Hilton Yam, well-known gunsmith, competitive shooter, martial artist and law enforcement officer, has written an article that encapsulates my own feelings about the M1911 pistol design as a service and defensive weapon. Here's an excerpt.
Over the years, I have had numerous agencies and individual LEO’s ask me for advice on selecting 1911s for service use. The longer I was involved in this effort, the more failures I saw in the concept of the 1911 in a role as service pistol over more modern designs. One agency with whom I had a close relationship required some assistance getting their fleet of Kimber 1911s running correctly. Fast forward 4 years and a lot of visits and phone calls to help troubleshoot broken down guns, and I was eventually able to convince this agency to discontinue the use of their team 1911s and have the team use the M&P issued to the rest of the agency. The phone has been very quiet since they went to the M&P. While some have taken issue that it was a small sample (sure, only over 30 guns with all the same problems….not a trend at all), their problems were fully representative of common 1911 ailments – magazine issues, feedway issues, slide stop problems, extractor problems, loose plunger tubes, and intensive maintenance/inspection.
Tim [Lau] and I taught a few 1911 specific classes in the last couple years, and we typically saw a failure rate of over 50% of the student pistols in each class. Something that really resonated with us was a pair of LEO’s who came to one class with the 1911s that they carried for work. The guys enjoyed the class so much they came back again the following year. This second time they still brought their 1911s, but told us they started to carry Glocks at work after seeing all the things that went wrong with the student guns and how difficult it was to keep the guns in top shape.
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It is easy to get caught up in the mystique and history of the 1911, but the design is over 100 years old, and we have learned a few things about designing and manufacturing since then. If you enjoy the craftsmanship of a finely built 1911 or you enjoy tinkering on your own, by all means continue to enjoy them. However, if training, shooting, and performance is your primary goal and you lack the resources, time, patience, or knowledge to keep after a 1911, then be realistic and choose something more modern.
There's more at the link.
In another interesting article, Mr. Yam discusses 'Choosing a 1911 for duty use', and makes the point that:
In light of [several issues described in detail in the article], the 1911 is not currently recommended for unit/agency level issue. The level of logistics and end user dedication required for this to be successful is higher than most units or agencies can support. With proper motivation and knowledge, it is possible for individual end users to be successful with the 1911, but results will likely be quite poor when the gun is issued en masse without the proper oversight.
Both articles are highly recommended reading.
I have to agree with Mr. Yam. I love the 1911 design as a highly effective piece of technological history. For several years I carried a World War II-production Remington Rand 1911A1 that had been modernized and customized for my requirements. It saved my life on more than one occasion. However, firearms technology has moved on since the 1911 was designed over a century ago. I find that shooters who don't train frequently (i.e. at least every 2 weeks) can lose the 'fine touch' that it takes to handle a single-action weapon like the 1911 pistol with safety and maximum effectiveness. It's a weapon for well-trained and -practiced shooters. It calls for frequent refreshment of one's 'muscle memory' and handling techniques.
If you're not going to practice more often than once per month, I strongly recommend a pistol such as the Glock, Smith & Wesson M&P, or an equivalent weapon. It'll be much safer for you, and the pistol will be just as effective in your hands (if not more so) than the older design.
OK - now to brace myself for incoming slings and arrows from outraged 1911 fans . . .