1911 Accuracy Versus Reliability


December 5, 2007, 05:27 AM
Some people want a 1911 that can shoot 1" groups at 50 yards, others are perfectly content with 4" groups at 25 yards. Also, the tighter the gun the more accurate it will be but the tighter the gun, the higher the chance for a malfunction. My question is what gunsmithing can be done and what parts can be installed to make a 1911 more accurate without sacrificing reliability?

Also, what exactly is a beavertail grip safety? I know what a grip safety is but what's with the "beavertail"?

And last, when installing custom grips on a .45 1911, does a checkered pair of grips actually help or will smooth grips not noticably hinder control of the gun?

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December 5, 2007, 06:58 AM
I would recommend an accuracy package from Clark Custom (http://www.clarkcustomguns.com/faq1911.htm#accjob). The key to repeatable accuracy is having the slide and barrel return to exactly the same place in relationship to each other after each shot. The key to reliability is enough wiggle room for the components. Jimmy Clark and crew understand this. Take a look at his Slide Guide (http://www.clarkcustomguns.com/head1911.htm).

There are those who disagree with this idea and that is fine. Clark Custom's accuracy guarantee is a 10 shot group measuring 2.5" or less @ 50 yards with match grade ammunition. Groups are measured center to center of the two outermost shots and include flyers. The gun will run reliably when you receive it. Period. Reliability and accuracy can exist in the same pistol...........

A beavertail is a flared grip safety that protects the web of the hand from hammerbite (http://xavierthoughts.blogspot.com/2006/08/hammerbite.html). Some folks like them some folks don't. Some beavertail grip safeties, noteably the Ed Brown get the web of the hand higher behind the bore axis. This gives greater control of the pistol. Beavertail grip safeties also help insure the hand goes to the same place on the gun each time it is drawn.

Grip preference is decidely personal. On my shooter 1911s, I like checkered grips. On the ones that carried, I like checkered rubber grips. On the pretty Sunday go to meetin' ones, some of the grips are smooth.

December 5, 2007, 09:00 AM
Here you go. The beavertail is the 1st picture. In the picture of 3 pistols, it is in the middle.






Old Fuff
December 5, 2007, 09:34 AM
X-Breath did an excellent job explaining the accuracy question. Tight groups are more dependent on how the barrel is bedded in the slide, and fitted to return to battery in exactly the same place, then "tightness" in and of itself.

I have an old USGI National Match pistol, which by regulation was required to be built on (used but selected) service pistol frames. The frame-slide fit is slightly better then an average service pistol. The barrel bushing can be turned by hand.

And at 50 yards it will shoot at or under 3 inches. It is reliable, never had to be broken in (I got it at Camp Perry in 1966, and started shooting it the next day). Never required special magazines or any other tricking out. No gadgets, no gimmicks, just solid, accurate service - year after year. ;)

December 5, 2007, 09:42 AM
Most decent 1911's be they an old Norinco springfield Kimber S&W what have you...will outshoot anything the shooter can do with them. From a ransom rest most will shoot cloverleafs to 1.5"-ish groups with match grade ammo or the ammo that gun likes best. (they've done that at the shooting club before with several 1911's) Most shooters are never going to fire a 1.5" group with a handgun at 25 yards in the real world (at least offhand) So to me...the difference between a 1" and a 2" gun at 50 yards is pretty meaningless. I shoot a lot (average 2-3K a year handgun...not counting .22's of course) and an easily repeatable tight fist sized group offhand at 25 yards offhand is fine with me. That is better than combat accuracy (need) by probably 2-3 times. At 50 yards offhand I can ring the steel cong 8/10 times (aprox. the size of a legal pad) when warmed up and about 60/40 hits/miss cold just out of the truck no warm up (keep in mind my 1911 still has crappy GI sights to) I'm sure the gun can do better...I've sandbagged it and seen it can...but I'll never do that in real life.

Even tight guns shot several thousand rounds a year will break in to have some play...that does not mean they are no longer accurate but they are usually more reliable once that point is reached. Shoot it long enough it will eventually get a little sloppy. But simply being tight does NOT make a gun accurate either. Being properly fitted up all the way around with a properly fit barrel and bushing and link being 80% of the game IMHO. A 1911 must be acurate AND reliable or it's "not done yet" Many makers like Les Baer and Wilson tend to have guns slightly on the "a bit too tight" side so that once broken in (owner and gun bonded through 1-2K rounds) the gun is in an optimal performance zone. That along with quallity properly heat treated slide and frame and bbl ect properly hand fitted up mean you will have many thousands of rounds before you see anything open up past very good accuracy...and of course with the wilson you can send it back and they'll tweak it back to perfect for you (and you'll probably be buying a new barrel at that point from them anyway)...for that price they ought to of course ;)

GI barrels tend to have a VG accuracy life of 4-5K rounds depending what you shoot through them. Stainless barrels 2-3 times that. After 10-15K round most guns could use a little tweaking...but a little slide to frame play certainly doesn't mean you don't have a very accurate 1911. If you want a tighter fit wait till you smoke a bbl. and get it done with that...untill then don't worry about it. Also off the shelf guns vary a LOT in frame to slide fit (especially springfield) Kimber universally seems to do a great job there and come with very good barrels. If you're worried about it just buy a Kimber. By the time you shoot it loose or wear out a bbl you'll know exactly what you want done to it anyway (it will take you years). Without handpicking or assuming some parts and handfitting Kimber is the cheapest 1911 I feel comfortable reccomending "off the rack" (and you can get an occassional lemon with any of them)...you can also find the occassional jewel even amongst cheaper guns...like the GI spriger I built my beater out of.

December 5, 2007, 09:58 AM

So is the "loose fitted 1911's are reliable and tight ones are accurate"

A 1911, like any gun, is a mechanical device. As such, the same rules apply to it as to any machine, simple or complex. Look at car engines. No one in their right mind would say that a tight engine is less reliable then a loose one.

The key is properly fitted parts. The 1911, because of its swinging link barrel system and locking lugs on top of the barrel, requires a greater attention to the relationship of the parts to one another, ie. fitting. Keep in mind, the 1911 was invented when skilled labor was fairly cheap. Now, skilled gunsmiths are quite expensive, and as such, the time required to properly fit an all steel 1911 can cause a gun to be pretty expensive.

December 5, 2007, 10:30 AM
I used to think that accuracy and reliability were mutually exclusive. The art of 1911-smithing has reached the point that you can have both, if you are willing to pay extra for it.

As a bit of trivia on grip safeties, the third pistol in Doc2005's picture of three has what is referred to as a "duck-tail" safety, where it has a pronounced upward sweep.

December 5, 2007, 10:42 AM
Pull up 1911 Reliability Secrets. That is a good start. For match grade a great gunsmith. Of course it takes a great shootist for the rest.

December 5, 2007, 01:04 PM
Thanks for the input guys. The one question still stands though. I have noticed that the grips seem to personalize a pistol but I am concerned that smooth grips might hamper the much needed control over the gun when shooting. I don't want the pistol to squirm when I shoot it. Granted my hand is gripping the gun okay, will the smooth grips be a bad idea for control reasons?

Lets assume for a moment I won't be trying for national shooting championships and that I will probably not be using it as a CC pistol. Thanks.

December 5, 2007, 01:37 PM
Checkered front and back straps give you grip. Checkered grips just wear out your clothes and skin when carrying. Personal preference enters into grip choice, I prefer smooth wood as thin as possible but my front strap, mainspring housing and front of trigger guard are 30 lpi for a secure grip.

December 5, 2007, 05:05 PM
I've had my Colt tightened up & accurized. I've gone to classes where I've gone 1200 rounds before cleanings & w/o an issue...I'm calling BS on the whole notion that a 1911 can be accurate but not reliable too! ;)

December 5, 2007, 05:06 PM
As I said, grips are an individual choice. The choice is dependent on how the pistol will be used, but more importantly, how the shooter grips the gun and the anatomy of the individual's hand.

I personally tend to eschew frontstrap checkering. I want my hand to slide into place quickly. My two handed grip is very much an isometric style Chapman grip most of the time. Thus, I tend to want traction on the sides of the grip frame. Checkered grips work for me. FWIW I also tend to prefer a flat serrated mainspring housing, a long trigger and a Ed Brown grip safety. Not all of my 1911s have this combination, but most of the ones I have personally smithed for myself do. On my carry 1911s I go with checkering on the grip for the grip qualities, and rubber for the durability. Guns that get carried lead a tough life.

A fellow with a different shooting style might prefer smooth grips and a checkered frontstrap. Another guy might find he shoots best with checkered everything. Some want coarse checkering, others fine. Some only want serrations, others want smooth. What is important is to learn to grip the pistol properly, and have it fit your hand. If you grip it correctly, and it fits your hand, all the traction modifications are really superfulous.

The nice thing about the 1911 is the ability to almost infinitely alter the grip frame. If you think you need traction on the front strap, put on some skateboard tape and try it out before having it checkered or stippled. Buy some inexpensive checkered or smooth grips before you settle on a style different than what you have. Try a checkered and a serrated, flat, wedge, and arched mainspring housing. Swap parts with another fellow, and you both get to try new stuff.

The 1911 grip frame is almost infinitely variable to fit almost any hand, almost any need. There is no right or wrong, no better or best. There is only what works best for you that you learn from trying different things and shooting the gun. I think perhaps that is why so many folks love the old thing. They can fit it exactly to their needs.

December 5, 2007, 05:15 PM
The art of 1911-smithing has reached the point that you can have both,
Reached that point many, many, years ago. ;)

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