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Glock vs 1911

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Glock vs. 1911



Glock fans seem obsessed with comparing their pistols to the 1911, with the overall thrust of the argument being an attempt to prove that the Glock is superior to the 1911 in every way. They will most often point to reliability, durability, capacity, weight, and the simplicity of the Glock design to demonstrate the point. My biases are as follows: I’m a 1911 fanatic and I’m not wild about Glocks. But is the Glock superior to the 1911? The two systems are so different that I have questions about the validity of any comparison beyond the fact that they’re both pistols and choices need to be made. Here are some areas of comparison which lead me to prefer the 1911-pattern guns:

Reliability – I have seen more feed failures on 1911-pattern guns than I have with Glocks (or Smith & Wessons and Berettas, for that matter). My personal 1911′s, a Springfield and a Kimber, don’t experience feed failures, although the Springfield did have a couple when it was new. At a recent IDPA match, I witnessed a Les Baer Custom and Colt Gold Cup experience failure to feed. The original mil-spec 1911A1 is a very reliable gun when using the mil-spec ammo around which it was designed, and contemporary 1911′s which are properly throated and broken in are also extremely reliable. The original 1911′s which were issued to the Army were built with very liberal tolerances–you could call them loose–because the Army valued reliability under adverse conditions above pinpoint accuracy. Many of the feed reliability problems with 1911 pistols arise from efforts to tighten up the frame, slide, barrel and bushing in order to achieve “match grade” accuracy. Glocks don’t tend to suffer feed failures, but in order to achieve this reliability, they have more of their chambers cut away, leaving more of the case unsupported. This design feature has led to some blown Glock .40 S&W pistols. For more on this, see Dean Speir’s Glock KaBoom FAQ. One reliability issue which I’ve seen more with Glocks than other pistols is their occasional failure to detonate primers. While Glock advocates will say that other pistols have the same problem, I’ve only seen it happen on Glocks. While Glock true-believers are driven to proclaim their guns as the ultimate in reliability, the NYPD has been experiencing extractor problems and double feeds on their Glock 9mms.

The Eye of the Beholder – I am one of those people for whom the appearance of a gun matters. I like beautiful guns made of high grade metals with fine finishes. I don’t like black plastic. To me, the Glock is one of the ugliest designs every conceived by the mind of man. Although some custom finishes can be applied to the slide, the options for dressing up the Glock are very limited. In contrast, 1911-pattern guns can accept a wide variety of finishes, grip panels, custom components, engraving, and other modifications which enhance the appearance of the gun. Glocks are made by one manufacturer whereas 1911-pattern guns have been made by scores of manufacturers since World War I, adding a great deal of interest, variety, and individuality to the type.

Uniformity vs. Individuality – With 1911′s you deal with a particular gun, the one you’re holding at that moment. Glocks are, for the most part, homogenous within model types. Each 1911 has a personality of its own, even among examples of the same model and production run from the same manufacturer. Whether this annoys or delights is a matter of personal preference. Those who like personality and individuality in a pistol will find the Glock uninteresting, and those who value absolute consistency will find their confidence undermined by a fussy 1911 which refuses to feed their favorite load. Any new-in-the-box 1911 is really a custom kit. The 1911 is to handguns what the `57 Chevy is to hotrods or the P-51 Mustang to air racers, the ultimate platform for customization. Pistoleros inclined to tinkering eventually find their way to the 1911. Aftermarket parts abound for this pistol, and you can make it into almost anything your heart desires. The design requirements for the pistol specified a gun which could be serviced in the field with a minimum number of tools, and it can be completely disassembled using only its own parts. Consequently, the 1911 is very accessible from a mechanical point of view. It is relatively easy to install custom parts or modify existing ones. Few 1911s remain completely stock for very long, unless they are those models which include the custom features usually added to the mil-spec guns, such as extended beavertails, custom triggers and hammers, full length guide rods, and decorative grips. For those who seek a personalized sidearm, the 1911 is one of the best platforms from which to begin.

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