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This is for the 1911 experts. When I was coming up, 50-odd years ago, the 1911 was considered by many to be the most reliable auto out there. I competed with one in the Navy and I have owned a MK IV Series 70, low serial #, for years and only had one malfunction with it ever, but that one was a doozy. It locked up in a shooting class to the point that TRB would not work and the mag would not drop. It took the instructor and I working on it, always pointed downrange of course, with a screwdriver to get it cleared. A round had sort of gone nose down somehow in the action, I can't really describe it. But then it ran fine again. I figured it was a mag problem, so I bought Wilson mags for it, but I really haven't had a chance to put it through its paces.

But now I am hearing on gun websites like TFB that 1911s are not considered reliable any more. A lot of trash talking. People talk about "reliability jobs" and "guns that are more reliable than a 1911," etc. I also saw the other thread running about a Kimber that is having problems. I thought that brand was pretty high-end. So what is the verdict? Is the design reliable or not? If not, why not? Or is it just relative to newer designs? Are there different manufacturers/models that have different reliability reputations?
 

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This is for the 1911 experts. When I was coming up, 50-odd years ago, the 1911 was considered by many to be the most reliable auto out there. I competed with one in the Navy and I have owned a MK IV Series 70, low serial #, for years and only had one malfunction with it ever, but that one was a doozy. It locked up in a shooting class to the point that TRB would not work and the mag would not drop. It took the instructor and I working on it, always pointed downrange of course, with a screwdriver to get it cleared. A round had sort of gone nose down somehow in the action, I can't really describe it. But then it ran fine again. I figured it was a mag problem, so I bought Wilson mags for it, but I really haven't had a chance to put it through its paces.

But now I am hearing on gun websites like TFB that 1911s are not considered reliable any more. A lot of trash talking. People talk about "reliability jobs" and "guns that are more reliable than a 1911," etc. I also saw the other thread running about a Kimber that is having problems. I thought that brand was pretty high-end. So what is the verdict? Is the design reliable or not? If not, why not? Or is it just relative to newer designs? Are there different manufacturers/models that have different reliability reputations?
Even Kimber has a history. I will keep my 1911's and they all run great.
 

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When dozens of manufacturers make a "type" (TYPE being a 1911) of gun in so many different sizes and different price ranges, how can anyone classify that "type" in any way at all? Some are going to be fantastic and some junk or barely more than junk.

Keep in mind that "if it is mechanical it can break." This is in contrast to "if it is electronic it WILL fail."
 

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The 1911 is a design that is over 100 years old and has been proven through 2 World Wars and numerous “police” actions and as such I have no fear of basing my life on its reliability.
 

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In my own day, I used 1911s a lot...but only in competition, and in practice for competition, not in real gunfights.
A properly maintained 1911 is always reliable. Always.
However, 1911 magazines sometimes fail, and when one does, it's always at the wrong time.

When something goes wrong with a 1911, it will more than likely be the fault of the magazine in use at that moment.
Broken internal parts are indeed possible, a critical component being the barrel bushing; but still the fault will more likely be the magazine, rather than anything else.

The feed lips of 1911 magazines are springs, generally speaking, and controlling their heat treatment and maintaining their temper is critical to the pistol's function. If they stop being springs, the magazine fails.
When a 1911 magazine fails, it is generally because the feed lips lose their temper (either softening or embrittling), or because the area below and to the rear of the feed lips develops one or more cracks in the metal due to metal fatigue.

But the pistol itself will always be reliable, if it has been well maintained.
 

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I've owned 1911 "type" pistols since the '60s, was issued 1911A1s in the military, later became Colt O-Frame armorer,etc. IMHO, much of the reliability issue is what ShooterGranny said. So many manufacturers building 1911"type" guns with various components, specifications, tolerances, QC or lack of same, etc. Within my humble experience, the 1911 types of the last approx 20 years are more reliable and consistent gun-to-gun than a number of my prior guns. I experienced the most reliability issues with the much vaunted Colt 70 Series Government and Gold Cup models. Guns that, in high condition, are prized by collectors now days.

I carried a Series '80 Govt. Model full time for several years before retiring from LE. It required no reliability work. I would not have carried that 1911 type pistol if it had proven unreliable. FWIW, I still prefer the traditional unramped barrel in .45 ACP "1911s", but the integrally ramped type barrels in 9MM, 38 Super, 10MM, etc. The ramped type not only provide superior case head support for these higher pressure cartridges, but in the case of the 9MM, make for a 1911 type pistol as reliable as a good 1911 type pistol in the "proper" .45 ACP caliber.

Reference Kimbers, I've owned half a dozen in the last 20 years. One had an easily correctable reliability issue as received. The other 5 were boringly reliable from Day 1, without any fiddling, adjusting, parts changing, polishing, or cursing. If I so desired, I would have no hesitation in carrying the Kimber I still own.....
 

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I had a S70 MK4 back in the late 70's and it ran like a well oiled machine. Should have kept it but the stupid in me traded it away in the 80's. Now I have a Kimber that's seen countless rounds down range...literally lost count. It's old enough to have a bit of holster wear now. And with all the use and different ammo loads, it's never once had a failure of any type.

A friend of mine competes in bowling pin shoots and uses a S70 Mk4 1911 that he bought back when I had mine in the 70's. He's done a lot to it to make the pistol competition worthy and has always said that problems with the 1911 are usually related to ammo and not the gun, unless there is noticeable damage to a component of the feeding and extraction system in the pistol. That series of Colt was not terribly tight on fit tolerances so there shouldn't be any issues normally.
BTW: at his club where they hold the pin competition, the guy who holds the club record clears the table of 6 pins in just under two seconds with a 1911. It's pretty amazing.

So mag choice, feed ramp, extractor and related components should be examined if you are experiencing issues. And polished, if you detect any burrs or dings, etc.
 

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I have only owned one and it was as reliable as any gun I have owned but, I believe those of us who take care of things have fewer issues with any gun.
Someone said and I don't remember if they were talking 1911 or revolvers or what but something like "If your the type of person who just pushes your lawnmower into the shed at the end of the season with gas in the tank and packed with grass get a Glock (or was it revolver?)."
"If you clean it, stabilize the fuel and sharpen the blade for next season your a 1911 type"
 

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If a government or commander size 1911 is not reliable, fair odds it could be a magazine issue; Tripp/Cobra 7 round flush fit are my pick for a 45 acp 1911
I've got a couple of Ruger 1911's in 45 acp and they have been reliable including various HP - overly kinked plunger tube spring replaced to make thumb safety more positive.
Kimber TLE and Ruger in 10mm - reliable with flush fit 8 round Colt/Metalform mags, not so much with Wilson 9 round - For me that is a magazine issue, carry it with what works.
Another Ruger 10mm works with those Wilson 9 round mags.
 

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The 1911 is a design that is over 100 years old and has been proven through 2 World Wars and numerous “police” actions and as such I have no fear of basing my life on its reliability.
I hear ya 100%!

The problem is that 1911 of 2 World Wars, is not the same 1911 we have today. Today's 1911s seem to be built to much tighter tolerances and that's counterproductive to reliability. The military 1911s were/are loose as a goose so to speak and very reliable. They went through blood and mud and came out shooting.

Having said that, the only reason I don't carry a modern 1911, is NOT because I'm concerned about reliability, but because they're so heavy. When I was younger, I carried a 1911 regularly and went through two 5 day pistol classes at Gunsite and another one at Thunder Ranch and never had a problem. I did see problems with other non-1911 pistols.

One of my 1911s was built by Gunsite, I built the next two for the next two courses. Never had a problem. But then I wasn't down in the dirt, etc.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
That series of Colt was not terribly tight on fit tolerances so there shouldn't be any issues normally.
I wonder about the fingered "collet" barrel bushing on the Series 70. It doesn't seem like anyone, including Colt, stayed with that idea. Could that be an issue? I wonder why it did not catch on.
 

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Keep in mind that "if it is mechanical it can break." This is in contrast to "if it is electronic it WILL fail."
As a repair guy in the IT field I deal with a variety of mechanical and now mostly electronic devices. You are incorrect. Everything fails always. It's why I have a job.

All mechanical devices also fail. They eventually wear down. The only question is, when will they reach the point that parts need replacing? For most shooters, that essentially means never as long as they do basic maintenance to allow proper functionality.

Failure doesn't mean poor quality. The reason FOR the failure determines whether or not the item that failed was crap. The 1911 design has been a solid performer from what I've personally seen. My cheap Rock Island Arms 1911 has never failed me. I don't shoot it much, and do maintenance before and after range trips. That gun will never wear out at the rate I shoot it. I can't seem to trade it off, as it was my first purchased handgun.
 

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1911 reliability issues in my personal experience

Most seem to stem from;

1. The farther you get from Browning's specifications, the more problems you are likely to encounter.

2. The number of 1911 manufacturers today, everybody and their brother seems to produce them their way. (normally gets back to 1.)

3. Magazines, some people will spend thousands on a 1911 and then turn around and buy the cheapest mags they can.

4. 1911 owners themselves, way to many think they know the platform and they don't actually have a clue.
 

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This is for the 1911 experts. When I was coming up, 50-odd years ago, the 1911 was considered by many to be the most reliable auto out there. I competed with one in the Navy and I have owned a MK IV Series 70, low serial #, for years and only had one malfunction with it ever, but that one was a doozy. It locked up in a shooting class to the point that TRB would not work and the mag would not drop. It took the instructor and I working on it, always pointed downrange of course, with a screwdriver to get it cleared. A round had sort of gone nose down somehow in the action, I can't really describe it. But then it ran fine again. I figured it was a mag problem, so I bought Wilson mags for it, but I really haven't had a chance to put it through its paces.

But now I am hearing on gun websites like TFB that 1911s are not considered reliable any more. A lot of trash talking. People talk about "reliability jobs" and "guns that are more reliable than a 1911," etc. I also saw the other thread running about a Kimber that is having problems. I thought that brand was pretty high-end. So what is the verdict? Is the design reliable or not? If not, why not? Or is it just relative to newer designs? Are there different manufacturers/models that have different reliability reputations?
I've scratched my head about the "1911 suck" style videos and articles. Seems like everyone wants to follow James Yeager's lead. I suppose modern designs are inherently more reliable; might be inevitable after a century of design work. But I keep my guns pretty clean and properly lubricated, perhaps that has something to do with it? Not sure.

The only 1911 I've had that has had problems was my Colt Lightweight Defender, when it was new (not counting the brass to face, that's anther issue). It shook out after several hundred rounds and seems to run fine now.

I've never had a problem with my Combat Elite (Government, 1500+ rounds down the pipe) or my Commander sized 1911's (Colt commander (600+ rounds), Ed Brown Kobra Carry (300+ rounds).

I've said this before - the bottom line for me is that I consider every gun I purchase for a potential carry gun as unreliable until it has shown itself to be reliable. That means I have to take it to the range and make sure it runs, or work out any kinks that I might encounter.

If I have a Glock that jams consistently, it's of no help to me if people claim Glocks are reliable. Likewise, if I have a 1911 that runs reliably, why do I care if James Yeager & c. say 1911's suck?

As for your case, every once in a while a gun may have a hiccup. If you get your 1911 out again and goes through several boxes of ammo without a hitch, I wouldn't worry about the past jam.
 

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I wonder about the fingered "collet" barrel bushing on the Series 70. It doesn't seem like anyone, including Colt, stayed with that idea. Could that be an issue? I wonder why it did not catch on.
They are not normally an issue IF the owners knows a little about them and how they work. The collect bushing was first designed by Irv Stone of Bar-Sto barrels, his version used 3 fingers instead of 4 like Colt's came out with later. The problem comes from the fingers flexing and then possibly cracking, and again it gets back to the owners and how they disassemble the pistol. The barrel on the 70's have a slight flair at the muzzle, taking the pistol down the slide should be retracted a 1/4" or enough for the bushing to pass by the "bell" on the barrel before turning the bushing. It is also is beneficial to not remove the bushing from the barrel when cleaning, thus eliminating even more flexing of the fingers. I have only seen one collet bushing break in over 40 years of shooting 1911s.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
@OD*: Great feedback. What you suggest is the only way I have ever been able to take down my Series 70. I could never figure out any other way to do it. I suppose if someone really forced it, it could happen. But I always figure that if anything beyond a little force is required taking a gun down, I'm doing it wrong.
 

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@OD*: Great feedback. What you suggest is the only way I have ever been able to take down my Series 70. I could never figure out any other way to do it. I suppose if someone really forced it, it could happen. But I always figure that if anything beyond a little force is required taking a gun down, I'm doing it wrong.
Bingo, well stated!

Iffin' it don't move easily, don't force it. You learned the procedure on your own, if more people would have, the collet bushing might still be around. They do in fact work very well, if they were fitted correctly from the factory.
 

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I wonder about the fingered "collet" barrel bushing on the Series 70. It doesn't seem like anyone, including Colt, stayed with that idea. Could that be an issue? I wonder why it did not catch on.
It is my understanding that while the series 70 bushing provided better accuracy, it was more prone to breakage since it was thinner and almost a spring steel type material.

ETA: I posted this without reading all responses. I'll go with what @OD* said
 
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