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Carrying a 1911 Pistol On Duty

Address these six factors, if you carry a 1911 pistol as your service weapon.

August 11, 2011  |  by Hilton Yam

Photo: Hilton Yam.
Photo: Hilton Yam.

I carry a 1911 every day as a full-time LEO in Florida. In my duties as a firearms tactics instructor and SWAT team leader, I'm able to see what makes a 1911 succeed or fail as a service pistol.

In my off-duty time, I build custom 1911s and design high-performance parts for these pistols. I get a lot of inquiries from LEOs around the country asking how to make their personal pistol ready for duty. Let's go over a few of the issues you'll need to address.

Let's assume you've already chosen a pistol — if not, view "Choosing a 1911 For Duty Use" on my Web site for my recommended candidates. There are six main areas to cover so you can set yourself up for success.

Magazines: Don't go cheap, when choosing magazines for your duty 1911 because they'll play a large role in the success or failure of your pistol. Ditch the factory mags that came with your gun, and get some proven service-quality mags. I use and recommend Chip McCormick Power Mags; a longer treatise on mags can be found at my Web site.

Ammunition: Test fire your gun with as much hollow-point service ammunition as you can. Get at least 200 rounds of JHP (jacketed hollow-point) ammo through your gun with the new mags to make sure that all is well. If your agency uses more than one type of approved ammunition, find the one that works best in your gun.

Loctite: A little bit of judiciously applied Loctite can prevent a lot of headaches down the road. By virtue of its design, the 1911 has more components than newer designs; many of these can work loose with wear. Try some Threadlocker Blue 242 on your rear-sight set screw and grip screws, and some wicking Threadlocker Green 290 on your plunger tube, grip screw bushings, and front sight.

Watch Your Extractor: The extractor is a critical component of your 1911, and requires the user to stay on top of it for maximum reliability. Learn to be aware of the proper ejection pattern for your gun. A consistent pattern from 3 to 5 o'clock is ideal, and it should never dribble out or eject to 12 o'clock, 6 o'clock, or to the left of the gun. Any of these incidents is an early warning sign of impending extractor failure.

Watch Your Plunger Tube: The plunger tube is staked into the frame with two small posts, and this part can work loose with wear. If it does, the plunger detent can pop out underneath your thumb safety, pinning it in the "safe" position. Applying the above-mentioned Loctite 290 and buying grip panels that support the plunger tube can be a big help here. Properly designed grip panels in the G.I. pattern can keep the plunger tube in place even if the staking has come loose. This can be a life saver — literally.

Maintenance: Clean your 1911 after firing between 200 to 500 rounds, and change the recoil- and firing-pin springs every 3,000 rounds. Learn to detail strip your 1911 down to its individual components to improve your understanding of the gun. This will help you to stay on top of parts wear or breakage. Consider detail stripping at least every six months, and certainly after any excessive exposure to water, dirt, or other contaminants.

Success with a duty 1911 isn't black magic; you just need to stay on top of it. Take care of it, and it will bring you home at the end of the shift.

Hilton Yam, owner of 10-8 Performance, is a full-time law enforcement officer in Florida with extensive experience working robbery and violent fugitives. He is currently assigned to firearms training and SWAT, and carries a 1911 every day on duty.

Tags: 1911-Type Pistols, Customizing Equipment, 10-8 Performance, How-To Guides, Equipment Maintenance


Comments (9)

Displaying 1 - 9 of 9

Steve in LA @ 8/11/2011 8:39 PM

I own several 1911’s, including those from Colt, Kimber and Para-Ordnance, and agree with Officer Yam’s statements regarding these pistols. While I have yet to shoot the new Ruger 1911, the reviews regarding it have been overwhelmingly good. Additionally, the Ruger’s plunging tube is part of the frame, not a pinned part. Consequently, it should never become loose.

Steve in FL @ 8/11/2011 11:15 PM

I have carried 1911 daily for 19 years. Recently went to the 10-8 rear sight. Well made and designed. If you carry this platform, regular visits to Yam's webstore and narratives are a must.

James Stephens @ 8/12/2011 7:54 AM

I have carried a 1911 on and off-duty for the last 8 years and have been well served by it. Hilton's website and articles should be required reading for 1911 users as he offers superb advice....

Jay Kennedy MD @ 8/12/2011 8:54 AM

Hilton's website is more detailed than this article and ALL of his advice regarding the 1911 platform is sound. I've carried a 1911-type pistol since 1981, including years as a Special Forces weapons sergeant, and trust this pistol with my life. Mine carries a 10-8 rear sight, too!

John Carp @ 8/19/2011 5:42 PM

Great, great story from a great man! I carry a Colt's Government XSE that is thus far, box stock! I bought it and thought it would have to go off to gunsmith....insert name for a thousand dollars worth of reliability work. No, no, no! Shoots one hole groups with Ranger "T", Golden Sabre, Federal's HST, Hydra-Shock & E.F.M.J!

Wonderful pistol. In the future, I may add night sights but only if a tier one gunsmith will under take the work. This pistol is a keeper.

Most respectfully

john

U.S Dept. of Justice

Rob Crosby @ 8/22/2011 7:49 AM

I carry Sig 1911 STX for duty and off duty carry it is great gun. I have found that most of the standard Government Model gear will not work as the slid on the Sig is a little wider.

Art Y @ 8/22/2011 9:17 AM

Interesting article, Hilton, and thank you for sharing the info. Where is a good place to gather information for learning the ropes of detailed dis-assembly?

Trond Berg @ 8/7/2013 3:28 PM

I shoot a lot of .45 ACP from my Remington R1 1911. At the moment the gun has 20K+ rounds gone through it, I use Wilson Mags, no issue what so ever. The only thing that broke on the gun was the Extractor, I am giving the gun a face lift as we speak and hopefully it will look as good as the gun in this blog.

Gregory Morrison @ 5/1/2014 3:03 PM

I am a retired SFC US Army I served our Country for 20 years. I carried a 45 ACP and M14 and a M16 during my military service. I am here to say, not matter any person might have to say the Military 45 Pistol, its comes by many names, my last one was a Colt. It did have mixed parts, but thats the military for you. When ever I shot it I was proud, this gun is about saving lives, keeping peace and most of keep our country FREE. It saved thousand of US lives, not including those other folks who were issued this side arm. I would say get one, wear, and be proud. Our stripes will never run.

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