Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Carrying a 1911 style Pistol

I recently came across a blog entitled Jeff Coopers Five Facts of 1911 Life. As I carry a 1911 style handgun most everywhere, I am always interested in things 1911. My own choice was a Kimber TLE II, which has everything you need, nothing you don't, and always goes bang when you pull the trigger. Of course, many other weapons are fine instruments as well, and I have nothing but respect for anyone who carries on a daily basis.  I decided on a 1911 after a lot of time trying others pistol types, and settled on a Kimber after reviewing other brands of 1911.  The Kimber works for me.  For me, the manual of arms for that weapon is the simplest, and most intuitive.  YMMV.

The M1911 pistol was John Moses Browning's masterpiece, well ahead of its time.  It served the armed forces if the United States in WWI, WWII, Korea, and Vietnam.  Many special forces units still use it, as well as many law enforcement units.  It is heavy, at 38 oz. but strangely carries well concealed.  In the summer, with a Hawaiian shirt or a Guyabera it completely disappears.  A sport coat completely hides it, yet it is ready to go in an outside the waistband (OWB) strong side holster.  Browning made minor improvements to his design, including getting rid of the grip safety when he designed the Hi-Power, but he never made another giant leap like the M1911.  The ergonomics of the 1911 style pistol fit my hands, and the weapon just points naturally,  It is well balanced, and the weight helps it absorb some of the recoil.  In its original configuration, it can be detail stripped entirely without tools. No other gun can claim this distinction.

The proper way of carrying a 1911 pistol is cocked and locked.  When I first put the pistol on, there was some controversy, as Mrs. Polykahr was used to revolvers.  To her, it looked unsafe.  I carried it about the house for about a week, unloaded, to demonstrate that it was indeed safe.  I also pointed to Jeff Cooper, the father of the Modern Technique of the Handgun.  She wasn't impressed, but eventually relented..

In any case, I have carried my 1911 pistol in what Jeff Cooper termed "Condition 1" where the pistol has a full magazine inserted, has a round in the chamber, is cocked and has the thumb safety ON, since I first got it.  Counter-intuitively for most people not familiar with the gun, it is the safest way to carry a 1911 pistol.  If you carry in any other condition, you will handicap yourself in bringing the gun into action, or you will endanger yourself and those around you.  Here is what Boatman has to say:
Condition Three. Chamber empty, hammer down. This requires you to manually cycle the slide before firing. To return the gun to its carry position after firing, you have to drop the magazine, empty the chamber, drop the hammer, reload and reinsert the magazine, all without shooting an innocent bystander. Condition Three is the slowest-into-action of any method of carrying a 1911 and, as such, is a dangerous concession to those whose nervous systems are conditioned to revolvers whose hammers are always at rest when not in use and which are not equipped with the operator-controlled safety systems of the 1911.
Condition Two. Chamber loaded, hammer down. This requires you to cock the hammer with your thumb before firing. It also requires you to very carefully pull the trigger and lower the hammer over a loaded chamber before returning the gun to its holster. The technique for manipulating a Condition Two carry is best practiced out in the country in a freshly plowed field, where the bullets will not ricochet off the pavement or the occasional rock every time you re-holster your gun.
One often sees cops, on police shows, racking the slide as they go into a situation, implying they had not chambered a round before hand. This is the equivalent of Condition Three, and is very dangerous. You are not always, as a concealed carrier, going to have the luxury of knowing in advance that you need to have your weapon out and ready. Indeed, the bad guys are going to attempt to get the jump on you and you are usually going to be behind the power curve and trying to catch up. In such a situation, you may be holding the bad guy, who may be wielding a knife. with your weak hand while using your strong hand to bring the gun into action. The thumb safety naturally falls under your thumb, and you should ride it as you bring your weapon up to use it. If you had to rack the weapon first, before would probably be dead.  Condition Two is just plain dangerous all around.  I can't think of anything more inducing of an accidental discharge than pulling the trigger and trying to control the hammer as it drops on a loaded chamber! What foolishness.

There are weaknesses and compromises in every pistol design, and the 1911 style pistol is no different.  Some pistols are finicky about ammunition, though the Kimber has proven to be largely immune to such issues.  But my example has proven to be finicky about what magazines are used to feed the ammunition.  While others have had great success with Chip McCormick magazines, I find these do not drop free when spent.  Wilson Combat 47D mags have proven to be unreliable, though they are highly recommended in the 1911 community.  The magazine I have found works best is Kim Pro Tac Mag.  While it is somewhat expensive, it has proven to be totally reliable in my gun, and drops free when I push the magazine eject button. Note that I use the 8 round magazines, which work fine in my gun, but 1911 purests will eschew the 8 rounders for traditional 7 rounders.

Magazines are usually the weak link in the pistol system, so if you carry for self defense, you must be ruthless about culling old magazines that no longer work reliably.  Yes, you may get a few more years out of a mag by replacing a spring, but the feed lips can become misaligned by a very small amount, and you will never be able to find and fix such a problem.  It is better to toss out a magazine that is not feeding reliably and purchase a new one.  Indeed, just keep a lot of extras so you are never out.

Holster makers make every style of holster ever conceived for the 1911 Government Model, so popular is this style of handgun. As a result you will find a dizzying array of holsters in leather, kydex, fabric, and the newer kydex and leather combination holsters.  After trying several styles, I settled on two that work for me.  One is a clone of Bruce Nelson's Summer Special.  The Summer Special is an inside the waistband (IWB) holster that, when worn at the 3:30 position, brings the gun in tight to the body. I have never had an issue with either of my Summer Special style holsters. The other holster that I have found works well for me is the Mitch Rosen 5JR holster. The 5JR is a pancake style holster, first popularized by Roy Baker in the mid 1950s. It also holds the weapon close to the body, and the draw from this holster is fast. For concealed carry, I use the open top version. Again, I have never had a problem with this style holster. A final word on carry is to get a good solid gun belt. Gun belts do not have to look like heavy duty affairs. There are many belts designed to look stylish but still be substantial enough to carry a gun. These belts will be expensive, costing perhaps $75-$110, but they are worth their weight in gold.

The 1911 pistol is a working pistol, and should be carried, maintained, and shot often.  Having it sitting in a gun safe is, in my opinion, a tragedy.  It serves no purpose whatsoever if it is merely a safe queen, trotted out to be petted once in while, then put back because you don't want to mar it in any way.  It will only acquire the patina of hard use that makes historical pistols valuable if it is used for the purpose it was designed.

Whatever weapon system (and it is not just a gun, it is in fact a weapon system) please train with it often.  Your life may depend on it one day, though I pray, gentle readers, that and I will never need to draw it in anger.  But if you do, I want you to prevail.

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