Tuesday, September 18, 2012

More 1911 Minutiae

The second handgun I ever bought was a Springfield Armory 1911-A1 G.I.. It's also the only handgun from my early days that I still own. Albeit, with some significant changes. I bought it thinking I would build myself a custom 1911, and save money over the more expensive TRP model (I was a Springfield Fanboy back in the day). If you're thinking about doing the same thing, don't. Let me dive into some observations on the 1911 and explain what I find useful, and stuff I could live without. There are tons of 1911s out there, so here's some stuff to think about before you commit.

Para Ord. LTC 1911 Commander (OD Green), Springfield Armory 1911-A1 GI (Parkerized)

Let me lead off by saying I think the 1911 Commander is my favorite. I like my 5" Government model, but the Commander points better and balances better. The price for that balance is a bit more muzzle flip, but I go back a long way with the 1911 platform and I don't really notice it going from one gun to the other. My Para LTC has a lot of nice, modern features that are actual improvements over Browning's A1. First, the ejection port is lowered and flared (See the Para's vs. the G.I.). Second, the trigger was excellent right out of the box. My G.I. 1911 got new guts about a month after I bought it. It now has Wilson internals and a Caspian Trik Trigger. 

A 1911 from most makers comes with a 16lb recoil spring. I run an 18.5lb spring in both of mine to prevent battering the frame. Some say it makes the guns more reliable, though I would argue it might cause problems with manufacturers who make weaker ammo. I haven't had a failure to cycle due to the heavy spring. But to be fair, the 16lb springs never gave me grief, either. 

However, when I switched my G.I. gun to the 18.5lb spring, it started binding randomly, and I finally figured out it was the spring causing it. So instead of popping in the girly 16lb factory spring, I bought a Wilson full-length guide rod and it has been reliable ever since. My Para wears a G.I.-style spring cap for aesthetic reasons. This is a long-winded way of saying I don't really have a strong feeling about guide rods in a 1911, though I prefer the look of the G.I. system. 

Top: Para LTC; Bottom: Springfield G.I.
That brings me to the mag well. Traditionally, the 1911 has a square, head-smashing, steel butt. My Para has been relieved, arguably to make reloading faster. I can notice a difference between the two. I fumble on the square well more often than the beveled one. Some guns have an additional mag funnel. Those are nice, but rule out concealed carry and put you in the Open or Limited class of your local shooting club. A beveled mag well is something I prefer, but it still isn't as easy as reloading a plastic double-stack. 

Para LTC left, Springfield GI right.
Most makers give you nice sights these days. Except on GI guns, because the real GI 1911s had horrible, tiny, squinty sights. They're accurate, but far from quick to pick up. I got props at the last match from my R.O. because I was essentially point-shooting the whole stage. On the subject of sights, I prefer a very visible front dot and a plain, sharp rear. I can use 3-dot sights, but I'm not a huge fan. I also don't like fancy adjustable rear sights. They can be fragile and finicky. While at the match, a friend's fancy adjustable sight started self-adjusting sharply to the right during his run. Fixed sights can still be zeroed, though it's more of a pain in the ass. But then they're zeroed forever (barring disaster). 

If I could pass on one thing I've learned in my years of DIY gunsmithing and penny-pinching, I would say to buy the 1911 you want in the trim level you want from the manufacturer you want, even if it costs a couple thousand dollars. Guns like the Dan Wesson Valor (my personal favorite) and S&W 1911PD represent good value, despite being very expensive. It would probably cost the same to buy a cheaper GI 1911 and have a gunsmith build it to be what you want. And it is an exercise in futility to try and do it yourself. You won't save any money (gotta buy tools to do the work!), and you'll probably muck it up once. 

Good luck with your 1911 adventures. Get the one you love, and love the one you get.


James said...

-210 hipster points for using MultiCam instead of flecktarn.

+25 hipster points for "US" grips.

-50 hipster points for taking a GI 1911 and modernizing it.

Score: -235.

The Flatland Gun Nut said...

You should re-score this under the Mall Ninja scale. I think you'll find I did quite well.