A Nurse with a Gun

Monday, January 15, 2007

Carry Gun Reliability

Marko at The Munchkin Wrangler has a great article up on the 1911 as a carry gun, and on carry guns in general. While I don't have $1500 to plunk down on a NIB semi-custom 1911 that is mass produced with the latest tactical whizbangs, I would be mad as hell if I spent that kind of coin on a gun that couldn't get through a box of ammo without choking.

As long as 1911 packers continue to accept the unacceptable in a carry gun just so they can tote the lastest in tacticality, they will be sneered at by Glock men. The reason is clear. Glocks work, and they work well. They may not be as pretty, they may not be as accurate, they may not be a lot of things the 1911 is, but they work. When a Glock punches holes all day long while a 1911 chokes on it's own gun powder residue with the the 1911 owner making excuses rather than demanding results, the result is clear as day. Glock just whooped that high dollar 1911's butt.

It's time for 1911 owners to stop accepting guns that choke, and for gun writers to stop promoting guns that fail. The 1911 can be an excellent carry gun, fast, powerful, beautiful and reliable. It has to be understood, however, that the most important quality in a defensive weapon is reliability. This is no laughing matter. When guns fail, people often die as a result.

A reliable 1911 can purchased for well under $1500. A reliable 1911 can be built for under $1500 as well. I'm not talking reliability through five boxes of ammo either. I'm talking the same level of reliability that is the Glock's reputation. Drag it through the mud, clean it with a squirt of brake cleaner once a year and never have it fail reliability. With any ammo. You will not, however, get that kind of reliability by making excuses for a gun that chokes. And about the mags and ammo thing Tam, if you load crap ammo into Chinese magazines made out of melted down milk jugs and stuff it in the bottom of your Glock, I'll guarandamntee you the Glock will fail too. Any auto loader depends on top quality ammo and magazines to function. No slam on Tam, I love the gal. She knows what I'm talking about. She knows what she's talking about too.

If you have $1500 and want a 1911 for a carry gun, contact Yost~Bonitz, Clark Custom, Novaks, or another premier gunsmitty. Tell them what you want. They can meet your needs. If you don't have that kind of dough, or if you don't want to invest that money in a gun that will be punished by the rigors of carry, then do what I did. Build your own, or keep the damned thing stock if it functions 100%. Do not accept a chrome sissy pistol that fails over a Glock. Demand a better gun.

Big hat tip to Marko!

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Anonymous Monica Ricci said...

Xavier, I am looking desperately for your email. Can you PM me with it at GT please? Thanks! Shoeless (Monica)

11:04 PM  
Blogger Big Gay Al said...

If I may suggest, I don't think I'd want to carry a $1500.00 gun for protection. Not unless I could afford to part with it, should the worst case scenario occur, and I have to use it to protect myself.

I'd recommend something along the lines of a used (i.e., broken in) 1911, such as one I'm picking up, a Para-Ordnance P14.45, but less than $500.00. Or, if you have to have new, try the Taurus PT1911. It's going for less than $600.00, in most places, and for less than $500.00 in some others as well.

Of course, that's just my opinion. ;)

12:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

WTF use is a pistol that gums up?

I know glocks have a reputation for oversize and over chamfered chambers compared to other makes, but...

ps, has anyone come accross unreliable Makarovs and Tokarevs? The Reds seemed to assume their soldiers had the brains of a blue arsed baboon and seemed to design guns accordingly.

8:20 AM  
Blogger Porta's Cat said...

Xave, you have picked a sensitive subject, and Tam lambasted me once (in good nature) for saying the same thing.

I, personally, do not have the fundage for a $1000-1500 pistol that may or may not work until I get it tweaked right. I have no problem with those who do, and do get it built right. But it is so out of the reach of many folks out there.

Glocks are obvious, but my Beretta PX4 in 9mm has been a sweet shooter, reliable and far more accurate than a stock 9mm Glock. Fits the hand like glove and will shoot anything I put into it. And they can be had under $500 new if you look hard enough. It is a "hammer gun", and some have prejudices against that, but I have been shooting "de-cocks" for 15+ years now.

Anyhow, not to sell the PX4, but just to acknowledge that unless it is a safe queen, any firearm I own has to be reliable and dependable before it has to be stylish, wrought with history, or built to lavish and exacting standards. A solid and simple .357 magnum of the Smith, Colt, or Ruger variety beats the heck out of an iffy 1911 any day.

1:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


What would you recommend as a minimum test for a 1911's reliability?


5:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Posted about this before: revolvers work. My S&W 325 PD in .45, and (through Tam's blog) a S&W 296 in .44 Special. (There's also a lightweight .38, if I'm not wearing enough [?!] to cover a larger gun.) And they are a heck of a lot easier to load when your arthritis is playing havoc (first day of my 65th year is today).
OldeForce BTW - Keep posting!

8:25 PM  
Blogger Jerry The Geek said...

Turn, turn, turn .... to everything there is a season. (The Byrds)

The same topics re-occur from one year to the next, and I see it's time for me to retell the Geek Kimber story again.

I shoot IPSC competition, which is in itself a controversial subject (one Gun rag published an article titled "IPSC Will Get You Killed" because of the un-practicality of Practical Pistol shooting), but reliability IS the Name of the Game in this time-centric shooting sport.

In 1997 I was eager to move beyond my S&W 659 and start shooting a Major Caliber.

After much research, I decided that the Kimber Custom in .45acp was the gun for me. Kimber was two years into making pistols using 'newer' technology for a low price, so I was able to buy a brand new one for $239.

Well, that was nine years ago. You can't buy the same gun now for anything like that price, but it became The Beloved Kimber because it would shoot anything you fed it ... as long as the crip was right. Factory ammunition always worked, and my reloads always worked when I shaped them according to specifications (OAL is important in any cartridge!)

At first I cleaned the gun every time I fired it. Then I grew lazy, and I used the gun, four matches per month plus practice, for months between cleanings.

The only thing that ever forced me to clean it was the eventual build-up of powder residue on the frame rails (Damn dirty Unique powder!), at which time I would pull the slide, spray it with WD40 (I swear I am not making this up!) and wipe it down with a paper towel. Drip some motor oil on it, reassemble, and it was good for another thousand rounds or two.

For deep-down cleaning I field-stripped it, removed the grips, and ran it through the dishwasher. Used brake-cleaner to remove any residue, and motor oil to lubricate it. (Sewing machine oil in the Winter.)

I should mention that I shot between 600 and 2000 rounds a month, depending on the competition calendar, in all weather from 100 degree August to rainy/snow-blasted sub-zero January.

I'm not very good at competitive shooting, but I beat a lot of 'good shooters' because my 1911 kept on ticking while theirs was kicking.

Yes, the Glock works reliably under adverse conditions because the chamber is 'loose'. So is the chamber on my Kimber, but I can still hit the targets shooting as fast as I pull the trigger because it never fails to go 'BOOM!'

This is one of those YMMV statements, but there is an elemental truth to be considered.

I now shoot an STI Open Gun, with a 'loose' chamber, and it's every bit as reliable as the Kimber under the same conditions and the same minimal care.

Except, of course, the diswasher cleaning. I can't run the Electronic dot-sight through the dishwasher. I use more paper towels nowdays.

My Sweetie shoots another Open gun from the same manufacturer, in the same caliber (.38 Super), and it's MUCH more finicky. Why? Because the chamber is tighter, and the extractor is tuned for .38 super only while my STI uses an Aftec extractor which works just fine for both rimmed and rimless cases.

Go ahead, bad-mouth the 1911 if it pleases you. But it pleases me to shoot the 1911 for the same reasons which you find problematical: reliability.

Of course, between my Sweetie and myself we only shoot about 20,000 rounds a year in competition and practice, so we probably aren't stressing the guns enough to cause reliability problems.

My carry gun? The Beloved Kimber.

My nightstand gun? An army-surplus 1911 (note: not "1911A1") built in 1917.

9:17 PM  
Blogger Keith Walker said...

I carry a Springfield XD and love it. I like the fact that the two safeties are the trigger and grip safeties. I don't have to do anything other than hold the gun correctly to shoot it. I can't find ammo that it doesn't like and it is extremely accurate right out of the box.

Check out the Saturday, December 02, 2006 entry on my blog for pictures of my first shoots with it.


Just copy and paste the url into your browser.

10:37 PM  
Blogger Cybrludite said...

Heck, the only trouble I've had with my Auto Ordinance M1911A1 came from not keeping the rails lubed early on. Now that the first case & a half of ammo's been run through it, I don't even have that as a concern anymore. $375 for the gun NIB, and about $150 for a case & a half of Wolf brand FMJ, and the thing's as reliable as a hammer.

5:49 AM  
Anonymous Jay G. said...

S&W 360PD. 12 ounces. .357 Magnum goodness.

Revolver reliability. Magnum power.

And if you miss the bad guy, the muzzle flash will set his f**kin' clothes on fire... ;)

9:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have carried a 1911A1 or a 1927 Colt Gov for over 45 years. I use the guns in original configuration and shoot them well. With proper ammo and magazines, the 1911 is a fine carry gun. I have purchased a couple Springfield Armory GI 1911s and found them to be flawless, still, after several thousands of rounds through them without a malfunction. Be sure to learn immediate action, because nothing is perfect. That's why it is taught on LE and military ranges. I think some folks may have confused the status of high price with the most reliability you can get. Browning designed the 1911 to work on the battlefield with proper ammo and feed. It for durn sure works on the street if you do your part. This old street copper sure trusts it.

4:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was at the range yesterday, and watched the man next to me have jam after jam, I don't think he got one mag through without a jam, He was using ball ammo, and he had a Glock 9mm! I on the other hand had my Springfield Arms 1911 with 12 8 round mags that were loaded over a year ago and never had a jam! No jams out 96 rounds shout! I was shooting the cheapest ammo that I could find, Wolf and white box stuff. So reliability is, IMHO, up to the owner and how clean and serviced he keeps his gun!

11:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Reliable gun, reliable ammo and reliable mag, all working together like a (like I don't know what)

I think John Moses Browning knew exactly what he was doing with the 1911. I'm not saying that Radom, FN, Petter, SIG, CZ, and Tokarev didn't each make improvements in functioning (and manufacture)

Tokarev in particular, going for the more vertical mag alignment, machining the mag feed lips into the action, using the bottlenecked rimless .30 Mauser round, which can funnel itself into the chamber from the weirdest of angles and does not require a sharp lip in the chamber to headspace on. Tokarev really was going for reliability. The Tula arsenal also helped with hard chromed chambers and bores, so crud doesn't stick to it like shit to a blanket.It might lack the pointability of the others, but without the mechanical safety (the safety is where it belongs, in the firer's mindset)he was really going for a fumble proof tool, the only trouble, .30 Tokarev is just too good at penetrating crooks and the walls behind them.

For the sake of starting an argument, W.E. Fairbairn in his time in the Shanghai Police, said that news of crooks armed with .30 mausers sent his guys scrambling for body armour and instilled far greater fear than facing other rounds, and as if to labour the point, the only round to give a 1 shot kill in the feed lot tests that led to the recommendation of .45 as the minimum calibre for US service was it's little brother, the .30 luger.

Back to the 1911, what a point shooter, the important control (the trigger) is in just the right place, the whole thing lines up so well that at combat ranges (who says the light is going to be adequate to use sights?)the little sights of the original don't matter, and bigger ones are more of a snag hazard. As for extended slide release and safeties on a defensive gun... Why?

12:11 PM  
Anonymous vikz said...

what are you talking about???1911's are the most reliable , accurate and depandable...the design was a head of it's time...ww1,ww2,korea,vietnam,iraq,didid i left out any????..100yrs and still going thank you very much...

2:22 PM  
Blogger geekWithA.45 said...

I never understood spending 2k on a 1911.

What the heck, over?

I dropped maybe $650 on my para LTD 14.45 a bunch of years ago, have run thousands of rounds through it, and it has not failed once. Ever.

The one and only reason it is NOT a frequent carry piece is that the target style sights aren't melted, and have no low light provision, but that's fixable w/ $80 meprolights and quality time with a drift punch.

8:56 PM  

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