Concealed Carry

The Pros and Cons of Aluminum-Framed Handguns

Blond woman in blue shirt shoots aluminum framed handgun

After deploying a steel-framed handgun for many years I have come to appreciate lightweight (LW) frame handguns.

Aluminum-framed revolvers and self-loaders have become trusted companions.

I am not one to save a few ounces at the cost of my life, yet I do not wish to carry more weight than necessary.

A good handgun, holster and spare magazine, not to mention the knife and combat light, add up.

I won’t try to convince you an aluminum-framed handgun is as durable as steel or that the handguns are as easy to shoot well, although the trade-offs are acceptable.

If you are both practical and serious concerning personal defense, you may come to the same conclusion I have: aluminum-framed pistols make sense.

You simply have to understand the breed and give your personal best to mastering this type of gun.

There are other lightweight alloys, although the most common and most suitable for personal defense handguns is aluminum.

Aluminum was once a precious metal, then advanced mining and processing techniques changed the world.

After World War II, aluminum frame technology — developed for aircraft — changed the handgun world.

Today, aluminum-framed handguns have a half-century service history that’s unmatched by any other lightweight gunmetal.

The aluminum-framed handgun is usually a doppelganger to the steel-framed pistol, identical in appearance and made of a different frame or receiver material.

Lightweight Aluminum Framed Handgun with a holster and Hornaday ammunition
The markings on the slide say it all — LIGHTWEIGHT!

Aluminum-Framed Origins

The Colt Commander was among the first widely popular, lightweight-framed handguns.

It was similar to the Government Model, although it has a barrel and slide 0.75-inches shorter than the GI .45.

The pistol weighs 28 ounces, versus 39 for the Government Model 1911.

The Smith & Wesson Chief’s Special was among the first new handguns to be offered in both steel-framed (Model 36) and aluminum-framed (Model 37) versions.

These revolvers weigh 20 and 12 ounces, respectively.

Before guns such as these were developed and introduced, carrying an effective handgun meant carrying more weight.

Gunsmiths cut down big-bore revolvers and were moderately successful, although by and large, smaller guns were the norm for concealed carry.

Those looking for a lighter carry gun were likely to choose a .32 or .380 Automatic or a small-frame revolver.

The new breed of handguns introduced after World War II were as light, or lighter, than those small-caliber guns, although they offered the power and reliability of their service-grade actions and cartridges.

These handguns made it possible to be well-armed with a degree of comfort, at least as far as carry is concerned.

However, due to their light weight, aluminum-framed handguns exhibit more recoil than their steel-framed counterparts, and this increased recoil is the primary drawback.

In order to refresh my memory and to validate my perceptions, I fired several handguns in preparation for this report.

I fired both steel-framed and aluminum-framed .38 caliber revolvers and self-loading handguns in 9mm and .45 caliber.

I believe as a general rule, an aluminum-framed handgun requires about 25% more practice to achieve the same level of proficiency as a comparable steel-framed handgun.

You must understand this rule and accept the fact that you’ll either have to practice more or be less capable.

In my opinion, more shooters are poorly armed due to a lack of practice than incorrect handgun choices.

Aluminum-framed handguns demand shooters who actually practice with their handguns.

Black SIG Ultra aluminum-framed handgun barrel to left on white background
This SIG Ultra is reliable and comfortable to fire, but very light thanks to an aluminum frame.

Other Considerations

Sharp or rough edges are more likely to prove uncomfortable when recoil is heavier.

When firing a revolver, it is common for shooters to receive cuts on the thumb from the cylinder latch.

A self-loader’s action absorbs recoil in comparison to the revolver, as the recoil spring brings the slide back smartly and aids in recoil control if the pistol is properly sprung and regulated.

You must choose a revolver with an efficient rubber grip for control and comfort with heavy loads.

A number of shooters have commented that a lightweight revolver bites with the first shot, while the autoloader sneaks up on you.

The first few magazines fired in a lightweight 1911 are not uncomfortable, although after a long practice session you’ll be rubbing your wrists.

Be certain your practice sessions are well spent.

When firing the revolver, it is common for the knuckle of the third finger of the firing hand to be rapped by the trigger guard in recoil.

Modern grips address this concern, and so does a proven technique.

By extending the third finger to a position under the trigger guard, you may avoid the rap and enhance control.

Only use standard-pressure ammunition in lightweight handguns.

Even if the handgun might endure continued use of high-pressure loads, the lack of control from the extra recoil skirts the edge of acceptable limits — even for experienced shooters.

Aluminum-framed semi-autos present a longer list of technical and mechanical considerations.

GI-type grip tangs sometimes exhibit uncomfortably sharp edges.

Modern lightweight-framed pistols are equipped with beavertail grip safeties.

This spreads recoil out, rather than concentrating recoil force in one area, prevents the gun from biting the hand and subtly lowers the bore axis.

The 1911 handgun is highly developed.

The SIG P-series and the Beretta 92 also use aluminum frames and are models of reliability.

Springfield 1911 aluminum-framed handgun
This Springfield 1911 is showing a bit of wear in the anodizing.

Lightweight 1911s

The 1911 is a controlled-feed handgun that keeps the cartridge under control of either the magazine lips or extractor during every stage of the feed cycle.

Cartridges loaded to around the magic 1.250-inch overall cartridge length feed best.

Cycle reliability is best served with 230-grain loads — the bullet weight for which the .45 ACP was designed.

Winchester 230-grain SXT or 230-grain Bonded Core are excellent choices.

Modern, well-designed JHP loads cure a problem that has dogged the aluminum-framed 1911 handgun, because longevity and strength are not the same.

An aluminum-framed service pistol may have the same service life as a steel-framed pistol.

Either will withstand many thousands of rounds of ammunition, but aluminum-framed handguns will not withstand abuse as well as a steel-framed handgun.

At one time, ammunition companies produced bullet shapes that required the feed ramp of the 1911 to be modified or throated, and quite a few 1911 handguns were subsequently throated by amateurs and resulted in disastrous consequences.

Original design specifications called for a 1/32-inch gap between the frame ramp and barrel ramp.

Even more importantly, the slight bump as the cartridge runs across the feed ramp serves to snug the cartridge into the extractor during the feed cycle.

Lightweight aluminum-framed handgun .38 and Ammunition
If you are going to use a LW .38 — lay in more practice rounds.

The best solution is to incorporate a ramped barrel into every aluminum-framed handgun.

My Springfield Lightweight Loaded 1911 (which is 25 percent lighter than a steel-framed Loaded 1911) also features a ramped barrel.

There is simply no concern about feed ramp damage with this design.

With a little attention, you may avoid the major disasters that occur with aluminum frames.

As an example, take special care when disassembling an aluminum-framed pistol.

If you detail-strip the pistol, prying the safety from the frame may damage the frame.

Any time one part is steel and the other a softer alloy, use special care.

The plunger tube is another concern. Be certain your grips properly support the plunger tube as per the original design.

When you fieldstrip the pistol, snapping the slide lock back into lockup too sharply may stress the plunger tube and cause it to wallow in the frame.

I have seen these problems, and they are difficult to repair.

Avoid 10-thumbed handling and your aluminum-framed handgun will stay the course.

Lightweight concealed carry handguns are a good choice, simply maintain the pistols and understand their limitations.

Practice hard and learn the requirements of maintaining the handgun. Do this, and they will serve well.

Plunger tube
Where the frame meets the plunger tube is a cause for concern with aluminum-framed handguns.

Parting Thoughts on Alloy Handguns

Aluminum-framed handguns are not simply for concealed carry.

For home defense, service use and police use, the aluminum-framed SIG P226, Beretta 92 and Colt LW-frame Government Model are good choices.

Durable? I doubt whether anyone even gives a second thought to the aluminum frame of the Beretta 92 or the SIG P226.

I am pretty certain the single reason the CZ 75 isn’t as popular is because it is heavy.

What do you think of aluminum-framed handguns? Do you use one? Share your experiences in the comments section.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in October of 2014. It has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and clarity.

About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.


Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Handloader
Rifle Magazine
Handguns
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns



Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (34)

  1. The Kimber Micro 9 is one of the smoothest & accurate Al framed pistol I’ve ever experienced … the gun plus 3 extra mags are comfortable to carry

  2. Which is tougher, aluminum or scandium? Besides recoil, does scandium have any other cons when compared to aluminum?

  3. I’ve been carrying and building aluminum frame 1911’s for about 10 years. Cleaned and lubed rails (slide and frame) with the same regimen as a steel frame (every 1000 / 1500 rounds) is a little more important because burned / unburned powder and carbon actually behave like a light pumice. If all you do is oil the mating surfaces it’ll behave like a lapping compound, wearing the aluminum out of tolerance faster than steel. Whether you build or buy, make sure all your steel to aluminum parts fit slick so little or no force is needed for operation. Spend time with setting up your recoil, whether dual spring or full length so hammering the frame is gone. Using recoil pads on any compacts is useless and interfere with cycling and slide lock back or feed. Use FMJ 230 .45 acp, the gun was designed for it (not going to argue expansion & penetration here, leave that for spec. geeks. Hit your enemy with a 230 FMJ and he’ll stop). For what it’s worth.

  4. I have only one issue with the aluminum framed Beretta 92F. The open slide, coupled with the magazine capacity allows you to physically feel the front-to-back center of gravity of the gun changing, and the magazine is emptied.
    At first, I find the gun light in the nose, and it actually becomes better balanced when your down to your last 5 rounds.
    Odd … but you learn to anticipate it and the just seems to hold on target a little better when the mag is more than half empty.

  5. My CZ P01 is aluminum framed, as is my CZ 2075 RAMI.
    I enjoy shooting them often.

    Both are based on the CZ 75.

  6. I carried aluminum-framed handguns for more than twenty years. The first was a Taurus PT-99, and the second was a Kimber CDP. Both were fine handguns and easy to carry, and I quickly found the straight back 1911 trigger made accurate shooting far easier than the traditional swinging trigger. Recoil from .45 ammunition was stout but manageable.

    In 2018 I read about a new double-stack 1911 from Remington and decided to order one. Because the price differential between .45 and 9mm ammunition had about doubled, I bought one in 9mm. Now, I had a 1911 which carried 18+1 rounds, but with an all-steel frame. I was amazed at the difference in felt recoil; recoil from the Remington actually felt like .22LR out of a short-barreled handgun. In other words, it was negligible. I could shoot faster and more accurately with the Remington than with any other handgun I had ever owned. Obviously, it had to become my carry weapon. But how could I carry a gun which when fully loaded weighed north of 40 ounces?

    I had carried the Kimber in a Crossbreed holster, but Crossbreed did not make one to fit the Remington when a laser was on the rail. I eventually found an IWB SnapRig which did fit. The amazing thing is that when carrying the heavier gun in this style of holster, the weight feels no more than it did with the Kimber. I can carry it comfortably all day long. Therefore, I now believe the real factor is the holster, not the weight of the handgun.

  7. I built an aluminum frame 1911 with a .22 Ace conversion kit for a practice gun, to increase the .22’s recoil so it would be more like a .45’s recoil. The aluminum frame was bought, and the gun built, in the late ’70’s, so aluminum is long-lived enough to last for at least 40 years. Of course, I keep it oiled, and the oil separates the aluminum frame from the steel slide, so there’s no galvanic corrosion; left dirty or dry, I can’t say what would happen.

  8. Many years ago The late Skeeter Skelton shot a new aluminum frame Colt Commander until it failed. It digested over 5000 rounds of hardball ammo before a crack appeared on the frame. It was still functional but he chose to stop the test at that point.

  9. Really appreciate and agree with your insight on light weight frames as I also design, sell and use 1911. They have been most enjoyable.

    Treavor Coats
    Coats Carbine Company

    1. @ Treavor Coats.

      You might try another weight saver metal MAGNESIUM. 1/3rd the weight of Aluminium, just as strong Aluminium, if not stronger, bacteria resistant.

  10. I prefer the aluminum frame 1911 mostly because of the weight loss in the material itself. but if considering an aluminum frame firearm no matter if its pistol or long gun. the alloy is important. 7075 is the preferred alloy. its tensile strength is much higher than the more common 6061 alloy. this is very evident in machining the material. the 7075 cuts more like steel than aluminum. its much harder than the softer 6061. I would never consider 6061 as an alloy suitable for firearms but you do find some low grade firearms made from it. these I would avoid.

    1. Hee-Hee-Hee… You know Secundius, I love reading your posts. They always make me laugh. Here we are talking about handguns and you pop in to add a comment for the OCD germaphobes out there… Hee-Hee-Hee

  11. Been carrying the same Colt Cobra w/a 2 in Barrel for 45 years. My wife has always been an anti gunner but respected my carry. Thirty years ago I talked her into shooting the Snake. I coached her on the sighting, hand grip and firing in the cocked position for the best first shoot. I set a can on a fence post at 20 yds, One shot and the can flew off the post and she said, ” that’s enough”, I know what I need to do! I myself take out cans and oil filters @ 50 yds with the little snake. I do carry with +P but only shoot w/38 spl.loads.

  12. I purchased a used Colt 1911 A-1 in 1975 and it was a Aluminium frame and steel slide and it was a little harder to hold the muzzle down on the recoil.I have since purchase two stainless steel and two carbon steel 1911 A-1 and much easier to hold the recoil down with Magna ported and ported barrels also with compensator.at the end of the barrels.

  13. What some people don’t realize, depending on the type of ALUMINIUM used bacteria can actually take hold, live, grow and thrive on aluminium. An Aircraft-grade of billeted 7000-series Aluminium, is probably your BEST BET if you can Find-It and/or Get-It. Also worth noting some Aluminium’s are NOT, Salt Water Neutral (will actually corrode, when exposed to salt water).

  14. Over the years, I have carried various PDW (I like that term)in various calibers. Being a simplistic guy, I’ve always believed that “more is better” (and anything worth doing, is worth doing to excess LOL). In my younger days as a LEO, I carried what was acceptable to the department (or as Chief of Police, what I thought was needed for my rural territory). Back then, I always felt that my gun was my last resort in a violent encounter. but as we get older, we must face reality and accept that we cannot take on bad guys with our fists (or feet). Today even more than then, I carry daily because I remember “it’s a jungle out there”. Back then I often carried a 44 S&W Model 29, but today, I”ve downsized to a 40 S&W or my new (and first ever) 1911 just because it carries better than that big revolver. Of course I also carry a backup. Not paranoid, just being careful.

  15. Wzrd1

    I do not know you, but I think I would like you if I did. Once again, I agree and think you are right. However, I suspect I am a bit older than you and my experience is just a bit different.

  16. @Mac, when I carry, it’s my full size, GI model M1911A1.
    I’m very good with it, it’s comfortable in my hand and my clipdraw holds it beautifully.
    As for your bit on military recruits, I had to explain to National Guard forces that it’s an M4, an M9, not a Star Trek phaser. If you don’t put a round in someplace *really* important, they’re still in the fight. Hence, why my old units double tapped.
    I heard the same stories from my uncles from WWII. You have to remember, the majority of the populace, then and now, are from the densely populated cities. In the era of WWII, firearm ownership was a thing of rarity in the cities. Those few who did have firearms ended up selling them during the Great Depression and few had firearms before.
    The reason for that is complex, but consider that the middle class boomed after WWII being part of the equation granting the availability of money to purchase something beyond lodging and food being a significant part of it.

  17. Wzrd1,

    Could not agree more. I think you are right on, or (as the Australian’s say) spot on about the combat uses of the 1911. It was its purpose, and design followed purpose.
    I also think (but, do not know) that it suited the society of the day.
    When I was young and living on a farm, everyone shot. A great many people were familiar with guns and had experience shooting. Most every farmer or farm kid knew (or, thought that they knew — same thing) that the ubiquitous .22 LR was dandy for getting rid of rats, squirrels, bats and barn swallows from your barn. It would even dispatch a raccoon if you had time enough and several rounds to expend. However, no one went deer hunting, or bear hunting with a .22 LR. That required a bigger gun, like a .45-70 surplus military rifle, or 30-06. You generally had a .22 LR by the door, loaded of course. You also had a .30-06 in a closet and a 12 gauge in the corner of the kitchen.
    I suspect many people in those days were naturally, by inclination or training, instinctive shots and sights were of less importance to them. Large sights that are readily visible and lend themselves to precision shooting could also catch on clothing and even hang up in some holsters. Small sights, 100 years ago, made sense.
    That was then, this is now.
    My last experiences in the military were eye opening. Incoming recruits were often, or even generally, seeing a gun for the first time when being trained to shoot. People in charge of training complained long and loud about how difficult it was to get recruits to learn much of anything about guns, let alone how to shoot accurately and treat guns with respect and concern for safety. Far too many new recruits, IMHO, had no idea how to shoot, had never shot and really did not know how a gun works or its potential or limitations. I had my grandson shoot a digger squirrel/sage rat center mass and then inspect the carcass so he could learn the power, and to respect, the lowly .22LR. It nearly cut the rat in two and he also got a rudimentary lesson on anatomy.
    I encountered youth coming into the military who attributed almost magical and excessive powers to guns, particularly hand guns. They had no idea how to shoot and, perhaps more importantly, how to hit their target. Further, possibly because of TV shows, young people tend to think of any hit on an opponent will kill or otherwise automatically end the conflict.
    It was eye opening to some to learn that most people in combat are wounded and not killed by a PDW (Personal Defense Weapon — DOD speak for a handgun), especially the 9mm. Even long guns wound more frequently than kill cleanly. It shocked some young recruits to find that to be fact. Many seemed to assume: “1 shot, 1 kill”.
    I have encountered similar thought since leaving the military. I know people who think that any hit on an attacker with a .380, or .22, or .32 will be immediately and permanently disabling. Perhaps it will be, if the attacker is a “sheeple” who will just lay down and die at the slightest penetration or a loud noise.
    However, a few people are not of that nature and it is going to take sufficient energy, bullet size, velocity, mass and bullet construction to end their attack.
    Far too many people who pack a gun do not train or shoot and they seem to think that any gun, like a magic talisman, will protect them from all harm, period. Just possessing it is enough, they do not need to know how to use it effectively. After all, it is magic. I do not subscribe to that line of thought. I think of it as uninformed and ignorant.
    Personally, I prefer a shotgun for personal defense but they are just too big to carry daily in public and even nice people are going to think you are weird. Failing that, I will stick with my .45 ACP, with either 185 Gr +P or 230 Gr large cavity hollow points. It took some training and a lot of shooting to master but I have achieved that level and am now confident of the gun and its effectiveness, as far as any hand gun can go.
    I fear for those who blithely risk personal harm and think that they are completely safe with a diminutive, weak or under powered PDW. They might just as well believe that the Law Enforcement Officers will provide all the protection that they will ever need and always be available whenever bad things happen. Perhaps, in some cases, they are.
    However, given someone under the influence of meth or some similar drug, or alcohol, or just basically nuts, a “minor caliber” may do nothing more than motivate the attacker to greater effort. Further, psychologists tell us that some people will carefully look for and carefully choose victims. One of the reasons I carry is to just plain discourage those who are carefully scoping out potential victims. I want to send the message, plan to hurt me or mine and you risk disaster. I will hurt you if you attack me. We know from FBI statistics that mass shooters, by and large, seek out unprotected groups of people to attack. They do not seek out crowds where people are likely to be armed. Government statistics prove that to any but the uninformed or those with an anti-gun agenda.
    I plan to carry what some call a “hand cannon” and put too much energy, mass and velocity down range and into the attacker.
    Perhaps it is due to my high school experience at an inner city school where I learned, in spades, that it can happen to me, others will hurt me and not care about me and will not stop hurting me until overcome with substantial force or they just get tired out. I, especially at my age, cannot expect to deliver substantial force with my body alone. I need help. My .45 ACP is supposed to provide that.

  18. DonM & Wzrd1 — Gentlemen,

    I tend to agree with DonM that grip design and angle can have an effect on felt recoil. I am not familiar with the Chiappa family of revolvers but I am familiar with the Walther and the Ruger SR family. Both tend to position the web of the shooting hand higher in relation to the bore axis than my beloved 1911. I now own a Ruger SR40C as I wanted a smaller pocket pistol and, in comparison to several other 40’s I own or have shot, felt recoil is more comfortable. I assume that is due to grip angle and placement of the web of the hand higher in relation to the bore axis.
    My son, who is like me and not overly recoil sensitive recently purchased a Ruger SR45 and we have shot that. Again less felt recoil than my 1911. All the Ruger SR family put the web of the hand higher than the 1911 in relation to the bore axis.
    But, not being overly sensitive to recoil, I am more concerned with trigger control and accuracy than grip angle or relation to the bore axis. If recoil bothered me, it might be a personal concern. But, moderate recoil is not my concern. Too many expert pistol shots choose the 1911 for competition for me to seriously question its accuracy potential.
    However, DonM, I wonder at your experience with the 1911 and it biting the web of the shooting hand. I have quite a few thousand rounds through at least 15 or 20 different 1911’s, ranging from rather worn out military guns to custom, hand fitted pistols. I have never had any bite the web of my shooting hand. I will go even further, I have never talked with anyone who had fired the 1911 and been bitten on the hand. It must have happened to someone but at matches, or when qualifying in the military or otherwise, I have never met anyone who said it had happened to them. Further, with the seemingly exaggerated grip safeties now so common now, I wonder if that is still a valid concern — if it ever was.
    I can see how it theoretically might happen. If one positioned his hand so that the web between the thumb and forefinger was on top of the grip safety, when the slide recoiled, or perhaps when the hammer was cocked by the recoiling slide, it might conceivably bite the tender flesh between the thumb and forefinger. However, my hands are not so meaty that the flow over the grip safety and I do not grip the gun with that thin web of flesh on top of the grip safety just under the hammer. I have long thought that criticism of the 1911 was not terribly valid.
    Now, if you want to complain about looseness of the frame/slide junction on some older guns, or perhaps an atrocious trigger, or the incredibly tiny sights on government guns, I might agree. But my latest Smith 1911 SC doesn’t suffer from any of those faults and I really like the gun, bad grip angle and bad relationship of the place the hand is positioned on the grip in relation to the bore axis considered. For me, it shoots very well and is one of the most accurate pistols I own.
    For me proof of the pudding is in holes in the paper down range and my current crop of 1911’s do very well. Probably models of pistols and other calibers would do as well, but if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it is a motto I like.

    1. I’ve heard of people getting hammer bite from an original M1911, you know, pre-A1. The M1911A1 addressed hammer bite and as you said, today’s builds of M1911 models certainly should have made the problem gone forever.
      As for the military sights being tiny, I agree. They’re miniscule, but that was a combat weapon. Much of the time, I was point of fire anyway. The only time I used the sights were for a precise shot from 25 meters to 50 meters.
      In combat, the distances were usually closer if I was using a pistol, so it was point of fire and that worked quite well.
      At 50 meters, it was M4 time anyway. 🙂

  19. Bob,
    Thank you for the very kind comments. Really like the S & W 1911SC. It is an absolute dandy. I do not know where Smith got the tritium filled sights, but they are definitely the brightest in my gun safe.

  20. When I saw the title of this article, I thought I had entered a time warp. I carried a S&W Model 59 on duty as far back as 1980. It was a joy to shoot and carry. I never had a problem with the aluminum frame. Since then, I’ve owned (and carried) numerous aluminum frame handguns, including a Walther P-38, and others. I would have thought by now, aluminum frame handguns were an accepted part of the scene. Perhaps a debate on metal versus polymer frames might be more appropriate in 2014

  21. For Mac the gun–
    you and I speak the same language

    thanks so much for your comments

    A good read!

    Drive slow Shoot fast

    1. Steel has a fatigue limit, that is about half the maximum strength. That means that if you keep the stresses low enough, the part will increase in strength from work hardening faster than crack initiation and crack growth reduces the stress.

      Aluminium doesn’t have a fatigue limit. You generally have to assume alumninium has a finite life, even though that can be rather long.

      Polymer composite ( or metal composite!!!) is tough, and minor bits of damage don’t grow. Cracks initiate, but are stopped when they run up to a fiber, or if a fiber breaks, the crack will grow only to the next fiber. Generally you design for strength, and because of the light weight, you can use a higher factor of safety (design for 6 times the maximum load and your weight penalty is very very small). That makes the life darned near infinite.

  22. Bob,
    For a lot of years, I carried an all steel 1911 Government Model. Upon retirement from the military, I switched to an all steel 1911 Series 70 Colt Combat Commander with a trigger job and an accuracy job. Very fine gun, as modified.
    A while back, I acquired a Smith & Wesson 1911SC, scandium/aluminum frame commander sized pistol and I absolutely love it. Lighter to carry, either on my belt or in my vest. Great trigger right out of the box and several very nice “custom” features. Dandy shooter, perhaps even better than my partially accurarized Colt Commander.
    I do use the blue Wilson “Shok-Buff” buffer to reduce frame battering. I use the buffer for practice at the range and remove it for concealed carry due to possible concerns over reliability with the buffer installed. I have about 1,200 rounds through the new gun, mostly inexpensive practice ammo, 230 gr hardball. The buffer shows a definite imprint of the end of the recoil spring, so I assume it is doing something to relieve frame battering. I just replaced it at 1,100 rds even though it is recommended to replace it every 1,000 rds. Visually, I could not tell the difference in the buffer from its condition after my first range session of some 150 rounds. The Wilson is so cheap, using and replacing it is no big deal, especially if it does some good.
    I have fired less than 10 +P defensive rds in the Smith. I read not to feed it a steady diet of +P due to the aluminum frame, but that is my defensive round and I wanted to ensure it would function. I wrote the factory and they replied that a life of 50,000 rds or more should not destroy the pistol with regular ammo. It is apparently tested to that range by the factory. At 72, I doubt I will shoot that many rds in the rest of my life.
    It is definitely lighter to carry. Absolutely no doubt, when compared to my old Colt in the same size. Recoil is noticeably stiffer in the scandium/aluminum frame over the all steel gun. But, not unpleasantly so.
    I am not particularly sensitive to recoil but do notice it. I do not shoot the .44 Mag or the .454 Casull. Just too loud and too much recoil. However, the .45 ACP at the range in the lighter Smith, while noticeable, is not a problem for me.
    Concerning recoil, I came to revelation some years ago that while it was going to be a bit of a shock, it was not going to injure me. Yes, I notice it, but given the aches and pains in my knees and shoulders, it is no big deal. I have shot thousands of rounds of .45 ACP and suffer no consequences as a result, so I do not worry about recoil. I notice it, but so what? If it isn’t going to hurt me, why should I worry? I routinely shoot 50 to 100 rds every range session. If I am going to take the time to prepare and go there, I want it to be worth the time.
    My wife (who is 5feet nothing and about 120 pounds) and 14 year old grandson shoot my old Colt and while they do not find it as pleasurable as a .22, it is tolerable for them.
    If I am going to carry a gun, it will always be either a .45 or .40 S&W. I never, ever want to shoot anyone. Way too much hassle from the authorities, for one thing. On the other hand, if I do feel I have to shoot, I do not want to make the perp angry, I want to make him dead.
    In my 72 years so far, I have had a gun pointed at me 3 times. The first time, I have no idea why I was not killed. Just lucky, I guess. In the other two situations, I exhibited my gun and that was sufficient to end the discussion. One was a road rage incident and left me with my truck in the ditch, emotionally upset and no shooting involved. I will take it. The other case was an irate, argumentative drunk and he got much nicer very quickly when I pointed my .45 at him and he thought his .22 was not up to the job, I guess. Anyway, he ran away, much to my relief. I will always have a .45 at hand, just in case. It worked twice and that is good enough for me.

  23. For beasts like the M1911A1, I’m all for all steel for a full sized model. A casual carry, self defense model may fare better for the casual user.
    From a military perspective, it’s all steel. But then, I’m retired military and was re-issued an M1911A1, of custom design, which resulted in a stock M1911A1, save for match components, but the rest being stock (trigger group was special, but GI pressure, barrel and the rest was National Match, but had to have the same tolerances of the GI issue. It took a bit of wrangling via e-mail, but the gunsmiths managed to accomplish that feat.Good job, Springfield! I’ll forever be your patron, as long as you continue to hold up your end.
    You *need* mass to hold the beast down and toward target, otherwise, your next round is at unoffending and unreachable asteroids.
    I’ll say the same for .357 magnum. That, from a few boxes of rounds fired from a wheel gun of that caliber.
    .44magum, zero experience, zero interest. Punch through isn’t of interest to me. Zero reflex was what I qualified in, which doesn’t require such insanity.
    For most other common caliber weapons, it’s really a matter of to each his other own, as the lady said as she kissed her cow.
    Or, if you’re unacquainted with that proverb, six of one, a half dozen of the other.
    For my wife’s .38 wheel gun, the mix of steel and aluminum only concerns me on a chemical basis, when fretting would occur. Coatings prevent that, but it’s a valid concern for when the coatings wear through.
    But, that is a basis of concern over decades with today’s metal sciences.

    1. Not so much mass “To Hold The Beast Down” is required with the right design. I own and stand firmly by my Springfield V10 Champion. It is “Commander” size but is with out question a “Flat Shooter”. I am a NBA certified expert with it and a class AA shooter at my local matches. There is no handgun on the market today, Springfield or otherwise, I would trade my “Friend” for.

    2. I originally trained with a GI issue M1911A1, carried it until they switched it out with that POS Beretta.
      The Army finally started letting us acquire custom M1911 models, I chose a GI from Springfield, which was a matter of personal choice and preference.
      Command and my peers were astounded at the accuracy of a stock model. 🙂
      If I’m competing for prize, I’ll go with a NM model. For regular use, stock works best for me. Other weapons work better for other people, leaving it as “whatever works for you”.
      Well, off to work.

    3. One can reduce muzzle flip by using a high hand position. If the gun was properly designed the hand would have a pivot directly in back of the axis of the bore. With a 1911 design that would bite the heck out of your hand, but again, with a proper design, that wouldn’t happen.

      Look at the Chiappa Rhino revolvers: with the barrel axis lower, there is less muzzle flip than with a higher muzzle axis.

    4. I will admit to a bit of open laughter at reading your words on “properly designed”, considering how and when it was designed.
      I *really* openly laughed over your “bit the hell out of your hand”, as I’ve personally fired an M1911, no letters, as it was original specification antique. Didn’t get a bit one.

      Meanwhile, you advertise a new brand weapon, one a century newer than the model you compare it to. Hence, unsuccessfully managing, yet again, to compare an apple to an orange.

      That said, had you mentioned historical improvements, you’d have done something to actually impress me.
      Instead, you make me not want to look at that brand.
      As one that is satisfied with the M1911A1, that is a minor accomplishment, as I do look at various other arms, but have yet to find something as comfortable in my hand and accurate to my capabilities. TO remove a product from consideration is exceptional.
      I might look at it, incidentally, later. But, not this year.

      Still, whatever gives you the performance you desire and the accuracy that you desire, whatever works is correct for you.
      That mileage will vary, as each person is different.
      For me and as far as I know, only me, the M1911(whatever) fit naturally in may hand on day one and I fired a possible then and today with the GI model.
      To 50 meters.
      So, I do not disparage the weapon, only the singular trumpeting.

      Good night.
      Have to go to bed. I’m on swing shift at a Security Operations Center and need my ugly sleep.

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