The 1911 on Trial – Is it a Good Everyday Carry (EDC) Gun?

As far as semi-automatic handguns go, the 1911 is the only one that truly earns the title ‘iconic.' Like it or not, the gun designed by John Moses Browning continues to be the favorite handgun for people across the globe. But just because people like it, does it mean the gun is a good everyday carry (EDC) gun for self-defense?

Believe it or not, I don't think people always want to hear my opinion on every topic related to guns. And in regards to this question, countless people have given their opinion in writing.

1911A1

Putting the 1911 On Trial:

So I decided to do something a bit different.

I searched the internet and found dozens of articles written on the topic. I only considered posts from websites or authors who are well known and whose opinions the industry respects. I treated the reasons and reasoning presented on both sides of the topic sort of like a judge in a courtroom.

In other words, I'll be neutral. In fact, I may not totally agree with the point.

In the end, I'll give you my opinion, that you can either agree with or disagree with and cancel me forever.

Let me also add that most of the arguments made for or against the 1911 are also applicable to the modern 2011 semi-automatic handguns. I'll attempt to differentiate the difference between the two where it makes sense.

various 1911 models

Arguments in Favor of the 1911 for EDC:

  • Fantastic ergonomics-

Typically when I place a 1911 in someone's hand for the first time, they say something like, ‘wow, that feels nice.' One reason is that Browning designed the gun with a grip angle that makes it (what proponents of the 1911 call) pointable. The grip angle facilitates a natural presentation of the muzzle toward the target.

The 1911 isn't the only gun with a manual external safety. However, the 1911's ergonomics make it easier even for those with small hands to manipulate the safety without breaking their grip.

I'll add in the argument that the gun ‘feels balanced' as part of the ergonomics. Partially because of its construction and its design, the 1911's wight seems evenly distributed so as not to feel muzzle heavy.

  • Single-action trigger-

Those who have shot a 1911 with a finely tuned, crisp, breaking trigger know how satisfying it feels. A single-action trigger requires less force, and therefore it's less likely the shooter will induce movement during the shot. In essence, the lighter trigger, in addition to a short pre-travel, should produce increased accuracy.

  • Thin dimensions-

It stands to reason that a slimmer gun will be more comfortable when carrying it inside (IWB) or outside (OWB) the waistband. Furthermore, since the 1911 uses a single-stack magazine, the grip is thinner than the double-stack, semi-automatic handguns popular today. Not only does this help with concealability, but those with smaller hands may feel like they can grip the gun better.

field striped 1911

  • Variety of styles and calibers-

In the 100 years since the 1911 was born, manufacturers have put their spin on the 1911 without deviating from John Browning's fundamental design. While many think the only ‘real' 1911 is a full-sized gun chambered in .45 ACP, one can find a 1911 in .380 or 9mm. Want a 1911 with a 3″ barrel? You got it.

  • Aftermarket everything-

If you can think of a product to modify a gun, you can likely find one for the 1911. Enhancements to the trigger, grip panels, sights, and internal components make the 1911 a fully customizable gun.

  • Why mess with success-

A design that has remained nearly unchanged for over 100 years has a pretty good track record. Plus, it was the handgun issued to the military as late as the mid-1980s! Plus, it won two world wars. Sorry I had to throw that in there for fun.

iconic 1911

A Case Against a 1911 for EDC:

The reasons are given above for the 1911 as an EDC gun seem pretty sound. But let's see why some people in the know say you shouldn't consider the 1911 for everyday carry.

As you read, let me remind you I'm impartial at this point, just listing the arguments I've found against the 1911. So don't grab torches and pitchforks and head to my house just yet.

  • Unreliable/Finniky-

Many instructors attest that they see more malfunctions from 1911 handguns and their variants in their classes. Of course, many of these failures and malfunctions are often attributable to the user. However, that doesn't allow us to dismiss this phenomenon outright. Additionally, the smaller calibers like 9mm and .380 seem to be involved in a higher proportion of these malfunctions.

1911 for edc

  • More complicated to operate-

Guns aren't really complicated, especially when compared to, say, your smartphone. But comparatively speaking, the 1911 has a more significant learning curve to operate proficiently.

This ‘complexity' is due, in part, to its having two safeties: one manual external safety and one passive safety. Too often, folks who do not regularly train do not reactivate the safety each time the gun goes back into the holster. Therefore, training with the 1911 must include developing the process of sweeping the safety off during the draw stroke. But, of course, for a new shooter, this adds one more thing to learn.

The passive grip safety must be completely depressed before the gun can fire. It can be a good thing, unless you happen to have a weak or compromised grip that doesn't achieve the goal. Compared to the grip safety on Springfields XD series handguns, it's less common, but it still happens.

1911 TCM

  • Carried cocked and locked-

Carrying a handgun with the hammer cocked to the rear is intimidating for some people. Even though some striker-fired guns effectively have the striker ‘cocked' because they can see the hammer, it psychologically scares them. So much so that people have gone to carrying their 1911 without a round in the chamber.

I don't want to get into a sidebar about this topic but here, (and here,) are content pieces on the matter.

  • It's heavy-

The 1911's all-metal construction makes it heavier than its polymer comparisons, despite being a single-stack handgun. The added weight can also come from the heavier .45 ACP rounds that are typical in 1911's.

A heavier gun, even if only slightly, is less comfortable to carry around all day, every day.

  • Low capacity-

As noted, the 1911 uses a single-stack magazine. The narrow dimensions mean its capacity is considerably lower than a gun of equal size. You may not be at risk of finding yourself in a firefight with the Taliban, but no one ever complained of having too many rounds.

grater checkering pattern

  • Expensive-

Comparatively speaking, 1911's cost more on average than, say, a Glock 19 or Sig P365. How much more depends on the manufacturer, of course. However, it's safe to say a quality 1911 that you can trust in a self-defense incident will likely cost over $1000. So, you're probably able to purchase some ‘tactical Tupperware,' an optic and holster for the same price as a nice 19 or 2011.

  • ‘Point-ability' and increased accuracy is folklore-

Opponents say that the difference in grip angle is probably more psychological and doesn't actually provide any advantage. Furthermore, the benefit of the single-action trigger insofar as it allows the shooter to be more accurate is easily overcomeable with training. Additionally, under the stress of a defensive use of deadly force, an exceptionally light trigger may even be more of a hindrance than a help.

The Verdict:

In all actuality, the argument is relatively unprofitable, and my opinion is just that, an opinion.

I am far from aligning with the camp of those who say ‘the best gun is the one you have and shoot well' as this is far too broad a statement to give anyone advice on an EDC gun purchase. But I am also not so closed-minded as to think I am always right and everyone should agree with me.

I promised my verdict (opinion) on the matter, so here it is.

I don't carry a 1911 as an EDC handgun. I prefer not to have a manual external safety on my handgun for the reasons I express in this post

I also find the roughly 5lb triggers in most striker-fired, self-defense handguns on the market are appropriate for self-defense.

I am a proponent for increased capacity within the gun. Sure one could carry a spare magazine, but to me, this is a less desirable option of fixing the low capacity issue.

I don't particularly care about the added weight, as a proper holster and belt will almost negate any added weight.

After my typical evaluation, I would trust a well-cared-for, quality 1911 or 2011 as much as the gun I currently carry.

In closing:

In the end, it doesn't much matter what I think. I have studied the topic and have seen many different guns come through my classes and classes I've attended. So my opinion isn't just something I ‘feel' or because I have a 1911 already. But still, it's an opinion so take it for what it's worth.

If you like this content please consider giving our Concealed Carry Podcast a listen. We publish 2 episodes a week and discuss important issues impacting concealed carriers and gun owners in general.

hosts of the concealed carry podcast

18 Comments

  1. Michael Parker on December 1, 2021 at 6:50 pm

    I live my rock island 1911 .45 i use it for everyday carry. It is comfortable for me because i have big hands. As a marine veteran. I like that it has an 8 round magazine. I carry a full magazine with 1 in the chamber. If you you are able to use the “1 SHOT. 1 KILL” the marines taught me. Then why carry the extra weight? This is just my opinion. Semper Fi.

    • Rob on December 1, 2021 at 9:21 pm

      Mister Parker, with due respect to you, and our USMC, I hope you never get in a civilian gunfight. Not sure of the percentages exactly but more than half of gunshot victims survive. The 1911 in .45 ACP is a fantastic weapon.. I somewhat agree with the author. My EDC is a Glock 21 chambered in .45 ACP with a 13 round magazine and one in the chamber. As a side note, the very first hand gun I fired (in 1956) was a Colt 1911. Semper Fi!

    • Randy Jones on December 2, 2021 at 7:40 am

      MP. I too carry a Rock Island, 22tcm chambered for 9mm. It is a double stack. Accurate in either caliber but use the 9mm for the EDC. I picked it up a couple years ago after using a number of 1911s chambered in 45acp for 35+ years. I have found the less expensive Rock to be as dependable as a 70 series Colt, a Kimber and a Para. Keep them clean and they will go bang every time you pull the trigger. I do like the alloy frame models I have, cut weight and still accurate. To each their own I guess, I actually bought my first Glock in 2021 (forgive me for I have sinned), it may be lighter but doesn’t feel the same in the hand. I think a person should carry what they are comfortable with, what they are accurate with and what is reliable. I’d rather be missed by a S&W .500 that hit in the Adam’s Apple with a 22lr.

    • Robert on December 2, 2021 at 7:25 pm

      I carried a Springfield 1911 Micro for a few years. It had a 6 round magazine. I liked it and it was accurate for a short barrel. It was bulky for my taste but totally reliable. Never had a jam. According to the statistics most gun fights involving civilians are normally less than 5 rounds. (Seems like cops tend to do mag dumps). I now carry an M&P shield in 9mm or a S&W .38, 5 shot revolver. In this day and age and with the current scared, stupid, people, I find concealment is the better option. When I was in Iraq I carried as much ammo possible because I expected to cause trouble.(Go Army). I only expect to defend myself around the town now.

    • Tye on January 14, 2022 at 11:56 pm

      Once you are comfortable with the controls of a 1911 they are hard to beat. Trigger is unmatched. Feel is unmatched. Most people find the weight of the 1911 a plus. Shoot a few mags and that will make more sense to you. Them not being reliable is a joke. Keep them cleaned and oiled and you will have zero problems with them.

    • Edward Lyon on August 1, 2022 at 8:23 pm

      I appreciate the unbiased review. I do carry a 1911 either my Guncrafter Industries or Wilson Combat pistols. I trained with a 1911 in the Marine Corps back in the early 80’s. So I was comfortable with the platform. I continue to train every year and have dry practice 10’s of thousands of rounds and shot week long defensive hand gun classes with no malfunctions. I find the width of a handgun the most important of the dimensions to conceal. Like you said the weight doesn’t bother me. I also Carry an extra 10 round magazine. The research I have done regarding the average rounds fired by Law Enforcement in altercations was 8.5 Rounds. Not sure how you fire 1/2 of a round. I have carried other pistols. CZ 75 P01, CZ p10c, Sig p365xl and I keep coming back to my 1911’s. They just feel right with me. Not that any of those other guns are bad because they are not! It’s nice that there are so many choices. Find what works for you then train and practice.

  2. Daniel Melton on December 1, 2021 at 8:09 pm

    I carried a 1911 as my first “EDC” in VN. The weight is one factor that might have prevented the accidental shooting of daunte wright as it could not be mistaken for a taser.

    • Bruce Normann on December 2, 2021 at 12:58 am

      You raise an excellent point about the weight being one more differentiator between a non-lethal tool and a pistol. Obviously, there are several and stress will interfere with the proper identification, but one more differentiator can be useful.

  3. John Faires on December 1, 2021 at 9:19 pm

    I carried it in Vietnam. 1964-68. Former Marine. That’s all we had. Still have one for the memories. I have a .45 Glock and a 45 Kimber, which all have more fire power. A good armorer can reduce the trigger pull on your 1911. Alot of us did it.

  4. George Gesner on December 1, 2021 at 9:51 pm

    I have been shooting and carrying for more than half a century. I have, and have carried everything from revolvers to the polymer framed pistols to the 1911. All but one of my polymer pistols have thumb safeties because the 1911 was what I carried for decades. Therefore, operating the thumb safety is pretty natural to me. I carry the 1911 cocked and locked. That said, my EDC is a small .380 with no thumb safety and always with a round chambered.

    I rarely carry reloads since I live in Florida where I am usually in shorts and t-shirt and just carrying my little .380 (10 +1 rounds) seems to be as much of a load I care to go about with. That doesn’t mean I won’t carry bigger when the weather permits a cover garment. I figure one should shoot enough to make the initial load count whether it be 5, 6, 8, 11, or more rounds. The average non-tactical guy like me is likely to fumble a reload under stress, no matter how much training in that regard is done at the range.

    I’m certainly not trying to discourage anyone from what works for them, but I’m happy with just about anything in my collection.

  5. Mark on December 1, 2021 at 10:44 pm

    As navy and USCG vet as well as former deputy. USMS. I’ve carried the 1911 for over 40 years. She’s never let me down. My edc weapon is my old duty gun from the USMS.
    It’s an ATI Gov.

    As a law enforcement firearms instructor and former FTO, the nice thing about external safeties these days is the fact that most bad guys are only familiar with striker fired weapon. If one of these idiots should ever get hold of you firearm you’ll have a few seconds to get your gun back before they figure out the saftey.

    Of course if someone reaches for my gun it will discharge.

    • Mike Renner on December 2, 2021 at 8:11 pm

      USCG – ’64 to ’70, and a few times I had to pull the old 1911 out when patrolling our Southern Coast. Never a shot fired, but the intimidation was usually enough for the arrests! Lol… Semper Paradus
      Now have 5 model 1911’s in .45 ACP, and a few plastic striker pistols in 9mm.
      (Love my Springfield Ronin Commander-most accurate pistol I have ever shot!).

  6. Bruce Normann on December 2, 2021 at 1:04 am

    Also: More complicated to clean and maintain. If there’s an optimum amount of lubrication for each pistol, 90% of us are probably getting it wrong.

    If you live in a capacity-limited city or state, 8+1 of .45 ACP is a solid option.

  7. [email protected] on December 2, 2021 at 11:25 am

    I was issued a 1911 in the mid-80’s as a Navy Corpsman with the Grunts. I loved the 1911, although the ones we were issued required the use of some Kentucky windage to get on target. lol
    I didn’t care for the subsequently issued Beretta 9mm. It was bulky, but accurate when fired. I much preferred my 1911. As a matter of fact it’s still my favorite, go to piece when I carry. I’m in Wisconsin, where open carry and concealed (with a permit) is legal. I prefer the 1911 due to its slimmer design and sturdiness, which I think makes it more accurate, and the heft of it just feels better to me. I also have a Glock in .45 ACP which is fine too, but more uncomfortable and bulky when carrying IWB. Overall I really love my 1911 and will always carry it faithfully. If I need more than 8 rounds to shoot at something I shouldn’t have shot at it to begin with. Semper Fi! 2/5 “Retreat Hell”

  8. Jorge on December 2, 2021 at 11:50 am

    The solution to all arguments is to own one of each and carry based on the situation. I carry a 1911 DW Valor 10mm when I’m out in the fields hunting. My EDC of choice is a Beretta Elite LTT 9mm full size or Staccato P 2011 in an AIWB holster setup. I have but don’t much care for subcompacts; however, base on what I’m wearing or going to, I’ll opt for HK P30SK or CZ 2075 RAMI 9mm. There is no such thing as one gun for all occasions.

    • Chris Ziore on July 20, 2022 at 12:00 am

      I’m a fan of 1911 and Browning Hi Power, I can shoots those two on target every time even follow up shots!I grew up shooting metal guns in the military so I favor the metal guns! But now my everyday carry is the Glock 48,it is an excellent gun for conceal because it is single stack and very accurate ,besides if you shoot someone the LEOS will confiscate your gun for months awaiting trial sitting in an evidence room where it might get lost or all scratched up,I had that experience with an expensive gun that too me years and an attorney to sue for the gun,almost a year to get the gun back, I prefer to loose a $500 gun than a $3000 Wilson Combat 1911!

  9. bob onit on December 3, 2021 at 2:12 pm

    a lot of states are 10 round magazine states so with a 8 round mag that is available all over and 1 up the spout you have 9 so that kinda renders that point moot .unreliable the gun was designed to shoot ball ammo ,I’ve taken classes ,and trainers sometimes bring it on them selves requiring odd ammo at times most problems are magazine related also caused by the trainers in doors wanting you dump mags on to concrete floors and damaging the magazines ,the smarter trainers in some cases will roll our some astro turf to dump on .i’m all for expediency ,and would drop mags in wet cement in a actual fight ,but trashing them in a class is pointless ,if rolling out some rug or astro turf to protect your gear and still allows you to ”train real” but if your using a expensive pistol for edc .one should know if involved in a self defense incident ,the police will take your gun .a police property room is no place for a well maintained weapon . in the sheriffs office in my county they kept the firearms in garbage can rifles just jammed in like the clubs at a pee wee golf ,and the handguns were in a g-can too .when seeking the gun to return the can was summarily dump out on the concrete floor ,you wanted to weep I prefer a sig p229 but now carry a glock 30 sf or a g19 very much cheaper to replace them

  10. qmasterarms on March 28, 2022 at 10:19 pm

    1911 properly setup is very reliable and accurate, but it is magazine capacity limited (even with ten round WC mags), and it’s very heavy to EDC if you are physically active.

Leave a Comment