Letter Re: My M1911 Loyalty Has Been Shaken–I Bought a Beretta

Dear Mr. Rawles,
I just finished “Patriots” and enjoyed it very much. I have been reading SurvivalBlog for over a year now. Today I went to my local gun shop to trade off a Springfield 1911 Micro Compact, which never worked worth a hoot, even after a return to the factory. The Micro Compact is not the only 1911 I have ever owned, I have several Colts, full size, Gold Cup, Government Model, et cetera. I wanted something different, and I have always wanted a Beretta M9, ever since seeing the movie “Die Hard“. So with a little haggling I traded for a brand new Beretta M9 [9mm.] I then took the new Beretta out to the range. Low and behold, out of the box, this Beretta shoots better and more accurately than any 1911 I have ever owned or shot! On top of that it holds 15 rounds. That [much ammunition in the magazine] can buy you a lot of time to get to your rifle, in a jam. I know about knock down power and all the benefits of both. But after years of 1911 loyalty, I have been shaken down to my core. I know that if I go out to the range tomorrow and plink some more, I am going to wind up liking the Beretta more. I have a crisis on my hands, what is a loyal 1911 man to do? – Dan in Oklahoma

JWR Replies: First, I wholeheartedly agree with your assertion that a handgun is not a substitute for a rifle. It is just a tool that buys you time–something that allows you time to “fight your way back to your rifle.” (An old saying, popular with U.S. Army trainers.)

It may surprise you hear that I am not a Model 1911 purist. My general advice is: shoot whatever you are best at shooting. Only hits count, so shoot with the tool that will give you more hits. For most shooters, that means choosing a Glock or perhaps a Springfield Armory XD. Just be sure to use enough gun to stop your opponent. I consider the 9mm cartridge marginal, at best. The .40 S&W cartridge is a bit more of a sure stopper (but still perhaps marginal), and the .45 ACP is about the best compromise cartridge for use a combat autopistol. Keep in mind that NO semi-auto pistol cartridge is going to stop an opponent rapidly unless you get lucky and score a nervous system hit. (Namely, the ocular window or spinal column.) Unlike when using a high power rifle, it will take the effect of cumulative hits to put Mr. Badguy out of action. So use a large caliber handgun loaded with premium hollow point ammo (such as Golden Saber or HydraShok) to start, so that you pile up the damage more quickly with successive hits.)

My only suggestion for you in particular would be to upgrade your Beretta to the .40 S&W cartridge. Factory-made slide/barrel/magazine conversion kits are available from CDNN (see this link, for example) and a number of other Internet vendors. Since they don’t include a frame, no FFL is required to purchase these kits. Buy this conversion kit soon, before you invest too much in 9mm ammo and magazines.

One key proviso: You should line up a supply of Beretta factory made Model 96G (.40 S&W) 10 or 11 round magazines before you order a conversion kit. Parenthetically, I would consider 5 spare magazines a bare minimum–but 10 or 12 spares should probably meet your comfort level. After you’ve made the switch, I recommend greasing up your old 9mm top half and all of your 9mm magazines with R.I.G. Then seal them up in double plastic bags with a little silica gel desiccant inside the inner bag for good measure. Tuck them away in an ammo can–right next to those cans full of 9mm ammo that you can now resign to the category of ballistic wampum. OBTW, I recommend that you consider having a set of Meprolight or Trijicon tritium sights installed on your new .40 top half. Lay in a supply of at least 1,200 &W if your Beretta will be your secondary handgun,

OBTW, if you you decide to leave you pistol “as is” (in 9mm) then get yourself at least one of the scarce Beretta factory 20 round spare magazines. These were originally made for the Model 93R, but they also fit and function in the Model 92 or M9. These extra-high capacity magazines are expensive ($90 to $100 each!) , but are ideal for “bedside table” use, and will hopefully compensate for the marginal ballistics of 9mm. Beretta 93R 20 round magazines can often be found on Buddy Hinton’s boards. BTW, beware the aftermarket 20 rounders, that are often of dubious quality and prone to jamming. All of the originals will be stamped “PB”.