Last week, we explored how weather (or more precisely, climate) impacts your choice of what sidearm you’ll carry concealed and how you’ll carry it.
Now, let’s talk about the features I think an ideal carry piece should have.
Up front, I need to say I am an unrepentant fan of the 1911, John M. Browning’s incomparable classic sidearm. It has many of the features I want in a carry piece—but not everything. Dare I say, even as a 1911 aficionado, it’s not perfect.
Before we discuss the 1911’s shortcomings, let’s look at its strong points.
First: It is chambered for .45 ACP. I can already hear the sharp intake of breath as indignant 9mm fans rise in protest. Yeah, yeah, modern expanding bullets vastly improve the stopping power of the 9mm Luger. By the way, the .45 ACP has vastly improved expanding bullets, too.
Also, are you aware that heavy clothing can clog a hollow-point cavity and keep the bullet from expanding? If you live where it gets cold frequently, you might want to think about that.
But- but—the 9mm fan protests—a double stack 9mm magazine holds 15, 16, maybe 17 rounds!
Yes, that’s true. A 1911 magazine holds only eight (unless you have a Para 14.45 (formerly Para Ordnance), which has a 14-round magazine.
However, that’s beside the point.
You might need a hi-cap magazine in a sustained firefight, but if you think a firefight is a possibility, you’re woefully under-gunned if your only weapon is a pistol (Let’s overlook for a moment, the legal jeopardies involved here). A wise man once said that a pistol is useful only to fight your way to get to a rifle.
Remember, a 9mm might expand, but a .45 doesn’t shrink.
Second: The 1911 has an outside hammer, which strikes a firing pin to fire the cartridge. The 1911 can be carried with the hammer down, although Colonel Jeff Cooper preferred to carry his 1911 cocked and locked.
I do not trust mechanical devices to behave correctly 100 percent of the time—forever. I hate decockers for the same reason. I don’t mind manually cocking my 1911 (or manually decocking it), if I need to.
If my method doesn’t feel right for you, the Para LDA series in .45 ACP has an excellent double action trigger that works just fine with the hammer down. The Sig P220 is very similar to the 1911. It is also chambered for .45 ACP and has a DA/SA trigger.
Incidentally, that huge cocking indicator on the back of the slide is an excellent reminder that the gun is ready to fire.
Third: The 1911 has a frame-mounted safety that disengages by pivoting downward. It is perfectly placed to disengage when the shooter’s thumb naturally sweeps downward to assume a shooting grip.
A slide-mounted safety, found on the Beretta M92f; Walther P38 and PP-series; as well as many others, necessitates an awkward UPWARD sweep of the thumb to disengage. Not good.
Next week I’ll discuss certain refinements that offer important improvements to make your carry piece more effective if you have to use it.