A Matter Of Choice

Apart From Sizes And Calibers, The 1911 User Has Other Selections To Make.

As the Centennial year of the 1911 pistol approaches its end, we’ll have more people than ever using them. Some out of nostalgia, like the old guy here—who always had a soft spot for ’em, but has spent an inordinate percentage of time carrying them in celebration of the anniversary—and some who have finally decided to buy their first, to determine for themselves what all the fuss is about.

There is much to decide. Mainspring housing configuration? Full-length guide rod or not? How big a mag well? Big or small thumb safety, single-side or ambidextrous? Trigger length? Grip safety style?

Mainspring Housing

The flat-back mainspring housing of the original 1911 pistol, the US Army Ordnance Board determined after WWI, might have been a culprit in the gun often shooting low in combat. (Apparently, desperately jerking the trigger to keep from being killed didn’t rank high as a factor in their analysis.) An arched housing was created for the 1911A1 to drive the muzzle upward, and it remained on the Colt pistol through most of the 20th Century. By the 1950s, though, serious shooters often found they preferred the flat housing, and it’s all but standard today. A few years ago Ed Brown created the Bobtail, which proved to work so well that other manufacturers have gone to it since as an option: Dan Wesson, Kimber, and S&W come to mind. Which is best?

When I was young, I thought the standard gun writer statement of “try ’em all, and pick the one that fits you best” was a huge cop-out. Decades of experience taught me; in this case at least, it was the correct answer.

Some consider the Full-Length Guide Rod for the recoil spring the mark of the professional 1911 user, though fewer did in the past. I know masters of the 1911 who feel it’s an essential feature for accuracy and reliability, and others who wouldn’t have it in their guns. Slightly over 50 years of owning and shooting 1911 pistols has swayed me toward the latter side of the argument. I honestly can’t see an improvement in either accuracy or reliability with the FLGR.

On the down side, the FLGR is a minor to major pain in the butt for fieldstripping and a huge liability for fieldstripping in (duh) the field. I’ve seen the 2-piece ones fail and tie up the gun as well. I own 1911s that have 1-piece FLGRs and work fine. They came with it installed, and it wasn’t a deal breaker. I promise myself that one day, though, I’ll find time to get a bunch of standard recoil spring systems and swap ’em into every dang one of those pistols….

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