Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Why a 1911?

1911: "Fear no man, no matter his size, for I am the equalizer." Author Unknown

My carry gun will be the one pictured on top of the New Gunner Journal.  An ATI FX45 GI 1911.  What exactly does that mean?  It means I will carry a gun that has been around for 102 years and still goes "click BANG" when you want it to.  Every time.

Chambered in 45 ACP (Automatic Colt Pistol), this gun has been the choice of the U.S. Military and for countries world wide since its inception in 1911.  John Moses Browning's design of simple elegance has remained, except for very small "adjustments" in 1924, the very same design that was first delivered in 1911.  How reliable is it?  It wasn't until the mid-80's, seventy plus years after its introduction, that U.S. Armed Forces switched to another pistol (Beretta 92F and then the M9) as its standard issue weapon.  But to this day, Marine Corps Special Operations, F.B.I. Hostage Rescue Team and 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment—Delta (Delta Force) still use the 1911 as their gun of choice.

1911: "For when you come to grips with the fact that the game of life is single elimination." Author Unknown

So why did I choose the 1911?  First let me say, at the time, I had no idea what kind of gun I would carry.  This changed when my Son took me shooting at our local indoor range. As I was reloading my little Walther P22Q, my head down in concentration, an unexpected and tremendous "BOOM" went off in front of me.  My head raked upwards, there was a solid "thump" in my chest and with my eyes wide as dinner plates I furtively looked to see who had set off the grenade.  But the only view I had was of my Sons Glock 30.  He turned and smiled at me, nearly laughing at the look on my stunned face and asked if I wanted to shoot.

Oh Hell Yeah!

My first impression was that the gun was much lighter than I expected (polymer based) and the grip - with 10 rounds - was uncomfortably fat, even for my large hands.  I fell in love though, with the feel of the 45 caliber round as it "pushed" its way out of the gun and knew immediately that this caliber would be the one that I carried.  Now it was time to figure out which gun I might buy to assuage my urges.

"Rifles are for fighting your way back to your 1911." Author Unknown  
My Son and I discussed what I might be looking for and I told him I thought I would prefer the heft and weight of a steel framed 45, as I didn't care for the light feel of the Glock and I thought a heavier gun would allow me to be a little quicker re-acquiring my target after firing.  He nodded and without hesitation he told me to check out the 1911's.  Of course he had to tell me what it was, some of the history and why I might like it, including the fact it was a single stack mag (8+1) with thinner grips.

I already knew I wanted a gun with single action - I like "click bang" - and not the double action of some guns including revolvers (I tried my Sons .357 Magnum and didn't like the feel, balance or trigger, though it was a lot of fun to shoot.)  My own Walther P22Q was double action / single action and I knew just from shooting the Walther that I liked the feel and break of the single action trigger.

As soon as I picked up a 1911 at my LGS (Article ll in Lombard, Illinois), held it in my hands, felt its heft and amazing balance, I knew this was the gun for me.  Now it was time to figure out which one to buy.

I couldn't afford the higher end guns like Kimber, Colt or Smith and Wesson, so I did my homework and found many great reviews of 1911's made in the Philippines (Shooters Arms Manufacturing and Armscor) and sold under the brand names of ATI and Rock Island Armory.  A mid to high range 1911 will set you back $850 to $1400, with an Ed Brown selling above $2500, but these lesser known sellers were in the $400 to $500 range.  Right up my alley.

I decided on my ATI FX 45 GI (Commander length barrel of 4.25") not only for its looks and balance and feel, but also for its fit and finish.  Those reviews that I read at places like the 1911 Forum were correct - this was a very nice gun, for any amount of money.  The slide to frame fit is as tight as 1911's I've seen in the $1200 range.

"As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil, for I carry the baddest pistol John Moses Browning could design. "

After talking with the salesman, making my purchase and waiting 72 hours for pickup (supposed "cool down" time in the State of Illinois) I brought it home.  As with the Walther P22Q, I worked with the gun every day.  Handling it, getting a good feel for it and generally making it my best and most trusted friend.  I learned to break it down, clean and reassemble (so easy, thanks Mr. Browning!) and read everything I could get my hands on about the 1911.  The history of the gun is amazing.

There was a bad day some-where's in there when I realized that the correct way to carry a 1911 was in "condition one", with the gun locked, cocked and ready to rock!  This freaked me out, the old fear through ignorance feeling welling up in me.  Carry a gun with one in the pipe and the gun cocked?  Jesus!  Wasn't that just asking for an accident?

In a word, No.  As it turns out, the 1911, carried in "Condition One" is one of the safest guns you can handle, no matter how counter intuitive that sounds.  Why?  Unlike most pistols, the 1911 has three safeties.  That's right, three.

 The first safety is the "grip" safety.  Seen at left in this photo, this 1911 is in Condition One, the hammer is cocked and the thumb safety (in front of the hammer) is on (in the up position).  The Grip Safety is under the hammer and is the bottom part of the "Beaver Tail" - the backwards c-shaped extension under the hammer and lays along the back strap.

You must grip the gun with that part of your palm under your thumb pressing in on the grip safety for it to be deactivated - As seen in the second photo.

The second safety is the aforementioned Thumb Safety.  The small, flat, horizontal piece of metal in front of the hammer. Flipped up, safety on, flipped down, safety off.

So, in effect, the gun cannot fire if the grip safety is deactivated but the thumb safety is on.  The gun cannot fire if the thumb safety is off, but the grip safety is not "squeezed."  So what is your third safety?  Your trigger finger.

In the end, with a round in the chamber, the gun cocked and in your holster, to fire you first must grip the gun, deactivating the safety, you then must flip down the thumb safety and then last but certainly most important, you must put your finger on the trigger and pull.  It cannot fire any other way.

1911: Upholding the promise to defend against all enemies, foreign and domestic, for an entire century.

There are all kinds of factors that must go into deciding which gun you will use as your carry gun, but reliability should be number one.  My ATI 1911 has more than 500 rounds through it and it has NEVER failed to feed (FTF) or failed to eject (FTE).  I have used most cheap ammo, including Tulammo, a steel cased 45 acp made in Russia that is dirty and smokey.  The ATI eats it all up.

Many people don't like a single action pistol because they feel when under stress, a negligent discharge is possible with the light trigger pull of 4.5 to 6 lbs on the 1911.  Most double action triggers are somewhere between 6 and 12 lbs of pull. This is a choice you will have to make for yourself.  For what its worth, I'm comfortable with the light trigger, but may have a gunsmith take it up to 7-8 lbs, as a precaution.  But if I don't get it done, it won't bother me.

Watch Hickok45's Range Report on the ATI FX 45

The best part of owning a 1911 is that its like owning a hot rod.  Hi Perf parts are available, usually relatively cheap and are easy to change.  I have put an extended slide stop on mine and will be going with a heavier recoil spring, although to this point the factory spec spring has been fine.

1911: "Even 100 years later, it's still the best defensive pistol the world has ever known."