From the time I first started delving into the world of firearms, one thing was abundantly clear: The 1911 is the king of of the handgun jungle. There have been many guns that have come and gone with little or no impact on gun culture. The M1911 was clearly not one of those. I decided to do some research and look into why this particular design is still so widely used and admired all around the world.
My first research came in the form of a poll. I asked my readers to vote whether or not they owned a 1911. If they didn’t, I asked if they wanted one. Of the 30 people who voted, 20 said that yes, they in fact owned a 1911 of some form or another. Beyond that, 5 people who didn’t currently have one wanted one. Only a few noted that they didn’t want one at all. I know that most of my readers are gun owners and they probably own a variety of different weapons. Not everyone likes the same things, and yet 2/3 of those who voted owned a 1911.
I decided to cruise the web in search of more information. I found more than I could read in a lifetime unfortunately. Every gun forum has threads dedicated exclusively to the 1911. On some of those forums I found people just like me who were trying to find out exactly why everyone loves them so much. Other forum members were trying to understand why nobody could accept change and innovation, preferring to stick with old designs rather than newer ones. Many answered by simply saying, “If you have to ask, you’ll never understand the reasons”. Others gave long answers that detailed every little aspect about the firearm and how it was still superior to most modern firearms.
Besides forums, I found plenty of articles and web pages dedicated to the 1911. Over on The Truth About Guns they even have an article called “Why The 1911 Doesn’t Suck”. Others, like Browning.com, have pages reserved for detailing the history of this great firearm. And of course there is always Wikipedia with its collective knowledge of all the users who contribute.
I read a lot over the past few days and here’s what I learned about the 1911:
The 1911, designed by John Browning, a famous firearms designer in the United States, was conceived right around the turn of the century. In the early 1900’s, the United States Government was looking for firearms to replace those it currently had in service. Browning answered the call with his semi-auto handgun design and in 1911 it was adopted by the U.S. military as the M1911.
The M1911 saw service for almost 80 years and was with us through WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, as well as several other conflicts. Even after being officially replaced in 1990 by the M9, the M1911 still found limited use in the military. Outside the military however it still remains a popular firearm to this day. Many police departments still use the 1911 as their service pistol. Outside the U.S. the M1911 saw service in countries including Brazil, Canada, China, the U.K., the Soviet Union, and many others.
Currently the majority of users appear to be civilians. There are many different reasons people love the 1911 (which I go over a bit more below) but one reason that stands out a lot is its accuracy. As a result of this, many competition shooters choose to go with a variant of the 1911 as their competition handgun.
Why Its Loved
- Reliability – Almost everyone who talked about the 1911 mentioned its reliability. It holds up to repeated use with virtually no complaints.
- Parts Availability – Anywhere gun stuff is sold you can find parts and accessories for 1911’s. From barrells and frames to sights and grips, you can find almost anything you need to buid or repair a 1911.
- Customization – As I mentioned above, accessories are available everywhere. You can customize your 1911 to look and feel however you want it to. For example, there are wider grips if you have big hands and brighter, easier to see sights if you have poor eyesight.
- Appearance – Many people cited the way the gun looks as the reason why they loved it so much. In my opinion it certainly is an attractive handgun.
- Accuracy – The trigger on the 1911 is apparently very well made and easy to pull. That, combined with the length of the barrel, provide the gun with exceptional accuracy.
- History – Because the 1911 served with the U.S. military for 80 years it has a good following with military buffs. Other people look at it as a patriotic firearm that demonstrates our innovation and inventiveness. Others just like the nostalgia that comes with it.
- Ergonomics – The 1911 seems to fit well in the hands of just about anyone. In addition, the handgun’s weight is neither too much or too little. Its light enough to be held and fired but heavy enough that recoil is reduced more than on other handguns.
Are there handgun designs out there that are better than the 1911? Probably, but “better” is simply an opinion. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. The 1911 certainly has a lot of positive features, but its not right for every situation. However, finding any one gun capable of filling every role is probably not likely to happen.
The 1911 has been around for over 100 years and has a following all over the world. I doubt we will see its popularity decline for a very long time and that’s perfectly fine by me. If I had the money to buy another handgun it would be a 1911 for sure. My Sig 1911-22 is a lot of fun but shooting the real deal would be a whole other beast entirely I’m sure.