The Toughest Handgun Ever Made

Origins John Browning, with 128 gun patents, originally designed the…

John Browning, with 128 gun patents, originally designed the 1911 for a .38 caliber cartridge, similar to a .38 Super. Browning redesigned the 1911 as a .45 caliber to meet the U.S. Army’s request for this cartridge. He also designed the .45 caliber cartridge with a 230-grain full metal jacket bullet.

Adding to its personality, the 1911 is a kick-butt handgun that has a record of reliability from its inception. Browning submitted the 1911 to the U.S. Army’s Ordnance Department for testing and it went to the top of the class with a series of tests, which included the continuous firing of 6,000 rounds of ammunition.

It is believed that the U.S. Army wanted a large-caliber handgun to stop the highly motivated Moro tribe of warriors in the Philippines. The Moro were often unstoppable after being shot multiple times with U.S. Army issue revolvers, chambered for the .38 Long Colt. Using a combination of leather body binding, narcotics and religious rituals, the Moro put themselves into an altered state of consciousness as they prepared for battle. Simply stated, the .38 Long Colt was ineffective against the Moro. However, once fielded, the .45 and the 1911 met with immediate combat success.

Thirty years later, the 1911 made its way back to the Philippines in World War II, this time to face an equally fervent Japanese opponent. Special Agent Don Mihalek states, “The 1911 has a record of being the right tool for the right time. During the Pacific Theatre in World War II, members of the U.S. Military needed superior stopping power for zealots that had no fear of dying. The 1911, with its .45 round, has been proven time and again to be among the best handgun rounds. The 1911 is historic, but tough ergonomically. It is made for firing at an enemy that is ‘on top of you’ but is not as accurate at a distance as some of the more modern weapons. If you need a proven, tested firearm that does the job of stopping a close-range, deadly attack, 1911 is a good bet.”

Mihalek is dead-on with his assessment. Many members of the U.S. Military bet their lives on the 1911 in war after war, and they won.

Why change?
The Model 1911, in various models, is being made by a multitude of manufacturers throughout the world and still recognized by many combat professionals as the best combat handgun for personal protection. But if the 1911 is such a great combat handgun, why did the U.S. Army and other military branches go to the Beretta 92F (now the M9) in 9 Millimeter Parabellum?

The reason was more political than practical, since all other NATO troops use the 9 Millimeter Parabellum pistol cartridge and, as a member of NATO, we had to use the 9mm. This is similar to what parents ask most children, “If everyone jumps off a bridge, would you?” after the child tells them, “everyone else is doing it.” Monkey see, monkey do—and the U.S. Army jumped off that bridge, but it wasn’t their choice.

This isn’t Beretta bashing, since the Beretta 92F, and subsequent models, are high quality 9mm pistols for the military. Still, no other pistol has the proven 100-year-old combat record of the 1911 from the trenches of World War I to the deserts of the Middle East today. The U.S. military alone has purchased about 2.7 million 1911’s from its initial inception. Millions more were purchased by the American public, in addition to purchases by many foreign governments.

Load Comments
  • heel kickin dan stan sweet

    Wrong, 1911s cant even compare to the almighty glock, on the positive side, i guess you could throw a 1911 at em, if ya hit em in the head ya might knock em out. Anyhow the millitary ditched the shitty 1911 and shitty 45 suk i mean acp and took the beretta 9mn, so get over it, they realized the 45 sucked balls and couldnt penetrate, and the 1911 was junk, berettas aint good as glocks, but better than the garbage they had. Peace out, and rock out wit ya glock out.

  • Kent Bailey

    1911s are indeed tough. Valid arguments can also be made for CZ75s and Springfield XDMS. However compare torture test results with Glocks and the Glocks win every time. I engaged in law enforcement work for 14 years on a reserve basis and saw torture tests with my own eyes. I was not originally a Glock fan, but seeing is believing. I now own 5 Glocks.

  • Sotiris

    As a corporal (Res.) in mechanized infantry (Hellenic Army) in Cyprus, the 1911 is still in use today and standard-issue for the infantry men. Reliable and easy-handled, is still popular. Contrary to wide belief, its a good weapon for new recruits for introducing them in combat pistol markmanship. Newest design in use (Glocks and Sig models) are more suitable for experienced men.

  • John

    The 1911 has proven itself in WW1, WW2, Korea and Vietnam.

  • Mr. Blue

    If I have to drop a bad guy quickly, I’ll take the .45acp over the 9mm each and every time.

  • General Jim M

    That’s like saying an M-16 is the toughest combat rifle.Torture test a Glock 21 with a 1911,let us know the results.One disadvantage of the 45acp is it’swide bullets and slow velocity versus body armor.The 9mm can fire Belgian VBR ap rounds.In war penetration is a plus.My favorite combat pistol cartridge would be the 9×25 dillon,as loaded by Doubletap Ammunition,with 95gr fmj @about 2,000fps.I’d like to see Remington’s accelerator design in pistol cartridges.Use the M885 projectile in a strengthed 45acp case,with the drop away plastic sleeve.So get to the 1911 vs Glock,i bet on the Glock,it’s not as PRETTY,but in war,what is?

  • Brent

    1911 all the way. Used my wilson tactical elite to take out deer at 30 yards. I used to own glock but found the trigger pull to give me difficulty and the gun itself to be not nearly as accurate.

  • Richard

    I have worked two firarms ranges where rental handguns would be shot ever day of week dirty clean untill fail work for what ever reason. Beside glock most 1911 handguns held up that abuse better than any other handgun gun out there. It surpise how dirty oily you can shoot 1911 hangun still keep work for when other gun give up ghost. May not be perfect handgun for some but for other like me closest to perfect that handgun has been for over hunder years.

  • Loren McCoy

    The 1911 is THE quintessential combat handgun. The 45 ACP cartridge is proven; and it has been a proven cartridge ever since the time of crappy ammo, such as back during WWI. Now that ammo is of incredible quality, the 45 ACP still stands out. Really, only the 10mm is better; and it is offered in the 1911 configuration. Glocks are great as are Sigs, but to shoot a custom 1911 from the likes of Garthwaite or Les Baer or Ed Brown or Nighthawk is handgun nirvana.