Wednesday, December 29, 2021

My Thoughts on the .45 caliber Model 1911 Handgun

The M1911 .45 caliber was (and remains) one of the finest handguns ever designed, produced, and carried. The problem for most folks firing a 1911 isn’t the firearm or the .45 caliber round - it's training.

My first experience with a 1911 was in the Army National Guard. I barely hit anything, found it cumbersome and heavy and was bitterly disappointed. I rejected the .45 and eventually settled on 9mm. What I didn’t realize at the time was that I was searching for a tool that would minimize my deficiencies.

First, Army training for sidearms was (and likely remains) woefully inadequate. I was a recently minted lieutenant (after ten years as an enlisted soldier and NCO). For my introduction to the 1911 I was instructed to head to the range and “qualify.” The training consisted of a short review on loading, unloading, and reloading (all tasks required on the course of fire). There was no zero, no practice runs, no instruction on proper grip, stance, or recoil control.

Second, Army training was inadequate because the thinking was “If you need a handgun you’re screwed anyway.” I was a tank platoon leader — what tanker would exchange a 105mm main gun, .50 caliber machine gun, a pair of 7.62 machine gun, and 60 tons of mass for a pitiful handgun in any situation?

Third, just about every soldier I encountered (officer, enlisted, and NCO) treated the handgun as a birthright: “Of course I can shoot this — point and click, right?”

Thus, there’s no surprise people have bad experiences and chalked it up to the “recoil” of the mighty .45.

In fact, the M1911 is an all-steel weapon with plenty of mass. While the round is a bit larger than a 9mm (the .”45” refers to a fraction of an inch — thus less than 1/2” inch wide), the mass of the firing platform helps dampen felt-recoil. The standard .45 issue FMJ round is also a rather slow projectile (around 900 FPS, whereas a rifle fires 1700 and more FPS). Since Force = mass X velocity squared (F=mv2) (thanks for the correction), a heavy, slow thing might have the same felt recoil of a fast, small thing (all other factors being equal).

It wasn’t until several years passed I decided to get serious about handguns. I took some training, shot a lot, and settled on the 9mm as the default choice. More time passed, but I kept running into serious shooters who swore by the .45. After encountering enough of these fans of John Browning I decided to give the M1911 another look.

It was eye-opening. After more training and more focus on proper grip, stance, and overall engagement I learned how to properly fire a handgun.

I found the 1911 trigger was sublime. The recoil was actually less. My ability to put 7 rounds on target in a short amount of time improved. I bought a “Commander” size .45 and that has become my primary carry firearm.

I went from “Yeah, those things are a piece of junk” to “John Browning was a genius for the ages.” And now, I suppose, I’m also one of those old guys that shoots a .45 at the range and other shooters with plastic guns look over and think, “He’s so behind the times.”

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Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment! I appreciate your comments and will review and post if appropriate.

thanks again!

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