More than a century ago John Moses Browning created the 1911 semi-automatic pistol. Over time the design has evolved slightly to be safer, better for mass-production, and more accurate. However, the 1911 itself is still essentially the same platform it’s always been.

The 1911 is a single stack, single action only platform with a manual safety and a grip safety. The design is reflective of its time, but it still continues to be a popular choice for many individuals.

I dare to say the 1911 is likely produced by more companies than any gun outside of the AR-15. You can even build one from an 80 percent lower receiver. The question remains…is the gun outdated? Even hopelessly outdated?

The evidence is against the 1911

What makes me think the 1911 is an outdated platform? There are a number of reasons why I wouldn’t carry or employ a 1911 in a defensive role when better choices are offered.

Those reasons include the gun’s capacity, its weight, reliability, and even its price. Let’s look a little more closely at each of those.


How much does capacity matter? Can you get the job done with seven rounds? Of course, you can. The 1911 holds anywhere from seven to nine rounds depending on size and caliber which isn’t that different from a gun designed for concealed carry.

However, the 1911’s capacity and size aren’t comparable to a concealed carry gun. Even small 1911s like the Springfield EMP in 9mm have a low capacity compared to their size.

The Springfield EMP is nearly as tall and as thick as a GLOCK 19, but holds only nine rounds. The SIG P365 with its 12-round magazine is still thinner and shorter than the EMP. The 1911 doesn’t offer comparable capacity when size and purpose are put into perspective.


The all-metal design of the 1911 adds significant weight to the platform. The design of modern handguns utilizes substantial amounts of polymer without compromising the weapon’s integrity. That cuts weight, making those guns easier to carry without sacrificing capacity or size.

The FN 545 weighs 30 ounces and holds 15+1 rounds of .45 ACP. A comparable Springfield double stack 1911 weighs 32 ounces, and costs $550 more.

The gun is just heavy due to its design. Trimming weight is possible, but it’s tough to consider a polymer 1911 a real 1911, though these polymer-frame designs can cut nearly 11 ounces off of the gun. The 1911 is a sturdy design which makes it a harder gun to carry. That boat anchor weight will definitely be felt as the day wears on.


The 1911 was designed to be a very simple weapon, and it was intended to shoot a 230-grain hardball FMJ round in the so-called Government configuration. If you keep the 1911 in this configuration and test it for the right ammo, you’re usually good to go.

Problems have occurred with these guns when you try to shrink them or get crazy with the ammo. In my experience, you have to find the right ammo that fits the gun. My RIA 1911 is one of the cheaper models and only likes 230-grain FMJs. Some JHPs will be worth it, but not all.

Size is an entirely different issue. Small 1911s are famously finicky. Advances have been made, and companies like Colt, Springfield, K have made reliable production compact 1911s. Not all companies can claim this however and purchasing a compact 1911 should be done after plenty of research.


There are lots of budget 1911s available today, most of them imports. But even budget, bare bones 1911s are still nearly as much as some very good modern polymer pistols.

The Ruger Security 9 sells for at least $100 less than the cheapest 1911 I can find on the market. On an apples to apples basis, 1911s are not inexpensive guns, and even budget guns are relatively costly when compared to modern pistols.

Do we write off the 1911?

I enjoy the 1911 as a fun gun to shoot the same way I enjoy single action army clones. They are interesting and integral to firearm’s evolution, but I feel their times have passed. With modern ammunition, the 45 ACP no longer rules the roost.

The 1911 platform is a big, heavy, and relatively expensive option compared to the rest of the handgun market. I don’t doubt that someone with a 1911 can defend themselves very effectively. However, I can do the same thing with a lighter, easier-to-carry weapon that has double the capacity.



This article originally appeared at and is reprinted here with permission. 

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