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1911 quality and reliability

Discussion in '1911 Forums' started by TexasVine, Feb 27, 2010.

  1. TexasVine


    Feb 9, 2010
    Central Texas
    Recently I have been on a quest to purchase a new 1911. I have looked at a Taurus to Les Baer and yet to make a decision. What I noticed on the forum as well as others is many comments on reliability issues with major 1911 manufactures such as Springfield, Kimber and Colt (and a few others). Some comments I read is that you can basically pay a grand for a 1911 and still get a gun that has problems. My question is why? You would think companies that make thousands of these guns a year could get it right. How can you get a Custom II or a Loaded have issues out of the box? You would think that each gun that is mass produced is the same as the one made before it. Is it the 1911 platform? I have just not had any problems with any revolver or other type semi auto that I have purchased. I want a 1911 but FTF and FTF issues I read about on guns that cost big bucks is a bit scary. People may say they don't like a Glock but it's not based on performance.
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2010
  2. Glockdude1

    Glockdude1 Federal Member CLM

    May 24, 2000
    With every gun maker you will have a lemon. The good news is, they are few and in between. The sad news is, the internet chatter will talking about said lemon, as if it was a million lemons from said gun maker.

    The chances of you buying a lemon is very low.

    I own a Springfield MC Operator. I have had it for 3 years. All I have done to it is load, fire, clean it, repeat.


  3. Goodspeed(TPF)


    Jul 30, 2009
    Mostly, yes. I have had (and still have) good ones that work, (Colt, Wilson, Les Bear, Para Ordnance, Springfield Armory, Taurus, Norinco, Ed Brown and Nighthawk) and I have also had bad ones that did not work (Colt, Wilson, Kimber, Springfield Armory, Les Bear). Ya pays yer money and ya takes yer chance.
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2010


    Dec 20, 2002
    1911's can be frustrating. I had a Kimber .45 that would not feed hollowpoints at all, a Colt .38 that was reliable, but not more than 3.5"/25 yards accurate. A Springer 9mm that was super accurate (<2"/25 yards) but just horribly unreliable (bad/rough frame).

    After taking some time off from 1911's and letting my wallet heal, I took a big chance on a Les Baer P-II in .38 Super. Accuracy was beyond my ability to test, but it a few teething issues as well. They had left a burr on the breach face that caused failures to lock up. Once I figured out the problem it was an easy fix, and my Baer has been 100% reliable for almost a year now. It cost twice the price of my HK, and three time the price of my Glock (or more), but it is far and away my favorite firearm.

    I think the 1911 is more labor intensive to make, and not designed with new processes in mind like modern pistols, making it harder for the manufacturers to compete with Glock, Sig, etc...
  5. akapennypincher

    akapennypincher Glock-O-Holic

    Some gun maker make more Lemons, pay for quality, get quality.
  6. gconan


    May 1, 2000
    Get a 5" or 6" Les Baer, a couple of Wilson Combat, Chip McCormic power mag's and you will achieve a fine weapon!
  7. You also need to take into account that the major manufacturers (Colt, Kimber, SA) outsell semi-custom mfrs like Les Bers 5 or 10 to 1. Therefore, you are going to hear of many more complaints.
  8. FLIPPER 348

    FLIPPER 348 Happy Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    Bend Oregon
    those comments were made by morons

    The few people that have issues speak out the loudest. The most people who have no issues and are happy speak out a lot less. It's human nature.

    My question is why you would give them any credit.
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2010
  9. TexasVine


    Feb 9, 2010
    Central Texas
    Flipper348: Good question! I think a lot of the negative comments towards certain guns may come from folks that don't own them. Just trying to figure out which gun to buy.
  10. flynlead


    Jan 2, 2010
    :agree:Every manufacturer will have a problem gun at some point and is usually something minor with an easy fix but nobody seems to talk about the 10,000 good operating guns but will dwell on the one that has an issue. I have had colt, taurus,auto ord. and now have 2 Kimbers--a custom II and an Ultra carry with crimson laser. I have read the same post about kimbers but neither one has given me a problem at all. My wife shoots the ultra carry (her gun) and she is 100lbs soak n wet with bricks tied to her feet and has never had one problem. Out of all the 1911's I've own my custom II is the most accurate FWIW
  11. flynlead


    Jan 2, 2010
    :rofl:EXACTLY I agree
  12. rjm


    Feb 11, 2007
    Paducah, KY
    My Dan Wesson P7 (and the CBOB I had previously) had no problems to speak of, very well made pistols. The springfield Mil Spec (used) had had no problems. The Colt Defender had quite a few. I have had a few glocks with numerous problems too. What you do have to realize is that a 1911 should have a break in period, especially the tightly fitted ones. If you buy the gun new, I would not even think I had a problem gun until I had 300-400 rounds through it, then start evaluating FTF or FTE. Just like an car's engine, take it easy the first hundred rounds or so and things will smooth out. Its different than a loose fitted plastic gun.
  13. tous

    tous GET A ROPE!

    Jan 7, 2001
    Plano, Texas, Republic of
    Don't buy a Kimber.

    I hear they're made of stale bread dough and will kersplode in the nice plastic case without ever being loaded. :scared: :supergrin: However, they do give you a nice plastic case and not some danged cardboard box.

    At the risk of being too general, I suggest that you can't buy a bad 1911 from a contemporary manufacturer ... yes, even Taurus. :shocked: You likely have heard of forged frames vs cast frames, MIM (Metal Injection Molding) small goods as opposed to those milled ... by hand by the ghost of John Moses himself ... from a portion of the starship Enterprise hull.

    I have 1911s with cast frames. They look just like my 1911s with forged frames. They operate with equal reliability. One 1911 with a cast frame has over 30,000 rounds through it. It still works. I have examined forged frames that were warped and the holes were in the wrong place.

    Consider: the cost of precision manufacturing equipment and methods has become so cheap that even small manufacturers can get exceptional quality. No need to hire 47 workmen with files.

    Consider: the market for 1911 pistols is competitive; note that the manufacturers tend to offer the same features at the same price points. It's a business and the last thing they want is a reputation ... imagined or deserved ... for poor quality. That would push a company right out of the market. Not even GM executives are that dumb.

    Unless you can know the slight diffrences in any given sample of a 1911 pistol, don't agonize over the trivial. Talk to your dealer. Make a deal. Take pistol home. Enjoy it for the next 50 years.

    Good luck, amigo.
  14. FLIPPER 348

    FLIPPER 348 Happy Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    Bend Oregon
    There are no real 'bad' 1911s on the market right now.

    I'm not sure why Colt seems to pop up more often than not with lemon 1911s but once again it could be human nature as folks might expect more from them. I know that there are vastly more happy Colt fan-boys out there than unhappy ones.

    Just pull the trigger on a 1911 purchase and if you have any trouble have the manufacturer fix it for you. I've had good luck with Springfield (a GI Operator), Taurus (fist edition PT 1911 from back in the $419 NIB days) and not-so good luck with a S&W 1911Sc. I had to replace some parts in the SC due to poor quality parts and even poorer fitting but that's another thread.

    I've since moved on to building my own 1911s and all the store bought ones have been sold off. If there is a problem with quality or function shipping it back is a breeze as the customer service dept is on the bench in my shop!
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2010
  15. zdragon23c

    zdragon23c s&w&me

    Dec 23, 2007
    i've bought 6 1911s in less than 2 years including 2 Kimbers and a Les Baer(price range from 450 to 1800).
    my vote goes to another Kimber if i had to buy another 5" 1911 tomorrow.
    Yep...Kimber is that good.... simply a no brainer IMHO.
  16. bac1023


    Sep 26, 2004
    I find my 1911s more reliable than my Glocks.
  17. PlasticGuy


    Jul 10, 2000
    I think the problem is that people see 1911's as a design, rather than a bunch of manufacturers making various guns of various levels of quality based on the same design. Just because a Century Arms Romanian AK clone or an Olympic Arms M4 clone has problems, we do not take that as a sign that the AK or AR designs are flawed. Yet, many people buy a 1911 that has teething issues and become an instant hater of the design. I'm not sure why that is, but I've seen it many times.

    Also, even the good companies will turn out a bad gun occasionally. I've also seen Glocks and Sigs with issues in the past though. If you are unlucky enough to get one with an issue that needs to be addressed, that's where a warranty from a reputable company comes in. Also, a lot of guys set up good guns for failure by using crappy mags and ammo. There's not much a gun manufacturer can do about that. Imagine what would happen to Glock's reputation for reliability if everyone started using $7 aftermarket magazines stuffed with crappy gunshow reloads.
  18. bac1023


    Sep 26, 2004
    A very good point.
  19. Cptmike03


    Jan 15, 2007
    I generally group 1911's into 4 major categories based on price:

    1) 0-$599---Mostly foreign made bare bones GI Mil-spec types--Springfield GI and Mil spec models are some of the best here.
    Fun stuff, but like the originals--many shortcomings. Limited application.
    2) $600-$1,000---Your production level stuff. Now you start to see all the "modern" features. (kimber custom, S&W 1911, ect)
    3) $1000-$1500--Your semi custom stuff. These are enhanced models of production guns. Example-Springfield TRP or Kimber HD tactical
    4) $1,500--$4000---Your custom stuff. Guns made one at a time, slowly. Example, Ed Brown, Wilson Combat, Les Baer and regular company custom shops

    Your best value in terms of performance and price is in the lower end of the semi custom stuff. Some of that stuff rivals the higher end. One great new gun is the Dan Wesson Valor. Up until recently, it was $1400 and basically a custom hand made gun. They were hard to find since it took one worker one entire day to make one. Now they are still hard to find, but $1600-1800 since the 2010 price increases.

    Cptmike's tips for getting a 1911:

    1) First decide what you are going to do with it. Is it a base gun for a custom project? Target or combat/defense use? Do not buy a target gun for anything but paper bullseye shooting, it's not made for anything else.

    2) A 1911 in 9mm allows you to shoot more economically and faster too if you compete. Also holds 10+1.

    3) Don't get hung up on small things like sites, guide rods, grips, and magazine funnels. these can all be added very easily and cheaply. Look at the firearm for fit and finish and general quality of workmanship. Also don't worry if the mags that come with the gun are junk. Quality 1911 mags are everywhere for $25-$35.

    4) Save up and buy quality. You only cry once, and they go up in price every year.

    5) A 1911's target gun's trigger should 3-3.5 lbs. A defensive pistol should be 4-4.5lbs and a rough GI type can be up to 5.5 lbs, but anything heaver then that is unacceptable. 4lbs is what you want most of the time. Trigger should be smooth and break clean, not rough and gritty.

    6) Full length guide rod vs. regular GI type? It does not matter, and can be changed by yourself in a min or two.

    7) Adjustable triggers and sites are best left to target and competion guns. Same with fiber optic front sites, and extended controls, ESPECIALLY grossly extended magazine releases.

    8) On a defensive 1911, you only really need sites you can see fast, no sharp edges, checkering you can live with, and reliability. Everything else is extra. As a rule, a defensive gun only needs to shoot a 4 inch grouping at 25 yards. Not tough.

    9) Stainless vs. blued/matte? Your choice, but as a general rule, stainless adds about $100 to the price. Also, some of the more flashy finishes bring cost up exponentially. I would get stainless or some other tougher coating if rough use were needed. Not blued.

    10) Know if your gun has a firing pin block (aka Colt series 80 type) or not (aka Colt series 70). I generally don't like them as they impede the trigger and add mechanical complexity to the firearm, which can fail.

    11) This is important. Very important. Reliability is the most important thing in everything but a target gun. If it does not go bang, every other feature is a moot point. The 1911 should be somewhat tight, but not overly tight. When you shake it with the slide closed, it should not rattle or only a tiny, tiny amount. However, the slide should not be difficult to pull back. The key is that the gun should still be tight, yet function when extremely filthy, and retain at least 90% of it's accuracy. My S&W 1911 does a great job with this. To find out if your does this, lube up the pistol well with something like Miltec-1 and fire 200-300 rounds in about an hour or hour and a half. You should have no malfunctions or lose in accuracy. Avoid oversized (very tight) barrel bushings in everything but target guns.
  20. bac1023


    Sep 26, 2004
    Actually what you listed in #3 is the nice production stuff.

    You listed the semi customs in #4.

    You didn't list any full custom 1911s at all.