Photo of the day: A Dirty 1911

There are a lot of misconceptions about the 1911 floating around on the web. One of them is the idea that the 1911 is a delicate little princess that can’t function if she’s dirty. In truth, a properly built 1911 will run dirty if it has been properly lubricated. On Saturday I stopped by the excellent Elite Shooting Sports facility and in the space of an hour working on recoil control and sight tracking blew through over 450 rounds through my 9mm Wilson CQB. The picture tells the tale…this is no princess. She’s a very dirty girl.

It’s at the point now where handling the pistol leaves crud on my hands, so I’m actually going to break down and clean her up. Saturday’s outing pushed the round count through my CQB to over 4,000. That’s more than 4,000 rounds without cleaning. All I’ve ever done is properly lubricate the pistol with Wilson’s Ultima Lube¬†and occasionally wipe down the outside of the pistol to keep the black crud off my clothes.

A properly made 1911 will still run if it’s dirty. A spotlessly clean 1911 will shut down in short order if it isn’t properly lubricated. I’ve been on the line with a lot of 1911 pistols over the years, including attending courses dedicated to the 1911 pattern pistol. Most made the mistake of lubricating their 1911 like it was a Glock…meaning they use minimal or no lubrication at all. Invariably those people ran into problems inside the first 150 rounds. An all metal pistol, even one with a neat high-tech finish that provides some lubricity (like Wilson’s Armor-Tuff finish on this pistol) needs proper lubrication to function. Especially if you do crazy things like burn 450 rounds through the gun in an hour’s time because you happen to be near the range and have a case of ammo in your trunk.

Wait…you don’t drive around with 1,000 rounds of ammo in your trunk? What kind of heathen are you? (Note: this is a joke. If you write me claiming you were microaggressed by this statement I’m going to laugh at you with all of my friends)

To be clear, I’m not arguing that what I’ve done here is a best practice because it most certainly isn’t. Only cleaning your gun every 5th case of ammo is not really a good idea. I didn’t set out to do this because it’s a good idea or because I was trying to prove a point. I’ve just been too damn lazy to clean the gun. So now it’s time to be a responsible adult and properly clean the beast.

…although I kinda like the stripe pattern that’s formed on the muzzle.



  1. Sounds familiar. I tell myself I’ll clean them when they stop running and wind up cleaning them when I can’t stand looking at them because they’re gross. That usually takes 7-800 rounds.

  2. I never subscribed to the “dirty can’t work” 1911 club. Malfunctions that I have experienced were due to extractor problems and spring wear. Some other problems that I have observed, were the result of “amateur gun tinkering.” Thanks for the article.

  3. Just because a Wilson can run at 5,000 plus rounds does not mean that any other 1911 less than a $1,000 Colt will continue to perform in a similar fashion–DMD

  4. Back in the 90’s when I shot USPSA every week, I would go months without cleaning my Pistol, that was between 500-600 rounds a week, I shot local Matches and would practice too.

    Nowadays, I shoot less, but still never clean my 1911’s unless I need them clean for a Photo Shoot.

  5. What do you consider ‘proper lubrication’? A drop of oil on the bushing surface, lugs, disconnecter, and rails?

    1. Forgive the delayed response…between other things going on in life and the website issues I couldn’t get back to this in as timely a manner as I like.

      A drop on those areas is insufficient for my use. If you want to go through 400+ rounds in a range session it would be a good idea to apply more lubrication than a single drop. I use Wilson’s Ultima-Lube on the pistol and I will run a small bead all the way down both sections of the rails on the frame. I run a similar bead on each locking lug surface on the barrel (both the protrusions and recesses), a drop on the front of the barrel hood, a small bead around the barrel where it interacts with the barrel bushing, a drop on the disconnector, and then a couple of drops on the face of the hammer that drip down into the internals. Then I rack the slide a few times, dryfire a few times, rack the slide a few more times and wipe off any excess with a clean rag.

      Some would say that’s a lot of lube…and I don’t necessarily disagree. But I’ve found that by using my procedure I can just load the pistol and shoot as much as I want without problems.

      When I’m in a hurry (like getting ready for a class or something) I’ll refrain from disassembling the pistol and just put some lube on the slide’s rail surfaces, around the end of the barrel, and I’ll squirt a bit around the barrel’s locking lug area.

      A generous film of lube suspends carbon and other bits of debris that work into the action of the weapon keeping them from gumming up the works. It’s also extremely helpful to have some extra in wet conditions as water tends to displace lube quickly.

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