Why the 1911 for Everyday Carry, Advice from Crusty Old Marine Veteran

By Bob Harvey

Wilson Combat Ultralight Carry Compact 1911
Wilson Combat Ultralight Carry Compact 1911
South Florida Gun School
South Florida Gun School

West Palm Beach, FL –-(Ammoland.com)- In this day and age there is a much larger selection of different size and shape handguns then ever before in history.

Ask a hundred instructors what the best gun for concealed carry and you may get a hundred answers. And every one will have objective, subjective and fact based reasoning.

Fifty years ago, there were not so many selections to pick from. Back then, you had revolver fans and then semi-auto fans.

In revolvers, there were Colt (Cobra, Trooper and Python) or Smith & Wesson (J-Frame or K-Frame). In semi-autos, it was Colt 1911s or Browning Hi-Powers. There were very few other firearms that supplied the reliability, parts availability or service availability. These were the standard for military, Leo and civilians.

Today, Glock, Sig Sauer, S&W M&P and FN dominate the Military and LEO community.

Revolvers have become a sort of ugly step sister in everyday carry due to capacity. Although, many including myself, use them for our backup guns.

Back in the 1890’s the semi-auto pistol was in its infancy. John Browning was in the development of his semi-auto pistol which came to be known as the 1911. Hiram Maxim invented the blowback design semi auto rifle which is the founding father of our current semi autos.

DWM Luger pistols
DWM Luger pistols

Militaries became infatuated with the design and put out a request to different manufacturers for a combat pistol that was semi auto loading. During the same time frame DWM supplied the US government with 100 DWM Luger pistols. They were chambered in the 7.65 Luger.

During testing there became a serious problem with stopping power and other complaints. DWM then came out with the 9mm parabellum cartridge. DWM then reapplied to the US Army with 50 of these rechambered guns. Following the problems found in the Philippines during this time frame, the US Army found that the smaller calibers were underpowered for the rigors of war against the Moro tribesman. The Army then changed their requirement to a pistol that should not be of less than .45 caliber.

The end result was a runoff of three pistol manufacturers. Colt, DMW and Savage submitted semi auto pistols utilizing the new .45 ACP (Automatic Pistol Cartridge). During testing, John Browning’s Colt fired 6,000 rounds without malfunctions. The Colt 1911 was officially adopted as the standard sidearm on March 29th, 1911.

So you see, the 9mm or .45 arguments have been around for over 100 years. And you thought you were the first to have a barroom brawl over caliber size.

I started carrying a Colt 1911 in 1973 while in the Marine Corps. In 1976 I became a Primary Marksmanship Instructor at Quantico’s Weapons Training Battalion in Virginia. One of the things that impressed me the most about these pistols, the reliability of being fired day in and day out without major malfunctions.

I became convinced that the 1911 pistol was the most reliable, hardest hitting and most simplistic of designs at the time.

Essex frame 1911 pistol
Essex frame 1911 pistol

My first carry model, was a custom Essex frame 1911 pistol with Bar-sto barrel and Bomar sights. This gun was built by the armorers at WTBN Quantico. They built me a pistol that was worthy of competition yet had the deburring of a carry gun. This gun stayed with me day in and day out for almost 10 years. I carried it in a Sam Andrews leather OWB holster. This gun now resides retired in my safe. I have been carrying a Colt Officers Model for over 20 years and we will go in to reasons why….

I have been asked plenty of times, “Bob, why do you carry a 1911 platform? It is so old school.”

The answer is so simple, more than most can comprehend. In this day and age, the internet will give you all the information you can use in the purchase of a carry firearm. You can search, caliber, size, reliability, parts availability, holster selection, spare magazines…..You name it.

Here are my requirements:

1 Reliability- The gun is worthless if it doesn’t go bang when I need it to. The 1911 is a proven design to me with 10’s of thousands of rounds down range.

2 Concealability- The Colt 1911 and its offshoots have the thinnest overall width of 9mm or .45 caliber that I have seen. Most people think that length is the determining factor of concealability, it’s not. The thickness of the gun dictates how concealable the gun is. At a slide width of .916” and a grip width of 1.27”, you will be hard pressed to find a gun that is easier to conceal. In a good IWB holster the gun almost disappears.

3 Size and Weight- At 8.27”inches in overall length and 5.8” in overall height the gun is slightly larger than your hand. That is the dimensions of a full size. The Commander and Officers Model are shorter overall length. Coming in at just over 3 lbs. loaded the gun can be easily supported with a strong belt and holster system.

4 Accuracy- There are few pistols that can compete with a tuned 1911 when it comes to putting shots on target. There are reliability and accuracy aftermarket components that will make the gun a 1 hole gun at 15 yards without giving up on reliability. The trigger on a 1911 sets the standard that all others are measured by.

5 Pointability- How quickly and smoothly does the gun come on target when drawing from a concealed holster? I contend that nothing will come on target faster or smoother.

6 Fit and finish- I have found very few Colt 1911 or clones that had poor fit and finish. The guns are very easy to deburr to make them easy to present without catching on clothing. They are trimline.

7 Parts availability- There is nothing worse than a pistol needing a part and having it sit in a shop on a gunsmiths bench for 6 months. Most decent gunsmiths have enough 1911 parts ( http://goo.gl/crd5Ez )  on their bench to build one or two guns. If not, availability is overnight.

8 Resale- A Colt or Colt clone continues to hold its resale value long after the enjoyment of owning it is done. We have seen Colts that have increased tenfold over a ten year period….Hard to argue with success.

9 Cost to maintain- You can buy a spare magazine for 14.00 or cheaper ( http://goo.gl/U8qSU9 )  for GI issue. Other parts are inexpensive as well and readily available for sale in any gun shop. I can’t say that about many guns. This gun is easy to breakdown and clean. If you have a decent knowledge of the gun, you don’t even need tools to take the gun down for a thorough cleaning.

10 Fun to shoot- If the gun is fun to shoot, you will practice more with the pistol. It is human nature, that if the gun is not comfortable or fun to shoot, you won’t practice with it. Learning how your gun acts in an actual gunfight never works.

And last but not least, without starting a caliber war……….38’s, 9mm’s and .40’s may expand on impact but .45’s never shrink in size……Almost all ballistics test state that (name your caliber) doesn’t give much in the way of expansion or penetration to a .45.

Why is that?

Because the .45 is the standard that all others are measured against. And if you are still a believer that the 9mm is just as good. Great, Colt and others make a 1911 platform for you in 9mm and .38 super.

Why I carry a Colt Officers Model from a crusty old Marine Veteran PMI.

Bob Harvey
President/ Chief Instructor
South Florida Gun School

Colt Officers Model 1911
Colt Officers Model 1911

About South Florida Gun School
SFLA GunSchool is committed to providing safety, knowledge, and skills to you in an easy, understandable training format. We have a safety record second to none. From New Shooters to Instructor Candidates we can help you in the advancement of your marksmanship and firearms skills. Ask about our money back guarantee on all firearms training classes. SFLA GunSchool is located within Gator Gun & Archery Center in West Palm Beach, Florida. Visit: www.sflagunschool.com

Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Michael Ackermann

“…A Colt or Colt clone continues to hold its resale value long after the enjoyment of owning it is done…”

I disagree.

After 10s of 1000s of rounds downrange, my enjoyment of my 1911 has not waned one iota.


I’ve owned a few of the old war horses and shot thousands of rounds theough the. A Lightweight combat commander, series 80 officers acp, Springfield, even a Llama and star replicas. They all have the same problem. They’re not 100% reliable with hollow points. Hardball ammo is dangerous to unintended targets and ineffective as a one shot stopper. I finally compromised and carried flat nose rounds. I will say that my friend had a custom built government model that was the most accurate handgun I ever shot. If I was to carry one for self defense today it would have… Read more »


You are a fool if you think 230 gr. FMJ is “ineffectiive”. Amateur nonsense.


I carry Winchester Military Service Grade 45 acp 230 grain FMJ. No fragile magic bullets for me.


I first carried a .45 1911-A1 while on topside security watch on the nuclear submarine that I was a crew member of in 1975-77. The weapon was far more capable than the familiarization course implied. Since then, I retired from a long career in law enforcement that included .38 Smith & Wesson and Ruger service revolvers, 2nd generation DAO service autos like the 9mm S&W Model 6906, and finally a .40 Glock 23. Since then, when at home or carrying concealed, I am armed with either a .45 Springfield Armory 1911 or a .45 Colt Officers ACP. There is no… Read more »

David K Winnett Jr

Bob, were you by chance a member of MTU’s mobile team that traveled to support the 1976 Far East Division Rifle and Pistol Matches at Camp Hansen, Okinawa? Just curious. I was on the tote board for the Silver Medal as I walked back to the 600 yard line for the final ten rounds (prone position) of the match. The 600 had been a piece of cake for me all week as we practiced for match day, thanks in large part to the outstanding match grade M-14’s you guys issued for the competition. Long story short, my first round down… Read more »

Ol' Vet

As an old Veteran of Vietnam, I praise the old 1911A1 pistol high above all others for exactly what Bob talked about in his article. It is the best pistol ever designed and issued to the military. It’s knockdown power is unmatched and reliability is unmatched. Damned shame when the US Army decided to go to the 9mm Baretta, and that shamed everyone that had ever carried and used the 1911A1 in combat operations.

Thanks Bob, good article. I appreciate it.

bob Armstrong

Special forces have returned to the 1911 over the Beretta 9. Tells me alot. I have a Springfield .40 which I had rebuilt at 2000 rounds and its accuracy is greatly improved. At my advanced years with bad hands, the girth of the .40 is more reassuring to me, But I know the big boys use the Colt as did I while in the military.

TSgt B

“Accuracy and reliability are a compromise”

Dave, I respectfully disagree. If you are experiencing these problems with a quality 1991, you need to find a new gunsmith.


I so wholeheartedly agree!!!

C.E. Bradley

When you are in a SHTF situation, and your heart is beating like a triphammer, nothing feels as good as a 1911 .45 in your hand. It’s the best feeling in the world, bar none.


The ACP in .45 ACP stands for Automatic Colt Pistol not automatic pistol cartridge.


I was Quantico in 1976. I was high rifle and pistol shooter at BN in main side in requal. Joined the shooting team in 1980.

Danny Smith

Having spent 20 yrs in the Army and 17+ years as a Cop, I consider myself proficient with the 1911 (as well as the revolvers). I have been carrying a 1911 .45 Rock Island GI clone several years now and never feel under-gunned. This beast takes a back seat to nothing, I consider it the equal of the two Colt 1911s I have owned.


I wish I could say I loved the Colt 1911 design. It looks and feels good. It’s accurate. It’s time tested. It’s just not for me. I think the main problem I had with it was the “twist” sensation I had every time I tried to fire it one-handed (yes, I know a two-handed firing is always to be preferred), but even firing with a practiced two-hand grip, I could feel the ‘twist” with every shot. Just me, I guess.

Stephen Hare

I carry a Glock 19 because of its size, capacity, low recoil, and light weight. Though I enjoy the 1911A1 (I just purchased a Auto-Ordnance 1911A1), it is heavy and has a lower mag capacity. Both are excellent weapons and I have carried a 1911A1 in the past while I was in the Marines, but the Glock requires less maintenance and is more rust resistant than the 1911A1.
Sorry, but I am not giving up the Glock for carry. I will keep the 1911A1 for home defense.

cade j

I CARRY a 1911, and even I will admit that a modern glock is pretty much a better gun in every way, short of maybe the width argument. The 1911 is nice and thin, but you could buy a single stack glock and get the same effect. I love and trust the 1911, but it’s not the best gun out there. Not even close.

Minor to Major Got Em All

Interesting article. For me, instinctive pointability & concealability coupled with major class caliber keep me carrying a 1911. My day-to-carry gun is a Kimber Raptor II Govt Model. Its’ off-duty/CCW carry method has evolved to a leather Blackhawk right side gun&mag holster pushed to the left hip and used as a cross draw. Carried that way, it can be covered with an open button front shirt, even in a warm climate, or light jacket. Cross your arms in a cross chest “I’m bored” body posture and your right hand easily slides in your shirt/jacket to rest on the gun butt… Read more »


I have a Sig 1911 45 acp….love it! But, unfortunately my torso is too short to CC with it. I have purchased 3 ITWB holsters to no avail. Sad, sad situation.


I carry a 1911 manufactured by Rock Island Armory I can hit my intended target Consistently. everyone loves to argue about which caliber or which weapon is the best personally I love my 45. it doesn’t matter which firearm or what caliber you choose to carry as long as you can hit your intended target you have a good firearm. reliability is a must basic maintenance will help keep any firearm reliable.

The right one

It used to mean Automatic Colt Pistol, however now there are more than 30 different manufacturers. So the terminology has been changed by the FBI to Automatic Pistol Cartridge, just like the author says. How are you going to argue with the firearms instructor from Quantico.

Scott Kircher

Loved the article sir! Served as a Master-at-Arms (30+ years)… carried a 45 but last two years they forced me to qualify with the 9mm; shot well but never really felt right in my hand. Retired, carry a SIG 1911 comfortably but after reading this, I just may have pick up a nice (thin) Colt on GP.

“Any day you have confidence in your ability with the weapon you carry, is a good day! Even better if we’re not called upon to use it.”
V/r Scott Kircher


I carry a Springfield XDS 45, 4in barrel. I like the gun but always wanted to get back to what is really comfortable in my hand and fun to shoot. I have to agree with the old Marine on being fun to shoot makes one want to shoot more. I just recently ordered a Kimber KHX Pro 1911 45 with a 4in barrel and laser grip. I am currently waiting as it had to be ordered straight from Kimber being a new model. I am excited and I am looking forward to a lot of practice on the range. I… Read more »

Gregory Shepherd

I wish the government would sell some of the old 45 semi autos to vets. I carried one and loved it.


Good Article sir! Please ignore the readers who are so perfect that they need to criticize you for your effort while there is no indication that they themselves have ever produced anything beside criticism. As for the question in regards to the barrel size I prefer a 4.25 inch barrel. I like the slightly smaller size of the weapon and find that I can shoot it as accurately as the 5 inch, In addition it is a bit easier to conceal. I don’t like the 3 inch barreled 45s I have owned due to the difference in accuracy for me.… Read more »


I stumbled on this article really only looking for if a carry 3″ or 4″ barrel would be as accurate, recoil similar too, and as practical to carry as a fully body 5″ barrel. I currently carry the P226 and have a hard time keeping my shot groups at 15m together, but shooting a 1911 for the first time prior to my last deployment, my shot groups at 15m were jaw dropping. I had never fired anything like it and am set on purchasing my first 1911 upon my return with the intent on carrying it. I’d prefer to have… Read more »


Re: David R Munroe’s comment that, “Nothing worse than having a good article where the content is distracted by silly errors.”

After reading Mr. Munroe’s comment, I can think of at least one worse thing – Mr. Munroe’s comment.


Wow after reading all the comments this last guy above is screaming Colt! And the others as wannabes?! The design is over 100 years old, way past patent, so other companies can make it better. Browning designed the 1911, the only thing that kept Colt in business and then Browning left so you have an empty company the has gone through so many bankruptcies and bought/sold sold many times you can’t keep track who currently owns it. And Modern Colts are nothing compared to the “Wannabes”. People take good designs and make it better. Don’t tell me you are still… Read more »


As has been stated many times, the Colt 1911 .45 auto has served the U.S. military through WW I, WW II, Korea and Vietnam. In total, almost 80 years before being replaced by the Beretta 9mm. After a mere 30 years of service for the Beretta, the U.S. Marine Corp has already requisitioned 27 million dollars to purchase the new Colt 1911 C.Q.B.P.( close quarters battle pistol) in .45 auto. With a stainless steel match grade barrel, a beveled magazine well, a camouflaged coating and the 80’s series firing pin safety, it appears to be a Gold Cup National Match… Read more »


dinosaur nonsense from crusty archives.

Glock 19 beats the 1911 in every tactical, and practical way. period.


I stood topside watch on a submarine in the Pacific during the mid ’70s. I was 17 at the time and didn’t pay attention to details. All I remember is that it was a .45 Cal pistol. I was so thin my utility belt could not be adjusted to fit my waist. My holster swung down to my knees .
What model pistol do you suppose I carried ? Nostalgia caught up with me and I plan to buy one.
Thanks for your help.


Rick McC.

Good article, Bob!


I have carryed a 1911 gov for 16 yrs and i love this gun i carry iwb and carry it every day. It shoots so good i can almost shoot it with my eyes closed ;

Dean Oh

Well, I am a Navy Vet, and we carried .45 ACP, 1911’s. I have owned S&W M & P’s with trigger Job’s in their Compact Series, as well as the little pocket Guns, Like the Kel-Tec .380’s… My Favorite is my STI Modified Trojan 1911 .45ACP! It;s NOT STI’s Top of the line 1911 but it stands or outperforms Kinber’s in it Class and is highly accurate and balanced! I am a medium frame man with less than average size hands and my STI, is an amazingly well manufactured and capable carry weapon. The Round, the GUN and the Technology… Read more »

louis santoro

I am still amazed after 103 year design, a 1911 just feels so right in my hands. I own many models, Sigs, Glocks, Kimbers , yet my Colt Gunsite 5 inch model ( just purchased the Colt CCO model) has been flawless thru four courses at Gunsite, firing 5,000 collectively. It seems I cannot find a Glock I bond with owng the 22, 27, and the new 30S, 1911 just feels like “coming home” every time I pick it up or compete in IDPA.

Hiram Maxim

Massad Ayoob summarized it best. “Some people say that 9 mm is okay and .45 is okay. Other people say 9 mm is feeble and .45 is okay. What nobody is saying is that .45 is not okay.” He added that the department for which he was a sworn officer was in Connecticut, and consequently – during the plentiful cooler months of the year, in Connecticut – the hollow-point ammunition of LEOs would be going through thicker clothing, which would clog the HP bullets and make them perform essentially the same as ball: ” … and if my officers were… Read more »

Max Dolan

Amen to you, Brother! I started shooting 1911s in Vietnam in 1969 and they have been my favorites since then. Although I carry a Para-Ordnance .45 (Light Double-Action) on a daily basis, my 1911 is still my favorite.

Jo Ann

Laid my Glock 26 (9mm) on top of Colt Officers .45. The Glock is a tad longer and much thicker. Yes, with the Glock, you can load 9/10 rounds vs. 7-8 for the Colt, depending on one chambered + full magazine, but at 5’1″ and I can carry the slim Colt more comfortably and better concealed. I chose the Colt for everyday carry. Good article.


I also carry either one of the following,a 1991A1 Compact 45acp,Kimber Custom 2,or a Glock 34 9mm.All guns are carried Appendix style with nothing in chamber.


If you don’t carry with a round in the chamber, you’re a moron.


Whats the point? Most edc situations are gonna require quick draw or nothing makes ni sense to me ether? You afraid of the way the cocked hammer appears visually? You shouldnt be as thier are 3 safetys the grip safety, slide safety, n the trigger. Colt knows how to make sure thier guns dont accidently go off i assure you.

Ol' Vet

ACP stands for Automatic Colt Pistol. The .45 round was designed for the 1911 pistol by Browning and the combination is faultless.


As a retired LEO who’s been on the wrong end of a gun more than a few times I respectfully say to each his own. My own is a gun that went 200,000 rounds before I completely rebuilt it in less than 25 min. My gun carries 13 rounds of 40 cal. and never, EVER cares what brand of ammo I feed it. My gun has been covered in blood, sand, dirt and just about everything else you could think of in a tactical situation and kept right on shooting. My gun is a Glock 23. While I do own… Read more »

TSgt B

Bob, I couldn’t agree with you more. I was introduced to the 1911 .45 ACP while in the Air Force in the 1970s (I retired 21 years ago). I’ve owned many 1911s, and all types of others, over the years, some of which I still kick my self in the ass for trading or selling. In the 80s, I bought a Colt Officer’s Model which I gave to my oldest brother, who was then flying Combat Search & Rescue HH-3s out of Osan AFB, South Korea, to replace his issue S&W Airweight .38. After I retired, I bought a Colt… Read more »


I carry a Sig 1911, so of course I agree with most of what this article claims. But there is a bit of irrational 1911 worship going on here. First of all, 6,000 rounds without a stoppage is attainable nowadays with almost any Sig, HK or Glock auto of any caliber. Accuracy and reliability are a compromise in the 1911 design; the more you have of one, the less you have of the other. Revolvers generally offer excellent accuracy and, in .357, plenty of punch as well. His point about thickness deserves lots of credit. I can’t stand handguns that… Read more »


David R. Munroe,

I can’t believe you would grouse at the author for a simple misspelling and gloss over the fact that the author believes that .45 ACP stands for “Automatic Pistol Cartridge” which is totally untrue.

Factual errors are important. The spell checker missing a real word is not.

Adrian Miller

My problem is different. Mine is more so that his numbers for the Lugers is wrong. 1000 not a hundred.


“… utilizing the new .45 ACP (Automatic Pistol Cartridge).”

The ACP in .45 ACP stands for Automatic Colt Pistol.

Nam Marine

You are correct. Give that man a cigar !


Right? You’d think such a 1911 aficionado would know that!


My Colt New Agent .45 ACP…..never leave home without it !

David R. Munroe

I enjoyed your article, and appreciate the points you made in support of the 1911 as a carry gun. I carry a Glock 26 in my pocket, something that could never be done with a 1911, unless you wanted to rip your pants to shreds. I don’t care if my comment is published or not, but it doesn’t do your credibility much good if there are two glaring errors in the second sentence of your article: “In this day and age there is a much larger selection of different size and shape handguns then every before in history.” I’m sure… Read more »


I am a lowly public school teacher and your pulling out the then / than grammar error proves that you are magnificently observant. Kudos. However, in this venue, I could give a flying poop about that error. If you are not a gunsmith or machinist, you should be. Your powers of observation are way way up there. This comment, by the way, is also just an observation, but not a complaint.


“However, in this venue, I could give a flying poop about that error.”

I think you mean you couldn’t give a flying poop about that error.


Spoken like a man with two mothers

edward Barff

The f ing crammer/spelling police!!! Trying to impress..who???

Rick the Ref.

Three to the face, and they won’t care what caliber your shooting guys!


Most of the stuff in this forum is correct. To each his own. I have trained, competed, carried, slept with, fallen with, etc., etc. with my Colt 1911s. Always felt right. Shoots when called for. I keep my gun maintained as if it will save the day. I carry it IWB on a well worn gun belt. Carry model? Clark Custom Combat 1911 Diamond Black- full size. Tuned and upgraded this year. Why mess with others if one will do it all? I have tried others but fit and feel is just not there. The comfort level is the most… Read more »

Grammar Nazi

Couldn’t get past the word “then” where “than” belongs.

Rev. Philip E. Evans

I carried 1911’s for a 36 year military career and was an armorer most of that time. I have also carried many other fine handguns over the years. While I like the 1911 design, for myself I have found a standard 1911 somewhat hard to master. I am short and have small hands and a full size and weight 1911 is a lot for me. While I can shoot it accurately and qualify with it, I have found others that I enjoy shooting better. I know it’s an old debate, but I prefer “hammer down” carry as opposed to “cocked… Read more »

brian winters

I cannot use a 1911 due o loss of sensation in my fingers. All my glocks have the 12 lb ny plus trigger and are safe for me. I got rid of my 1911s when i HAD UNINTENTIONAL DISCHARGES WIHT A 7LB PULL WITH TAKEUP. THEY ARE UNSAFE FOR ME. If i by a blender I expect it to work. A glock or sig works fin out of the box. Even today some 1911s do not.


The 1911 works just fine, it’s you that doesn’t work.

John Cole

Such a lack of respect.


must sentimental and deny any progress that has been make, doesnt care that his gun is less reliable , heavier , carries less, bigger and just old , typical of those who carry 1911