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What is wrong with the 1911 design?

Discussion in 'Handguns: Autoloaders' started by SuperNaut, Feb 4, 2008.

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  1. SuperNaut

    SuperNaut Member

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    I'm a big fan of the 1911, but I also realize that nothing is perfect. In that spirit, try to be as objective as possible and list what you think is wrong with the 1911 design.

    Reason I'm asking is that I can't think of anything off the top of my head, and that can't be right.

    p.s. The first person to say that it isn't a Glock is a big giant poopy-head. ;)
     
  2. Phil DeGraves

    Phil DeGraves Member

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    A hundred years of refinements have pretty much got it as far as it's going to go, and as far as it needs to go. Almost all of the companies that produce them now are just toying with the cosmetics...
     
  3. Phil DeGraves

    Phil DeGraves Member

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    Perhaps the only thing wrong with it is that it can't be improved on anymore...
     
  4. Superlite27

    Superlite27 Member

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    I'm sure this has been posted here many times before, so I'll just link to it.

    One of my favorite reads: The Gospel according to John Moses Browning.

    http://www.frfrogspad.com/jmb.htm

    The absolute truth.
     
  5. SuperNaut

    SuperNaut Member

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    Just thought of something, I don't like how the safety lever looks.

    Not much, I know.:)
     
  6. Nytelyte

    Nytelyte Member

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    Its not made from polymer.


    *ducks*




    J/K
     
  7. Dobe

    Dobe member

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    Thank you for getting that one out of the way.

    The 1911 is probably the most altered handgun in history. I don't know what else could be done to it.

    Although, I would like a nice set of real ivory grips.
     
  8. HisSoldier

    HisSoldier Member

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    I wouldn't say it's a fault, but the safety is not as drop proof as some other designs. The "lift and block" safety design of the Star has potential of being more secure. The work around in the 1911 of course has been the firing pin safety which has problems of it's own. That Star safety unloads the hammer by lifting it slightly off the sear, and blocking it simultainiously. I wouldn't say it's absolutely better but has the potential of being developed farther. The Star had another safety failing, non inertial firing pin, but that's easy to fix.
    The 1911, it is said by some has inherent loading difficulties, the magazine lip to chamber height is greater than some later designs. That's just something I've read. It seems pretty elegant to me that the same unlocking solution also lowers the chamber for loading.
    A lot of folks believe the barrel link is a flawed concept ratified later in the HP by a camming slot.
    None of what I've said keeps me from feeling that the 1911 is the greatest handgun ever designed by man.
     
  9. the naked prophet

    the naked prophet Member

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    I've been thinking about this quite a bit. Here are my thoughts.


    1. The design is somewhat complicated to manufacture, with some parts that are fairly delicate.

    Specifically, the whole barrel-linkage thing. Yes, I'm using a Glock for comparison, but only because the Glock uses Browning's refinement of the same design. The 1911 barrel has a swinging link. I don't know how often it breaks, but it seems awful small compared to how high the forces are slamming around in the gun. It's also complicated to machine and assemble (compared to the Glock barrel).

    The locking lugs on the barrel are completely unnecessary. Why not just have the chamber area lock into the ejection cutout like on the Glock or any of a dozen other modern designs? The modern design won't suffer from rounded locking lugs in the event of a weakening mainspring or overpowered ammo. Not to mention it's cheaper to manufacture for both the barrel and the slide. The modern design can't clog up with carbon or foreign material and prevent lockup like the barrel/slide lugs can.

    The plunger tube is well-known to break and disable the pistol. It appears completely unnecessary to the design of the pistol, and I've always wondered why the heck it's on the gun.



    2. Disassembly is significantly more complicated than modern designs. I'm sure it was a great innovation in simplicity at the time. It's not particularly difficult. But it's just not as easy. Even adding a disassembly notch on the slide (similar to the Hi-Power) would greatly help things.

    3. Maintenance is required more frequently than modern designs. You can't just put on a little slide grease and a dab of oil here and there and be okay for months. Heck, I haven't lubed my Glock 19 (daily carry gun) for a long time.. I fired over 2500 rounds with no cleaning or lube over the course of 6 months, and still no malfunctions (I carried another gun while doing this test).

    I believe this may be a result of the longer slide rails on the frame, as well as the larger surface area of interacting parts as compared to the Glock. Less surface area means less friction. It doesn't take a whole lot of rail to keep the slide on.

    4. Extractor. It requires tuning. No part on the gun should require tuning to work correctly. A monkey should be able to slap a replacement part in the gun and have it work correctly. For various reasons, an external extractor doesn't work well in a 1911 - I say redesign the slide to use a more robust extractor.

    5. Reliability. Yes, I know, you 1911 fans are going to say that your 1911 works perfectly. But there's a lot of them out there that DON'T work perfectly. The 1911 lacks what is called "robustness" in Mechanical Engineering. Robustness is the measure of a machine or part's ability to operate successfully in a wide variety of input conditions. For instance, a gun which can cycle fire without malfunction any .45 load from 185gr @ 600 fps all the way up to 250gr @ 1000 fps would be a very robust gun - whereas a gun that will only function with 230gr bullets traveling between 830-840 fps is not robust.

    What I'm saying is that there are a number of variables which may conspire to cause a 1911 to malfunction - an extractor, feed ramp, magazine follower, magazine spring, slide stop, grip safety; shape/size/power/specs of the ammo; lube condition, etc. Any of those slightly out of spec can cause a 1911 to malfunction. Some of the better modern designs can be quite robust, working even with completely broken or missing parts, bad ammo, no lube, etc.



    If I were to redesign a modern version of the 1911, it would have a linkless ejection-port single lug barrel, shorter slide rails, simpler disassembly, a from-scratch external extractor, etc.
     
  10. Lonestar49

    Lonestar49 Member

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    ...

    My only complaint is why JB couldn't figure out, like say, my Sigs, a way to break-down the gun easily, simply, by way of locking the slide open, then simply pushing out the retaining pin, instead of the way they are..

    Other than that, no complaints, quite the opposite.


    Ls
     
  11. SuperNaut

    SuperNaut Member

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    Thanks Naked Prophet, interesting stuff.

    I've had the same thoughts about the plunger tube myself.
     
  12. esq_stu

    esq_stu Member

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    Out of the box reliability. There's too much uncertainty from one make/model to another.

    Why should the same basic design work so differently from one version to another? Why should I have to go to a web forum and ask whether this brand or that brand is reliable out of the box? I don't see this problem happen with CZ-75 clones. The only thing I can think of is a design flaw that makes it too sensitive to small errors in manufacturing.

    I've owned several 1911s. They've all had good days and bad days. That does not happen to me with Glocks, Sigs, Makarovs, etc.
     
  13. DougDubya

    DougDubya Member

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    Problem? Very few ambi-1911's straight from the box. And ones with nice, low profile thumb safeties.

    What's with needing to crutch your thumb on the safety shelf anyhow?
     
  14. easyg

    easyg Member

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    It's too dang heavy.
    Think about it....nearly 40 oz empty.

    I'm not to fond of bushings either.



    Easy.
     
  15. RPCVYemen

    RPCVYemen Member

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    I'd probably put it "expensive to manufacture". It appears that consistently manufacturing reliable 1911s is expensive.

    Almost everyone I know that has a 1911 had to get some work done on it to get it to function reliably. I am not a fan of Glocks, but by comparison, none of the folks that I know have had Glocks have had anything done to them. After all the work is done, a 1911 is a joy to shoot, but many of them do take some work, or a trip back to the manufacturer.

    I think the standard for acceptable accuracy may have changed. I don't know, but I have read the the original 1911s were built to loose tolerances - battlefield reliability was more important than range accuracy.

    Mike
     
  16. Technosavant

    Technosavant Member

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    Too many small parts. Plunger tube, firing pin stop, slide stop, etc. Lots of stress on small, easily broken things. If they aren't made right, you end up with a paperweight when they break. Sure, they're easily fixed, but the fact that they NEED to be fixed is an issue.

    And yes, I'll probably also say that it is not tolerant of so-so construction. A reliable 1911 will eat, fire, and eject until the cows come home, but there's too many that aren't reliable. I love the 1911 with a passion that burns like the sun, but nobody makes one I'd trust out of the box without a couple hundred rounds through it (come to think of it, just about all semiautos are in that category).

    The 1911 has its faults, but I just shoot them so much better than others, I live with them.
     
  17. crankshop1000

    crankshop1000 Member

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    I find it absolutely fascinating that we would actually be doing a comparison of guns designed and manufactured 100 years apart and find only minor practically meaningless "improvements" over the original.I say the real answer to the original question is "nothing".
     
  18. Boats

    Boats member

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    "Of course the 1911 is an outdated design. It came from an era when weapons were designed to win fights, not to avoid product liability lawsuits. It came from an era where it was the norm to learn how your weapon operated and to practice that operation until it became second nature, not to design the piece to the lowest common denominator. It came from an era in which our country tried to supply its fighting men with the best tools possible, unlike today, when our fighting men and women are issued hardware that was adopted because of international deal-making or the fact that the factory is in some well-connected congressman’s district.

    Yes, beyond any shadow of a doubt, the 1911 IS an outdated design….and that’s exactly what I love about it."

    Rosco S. Benson


    As for my own two cents, the biggest problem the 1911A1 has is its extreme popularity.

    The factory output of the design ranges from absolutely world class to downright abominable.

    The closest one can get to a "cheap" and well made 1911A1 are the Springer GI models. Usually, one has to pay north of $600 just for a Colt NRM Govt. Model. One will easily be in SIG/HK price territory for one with the latest bells and whistles.

    Duty caliber semi-auto handguns I have been through, either owned or extensively borrowed:

    Beretta 92--gone.
    Beretta Cougar--gone.
    Beretta PX4--still have.
    BHP--gone.
    CZ-85B--gone.
    Colt 1911A1 and clones--have 4
    Glock 20--400 rounds through a friend's never bought.
    H&K USP--gone.
    Smith 645--gone.
    Smith 1066--gone.
    Smith 3913--gone.
    Smith M&P 9--still have.
    Springer XD--gone.
    Ruger P95--gone.
    Ruger P345--gone.
    SIG 220--gone.
    SIG 226--gone.
    Walther P88 gone.
    Walther P99--gone.

    None of the non-1911A1s above are/were as easy to shoot fast and accurately for me as my "obsolete" warhorses.

    There's nothing "wrong" with a good 1911A1. One made right is just as robust, reliable, accurate, and as deadly as any handgun that has ever existed.
     
  19. Lonestar49

    Lonestar49 Member

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    In a Nutshell

    ...

    +1 Boats..

    A testimony to a by-gone Era..

    ~ Those that do not learn from the past, are destined to repeat the past ~ (which is exactly what we're doing)


    Ls
     
  20. Markbo

    Markbo member

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    One complaint... that if you choose to work on your own tools, you must have specialized tools and the patience of Job to do your own 1911 work. I think nothing of stripping a Ruger Single Action Blackhawk apart to work on it, and can do so. Strip it, work on it, put it back together and it will work - usually better than before.

    But I won't work on my own 1911's any more. No sir... won't do it.
     
  21. highorder

    highorder Member

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    I agree that the locking lugs on the barrel and slide are unnecessarily complex. A leftover from the "Progressive Era" when more complex was a sigh of modernization.
     
  22. trbon8r

    trbon8r Member

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    This is not a fault of the design, rather the manufacturer. If it were a fault of the design, none of them would work well. Clearly that isn't the case. When produced by a manufacturer that has anything resembling a QC program, out of the box 1911s run just fine.

    No one questions why the quality or reliability is not as good in a Kia as it is a Cadillac. They are at different price points. So as not to ruffle any feathers I will not disclose which 1911 makers are in my estimation equivalent to the Kia and which are the Cadillac. :D
     
  23. Markbo

    Markbo member

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    Wait till you see the new Hyundai! ;)
     
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2008
  24. eflatminor

    eflatminor Member

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    Not much but how about this:

    For a right hand shooter, the ring finger of the left hand normally rides on the underside of the trigger guard. That trigger guard is usually smooth in a 1911 and angled slightly upward. That doesn't help create a secure purchase on the gun. Some of my IPSC buddies that shoot STI frammed guns have taken to carving out an arc on the underside of the trigger guard. Since STIs are plastic frames, it's an easy fix. This gives a more secure grip with the left hand that I really liked.

    I'd like to see a standard 1911 frame designed with left ring finger "indent". Sure you can have the underside of the trigger guard checkered, but an indent would be better I think. Remember that when John Browning designed the gun, everybody shot with one hand only. Know that we use two hands, it's time to reconsider how we grip the gun and design the frame appropriately.

    That's a pretty minor bitch for a 100 year old design!
     
  25. Markbo

    Markbo member

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    I used to have that problem until I started gripping it differently. I started shooting autoloaders with an S&W 669 that had a convex trigger guard and I used to hook my left index finger on it. Once I transitioned to other pistols it was natural that I still did that - or tried to.

    Until I became a 1911 fan. Then I just started gripping it correctly with all 4 left hand fingers on the front of my right hand and the left thumb pressing against the flat of the slide release.

    With only a little practive I find that my sight recovery is just as quick - or quicker - that trying to hold the gun down forcibly by the trigger bow... it is going to recoil. I can't hold it still... why not let it rock and then rock right back into place?
     
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