1911 Reliability

Even Browning’s masterpiece needs tweaking to get it perfect.
by RK Campbell

Every so often we see a feature in the popular press about “reliability secrets of the 1911” or some such. These features are often accompanied by instructions for the laymen on using the Dremel tool with a disclaimer added that such work is performed at your own risk. Perhaps not risk of life and limb but risk of ruining a fine handgun. Over the years I have seen many pistols butchered and most of them were 1911 handguns. As a young man I also saw the rear quarter panels cut out of ’57 Chevys to allow the use of wide tires and other butchery jobs. It is simply a human trait and one that ends up sending a lot of guns and cars to the shop. Some call it “tinkitis” or the urge to tinker.

When it comes to the 1911 we are dealing with a pistol that was designed to be reliable above all else. This propensity to fire with every pull of the trigger revolved around a load using the 230 grain full metal jacketed bullet at 830 feet per second. Between World Wars much effort went into convincing the pistol to reliably digest cast bullet target loads using 185 to 200 grain semi wadcutter bullets. Beginning in the 1960s shooters attempted to modify the pistol to feed well with wide mouth hollow point bullets designed for personal defense use. Practically every open mouth design of the day required feed ramp modification. The bullets were poorly designed and not every gunsmith knew how to do a feed ramp polish. The proverbial throating job was undertaken by gunsmiths who had only occasionally seen 1911 pistols in the shop. The results were often detrimental to reliability with any cartridge. In some cases the only answer was another frame. Evolution Gun Works now offers a rugged frame insert for aluminum frame pistols that will salvage such a pistol for use.

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