How many ways might there be to extol the virtues of the 1911 pistol? To hear guys like me describe it, John Moses Browning was smarter than Einstein, more enlightened than Gandhi, more innovative than Edison, tougher than Chuck Norris, and more influential than Thomas Crapper (the guy who popularized the flush toilet).
Browning’s 1911 combat pistol is better reasoned than the iPhone, more inspired than the microchip, deadlier than the H-bomb, and more reliable than a tire iron. For us committed 1911 acolytes, it is undeniably one nifty smokepole.
Browning contrived the thing to kill the radical Islamic terrorists of the day. At a time when the Europeans were satisfied with a P08 Parabellum pistol that pushed a 115-grain jacketed bullet, Mr. Browning simply doubled it. The 1911 is loud, heavy, powerful, and obnoxious, just like the country that birthed it. As a nation of gun nerds, we are utterly enamored with the classic flat architecture of the 1911 combat handgun.
AN ODD LIBERAL TWIST
We really have Bill Clinton to thank for the modern popularity of this most classic of classic guns. His ill-founded abomination, the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban, restricted magazine capacity to 10 rounds. This wretched piece of legislation fell right in the epicenter of the so-called “Wondernine” craze, wherein modern handguns crammed 15 or more rounds into their butts (a more indelicate metaphor than intended).
The Assault Weapons Ban subsequently drove us to revisit the idea of big heavy bullets packed into slim single-stack magazines.
With standard-capacity magazines artificially inflated in price, the classic svelte good looks and superb mechanical function of the 1911 saw a resurgence. As a result, everybody and their grandmother started churning out their own versions of Mr. Browning’s seminal combat gun. Along the way, some of us started to wax nostalgic for simpler times before the ubiquitous railed dust covers and radioactive sights.
The government-issue 1911 underwent a single major upgrade in the form of the 1911A1 in 1924. It soldiered otherwise on from the year of its birth to the present in the hands of U.S. GIs of various flavors. When the Army sacked the 1911 in favor of the Beretta M9 in 1985, many of us thought the world had ended.
I donned the uniform in time to wield a 1911A1. Ours were all World War II-era guns that had been through the rebuild process a time or three. They rattled when you shook them and grouped like shotguns in the hands of the uninitiated. However, they went bang every single time you squeezed the trigger and hit like a freight train downrange.
For many of my generation, the uniquely Spartan architecture of those old GI guns sparks a visceral appeal. Even today, when we hang everything but DVD players and espresso machines onto our forearm rails, there is just something nostalgic and powerful about an otherwise unadorned 1911 pistol. For anyone who might yet long to wield a GI 1911 for serious social work, Springfield Armory offers a splendid hybrid that embodies that original GI ambience with a few modern amenities.
THE 1911 MIL-SPEC
The Springfield Armory 1911 Mil-Spec sports a traditional arched 1911A1 mainspring housing, basic cocking serrations on the back of the slide, a single GI left-sided thumb safety, and an otherwise unadorned solid GI trigger. The hammer is of the original GI spur type. The grip safety is left exactly as Mr. Browning contrived it, and the finish on my gun is a pleasing grey Parkerizing. Modern guns are also available in stainless steel.
The barrel and bushing on the 1911 Mil-Spec are match grade. This alone makes the fit of the various components and subsequent accuracy potential hugely better than was the case with our old high-mileage GI versions. The ejection port is lowered and flared, and the GI sights have been replaced by a nice rugged set of combat sights sporting three white dots. These modern sights are a bit higher and a lot more visible than the GI originals.
The attractive wooden grips are embossed with the Springfield Armory logo. My gun also came with a set of black plastic grips should you yearn for a less ostentatious look. The dust cover is left smooth and uncorrupted by Picatinny rails. The 1911 Mil-Spec also eschews the traditional lanyard ring on the frame.
Packing heat is big business in America these days. Gun and accessory manufacturers make a good living from the practice, while geeks like me spill rivers of ink jabbering about it. What it typically all boils down to is personal comfort.
If I were to find myself in a real-deal, balls-to-the-wall, live-or-die shootout, I would want my favorite tricked-out black rifle, Level XII body armor (not a real thing), and a 30-minute head start. While we’re dreaming, I’d really prefer a Reaper drone orbiting silently overhead and a tooled-up SEAL platoon for company. However, what I might really have is whatever I actually pack on my person.
As a result, I try to discipline myself to carry serious iron every day while at work or out and about with my family. While the world’s myriad plastic pistols offer modest weight and great firepower, none of them seem to shoot quite as well for me as a classic steel 1911. Despite the fact that my daily work uniform is a lightweight set of surgical scrubs, I have found that, with the proper gear, I can indeed carry a steel-framed 1911 throughout a standard 14-hour workday in relative comfort.
The Springfield Armory 1911 Mil-Spec represents a holy melding of classic GI cool with a nod toward modern amenities. It is both well executed and handsome. Our other two contestants represent the two disparate ends of the spectrum.
My GI-issue Remington Rand 1911A1 rolled off the lines in 1944. If you look closely, you can still see the tool marks where the slide was hurriedly ground smooth. It’s in great shape but remains utterly devoid of frills. The one exception is a cosmetic addition that is simply beyond price.
My wife’s grandfather served as an Infantryman in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy during World War II. He enlisted in 1940 as a Private and got out in 1945 as a Sergeant Major. Throughout his years in combat, he carried a 1911A1 sporting a handmade right grip.
This great man fashioned the grip himself out of Nazi Plexiglas harvested from a Fieseler Storch observation plane downed by Allied ground fire. He carefully smoothed the piece using the original as a template and situated a beaming picture of his young bride underneath. He wielded this pistol throughout his many military campaigns.
Upon his death at age 96, stewardship of this priceless artifact fell to me. It is now among my most prized physical possessions.
On the other end of the scale we have the Kimber Warrior SOC TFS (Threaded For Suppressor). The Kimber name is foundational dogma for 1911 enthusiasts, and their Warrior SOC TFS is among their most rarefied handguns.
The Warrior SOC TFS offers a railed dust cover, radioactive raised tritium night sights, an extended bilateral safety, a generous beavertail grip safety with a memory bump, and a cool two-tone green/tan finish. The match-grade barrel is extended and threaded, and the eight-round magazine includes a rubber bumper to protect it when dropped either intentionally or otherwise. The extended trigger fits my anatomy perfectly. The Kimber Warrior SOC also includes a lanyard ring.
Comparing and contrasting these three guns is indeed an interesting exercise. The modern tuned trigger of the Warrior SOC makes the gun a much more relaxed platform, while its many manifest creature comforts enhance speed and efficiency. We had no failures among all three guns.
However, I really came to appreciate the salient benefits associated with a lowered and flared ejection port. The GI gun consistently bounced empties off my face. The Springfield Armory and Kimber heaters did not.
If the mission is simply to fight the gun with its single onboard magazine, all three were variations on a theme. The Warrior SOC and 1911 Mil-Spec were a bit handier than the GI original, but not by much. It is in these nuances that fortunes are made selling rarefied custom guns.
What really sets the more modern iron apart from the geriatric original is the sights. Particularly for my half-century-old peepers, those tiny GI sights just don’t cut it any more. But alas, everybody’s sights were too small back then, so I’ll cut old John Moses some slack in that regard.
At the end of the day, it comes down to personal preference. If you find the classic GI vibe appealing, the Springfield Armory 1911 Mil-Spec brings you the subtle nuances that guarantee world-class performance without leaving the chassis particularly cluttered.
Browning’s classic 1911 is indeed heavier than most modern iron, and only carries seven or so in the magazine. But those nearly half-inch gaping hollow-points mean not having to say you’re sorry in any language, and the thin, svelte frame does allow for fairly easy concealment. For proven combat performance along with GI chic, little can compare to the Springfield Armory 1911 Mil-Spec.
|SPEC||GI 1911A1||KIMBER WARRIOR SOC TFS||SPRINGFIELD 1911 MIL-SPEC|
|CALIBER||.45 ACP||.45 ACP||.45 ACP|
|LENGTH||8.5 inches||9.19 inches||8.6 inches|
|BARREL LENGTH||5.03 inches||5.25 inches||5 inches|
|WEIGHT||39 ounces||40 ounces||39 ounces|