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Old 12-24-2002, 11:55 AM
1stMarDiv 1stMarDiv is offline
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1911 reliability?

hi everyone,
I probably have a dumb question, especially since there are so many outfits making 1911 pistols. how do 1911 pistols generally rank as far as reliability? on various forums I have read comments that 1911's may not be as reliable in general as other designs. I'm not trying to be a troll, I have owned a Colt MKIV Series 80 Government model for 13 years. It has been reliable with 230 grain ball with standard springs and good mags. I probably don't shoot as much as some folks. to me reliability is everything as my "mindset" is focused on self defense applications. is the 1911 a reliable design for self defense?
Old 12-24-2002, 12:15 PM
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Banker Banker is offline
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I think the 1911 design is as absolutely reliable as any mechanical device can be. Just remember their are good and bad examples in everything man has ever made. A well made and well maintained 1911 will serve as well (or better) at your side as any other design.

I've legally carried a concealed weapon now for over 10 years. In that time, I've never had a 1911 failure that would have cost me my life. Sure there have been some problems along the way, but nothing life threatening. Heck, I've had a couple of problems with revolvers that were probably worse than anything I've had with a 1911.

I don't buy cheap guns, and I maintain them well. I rotate my magazines and replace springs when necessary. Do your part, and your trusted sidearm will do it's.
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Old 12-24-2002, 12:26 PM
A Johnston A Johnston is offline
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Let me put it this way... the 1911 set the reliability standard for all other handguns to best. Just like every other sidearm ammunition and magazines play an integral role in weapon reliability. Given quality magazines and ammunition a properly constructed 1911 will run and keep running long after you‘ve tired of shooting it. What may cause some shooters to dismiss the 1911 as a valid personal sidearm is the “extra” maintenance required when compared to other pistol designs. Of course in return for a bit more operator care one gets a pistol that excels in every category over other pistols of comparable design. The 1911 provides a better balance of power, reliability, and ergonomics than any other design currently available and that’s exactly why the 1911 is still a valid choice for a sidearm. The 1911 has a loyal following that has been justly earned.
Old 12-24-2002, 12:32 PM
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The guns that are often claimed to be more reliable have seen very limited service, for short periods of time, while the 1911's reputation has been built over an 80-year period, in the harshest of environments. I have yet to see any service pistol display superior reliability and/or durability.
Old 12-24-2002, 05:33 PM
rick458 rick458 is offline
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I think that accurized 1911 are more finicky due to very tight chambers your ammo needs to be near perfact with the matchbarrels/chambers they will be "mechanically reliable" but ammo sensitive. BUT the stock guns with good mags are very reliable, a lot of the problems with stockguns come from trash mags and loose grips, pay the money and get good wilson or CMC mags good ammo and give the pistol a good handshake grip and they will run forever and the UV light wont be breaking down Stainless Steel anytime soon
Rich......Colt MKIV SER 80 STS
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Old 12-24-2002, 05:43 PM
Zee Zee is offline
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I wonder if, of the persons who owned 1911A1s and didn't feel that they were reliable was for the following reasons:

1) Purchased a 1911 that fit the lowest common denominator. MONEY.
Bought a inexpensive 1911 and had problems. There's nothing wrong with Llama's or Charles Daley, etc. But, we've all heard how one with be horrible and the next flawless.

2) Newbie bought a $2000 1911, and it had problems.

I have a SA mil spec with a few hundred rounds through it and it has been very dependable so far. Only problems so far has been 2 kinds of ammo mine doesn't like.

I own 7 handguns, and have been selective to what I am buying and have seen no real difference as far as relaiblity. SOme feel better, or have their controls in better positions, but a good gun is a good gun.
"Be wary of strong drink. it can make yo shoot at tax collectors...and miss."

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Old 12-24-2002, 08:52 PM
Join Date: Oct 2001
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For self defence, I will carry no other fire arm. I play with Glocks. I have carried 1911's since my day's in Viet-Nam. Not going to change a thing. P.S. ball ammo is NOT the most reliable as some people think. I like Federal HYDRA-SHOK's or Aguila IQ's. Both work well. Eather will do the job...
Old 12-24-2002, 09:17 PM
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dsk dsk is offline
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There used to be a time when the reliability of any given 1911 was never qustioned. Just as today SIG's = reliability only a few short decades ago the same was said of the 1911. Unfortunately the spotty quality control and cost-cutting of the last 20 or so years by many 1911 makers has really affected the averages. Nowadays the average 1911 may be reliable, or it may be a bit temperamental until it's been tuned.
Try not to fall into the common trap of wanting to replace everything on your new 1911 just to make it "better". Know what you're changing out, and why. You may spend a lot of money fixing things that weren't broken to begin with. Shoot it for at least 500 rounds, then decide what you don't like and want improved. Vintage 1911's should NEVER be refinished or modified because it ruins any value they had as a collectible firearm.
Old 12-24-2002, 11:19 PM
macktruckturner macktruckturner is offline
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When I first got my 1911, I had a few issues. I came here, and bam, problem solved. The gun is older than I am, but is 100 % reliable, and all it needed was what many would consider routine upkeep. Very easy to shoot with some degree of accuracy, I intend to practice enough to become more effective with it. I also don't find that .45ACP is in anyway a brutal caliber in terms of recoil when fired from even a Commander sized 1911. My gun had some stage fright when it came out of the drawer after many years of never being used. Came home with me, and was a little shy. Changed the recoil spring, and the extractor, and now it shines, I haven't had problems feeding any kind of ammo, even truncated cone style JHP's. I have 19 months to train myself with this pistol, and then I can legally carry it. I doubt I look to anything else for self defense as I love the 1911 and have wanted one since I was 11.

Old 12-25-2002, 07:39 AM
Badlander Badlander is offline
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I have A Gold Cup with aprox. 20,000 rounds through it. No jams ever. It even fed some SWC I loaded A bit to long that would not feed at all in my other normaly realible pistols
Old 12-25-2002, 10:13 AM
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I am a Colt 1911 fan carry one daily 99 percent of the time.
My main carry at present is a Detonics Combat Master tuned by Hiene, over the last 15 years it has proved to be 100 reliable.
If I have the urge to carry a commander sized 1911 it will be my Safari Arms Enforcer which also proved 100 percent reliable after a tune up by Wilsons. For the 1 percent of the time I don't carry old slabsides it is a S&W K-Frame Model 66 with a 2 and a half inch pipe.
I want to congratulate badlander on his luck with his gold cup and let all know I had nothing but bad luck with one of my three gold cups. First range session after purchase the adjustable rear sight flew apart in under 50 rounds----a trip to Colt to have it replaced, after it was returned home on the fifth trip to the range the front sight worked it's way loose---and another vacation to Colt to have it restaked, when it was returned this time all was fine until the colet bushing broke a finger at about the 4,000 round point. At point I solid bushing installed and no problems since with this gold cup and it has proved to be one of most accurate Model 1911's after the initial bugs were worked out of the gun.
I feel the 45 Model 1911 and Model 1911A1s are as reliable and dependable as any SIG, Glock, H&K etc. if the owner maintains the sidearm correctly.
I would not carry any pistol or revolver that I haven't fired 500 rounds through without a malfunction of any type with the ammo I plan load it with.
Old 12-25-2002, 12:28 PM
Badlander Badlander is offline
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Mountainoracle. I said it never jammed. I didn't say the rear sight never flew off!!! But it happened after many thousands of rounds. Replaced with A heavier pin. No other problems.
Old 12-25-2002, 10:30 PM
Jim Keenan Jim Keenan is offline
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Note that the reputation for reliability and general ruggedness was made by the U.S. Army Model 1911 and Model 1911A1, made to rigid military specifications, not by the current crop of clones, too many of which are made to a price, with questionable workmanship and parts of poor quality or of unsuitable materials.

Old 12-25-2002, 10:56 PM
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marvl marvl is offline
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Originally posted by Jim Keenan
Note that the reputation for reliability and general ruggedness was made by the U.S. Army Model 1911 and Model 1911A1, made to rigid military specifications, not by the current crop of clones, too many of which are made to a price, with questionable workmanship and parts of poor quality or of unsuitable materials.

I have to agree. I currently own 4 1911s and have had feeding/jamming problems with all of them. Magazines seem to be a constant proplem, even using good mags from Baer, McCormick, etc. I think the only way to ensure reliability on most 1911s is to have a good smith rework the gun or maybe stick with a high-end Les Baer.

On another note, does anyone build an accurate mil-spec M1911 reproduction anymore?

Last edited by marvl; 12-26-2002 at 02:15 PM.
Old 12-26-2002, 12:31 AM
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dsk dsk is offline
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Originally posted by Jim Keenan
Note that the reputation for reliability and general ruggedness was made by the U.S. Army Model 1911 and Model 1911A1, made to rigid military specifications, not by the current crop of clones, too many of which are made to a price, with questionable workmanship and parts of poor quality or of unsuitable materials.

Exactly the point was making earlier. How much you wanna bet the MIM parts in half these 1911 clones would never pass military endurance tests? The glued-in ejectors probably wouldn't either. Yes I know the Kimber passed the LAPD SWAT and Tacoma PD tests, but I honestly doubt they involved any real physical hardship and shoot-until-it-breaks testing. If anybody has any firm facts to show otherwise I'd like to hear it.
Try not to fall into the common trap of wanting to replace everything on your new 1911 just to make it "better". Know what you're changing out, and why. You may spend a lot of money fixing things that weren't broken to begin with. Shoot it for at least 500 rounds, then decide what you don't like and want improved. Vintage 1911's should NEVER be refinished or modified because it ruins any value they had as a collectible firearm.
Old 12-26-2002, 01:30 AM
DHart DHart is offline
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For those who think you get better quality or reliability by spending the "big bucks" on a pistol, I will pass along a meeting I had at the range yesterday.

I was testing out different brand magazines with one of my 1911's. I log all of my shooting just to note how various combinations of pistols, magazines, and ammo types work. I noticed a guy standing just behind me observing all of my mags and my notetaking. He asked what I was doing and I explained my process. I told him that I had some ride-over on last rounds with one of my guns and that I was testing other mags to see if the problem went away - (it did, by the way, when using mags with a Wilson follower).

He told me he was shooting a Wilson CQB he had had for a short while. Then I asked him if he had ever had any reliability problems with his Wilson. He said that in fact he had some serious feeding problems, which occurred with cartridges in different positions in the magazine (sometimes 1st round, sometimes later rounds). He said he finally sent the gun back to Wilson and they tested the gun, then returned it to him, saying that they would have to replace the gun with another one and that he should use his first gun in the meantime while they had another gun made (I didn't think to ask him how long that was expected to be!). He was very impressed and happy that Wilson was going to replace the gun. He said he paid about $1900 for it.

I'm a little surprised that the cause of the problem is so severe that Wilson will have to "replace" rather than tune or repair the gun. While I'm impressed that they are going to replace the gun, I would expect any maker to do the same if that was the determined "fix". Bottom line, though, is that you can no more expect flawless reliability from a new and nearly $2000 Wilson CQB than you can from a $585 Colt Government model.

I shot his CQB a little bit and while it was a nice 1911, it didn't strike me as being much different than any of my $750 to $1100 Colts or Kimbers. Since my most expensive 1911's are Colt Special Combat Governments and a Springfield TRP, I used to think that owning a $2000 Wilson would be such a luxurious, special thing! Now that I've shot one, I think I'll save the money... I doubt I'll be hankering to spend $1900 on any 1911.... I don't think you have to spend that much money to get a great gun. If someone wants a Wilson and doesn't mind spending the dough, more power to ya! But don't expect much of a noticible difference in reliability or quality. Reminds me of a friend's Mercedes E320 which developed a very irritating noise that she spent nearly $1000 out of her own pocket for the dealer to track down and eliminate... they never could figure out the problem. She couldn't sell the car privately because of the noise and had to trade it in for a paltry credit toward her next car (not a Mercedes). Or another friend's new BMW 740 which during the first week of ownership broke down and refused to start and had to be towed from a Safeway parking lot. I suspect a new Toyota or Honda would be just as reliable as a Mercedes or BMW for two or three times the price.

I'm not sure any particular brand assures you of reliability, more prestige perhaps... I suspect that you're nearly as likely to get a box-stock Colt that's reliable as you are a $2000 box-stock Wilson. Not that the Wilson CQB isn't a fine pistol. In any event... function testing with the "system" (meaning the specific combination of gun, magazine, and ammo) is critically important to determine reliability before depending on that specific "system" for defense.

BTW, I asked him if he wanted to shoot my Colt Special Combat Government Hard Chrome version. He did, and smiled at how smooth functioning and firing the Colt was.

(P.S. I wouldn't mind owning a Wilson CQB, a Mercedes, or a BMW!)

Last edited by DHart; 12-26-2002 at 01:46 AM.
Old 12-26-2002, 11:24 AM
AC's & 45's AC's & 45's is offline
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Here is my opinion on this subject.

I don't feel defenseive handguns of any brand or design should be " Bank Vault" tight or excessively sloppy either.

Not being any manner of expert on the subject, I do have a little hands on experience.

Maybe I'm just lucky, who knows, but I have yet to experience the vast majority of problems most posters here have in twenty plus years of shooting 1911.

The majority of my 1911 problems can be traced directly to magazines or me. When I say me I am talking about sub par reloads, and mostly just doing my part.

I have been tinkering with my Colt-Sistema lately at the range.
The trigger is a little heavier than I am used to and I noticed I have been pulling it off target or jerking the trigger.

Since I left my practice dummies at the house I randomly mixed in 2 of my empties in 10 different magazines ( 2 emties in each mag).

Guess what, I did eventually masater the trigger. Not only that I learned something about my Sistema. It is utterly reliable, yes it fed every one of those 20 empty cartridges. I used two different 20 year old well used Colt 7 round mags.

This particular 1911 is the only one I have personally encountered that doesn't like Wilsons. Hell I bought two new Wilsons just for this Sistema.

These two Wilson's are yet to fail any my Colts or Kimber.

The point to all of this, my Sistema is really beat up and the barrel's rifling is barely visible. The pistol is worn, no it is really worn. But, it works every time. It also feeds every kind of hollow point I have been able to find over the counter.

Again it is only my opinion but there may not be a lot of part in the 1911 design, but they have to work and they have to work together. I don't like my 1911s to be too tight.

No put down on Glocks intended or Glock owners but.... While I was at the range with my Sistema the guy next to me was shooting or trying to shoot a G21 with factory mags.
I am constantly hearing, how reliable Glocks are. Since he was having trouble I was curious. He was having all kinds of failures,
FTFs and FTEs. Like I said I was curious so I asked what the problem was. All he could say is how he just got screwed on a used Glock. Before I knew it he asked me if I wanted to buy it real cheap. I said maybe but I wanted to shoot it a little first based on his problems. He agreed. I ran a box of his Hydra's and a box of his Sabres though it as well as a box of my white box Win fmj's. I am not real familiar with the glock so I don't really know why but I had zero malf. I asked him how much he wanted for it. He backed out real quick without a single word and took off in his pickup.

My whole point of all ends up in a question.

I know now that I cause most of my shooting/ handgun problems:

How many of you have considered this ?

Just something to think about.
Guns don't kill people,
People kill people!
Old 12-26-2002, 01:08 PM
Dave T Dave T is offline
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marvl said,

"I think the only way to ensure reliability on most 1911s is to have a good smith rework the gun or maybe stick with a high-end Les Baer."

This seems to be a prevelent attitude these days but frankly I don't understand where it comes from. The shooters in my family (my wife and sister) and I have had consistantly reliable functioning from a number of standard 1911s, mostly Colt but a couple others and not high end semi-customs.

My old department was one of the first in our state to issue semiautos (Colt MK IV '70s starting in 1978). Those guns all functioned 100% with ball and out 230g RN lead practice ammo. In one training session I had a department issue Government Model go through over 700 rounds of the reloads in one session without a malfunction (and this was with 27 different people shooting it).

I cracked the frames on three alloy framed Commanders with up to 7000 rounds each. Before the frames cracked those Commanders functioned reliably with standard barrels. They weren't even "throated".

I could add several other stories of Government Models, Combat Commanders and Officer's ACPs, plus my wife's new Kimber Ultra. The point is these guns don't need "...to have a good smith rework the gun..."

When I was my department's chief firearms instructor and someone had problems with their 45 Auto, the first thing I looked at was lubrication (dry guns malfunction at a much higher rate). Second was techinque (limp wristing can induce malfunctions, particularly with people who think heavy recoil springs are needed). Third was ammo, and finally magazines. Only after all those things had been checked and/or corrected did I consider the gun itself. Usually the problem was solved long before I got halfway through the check list.
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Old 12-27-2002, 01:24 AM
jba111 jba111 is offline
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Almost any 1911 can be made very reliabile.
But out of the box, the 5" Gov model will give the best reliability with the least care and maintance.
From there, the more parts ya add to customize and the tighter the fit, the more ya better pay attention to care and maintance.

The same goes for barrel length. The 5" is top dog for reliability with the least care and maintance.
The more ya cut off the barrel, the more you will have to care and maintain the pistol to keep it running reliabile.

Most of the 1911 problems I've seen had little to do with how much the pistol cost, but did have alot to do with how the gun was maintaned.
Old 12-28-2002, 05:48 AM
superc superc is offline
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Jim is right. It was the military version that earned the reliability sticker, not the clones. They are not 1911sor even 1911A1s. They are just knock off copies. The military basically stopped buying 1911a1s in 1947. Colt kept the old manufacturing methods until the 1970s. After that production quality started getting spotty since the military inspectors and the original craftsmen were long gone and machinery was replaced as it wore out. Once upopn a time (pre 1970) Colt would be ashamed to allow a questionable weapon to leave their factory. Those discriminating people are long gone and some of their post 1970 stuff is of clone quality. The Argentine Systema Colts ARE Colts, built on Colt machinery to Colt (US Military) design specifications and fully deserving of the 1911 reliability label. The broad arrow stamped Colt Commercial 1911A1s are okay too. A lot of 1911s and 1911A1s were shipped to the UK during WWI and WWII and are fine guns when located. Likewise, the Norwegian 1914 weapons of pre German invasion/takeover manufacture are also Colts built on Colt approved machinery deserving of the 1911 reliability label. My advise is avoid any 1911 type weapon that wasn't made before 1960. I recognize this limits you to a pool of only 2.5 million made. Still you shouldn't have too much trouble finding one. Avoid guns in known poor condition, cracked frames, or that have been altered or customized by someone else then sold because the alterations destroyed it. If you encounter an early National Match pistol, grab it. Don't worry about finish. After 50+ years you should expect the finish to be worn or browning and you should be suspicous if it isn't. I have a half dozen or so 1911s. Several are pushing 90. All are in fine shape, 100% reliable and work great. A possible exception to the avoid rule are the Colt Combat Elite models and the Series 80 pistols. Handle and inspect the gun before you buy it, if choosing one of those. The series 80 firing pin safety is a good improvement as a duty weapon if you carry loaded and hammer down, but you can only do that safely if you swap out the narrow hammer for a wide 1911 type one. The 1911A1 and commander type hammers are too small to safely decock. Any semi auto gun requires magazine maintenance (rotation) at scheduled periods (two weeks is good although some get away with years between) as springs can take a set when stored under compression. Most reliability problems with old 1911s and military 1911A1a can be traced to the magazine and are not really the gun's fault. Sell off your old two tone and lanyard loop magazines to a collector and replace them with Wilson or early Pachmyer (if you can find one) magazines. Buy some replacement magazine springs from Wolf. If using a 90 year old pistol for carry please pick up copies of Kuhnhausen's 2 books, and take measurements of critical parts. If you replace some springs, then replace them all. Wolf sells spring kits. Replace old parts as they wear (if wear occurs) with quality replacement parts from Brownell. (Incidently, although not discussed in his book, oversize pin holes can be compensated for by larger pins, or repairing and redrilling the holes. I have never encountered an out of round, or oversized pin hole in an original 1911 or a US military surplus 1911A1 and suspect this is an illness either confined to the clones, or the result of abuse.) Keep your ammo pressures within the pressure range of the old US military ball ammo. If you buy an original 1911 then, in my experience, there is no need to throat or polish the barrel ramp as the passage of 5,000 plus rounds over the past 80 years has already polished the barrel and all of my 1911s feed hardball and JHPs (even those by Speer and Federal) with no alteration to the gun and no problem. Clean the old gun, it might be the first time it has been detail cleaned in 40+ years. Enlarging the ejection port is an option, but probably not needed. A Commander type ejector changes the mechanism's timing. Read what Kuhnhausen says about that and contemplate before going there. A rubber recoil buffer from Wilson doesn't hurt. Sight replacement with the new wide square notch and an approriate Trijicon type front sight is a plus. I like to stipple the front strap of mine for a better grip. If you don't want to alter the gun, skateboard tape makes a good removable substitute that gives the same effect. Plastic parts on the newer Colts should be replaced with steel ones from Brownell's. Buy some target ammo and practice with the gun. The weak recoil of mild target ammo might cause misfeeds. This is normal and should disappear when firing full power 230 grain surplus military ball ammo. You will be fine and the pistol will be eagerly inherited by your great grand kid as his/her carry gun 90 years from now. Just stay away from the clones and think 1911 Colt Commercial or US/Norwegian/Argentinia/British military accepted surplus 1911 or 1911A1 only.
Old 04-27-2005, 09:11 PM
Zeeman Zeeman is offline
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The 1911 does want certain kinds of ammo. Some modern truncated cone type hollow-points don't feed so well - since the gun was originally designed for ball.

My GI-1911 has about 5000 rounds through it and only had two very minor malfunctions. Both were at the end of 300 round shooting sessions, using hand loaded hollow points, when the gun was dirty and I was tired and the slide didn't go all the way into battery. Slight bump to the rear of the slide remedied it easily and took me out of the action for all of 1.5 seconds. I think it was me failing to keep a firm grip on it - one of the requirements for an auto with a heavy slide.

I have two other 1911's, a Kimber compact, and a Colt Gold-Cup. The compact only ever gave me problems when I let the recoil spring go way to long without replacement. The Gold cup is finicky with hollow point ammo, but since I polished the feed ramp (which had nasty machining marks on it), I haven't had a problem in the last 1000 rounds of mixed loads.

I also have an HK-USP compact .45, and a Glock-30 .45. The HK feeds flawlessly with any type of ammo, but one day the C-clip that keeps the guide rod secure popped off while I was shooting it. The Glock also feeds flawlessly but the chrome plating on the firing pin de-laminated one day, clogging it up, rendering it useless. The faulty part was promptly replaced for free by Glock’s excellent customer service. Two weeks ago my friends Glock broke it's extractor while we were shooting. My friends Taurus revolver binds up due to little burrs on the cylinder. My new Ruger Super Redhawk binds up with certain ammo types. Both my CZ-75's stove pipe or FTF on occasion. My Beretta 92 has yet to let me down but has only 1000 rounds on it.

BTW nothing has ever broken on any of my 1911s. Knock on wood.

I think if you replace the recoil spring every 2000 rounds, shoot ball or hollow points that aren't cone shaped, and keep a firm grip when shooting, the 1911 is as reliable as anything out there. IMHO it's also much more pleasant to shoot and easier to shoot accurately. It's also not nearly as wide as the modern tupperware, so you can actually carry a full sized auto concealed.

Last edited by Zeeman; 04-27-2005 at 09:19 PM.
Old 04-27-2005, 10:33 PM
Wes Janson Wes Janson is offline
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I'm willing to bet the failures with that Glock were related to how he held the firearm. I've put close to 750 rounds through my M1911 Replica, and have only had one failure-to-feed. I'd put several mags through it in succession without problem, when someone else on the range asked if he could try it. Loaded up a mag for him, and let him have a go at it. He'd been shooting several different pistols, and mentioned something about being fairly new to shooting. Second round fired, the round (factory ball) catches on the frame. Limp wristing, perhaps, or maybe he was impairing the slide movement somehow, and slowing it down. Either way, I'm nearly positive that single failure was a direct result of the fact he didn't know how to handle a gun, past the basic rules of safety. So, who knows.
Old 04-27-2005, 10:51 PM
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dsk dsk is offline
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Ancient thread. Please don't bring these things back from the dead, guys.
Try not to fall into the common trap of wanting to replace everything on your new 1911 just to make it "better". Know what you're changing out, and why. You may spend a lot of money fixing things that weren't broken to begin with. Shoot it for at least 500 rounds, then decide what you don't like and want improved. Vintage 1911's should NEVER be refinished or modified because it ruins any value they had as a collectible firearm.
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