1911 reliability.....


July 6, 2008, 09:32 PM
this is a wholesale lift of another post of mine on another thread, and if doing so is a rule-breaker for the forum, feel free to lock the thread and send me a nasty-gram....but there's apparently a lot of mis/disinformation on what a 1911 can be vs. newer offerings, or even newer versions of the same gun, judging by posts on this site, so am seeking to correct the record with this excerpted post......

"Except for newer guns utilizing plastic/aluminum/stampings, they pretty much all work on the Browning design, newer guns just being friendlier to manufacturers, in that, parts spit out of machines are a bit simpler and more drop-in friendly....but none of the new stuff has broken any new ground....now, if a 1911 just doesn't feel "right", and newer stuff does, well, get what fits.....any other problems are more a problem with execution at the factory....the 1911 still holds the record for rounds fired without stoppage, and probably always will.....new guns are only required to meet Mean Times Between Failure, which is not an average.....the new gun could stop 1 time at 4000rds, stop 20 times at anywhere between 1 and 50 rounds, and the Mean would still be 2000rds, Mean being the halfway point between highest and lowest values....no handgun, before or since, has been required to, or passed, a 6000rd/zero-stoppage test....the design is sound, and only unreliable to the degree the parts diverge from original specifications, and there's a boatload of differences in the guns of today, with many using cast/sintered parts instead of spring-steel, machinings, etc., not to mention tolerances not being adhered to.........don't indict the design over sloppy/cheap current build.....

Lest you think the initial proving of the gun in 1911 was a fluke, in 1952, Col. Frank Allen assigned to Aberdeen ran tests of various auto-pistols, including the 1911A1 and a number of foreign pistols....all were run through 5000rds or as far as they would go....most of the guns gave many malfs, or quit altogether, while the 1911A1 sailed through 5000rds with one minor stoppage....

Also, in the 1970's, the US Treas. Dept had tests conducted by a private testing lab, the tests running 8mths with over 150 different guns of 38 models, from .22Short revolvers to .45ACPs....in the 9mm and .45 endurance tests, they tried to put 5000rds through each of two samples, with one gun getting an initial Proof round (1.5x's over-pressure), and the other gun getting a Proof round after every 100rds.....the only ones which went all the way were two Colt .45's, one Browning HP, and one of the French MAB's....another HP almost went 5000rds with 47 Proof loads, and a second MAB went over 4900rds with 50 Proof loads......"

If you enjoyed reading about "1911 reliability....." here in TheHighRoad.org archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join TheHighRoad.org today for the full version!
July 6, 2008, 10:25 PM
Despite this, I almost guarantee you will never hear the word "overbuilt" used in the same sentence as "French" ever again. Facts be darned!

July 6, 2008, 11:27 PM
As friend AK Church has been known to opine, the French imitate nobody,...and nobody imitates the French....

Blue Brick
July 6, 2008, 11:52 PM
It can be done.

A Ruger P-85 had its entire right side of the ejection port removed and 2,000 rounds of M882 ammunition were fired with no signs of stress. The pistol was then subjected to 3,000 rounds of M882 ammunition. During both sessions the pistol was not disassembled or cleaned and was not allowed to cool during firing. At 1,000 round intervals the pistol was examined for slide fractures. After 5,000 rounds no damage was observed.

July 7, 2008, 12:11 AM
Sure.....also, a GI M1 was subjected to as much fast-burning powder as the case would hold, so high a pressure the Army didn't dare test it in their pressure gun for fear of ruining it.....the left lug cracked, the bottom of the bolt bulged, the wood was shattered, and the bottom of the mag was blown open, BUT, with wood and bolt replaced, the gun was returned to service....this result, and the above mentioned ones are a matter of record with the US Army, and the US Treasury Department....not doubting your quoted results, only wondering about the source/testers for the Ruger.....and for clarity, were the number of rounds consecutive and without stoppage of any sort.....

July 7, 2008, 06:53 AM
There are 1911s, and there are 1911s (and 1911A1s:):

USGI 1911(A1) pistols were made right, and made of the right stuff. I have a Remington Rand with only one failure in over 130,000 rounds - the firing pin broke around round 87,000. It's basically a smoothbore, but it'll still put five rounds into a fist-sized group at 15 yards.


July 7, 2008, 03:04 PM
Hi Mtngnr,

Your definition of the mean is incorrect. What you described is actually the median (middle value in a data set), not the mean. The mean is exactly what you said it was not; the mean is the arithmatic average of a data set. I am a biomedical scientist and work with statistics quite a bit and took three statistics classes in my undergrad and graduate education.

In the following data set, the median would be two (the middle value), while the mean would be 2.4 (1+1+2+3+5 divided by 5).

1, 1, 2, 3, 5

My second gripe with what you said was that the 1911 holds the record of having the most rounds without stoppages.

During the M9 trials, the Beretta 92 was tested and easily exceeded the numbers the numbers that you mentioned below.

During the M9 trials, our military put 168,000 rounds through 12 Beretta 92 pistols without a single malfunction/stoppage (with factory magazines). That means that 14,000 rounds were put through 12 firearms without a single stoppage. This was our un-biased military, not some fan of a particular firearms maker or a gun writer that is biased to print whatever puts money in their pockets. People lose sight of this. According to Beretta's own in-house testing, which is clearly biased, the average number of rounds between stopagges is 17,500 (with factory magazines). The realibility issues that people have seen with Berettas in Iraq was caused by cheap, non-factory magazines.

Blue Brick
July 7, 2008, 04:39 PM
"Ruger and his guns" it was also is a gun magazine. I have pictures of the article but the system will not allow me to repost the pictures. I posted them once before.

Blue Brick
July 7, 2008, 04:45 PM




July 7, 2008, 07:43 PM
Fishman77, I don't know if the proposals meant "mean" as defined as the half-way point between extremes, arithmetic mean as you point out, or geometric mean, or any other statistical term...I'm not a statistician, neither are the folk who write the proposals, and would have to look at the proposal again for a new gun....the latest Joint Services project specs make an interesting read.

As far as I recall, the tests of 1981 flubbed due to poor performance of all guns, and after threats by the House Appropriations Committee, testing was resumed with characteristics desired changed, that is, they lowered the bar.....this lowered bar, both Sig and Beretta passed, the Beretta chosen due to being cheaper.

This stuff is a matter of record as reported by Col. Jim Crossman who was involved for decades in the search for the "new gun", a search which started in 1945.

The testing you mention....are you saying these results were part of the original acceptance trials? The same one Sig tied for 1st place? Because that's what I'm citing when talking about records....results during acceptance trials.....no gun before or since has been REQUIRED to go 6000rds without a stoppage during acceptance trials, and by golly, did it. I'd like some citation on the results you quote being results from the XM9 trials, please.

Edited in PS....so far, all I can find are GAO reports from 1988 or so, and given the total contents of the report, sorta makes me doubt those high-round-count Beretta reports....or they were very lucky which guns they submitted....interesting reading.

July 7, 2008, 08:11 PM
Blue Brick, thanks for the reply.....I might even have that around here somewhere, now that you mention the details. Ruger in-house testing, maybe? I'm not doubting the results, Rugers being uncommonly tough guns. I'm not a fan of cast guns and parts when the stuff is being substituted on guns designed around forging/machining, but when the guns is designed AS as cast gun, they can be incredibly tough. I think Ruger bolts in their rifles held up better than other forged bolts in pressure tests due to the casting not having stress-lines, and don't doubt a cast slide might hold up for the same reason...IF designed as a cast slide (or receiver).

Blue Brick
July 7, 2008, 08:19 PM
Anytime, happy to help.

July 7, 2008, 10:31 PM
I wonder how many of us are going to go right out to the range and see how OUR guns perform according to these legendary tests? :scrutiny::rolleyes:

I , for one, cannot afford it....:D

July 7, 2008, 10:50 PM
Ruger autos passed all the Army tests except for mixing all the parts of 10 different guns together in a box and then rebuilding them. I guess the investment casting requires just a little fitting.

Still, for the price these Ruger autos sell for that is a very good showing.

July 8, 2008, 12:11 AM
2ndamd, thanks for the further insight into the tests.

Fisherman77, I found all your stats listed on the Beretta website, and no other place..."during ONE test" is the key phrase there, a test only witnessed by govt employees, and conducted entirely by, and at, the Beretta plant in MD (which didn't exist at the time of the XM9 trials)....Beretta themselves state 1/3 of guns tested there don't even go 5000rds.

If anyone dredges up the actual XM9 testing protocol and results, I'd surely like to read it....but am certain it didn't include the requirement to go 6000rds without a single stoppage, much less, failure....and am pretty certain none of the guns tested did so, required or not.

Here's a clue to some of the original requirements, also more insight into problems/fixes to the M9....

July 8, 2008, 12:14 AM
Boomstik45, ditto, and it's the same reason I've never lusted after a machinegun....even a .22 in full-auto would blow through some money in a hurry.

July 8, 2008, 01:03 AM
Great post mtngunner.
I as well am disappointed by all the "1911" misinformation posted.
Lumping all the Government Model clones in one category and calling it 1911 is incorrect.

Aguila Blanca
July 8, 2008, 02:35 AM

July 9, 2008, 11:49 AM
AB, pretty impressive, but it's another in-house factory test, which I always wonder what they're NOT mentioning....being basically ad-copy, they're going to write it in the technically/legal most favorable-to-the-product way....details are missing such as cleaning/cooling rules, what constituted either a stoppage or failure, etc.....for instance, they gloss over it being a ramped barrel, also, no mention of work done to the gun between 3 seperate shooting stages to get to that 5000rd mark, and "failures" are generally seen as quite different from "stoppages", failures being something broken that needs more than a quick clearing drill to get back into operation....no mention of stoppages at all, only no failures.

July 9, 2008, 07:01 PM
5000 rounds is probably for 90% of the owners a lifetime of shooting, let alone in one test period.

July 10, 2008, 01:02 AM
Jocko, I don't know about that....I don't shoot competition, just enjoy trips to the range....my Colt 1911 repro now has almost 5000rds through it since January....there's a buncho other folk in the area that I live in who make many, many range trips, LOTS of familiar faces most anytime I go....perhaps your stats my hold true in more urban areas, but urban areas aren't all there is, despite folk living in urban areas seeming to think so. There's a lot more shooters out there than most folk would believe....but, press would have everyone thinking that shooters are nothing but a very small and strange minority.

July 10, 2008, 01:22 AM
For those unfamiliar with the initial 1911 trial, they required that each pistol fire 6000rds, 100 shots and the pistol allowed to cool 5mins, cleaned/oiled after every 1000rds...after firing 6000rds of standard ammo the pistol would be tested with deformed cartridges, then rusted with acid and tested, then retested with dust sprinkled into working parts.

In reality, the 1911 test took 2 days of firing, the pistol dunked into a bucket of water to cool it down as needed when too hot to hold, and when the shooting finally stopped, after a moment of silence, one of the soldiers tasked with loading/shooting roared, "She made it, by God!", followed by laughter, three cheers for Browning who was sitting there on a bench the entire test, and demands for a speech.

Browning stood on the bench, took off his hat, and said, "Gentlemen, the young man who spoke so eloquently a moment ago expressed my own feelings precisely. There isn't a word I can add, except thank you all."

July 10, 2008, 09:43 AM
Hi Mtngunr,

Yes, you are right, that 168,000 round test occured at the Beretta USA facility, but it was performed before US Army supervision. There are other newer press releases that claim that the average failure rate for the 92 is one stoppage every 21,000 rounds.

I am not trying to put the Beretta 92 on a pedestle, I just meant to point out that going 6000 rounds without a malfunction isn't that big of a deal these days. I don't own any Berettas, and probably never will. I prefer XDs over the PX4 storm, and am not very fond of aluminum framed firearms. I respect the Beretta 92, but I would never consider buying one as long as they are only available with the aluminum frame. Those Beretta 92 Steel models are no longer in their catalog, and when they were, they were pretty expensive. I'd sooner buy a Beretta Xtrema 2 shotgun if I felt like spending $1,500 on a firearm.

July 10, 2008, 11:32 AM
There are about 7 core members of my pistol club, and in that lot there are 2 Colts (one new XSE, one old Series 70), 2 Kimbers (one new, one 10 years old), a Springer (new), and my Sig GSR. Every time we host an IDPA event, the number of 1911s doubles easily. In all of the shooting we do, including matches, I have never seen one stop. I don't mean a "can't blame it on the gun" stoppage, I mean ZERO stoppages. Every single gun I listed above is box-stock except for grips. I know fans of other platforms love to go on about why the 1911 is so finicky and unreliable, but from my random sampling of guns I can't agree. Every one of those guns can be had for between $650-$900, and have been dead reliable through thousands of rounds with no tuning. I think that there is a lot of friend-of-a-friend type anecdotal crap going around from back in the day when manufacturing was spotty.

Bottom line: a gun from a good manufacturer will be just as reliable as Glock, Sig, or whatever.


July 10, 2008, 11:44 AM
Fishman, as someone who deals with statistics, I'm sure you're familiar with the Mark Twain quote of, "there's lies, damned lies, and statistics." Press-releases I'd trust even less.

From Beretta's website is the direct quote of "Two-thirds of all M9 pistols endurance tested at Beretta U.S.A. fired 5,000 rounds without a single mal function or, at most, with only one malfunction."

That leaves 1/3 not even doing THAT well....the original 1911 trial is much more unusual in result than you seem ready to believe. As I already stated, none of the new pistols differ radically from the basic Browning operating principle, and despite vaunted modern manufacturing methods, the new guns still have yet to equal the original 1911 in military acceptance trials.

July 10, 2008, 11:56 AM
My Rock Island 1911A1 .45 is a fine gun. I take good care of it and make sure to keep a nice slick of grease on all the internal parts. When I am done shooting I brush it out and add fresh layer of grease then make my barrel shine. I have no dought that this copy of the the original Colt will last well beyond my lifetime inspite of the fact that it is subjected to frequent shooting.

July 10, 2008, 12:38 PM
I just don't believe you.

I see many guys show up with 1911's in gun classes. I ask them about their guns and get the usual "reliable" and "has never failed" remarks. Then, I look over and see...a jam! Stove pipes, failure to feed, and so forth. Last August (2007), a Wilson Combat safety on an expensive Wilson Combat 1911 broke off. Who woulda thunk it?

A buddy's Glock 19 failed at least 15 times in the first 100 rounds. I stuck my pinky in the action and felt a few burrs. I told him to shoot it until it cleared up. It did. Even the mighty Glock company churns out a problem child now and again.

A 1911 built in 1952 is certainly not going to be the same as a recent build by Kimber. Unfortunately, many manufacturers do not make 1911s according to the specification. Then, gun smiths get in there and mess around with it (for whatever purpose, such as building a competition gun). Fine...but expect problems. Some work better than others for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is deviation in aspects of the design or a gunsmith mucking around with the internals.

They're machines. They break and get gummed up.

Just because you're a fan of the gun doesn't make it the mostest and bestest in whatever category you happen to be thinking of at the time.

Not that this is going to stop me from getting a Colt this weekend. But, it's better to be realistic than have some "Good 'nuff for Grandpa, good 'nuff for me" idealistic notion. They're not the same guns by any stretch of the imagination.

July 10, 2008, 07:20 PM
This stuff is too long to read/understand/reply-all.

1911s are REALLY reliable, if you do YOUR part in cleaning/lubing.
They are REALLY easy to repair - IF you FIT the parts,

1911s need to be owned by "gun guys" or the infrequent shooter. All save one of my pistols are 1911s.


July 10, 2008, 07:36 PM
Then, I look over and see...a jam! Stove pipes, failure to feed, and so forth.

Yes. We've all seen that happen.

They're machines.

Indeed. They are machines, and machines are designed to function... and if the machine is correctly built, it will function. It doesn't have a choice.

You may apply that axiom to the first statement.

A properly built 1911 pistol that is reasonably maintained will be so reliable that it's boring.

And before the "They only feed hardball unless skillfully and extensively ported'n'polished" argument comes into play...I can disprove that with any of a couple dozen very old, very stock USGI and commercial Colt pistols...and I mean some old enough to predate the First World War.

July 10, 2008, 07:41 PM
It doesn't have a choice.....I like that.

July 11, 2008, 12:36 AM
Thanks, Tuner....the only modern problem being getting a gun built to spec in these new-improved times.....everybody builds turkey's, some companies just do it more often than others....personally, think Colt is doing a pretty good job, and better than many, despite recurring cosmetic issues.....my own 1911 repro wasn't perfect, especially cosmetically, but I had Bill Adair fix that part....mechanically, the only problem was "hard-feeding" that turned out to be a slight case of 3-pt-jam where the psuedo-milspec ramp didn't QUITE give roll-over clearance during feeding...just breaking the edge took care of that....super-reliable, and shoots an honest 1" with UMC ball from standing/braced at 25yds, despite the comforting rattle when shaken.....couldn't be happier. Diagnosis of the 3-pt was after checking extractor tension/shape/etc, looking for a rough breach-face, checking for FP hole burr, and ESPECIALLY after looking through a lot of old posts of yours on other boards....thanks....

July 11, 2008, 12:49 AM
chubbmann, take care about using grease, especially in cold weather....it can get really sticky and slow things up enough to cause problems.

July 11, 2008, 05:38 AM
the only modern problem being getting a gun built to spec in these new-improved times

And that, sir...is a fact.

July 11, 2008, 07:31 AM
Sweeney has a chapter on this in The Gun Digest Book of the 1911. Getting a gun that's in spec is a real problem.

If you enjoyed reading about "1911 reliability....." here in TheHighRoad.org archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join TheHighRoad.org today for the full version!