The Truth about 1911s

It seems that every 4-6 months, the general reliability of 1911s comes up on the internet. Most recently, it’s been spurred by our friends at Modern Service Weapons running a fairly innocuous post on the new Colt M45 CQBP. In the post, Tim Lau of MSW mentions that the M45 passed the 10-8 function test, a protocol they don’t post online. To fully disclose my bias, I’ve taken their Advanced 1911 Armorer’s Course, and I have a copy of the test protocol which I use to evaluate the 1911s I use for competition and carry.

Colt-python (300x172)

Now, this is where the story goes off the rails, because another blog picked up the MSW post, and wrote what is about the best example of a “drive-by post” as I’ve ever seen. A couple of sarcastic remarks and a dismissive comment without any sort of journalism whatsoever what later follow-up by another post by a 1911 gunsmith that no one has ever heard of, who used the M1911 pistol trials as an example to “prove” why Tim’s statement that the “1911 platform is finicky” is wrong.

Unfortunately, using the standards of the M1911 pistol trials to judge the reliability of any modern firearm is laughable. It’s comical. Here are the standards for the original trials that the 1911 passed with flying colors:

6000 rounds were to be fired in a series of 100. Between series , the pistols were allowed to cool for five minutes. The pistols were to be examined, cleaned, and oiled after every 1000 rounds. Source

That was the “rigorous” test that the 1911 passed over 100 years ago. 6,000 rounds, with stops every 100 rounds to allow the gun to cool and regular maintenance every 1000 rounds? Man, that sounds like a “strict maintenance schedule” to me. Man, who said that 1911s require a “strict maintenance schedule?” Oh that’s right, Tim Lau in the post on Modern Service Weapons that started this all off.

There’s a lot more stuff in the post that attacks Tim worthy of commentary; but the bottom line here isn’t about 1911s at all. It’s about integrity, and it’s about journalism. On the one hand, we have the MSW guys, who are well respected experts in their field, and who post their content under their real names. They don’t hide, and their qualifications are out there for everyone. On the other hand, you have an anonymous blogger hiding behind his screen name who couldn’t be bothered to perform even the most basic level of journalism. It turns out that we’re not having a discussion about 1911 reliability at all, but we are talking about the state of internet journalism in the gun industry. And that my friends is something I’ll always be passionate about.


  1. I attended LAV’s 1911 Operator class this past February and he also has a test protocol for the 1911. He also asked us not to share it on the Internet as we paid good money for the class.

    The 1911 isn’t for everyone, but if you have short fingers, it’s great!

    1. One of the things about the test is that it’s useless without context. Someone who’s never taken a 1911 armorer’s course could easily put a gun through the test, and have exactly zero idea what they’re looking for. Having data is great, but it’s just numbers unless you understand it.

      1. I understand the point about context, but why can’t the context just be explained? I seriously doubt it’s so complex that it would take years of experience with 1911s to understand. I would much prefer “Here’s what we tested, here’s what we found, and here’s why it’s important” to “We tested it, it passed, end of story. Trust us, we know what we’re doing.”

        1. The problem is that Tim never said “trust me I’m an expert”, all he said was that the gun passed their test, and they don’t publish the test because without context the actual criteria aren’t important.

          TTAG, who have almost no qualifications whatsoever, inferred the “trust me I’m an expert” subtext from Tim’s post. Which is telling in itself.

        2. Matt, in addition to the detailed explanation we would have to provide along with the protocol, the other reality is that we spent a great deal of time developing, testing and refining the protocol such that it produces meaningful information. Our students paid tuition and spent two days learning how to interpret the results (among other topics in the course). It would be unfair to them (and us, since we aren’t operating a charity) to simply give it away.

  2. The 1911 is a great design, but it has a wide quality variance in the industry, and even the best of them take more maintenance than most modern shooters are willing to give. It also garners a lot of undeserved support by people who don’t understand terminal ballistics, but aggressively defend their choice. That said, a well-tuned 1911 is a joy to shoot, and there’s a reason why it’s the platform of choice for most top tier shooters (sponsorship not being a factor).

    The modern polymer pistols, on the other hand, are like Honda automobiles. They always work, but aren’t necessarily high-performance vehicles. Hondas (and Glocks, etc) can be made high-performance machinery, but that generally entails a commitment to maintenance, which takes you back to where you started…

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