It’s the time of the polymer pistol, but metal-framed handguns ain’t dead by a long shot.
“The 1911 is a whiny thing,” said my girlfriend The Evil Princess. She then did her best imitation of Elizabeth Taylor’s nasal bray in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
“’My chamber’s too tight! My bushing’s not tight enough! Does that arched mainspring housing make my butt look big? I’m too dirty to work today! Waah! Don’t take me out shooting in the rain, I’ll ru-u-ust!’” Then she rested her elbow on the polymer-framed 9mm Springfield Armory XD(M) in her White Dog Kydex holster, and glared pointedly at the Old School hardware on my hip.
I was wearing a Springfield Armory pistol, too, but it was a 1911 Range Officer .45 in a Safariland scabbard. The 1911 and I both did the logical thing.
We surrendered… but we survived.
Modernity Vs. Tradition
The scene of the discussion was the Power Line gun club range near Ocala, Florida. We were shooting an IDPA match run by champion shooter Deon Martin. I had happened to walk up to where The Evil Princess, behind the firing line, was chatting with another “shooter chick” (again, her term, not mine). Something old and obsolete had inadvertently entered the discussion, and just happened to be carrying a 1911 pistol on his hip.
IDPA, the International Practical Shooting Association, focuses on “street guns.” At this particular match, there was exactly one double action revolver, and some 1911s, all absolutely swamped in a sea of Glock pistols, Smith & Wesson M&P autos, and XD-series Springfields. That’s pretty much the lay of the handgunning land these days.
I had just come off of carrying one or another flavor of Glock for six months, and was due for something with some tradition to it, so I had chosen the 1911. I had worn one for a good bit of the previous year, that being the centennial of the gun and all, and had been shooting one since I was 12. I wasn’t wearing it just for tradition. Heck, my granddad carried a .32, but I ain’t that traditional. A part of it went beyond tradition and into habituation: I’d been shooting a 1911 for more than half a century, and it wasn’t a cliché to say that it felt like the handshake of an old friend. Yeah, I know, “familiarity breeds contempt.” But familiarity also breeds, well, familiarity. The old cocked-and-locked Colt and its clones fit my hand well, carry flat and comfortable inside the waistband, and point naturally for me.
There’s an old saying, “Beware the man with only one gun; he probably knows how to use it.” Not always true, but true most of the time. Of course, you can also argue that life is too short to drive only one car, or shoot only one handgun. In the spirit of total disclosure, this writer has been called a gun slut, though he prefers to think that he “celebrates diversity in firearms.” The simple fact is, there is more than one good gun. An instructor needs to be sufficiently familiar with their foibles to teach them all; an enthusiast simply enjoys shooting them all.
If the older ones work for you, well, use ’em and consider the whole nostalgia thing as icing on the cake. On the day in question, that Springfield 1911 won me “most accurate shooter” honors, and second place overall when accuracy and speed were factored together. I’d say “advantage: old metal,” except that Deon Martin beat me for first place with his 9mm Smith & Wesson M&P. That would be “advantage: new polymer.” Except that I know darn well Deon would still have beaten me if he’d shot one of his 1911 .45s instead, so maybe the real takeaway lesson is, “advantage: whatever works best for you.”
The Evil Princess and I walked back to the car. She had her plastic XD(M) on her hip and her iPhone 4S in her hand. I had my “Ol’ Skool” steel gun on my belt, and felt like I should have had a carrier pigeon on my shoulder to stay in character, and “in period.” But, ya know, at the end of the day, we were each carrying something with which we were confident, competent, and comfortable, and that may be where the real “advantage” is found, after all.
By Massad Ayoob
420 W. Main St.
Geneseo, IL 61254
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