Improvement over the years to the 1911-A1 design?

Discussion in 'General Firearm Discussion' started by PlayboyPenguin, Nov 6, 2009.

  1. PlayboyPenguin

    Vancouver, WA
    Well-Known Member 2016 Volunteer

    Likes Received:
    I thought I would start a couple threads today to discuss the gun world's most overlooked and underrated design...the 1911-A1. :p :D ;)

    Over the last 9+ decades what changes have been made to the original 1911-A1 design that you consider actual improvements? And do these improvements constitute actual design changes or just cosmetic changes or add ons?

    I will address a few of the changes I consider improvements...

    • Sights: Modern sights are so much better than the older ones. Night sights, adjustable sights, dovetailed sights, etc. I do not consider sights an actual design change though. I consider them an add on since they are not integral to the design/function of the firearm.

    • Modern grip safeties: Modern grip safeties are a big improvement in my opinion. Although I prefer ducktail safeties, the modern beavertail safety provides much better protect against slide-bite and versions with memory grooves make the safety much easier to activate properly. I also think the look cool. I do consider this a design change since it is a integral part of the design.

    •*Modern thumb safeties: Extended thumb safeties are on almost all 1911 clones these days. I consider them an improvement because they are so much easier to operate with a quick flip of the thumb while still being stiff enough to not come off by accident during carry. I do consider this a design change since it is a very important part of the guns design.

    • Ramped barrels: Ramped barrels are definitely a design change. They make the 1911 much more reliable with modern ammos. Whether I consider it an improvement or just a modernization I am not sure...but if you look at it solely from a stance of using modern ammo is is an improvement.

    • Firing pin safeties: Okay, I am probably going to be alone on this one, but I consider these to be an improvement to the design...but only as far as safety is concerned and not function. it is definitely a change to the design.

    What are your thoughts, opinions, observations?
  2. Just Jim

    Just Jim Well-Known Member

    Likes Received:
    I think the greatest improvement is the number of gunsmiths that work on them. You can build a gun to fit you. No longer do you have one size fits all with standard sights etc. Now you can have it your way, just like Burger King:laugh::laugh::laugh:

  3. ZachS

    Active Member

    Likes Received:
    Cheezy aluminum grips!
  4. Oro

    Western WA
    Active Member

    Likes Received:
    I have been shooting them, collecting and building (a few, not professionally) them for about 35 years now. My opinions have changed a lot over that time as to what is desirable and why. What works for one shooter does not work for another shooter with different needs.

    I think the question is that many changes to the gun were to adapt it to new uses - such as extended recreational target shooting and competition - which did not exist on a wide scale prior to WWII. Changes in response to these uses are more adaptive than "improving." Personally, no longer trying to shoot competition, I've come to view many recent/modern enhancements as actually drawbacks in everyday and carry use. Here's what I think and why:

    - Hammers: The original long/wide spur hammer is now my preferred one. An acceptable alteration is the "rowel" style introduced on the Commander in 1950. Oval-cut "speed" or competition hammers are a drawback for non-competition use. The more I carry and use the gun, the more being able to safely use the gun in conditions 1, 2 or 3 is needed. Designs other than the original or the rowel are inferior for hammer manipulation manually. I know "get" why, obviously, there was a reason the gun was designed with the long/wide spur hammer. +1 for original design.

    -Trigger/MSH: Any combination of long trigger/flat MSH, as the original design, work well - this combination fits the widest variety of hands and encourages a proper trigger-finger placement. The Army and then commercial switch to a short trigger arched MSH was a mistake and the marketplace has actually fixed this error. +1 for original design.

    - Barrel ramps: I have had two ramped guns and three ramped barrels - two Clark and one Schuemann. Both had more finicky feeding and reliability issues. I feel a ramped barrel is desirable for loading and shooting .45 Super and .460 Rowland, etc. type rounds, but a drawback for .45acp shooting. This falls into the "modifying it for a different use category" and I do not think it is an improvement for a 1911 in .45acp. +1 original design.

    - Sights: There is little to say in favor of the original design other than that they are elegant and rugged. Tall combat sights or Bomar units and other designs are indeed improvements. +1 improvements

    - Thumb safeties: The various extended and low/high thumb safeties work for certain scenarios, especially when trying to high-thumb. But most (not all) the designs interfere with holsters and I have experienced them flipped off because of that. Absolutely unacceptable. The original shelf design and later teardrop both work well and without fuss. +1 original design.

    - Grips safeties: The original design appears to be designed around the thumb safety and it's function, and unfortunately biting some of us. It works fine except for extended shooting sessions or competition. Since high-ride beavertails add a lot of bulk back there for concealed carry, and are designed to work with a compromised hammer, I've stopped adding them to my guns. A very good alternative is the "rat tail" design from a Commander gun used with a rowel hammer. No bite, nice curve, little bulk to ruin the original lines of the gun or to hang up under clothing. Neutral - as many bad modern designs as original.

    Those opinions are based on guns more for carry than extended shooting and competition. This conforms to how I use my guns nowadays. However, about 1/3 my guns have beavertails, 1/2 have itty-bitty GI sights, two still have extended safeties, and some short triggers and arched MSH's. So I still have and use many different variations and none of them are awful. Which variation I pick up to go shoot extended range time and which I stick in the holster in the woods are very different! My ideal "woods" or carry 1911 would (and does!) look an awful lot like the original 1911 US Army gun.

Share This Page