1911 Beginner’s Guide

| Last Updated: August 25, 2021

The M1911 or also known as the Colt M1911 is a semi-automatic pistol that was designed by the legendary John Moses Browning in the year 1911.

Photo credit: wondersandmarvels.com

A favorite for the military and also the civilian population. This amazing handgun has been the basis of design for many modern pistols. But with so many latest designs around, it still excels in performance.

Let’s understand why.

Table of Contents

1911 Overview

Taking Advantage of the 1911

What the 1911 Does Best

Further Reading on 1911s

Where the 1911 Falls Short

Conclusion

A 1911 Overview

The M1911 was a result of almost a decade-long search and trial by the U.S Military for a new handgun. The military used revolvers and was looking for a newer self-loading type design with easier reloading and larger capacity. 

John Browning drew inspiration for the development of the M1911 from Hiram S. Maxim’s development of the machine gun.

While there were other self-loading pistol designs also available in the world at that time. Like the Mauser C96 Broomhandle and the Mannlicher M1894. The M1911 passed with flying colors in rigorous testing. 

This handgun comes chambered in .45ACP. Which is known for its tremendous stopping power. Even against charging enemies who are high on drugs. This pistol was officially adopted by the U.S Military in 1911 and has been through a lot of wars and battles. 

It was officially replaced by the Beretta M9 as the standard-issue sidearm in the year 1985. However, it is still in use by several units of the U.S Military and many armies and LE departments around the world. 

John Browning (Photo credit: m1911.org)

The M1911 is not just a viable pistol, it is also known for its amazing build quality and one of the finest triggers you can find on a handgun. This handgun was redesigned a bit in the year 1926 and came to be known as the M1911A1. 

The major changes between these two are the shorter trigger, cutouts in the frame behind the trigger, an arched mainspring housing, longer grip safety spur (to prevent hammer bite), a wider front sight, a shortened hammer spur, and simplified grip checkering. However, the internal mechanism is almost the same. 

The M1911 is a very respected handgun and also a high-priced one. Sure you can find some lower-end models for as low as $400. But you’ll have to spend an average of $1,000 for a good piece. With prices going as high as $50,000 for some collectible grade pieces.

What the 1911 Does Best

The M1911 has been the primary sidearm for the U.S Military for almost 75 years. Proving its worth over a gazillion times in the great wars, Korean wars, and many other conflicts. So it is an obvious fact that this is a great combat and self-defense weapon. 

The .45 ACP caliber has amazing stopping power and it holds ample rounds to last longer in a gunfight. Additionally, the slim grip single-stack magazine design of this handgun makes it a perfect option for concealed carry uses. 

The M1911 is available in a variety of different barrel lengths. The most common are Government Model (5.03 inches), Commander Model (4.25 inches), and Officer Model (3.5 inches). The latter works best for concealed carry whereas the former is good for competitions. 

This handgun is very popular with civilians for shooting competitions like the USPSA, IDPA, bullseye shooting competitions, and other international level events. Thanks to the amazing 1911 trigger and other accessories. 

The M1911 is also favored by many traditionalists due to its full-metal design. Since modern handguns use polymer. 

Due to its reliability, accuracy, and proven performance, 1911 is carried by several marksmanship units and is still used by many militaries around the world.

Photo credit: armytimes.com

Where the 1911 Falls Short

I think ‘falling short’ would be a bit of a strong term to use for the M1911. Perhaps it is a matter of personal choice. There’s no doubt in saying that there are a lot more advanced handgun options available out there. This handgun offers a ton of pros, but there are a few considerations you must keep in mind before using one. 

Due to its robust steel frame and no polymer parts, the M1911 weighs around two pounds on average. Guns of the same size and capacity that use polymer in their construction weigh half than that. Sometimes even less. While weight is a good mitigation factor for recoil, not everybody likes it. 

Another small drawback of using the M1911 is the attention and care it requires. Especially for maintenance. It’s not like a Glock or SIG where you simply depress a button and slide all the components out within a few seconds. This gun has a more detailed disassembly process and requires proper knowledge. Additionally, more parts mean more maintenance and care. 

Photo credit: authoritysafes.com

Since original M1911’s are mostly handmade, they have a higher price tag than other handguns. Not to mention the meticulous scrollwork on some custom designs. A well-made M1911 will always be pricier than most other handguns. 

Another small drawback with this handgun is its capacity. While other handguns of their size, like the Glock 17 can allow you to stack more rounds in the mag. The M1911 only offers seven in the mag. Or maybe nine with a magazine extension. 

Additionally, the dual feed ramp and spring steel extractor may require some minor machining to eliminate any possible malfunctions.

How to Take Advantage of the 1911

Upgrades and accessories are the perfect options to get the most out of a firearm. The M1911 is no different and can be enhanced in usability and performance with these improvements. Let’s look at the major ones. 

The most common improvement for the M1911 is its barrel. Available in a variety of lengths and build qualities, a good barrel greatly improves the accuracy of the handgun. 

Photo credit: alloutdoor.com

The next best upgrade you should look for is a good pair of sights. Apart from iron sights some customized M1911’s can be fitted with small red dot sights to make them more tactical and versatile.

Another important upgrade for this handgun is the guide rod. You may opt for a full-length guide rod for easy maintenance and a slightly improved performance. Plus a better recoil spring to enhance controllability. 

Talking about upgrades, the M1911 has a slim grip due to its single stacked magazine design. So you may also want to get a good set of custom or wrap-around grips for your M1911. 

If you are interested in custom designing your handgun, there are M1911 build kits and frames available on the market. To let you craft it absolutely from scratch. 

To match the M1911 with the modern handguns, there are a ton of accessories out there to choose from. But you need either proper knowledge of this firearm or the help of a qualified gunsmith to make such changes. Apart from all this, one very important factor to consider is how you should carry your M1911. This pistol is already a tad bulky and calls for a strong gun belt and a good holster. Probably a leather holster with a suede lining on the inside.

Further Reading on 1911s

Choosing a handgun is a matter of choice. Some people like traditional guns whereas others are more inclined towards the latest polymer models like the Glock. I’m not saying that choosing either of these is a wrong choice. But it drills down to your uses and preference. 

For example, the M1911 is commonly found chambered in .45 ACP. In fact, it is a .45 ACP handgun. But many people may not be comfortable with the recoil of this caliber. Moreover, handguns are mostly used for CCW and self-defense by civilians. In that case, the 9mm will mostly overpower the .45 ACP in terms of capacity and controllability. 

Photo credit: barrettrifles.com

A 9mm like a Glock 17 will hold more rounds in its double-stacked magazine than the M1911 in .45 ACP. However, on the contrary, if you are a good shot with calibers like .45 ACP. You can do it easily with fewer rounds. 

Following the mood of the market and also the problem of females, elderly and recoil sensitive shooters. Colt has now started limited production of 9mm models for the M1911. You can also check out our detailed comparison of an M1911 vs Glock if you’re confused about which one to choose.

Conclusion

The M1911 has been one of the most produced handguns of all time and also the most widely used sidearm of the U.S Military. Chambered in .45 ACP it features an exceptional trigger, meticulously handcrafted design, and a slim profile for easy concealability.



Josh Lewis the managing editor at Gun Mann and when he isn't writing about guns he is more than likely tinkering with them. He also enjoys hunting, fishing and spending time outdoors. As a lifelong gun owner he knows his stuff!