Concealed Carry & Home Defense

CCW Weekend: The Rewards And Challenges Of Carrying A 1911

By Sam Hoober, Alien Gear Holsters

Despite the proliferation of plastic striker pistols in the past couple decades, 1911 concealed carry is still incredibly popular. Believe it or not, the wheel hasn’t been reinvented all that much when it comes to firearms. Granted, there have been some innovative models here and there, but so many aspects of guns in terms of design, function and so on has barely changed since the dawn of the 20th century.

For instance, name some of the most popular pistol calibers. 9mm Para, .45 ACP, .380 Auto, .38 Special are the most common carry round and all of them were invented before 1910. That’s hardly stopped anyone, and every major holster company makes at least a few 1911 concealed carry holster models.

Then again, the reason why those rounds have lasted as has the 1911 and some other classic pistol designs? They work too well to discard! That, along with the time-tested qualities of the design and other aspects are why so many people out there carry a 1911 every day.

The Government frame is one of the easiest full-size pistols to concealed carry due to the slim dimensions. Despite most Gov’t frames tipping the scales at 35 or more ounces unloaded and being upward of 8 inches in length, the slide is less than 1 inch wide, swelling to about 1.2 inches at the grip for most models. While carrying IWB certainly puts a big metal goiter on the hip, a decent gun belt makes it quite manageable.

For that, the carrier gets one of the easiest shooting big bore pistol designs, and one that proved itself on the battlefield numerous times over. However, there have certainly been more carry-friendly designs created over the years.

Commander-frame 1911s are fairly common as well, having first been introduced in the 1950s by Colt, and are easier-concealing than Government models. Typical barrel length is 4.25 inches (that was the original specification) but some Commander 1911s have 4-inch barrels. This takes a half an inch off the length overall, which isn’t much but makes a difference.

Officer-frame 1911s are certainly the easiest to carry, being the most compact with a typical barrel length of 3.5 inches, often reducing overall length to around 7 inches in many cases. A shorter frame (4.5 inches to 5 inches, depending on who makes it) reduces the height, but also carrying capacity. That said, Officer frames are around the same size as some of the most popular concealed carry pistols of the poly striker design.

Usually, what you can get depends on what you’re willing to spend and it’s easy to get sticker shock. Budget Government 1911s abound, though quality can vary and there will be little adornment. There are also uber-high end custom guns that will run upward of $5,000. That said, there are plenty of 1911 pistols out there to fit most budgets.

However, carrying this pistol does demand a few things. First, it’s first, best use is carrying cocked and locked, which demands the carrier train themselves to deactivate the safety as part of the draw. Second, it’s crucial to invest in a quality holster and gun belt. While carrying a gun that weighs upward of 40 oz loaded, you will find out very quickly how much a difference those make!

The .45 ACP round is not the man-stopper some people say it is. Granted, a .45 ACP FMJ round does more damage than a 9x19mm FMJ round, this is true, but it is no more than adequate and easily over-penetrates. Selecting a good hollowpoint is crucial though plenty are available; Speer, Federal, Remington and others make fine JHP rounds. Besides, you can also get them in 9mm, .38 Super, 10mm and other chamberings if .45 ACP isn’t your cup of tea.

Additionally, you also have to reconcile yourself to lower capacity. In .45 ACP, most magazines hold between 6 and 8 rounds, depending, though this can go up to 11 for full-size guns chambered in 9mm. Granted, most would proffer that 6 to 8 rounds is normally all you’ll need.

You may also want to invest in some upgrades, such as better sights and some better trigger and recoil springs though the latter two are cheap. Quality magazines are also a must as the magazine is the usual suspect in 1911 hiccups; some 1911 guys buy Wilson Combat magazines and just toss the ones that came from the factory.

That said, the 1911 is arguably the most enduring pistol design besides the S&W Model 10, so there is certainly something to be said for the platform.

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Sam Hoober is Contributing Editor for AlienGearHolsters.com, a subsidiary of Hayden, ID, based Tedder Industries, where he writes about gun accessories, gun safety, open and concealed carry tips. Click here to visit aliengearholsters.com.