By Jim Higginbotham
I run into people all of the time who think that they must have a small handgun in order to conceal it. I am reminded of the time when eminent authority and author Tom Givens and a fellow off duty officer were cooling off from the summer heat at the local indoor range – you look for alcoholics at the local tavern, you look for “gunaholics” at the range or gun shop. They became engaged in conversation with a customer who was waxing eloquent on the virtues of this or that weapon in the gun case. Eventually he allowed as the .45 auto was a fine weapon but of small use to most people since they couldn’t hide one. Tom told him that it was indeed possible to hide a .45 if one used the right holster, which brought a rebuttal that there was no right holster, the gun was simply too big. This discussion went back and forth for some time until my friend Tom ended all debate by pulling his Government Model out from under his cotton shirt, worn with the tail out, and placed it on the counter. I have seen him pass close inspection by a police officer – though not a frisk – when he was wearing a T-shirt. Tom, by the way, seldom even has to resort to inside the pants holsters to hide his weapon.
Folks who are new to carrying weapons concealed are a bit self-conscious about the matter. They think every one can see them. I have worn a concealed weapon for over 25 years and have never had anyone inadvertently discover that I was armed. Once I was even frisked by a federal officer who failed to find my Star PD .45. Of course I was carrying it legally and it would not have mattered if he did find it.
None of this should be taken as a suggestion that you should be complacent about concealing your weapon. If you are one of those who has an inborn desire to be “seen of men” and think having a concealed carry permit makes you something special, and you would really like someone to ask you what that bulge is under your arm, then you need more help than I can give. This is not a game. One of the reasons to conceal weapons today is tactical. If the bad guys can tell you are armed before the fight starts you just may take a bullet in the back of the head before you even know there is a fight on. Don’t just cover up your weapon CONCEAL it! At any rate, there are those who feel that the .45 Government Model, or one of its variations or copies, is the finest fighting sidearm ever produced. With some reservations (see the chapter on custom modifications) I agree. But I began my education on weaponcraft back when there were very few serious options. Today we have several adequate designs which will suffice quite well.
Personally, I can do more with this gun than with any other. My “hammers” (two very fast shots with one sight picture) are in the neighborhood of .15 to .17 seconds apart, something I cannot even improve on when I use a .22 auto. My trigger finger simply won’t operate faster – old age I guess. These rounds will impact in the vital zone about 95% of the time back to about 7 yards (further if I practice regularly) Perhaps one reason is that I have shot one so much with this type of weapon (about 250,000 rounds) that it is second nature to me. But try as I might I cannot get hammers this quick or accurate with a double action. auto. I can keep the rounds pretty close together with the Glock and the DAO autos as well as DA revolvers but the time creeps up to around .20 seconds between shots. This might seem adequate – and probably is – but why take the lower level of performance if you do not have to.
While the reliability of the Colt .45 auto – a John Browning design – is legendary, I must point out that this reputation is built using full metal jacket (FMJ) or “ball” ammo. With today’s JHP bullets it is not as sure fire unless the weapon has been “throated” to feed the alternative styles of ammo. Modern Colts are designed to feed modern bullets as are most of the copies, never the less I have seen plenty of new examples that needed some attention in order to feed 100%. The key is to shoot your new gun about 200 rounds with the ammo you intend to carry. If you have a malfunction then seek help. But then again this is true of any weapon you may purchase, either new or used.
Two variations of the Government Model, the Commander and the Combat Commander might be considered by some to be compacts but since only the barrel and slide have been cut back 3/4 inch I do not consider it so. Still, they are fine weapons for concealed carry and the 3/4″ may allow you to more comfortably hide a weapon in an outside the pants holster. These weapons are about the same size as any duty type auto on the market today and so are a good choice.
The Commander, which has an aluminum frame weighs in at 27 ounces empty while the all steel Combat Commander is around 34 ounces. There are literally millions of used .45s out on the market and, barring abuse, it is difficult to wear one out. The only trouble with the older guns is that the sights were a bit difficult to see but this can be fixed (see the chapter on modifications). Magazines for this weapon are as common as dirt but beware there are some really poor aftermarket suppliers which sell real junk.
As mentioned there are many makers who are producing copies of this weapon. Their quality can range from outstanding to really poor so “buyer beware”. It is not our intent here to run down any maker’s product but to encourage you to investigate and find out what works. I will say that the new Kimber Custom 1911a1 is one of the best examples of a Government Model I have encountered – including some of the standard package guns of big name gunsmiths! Also you should know that Colt Series 80 and Para Ordinance guns are equipped with a firing pin safety which blocks the firing pin except when the trigger is pulled.
The above was written several years ago. Today as we near the Millenium, I believe it still holds true – it is a testament to John Browning that nearly 90 years (the model of January 1910 was essentially the same as the 1911) after its birth the 1911 remains the finest combat pistol ever made en masse.
- Custom Auto Pistol Modifications for Serious Duty by Jim Higginbotham
- Defensive Marksmanship by Jim Higginbotham
- Handgun Power by Jim Higginbotham
- Recommended Modifications to the Colt .45 Auto for Self-Defense Use by Les Bengtson
- Selecting a Pistol for Concealed Carry By Syd
- The Case for the .45 ACP by Jim Higginbotham
- The .45 ACP Cartridge – Development, Specs, and Performance
Comments, suggestions, contributions? Let me know