Cars are unreliable.
That is a ridiculous statement, right?
Of course it is, and the same goes for “1911s are unreliable”. As there are too many manufactures of automobiles to easily count, the same thing could be said for 1911s. Also, some do it right and many others not so much.  The 1911 is a machine and if built in spec it has no choice but to work.  There is a lot of scuttlebutt being circulated and this is my attempt to address it.

For the record, using the term “1911” to describe the pistol we all have come to know and love is technically incorrect.  A better name would be
Government Model as the 1911 is a military designation for the Automatic Pistol Caliber .45 M1911, a semi automatic, single action, detachable box magazine fed, recoil operated pistol chambered in the .45 Automatic cartridge adopted by the US Military in 1911. In 1924 prescribed changes by the military such as a shorter trigger face, an arched mainspring housing, thicker front sight, and a longer grip safety spur, and a longer  hammer spur were implemented and the designation changed to M1911A1. Since the term “1911” has been so heavily adopted for the sake of simplicity we will go with it for this article.

John Moses Browning was a genius and arguably the finest firearm engineer to date, as a matter of fact I would not be surprised if blueprints to the first laser gun will be found in his handwriting. He designed dozens of firearms that are still in use today and have not been able to be improved on.

Do you know why the M2 Browning .50 caliber machine gun more affectionately known as the Ma Deuce is still being used today by the military, it is still being built the the same way Mr. Browning finalized the design in 1923.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that these pistols can be accurized and accessorized in order to make them a better fit for a particular task, such as Bulls eye pistol matches or personal defense. This can be done without jeopardizing the reliability of the platform.  With the advancements in today’s metallurgy and manufacturing practices today’s 1911 should be bulletproof. I also understand not every pistol made is perfect and errors can happen during the manufacturing process which will lead to issues. This is not a liability of the 1911 but a liability of an imperfect world and human beings.

Now you have decided you can make a better 1911 you figure you can make a better magazine. Once again, maybe not. The seven round magazine with the dimpled follower was designed to work with the 1911, so now you have changed the pistol and magazine design there is no wonder when problems arise.
I personally own more than just a few Government Models that have yet to give me any issues. Many of these pistols do not get shot often but I have two Colts, a M1991A1 and a Gold Cup Trophy that have well over 20,000 rounds a piece through them without a pistol related failure. I do clean them every now and then and oil them from time to time, oh and I use good magazines. Aside from a few spring changes the pistols are basically factory stock.

My gunsmith who has been shooting the same Series 70 Colt Government Model for God knows how long told me he quit counting when he reached a quarter million rounds. Now this pistol has been rebuilt numerous times but is still on the factory receiver and slide. He told me he could count the  failures on both hands with this pistol.

This brings us to yet another issue for 1911s. Someone goes to the local gun store, buys a perfectly good 1911, and gets on the internet. He then
learns you need to put a 24 pound recoil spring, get the Dremel tool after the feed ramp and barrel throat, and start swapping in “drop in” parts.  We have the birth of another kitchen table gunsmith. Sometimes this works out but many times it does not.
When we hear the “Glock vs 1911” comparison or whatever pistol you want to compare that is not a fair analogy. You have to keep in mind only Glock makes Glock pistols while near about ever gun manufacture has his own version of the 1911. Don’t get me wrong, I like Glocks right much and they are reliable pistols. I like a lot of other pistols that are just fine but I have had it with all the 1911 bashing that has been cropping up. If dozens of companies made the Glock 17 and had the freedom to build them like they want to don’t you reckon we would see a similar situation?

Another factor that was pointed out by Mtgun44 over on the cast bullets forum, is out of specification ammunition, be it factory or reloaded if it is out of spec it won’t work.

So believe what you will but form an opinion based on facts, not what you read on the internet and that includes this article. Don’t take my word
for it, go buy you a new 1911 and a truck load of rounds and prove it to yourself.


Colt Gold Cup Trophy

By Hunter Elliott

I spent much of my youth involved with firearms and felt the call early on to the United States Marine Corps, following in my father's and his brother's footsteps. Just after high school I enlisted and felt most at home on the rifle range, where I qualified expert with several firearms and spent some time as a rifle coach to my fellow Marines. After being honorably discharged I continued teaching firearm safety, rifle and pistol marksmanship, and began teaching metallic cartridge reloading. In the late 1990s I became a life member to the National Rifle Association and worked with the Friends of the NRA. Around that time my father and I became involved with IDPA and competed together up until he passed away. I began reviewing firearms for publications in the mid 2000s and have been fortunate to make many friends in the industry. Continuing to improve my firearms skills and knowledge is a never ending journey in which we should all be committed. I am also credited as weapons master on a few independent films.

8 thoughts on “Cars are unreliable or the 1911 is not”
  1. Spot on article. Arguments I have made many times.

    My old Springfield (Loaded) rarely had an issue and generally it was operator error. That was with easily 5,000 rounds through it, conservatively speaking.

    Mine was tweeked and tuned to my liking, but otherwise stock.

  2. Hunter went and did it again! In other words, another well thought out and well written article on a subject he is qualified to write about. It was Hunter and his colleagues at that convinced me to purchase my first 1911 for concealed carry back in 07.

  3. Just stumbled onto your site, WOW! finally some commonsense information on weapons. I too always thought I was the exception, every Government model, that I have owned, has always worked perfectly, because I did not screw with it, as you state by adding things to it. I also believe your point about Glocks being a sole source provider, being the key to the reliability of the design. I shot my first Government at the age of 14, now at 58 years old, and had numerous models pass through my hands, my opinion has not changed in the least. thanks for a great site.

    1. Thank you very much Bruce. I agree with you and I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts on the 1911 as well as Glock. There is a lot of “1911 vs Glock” going around and like you said that is a bad comparison. Hunter

  4. Great article Rangehot, spot on. To many time behind keyboards and not enough time behind a trigger.
    I have a FUN FNP45P, great gun. Works well but need good ammo, WWB will not work. Not the gun’s fault but the out of spec ammo.

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