The precision tool steel 1911 vs plastic and stamped

The precision tool steel 1911 vs plastic and stamped

This is a discussion on The precision tool steel 1911 vs plastic and stamped within the Defensive Carry Guns forums, part of the Defensive Carry Discussions category; The precision tool steel 1911 vs plastic and stamped Before I begin, you will see I use the Glock for comparison purposes. I do so ...

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    The precision tool steel 1911 vs plastic and stamped

    The precision tool steel 1911 vs plastic and stamped

    Before I begin, you will see I use the Glock for comparison purposes. I do so because the Glock, better than any other gun, represents the antithesis of a 1911. I do not use the Glock as a better choice; simply a comparison of platforms and expectations and what it takes to make each platform as dependable, reliable, and durable as the other. And please note, I rarely, if at all, refer to accuracy in this discussion. This is not about accuracy, but specifically about reliability, etc. Accuracy introduces another realm that we have discussed in a previous thread. So, with all that in mind, here we go, try to enjoy….

    What’s the difference in a new 1911 that costs $500 and one that costs $3000? Before you say precision made, special metals parts, hand fitting, etc. what I mean is, is it reliability? Durability? Dependability? Elitism? Pride?

    OTOH, what’s the difference in a new Glock that costs $525 and one that costs, hmmm, there’s no place to go with that.

    And we should at least ask ourselves which is more dependable, reliable, and durable, a $525 Glock or a $3000 1911 and how do we determine that? And before you answer that the 1911 was in four wars, etc. – those weren’t $3,000 precision, tool steel guns. I doubt there was a tool steel part in them anywhere. Nor were they anywhere near the precision or fit of a $3000 1911. So if the ‘wars’ are an indication, they prove, well you can decide for yourself what that proves. Just keep in mind as you decide there were no tool steel, precision machined, precisely hand fitted 1911s in any war.

    My recent experiences with 1911s have raised a lot of questions in my mind about what it takes for a 1911 to be as reliable and dependable as a plastic gun, specifically the Glock. Even more so, can a 1911 ever be as dependable, reliable, and durable as a Glock? Keep this in mind as I say this: the XDs and M&Ps do NOT fit the Glock antithesis concept in that both the XD and M&P use precision sears (parts) where one part of a Glock sear is a piece of bent metal, literally, and the mate is essentially a non-precision bump on the striker pin.

    I will justify the use of ‘non-precision’ with regard to the sear on the striker of the Glock, since precision and special metals seem to be a significant issue. Several years ago, I was looking at ways to reduce the trigger pull on a Glock without going to the 3.5 lb connector or changing striker and trigger springs. It occurred to me that one way might be to change the angle of the sear face on the striker. It’s essentially at a 90° angle and if it had some slope on it, it would let the trigger bar sear slide easier across the face. In fact, with enough slope, it could almost shoot itself! Before I did anything, I called Arthur Viani, president of Ghost Inc. to discuss this with him. It turns out, no surprise here, he’d already tried that and he couldn’t tell any difference. So when I say, non-precision, it’s true.

    I presume the rationale behind tool steel is that level of toughness is required for dependability, reliability, and longevity of the 1911, else why go to the trouble and expense? But then, if that is true, then that’s indicative of a platform shortcoming. What I’m saying is if we design something and the success of the ‘thing’ relies heavily on precision and special metals that would NOT be required by a different design, then we have created demanding a design. We seem to gloss over this with the 1911, but what other gun is considered to be so dependent on special metals and hand fitting?

    Interestingly enough, we would not accept this in most anything else. Would you want to pay for a car that required special metals and hand fitting to be reliable? The cost would be exorbitant. So either tool steel is needed for reliability and longevity in a 1911 or it is not. If it is not, why do manufacturers advertise tool steel parts in their 1911s and charge so much money for them?

    The same can be said for precision hand fitting of parts. The implication is that a 1911 cannot be simply mass produced, but needs to be precisely hand fitted. Why does it need to be precisely hand fitted? A design shortcoming perhaps? Glocks aren’t hand fitted in any way that I’m aware of. Well, maybe the barrel to the slide, but I don’t know about that. You can certainly buy drop in barrels for Glocks. In fact you can switch from a .40 cal barrel to a .357 sig barrel by just dropping in a barrel. And there are drop in barrels readily available for 1911s also. Hmmm, if drop ins work maybe all that hand precision isn’t needed.

    I can see the need for hand fitting if we’re wanting the ultimate precision gun. But what magnitude of precision do we gain in going from a $525 Glock to a $3000 1911 and for what purpose? But, for this discussion, ultimate precision is not the concern, ultimate dependability and durability is.

    I would concede that the trigger can make a significant difference, but $500 1911s can be made to have 3.5 lb crisp trigger and often with the stock parts and in total cost more like $600. So why pay more? I’m not saying that makes it as accurate as a high dollar precision fitted gun, but we’re not discussing accuracy, but rather dependability, durability, and reliably.

    So the focus question is, is the $500 1911 gonna break; prove to be finicky or unreliable? A Glock costs about $500 and suffers from none of these problems. So again, if the $500 1911 is subject to failure whereas a high dollar gun is not, then there is a insufficiency in the design of platform. We do have to face this: we’re comparing a machined gun of various grades of precision and special metals to a plastic and stamped metal Glock. And who would question the reliability, dependability, or durability of a Glock?

    With respect to durability and reliability, which needs more attention to lubrication – a $3000 1911 or a $500 Glock?

    So lets wind up by bringing this down to practice – where the rubber meats the road. A guy has shot a 1911 and really likes it and decides to get one for SD. Which one should he get? Does he need a $3000 1911 to have the dependability a 1911 SD gun should have? Does he need the hand fitting for a SD gun? Does it need to have tool steel parts? Are Colt parts so superior to others that only they should be used? Would a entry level SA 1911 serve him well or would it be a failure that just hasn’t happened yet?

    In my days of ‘trail’ racing, the issue of what helmet came up. The cliché answer was “Do you have a $25 head or a $100 head?” Maybe the same applies to selecting a 1911 for SD, do we have a $500 or a $3000 life?

    Anyway, these are some thoughts going through my mind, and right now, I’m quite undecided. Well, maybe I'm leaning; I am carrying a Kimber Tactical Pro right now.
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    A buddy has a 1911 (Remington Rand) that was carried in WW2. It is sloppy, but it sure is a nice shooter.
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    It would boil down to personal preference; I do not own a $3000 1911 but 1911s are my favorite carry weapon. As to Glocks I don’t care for them or other plastic guns even though I own three other plastics, they see mostly range use and are seldom carried. And no a 1911 does no have to cost $3000+ to be reliable as there are many costing far less that function quite well.
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    It is a tough subject, lots of emotionally driven opinions and die hards on both sides of the 1911 and Glock camps. I've never owned a polymer semi auto, but I want an XD badly. I don't like how the Glock fits my hands at all, don't enjoy shooting it, and my muscle memory is fully dedicated to 1911's and revolvers. I have literally slept with a 1911 next to me for more than half of my life, and I've never owned a high end brand or build, and never had an issue. My current S&W A1 seems good to me, shoots great, hasn't failed me. My old used Para Ord 1911 was a great gun, cheap and reliable, and a very good shooting gun.

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    It's interesting how often this thought comparison floats through the minds of even the most experienced shooters.

    I have other considerations in owning multiples of both platforms, which also include when I prefer an external safety and when I don't. When I want a heavy handgun and when I don't, as well as environmental considerations such as I'm vacationing at the beach right now. I'd never carry one of my 1911's in this moist, humid and salty environment. My G19 has accompanied me, and will be no worse for the wear.

    Neither of my 1911's are 3K guns (one was $800, the other was $479). Both needed some break-in, and a little fluffing and buffing, but no additional $ was required. I trust them both to be reliable and good carry firearms.

    I honestly love both platforms and am glad that I carry both, depending on the occasion.
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    I'm not sure what point you're trying to make.

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    Quote Originally Posted by harrydog View Post
    I'm not sure what point you're trying to make.
    The point is, what does it really take to make a 1911 reliable and does tool steel parts make them more reliable? Is a $3000 1911 more reliable than a $500 1911?
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    I would say generally speaking yes but not necessarily. I know of people who have base models from Springfield or Colt and they claim that they are completely reliable.
    As you mentioned before, the design of the 1911 may be its shortcoming. It was designed during an era when plastics were not an option and hand labor was cheap. I think the reputation for poor reliability that 1911s have is because of manufacturers cutting costs (cheaper parts and less hand fitting). Also people tend to equate a tight fitting 1911 with quality so tighter fitting guns have been the trend and that requires even more careful hand fitting which doesn't always happen. One thing you can say about Glocks is, they are not tight fitting and that's for a reason.
    I have 1911s that have been just as reliable as any of my Glocks or HKs have been (which is 100% so far) but I am willing to spend the money to get a higher end 1911 that has gotten the attention to detail that they require. If I buy gun for under $1000 it's probably not going to be a 1911 but that's just me.
    If you go with a $500 1911 you are increasing your chances of having problems in my opinion unless you give it some attention. That's unfortunate but true.

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    Tangled - your question is a great question. I've been told that the 1911 platform requires at least an amateur level of gunsmithing to really appreciate and make it work properly. Whether the gun is $500 or $3,000 depends on how much time you want the manufacturer to [allegedly] spend on doing that for you.

    As you posted, even at >$1,000 you're not necessarily getting the product/service/fit/finish they marketed so your level of knowledge about the platform helps in this situation. At my level of knowledge, I'm hoping the $ I've paid would translate into the care that is needed.

    Someone with the proper skills and knowledge can make a $500 hum like a $3,000 ... but that's where the rubber meets the road. The knowledge and know-how, which I severely lack.

    SA supposedly has a great CS and that's part of what you pay for. I'm pretty sure that if you sent them the broken extractor, they would replace it and make the TRP hum. That's one of the reasons I bought it.

    One of my projects is to buy a < $500 1911 and see what I can do to customize it myself. Without that acute level of knowledge, I'm trusting the companies to make it right and based on your reviews, I'm not sure if I have the confidence that any company making 1911s can do that without me taking it apart and looking at the parts myself.

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    You're correct that SA has excellent customer service. I'd send the TRP back to them and ask them to install a tool steel extractor. They might charge for the part though.

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    There's a reason the US Army went from the Thompson sub machine gun to the M3 "Grease gun" during WWII - cheaper and faster to build, just as reliable, shot the same round. The Nazis on the receiving end couldn't tell the difference. The history of all small arms in all nations has followed the same path - mass produced guns that still needed hand fitting to work right, to mass produced guns that didn't.

    My guess is that a "tight" but cheaper 1911 that didn't get hand fitted will probably have issues. A "loose" but cheap 1911 that didn't get hand fitted will probably shoot just fine. A "tight" but expensive hand fitted 1911 may - or may not - shoot properly, depending on the gunsmith doing the fitting.

    That is a variable that is eliminated with polymer guns like the Glock. And - IMHO - when it comes to self defense, I want to eliminate as many variables as possible. My Glocks are reliable, I see no reason to tempt fate with anything else in that size class. A better "trigger feel" just isn't worth it, to me.
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    Tangle, thanks for a good "think about it" thread. I have and carry both 1911s (only the $1k variety) and Glocks and like and have confidence in both. If I had to put money on where my next malfunction would be, I would bet it would occur with one of the 1911s, even though the issues I've had have been few and far between and probably my fault more often than not. The Glocks are so utilitarian, but on the other hand, I find the 1911s just seem to be more fun to shoot.
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    Quote Originally Posted by WonderBra View Post
    Tangle - your question is a great question. I've been told that the 1911 platform requires at least an amateur level of gunsmithing to really appreciate and make it work properly.
    I don't know that I could agree with that. There are an awful lot of guys shooting all kinds of 1911s that don't know the first thing about the internals and they aren't having problems. Some do, but, I'd be so bold as to say the vast majority don't have issues.

    Quote Originally Posted by WonderBra View Post
    ...As you posted, even at >$1,000 you're not necessarily getting the product/service/fit/finish they marketed...
    Very true and it does vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. I know people are tired of hearing this, but MIM issues aside for the moment, the only non-high dollar gun I'd recommend right now is Kimber. I say that based on seeing how Kimber finishes their guns ON THE INSIDE, compared to the TRP and S&W 'E' series. That's quite limited as far as manufacturers go, but still Kimbers are assembled with everything done on the inside that I know to do. Well, maybe not everything, but just about.

    The beveling of spring fingers, very smooth, polished surfaces, rounded corners and edges on disconnectors and sear legs, bevel on the slide breeh face - and more. Much attention to details even down to the little things.

    Quote Originally Posted by WonderBra View Post
    ...At my level of knowledge, I'm hoping the $ I've paid would translate into the care that is needed.
    Well, that's the way it should be. We should be able to buy a gun, learn to load and shoot it and that's it. However, most manufacturers have some problems and are ususally very quick to fix any issues a user may have. Well, except polish parts the way they should have been.


    Someone with the proper skills and knowledge can make a $500 hum like a $3,000 ... but that's where the rubber meets the road. The knowledge and know-how, which I severely lack.

    SA supposedly has a great CS and that's part of what you pay for. I'm pretty sure that if you sent them the broken extractor, they would replace it and make the TRP hum. That's one of the reasons I bought it.

    One of my projects is to buy a < $500 1911 and see what I can do to customize it myself. Without that acute level of knowledge, I'm trusting the companies to make it right and based on your reviews, I'm not sure if I have the confidence that any company making 1911s can do that without me taking it apart and looking at the parts myself.[/QUOTE]
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    Quote Originally Posted by FLSlim View Post
    Tangle, thanks for a good "think about it" thread.
    Thanks, I just kinda typed the thoughts going through my head.

    Quote Originally Posted by FLSlim View Post
    ...I have and carry both 1911s (only the $1k variety) and Glocks and like and have confidence in both. If I had to put money on where my next malfunction would be, I would bet it would occur with one of the 1911s, even though the issues I've had have been few and far between and probably my fault more often than not. The Glocks are so utilitarian, but on the other hand, I find the 1911s just seem to be more fun to shoot.
    That's pretty much the way I feel. But, there's a shootability about a 1911 that I don't see in a Glock. Some don't see it, but I had the chance to shoot a Glock right after I shot my stock Kimber, and I can say without hesitation there is a world of difference in the amount of concentration I had to put into each shot.

    Some may not consider the SA trigger that significant, but I do. And I shoot right at 1000 rounds a month and shot Glocks as the ultimate gun for a long time. Then a guy laid a Kimber Ultra Carry on my shooting bench and I was a changed person.

    So there's no issue to me about which is more shootable, my question is a 1911 as reliable as it needs to be for a SD gun. And does it take tool steel internals and precision fitting to get that reliabiliy?

    Although in fairness, a plastic Glock is more likely to malfunction with a weak grip than a steel 1911 and you can see this demonstrated on YouTube. Is a weak grip a concern? Only if you've been injured in a gunfight and that's all you've got left.
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    The point is, what does it really take to make a 1911 reliable and does tool steel parts make them more reliable? Is a $3000 1911 more reliable than a $500 1911?
    Not anymore. With the advance in manufacturing techniques that we have seen in the last 30 or so years, what used to be a rather large gap has become slim to non existant.

    I have seen several high dollar guns that were supposed to be the cream of the crop be plaqued with the same issues that a 400 piece may have.

    Also, there are some instances where a plastic part may outperform the same part made of steel. If you look at the Glock, as far as precision goes, its pretty mickey mouse in comparison to a highly machined, hand fitted custom handgun, but not many can deny that mickey mouse stuff that is almost silly to look at dosent perform as it is supposed to. Also, that Glock will perform in conditions that would have the precision gun trying to slink back into its gun case to hide.

    Thats my take on it anyway. The one thing that the high dollar stuff does do is give you bragging rights and and its great to start a conversation with.
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