Glock vs 1911 … Or is the 1911 Just DOA

By Don McDougall
Glock vs 1911, will the best everyday carry handgun please stand up.

Elderly 1911
The Elderly 1911
Don McDougall
Don McDougall

USA-( A local range/gun store asked me to put together training for their employees who carry at work. That’s pretty much everyone on the floor and the range offices.

There are plenty of handgun proficiency tests around, including a couple good ones here on Ammoland. So putting the basic together was not too hard.

The issues started when a few of the employees wanted to carry 1911’s. Some of the younger employees objected saying that 1911’s are not safe and that they’re obsolete; that only Glocks are safe.

They didn’t want to be around 1911’s that were locked and cocked.

Who knew there was a “Safe Space” for Glock owners.

Only a few of the employees under 30 owned a 1911, and some had zero intention of every buying one. The first real pistol most of us owned, is now not even in the discussion for new shooters. The “kids”, impression of the 1911 is an obsolete, heavy metal gun that has long been passed by. However, when given the option to wear one on their hip it was the “Bad Ass”, gun of choice.

Glock 21 Handgun
Glock 21 Handgun

A Glock is about as good a gun as a mil-spec 1911. The reset for the striker on the Glocks mean that the gun wants a trigger in the 5lb range. For a 1911 my competition guns were right at the 2.2 lb limit. The 1911 triggers lack creep and pre-travel when done properly.

Wilson Combat Bill Wilson Carry 1911 Safety
Wilson Combat Bill Wilson Carry 1911's Safety

The Glocks reliability comes from their generous tolerances. (This is the same for the mil-spec 1911) The more play there is with a gun, the more likely it is to go “pew” every time.

There are myths about both guns. There’s no proof ever of a Glock surviving 300,000 round tests, and a .45 ACP will not just kill you it will kill your soul, the round is SO powerful. That too is a myth. (It just messes your soul up a bit.)

I find a 1911 to be a safer firearm, the external safety and the hammer being visible provides a lot of trusts to be in the gun and its condition. But that is just me.

The declining love of the 1911 is due to other factors:

  • Cleaning – Shooters these days are lazy, and stripping and cleaning a 1911 is more work than a Glock.
  • Sales – Younger sales reps sell what they know. That means they direct their 1st-time gun buyers to Glocks.
  • 9mm Vs .45 – Let’s be blunt a 9mm is a lot like a .22. You can shoot them all day and it takes little to no effort. The .45 ACP can get tiring after 200 rounds. Plus 9mm ammo is cheap.
  • Weight – The 1911 is heavy, and the .45 ACP round is heavy. Hauling the gun, mags, rig and 300 rounds to a match can be a challenge all by itself.
Elmer Keith
Elmer Keith : “Well known among firearm enthusiasts, the name Elmer Keith is synonymous with gun writing, magnum cartridges such as the .357, .41 and .44 Mags, and of course we can’t forget his Old West personality.” ~ Guns And Ammo

Lastly the single biggest issue is that Elmer Keith is dead. Precision shooting is left to NRA Bullseye shooters and the Olympics. Stop by after-hours at the range and you’ll find the employees on the line seeing who can empty a magazine the fastest in a target that is 10 feet away. Back in the day we would put the target out to 10 meters and see who could shoot the smallest group. It is not that the Glock is a better gun than a 1911. The difference is that the games shooters are playing have changed, and precision shooting is no longer a valued skill.

Most of the Glock Clones have tighter tolerances; they shoot flatter and tighter groups. They're also just not as popular. They require a bit more care (cleaning) than the original. See the pattern yet?

Remember, both the 1911 and Glock started as battlefield weapons. The 1911 was designed to allow a US soldier to drop an adversary on the battlefield. The Glock was made to provide a handgun to an Austrian Army that is more of a show piece, as well as a reliable choice in community policing.

The Glock is a fine weapon for the purpose it was built, a reliable minor caliber gun for personal protection. The 1911’s long history of service speaks for itself. As a major caliber man stopper with accuracy, there is nothing better.

There will always be a market for the 1911, but its dominance as the American Pistol will continue to decline as long as dumping a mag into a target at 10 feet is seen as more desirable than hitting the X ring at 10 meters.

About Don McDougall:

Don McDougall is an NRA instructor and member of the Los Padres “Friends of the NRA” committee. If he’s not at the range you will find him setting the record straight with on gun issues and gun safety on AmmoLand Shooting Sports News.

  • 143 thoughts on “Glock vs 1911 … Or is the 1911 Just DOA

    1. How is 9mm (.355?) a minor caliber yet .45 is a major caliber? Are you using bore size or power factor to determine major vs minor…because caliber doesnt even go into the equation for IPDA…so major/minor caliber isnt even the right terminology. Anyway Corbon 9mm 115gr+p+ make 1450fps well into the major category. Not to mention the hotter Buffalo Bore or Doubletap offerings.

      Also Glock makes both factory .45acp and 10mm, with added capacities over the equivalent single stack 1911. So apples to apples comparison maybe???

      Fact is I love both platforms, but when I hear yet another Glock vs 1911 or 9mm vs 45acp I laugh at the ignorance brought up to slant the argument.

      Both have different uses, both are equally good at what they do. If you were talking .44mag to .25acp I’d call it accurate but this article is yet more slanted, uneducated, cowpies.

    2. My EDC is based on hand to hand CQB. This is what I have experienced in real-life. My EDC is a custom MEUSOC 1911 hand activated light and laser bearing pistol, in a custom level two kydex OWB retention holster. My BUG is a deep concealment custom Colt 1908 25 caliber pocket pistol. My knife is an Emerson CQC-7 clipped horizontally in my gun belt. I train for hand to hand combat because that is the only thing that has ever happened to me. When I have been engaged in hand to hand combat I know my 1911 EDC weapon can not be taken in a gun grab and the bad guys know it too (I’ve seen their eyes look and then they forget about trying). The 1911 and the 1908 both have a slide and a grip safety. I want those additional pistol controls because I feel it is important for CQB. The Glock trugger safety does not support my CQB hand to hand EDC requirements. Nor does a large magazine round count.

    3. Why do so many bloggers and gun article writers perpetuate the 1911 vs Glock controversy? Both are great guns. The 1911 will be around for at least another hundred years. It is the quintessential ‘American pistol.’ My wife and I both own one and love to shoot them. I qualified on a 1911 in the Army and my first auto-loading pistol was a 1911. But neither of us carry one as our EDC. I prefer either my G21 or lately the new Ruger American Pistol, and she swears by her Beretta 92. But perpetuating this controversy, which really gets vicious at times, between the 1911 and the Glock doesn’t do the shooting community any favors. All the rude comments about “Glock fan boys” and “1911 Fuds who live in the past” is just a wedge between us.

      In the end, we are all gun lovers and fervent supporters of the right of every law abiding citizen to keep and bear arms and defend themselves and their loved ones from the evil that seems to fill our world these days with whatever gun they like and trust the most.

    4. I’ve heard the argument shot placement is the most important yet they practice by dumping a mag into the target instead of small shot groups in the X ring.

      I’ve heard the argument that that the 9 mm is just as good as the 45 acp because of modern day expanding ammo. Yet what they seek to do is mimic a large caliber round which necessitates a fragile bullet that doesn’t expand to soon and has adequate penetration.

      I don’t trust my life to a polymer pistol with a bucked of bullets. I have never trusted 9 mm in any ammo choice.

      I have and will continue to trust my life to an Ed Brown 1911 (or older Colts and high quality 1911’s) with Military Service Grade 45 acp full metal jacket. Poor quality 1911’s have given the 1911 a bad reputation.

      1. You have part of the expanding bullet theory correct but in the wrong attribution. The old .45 ACP round is slow enough that is requires a weaker bullet to start expanding. The 9mm has tested BETTER that the .45 ACP based on whether or not the cartridges are loaded to their original specifications as they were designed. The 9mm over the decades has been under loaded by 25 to 30% while .45 ACP has actually had it power increased.

        I agree with Massad Ayoob (actually he agrees with what I’ve been saying far longer than he has) that the 115 grain Cor-Bon 9mm Parabellum is the BEST defensive handgun load on the market. But, the issue of determining what is better has NEVER been as simple as it is discussed. Hollow Cavity and Hollow point ammunition has major deficiencies in real world usage. Hollow point ammunition up through the 80s almost never expanded in real world testing largely because at a distance of a few feet the bullet has slowed too much. That’s when Hollow Cavity bullet were developed and really weak bullets will expand even at the slow velocities that .45 ACP and other old cartridges can produce.

        If we all had the luxury of shooting soft targets this would be the only concern. But that is not the case. I load two frangible loads and one hard ball in the same magazine. That way I can fire bullets that are good for all types of targets.

        You are right about poor quality 1911s. Those which have been “accurized” tend to be very low in reliability. I have an extremely accurate and reliable .45 ACP handgun which is the Sig Sauer P220. It’s safing systems actually work and it can digest Plus P ammunition which some brands specifically state will void their warranties. The P220 with 180 grain Corbon DPX is the only load I fire that is actually painful.

    5. Nothing sounds more ignorant than a guy who talks like an air headed woman who makes important decisions based “feelings” not facts. If I had a nickel for every time a guy tells me ” a 1911 carries all the ammo I will ever need in a confrontation because it kills so much more effectively that a 9 mm “. Then I asked ….based on a supposed confrontation that never even happened yet ???,yea, chick talk again. Some guys think that if you shoot a bad guy with a .45 in the big toe he will land deader than a door nail inside a body bag complete with an autopsy report. The myth of the .45’s superior stopping power will never die…..based not on fact but feelings….again sounds like a woman flapping.
      Multiple FBI/ gov studies prove that shot placement means way way more than caliber…fact. The difference between the three main calibers for semi automatic are not even negligible when all are placed properly and no I’m not gonna do your homework for you,YOU look it up, it’s out there for all with a rational mind to read. As far as 1911 versus Glock reliability, that’s also been beat down into the ground by more gov agencies around the entire world than you can shake a jammed kimber at ( unless you put a boatload of ammo through it) and GLOCK came out on top. Go ahead and fling your slings and arrows at me but it’s not gonna be based facts. Maybe my grammar but not “facts”, only your “feelings”. Yep I’ve never heard a bigger bunch of grown men reach for feelings over fact than this discussion right here.

      1. During the 1907 US Army pistol trial which eventually resulted in the .45 ACP being adopted, the first day of live animal testing found that the 7.65mm Luger killed faster than any other caliber. So on the 2nd round of testing the way this was tested was changed so that .45 ACP would seem to be better.

        The reality is NOT what the industry typically portray. The amount of damage done is a function of how much energy is transferred. The FBI uses a significantly different criterion for use than any hunter of self defense fan would consider proper because the FBI wants penetration over destruction. Standard .38 Special has proven to be reasonably effective with only 245 ft. lbs. of energy. It uses easily deformed lead bullets. In the 50s when the Air Force compared .45 hardball to .38 Special (lead) they found more damage was caused by the .38 special. In the 1960s when .22 Jet was introduced, it was found to be fare more effective than .38 Special (it has more 100 ft.lbs. more energy which transfers more effectively).

        Look at the relative selling prices (we can guess the profit levels) and you may get an idea of why the industry promotes one cartridge over another. FBI testing recently resulted in a return to using 9mm parabellum. They found no significant wound ability difference whether the cartridge was 9mm parabellum, 40 S&W or 45 ACP.

        If stopping power was truly the only issue to be addressed, we’d all be using some form of .223 Rem in a pistol configuration. (like 5.7 x 28mm)

    6. Interesting article. A few thoughts if I could.

      First, the first two handguns I ever owned were a Ruger Security Six .357 and a 1911, both well before the age of 30.

      Second, the 1911 is not declining in popularity. All you have to do is look at any gun/gun parts catalog and you will see just how popular they are.

      Third, although my wife and I both own a 1911, neither of us carry one. They’re great guns, very accurate. But we both prefer something with greater reliability and ammo capacity. She carries a Beretta 92 and I like either G21 in .45ACP or a Ruger American Pistol in 9mm.

      Still, the 1911 is a classic and a beautiful pistol and it will be around for at least another hundred years.

    7. I was one of those younger guys who was directed towards a polymer glock type pistol when I first got into handguns. After awhile of trying different models and caliberz even, I realized my problem was that its plastic mostly and it didnt feel right in my hand. So, I set out trying a bunch of different guns in my hand to see what felt right. Beretta 92 felt decent but a bit bulky for carry. Picked up a Colt .45 and I literally said, now this feel natural and right to me. I told the store owner that that is a real gun. That was my problem the entire time, the light weight of a polymer pistol just made it feel like a toy for me, so when I got that big ole full size 1911 .45 I felt like I was holding a real gun now. Maybe its just me I dont know, everybodys different I reckon. Im a big guy also so maybe that has something to do with it, 6’5 250lbs. And if it was a beauty contest, 1911 wins every time hands down. Glock is nearly as bad as high point in the looks department but gotta give them credit for the ak47 like durability.

    8. When you go to the range with your buddies they pull out there glocks and no attention is given! But when my colt .45 comes out they all come over and wanna touch it,smell it,and shoot it!!! Its a mans gun not something you see on Call of Duty…..if i want the feel of plastic i will reach for my water bottle!

    9. The Glock is the perfect mass issue pistol. It stepped into place once the S&W M10 & Colt Police Positive became largely obsolete. They are well made, very reliable, accurate and come in a size and caliber to make just about everyone happy and have plenty of firepower. As an instructor I really like their simplicity and the easy of training they offer. I carry a 4th gen model 22 and it’s a great gun. I would carry my Sig Tacops if the department would let me (I’m working on it) because the 1911 grip fits my hand perfectly, the trigger out of the box is superior to the Glock and inherent mechanical accuracy is at least equal to the Glock. Practical accuracy due to the aforementioned trigger & grip is often much better. Do I care about the differences between the 9mm & the .45acp? Not much both will do their job if I do mine. Would I like a few more rounds in the mag? Sure. I’d like the 1911 to be a 15 rounder and the Glock to be a 20 rounder but we don’t always get what we want. Is the 1911 perfect? It is as close as it gets….for me. Would I trust the Glock with my life and yours? I do every day I’m on duty.

    10. I had absolutely no idea that Glocks could not chamber the .45 ACP (as implied by the article)!? I swear that someone told me that Glock has a few models that do shoot the .45 ACP, to include a couple that can actually accept a 13-round magazine as standard!!

      Some people just need to stop writing articles just to sell themselves off as “experts”.

    11. It would be interesting to know the full story behind the Marines’ decision to abandon the Colt 1911s they purchased. All I have heard is that the Corps was extremely unhappy with them and could not get rid of them fast enough. (I wonder what warehouse they are collecting dust in.)

      SOCOM has adopted the G19 as their basic sidearm loadout because it is small enough to conceal when mission requirements dictate concealment. The troops (yes, younger guys) reportedly like the Glock. I am sure other sidearms will continue to be available to SOCOM units on an as needed basis.

      Who knows what will become of the current “modular” pistol quest?

      1. For that you would need to read the rational of the XM9 procurement. The military was buying more than 30 small arms calibers. The logistic problems had become severe. There was a need to start using a large number of handguns. In one arsenal more than 16,000 M1911A1 handguns were examined. Over 60% were found to have cracked frames. That still was not enough of a problem to consider buying a new standard handgun and caliber for all the services. What was probably the “straw that broke the camel’s back” or the “tipping point” was that armorers trying to repair the M1911A1 that were on hand received substandard quality replacement parts since there was no modern production after 1943.

        Even though the M9 adopted was the Beretta M92SBF special services adopted Sig-Sauer P226 and other handguns were used on occasion. The bright spot in all of this was that they all used 9mm ammunition.

        The XM17 procurement spelled out a criterion for NEW 9mm ammunition that was aligned also with the FBI report on the factors that were considered in moving their usage back to 9mm. Both specified that good high quality ammunition must be provided.

        The new ammunition specification is being provided by Winchester. The relatively small number of usable M1911A1 handgun might become available to the public as the laws were just changed by the Trump Administration to allow that.

        I would like to see a competition run between the M1911A1 (.45ACP), the Sig Sauer P220 (.45 ACP) and the Sig Sauer P320 (.45 ACP) and maybe a Glock, FN, IMI, CZ, H&K or other modern design. The newer guns would win instantly even if due solely to the safeing features. But a shooting comparison would be interesting. When the P220 was introduced in 1975 is fired groups sizes that were thought to be impossible because they had never been achieved before in a self loading handgun.

    12. I like Glocks and 1911s both. I have a Commander and my wife has a Government Model. We both enjoy shooting them and shoot them well, but neither of us carry them EDC. 1911’s are wonderful guns, but I carry my Glock 21 and she carries her Beretta 92. Why? Because they are both absolutely reliable and they both have a much great ammo capacity and more reliability than a 1911.

      The 1911 was the cutting edge of technology when it was introduced, but it is not the gun I want to carry today. Is it more accurate than my G21? Yes, a little. But at the ranges I would have to use my EDC (5 to 25 meters) my G21 is plenty accurate and my wife’s Beretta is every bit as accurate as her 1911 and both carry a lot more ammo.

      So, we love our 1911s, but we rely on something more reliable to defend our lives from the slime that seems to be pervading our society a little more each day.

    13. Author starts out 1911 v Glock and then seems to imply Glocks are only 9mm and wobbles off into a caliber comparison. News flash, they also make Glocks in .45 and 10mm too. Egregious errors like this greatly diminish the value of any opinions. Carry what you want and know how to use it.

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