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.