hardball, standard load at about 850 fps.
- Function is positive.
- There were no failures to feed, chamber, fire or eject in any of a trio of Colts.
- The load burns clean.
- A full-powder burn results in little unburned powder and limits muzzle signature.
- The .45 ACP often delivers little muzzle flash, usually a few sparks with a properly loaded 230-grain bullet. Those are fixed-sight service pistols, not target guns, and deliver good service-grade accuracy.
The .45 ACP hollow point is a design similar to the Silvertip. It is not a bonded-core design. If you are a peace officer facing felons behind cover, then the Winchester PDX and Ranger lines are excellent choices. For most of us, the Win1911 is the superior choice. It expands well at moderate velocity. For most uses, the wound ballistics are superior to bonded-core bullets based on greater expansion. Yet the bullet weighs a full 230 grains. The balance of expansion and penetration is ideal for personal defense.
Winchester has another winning design with the Win1911 loads. They are well worth the time and effort to explore.
What are your thoughts on the 1911? Which is your favorite and why? Share in the comment section.
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