Larry Vickers Trash Talking the 1911 ??


Well-Known Member ... 1-060611w/

The 411 on 1911: With patience and a budget, you can own the .45 of your dreams

By Rob Curtis - Staff writer
Posted : Thursday Jun 2, 2011 14:13:11 EDT

If you?re about to surrender to the 100-year-old call of John Moses Browning, we?re here to help. You can probably count as many Model 1911 configurations as stars in the sky, so to make sense of all the choices, we enlisted a guy who knows his way around the 1911 like Darrell Waltrip knows his way around Daytona.

As the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta?s primary firearms instructor, Larry Vickers worked in a place that put more than a million rounds a year through 1911s.

He?s a founding member of the International Defensive Pistol Association and also a member of the American Pistolsmiths Guild.

When he says he?s seen everything that can go wrong with a 1911, I believe him.

?Now, I shoot a Glock,? Vickers tells me. ?Make sure you tell guys that the 1911 is a pain in the ass. If they don?t like messing around with the pistol and spending a grand to really get it tuned, then they should forget it.?

In combat, modern pistol designs have made the 1911 obsolete. It?s finicky and demands constant attention that a war fighter can?t afford to offer. But when it?s tuned and running well, it?s the most accurate pistol out there.

Warnings aside, the pistol?s appeal is strong and romantic, not tactical. Picking up the pistol feels like shaking hands with John Wayne. It shoots man-sized rounds, and when tuned, it shoots a quarter-sized group at 50 yards.

But the 1911 is not a plug-and-play platform. Even a $2,000 semi-custom 1911 likely will need a pricey trip to a gunsmith for tweaking. Changing out all but the simplest parts will demand expert hand filing and fitting.

?I?ve had guys sell their pistols after taking my 1911 armoring class because they realized the gun just wasn?t for them,? Vickers says.

But, if you can?t be swayed, and you have the patience and the budget, here?s an idea of what to look for as you step into the world of the 1911.
Colt Combat Elite


A 5-inch stainless steel barrel chambered in .45 caliber will offer fine performance, reliability and corrosion resistance. Stainless barrels can be abused and will always come back for more. Chromoly barrels, however, rust. Even popular chromoly Kart match grade barrels will rust. If you go that route, get the barrel blued or parkerized for corrosion resistance.
Beavertail/grip safety

A beavertail is a must-have. The exaggerated horn allows a higher grip without the danger of the slide tearing railroad tracks down the webbing of your hand. Beavertails are often combined with the grip safety into one curved piece of metal. Upgraded designs have a palm swell at the bottom that assures positive activation of the safety.

This one is a religious argument. Browning?s original design has an internal extractor, like those on the Colt and Springfield guns. Later designs introduced the external extractor in an attempt to make the gun more reliable with less tinkering. The external extractor is a theoretic improvement over the internal design because its spring pressure doesn?t need to be tuned. But most people ? Vickers included ? will say the designs never worked correctly. He calls out Smith & Wesson alone as doing it right, but advises shooters to go with the proven internal extractor in all other cases.
Grasping grooves

Grasping grooves on the rear of the slide are standard. Up front, grasping grooves aren?t popular with traditionalists, but if you need to clear a malfunction, you will be grateful for all the leverage and purchase you can get on the slide. Up top, slide top milling and serration will give you some extra front sight height for faster sight acquisition.

Grips are either wood or composite and come in different thicknesses, profiles and patterns. Big hands might go for thicker grips, but look for a good contour that fills your palm. Wood grips are probably the most popular and arguably can be the best looking, but are not as durable or as grippy for sweaty hands as composites made by companies such as VZ Grips. A year of serious shooting and training can wear out a set of wood grips.
Guide rod and bushing

The original 1911 guide rod guides the recoil spring inside the slide. The spring runs outside the rod, and as the action slides, the rod keeps the spring in line as the slide moves rearward.

Full-length guide rods purport to give the spring more guidance by increasing its length, but there is no evidence they do anything but make the gun harder to field strip. The added weight up front may reduce muzzle flip, but it?s a personal choice.

The bushing is another part from the original design that can be tinkered with. You might see bushingless designs or bull barrels out there. These remove the barrel bushing and rely on exact machining to fit the barrel with the slide?s barrel opening. Pass on these until you know what?s involved in their use and service. Same goes for shock buffs ? your gun can chew them up and cause malfunctions.

The original 1911 has a spur hammer. These work on a stock gun, but once you get into any beavertail grip safety, the spur hammer is a no-go. The beavertail gets in the way of the longer hammer. Contemporary designs use a rounded, commander-style hammer.

Skeletonizing looks cool and saves weight, but be aware that a lighter hammer speeds up movement and improves lock time. Both are good, if the rest of your pistol is set up for it. A good hammer and sear are EDM machined out of tool steel. If you do swap your hammer, make sure you replace the sear along with it.
Mag release

Competition or duty shooters may want an extended mag release. If you?re carrying concealed, the slimmer profile of a standard mag release will work well and may be more comfortable.

When it comes to mags, 1911s are notoriously finicky. Factories save money by providing cheap mags with new guns. Vickers advises that you simply throw away the mag that comes with your gun and get Wilson, McCormick or Tripp mags. If you can?t afford new mags, at the very least, you must get baseplates for your mags to help seat them during reloads.
Mainspring housing and magwell

Mainspring housings come two ways, flat or arched. Flat works with most, but if you have large hands, look for arched. Also, when looking at the MSH, decide if you want a magazine well, as they are often combined. An extended and flared magwell guides the narrow mag into place during reloads. They are necessary for competition and helpful in a duty pistol but add unnecessary bulk to the pistol butt on a concealed-carry rig.

To have the greatest choice of sights, look for a slide already cut with Novak dovetails, front and rear. Be aware that although popular, Novak-style sights will loosen eventually. They must be checked and even installed with some Loctite. Fixed rear sights work for everyone except serious competition shooters. Look for a front sight with a roll-pin to prevent any movement. A ledge on the rear sight for one-handed charging looks good on a feature list but is seldom used. Fiber-optics sights work great during the day, but not at night. Practical shooters should look for night sights.
Slide and frame

Vickers? first choice for a base gun is a government-model, carbon steel-based Colt, Springfield or Caspian frame and slide set. They?ve been making guns the longest and have proven reliable in his experience, Vickers said.

Why avoid stainless? There are so many finishes to protect a carbon steel gun from corrosion that there?s no need to mess with stainless. Most guns with stainless frames have nonstainless parts and the gun won?t match. Plus, stainless steel will gall, or abrade against itself, though Colt solved that problem. ?The way they did it,? says Vickers, ?is by adding carbon to the steel.? While it won?t gall, it will eventually rust under certain conditions.

This is the heart of the 1911. Like the word ?snow? to the Inuit, there are many ways to describe the break of a 1911 trigger: glass rod, icicle, carrot breaking. The 1911 has the most crisp and tunable trigger of all handgun designs. The most popular are long, medium, short and flat. The length has less to do with the length of pull and more to do with the size of the trigger. Short is good for small hands, long is good for big hands, but be careful ? long triggers can crowd the trigger guard when used with gloves. Flat triggers have become popular because they work without regard to finger placement. As far as pull is concerned, a practical, safe trigger for a 1911 is no lighter than four pounds for practical use. Any lighter, and it?s a competition-only gun.
Thumb safety

Look for one that?s slightly extended for easy manipulation. Ambidextrous safeties are generally meant for lefties. Despite their name, they rarely work or hold up as well when used by righties. If you?re a lefty, Vickers suggests the new Wilson Combat Bullet Proof ambi thumb safety. It?s a novel design machined out of billet steel that is stronger where traditional safeties often fail.

Also, make sure you have no sharp edges on your safety. Get one that feels good at the shop or be prepared to have a gunsmith take the edges down. Your thumb will thank you.
Springfield Armory GI 45

This bone-stock is based on the World War II-era M1911A1. Features include spur hammer, short trigger, and basic thumb and grip safeties. MSRP: $656.

This one is a religious argument. Browning?s original design has an internal extractor, like those on the Colt and Springfield guns. Later designs introduced the external extractor in an attempt to make the gun more reliable with less tinkering. The external extractor is a theoretic improvement over the internal design because its spring pressure doesn?t need to be tuned. But most people ? Vickers included ? will say the designs never worked correctly. He calls out Smith & Wesson alone as doing it right, but advises shooters to go with the proven internal extractor in all other cases.
Smith & Wesson?s E-Series

This brings tricked-out guns at production-pistol prices. The SW1911TA adds front-strap checkering, front and rear grasping grooves, trigger overtravel adjustment, ambi thumb safety, external extractor and a 1913 rail for $1,319 MSRP.
1913 rail

If you want to run a light or laser, or want the option of doing so down the road, go for this rail. Aftermarket rails can be welded or bolted on, but if you?re going to go that way, just get a frame with an integral rail.
Undercut trigger guard

Also called a high grip cut, this contouring of the grip below the trigger guard allows a higher grip, more in line with the bore, and may improve control of the pistol. Vickers says it offers a little more comfort, may help control the pistol and can be overdone.
Front strap checkering

The front strap runs down the frame from the trigger guard. It?s one of the main grasping surfaces, and it?s common to see it roughed up or checkered. Coarse checkering, for duty use, is 20 lines per inch, suitable for gloved hands, while 30 lpi works for carry guns. Hand checkering is time consuming and expensive, so get it at the factory or pay a gunsmith dearly for it later. Skateboard tape with a strong adhesive is an alternative.
Last word

If you?re headed down this road, you?ll want a worthy gunsmith riding shotgun. Hints for finding one come from Sam Hatfield, a successful smith out of northern Virginia: ?If they don?t have a wait time, forget them.? Good gunsmiths are rare, and people know them. Hatfield, a former member of the Army Marksmanship Unit, suggests that service in a top-tier military marksmanship shop is a great indicator of expertise. Another is membership in the American Pistolsmiths Guild.

Glock 17L

Active Member
I've been there & done that..
I have nothing against any 1911, They were one of the first "REAL" Pistols but just as stated they can be a PITA to get to run 100% with various ammos were as our Glocks will pretty much run on anything you can find to feed them from old rubbish surplus sub-gun ammo to the best high dollar defensive bullets & even the under powered Winchester White Box, Blaser Brass or TulAmmo..
If you have an unlimited budget & love spending your dough on gunsmithing or just want to shoot ball ammo & love a light smooth trigger pull then the 1911 is for you..
In my limited experience with 1911s I've always went with Colts & as long as they were fed ball & taken care of they were almost perfect, Were talking Gold Cup National match now.. I've had others that didn't preform as well but the GCNM was the best I ever HAD, I paid $800 for this one several years ago & finally sold it at a most decent profit..



Well-Known Member
I think Vickers is full of caca! I can name several 1911's that run great out of the box with no mod's and shoot damn near anything you feed them. Not saying they're the best thing out there,just another choice.


Well-Known Member
Halfcocked said:
I think Vickers is full of caca! I can name several 1911's that run great out of the box with no mod's and shoot damn near anything you feed them. Not saying they're the best thing out there,just another choice.



Well-Known Member
I agree with you 100 %, Dale...I have 2 Kimbers right now that arevery dependable, and will shoot anything I put through them....And, they have not had a thing done to them...

Everyone is an expert....


Glock 17L

Active Member
I remember a Llaama 45 my buddy bought that I nicknamed the JLF..
It wouldn't/couldn't cycle even one magazine without Jamming Like F***
Not all 1911s are created equal..

It made great trade fodder toward a AK-47 for him..

Beware the JLF


Well-Known Member
As everyone knows I am a Glock guy but I don't talk smack about 1911s.
I agree though that all guns are not created equal.
Especially when there are as many flavors of a basic design like there of the 1911.


Well-Known Member
I had a Rock Island 1911 5" I got new...It wouldn't go through a full mag without some kind of problem...We tried everything. At about 200 rounds thru it. I was mad. I went on a couple of Forums bad mouthing the gun...

After a few days, I got an IM from someone I never heard of. He told me to quit talking smack about the R.I. till I had it brike in...He said "come back when you have 1000 rounds thru it"

My shooting partner and myself work hard with it...At about 500 rounds, it would run maybe 3 mags before problems started...but, The more I shot, the better it got...

By the time I had about 800 rounds thru her, It was my truck gun. I would depend on it and never think about it. You just pulled th trigger and it went bang...every time.

I had a guy tell me something I never thought about with the 1911 model...
He said it was designed for the was designed to be fired for years...It was designed for ball ammo.... It was suspose to last battle after battle, man ater man, and, year after year...

Use then like they were ment to be used...Use ball ammo...and, they work.

To me, 230 grain ball ammo will do about all the damage you need from a handgun...
I don't carry hollow points and all that fancy stuff...

In the words of a famous Texas Ranger..."A handgun is to be used to fight my way back to my rifle"...


Dirk Pitt

Well-Known Member
Glock 17L said:
I still say The Llaama was a POS & a JLF
I've got an old Llama IX-A that my uncle gave me a while back, was my first handgun. It was rough when I got it, the grip safety three leaf spring was broken and the recoil spring was something like a half inch short. So I replaced all the springs and pins with parts from Ed Brown and Wolff, functioned fine until the damn extractor wore out. Still haven't gotten around to replacing that yet, but than again I shoot mostly 9mm these days anyway...

Glock 17L

Active Member
The JLF Llaama I was talking about was a MiniMax & was a double stack...
It was without a doubt the most rubbish handgun I've ever laid eyes on..
I've seen a few others like it at the gunshows & told anyone who was looking at it to run away.

The Original JLF


Well-Known Member
LAV probably knows more about 1911's than all on many gun forums. But some run fine but can fail at any time as any gun but i think at a much higher ratio. Especially if you shoot your guns alot...The early Oregon(Clacamus sp.?) Kimbers i think were there best by far. The SR1911 does have my interest since out of the box seems better than average. Take a loose tolerance design and tighten the tolerances something has to give and thats reliabliity, just one man's opinion...

BTW, i see LAV is not trash talking the 1911 at all but the opposite. Just his advice to what he and many other's think...


Well-Known Member
I've owned several makes and models of 1911 over the years and have found them each to be "finicky" in their own way.

I've never had trouble from certain other makes and models of handguns and those are now exclusively what I own.

I don't have the patience to find out the magical combination of springs, extractors, magazines and ammunition to get a gun to function correctly. Even if someone else does the legwork for me and tells me "Only use Ranger XT with Chip McCormick magazines and XYZ extractor with this recoil spring" I wouldn't feel confident in carrying that gun or even owning it. Too many critical parts in a gun without adding extra BS to the equation.


Well-Known Member
I cut my teeth on a 1911.
I still have a few of them and you won't hear me trash talk them.
However you should notice what I have in my holster at the next ShootzenFest.
Brand X just works right out of the box.
I bought my first one to shut up a friend who abandoned 1911s and went to the dark side.
I expected to not like it but I was;
wait for it
wait for it
I was wrong.

lafayette gregory

Well-Known Member
The only problem with a 1911 is that everybody and their brother in law now makes them. bNot to mention you can hang/attatch any kinda crap from them. Kinda like a compact car - Great cars but if you try enough models soon you will find a dud!
A good quality, basic 1911 is as fine a weapon as any other.
These words comes from another Glock guy.
Here is one of my 1911's called old reliable.


Active Member
Well I all like to hear experts talk. I learn something everytime. I own 2 1911's one is a customize 1991A1 customized by the late Ed Banks in GA. The other I picked up at a flea market, a home brew mongrul, Ithica slide on a AMT frame, stock 1911A1 fixed sights, no idea what is inside, but it shoots like a sun-of-a-gun and would not trade it.
Saw a guy holding a sign once that said, "maybe my purpose in life is to serve as a warning to others" hahaha


Active Member
I like Glocks but, a STI 1911 Double Stack is a bad mo-fo! (so is the price)

The "plain jane" Remington Enhanced 1911 is nice for the money. Over 700 rounds through one in a training session with no issues.

Vickers can still shoot very fast and very accurate. I saw him up shoot up close at the Carolina Cup and he can still get down.


Well-Known Member
ive got some 1911s and i built 2 para frame kits the steel one for competition. with a wilson comp it really works well with a 155 grain bullet and 10 grains of #5 accurate. i also have a glock and ill bet it wouldnt load the 155 gr bullets.
guess ill get to try that and let you guys know.
i shot competition for 8 years, missing one match, and im pretty sure ill have more 1911 style than glock style handguns.
love the S&W Sigma though. its glock like but with a better grip.
all just my opinion