Letter Re: M1911 Pistols–What Constitutes “Over the Top”

Mr. Rawles,
I’ve just finished reading your novel “Patriots”, and wish to thank you for providing such an insightful guide to preparation and the survival mindset, and a pretty darn entertaining read, to boot! My question concerns your preference for the M1911 .45 ACP pistol as a sidearm for one’s survival preparations. I wholeheartedly agree with you on the round’s advantages over lesser-powered cartridges such as 9mm or .40 S&W. And, since the ergonomics of the 1911 design in particular tend to suit me well personally (indeed, to whom does it not), I was wondering what your thoughts were regarding the myriad configurations this weapon is available in today; precisely, things such as beavertail grip safeties, beveled magazine wells, front/back strap checkering, etc. Do you think these features are more “show” than “go?” Also, should one avoid altogether “high -end” offerings from custom shops like Wilson Combat or Les Baer? The quality of parts and workmanship are readily apparent, yet as you allude to in Patriots, would the tight tolerances worked into each custom weapon make for questionable reliability under field conditions? Thank you for taking the time to read this e-mail, sir. May God bless you and your family. Regards, – Mark T.

JWR Replies: needless to say, I’m a dyed-in-the-wool .45 ACP Colt Model 1911 user. The Combat Tupperware crowd considers the 80 year old design archaic, but I find the M1911 eminently practical. For right-handed shooters, the only modifications that I recommend are: feed ramp polishing, an extended slide release, and perhaps tritium sights. Everything else has marginal utility, and if taken to extreme can actually decrease reliability and combat utility. I consider even the extended slide release optional, depending on the shape of your shooting hand. (If you can reach the standard slide release without shifting your hand, them leave it as is. For left-handed shooters, the only other mods that I would recommend would be an ambidextrous safety and an ambidextrous extended slide release. Instead of pouring an extra $1,000 into a pistol on furthering modifications, I’d rather spend that money on a second M1911 for another family member, or on training at a school like Front Sight, or more ammunition.

OBTW, some of you might be interested in reading the FAQ that I wrote about M1911 magazines.