The M1911 Pistol and it's drawbacks
Many years ago I was part of a peacekeeping force sent into the former Yugoslavia during the Bosnian War.
Towards the end of the conflict, while reading one of my favorite gun magazines, a Bosnian soldier joined me. As I drooled over a custom M1911 in the magazine; the Bosnian soldier looked over my shoulder at the glossy pictures of the gun and inquired if I liked the M1911.
I will have to admit to a strong personal bias for the M1911. It is the first pistol that I learned to shoot sitting on my grandfather’s lap. The M1911 is also a weapon that I carry the most.
I admit that I bragged to the Bosnian soldier about how much that I liked the M1911. I rattled off the names of famous Americans who favored the M1911. I also showed the Bosnian soldier pictures of my M1911s including several of me wearing one of my M1911 pistols.
The Bosnia soldier nonchalantly shrugged and said “Is nice pistol to shoot but has fatal flaw.”
The Bosnian soldier explained that during combat, the protruding pin of the M1911 slide stop might get pressed out of position.
The Bosnian soldier stated that the Soviet Tokarev pistols are a much better design with its simple two-pronged clip holding the slide stop pin from retracting. These were the old dark days before the internet so there was no way to verify what the Bosnian soldier was telling me. We argued good-naturedly over the merits and drawbacks of our preferred pistols. We were both realists, understanding that no pistol is ever perfect (although some M1911 purists will argue that point with you.) For many years, I forgot about that Bosnian soldier and our discussion of the M1911’s fatal flaw.
Today using the wonder of the internet, searching for “M1911 fatal flaw” floods your computer screen with numerous web pages dedicated to the style of shooting called the Point Shooting (PS) method.
US Army Field Manual 3-23.35: Combat Training With Pistols M9 and M11 (June 2003) states "Everyone has the ability to point at an object. When a soldier points, he instinctively points at the feature on the object on which his eyes are focused. An impulse from the brain causes the arm and hand to stop when the finger reaches the proper position.
"When the eyes are shifted to a new object or feature, the finger, hand, and arm also shift to this point. It is this inherent trait that can be used by a soldier to rapidly and accurately engage targets."
Earlier M1911 technical manuals warned against using the PS method of shooting believing that the index finger might dislodge the protruding pin of the slide stop.
The M1911 fatal flaw is the perceived ability to dislodge the slide stop pin as mentioned on several web pages. I wonder if the PS shooting method was what that Bosniak soldier meant. Unfortunately, I cannot ask him.
Be prepared to flee for your safety as several M1911 enthusiasts will immediately attack you for daring to impugn their beloved weapon.
I learned the PS method by reading the newest Army pistol technical manuals. I also read the oldest M1911 technical manuals that I could find online; I studied the PS method of shooting in detail.
(Note: the following paragraph details actions not recommended performing when shooting an M1911 pistol. Neither the author nor the publisher of this blog is responsible for negligent operation of a pistol.)
I took some of my M1911s to the range. Using the PS method I slowly shot familiarizing myself with the mechanics of the PS method. While shooting the M1911 pistol using the PS method, I suffered no jams or malfunctions due to my index finger pressing against the protruding pin of the slide stop.
I wondered if there might be some veracity to the warning against dislodging the pin of the M1911 slide stop. I purposely pressed hard against the protruding slide stop pin. Even with my sloppiest M1911, a World War II vintage pistol, I failed to dislodge the slide stop pin.
So does the M1911 have a fatal flaw? The Tokarev pistols use a simple two-pronged latch holding the slide stop pin in place. Is the Tokarev design better than the M1911’s?
Perhaps whether or not you believe that the M1911 has a fatal flaw depends on your perception of the M1911 and Tokarev pistols.
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What you think of the M1911 and its supposed fatal flaw? Respond in the comments below.
About The Author
A retired Infantry soldier, Steve Allen is a part time freelance editor, writer and writing coach living north of Seattle in the soggy Pacific Northwest with his beautiful wife, two equally beautiful daughters, a neurotic blind Terrier mix, and a loving but dumb-as-a-box-of-rocks Black Lab.