Monday, January 10, 2011

Biggest Mistake

It is said the biggest mistake in politics is when a politician is caught actually telling the truth.

My Buddy the Gun Enthusiast ran into this flavor of truth telling with a 1911 gunsmith.  He went on a little tirade about the flaws of the 1911 and how it keeps him deep into car payment and bacon money:
"1911s are the perfect storm. They are expensive and need a lot of gun smithing to sort out their bugs." He continued, "The design is a hundred years old, we learned a lot in that hundred years. The mag design alone is awful. Even Jeff Cooper would bitch about their capacity and reliability now. What the F&%k, it's been a hundred years.  People still love em though. This little guy you have will jam at least once every hundred rounds, I'd bet money."

Wow.  Shocking in his forthright alacrity.

Now admittedly, I haven't shot a variety of 1911s, but I have never had a jam that was the gun's fault but maybe once for 1000 rounds.  And I've used those truncated wad cutterish rounds (50, no issue) and maybe 150 hollow points (all hydra-shoks), the rest FMJ.  My initial jams were from my own poor grip, where the first finger of my support hand (right) was pushing out the little button of the slide stop on the right hand side of the gun.  Most of my experience is with my mid range Springfield and the only gunsmithing I've put it through is the of the kitchen table variety where I swapped our various parts to please my own feature preferences as I developed them: guide rod, grips, grip safety, mainspring housing.

Now MBtGE's 1911 that he's been playing with is a low price point Rock Island job.  I've shot a bunch out of it myself.  I was surprised a $300 gun didn't seem much different than mine at over twice the price, in reliable function, at least.  But MBtGE reports some stoppages, clearly.  I've seen it jam but with other people and I think their problem was limp wristing.  Nothing that can't be corrected by gripping 20% tighter.

I have had a mechanical failure with mine.  The pin that holds the mainspring housing in place snapped at the range. But that shouldn't count against it, except maybe in the MIM pin department.  If the pins are MIM...

My on again off again love affair with the 1911 is only from being slightly intimidated carrying in Condition 1 and that it pokes me a bit with the extended thumb safety and that I can't seem to shoot it as well as other single action items.  All these are problems with me, and not the gun.

So I don't understand the haranguing the pistol gets outside of mere 'other gun, not mine' fanboy ribbing.  Buy a decent modern defensive 1911, don't truly monkey with it by breaking out the peening hammer or dremel stones, don't get a bullseye pistol with slide and bushing tighter than a frog's butt, and clean and lubricate after every other range trip and I don't see why they won't run great right out of the box, so to speak.  Gunnutmegger even has personal data from a larger selection of examples recorded so it's not like he making up observed issues.  Maybe I need 20,000 rounds under my belt to get disillusioned, but Tam has that in spades and it doesn't appear to causing her to rethink her thought processes and gun choice.  In fact, she's been down this road so many times that when someone posits that her 1911s are somehow inappropriate she shrugs and keeps on carrying her 10+ year old Springfield on her hip, unswayed.

Maybe I am getting more jams and not noticing, just quickly correcting the issue and driving on.  But I can't be that instinctive that I just operate it well.  I'm still too n00b for that kind of competence, methinks.  About the only thing I can remember is when the 1911 is dry sometime it doesn't fully feed and a light tap of the rail puts the round in battery.  That's happened to me.  But had I cleaned the thing recently it never does.  And I can say with confidence I have never had a stovepipe or a double feed or a failure to eject.  The only gun I have that has done that was a NASTY stovepipe in my Sig that cut the brass half way down by the frame.  Once.

So, back to the subject of MBtGE 1911 gunsmith...  Why so glum about the model?  And the projecting onto Cooper about the 'flaw' of low mag capacity?  I dunno about that.  The spare magazine you carry isn't for shooting the 8th 9th and 10th determined bad guy in a gun fight.

(note: I link to Tam a lot because she has often already said something I concur with and said it much better that I ever could.  if I could live a parallel lives I'd want to model 20 years of one life toward traveling a similar path, reading and researching to the same extent, working with a quality gun purveyor, taking the same classes, to the same concentration she has)

Do I think the 1911 design is perfect?  No, not perfect.  But it's damn good, no?  Since it's inception other designs have offered up different feature tradeoffs, been made to be easier to master, and been sent up with an eye toward easier and cheaper manufacture, been formulated to need less routing maintenance and fettling to shoot right out of the box or right out of the nightstand, but nothing in 100 years can be said to be objectively BETTER at sending little lead and copper pills downrange.  There is certainly a place of modern design

And a gunsmith won't get rich specializing in Glocks.  That gunsmith quoted is lucky in that LOTS of people the past 100 years have done things to their 1911 to actually NEED his corrective services, yes.  And there 100 years of customization thoughts that folks may want his services for, too.  If people were as enthused and faddish about modifying their Glocks as they are with 1911s he might get a decent revenue stream there, too.  "But people don't NEED to modify a Glock," you may argue.  'Need' has nothing to do with it.  You don't need to modify your 1911, either.  People want to, so, thus they want to give money to 1911 smiths.  And you CAN modify a 1911.  Much harder to want to modify a Glock, sorta like modifying a 2010 BMW.  You can't even see the engine on those when you pop the hood.  Tinkering with your 1971 charger or 1938 Ford is much more accessible.  Same with 1911 v. Glock. 

So maybe that gunsmith shouldn't be denigrating how the gun pays the rent for him, it's the 1911 PEOPLE that bring him the business.  The model doesn't need the tinkering, but the owners want the tinkering or want to fix past tinkering that went all wrong or want to fix the wear and tear done to favorite heater over its long life.  (and Gunnutmegger admits as much long before it occurred to me here, "but I think missing one point in the original post. It’s the slavish adoration that’s the problem, not the gun itself")

[Update: I should also add that I haven't shot more than 50 rounds out of my Springfield with the factory magazine.  The rest have been all Chip McCormick.  That might have something to do with relative trouble free experiences.]


JB Miller said...

I continue to be surprised about all the emotions around 1911s. Both sides. It's just another tool to me that works or doesn't. That is expensive or not.

Good stuff.

Tam said...

If someone is carrying a pistol because of the "romance" surrounding it, they seriously need to reexamine their choice of carry guns.

New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

What are you referring to, Tam?

Old NFO said...

Good post. I carry either a 1911 or Glock depending on how I'm dressed... A gun IS a tool, not some magic wand... You should carry what you KNOW works for you and that you can shoot well. THAT is the bottom line!

Tam said...


Oh, just the general tone on teh gunblogs yesterday about the "mystique" of the 1911 on 1-9-11...

New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

Ahh... I see. Granted. I think we'd both agree that the 1911 is cool thing, well thought of and thought out, but no that is no reason to select it to carry it on your belt.

Anonymous said...

It has been my observation that a lot of 1911 problems are magazine related. Folks will pay $1000 for a pistol and use $10 or cheaper magazines. A quality mag. with a strong spring will solve most "jamming" issues.

Kansas Scout said...

Well said. My reaction was similar to the blog posts you referred to. My Kimber has performed flawlessly. 100% of the time. It's on my hip now. I trust it implicitly.