By Sam Hoober, Alien Gear Holsters
The 1911 is one of the most proven pistol platforms out there. Everyone familiar with them knows the positive attributes. The gun is a natural pointer, is ergonomically pleasant to hold and shoot, they are accurate and – with some care – reliable. Granted, a lot comes down to the example you get and who made it.
But let’s face it: the age of the design has been showing for some time. In fact, its age was showing by the 1980s. Police departments were switching to double-stack 9mm pistols en masse and the armed forces dumped its warhorse for the Beretta M9.
Why hasn’t it been brought into the 21st Century already?
The platform is actually ideal for today’s handgun market. The uniformed officer or target shooter isn’t the most common customer; civilians packing a CCW in a concealed carry holster are the folks doing a lot more of the buying these days.
The slide width of the 1911 is less than one inch, making IWB carry easy. Since the concealed carrier (arguably) doesn’t need double-stack capacity, the 6 to 10 rounds (depends on caliber and grip length) of the 1911 is sufficient. The platform can accommodate all of the popular semi-auto pistol calibers (9mm, .40 S&W, .45 ACP) and some of the boutique bullets (.38 Super, .357 Sig, 10mm) besides.
What would make the 1911 more modern?
First, the gun has to be put on a diet. Government frame models weigh upward of 40 ounces unloaded. Officer frames tip the scales anywhere from 24 ounces to 30 ounces, which are a bit more reasonable but still on the heavier side compared to the most popular carry guns. The easiest route is a polymer frame.
Second, more of today’s shooters prefer striker triggers to single-action operation. Let it be said that “the safety will get you killed!” argument is a myth; a bit of training solves the problem with ease and for good. However, the buying public tends to not prefer them. That would mean switching the platform to a striker-fired system (which incidentally was devised by John Browning) or a light double-action system with a dehorned or internal hammer.
Features such as interchangeable sights (many models have fixed sights) and an accessory rail would also have to be included.
Another factor is cost. Granted, there’s a market for higher-end guns and plenty of people are buying Sig Sauer’s more expensive pistols. Wilson Combat charges a pretty penny but stays in business and so on and so forth.
However, what are the really popular carry pistols? Those are guns like the S&W Shield (MSRP around $450) the Glock 19 (runs about $600 in a lot of stores) and Glock 26 (a bit less) on down to the Taurus PT111 Millennium G2 (about $200) and so on. Not that there aren’t some cost-effective 1911 pistols out there; some import guns (Rock Island Armory, ATI) can be had for pretty reasonable amounts.
There have been some attempts, though.
The Hudson H9 puts 1911-style ergonomics (among other features) in a polymer-framed striker-fired pistol. However, it isn’t very compact and definitely not cost-effective.
Para Ordnance created a line of Light Double Action 1911 pistols, with about a 6-pound trigger pull and no external hammer. However, it had barely been on the market when Para was bought and absorbed by Remington, so production ceased and with Big Green being in a world of hurt, they probably aren’t coming back.
Currently, you can get polymer-framed 1911 pistols from Tanfoglio (via European American Armory) and Rock River Arms. EAA’s prices are more friendly – $600 vs $925 – but both guns are still a touch on the heavy side at 32 ounces for a Government frame. However, EAA has Commander and Officer pistols coming.
American Tactical Imports also produces a series of 1911-esque pistols, the FXH-45. There are a couple of Government frame versions and a Commander frame. They have polymer frames, with accessory rails and a lot of 1911 parts. The FXH-45 series uses Glock sight cuts on the slide, so no need to worry there. Weight is below 30 ounces (good) and MSRP is about $600, but it’s still single-action. If you can live with the safety, it’s the best candidate for a truly modern take on the platform.
Then again, sometimes a classic is a classic because it just works.
What do you think? What upgrades have you done to your 1911?
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.