Why the fanboyism surrounding the M1911 handgun?

There’s a throwaway reference inthis thread on the M1 Garand about how many people regard the Colt M1911 handgun to be the epitome of handgun development, and it’s a subject that I think merits further discussion.

The other shooters here on the boards will, of course, be familiar with the M1911 family of handguns, and there’s no doubting that it’s a very functional, practical, effective and solid gun.

Yet, for many shooters, an M1911 is more than a practical gun for target shooting, hunting, or self-defence; it’s almost a Lifestyle Choice. If you have a look at almost any US firearms magazine, there will be an article on the M1911 or a variant thereof, and the ads are full of aftermarket accessories for M1911s- extended magazines, Hogue grips, Picatinny sight railings, Tritium sights, muzzle compensators, and so on.

You could, in short, be forgiven for thinking that the M1911 is the Greatest & Best Handgun In The World*, and there are a lot of people out there who would consider you a Communist for thinking otherwise.

So why the amazing fanboyism in the US towards the M1911? Yes, it’s a great gun, as anyone who has ever fired one can tell you. Accurate, shoots well, puts .45 calibre holes in things, fires an effective cartridge, and is, for the most part, a solid and reliable gun.

But so are lots of others; from the Webley revolvers of the British Empire to the modern Sig P-226 from Switzerland. Yet “American Handgunner” isn’t full of articles on how awesome the Webley Mk VI was/is, or why you should buy a different Sig P-226 for each day of the week.

I’m not saying the M1911 is a bad gun (quite the opposite!), but I just don’t understand the fan-worship and reverence the pistol has in the US. The closest I can get is to do with it being the All-American Pistol and giving excellent service in every conflict it’s ever been involved in, but the same could be said of the Smith & Wesson Model 10 revolver and that doesn’t get nearly as much PR as the M1911 family of handguns.

Cynical me thinks its all about advertising dollars from Colt/Smith & Wesson/Kimber/Everyone else that makes M1911 handguns and accessories, but that can’t be the only reason the US gun magazines devote so much space to the M1911 and an enormous amount of online forums are dedicated to the gun.

Anyone got any thoughts on this one?


I think you’ve put your finger on it there - it’s American, it has a basic, no-frills, straight-line design, and unlike the revolver, it has the distinction of being one of the first slide pistols. (I also love the look of the M1900.

The reverance for this gun dates back no farther than the late 1970’s or so. If you peruse magazines from that time or earlier, a serious combat handgun inevitably meant a revolver in .38 special or .357 magnum.
The 1911, which at that time meant a Colt if you bought new, was praised for being reliable; automatics in general had a reputation for “jamming” in those days. Even so, the 1911 carried a reputation from its military use as being inaccurate, loud, and hard recoiling. Incredible as it seems in light of today’s fanboy wanking, the 1911 was basically considered merely the best of a bad lot back then. Surplus 1911’s were cheap and easily available because the average shooter little valued them.
Handgun games other than bull’s eye were really starting to come into their own in the 60’s and 70’s. Jack Weaver had taught everybody the value of holding a gun in two hands by that time. It was in the gaming arena that the 1911 first began to really shine and accumulate the mojo it carries today.
The design does have the capability to have a really first class trigger and carrying it cocked and locked gives a very fast first shot with the same light trigger pull as every subsequent shot. These are not inconsiderable advantages in gaming…or in real life. The 1911 also was most commonly chambered in serious fighting cartridges (.45 acp, .38 Super) which was great for games that required use of a major cartridge.
Even with all that going on, the 1911 still didn’t get the acclaim fromself-defense experts that .38/.357 revos did because of the ammo issue. Soft points and hollow points will fire from a revolver whether they expand in the target or not, so you could use the expanding ammo of the day in a revolver and risk nothing but lack of expansion. Autoloaders were notorious for not feeding anything except fmj ammo. Moreover, they were known to be picky about powder charges and bullet weights. Essentially, military service pistols were considered reliable only with ammo that closely duplicated military specs.
Luckily, surplus 1911’s were still cheap. Gunsmiths messed with them to improve their accuracy. They messed with them to improve their ergonomics. They messed with them to make them reliably feed hollowpoint ammo. They achieved great things and those great things are now factory features in most cases. As the guns became able to use a greater variety of ammo, improvements were made in the ammo. A synergy, as it were.
Now, at last we get to the key: Jeff Cooper. Whether you love him or hate him, he is the father of modern combat handgunning and he thought very highly of the 1911. I personally always found his writing style hard to take (along with many of his opinions on things outside of guns), but there’s little to argue with in his pronouncements about handguns in general and 1911’s specifically. He knew his shit.
If there had been no Jack Weaver and no Jeff Cooper, I doubt the 1911 would have the reverance it does today. The magazines would still be touting .38/.357 revos as the state-of-the-art fighting handgun and fanboys would have wanking sessions over the Python and the Combat Masterpiece.

I’m going to say american films and even comic books. It is an excellent all around weapon in all of it’s models but from a weight,size and caliber standpoint it’s a bit on the big side. I’m a big fan of both 9mm and 38 for general protection, 40 caliber being probably the most ideal gun from an everyday use standpoint. I have seen so many movies with 1911s in them and if my memory holds correctly to my youth, it was a favorite of comic book illustrators, although I am not up on any recent information in that regard.

For many years it was THE major caliber pistol on the market. It was what grandpa had, what your dad had, and what you wanted when you when you grew up. And with Colts, that little horse is just cool.

Mexico has a similar reverence for the .38 Super version as America does for the .45 version.

Fan(boy)ism exists for a large number of handguns.

  • Beretta 92 series.
  • Ruger Mk 2 .22 caliber series
  • SIG .357
  • Glocks in general

They all have pluses and minuses, and the M1911 is really no better or worse than anything else I’ve seen or used that has a large following.

This is a good point, but the love for any of those guns (except the Glocks) pales in comparison to the almost orgasmic outpourings of devotion and fandom directed at the M1911 (and the Glock; but I don’t want to de-rail my own thread six posts in*)- you’d think some of these guys use their own precious bodily fluids as lubricants, and that’s what has me scratching my head and saying “OK, the M1911 is a good gun, but it’s not The Only Pistol In The Universe…”

*Glocks are complete shit, IMHO, but that’s for a different thread.

I guess you’ve seen a different side of it than I. Among the gun owners I know, it’s the Beretta 92*.* (a so-so gun, IMO, subject to frequent jams and with a recoil/caliber ratio that is very poor) that has the mythical properties.

And equally mythological reports of catastrophic failure from slide separation. I’m not a fan of the 92/96 either; it is way too bulky, and I find the placement of the decocking safety inconvenient.

The 1911 was a great design for the early 20th Century, far ahead of most of its contemporary brethren in durability and reliability. It has pretty good ergonomics in terms of grip angle and accessibility to functions, and is very well balanced, particularly the Commander-length pistol. However, there are some deficits in the design, as evidenced by basic changes made by its designer, John Moses Browning, in his final design, the Browning Hi-Power. (I blame the pointless magazine disconnect on the French.) While it is true that Browning had to use different features to avoid patent conflict, the result was a mechanically more simple and robust arm, and those same features have been copied very widely, to a point that out of any random collection of ten recoil operated pistols, eight or nine are likely to be described as a “Browning-type linkless action,” where as the swinging link design on the 1911 has seen application only in a very limited number of other designs. I personally think that the Browning Hi-Power, and pistols heavily influenced from it like the CZ-75 and Sig-Sauer P22x, are better practical service arms, but of course they don’t have the variety of aftermarket customization and parts that the 1911 enjoys.

For years the one major advantage of the 1911 was its almost unique chambering in the at least marginally superior .45 ACP, whereas most automatic pistols through the 'Eighties favored the 9mmP (due to autoloaders being more popular in Europe, and high capacity being desired by American law enforcement and Hollywood movie stars), but now that there are a wide range of pistols available in .45 ACP (even some with double stack magazines rivaling the capacity of wondernines) that is no longer a limitation. I’ll take an out of the box Sig P220 or HK 45 over a 1911, even a nice Kimber Custom or Sig-Sauer 1911.


I think a lot of the ‘fanboyism’ around the M1911 is simply that it’s a major part of the U.S. culture and history. Every WWII movie made shows the hero with his trusty M1911 at his side. For the same reason the Colt Single Action Army probably has more market penetration than the quality of the gun compared to modern guns really warrants. But there’s nothing wrong with that. Historical and cultural appeal explain many hobbies and desires to collect things.

I blame Jeff Cooper.

I own a couple 1911’s and haul one around with me daily, but I’m not a fanboy. The gun isn’t perfect, but it is the best tool available for the job at present.
As designed by Browning, the piece comes up short in the modern era in terms of ease of manufacture. A properly made 1911 is a reliable and accurate piece. The problem is that there’re a lot of them out there that aren’t properly made. Too expensive to do so. So, a lot of the time buying a 1911 means buying a project gun unless you are willing to spend some fairly serious money up front.
My Springfield, as it came from the box, had a shitty trigger. I mean a really shitty trigger. A gunsmith qualified to work on 1911’s smoothed it and lightened it for me into a proper trigger for a self-defense gun. He also did some internal polishing. The idiot key lock had to go. I have it for, I guess, about 7 or 8 years now. So far, I haven’t had any small parts breakage which seems to be a continuous complaint from new 1911 owners of all makes these days. I haven’t had to replace the internal extractor either, which is another common bitch from people who buy new 1911’s that use that design.
A properly set up 1911 is fast, accurate, reliable, and safe. It’s also expensive.
For much less money, you can get other service pistols that work right straight out of the box; though they don’t quite match up to a good 1911.
I question how many of the intertoob fanboys actually have a good 1911…or even any 1911. They aren’t something that your typical basement-dwelling beardo can afford. A pretty fair amount of fanboyism seems to be driven by movies and video games. There is otherwise no explanation for the popularity of oddballs like the Desert Eagle.

They made a lot of them, for a long time (a century!), and they are still doing it- and so are other companies. Can you say the same about Webley revolvers or the modern Sig P-226 ?

Thus there’s a lot of them out there, and plenty of demand for aftermarket gear.

It’s a good gun, but not the best, but nothing better has that many on the market.

Just thought I’d add that, if I could be said to a fanboy of any handgun, it’d be the TT-33 and the .30 Tokarev cartridge it uses. It’s derived from Browning’s designs, and is one of the few recoil operated pistols that does use the swinging link, as Stranger On A Train alluded to upthread. Its big flaw is that it doesn’t have a proper safety that would allow it to be carried cocked and locked. If somebody would bring out a 1911 or a CZ-75 type gun in .30 Tokarev, I’d be all over it and become the most obnoxious fanboy on the net. Won’t happen, though. The .30 Tokarev has such a long OAL that even frames that will handle the 10mm won’t take the Tokarev.

Norinco make a civilian version of the TT-33 in 9mm Parabellum which has a safety catch. AFAIK they’re not legal in the US because of the embargo against Chinese-made firearms, though.

I’m also impressed by the TT-33 and wouldn’t mind a either a 9mm or 7.62x25mm version, but the barrels are too short for legal ownership here and it’s almost impossible to get 7.62x25mm Tokarev ammo in this country anyway. The only handgun calibres you can readily get ammo for are .22, .38 Special, .357 Magnum, 9mm Parabellum, .38 Super, .40 S&W, .44-40, .45 Long Colt, .45 ACP, and .44 Magnum. Anything else is an “exotic” calibre, and good luck getting ammunition for it in sufficient quantities for competition use.

As far as the fan boy thing goes, there is a pretty simple expiation for the Government .45’s appeal. For three or four generations of Americans it is about the only piston they actually dealt with. Maybe they knew about the guns the cowboys carried in the movies but they never actually had one of those in their hand. On the other hand, from WWI through WWII, Korea, Viet Nam and countless little miscellaneous adventures, in the field and in garrison, millions upon millions of young men became more familiar with the M1911 than any similar number of people would become with any other pistol.

My grandfather carried on in France in 1918, My father carried one in North Africa in 1943, I carried on during Viet Nam. For that reason alone and exclusively the Government .45 is the best damned pistol ever made. It had the reputation of being a man stopper and it had a reassuring heft hanging on your waist belt. At 25 yards any fool with his wits about him could consistently hit a man size target.

Don’t confuse me with facts. I’ve got an emotional attachment. Anybody want to talk about Studebaker automobiles, now?

Some anonymous Army sergeant once said, “Empty the M1911 into your enemy, and if that doesn’t kill him, throw it at him!”

Is there still fanboy lurve for the Walther PPK, because of the James Bond connection?

Not so much on the PPK except among older Bond fans. I read, and enjoyed, Flemming’s stories but have never cared for the movies; I haven’t seen most of the ones w/o Sean Connery. Apparently, though, Bond doesn’t use the PPK in the newer movies or in the stories not written by Flemming; the younger fans don’t associate it with the character.

I had one of those back before the import ban. Biggest POS I ever owned. It beat itself to death in less than one box of ammo. As nearly as I could determine not one part of it was heat treated. Pretty much every stressed part deformed from firing. The safety was an afterthought added to meet import regs and wasn’t suited to cocked and locked carry. My Romanian TT-33 has the same type of added safety and for the same reason. It, on the other hand, is a very fine gun.

I hate this gun. Despite having small hands, I found the grip uncomfortably small, the ergonomics poor, a long and heavy trigger pull, and in the recoil of the .380 ACP is almost punishing in this arm. It also seems somewhat large for a .32 ACP, which is not, despite being so described by Ian Fleming, “like a brick through a plate glass window.” It has a reputation for being picky about ammunition, and I never managed to fire one without getting a nasty hammer bite or having the web of my thumb gouged by the rails. Both the Sig P230 and the Bersa Thunder 380 are superior clones of this gun. (The HK-4 is also superior handling, but is significantly larger and has several mechanical differences that make it a substantially different design.) If I wanted a .32 ACP pistol I’d get the Beretta Tomcat.