Is the .45 1911 Outdated for Carry?

The .45 ACP 1911 used to be the standard pistol for near everything. Nowadays, some scoff at the idea of concealed carrying a 1911 due to its size, capacity, and age. But is  the 1911 truly outdated for carry? 


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Brief 1911 History

No doubt about it, the .45 1911 has been around for a long time! John Browning developed it well before WWI and the U.S. Army adopted it in 1911 as the new duty pistol.

John Moses Browning

Since then it’s been used in several wars including WWI, WWII, Korea, and Vietnam.

After the military largely replaced it with the 9mm Beretta, the .45 1911 continued on with some specialty units. It’s also been popular with some police agencies— I was issued a 45 Colt Government model when I started police work and carried one my entire career. The .45 1911 also became very popular with private citizens. It has been used for self-defense and  for match shooting. 

Carry-Gun Must-Have’s

Above all else, a carry gun MUST be very reliable. It simply has to go “bang” every time— no exceptions. Concealability is also important, as you don’t want others to know you are armed.

A carry gun must have adequate power to stop an attack quickly and needs to be accurate enough to hit the vital zone at reasonable combat ranges. It’s also got to hold enough ammunition to complete the fight. 

1911 for Carry: Why It Works

The .45 1911 works because it meets most of the above requirements. It’s long been loved for its reliability, historically surpassing the Army’s existing revolvers in this category in the early 1900s.

Some counter that  .45 1911’s are finicky, but in my experience this is often due to modifications to make it super accurate or simply from poor workmanship in the first place. In recent decades I’ve seen extremely reliable .45 1911 pistols from several different manufacturers, including some that were incredibly accurate out of the box. 

The full-size 5” barreled all-steel pistol is indeed heavier than many more modern designs, coming in around 39 ounces. Despite its size and weight, it’s still surprisingly concealable. The slim, flat design lends itself to minimalistic holsters and the longish barrel vanishes if used in an IWB (inside the waistband) holster. It’s also offered in three general sizes. The standard model has a 7 or 8 round magazine and a 5” barrel. The “Commander” size features the same size grip and magazine, but a shorter 4.25” barrel. Many 1911 fans believe that the Commander size is the most comfortable to carry and handle. Smaller yet is the “Officer’s” version with a stubby 3.5” barrel and a shorter grip containing an abbreviated 6-round magazine. There are other variations, but these three are the most common. 

Full-Size Kimber .45 ACP (left) and Colt Officer’s Model (right)

The .45 1911 offers a consistent short, crisp trigger pull and an equally short trigger reset. This contributes to accurate shooting. The grip safety combines with the thumb safety to reduce instances of negligent discharge. 

Just as other pistol cartridges have been improved in recent decades by improved bullet design and different powders, the .45 ACP has also benefited from those same things. Higher velocity  +P loads are readily available, like the Hornady 220 grain Critical Duty at 975 fps and Remington Golden Saber 185 grain traveling 1140 fps. 

Why Might You Avoid the 1911?

Some people avoid the .45 1911 because it’s viewed as heavy and old with a limited magazine capacity of low-velocity ammunition. Some people don’t like carrying it in Condition 1: “Cocked and Locked” with the hammer back. It’s also just not a plastic wonder gun! 

My Experience

It’s been more than 40 years since the Marines first handed me a .45 1911 and I’ve become quite fond of the design. The .45 was with me on a couple of overseas deployments before the Marines replaced it with the 9mm Beretta. I hadn’t been in the Corps long before I bought my own .45 1911. After the Marines, I was delighted when I was issued a Colt Government Model .45 1911 as my law enforcement duty gun. Mostly though, both on and off duty, I carried my own personal .45 Kimber, buying it new in 1997.


I used it while I was on patrol, working plainclothes as a detective, on SWAT, and as a firearms instructor. I still carry it concealed as a retired officer. Today’s ammunition choices take the .45 ACP performance up several notches from standard 230 grain “hardball” FMJ ammo which usually produces 800 – 850 fps. Of note is Hornady’s 220 grain +P Critical Duty ammo at 975 fps, my personal choice of carry ammo.

Remington also offers a +P 185 grain Golden Saber load producing a surprising 1140 fps and 534 ft.-lbs. of energy at the muzzle. Several of my friends have had to use their .45’s in self-defense situations and it worked great, saving their lives. This sort of thing inspires great confidence. 


When coaching other shooters, one of the most important things is to help the shooter develop a good trigger pull, allowing the sights to remain steady on target. This is pretty easy with a good 1911. The short, crisp trigger pull is very nice for producing excellent accuracy. 

Today we have a plethora of good carry guns available to us including some great revolvers and also a myriad of semi-automatic choices. My main choice remains the .45 1911. What do you think of the .45 1911 for carry? Is it outdated, or still a good choice? 

Get the Gear

Hornady .45 Auto Plus P 220 Grain Flex Lock Critical Duty at Midsouth Shooters Supply

Remington Golden Saber Defense – Full Size 45 Auto +P 

Garmin Xero C1 Pro at Creedmoor Sports and Midsouth Shooters Supply

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Guy Miner

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