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Old September 16, 2004, 07:26 AM   #1
45 Fu
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The 1911 for beginners

I have seen many people, when asked about the 1911, say it is not a "beginners" handgun. I started shooting pistols at the age of six under the instuction of my father, who was on the ALNG combat pistol team. The first pistol I ever shot was a 1911. I have loved them ever since. Recently, a friend of mine wanted a pistol, his first, and he bought a Colt 1911 - an Officers at that. Off to the range we went.

This man had never shot a pistol in his life. After a brief re-familiarization (safety had been stressed long before we got to the range and after we arrived) he began shooting. It has now been about five months and he can shoot that thing. In fact, he shoots better than anyone I have ever taught regardless of the type of handgun. I realize there may be some natural "talent" involved, but the speed at which he has progressed is impressive.

The most important things in learning to shoot any weapon is safety and practice of good habits. I have taught (I hesitate to say "trained" since I am not a certified instructor) many people on the 1911 and, regardless of age or gender, they just seem to shoot better with it. I realize I may be preaching to the choir here, but I think when we start listing certain weapons as "for experienced shooters only" we are doing a disservice to the individual shooter and to shooters as a whole. I think the moral here is that by letting this man choose what he wanted and having someone there to teach him good habits we have gained a motivated person in the ranks - and I have another shooting buddy who loves 1911s as much as I do.
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Old September 16, 2004, 01:25 PM   #2
Barry in IN
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Funny you should mention that. I just spent the weekend in a defensive pistol class that got me thinking the same thing.
The class included experienced shooters on down to beginners. It was the first time I had been around so many "new" shooters at once. Some of the new shooters were really new- taking their gear out of the boxes/packages on the spot.

Before I go on, let me say right here: I do not pretend to be the supreme safety being.

There were, lets just say, safety errors. Of course, the instructors were right on top of them. But there's only so much you can do, and they still happened. The best you can do in those cases is prevent them from repeating. I don't fault the instructors at all. Some people just can't be helped, I guess.

Most errors were fingers in the guard, but some were forgetting to de-cock DA autos when done shooting. While witnessing some of these acts, it made me wonder if an SA auto might be better for them. For now anyway, I'm thinking that decockers only complicate things.

The most extreme example was a shooter using a DA auto, who took a long time to understand the need to de-cock before holstering. Since it was a small gun (.380) in a nylon holster (black like the gun), it has hard for the instructors or anyone else to see that the hammer was back.
It was caught and explained. Still, several times after that, the shooter asked if she needed to de-cock before holstering. If the answer never changes, wouldn't you get it? At any rate, it was convenient to ask, since there was an instructor pasted to her from then on.

There were a couple of other DA auto users who forgot to decock, but not more than once that I saw. I don't think there were any Sig autos in the class. I like Sigs as DAs go, and they have the decocker in a location where you can get to it easy. With the decocker on the slide, it's out of the way, and easy to forget- evidently.

I'm not saying the safety on a SA auto can't be forgotten, but it's hard to do.
With a 1911 or HiPower, you have to take the safety off before you shoot. Even if you don't shoot with your thumb on top of it, it's right there where you can't help but notice it.
For beginners, they have what you need to think about- trigger, sights, safety.

Then there are some other reasons they are good for beginners.
*The grip can be made to fit small hands or large.
*They have one trigger pull to learn. I think the DA/SA transition is a little overblown, but we are talking beginners here, and it is truly easier to learn one trigger action than two.
*Everybody makes a holster for it. No excuses for for using a sloppy fit-all holster.
*In 9mm, they are a very docile beast, if needed.
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Old September 16, 2004, 05:40 PM   #3
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My very first pistol was a "used" 1911 bought on the streets of Saigon when I was 21. $50 was the price, . . . though it was a leftover from WW2, it still was a good shooter. Wish I had taken the time to do the paperwork to bring her home, . . . but didn't. Left her with another sailor, . . . hoping she did him some good.

I would rather shoot my SA GI 1911 than just about any other gun in my house or ever in my posession. I just don't know why folks have given it such a bad rap. I even have a supervisor I work with who thinks you have to use both hands with one or the recoil would lace your forehead open. I have tried in vain to set him straight, . . . some folks just don't want to learn.

May God bless,
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Old September 22, 2004, 09:35 AM   #4
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I think the reason the 1911 is considered for experienced shooters only is due to the thumb safety. Many commonly carried handguns (revolvers, DA autos, Glocks) can be safely carried with a round in the chamber and the safety off. In some cases the weapon doesn't even have a saftey. You merely have to draw and pull the trigger.
With the 1911 one has to disengage the safety before they can fire. This one extra movement can mess up a lot of people. Under stress, its easy to forget. If you carry a 1911, you must be willing to put in the time and practice to make disengaging the thumb safety an unconscious and instintive movement.
I've seen experienced, well trained shooters who are used to a different gun pick up a 1911 and then wonder why it didn't go bang when they pulled the trigger.
The 1911 is a marvelous defensive weapon. But if you have to remind yourself to disengage the safety, you're not yet ready to carry one.
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Old September 22, 2004, 12:33 PM   #5
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I agree with Gtayfox. The 1911 ia an outstanding defensive pistol, BUT only if the user has practiced enough to make manipulating the thumb safety a conditioned reflex.
"I swear to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemeis domestic or foreign WHOMSOEVER."
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Old September 22, 2004, 04:41 PM   #6
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As a "beginner" handgunner (I was raised on shotguns and rifles -- never so much as touched a handgun until I was shopping for my own) and proud owner of a Kimber Custom, I can tell you that the 1911, or at least my Kimber, is much more sensitive to "limp-wristing" malfunctions than any other semi-auto I've shot. I have to make a conscious effort to keep a tight grip and stiff wrist to avoid malfunctions.

Those I've introduced to shooting usually have the same problem with my Kimber, but not with the various Glocks, S&Ws, Rugers, and Berettas we rent. I would say maybe there's something about the light single-action trigger pull that makes me feel like I don't need to strangle it, but I've never had a malfunction, limp-wristed or otherwise, with a Glock, and those have pretty light triggers. I always stay at the range as long as I can stand it, and after 2-3 hours I always notice a string of failure-to-feed malfs and realize my hands are getting tired. Tightening up my grip always fixes it, but that's usually my signal to start wrapping up the day.

That can be pretty discouraging for a new shooter, who has enough to worry about with safety and trigger control issues.

For what avail the plough or sail, or land or life, if freedom fail? ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
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Old September 24, 2004, 09:01 PM   #7
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Back when.................. I first carried a semiauto, there were virtually NO Double action, or DAO pistols. Sure there was some German stuff, P38, Walthers, floating around, but no serious gunner carried one. Most everyone learned on a 1911 platform.
Back then, since it was virtually the only game in town, thats what folks learned on, if they wanted to carry a semiauto. Most guys carried revolvers.
I never felt carrying a 1911 was such a big deal. I still don't. Common sense, and a modicum of safety awarness will keep most folks safe. There seems to be a lot of internet verbage, that makes the 1911 seem like it takes 'rocket science' to master. It does not. People make handguns way more complicated than they need to.
'IT' has never really been about equipment, 'It' has always been about mindset.
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"The trouble with our liberal friends is not that they're ignorant; it's just that they know so much that isn't so.".........Ronald Reagan
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Old September 24, 2004, 10:47 PM   #8
Join Date: September 24, 2004
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My experience with handguns is somewhat limited. I've only had the opportunity of fireing a few of them and I don't own any of my own. My experience is limited to a Glock 19, a G.I. 1911, a SIG 226, and a number of .38 revolvers and .22 rimfire automatics.

The first handgun I ever fired was the 1911. As a complete novice, with no handgun experience aside from arcade games and a CO2 powered BB-pistol, I was able to pick up the 1911 and immediately start picking off cans from a range of about 10 yards. I unloaded several magazines from the 1911 that day, with consistently good results. The 1911 I shot was over 65 years old, but still a perfectly functional and effective weapon.

To this day, I've never been able to achieve the same performance with any other handgun. When I shot the Glock, the SIG and the various revolvers I've used, I have usually missed more often then I've hit when firing at similar targets from similar ranges.

Nor have I ever found a handgun that fits my hand as solidly and comfortably as the classic, single stack M-1911s do. I havn't shot many handguns, but I've handled quite a few, and the 1911s have simply got the best ergonomics I've yet encountered.

In general, my impression of John Browning's classic design has been so favorable that my first handgun purchase when I turn 21 next year will undoubtedly be a 1911 of some sort.
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Old September 25, 2004, 06:42 AM   #9
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If the Beginner is trained properly.....

..then a 1911 will do very nicely!
It was my first centerfire pistol back in 1976, and though I have tried all the different actions and many caliber's...the 1911 .45 ACP still reigns supreme in my book. I carry one every day and it is the only handgun type I currently own(in several size/weight variations).
There are many accurate guns out there, and one can learn them too, but I found the 1911 to be more consistant, better fitting in my hand, thinner and easier too use.
Yes, the safety takes some getting used to, but 3000 repetitions later, practising the 'right stuff' carefully and consciously normally does the trick.
Some get intimidated when they hear .45, thinking it'll recoil beyond their ability to control...until I do the old Cooper trick of holding it with a thumb and forefinger. Teaching my girlfriend in fact, though she is in love with here Kahr PM-9(nice pistol!), she practises the 1911 each time we go to the range. And she does quite well with it!
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Old September 25, 2004, 09:40 AM   #10
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.45 Govt, Ramblings

Back in the day, when I was a young uniformed patrolman and "could whup the world", I was a dyed in the wool wheelgun man. "Those old slab sided things ain't good for nothing but trotline weights." I was a reasonably good shot, and nothing was better than my slightly stepped on S&W mod. 19. Life was good. Then my department hired this retired army guy as a range officer. He used to be in the Army Marksmanship Unit, was a member of the All Army Team, and had represented our country at the olympic games. He and I hit it off, and he became my mentor. I learned how to really shoot under his tutelage and he kept after me about the Govt. 45 and what a great shooter it was. I saw one in a pawnshop one day, the price was right, and on a whim, I bought it. My mentor sent it off and had it built into a Hardball gun, and I never looked back. Heck, I even carried that thing on duty after I went into plainclothes. I still have that old .45, and it is one of my favorite shooters. I do not feel that it is terribly difficult to shoot safely. One has to learn rules with any firearm, be it "Old Slabsides" or the latest plastic "gee whizbang" supergun. I remember when S&W first came out with their 9mm double actions. Several holes got shot through the Detective Division ceiling until the guys got those decockers down pat (I still don't like those). Sorry if I rambled a bit, us old farts do that sometimes !
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Old September 25, 2004, 03:36 PM   #11
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I think a handgun is a handgun is a handgun. I learned to shoot in the police academy on a Model 10 5 inch. I never fired a gun before that and shot expert with no "one on one" training after a few sessions on the range before we ran through the qualification course of fire. I then shot various pistols from the Model 10, to a Model 25-5 to Model 645, 27, Colt Officer's model .45, Glocks, Sigs, various other Colt 45's blah, blah, blah. I don't consider myself to be a "natural" but I DID pay attention when the guy told me what the sight picture should look like and how I should pull the trigger. I've tried various stances and grips and shoot just fine with all of them, but better with some. The bottom line is SIGHT ALIGNMENT AND TRIGGER CONTROL. I'm quite sure I could have "begun" with a 1911A1 as easily as I did with the Model 10.
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Old September 25, 2004, 05:12 PM   #12
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Don't laugh

It had been about 5 years since I sold my last 45, but I just got another as I could no longer resist the pull of the fancy new models. Got the Champion with the latest and greatest features. Knew I was rusty with this gun but decided to wring it out with a couple boxes of ammo. After the first couple mags I thought I was back into the swing of things as far as handling the little brute. I had mastered an officers model, more or less, besides full sized guns before. Well I had a few rounds left after accuracy testing and decided to shoot standing up freehand. Good shooting so far. Then I had less than 7 rounds left in the box and decided to try weak hand firing. Not so hard, but I made the stupid mistake of trying to support the left hand with the right. Something I never really tried as I can remember-just had done it one handed. Well, I guess I did not study the reverse grip carefully enough. Apparently under recoil, my right thumb shifted in line with the slide! OUCH.
That thumb bled like a stuck pig and I had to finish the left hand string one handed. THen drive home with a bloody rag wrapped around my thumb. So I guess that is part of my relearning curve. And it will be awhile till I heal enough to get some more practice. But will stick with strong side shooting for awhile!
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Old November 6, 2004, 06:01 PM   #13
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mine too

my first pistole was also a 1911 and i loved it, still do. since then i have shot glock, h&k, kimber, and a bushmaster m-4 style carbine. like them all but my spring field is still the first one i show off. thanks... joe.
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Old November 7, 2004, 03:29 PM   #14
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Anyone, novice or pro, can learn everything they need to know about the 1911 platform in thirty min. Then you can spend a life time learning more. Part of the 'gun game', is pretending that things are SO much more complicated than they really are.
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"The trouble with our liberal friends is not that they're ignorant; it's just that they know so much that isn't so.".........Ronald Reagan
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Old November 7, 2004, 07:28 PM   #15
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back again

I went out and bought a basically stock 1991A1 parkerised model, like one I had before. Have gotten rid of the shorter gun. I think I really prefer the handling and balance of the full sized gov't. Did not try to shoot it left handed with two hands! Has super trigger. Only thing I did was change the grips and paint the front sight bright orange. THis is a gun you can really sink your teeth into. Will keep this one. I was just looking in a nostalgia mag today and saw an article about 3 Army nurses in WW2. They got bored and went to the range and got quickly qualified with the .45. They had no previous experience and enjoyed it. They qualified for expert marksmanship but never got their medals. The pentagon got wind of it when they saw a photo of them shooting and decided it was against the geneva conv. for medical personnel to be armed, so they quit on orders. Too bad.
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Old November 8, 2004, 02:27 PM   #16
Barry in IN
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Neat story.
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Old November 16, 2004, 09:54 AM   #17
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I just thought I'd toss in my two cents worth. I have often heard the arguement about manual safety is just something that gets in the way. My counter-argument is this: Lack of practice is just something that gets in the way.

I was a military police shift supervisor. Our SOP for "routine patrol" Was chamber empty, safety on - Full flap holster with an M-9 pistol (Beretta 92). Everyday before shift I would drill my squad at the clearing barrel to go from carry to ready to fire. Times were consistantly less than 3 seconds. On occasions when we had a fill-in from another squad it was amazing to see that it would take them 5+ seconds just to figure out how to open their holster.

Based on my training and experience I can say that the individuals response in a draw/shoot situation is based less on thought process than muscle memory and reaction. If you drill to draw, safety, rack every time-every time it will become routine.

Train as you fight, and all of that other hoahh-hoahh B.$.
"There ain't no such thing as a free lunch"
-popularized by Sci-Fi author Robert A Heinlein

Last edited by tanstaafl4y; November 16, 2004 at 09:55 AM. Reason: gross spelling error
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Old November 21, 2004, 01:45 AM   #18
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I agree with Manlicher. Unless you're at the range, the situation in which you are using a gun is very stressful. I believe most are designed accordingly so.
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