1911s, Accuracy vs Relaibilty And Are Tight, Hard Fit Guns Worth It



This post is not easy to sum up with a short title. It contains my thoughts on the 1911 in its custom form, if the high end super pricey custom guns are worth it, And my thoughts on how they often give the 1911 a bad rap by people who do not care to take the time to understand some of the down sides of the tight fit match and carry guns. Apologies for the rambling nature of the post.  Also I want to warn it is my opinion and you may not agree, If you can not handle that, I do not know what to tell you other than don’t bother posting in the comments complaining to me about how wrong I am.  I have spent a long time with 1911s and have my opinions on them. Everything  below is given as opinion and personal experience and observations only.

I am always having discussions with people about accuracy. Readers who check here regularly know that it is a topic I often write about. I give my thoughts on what guns I find to be accurate, the amount of accuracy you can expect from rack grade combat guns and the distance that those guns are capable of shooting to way beyond the common knowledge of the internet experts along with the fire arms magazines. I put great effort into showing that most factory guns are more capable than most people will ever know.  A match barrel does indeed have it purpose and can give a great deal of improvement, but the barrel that comes from quality factory guns are a lot better one may think, despite the fact  that the match barrel selling merchants would like you to  believe them to be crap.

When it comes to factory barrels and accuracy, self defense is one of those times people would understandably want as much accuracy as they can use. Even if they can not actually use i due to their skill level. The model that in my opinion, gets the short end of the stick when it comes to higher accuracy demands for self defense is my beloved 1911.  For the almost 30 years I have been using the 1911, I can remember being told that all this and that kind of work has to be done to the gun to make it accurate. No factory 1911 is all that accurate some said ( and still do) and a lot of specialty shops have popped up to cater to this idea.  But this is often at the cost of reliability.  The 1911 was made to work withing certain specs. It was made to work when filthy and muddy and with little cleaning, And the military models, when made to the correct specs and dimensions and with good ammo, will work.  the problem I always see, are 1911s not made to the military combat specs.

To me, it is important to have one that meets the original specifications. I want it to always work and to be accurate. After a recent conversation about it for the 1 millionth time, I decided to show a little testing of what a nice loose, proper 1911 is capable of.


Using the V-Tac target, I fired a full magazine of just plain old ball ammo from 25 yards, off hand. The ammo is nothing special, it is not match or Black Hills or handloaded. It is just military ball.  I fired at the head and the center of the chest.


While it is certainly not a tight pretty little group. Who would argue against this being acceptable for ball ammo, off hand no bags or rest, at 25 yards? All but one round feel in the box of the head. The “flyer” is not a great shot. But I would think it would be a good chance it would probably stop the fight anyway, or at least make the attack second guess his commitment….  Maybe not, but the other shots would have gave him pause. Note the between the eyes hit just happened to end up that way, not by any special effort.

In my mind, for a 1911 so loose it rattles, and ball shot off hand at 25 yards, this will do the job pretty well while giving me a gun I know will work every time.


The second mag was fired at the chest as seen above. Again this was within the kill box of the target using plain ball. All nine shots are good hits to me.  The gun grouped a but better due to a large area to aim at and be able to see my front sight against it better, but not a drastic improvement.  Three hits seem to be pretty good CNS hits while four hits are in the heart and lung area with at least another hit in the other lung.

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the back side of the target has very hand Bullseye  targets on the back that are exactly placed on the opposite of the head and chest. Compare the front hits with the scoring of the bullseye on the back. I think this is a great feature without getting the shooter hung up on worrying over some kind of score while they see the human anatomy on the front. Few bad guys are likely to have black bullseyes on them so I don’t suggest spending too much time on them when training for self defense.

Again, while not good enough for Camp Perry. Not bad at all for ball.  Of course this would be a different matter with my chosen self defense carry load. My daily carry ammo preforms better than ball. but, my gun is still a looser fit gun that gives me the combat gun reliability I demand.

This bring me to another of my pet topics about the 1911.  I DO NOT believe or recommend a hard, tight fit gun for self defense or combat.  I know you can find plenty of people out there who will want to argue with me about this. But you don’t have to spend much time on gun forums to see some guy complaining about how is multi thousand dollar custom Ed Brown or Les Baer 1911 let him down at a training course.  Well. there is a reason for that.  the 1911 is a combat gun meant to go to war, to be in mud and gore. rain, snow and with little cleaning. It was originally meant to be loose. Those tolerances allowed mud and carbon to get all in the gun while giving it enough room to breathe and move. A gun with the slide/frame so tight you have to beat it open, is not going to give you that.

That is not to say I think a 1911 should look like the original with no upgrades. I am not a follower of the “don’t  put anything on the 1911 JMB did not put there.”  I think ambi safety and better sights are a must have, among a few other things, but the the gun I use to protect myself will never be “tightened up” or a “hard fit”.

Tight fit guns have a place, and if you want one thats fine.  But, if I was not going to be shooting a bullseye match at Perry, I would not carry one for self defense without a very long testing period. It is not that these guns are not quality. Because they are custom guns and they are made to a high quality. But sometimes that works against you when things get dirty.  It is one thing to have something to pass down to your kids and show off at a BBQ and be a investment.  But, I do not believe the super expensive, custom 1911s to be better choices for self defense over a 1911 with a looser fit.  They are beautiful to be sure. but to me, that is not good enough.


The gun I carry every day, is a Colt XSE.  It comes from Colt as you see it expect for the grips with gold medallion.  The reason I love the XSEs so much, is that they have a lot of the upgrades a custom gun comes with but is not a hard fit 1911. The barrel locks up tight enough to improve that accuracy over a USGI issue. but it is not so tight to cause any possible problems if it gets very dirty. I have used this gun a long time and shot it so much I could not even count.  It has never failed me.  The first year I got it, I left it soaking in a silty creek for eight hours and fired it, I froze it in a freezing rain and snow. I opened it and poured powder fine dirt in it and one day I fired 1,000 rounds though it in about 30 minutes after not having cleaned it for many rounds before it, except to oil it.  The gun became too hot to hold but still worked.  It is also so loose that it rattles like a pebble in a empty milk jug.  But it still works and I can make the hits well within what is needed.

My personal standard for a 1911 is to be able, off hand, to keep all my shots on a human head at 25 yards. all in the chest kill zone at 50 yards, and to be able to hit a man at 100 yards with my quality self defense loads at a minimum. I don’t expect it to do all that with ball ammo or sub par plinking  rounds, but it does not need to. It has to be comfortable  and have ambi safeties and sights big enough for me to see.

That is not too much to ask with modern guns. but due to the flood of 1911s made by so many companies trying to cash in on the guns popularity, it  is not as common as it would seem. All the crap copies have given it a bad rap among some, that it does not deserve when made to the specifications originally meant for a pistol to be used in muddy trenches, volcanic sand on Pacific Islands, snowy mountains in asia and the Jungles of Indochina. The USGI 1911 lasted so long because it works when made right with combat in mind.  And in my very personal opinion, the hard fit 1911 is about as useful for fighting as the cheaper coat tail riding knock offs from other countries and even quite a few made here.  When it comes to tight, hard fit 1911s sometimes there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.  Save the 2,500-5,000 dollar custom guns for family heirlooms, Bullseye or hanging on the wall or just shooting for pleasure and the enjoyment of having an investment grade gun.   If you do choose to have a custom high end, tight fit 1911 made and decide to carry it.  test it until you know it will work no matter what. For your own sake, get it filthy., abuse it within reason, if you are afraid of a blemish, then you are already going down the wrong road.  Beat the hell out of it to make sure it works.  If you ignore all I have said, at the very least, when it fails  you at a training class when it is subjected to a high rate of fire and round count for the first time. at least tell the Trainer/instructor that looseorounds warned you.



  1. I’ve absolutely no argument with you on this article, I too am a 1911 man, I’ve trusted my life to the .45caliber ever since I began carrying some 35+ years now. Everything you wrote is dead on target, rock solid.
    I know that just as there are Dodge’s, and Ford’s, Volkswagen’s and Toyota’s . . .etc… So to are the varying opinions on firearms and calibers. We can’t help it that some choose poorly, while others choose wisely (i.e. the wise ones choose .45 & the 1911 . . . 😀 lol )
    Seriously tho, your article is great.
    I’ve depended on my .45 / 1911 in various parts of the world, varied environments and conditions, she has NEVER failed me. A little fine tuning here and there perhaps, but NEVER have I taken a 1911 in to be “tightened up,” the accuracy and dependability of each one I’ve carried and used, has always been far exceeding any “match” pistol.
    Well, again, great article.

    Live Large, stay hard . . . .

    • I appreciate the kind words and positive feed back, I am really surprised how well the article has went over, I expected a lot of bitching and complaining from a certain segment

  2. I really enjoyed reading your article. I too love 1911s, 10s of thousands of rounds later. I simply do not bother explaining my choice to those whom I differ.

  3. I agree with you all together. I believe a lot of the problems that crop up with today’s Government Models is several manufactures have tried to reinvent the wheel. By tightening up the chamber they can squeeze a bit more accuracy but reliability suffers. When built from the ground up as a bullseye gun the Government Model is an ideal platform. Folks get all caught up in slide to receiver fit when that aspect means very little to the inherent accuracy of the pistol. A good box stock Colt is tough to beat as far as reliability and accuracy.


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