My number one choice, if I could only own one handgun, is still the grand old 1911 in some configuration. Yeah, lots of new gun designs come along, and I’ve tested many different handguns over the past 25 years working as a gun writer, and most are outstanding in their own regard. However, when pressed, I’m going to still pick a 1911 in .45 ACP, of course.
Here are some of my thoughts on my choice in a 1911. First of all, there is the proven fight-stopping .45 ACP round. Yes, I’ve read the report put out by the FBI stating that there isn’t all that much difference between the stopping power of a 9mm, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP, when loaded with a good JHP bullet. Still, in my mind, I believe that, the .45 ACP will put a bad guy down a little bit faster than the 9mm and .40 S&W rounds will. I don’t know of any way to measure this sort of thing, and I don’t think anyone else does, either, unless they were on the spot and timed just how fast a certain caliber puts a stop to a deadly threat.
Many years ago, my long-time friend Master John McSweeney, who is now departed, and I collaborated on a book called SWAT Battle Tactics, which is still available as an online book. There were some changes made to the book after we read the galley copy, changes we didn’t approve of, so some of the material is not only dated but not relevant. Still, the book is a basic primer for any law enforcement agency or security agency wishing to start a SWAT team. Back in the day, a SWAT team was called out to assist the street cop. Today, SWAT is called out for all manner of things, and, not to put down anyone on a SWAT team, I do get a kick out of watching them suit-up with all their military-style gear and uniforms before deploying to whatever situation they were called out for.
Though I have no desire to be a cop once again, if I were and I was called out to an active shooter situation at say Walmart, I’d want to go in with an AR-15 as my main firearm and whatever handgun I had on my side. Walmart and other similar big box stores are huge, and there is a lot of room to maneuver with a long gun. However, in smaller businesses and small schools, there isn’t a lot of room to work with a long gun. So, my choice would be a 1911 of some sort in .45 ACP in-hand with half a dozen spare magazines. I have all the faith in the world in the platform and the caliber.
Not all 1911 handguns are created equal. You can have a halfway “decent” 1911 made to mil-spec imported from the Philippines or Turkey, and they are really nice guns for under $500. However, they would not be my first choice in a life or death situation. Yep, they’re lots of fun to shoot on the weekend but not guns I’d bet my life or anyone else’s life on. I demand a high quality 1911, when lives are on the line, period!
I’ve remained a huge fan of Springfield Armory 1911s ever since I owned my very first one back in the early/mid 1980s. They are value driven if you ask me. From their basic mil-spec to their top-of-the-line TRP models, they have something for everyone. I received their “loaded” 1911, with a Crimson Trace laser grip on it, for testing for this article. I’m a big fan of lasers on handguns these days. This wasn’t always the case, especially when lasers first came out; they were big and bulky, really big and bulky. Crimson Trace is one of the leaders, if not “the” leader in lasers that are instinctive. That means that most of them turn-on without you having to do anything, other than take a proper grip on a handgun, which is nice, very nice!
The Springfield Armory Loaded 1911 I received came with their parkerized gray frame and slide, both forged for toughness. This is a full-sized, “Government Model” 1911 with a 5-inch barrel that is match-grade and stainless steel and precisely fitted to the slide, too. The gun also comes with the Novak rear sight with two white dots and the front sight has one white dot. It’s very fast to pick up even under stress. We also have a two piece full length recoil guide rod that makes field stripping the gun a little bit more time consuming, but I’ve never had to take a gun apart outside of cleaning and lubing it. I’ve never had to take a gun apart in a gunfight.
This particular model weighs in at 40 ounces unloaded, and it also comes with two 7-rd magazines, as well as a holster, double magazine pouch, and a few other goodies in the well-made carrying/storage case. This alone is at least a $50 value, if not more. There is also an extended combat safety on the left side of the gun, though no ambi safety on the opposite side, and I have no problem with that. With the Crimson Trace laser installed, it is impossible to install a thumb safety on the right side of the gun, unless it was an abbreviated safety; read very small safety. We also have an extended beaver tail grip safety and a flat main spring housing on the gun. The finish was evenly applied, too.
The Crimson Trace laser grip replaces the standard stocks (grips) on this gun, and they are made out of hard rubber. It is activated by a button on the front strap of the gun. If you grip the gun properly, the laser is activated. There’s nothing to think about. BTW, on my sample, the laser was zeroed for 25 yards, which is perfect!
For everyday carry, I like the Blackhawk SERPA hip holster. I prefer the belt loop setup over the paddle, but you can install either on these holsters. For “tactical” use, my choice is hands down the Blackhawk Tactical Thigh Holster, again a SERPA model, that keeps the gun on the right thigh with two added magazine pouches (optional) and of course a couple more spare mag pouches on my left hip. The gun stays very secure in the SERPA holsters. They won’t fall out and release at the touch of a button. Some have complained about their guns getting stuck in these holsters. I’ve never had any such problem.
I have a real “problem” when it comes to testing 1911s; I love shooting them, a lot! And, there was no difference with this offering from Springfield Armory. I had an outstanding selection of ammo to run through this gun. From Buffalo Bore Ammunition I had their 160-gr Barnes TAC XP low-recoil, all copper hollow point, 255-gr Outdoorsman Hard Cast load, which is +P rated, 230-gr FMJ FN +P, 200-gr JHP +P, and their 1850-gr Barnes TAC XP all-copper hollow point that is +P rated. From Black Hills Ammunition, I had their 200-gr Match SWC, 230-gr FMJ, 230-gr JHP +P, and their 185-gr Barnes TAC XP +P load. From Double Tap Ammunition, I had their 230-gr Bonded Defense load that is just shy of a +P load and their 200-gr Bonded Defense load, which again is just shy of being a +P rated load.
The Loaded 1911 was inspected and lubed. (I always use my favorite Italian Gun Grease tactical lube.) Then, I set about testing this nice gun. I fired more than 1,000-rds over several testing sessions and over several months, and the gun was not cleaned or lubed during my testing. It never missed a beat. Every thing I fed it worked great, without a hint of a bobble or malfunction, period! Some 1911s require a break-in period; not so with this gun. It just perked along no matter what was fed into it or who was shooting it. Sometimes I enlist a helper every now and then in my shooting tests.
Of course, there are usually one or two loads of ammo that will give a little better accuracy than other ammo, and the Crimson Trace Loaded model was no different. Accuracy testing was done at 25 yards over a rolled up sleeping bag over the rear of my pickup truck. The number one load giving me 2-inch groups, if I did my part, was the Black Hills 200-gr Match SWC, and this came as no surprise to me. This load has always given me great accuracy, and it is used by a lot of competitors because of this. Second up was the Buffalo Bore 200-gr JHP +P load. It was hovering just shy of three inches, if I did my part all the time. None of the other loads exceeded 3.5 inches, once again, if I was on my game. Many groups were close to three inches. The Double Tap 200-gr Bonded Defense load was showing promise, but I only had half a box of this ammo left over from when I used it in another article. I’ll have to get some more of this ammo from Double Tap for future articles.
Without hesitation, I’d grab this Springfield Armory 1911 and head into harm’s way, facing whatever threat that might come my way. The trigger pull on this gun was right at 4.5 lbs and nice and crisp. I couldn’t ask for much better. With the right load, it will sure save your bacon.
Full retail on this particular 1911 is right around $1,100, but if you shop around you might find it for less. Keep in mind that Springfield 1911s are always in demand. This is a 1911 you can take into combat, on a hostage rescue mission, or just for a fun day of shooting.
– Senior Product Review Editor, Pat Cascio