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Discussion Starter #1
Hi all,

Living in Europe, I'm always surprised to see the "cult" that is still made around the 1911 in the USA (and outside). The gun is only a few years younger than the Luger but nobody would just argue that it is obsolete as the "08" is.

So what makes the 1911 so special? I'll give my arguments and will be interested to read yours.

- Excellent design, that has since become the gold way for any semi-auto.

- Powerfull caliber, but the 9 para is much more popular around the world (well deserved indeed as it was very innovative in 1902 with its high pressure, tapered case and lindering on the mouth)

- But, for me, the greatest innovation of the 1911, that makes it so special, is its modularity. If memory serves, John M. Browning designed the first modular gun, maybe without even knowing the word and surely without guessing the success of the concept. On a 1911, you can change the grips, the mainspring housing, the grip safety and the trigger, leaving many options to adapt the gun to your hand. You can also change the barrel, the bushing, the plug and so on, if you want to work on accuracy. So with the thumb safety, the slide stop or the magazine stop, and I surely forgot something.

It is interesting to see that after the 1911, the tendancy was to simplify the design and ban out all the modular parts: look at the HP, the Star, Ballester-Molina or CZ75, end of the trail being the Glock which leaves about nothing to change (Glock Perfection, I know). With the Walther P99 and Sig Pro, the engineers make already a small attempt toward modularity.

Now it's up to you!

Bests

L.
 

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Hello Larry,

Heres my feelings towards The 1911, it's a very Classy Pistol thats nice and Thin & Alot more easy to carry & conceal than most all other Full Size autos, it feels great in the hand, simple operation, easy to disassemble & reassemble, many readily available professional pistol smiths that specialize in 1911's (easy to get one up & running), tons of readily available parts (factory & custom) as you mentioned, it's a Very Heavy Duty Pistol thats good for a mind boggling amount of firing, tons of readily available holsters in any fashion one can imagin, and so on, ect.

One other very important thing is, and some of the other members here will probally agree with me on is this, If you have ever been in a Real Scary Situation, one so Scary, that you thought for sure, You were gonna Have to do some Shooting, plus your Still not sure you will even live to tell about it, is when One will really come to See and Appreciate the Advantages of a Single Action Pistol such as The 1911.

Take Care,
THE SOCKMAN
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Hi Sock,

I started from an historical and technical point, as here (in Switzerland) it is almost impossible to get a carry license - even if a lot of people do carry as shootings happen pretty often here (2 guys shot in a bar yesterday, 1 shot 2 days ago, 2 cops shot last week, and so on...).
I deeply respect your practical point of view and would not feel disarmed with any 1911. The big plus of the gun in a concealed carry perspective is its flatness, indeed. The 1911 is flatter than most compact or sub-compact nines, like Glocks or even single-stack like the P225.

Bests
 

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To me it is the shootability of the 1911 that separates it from other designs. (You might say ergonomics.) When you pick up a your first 1911, you see that you can outshoot your other pistols. That is before you put in a lot of practice. It might be the grip. It might be the trigger. It might be that your eye can follow the shape of the round top slide for sighting. (Try shooting a 1911 without a front sight sometime. It is amazing how well you can shoot.)
With practice, I can shoot my other guns about as well, but it takes a lot more concentration and control.
It seems to me that in a combat situation, when concentration and control are ebbing away, that the natural shootability(ergonomics) of the 1911 give it the edge over other firearms. ymmv
 
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I have shot a variety of pistols and the one that I like the most is the 1911. Shootablity, part availability, big round, and alot of history. Whats not to like about the 1911.

clipse
 

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Dear Larry,

All that you have suggested will get no argument from me. It was in fact a modular design that facilitated the pivoting barrel/breech feature that made it reliable and yet robust.
Today, I recieved my Star BM :). While this pistol is svelt in appearance and handling, most of the ad's I ran across described it as a "commander like" 1911. It to is robust for its size and shares the pivoting barrel/breach design of the 1911, but departs with the trigger system and external extractor.
In my opinion, what continues to make the 1911 still popular is the historical significance of the pistol as a military weapon, the continued evolution of aftermarket parts/accessories and the growth of pistol sports in the United States.
As previously noted, the ergonomics and handling characteristics of this pistol make it oft copied here and abroad in the past and present, i.e. the Polish Radom, Star and Llama. I presently own a Colt Match Target.
I am suprised to hear of the gun related violence in Switzerland ??? My family traditionally visits there every two years.

Thank you for the post.

Chris
 

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An interesting fact is that there are right now more manufacturers of 1911 style pistols, including Smith & Wesson, than at any time in it's 100 year history..

I carried and used a Colt M1911A1 in Vietnam to protect my life.....
 

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In brief, it is reliable, powerful (for a handgun), accurate, controllable, durable, simple and imminently "useable".

There are many other handguns that share some of these traits to certain degrees (and some even surpass the 1911 in one or two traits) but no other handgun has them all combined to the the degree the 1911 does.

This is not to say that the other designs are inadequate, there is many a 1911 owner who cannot shoot up to his gun ( I would be one :-/).

Onward,
Jim
 

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Larry, I personally carry a Browning High Power. My attachment for the BHP began when I was a teenager, and was re-inforced when I was in the Australian Army. However, I have carried a Colt 1911 model in the past, both whilst in uniform and during close protection because the principal required me to carry what was "familiar". The two things in favour of the Colt (and the BHP) are its robustness, and functionality. Most firearms professionals of my generation (50+) prefer single action/cocked and locked.

In the US, that meant 1911, full stop. Reportedly, there were no more than two BHPs in the USA until WWII. One was in the hands of the Browning family, and I believe Colt had the other one. Americans carried it for decades before (and during) the war introducing it to countries around the globe; Central & South Amerca and Asia in particular. Norway procured a significant number before WWII as well. No less an influence was the persona Hollywood gave it in the gangster movies of the '30s to the '50s seen by millions across the world.

With that, it has an almost cultish attraction for handgunners worldwide. Amongst American shooters, there is a little snobbery attachment as well.
 
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SA trigger. BIG comforting cartridge. Full detail strip without tools. Known performance (GI pistol, GI ammo, GI mags). Used by everyone from great-grandpa on down to special ops in God-knows-how-many wars.

You can darn near hear the national anthem playing in the background when you pick one up.

Preferred by grey haired old geezers everywhere.
 
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Simply a pistol that you can devote yourself to. Shooting and handling a 1911 or BHP safely requires rote skills. Once these are memorized they become second nature. After developing these skills no other pistol feels as good in my hand. Regards, Richard:D
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Merry Christmas all and thank you for these very interesting answers (I was busy these last days and couldn't write till now),

The more I read, the more I understand how much you, Americans, are attached to the efficiency, the history and the myth of the 1911. Living here in Europe, I didn't really catched these points and emphased rather on what I consider really "special" with the design: the technical modularity that let it evolve from a rough ordnance pistol to the tactical or race guns we see today.

I must admit that it took me several years to appreciate the 1911 after shooting lugers, sigs, HPs and so on. About seven years ago, I was on a gun shop which had a lot of surplus. I saw a batch of 1911 A1: Remingtons, Ithacas, Colts... till I noticed one that really was different: long trigger, flat grip back. I reserved it and made my homework. When I came back to the shop, I knew I was getting a genuine Commercial Colt 1911, made in 1916, only the grips were plastic GI WW2 (one day I will tell how I stole authentic wood diamond grips in Paris). At home and at the shooting line I really appreciated the "ergonomy", the trigger and that unique historic flavor. I found it heavy too but so flat, a quality that I would rate first if I had to carry. That "old slabsides" instilled me the virus for 1911 and for several years I look for a nice LW Commander, the ultimate defense gun in my sense. My quest ended several months ago with a 70 Model.

Carolinaman: the violence is really increasing for two years here, as the borders are open with other countries of Europe and tugs from the East are attracted like flies by honey.

Bests

L.
 

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Hi Larry,

Another reason for the 1911's popularity in the US is the availability of parts to rebuild or build a 1911 from the frame up and customize to the owners desires.
In the mid-90's, I built two 1911's using frames from Caspian Arms, Vermount and a old Colt Series Frame. The one built with the Caspian Frame was designed as a competition pistol with adjustable sights and tightly fitted parts and the one built with the colt frame was a concealed carry pistol with fixed sights and aftermarket parts.
I have not competed in awhile and both pistols were sold to pursue other shooting interests. Vintage Colt prices here are very high, and when I find a great deal on a used Colt 1911, I become interested-very quickly. Recently, I have become more interested in compact frame 9mm pistols as they are easier to shoot and conceal.

Chris

P.S. I have a postcard postmarked from Grindelwald sent by my family over the summer. Over the holiday's here, my family shared their adventures in your country with fond memories and relish. One day, I hope to make the journey myself. :)
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Hello Chris,

Here, of course, custom parts are not so easy to find. They are also much more expensive when we get it. When I browse the sites of Wilson, Brown or Cylinders & Slides, it's a kind of dream - just like looking at Steven's Commander. Another problem is finding a competent smith - they are more accustomed to Sigs.


Bests

L.

PS: Grindelwald is indeed a small paradise in the mountains. You - all - are welcome here in Switzerland and my intention was not to paint my country black.
 

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Hi Larry,

Back in the 1980's Sigs were available here, but extremely expensive. Most of the gun writers acknowledged that because of the exchange rate the of US dollar and the deutch mark was substantial different. Now that Sigarms has built a plant here in the US, the prices have dropped, but 1911's were plentiful and cheap.
Back then, my dream gun was a Sig P-220.
There are a lot of competent Sig Armorers here, but many more competent 1911 gunsmiths. You can built a 1911 with limited resources, but I have found that it takes a tremendous amount of time and patience. A lot of the proported "drop-in" parts you see advertised still require final fitting.

Chris

PS. I live in a resort town and not but 4 blocks from the ocean. In this community, many of our crimes are not covered in the newspaper, because of the negative public relations impact on tourism.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Hello again,

Sigs here, 1911s there, so it goes... Sigs have never been cheap here, but you can find lot of good ones on the used marked. Funny that the first gun I bought - after taking the virus from my grandpa Luger - was a SIG Sauer P226 in the beginning of the 90s...

I will one day or another "customise" my LW Commander as a flat MS-housing and a long trigger best suit me. There is something to do also with the grip safety (the orginal is sharp as a knife) and the sights. The problem is finding some smith who will do what I want and not follow his own ideas on defense/tactical 1911s.

L.

P.S. I see some analogy here in the official attitude toward violence. A lot of "small" (when you are not involved) delicts and the only reaction is: "Our town/school/... is not more dangerous than others". Good news!
 

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Hello Larry,

The upgrades on your colt lightweight commander sound like very reasonable choices to me.
The Wilson Flat 30 lpi mainspring housing is a drop in part and can be installed very easily with their extra power firing pin spring. I have also used their drop-in high ride beaver tail safety that requires minor fitting to the part with great success. The drop-in part does not have the blended appearance to the pistol that their custom high ride beaver tail safety does, but you don't have to grind off the frame tangs using a jig to fit it. On the plus side, should you ever decide to return the gun to its original state, the drop-in part fits the bill very well indeed. I have used two of their triggers and both are pretty much drop-in parts and the trigger bows are already polished, which attribute to a lighter trigger pull. All three of these parts are what I considered to be "kitchen table gunsmithing jobs" as I don't have space in my townhome for a work shop.
I agree that it is very difficult to find a gunsmith to do what you want to do in terms of building a custom gun. However, I eliminated that problem by purchasing the parts myself and give them to the smith asking only to have them installed, i.e. fitting a match barrel bushing requiring light machining and ect.

Chris

P.S. In honor of my brother's two trips to Switzerland, I was going to get him a K-38 Schmidt Rubin Surplus Rifle that has been recently been imported by Century Arms. I instead got him a Russian Moisin Nagant Rifle. What is your opinion of the Schmidt Rubin? I have been looking at them for several months. He collects cuckoo clocks for a hobby and I thought the rifle would make an interesting collection piece for him as well.
 
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